Friday, December 30, 2011

Eatontown End-of-the-Semester Party

Could we ever have a food-free or low-cal party?
Not on your life!
Pizzas with something for everyone!
Guess the person, the place and the action!

Who has the sign?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

NJ Trivia: Who Crossed the Delaware River Dec 25, 1776?

The first move in a surprise attack against the Hessian forces in Trenton, New Jersey was organized by George Washington. He led a column of Continental Army troops across the icy Delaware River in a logistically and dangerous operation. Preparations for the attack began on December 23. On December 24 the boats used to bring the army across the Delaware from New Jersey were brought down from Malta Island near New Hope and hidden behind Taylor Island at McKonkey's Ferry, Washington's planned crossing site, and security was tightened there. A final planning meeting took place that day, with all of the general officers present. General orders were issued by Washington on December 25 outlining plans for the operation. On Christmas Day, Washington ordered his army to prepare 3 days' food, and issued orders that every soldier be outfitted with fresh flints for their muskets. He was also somewhat worried by intelligence reports that the British were planning their own crossing once the Delaware was frozen over. At 4 PM Washington's army turned out for its evening parade, where the troops were issued ammunition, and even the officers and musicians were ordered to carry muskets. They were told that they were departing on a secret mission. marching 8 abreast in close formations, and ordered to be as quiet as possible, they left the camp for McKonkey's Ferry. Washington's plan required the crossing to begin as soon as it was dark enough to conceal their movements on the river, but most of the troops did not reach the crossing point until about 6 PM, about 90 minutes after sunset. The weather go progressively worse, turning from drizzle to rain to sleet and snow. Washington was among the first of the troops to cross....These troops formed a sentry line around the landing area in New Jersey, with strict instructions that no one was to pass through. The password was "Victory or Death".... As soon as the army was ready, Washington ordered it split into 2 columns....Only 3 Americans were killed and 6 wounded, while 22 Hessians were killed and 98 wounded. The Americans captured 1,000 prisoners and seized muskets, powder, and artillery.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pizza Fest

Our Tuesday YSA's chose Vinnie's Pizza
for our end-of-the-semester gathering.

Guess who chose the veggie pizza....

...and guess who chose the MEAT LOVERS pizza?

Just a few of our YSA still here during the holidays.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Celebrate the Reason for the Season

At our recent New Jersey Morristown Missionary Christmas gathering, one speaker told a story about two young missionaries serving in Canada who prayerfully planned their daily schedule. They planned to visit a family after 4 p.m. but when they arrived the family wasn't home. One young missionary was impressed to cross the street and knock at the door of an abandoned house. No one answered the door but that young elder felt impressed that someone there needed him. They went around to the backyard. No one was there. Then they saw the garage door ajar. As they lifted the garage door, they noticed fresh blood. A muffled voice cried out for help. Inside the garage lay a homeless man who was bleeding to death. The old man had drug himself inside the garage for protection from the elements and for a place to die.

As the young missionaries thought about their prayers that morning and planned their day's schedule, they were prompted by the Holy Ghost to be at the right place and at the right time.

Our wish for you today is that you will find a quiet moment to prepare to be at the right place at the right time when our Savior, Jesus Christ, comes again.

And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. -Mark 4:9

As full-time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ, we have been called and set apart to....."warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ." -Doctrine & Covenants 20:59

God is our Father. Jesus is the Christ. The Holy Ghost will guide and comfort you....if you will listen and come unto Christ.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

New Jersey Morristown Missionary Christmas Party

158 New Jersey Morristown missionaries gather
to celebrate Christmas at 9 a.m.

Elders High and Wootten are my FAVORITE subjects
to photograph--they NEVER disappoint! ;)

Mrs Santa Claus (AKA Sister Jeppson) and her Elves
had Morristown Stake Center culture hall festively
decorated. We took a HUGE group photo, too.
A spiritual 2-hour meeting was held in chapel with
4 Stake Presidents, wives and members of Mission Presidency
giving testimony of Jesus Christ.

Singer Alex Boye, son-in-law of our Mission President and his wife,
performed after missionaries were given presents from their families
and served a Christmas feast.

Later in morning we visited Elder Phillips, another CES specialist
serving in Caldwell Stake, who was hospitalized with pancreatitis.

Our Mission President's wife knocked herself out
again by making individual dental hygiene
Christmas stockings for each missionary!
She's amazing!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Future New Jersey Missionary?

Fans of pop-singer David Archuleta were surprised to hear Monday that the singer-songwriter will be serving a proselytizing mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Archuleta made the announcement just before his encore performance at his concert Monday night at Abravanel Hall, saying he “wanted to make a special announcement while he was home.”

12/30/11 Wall Street Journal blog
From American Idol to Mormon Missionary by ALLISON POND

At a concert in Salt Lake City last week, pop star David Archuleta of American Idol fame made an unexpected and emotional announcement. After a couple of years of skirting questions about it, he revealed that he will indeed serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though he hasn't made public where he will be sent.

Mr. Archuleta will join more than 52,000 Mormon missionaries serving in 340 missions, or geographic areas, world-wide. Eighty percent of them are young men who begin serving at age 19. The remainder are mostly young women age 21 and older, along with a small number of retired couples. It is estimated that roughly a third of eligible young Mormon men elect to serve missions.

For Mr. Archuleta, age 21, life is about to change considerably. He'll trade a life of stardom for the rigor of waking up at 6:30 every morning, studying scripture for a couple of hours, then working 10-hour days teaching interested people in their homes and taking on other community-service projects before falling into bed exhausted. He'll also join the ranks of other prominent Mormons who have served missions, including Mitt Romney (France) and Jon Huntsman (Taiwan), Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings (Spain), and actors Aaron Eckhart (Switzerland) and Jon Heder (Japan).

Missionaries serve on their own dime, swearing off dating, entertainment and even most Internet activity. There is relatively little direct supervision; they have at once rigid structure and significant autonomy. They work in pairs, reporting weekly in writing to a mission president, an older man called to serve a three-year stint.

Mission life wasn't always so structured. For the first years after the church's founding in 1830, missionaries were usually established men who left families behind as they set off on their own to spread their newfound faith.

Early missionaries branched into Canada, then Britain and Scandinavia, converting tens of thousands who immigrated to Utah in the latter half of the 19th century. By the early 1900s, the church began to restrict its calls to unmarried men and sometimes women.

By 1950, some 3,015 missionaries were called to 46 missions world-wide and the church began systematizing missionary work, emphasizing the duty of all young Mormon men to serve and establishing policies such as a formal business-attire dress code. In 1953, the church issued the first official set of lessons for use in all missions. Over the years, new materials were issued regularly, culminating in 2004 with "Preach My Gospel," a handbook that moves away from set lessons and gives missionaries latitude to personalize instruction, urging them to "follow the spirit."

This aggressive missionary effort bears fruit. In 2010, the church reported 272,814 converts world-wide, or roughly five per missionary. Of course, the number of converts varies widely by mission. A missionary in South America can expect to baptize regularly, while those in some European countries are lucky to count even one convert by the time they come home.

The most important converts to Mormonism might be the missionaries themselves. Studies indicate that returned missionaries maintain strong levels of religious activity, with more than 80% attending services each week and paying tithes to the church. Returned missionaries also tend to have high educational levels and marriage rates.

It's no surprise that the missionary experience leaves a lasting imprint on young people. While friends back home are heading to a house party, a typical missionary may be swallowing a lump in his throat as he stands on an unfamiliar doorstep, terrified yet hopeful. Or he may be on his knees on a dirt floor listening to someone pray for the first time, or pulling himself out of bed to pore over French grammar.

With Americans today fretting about prolonged adolescence, particularly among young men, the Mormon mission experience is a radical anomaly. It forces inexperienced young men and women, some barely out of high school, to grow up extraordinarily quickly. They minister primarily among the middle and lower classes, where they may find themselves giving marital advice, talking someone through the stages of grief or even leading a congregation. They wrestle with their own doubts and questions, make mistakes and experience the satisfaction of watching lives change.

Because of his time in the spotlight, David Archuleta may already be more grown up than the average 21-year-old, but a mission will challenge even him. It will put him in the company of hundreds of thousands who, by the end of their missions, have firsthand experience with the biblical injunction to lose their lives and thereby find them.

Ms. Pond, an associate editor for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, served as a Mormon missionary in Rostov-na-donu, Russia.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Missionary Apartment Inspections Continue

Elders High & Wootten pass!
These six young Elders are on Mrs Santa's NICE list! Good job on cleaning your apartments! Ho ho ho
Elders Broadhead & Tuaila pass!

Elders Mortimer & McMillian pass!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Cooking

Dipped Marshmallows on a Stick--found BIGGEST marshmallows
ever and dipped them in milk, dark and white chocolate
and sprinkled with coconut, sprinkles, graham cracker crumbs,
or crushed peppermint
'Tis the Season for goodies! Here are some of the treats we are taking to Institute classes this week!
Dipped Pretzel Sticks--
when there is leftover melted chocolate in the house! ;)

Grandmother Gill's peanut butter cookies with large Hershey's kiss in middle!
(You either have to marry into the family or be killed to be given recipe!!!)

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Rice Krispies rolled in a log and sliced!
These don't photograph well but they were Y-U-M (if you like
peanut butter & chocolate together)!
And here's what we looked like AFTER consuming
meatballs in marinara, shrimp, and lots and lots of CHOCOLATE!

And, wouldn't you know it, the menu item I tossed in a crockpot--
Kirkland meatballs and Kirkland marinara sauce--
was THE HIT of the party!?!?!?!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath Day--A Sign & A Promise to all Generations

As you know, our mission assignment is to teach Old Testament to young people (18-31 years old). To say WE THE TEACHERS are learning A LOT is an understatement! In recent weeks we discussed the 10 COMMANDMENTS. Yes, the ones we all memorized in Sunday School. But this year we discovered the FINE PRINT!
Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all they work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Exodus 31:13-16 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel [the Abrahamic Covenant adopts all people as God's children], saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.
14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death [actual physical death in Moses' day; spiritual death--separated from God--in our day]: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death [actual physical death in Moses' day; spiritual death--separated from God--in our day].
16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant [oath, promise].
17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

Isaiah 55:3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
Isaiah 55:12-13 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Isaiah 56:1-2, 4-7 Thus said the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.
2 Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.
4 For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant.
5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
6 Also the sons of the stranger [Gentile who comes into the covenant], that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices [our good deeds and service to others] shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

Isaiah 58:13-14 If thou turn away thy foot [our actions] from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Isaiah 62:2 And the Gentiles [followers of Christ] shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.

Matthew 12 Jesus's example of healing on the Sabbath day and doing other good deeds gives us further light into what we can and should do on the seventh day.

Mark 2:27 And he [Jesus] said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.

1 Corinthians 16:2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store [make temporal preparations on Saturday so Sunday can be enjoyed!], as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

Doctrine & Covenants 59:9-13 And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer [church] and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day [the Sabbath];
10 For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
11 Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
12 But remember that on this, the Lord's day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.

George Albert Smith: "...much of the sorrow and distress that is afflicting and will continue to afflict mankind is traceable to the fact that they have ignored his admonition to keep the Sabbath day holy."

Mark E Petersen: "Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us."

Thanks, Brother Bean, for these insights!

Christmas Spirit

Last night our stake (and the missionaries) put on a Christmas Fireside. When we came to our church building, this is what greeted us on the other side of the street! Today I am writing this (nameless) neighbor a 'thank you' note for sharing his CHRISTMAS SPIRIT in such a remarkable way!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Trivia: Jerseyisms

Did you know people from New Jersey never use 'New' when they are talking about their home state?

It's just 'Jersey.'

Did you know people from New, er, Jersey never call NYC 'New York City'?

It's just 'The City.'

Did you know people in Jersey never 'go to the coast'?

It's 'go down to the shore.'

Also, hardly anyone who has lived here forever says 'Joizey.' However, they do pronounce 'water' as 'wood-er' or 'waud-er.'

People who live in northern Jersey consider themselves part of Metro NY.

People who live in southern Jersey consider themselves part of Metro Philly.

Friday, December 9, 2011

This Christmas: Gifts of Service

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid.

I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.
Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted...."Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby."

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it.

Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.
Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were -- ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

--Thanks, Diane J!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Missionary Apartment Inspection-2nd Time

Sisters Wright & Dicou
 Who knew we could weld such power on a mission? The dreaded "WHITE GLOVE" apartment inspections continue! Who do you think passed and/or failed?
Elders Boyes & Tippett

Elders Clark & Kakiva

Hermanas Adam, Coley & Word

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Dear Readers:

Sorry for the lack of posts recently.

Nothing seems as interesting as snuggling under my electric blanket this past week as I endure the "common cold."

I would call it the "mighty cold" as it has brought me to my knees thanking God for my otherwise good health.

Look back later......

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Busy Princeton Church Building

Elders Broadhead, Wootten, Tuaila, and High
show off their best neck ties.
Wednesday nights at the Princeton Church building remind me how much use our meetinghouses get. When we arrive at the building at 6 PM., Young Women leaders are setting up the culture hall for YW Night of Excellence and Scout leaders are holding their monthly Court of Honor in the Relief Society room. While we wait, a Princeton RS sister comes and cuts missionaries' hair. We hear piano music coming from a classroom and learn another RS sister is teaching piano without charge to young people who want to learn! Around 7:55 PM, we reconfigure tables and chairs in RS room for YSA Institute class. After class we serve refreshments and visit with young single adults. As we are turning out lights around 9:45 PM, we note a Bishop is talking with members in the hallway and a few young people are shooting hoops in the cultural hall/gym. Ah, a day in the life of an LDS meetinghouse!
Sister Pinter cuts missionaries' hair
as her service project.

It's Lexie's birthday and YSA sing to her!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks #19

Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. --Doctrine & Covenants 121:9
We are grateful for our Church family--wherever we live! We enjoyed a bounteous meal at the Marsh's who opened their comfortable home to us as well as to young single adults from New Jersey and Washington, DC.

Gratitude-Healthy Recipe for Thanksgiving

-The Christian Science Monitor

… You may already know that gratitude ennobles a person, warms hearts of people in his/her orbit, and generally improves life. If experts – secular and religious alike – are to be believed, gratitude may well be holy grail of personal and societal well-being. If you're grateful, studies show, you are prone to be happier, less aggressive, and less depressed; to be more helpful, more satisfied with life, and have better friendships; to be more generous, less envious, and less concerned with prestige. You're even likely to have a higher grade-point average. What's more, you tend to be healthier physically and mentally. And practicing, as you do, a key component of strong moral character, and virtue central to world's great secular as well as religious belief systems, you can stand tall.

...grateful heart boosts energy and determination, helping students avoid getting bogged down when they encounter challenges.

"Gratitude is all about attitude. And attitude is a choice." "Gratitude is important because once you learn to look through that lens of life, everything shifts. You no longer find yourself focusing on what's wrong with your life but what's good about your life."

Never mind what you're thankful for. It's your grateful heart that's good for you. And it's good for rest of us, too. "People really, really like grateful people,"….

"There sometimes seems to be a spirit of complaint in the air,"...As if in response, a cornucopia of thankfulness has spilled forth – via tweets, blogs, websites, and Facebook, through programs in classroom and studies in lab, through retreats and exercises, books and journals, workshops and symposiums, some New Age and others old-school. In spite of – or perhaps even because of – cultural forces against it, “gratitude is also thriving.”

But no one needs an app to recognize a thankful heart….

Gratitude leads to success
… grateful job seekers have advantage: "You want to hire people … who are going to create culture that's gracious to work in."…"gratitude gives you strength." …abiding gratitude "for chance to continue living. ..Thank God [for survival]. And where does that gratitude lead? To giving back."…"more gratitude you have, more successful your life becomes,"…

Medical science recognizes gratitude
Indeed, the grateful may be their own best friends.

… gratitude is key component of resilience, person's ability to withstand stress – to swing with inclement weather, as bridge does, and "give yet not break." …"When you wake up, it's helpful if you have something you look forward to," ...

Medical scientists, too, believe they are able to trace beneficial effects of gratitude in humans….While scientists have yet to conduct specific brain studies on physiological effects of thankfulness, they have found that intense focus on positive things, such as favor of a friend, causes positive thinking – or positive neural pathways, as medical science terms it – to engage. …Conversely, if you dwell on negative – say friend's forgetting of your birthday – opposite happens: Stress can be triggered, and it becomes easier to process things negatively in future. …"even though it might feel forced, if you focus on gratitude over time, it does change way your brain works." …a gratitude guru says that people motivated to change their levels of happiness, or to lift a mild depression, can do so through gratitude "intervention." This might entail keeping gratitude journal, for instance, or spending 15 minutes a week remembering past kindnesses and, in response, writing letter of thanks to person who did kindness. "Ones who gain greatest benefits [are those who] try hard to carry it out over time,"

Spontaneous thanksgiving
Gratitude and religion go hand in hand, as evidenced by many ways believers express their thanks,… "spontaneous response of anyone with any sense at all that our existence as human beings is not pure accident. Thanksgiving is just very central way of relating between believers and their ultimate reality – God."…There is grace said before meals…hymns. ..[reading] Scriptures….psalms. … spontaneous prayer of one who received something wished for or was spared something feared. ("What's the first thing you say then?" "Thank God!")

…When people who are asked to focus on specific ideas during laboratory studies choose to focus on things that have strong meaning to them personally, neurological effects are measurable,... "So when people feel gratitude in context with God, it combines gratitude with extremely strong sense of love, compassion, and belief, and have a more robust response."

Swimming in sea of cyberthanks

…Off-line or on, gratitude comes in degrees and varies with personality. It can be fleeting feeling or emotion: You're grateful it didn't rain on your day off, for instance. Or, it can be a set of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that are reliable and stable over time.

"Some people are more prone by nature to be grateful." … For grateful, almost anything can be object of gratitude, and virtually any situation bears some thankful possibility

Even in worst of times, "if you're thankful for someone, for something, even a phone call, you have reached out beyond yourself," …"Once focus is off self, there's great serenity."

Gratitude can interrupt … "malignant narcissism of the terminally ill." [Doctors] observes evidence of that when [asking] patients about near-universal source of gratitude – family dog.

"No one can think about their pet without smiling," …. This shift in focus helps battle pessimism, something Mayo studies associate with shorter life span and decreased quality of life. "You cannot be optimistic if you're not grateful.”.

Gratitude equation includes taking

Gratitude, by definition, entails appreciation of generosity, whether you believe that it came from another person, from God, even from happenstance. It means you have to take, which is not easy if you've always prided yourself on self-sufficiency. But for those who have been in need, receiving does tend to beget giving…

…Gratitude of those who were in need and received help was put to direct use for others in similar need of work, perpetuating thankfulness/altruism cycle.

…biggest gift? Encouragement…"Everybody realizes that God does have a plan for everyone. If you do listen, God will send you some helpful servants – some sounding boards, realization that somebody does care and is willing to be alongside you."

Many scientists consider gratitude helpful survival strategy during difficult times, …

These days, personal development, temperament, life trauma, and culture of entitlement affect how thankful person is. And personal morality dictates how those thanks are used. After all, insincere shower of thanks – when not totally transparent and boring – can exploit somebody who's soft touch and can manipulate the generous for personal gain.

To qualify as virtue, thankfulness needs to meet a high standard.

"It's not just about doing right thing, but doing it for right reason," … "If you make lots of donations to charity so you get your name in the paper, that's not it." If you do lots of virtuous acts, but your heart is self-centered, then you don't have the virtue. Even learning about benefits of gratitude so you can reap those benefits doesn't count either. "Key is not only to be grateful, but to do it out of genuine thanksgiving."

Learning to recognize kindness
But no one beats good old Mom and Dad for lessons in thankfulness, experts say.

"Easiest way for me to explain gratitude to [tots] is through their parents – to show them that their parents supply them with everything they need.”

Parents can seize moment when somebody does kindness for their child. What did the giver intend? What might it have cost that person in money, say, or in time or emotion – to do the kindness? What benefit did child receive as a result? Goal of such an exercise? Awareness.

Studies show benefits of being grateful

Deseret News 2011 11 23

…Experts are saying that sentiment behind our American day of feasting might actually have important benefits to health and wellness. Gratitude, apparently, can make even most holiday-phobic among us happier, kinder, and less likely to dump cranberry sauce on our siblings' heads.

New York Times reported some of benefits of gratitude on minds and bodies based on number of different studies.

Being thankful, reaching goals, getting fit

…studied effects of gratitude by experimenting with "gratitude journal." According to Times, …selected group of subjects to simply record 5 things every week they were grateful for. After 2 months of this behavior, study reports, "Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based)" than those who did not.

…Study also showed physical changes: authors reported those keeping gratitude journals exercised more regularly and reported fewer physical symptoms.

Gratitude instead of Ambien

Those tested who kept gratitude journals were not just more active—they were also more rested. …study included group of adults with neuromuscular disease who underwent "gratitude intervention" for 3 weeks. Afterward, participants reported improvements in both how much and how well they slept.

…. not alone in finding correlation between gratitude and rest. ….review last year of several studies looking at correlation between gratitude and well-being. They specifically mentioned that even among participants who were usually "sleep-impaired," ending day with "positive pre-sleep cognitions" was big help. Showing gratitude promoted these positive bedtime reflections, "which seemed to explain why they had better sleep overall."

Gratitude: steroids for couples

Couples who are thankful for each other—and show it—improve their relationships, according to yet another gratitude study,…. Titled "It's the little things," research concludes that people in relationships felt 2 things in response to day-to-day thoughtful behaviors of their significant others: indebtedness and gratitude. It was gratitude that brought happy feelings next day, and was concluded to have power in keeping a relationship on track. … feelings of indebtedness showed engagement and commitment externally, but "gratitude had uniquely predictive power in relationship promotion, perhaps acting as booster shot for relationship."

More thankful, less aggressive

But research shows that benefits of showing gratitude are not just reserved for romantic relationships. … study considered connection between gratitude and aggression….study concludes that gratitude is linked to lower levels of aggression. Gratitude, according to authors, requires empathy–impulse incompatible with aggression.

Pursuit of happiness

What every recent study on gratitude seems to share is that in addition to specific benefits each noted, thankful people tended to be happier and more satisfied with their lives. Participants…were more enthusiastic about their activities and more optimistic about week that lay ahead.

Associated Press reports "When you stop and count your blessings, you hijack your emotional system"—resetting yourself to see things in new light. And this reset can be accomplished in simple ways. ….effect of writing grateful letters on well-being of group of young adult students. …project required participants to write 3 letters over 3 weeks to someone in their lives for whom they were thankful. …no pithy thank-you notes, no throwaways. They had to mean something for writer and recipient. …study concluded that letter-writers saw increases in their levels of gratitude over time--but also in their levels of overall happiness. For its authors, project revealed clear connection between being grateful and being happy. Even more importantly, happiness was increased through intentional action on part of individuals. What this means? "Volitional act of writing letters of gratitude supports previous research which demonstrated that individuals have ability to direct positive change in their lives,"…. People can make themselves happier. They can do it today, by giving thanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks #18

And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full....But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin--1 John 1:4 & 7

We are grateful for the light our Savior shines. It illuminates the important things. What are the important things in life?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Counsel on Dating and Courtship

Dating can be complicated. Singles deal with intricacies of getting to know and understand one another, coupled with mix of technological, financial, societal, religious and media influences.
Active LDS singles are encouraged to work toward temple marriage at appropriate time in their lives by adhering to high moral standards. Journey from first date to temple marriage can be challenging and contain blessings, heartbreaks and pitfalls. Thousands of books and articles by LDS and secular authors have extolled wisdom and tips about dating. Advice about how to act, what to say, what to wear and what to do while dating has been covered in detail. Over years, prophets and apostles have also given counsel to LDS singles about dating. This article is culmination of their words. As preface, quote from  May 1989 Ensign article to young men and women by Elder Boyd K. Packer of Quorum of Twelve (who is now president of that quorum) sums up guiding counsel of Church leaders on dating: "You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it."

From data given by Pew Forum in 2008, three highest same-faith unions are Hindus (90 percent), Mormons (83 percent) and Catholics (78 percent). LDS singles often wonder about dating non-members or getting married before young man serves a mission. Here is what Church leaders have said on both topics:

"Temple marriage should wait until after a young man has served an honorable full-time mission for the Lord. And I would admonish you to date only faithful young women who also believe this and give you that encouragement." — President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994), "To the 'Youth of the Noble Birthright," Ensign, May 1986, 44.

"You young people … have an important responsibility in choosing not only whom you will date but also whom you will marry. Your chances for a happy and lasting marriage will be far greater if you will date those who are active and faithful in the Church."— President Gordon B. Hinckley, "Four B's for Boys," Ensign, November 1981, p. 41.

Three online dating sites surveyed more than 20,000 men interested in long-term relationship with  woman. Top quality [man] wanted in woman was kindness. Similar survey done by Men's Health magazine asked 1,000 American women, ages 21 to 54, to name trait [woman] found most attractive in man. Their answer was "faithful to me." What behavior is appropriate for a date? What qualities are important in potential spouse? Here are some quotes from Church leaders:

"In a dating and courtship relationship, I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor." — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "How Do I Love Thee?" New Era, October 2003, p. 6.

"A few years ago my wife and I and another General Authority and his wife were on a Church assignment. The other man's wife and I had dated when we were both in high school. I was glad, and I am sure she was glad, that we did not have any bad memories of that date. Both of us could speak of it to our spouses and both of us could speak to a Church audience in the presence of the other without embarrassment."— Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Sin and Suffering," Brigham Young University 1989–90 Speeches (1990, p. 7).

"As you go through your dating and courting relationships, I would hope that you will assess the spiritual inclinations of the individuals you're getting to know better. How is their testimony? How do they treat their parents? How do they treat their brothers and sisters? Do they respect authority? Do they love the Lord, His servants, and the scriptures? What plans do they have for their lives? It isn't enough if they are handsome or beautiful, if they are rich or poor, what kind of car they drive, what kind of clothes they wear, what kind of athletic ability they have, or what kind of intellect they are. You should be seeking to understand the gifts they have that will be eternal in nature." — Elder Robert D. Hales, "Gifts of the Spirit," Ensign, February 2002, p. 19.

"Do you want capability, safety, and security in dating and romance, in married life and eternity? Be a true disciple of Jesus. Be a genuine, committed, word-and-deed Latter-day Saint. Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does. You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the path of love and happiness. How should I love thee? As He does, for that way 'never faileth.' " — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "How Do I Love Thee?" New Era, October 2003, p. 8.

Heidi Banks, well known dating adviser, said, "There is truly only one real danger that we must concern ourselves with and that is closing our hearts to the possibility that love exists." So is dating worth it? What constitutes a date? If someone asks you to lunch, is it a date? What about invitation through Facebook or in text? Can't dating just wait? Elder Dallin H. Oaks is clear in his counsel:

"Men, if you have returned from your mission and you are still following the boy-girl patterns you were counseled to follow when you were 15, it is time for you to grow up. Gather your courage and look for someone to pair off with. Start with a variety of dates with a variety of young women, and when that phase yields a good prospect, proceed to courtship. It's marriage time. That is what the Lord intends for His young adult sons and daughters. Men have the initiative, and you men should get on with it. If you don't know what a date is, perhaps this definition will help. I heard it from my 18-year-old granddaughter. A "date" must pass the test of three p's: (1) planned ahead, (2) paid for, (3) paired off.— Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Dating versus Hanging Out," Ensign, June 2006, p. 13.

"If we are to persuade young men to ask for dates more frequently, we must establish a mutual expectation that to go on a date is not to imply a continuing commitment. … Young women, if you turn down a date, be kind. Otherwise you may crush a nervous and shy questioner and destroy him as a potential dater, and that could hurt some other sister." — Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Dating versus Hanging Out," Ensign, June 2006, p. 14.

Dating can be complicated, but it need not be overwhelming. God's plan for His children is not plan of frustration but plan of happiness.

That plan includes dating and marriage to person that should be blessing in this life and eternity. Following counsel of Church leaders, LDS singles date and marry with knowledge that marriage relationships continue beyond this mortal sphere.

"The greatest single factor affecting what you are going to be tomorrow, your activity, your attitudes, your eventual destiny … is the one decision you make … when you ask that individual to be your companion for life.

"That's the most important decision of your entire life! It isn't where you are going to school, or what lessons you are going to study, or what your major is, or how you are going to make your living. These, though important, are incidental and nothing compared with the important decision that you make when you ask someone to be your companion for eternity"— The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Edward L. Kimball, ed. [1982], p. 301.