Book Review: Joy in the Covenant by Julie B. Beck

 

 

Joy in the Covenant

 

This book is by Julie Beck, one of my all-time favorite women leaders of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sister Beck has a way of just telling it like it is. Like when she said that nurturing equals homemaking, and that includes “cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home.” In the same talk she stated that “Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world.” That’s all from her famous “Mothers Who Know” talk. I love that! One of my sister’s close friends from high school is Sister Beck’s niece, and then this friend’s sister is my other sister’s friend from high school as well as the sister-in-law of the just mentioned sister. How is that for confusing? 🙂 My sisters and I had lunch with these two nieces about six years ago on a breezy, lazy summer day.  I remember them saying that their Aunt Julie has a boldness that they admire as well.

 

 

So you can expect that kind of forthrightness in this book. It starts a bit slowly as she flashes back to her childhood when her father, Elder William Grant Bangerter, was called to be a mission president in Brazil. As she tells those stories they all run together and the book gets a little repetitive, I admit. I loved, however, hearing how she saw the kingdom of God grow in that nation, from a tiny seed to a great mustard tree of faith. I have a brother and nephew who each served a mission in Brazil so I’ve been touched that way by the growth of the kingdom there.  Brazil has so many missions! I’ve heard that one out of every six missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ serves in Brazil, although I don’t know if that’s true, but if anyone ever asks you go guess where a missionary might be going before he or she opens a call envelope, guess Brazil. 🙂

OK, back to the book recap. Most if not all the book is a compilation of talks she gave at various venues, outside of General Conference. It was interesting to see that she had a rough start in school as a child with illness and learning disabilities but made up for it later, by getting her bachelor’s degree as a mother. She is so articulate, who would have thought that she had learning issues and lacked self-confidence as a student at one point?

I loved her emphasis on how keeping covenants are so important, that they bless us so much, that we are safe and protected and have joy because of them.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

(Please forgive me for not having page numbers for all of the quotes. This is not a scholarly article, :-). )

“Priesthood is an eternal power that gives us access to all the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement. The priesthood connects God’s covenant people to Him and to each other.” (36-37)

“The Holy Ghost: guides us to truth, fortifies our faith and testimony, helps us find answers to our questions, enlightens our minds, fills our souls with joy.” (37)

“The Lord has restored His covenant to the earth. The blessings of this covenant have no qualifications other than worthiness and desire to obtain them. …All who sincerely study its doctrines receive the blessing of knowing Him, loving Him, and becoming more like Him. …All who desire to be partakers of the blessings of the priesthood can enjoy them.” (40)

 

 

“We sometimes desire to live a dream life now, forgetting that earth life is about having an experience that prepares us for the promised dream of eternal life.” (64)

“We all need our Heavenly Father and our Savior in every part of our lives. Without Them, our puny efforts will never be enough. Because of the Savior’s atoning power and through the covenants we honor with Him and our Father, we can depend on strength that is greater than our own during our mortal experience. We don’t know all that will occur in our future, but we do know that we are not powerless and that we do not have to travel this experience alone.” (75)

“It is good for us to ask …questions and draw nearer to God for our answers, to seek a renewal of hope and confirm our faith.” (77)

“To compensate for our weakness and to ensure that death would not be permanent, we were promised a Savior. Jesus Christ was chosen to mark the path and lead the way back to our heavenly home. He would conquer death and lead us into life eternal. The scriptures today record the life and ministry of Jesus, and we have the testimony of many witnesses of His resurrection and life. We have ‘hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of [our] faith in him according to the promise.'” (78)

“To protect ourselves from adversarial influences and qualify for the companionship of the Spirit, we also cannot neglect spending time in the scriptures. When the scriptures become our friend, when they became our thesaurus and our dictionary, when they become our companion and our teacher, then the Lord can use them and open them for our benefit. We will find verses we didn’t know existed, and we’ll be blessed by words we are seeking.” (sorry, I don’t have the page for that one and I had had to return the book back to my inter-library loan system before I captured all the quotes I liked with exact page numbers.)

 

 

That all sounds so lofty, doesn’t it? Like maybe she is spending hours in them every day right? But she goes on to say that at one point she had several classes she was attending with different scripture reading assignments hanging over her head. She felt discouraged that she couldn’t keep up. So she finally decided she wouldn’t even try to keep up or set a certain number of minutes or read at a certain time. She simply decided to read her scriptures every day without keeping to a schedule, and that made life easier and enlightening. So I love that combination of the ideal and the practical.

 

 

She also tells the story of how she and her team in the Relief Society General Presidency produced the book, Daughters in My Kingdom, with Susan W. Tanner as the writer. It was great to read that story.

I also love that she bears testimony of the Savior, the gospel, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith. About her testimony, she says, “This is more than a guess for me. It is a priceless collection of ‘evidence’ I have worked hard to assemble. It is in my soul. It is a knowledge achieved through study and faith. It is now like a tree I have nourished that has grown to fill my life.”

 

 

My favorite story in the book is about her mother, Gail Hamblin Bangerter. She said that her mom was a Primary teacher who decided to minister to a little boy in her Primary class who had parents who didn’t come to Church. The little boys’ Primary classmates started making fun of him because he smelled of cigarette smoke. She sternly reprimanded the boys for being so unkind and asked them to stop making fun of Billy. She brought Billy to church and Primary every week (this was in the days when Primary was on a weekday– I am old enough to remember that). Then the ward got split and the boy became a deacon but he kept coming to Sister Bangerter’s ward. The bishop wanted Billy to come to his proper ward so he told Sister Bangerter to stop bringing Billy to her ward. Sister Bangerter replied something to the effect of, “Bishop, when you love Billy as much as I do, he will come to your ward.” I love that!

Here is another one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“When prayer becomes a craving in our lives, when we breathe prayer, when we dream prayer, when we sigh prayer and cry prayer and love praying, then we begin to know some things about Heavenly Father and His Son and what They know about us and how much they love and trust us and how patient They are with us while we learn. Through that kind of prayer, we repent and feel the Lord’s love around us. …When the scriptures become our friend, when they become our thesaurus and our dictionary, when they become our companion and our teacher, then the Lord can use them and open them for our benefit. We will find verses we didn’t know existed, and we’ll be blessed by words we are seeking.” (153)

I give this book five out of five stars! This is not a light summer read. It is perfect for reading at night when sleep doesn’t come and you are full of anxiety. Enjoy!

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Come Follow Me: Week #19, What I Learned at the Smithsonian Institute When My Toenails Were About to Fall Off

Sorry for being so long in blogging. I went on this amazingly epic trip with some of my homeschool mom friends, one homeschool dad friend, and their kids to Washington D.C. recently. Hence the blogging hiatus. Getting ready for such a trip, doing the trip, and then recovering from the trip took all my time and brain space for the past three weeks, haha. Pictures and descriptions will be coming soon! None of my kids wanted to go, sadly, (can you believe it?) but that certainly made it easier (translate: cheaper) for me. So even though I was sad they didn’t want to come, I was not-so-secretly-relieved too, because then I didn’t have to help them raise money. Less stress for me. More on all that later, but for now, just know…my trip was so wonderful!

 

 

I don’t know what number I am on for blogging about what I’m learning about Jesus Christ from the Come, Follow Me Study Guide. We’ll go with Week #19. I don’t even know if that’s the week that has the Parable of the Ten Virgins. but I’m feeling too lazy to look it up. I’m blogging about that today, regardless. One thing I learned from my DC trip is how important it is to exercise regularly, not to lose or even maintain weight, but to feel good and to be able to keep up with the physical demands on my body. I had just read the Parable of the Ten Virgins that Jesus gave in the Come, Follow Me readings, or maybe I read it in the middle of the week-long trip, or right when I came back?

 

Anyway, back when January of 2019 started I had, like many people do every year, gloriously planned on making this year the year I am consistent in exercise. I don’t really care about weight loss, if I can just tone my muscles and shape up (translate: lose inches). I planned on exercising at least four times a week, 20 minutes a time. It sounds doable right? Doing the Trim Healthy Mama Workins was part of the plan. I love that the Workins routines get my heart rate up and my breathing heavy after only 20  minutes. I really want to complete my self-challenge of doing the Workins  for six weeks consistently! Some days I wasn’t up for the intensity of a Workins routine so I would do my healthy posture DVD instead, which is Pilates-based (those stretches feel sooooo good!), or I would do stepping for 20 minutes with my arm bands. With those three things for variety (not to mention all the variety of all the DVDs in the THM Workins’ package) this all seemed very achievable.

 

Well, here’s what happened: I would go for about four weeks being consistent (at least four times a week), then I would let it slide, then I would get another four weeks in or so of four times a week. Then when May hit, I completely let exercising slide because of all the other pressures I was under. I realize now more than ever that exercise is much more a wellness tool than a weight loss tool. After exercising for one of those chunks of time I just described I weighed more than I started. That was really discouraging. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t also feel that my pants felt tighter on me. I wasn’t losing inches! I can’t say I was developing muscle and feeling leaner when my pants are fitting tighter. So that’s when I stopped the last round, that, combined with all the end of school year pressures, including finishing the Quest year and my kids’ Shakespeare play. (It’s such a joke that Mother’s Day is in May! How about we honor all mothers in May by everyone agreeing not to hold any end of year stuff in May?!)

 

On the D.C. trip, one of my mom friends, Ms. K,  was like the Energizer bunny. She’s short, cute, cheery, and kept going when part of the group, including me, was flagging around 3 PM. One the second day of the D.C. tour, my feet felt so sore and swollen I thought my toenails were going to fall off! On the first day,  when I felt my back was going to melt into the floor, I stopped for a rest at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, to just sit against one of the walls. It had been a very full day and my body, eyes, and brain needed a break after seeing Julia Child’s kitchen, Dorothy of Oz’s ruby red slippers, and a million bits of miscellany of Americana, like the real Star-Spangled Banner (for reals, the original one that hung at Fort McHenry, it’s huge!), a fragment of Plymouth Rock,  the inaugural ball gowns and all of the china of the First Ladies.

 

 

Ms. K just kept pressing forward for another round, as if she was doing laps around the rest of us. She came back to all of us slackers and reported on the treasures we were missing out on: Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, the original Swedish Chef Muppet, a Nauvoo Temple sunstone, and a copy of the Liberty Bell. I asked her if she was even tired and she said “No, not at all!” I remembered I had learned her secret two days earlier on the way to the airport. This woman, a busy mother of 8, is a triathlete! Yes, she has completed a handful of triathlons and is used to regular exercise. Her regular trips to Disneyland help her endurance as well, not to mention being the mom of 8 kids, :-).

 

 

So how does all this relate to the Parable of the Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25? Some conditions, like being physically able to walk on a tour in D.C. all day, and being spiritually prepared for the Savior’s Second Coming, can’t be done at the last minute. I have to prepare for them a little bit every day, just like the virgins added to their oil in their lamps, a few drops every day. Not only that, but some conditions can’t be shared. My cute Ms. K couldn’t share her robust physical condition with me, much as I wish she could, just like the virgins couldn’t share their supply of oil. I can’t give my testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to  you, but I can encourage you to gain one and nourish it daily.

My homeschool group is gearing up for a repeat of this trip (with improvements of course) in the fall of 2020. You can be sure I’m going to be a lot more in shape for that trip! I want to be just like Ms. K the Energizer Bunny!  I’m also taking at least two of my kids with me, without dragging them but by inspiring them. I’m shooting for at least four times a week of exercise (at least 20 minutes a time) from now until then, and I’m determined to see and feel the difference in my stamina when I tour D.C. that fall.

P.S. The next day after feeling like my toenails were going to pop off I found out from Ms. K, through her FitBit, that we had walked 13 miles in one day! My body is not used to that! We did that every day for 5 days. No wonder I had to recover from the trip!

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Married Date Night Movie Review: No Greater Love

 

DH and I watched the movie No Greater Love a few months ago for a date night at home. The acting is a bit stiff, but it was still enjoyable. It’s a wonderful movie to watch as a married couple. It raises the questions:

When is it OK to get divorced?

What does it mean to be a Christian and be married?

Is it OK for a Christian to marry a non-Christian?

What does it mean to be a Christian and be married?

Is a Christian marriage different from a non-Christian marriage? Why?

What is the proper role of a wife?

What is the proper role of a husband?

What is the proper role of a mother and father?

If you weren’t Christian and suddenly woke up one day as a Christian, would that change the way you parent or the way you treat your spouse?

Is it OK to yell at your child?

How far does forgiveness extend in marriage? in parenthood?

I found this on DVD at local my public library. You can also watch on amazon. It’s great to watch as a couple. Families with kids 12 and older might enjoy watching it together as well.

 

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What I Learned from Come, Follow Me: Week #17

Did you all have a happy Mother’s Day! I sure did. It redeemed “The Mothers’ Day from Hell” that I had two years ago. That happened as I was driving out of state and totaled my car in a head-on collision. Ugh, talk about no fun. This year I had the Mothers’ Day from Heaven. Yay!

 

I got to eat chocolate, play the piano, go to church, have homemade ice cream that my husband made, chat with all my kids and grandbaby, and play General Conference Jeopardy! (Not in that order, haha.) Jeopardy! is the best game ever! My family knows I have a long-standing love affair with Jeopardy! All the kids, even the four out of the nest, who live out of state, joined us via video chat to play so that was super fun. I am so impressed that my 14-year-old took second place. He showed so much diligence in looking up the answers in the 2019 spring General Conference Ensign for our “open book test” game. We used the questions and answers from homeschool mom Montserrat over here.

For gifts, I got two of the best material gifts ever:  a year-long subscription to Audible and Julie Andrews’ seasonal poetry collection. I am sooooo looking forward to using both of these every day in our homeschooling.

(I had some fun pictures from our Jeopardy game to show you all but they are not uploading so I’m including videos about moms from my church.)

It’s been a while since I posted what I’ve been learning from my Come, Follow Me study of the New Testament by using Hebrew pictograms so I thought I would share the latest revelation…it’s amazing! Yes, I know that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, nevertheless, whenever you translate any word into Hebrew pictograms, you get insight.

A few weeks ago for Come, Follow Me, we were asked to read John 7-10. John 8:29 says, “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.”

What does it mean to please? Why is that important to God? Why would the Savior say that He always pleases His Father? I love this talk at BYUI from Elder Devn G. Cornish about why pleasing God the Father should be our #1 goal in life.

Here is the English word “please” translated into Hebrew:

אנא

The letters are, from right to left (or from left to right, since the order is symmetrical this time, LOL!):

(aleph) (nun) (aleph)

The symbols for these letters are:

(ox-head)  (sprouting seed) (ox-head)

The meanings for these symbols are:

(strength of the leader )  (generation/heir)  (strength of the leader)

So what is the composite meaning of this word as I combine the keywords?

Here’s how I interpret it:

The word “please” means “to do things as a generation/heir to become as strong as the parent/leader in order to receive or inherit all the strength and glory of the parent/leader.”

So “please” in Hebrew means following God the Father. It literally means to receive the strength of God the Father,  so that we as His children can partake in all that He wants to give us.

Jesus definitely gave us the example for that, as He said, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.” John 8:28

He also said basically that he does nothing except it is what He sees His father do. (John 5:19)

Isn’t that beautiful? I know I have a lot of growing to do in this area of pleasing God. Thankfully,  the grace from Jesus is there to allow me to be strong enough to receive all the strength and glory the Father has. Jesus helps me to receive the teachings of God the Father, so that I can be like Him, just as glorious and happy. For that I praise His name forever! I have felt a ton of weaknesses and negative emotions lately. It has felt good to remember that I can give it all to Jesus and move on.

 

 

 

 

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A New Book for Anyone to Glimpse the Beauty of God and the Hebrew Language

 

Many blog posts ago, when I was referring to what I learned in my Bible study by looking up a word in Hebrew, someone asked about how I learned about ancient Hebrew pictograms. I learned them from my friend Katie Hansen, who blogs over here. Katie and I used to live within 20 minutes of each other, until each of us moved. We did a homeschool group, a commonwealth together, our children are best friends, and we have had many playdates at our homes and the park. Our kids have had lots of adventures and scrapes during our many visits together. 😉

Katie has come out with a NEW, basic introductory guide to the Hebrew alphabet, pictured above, The New Early Semitic Pictographic Alphabet. I was given a chance to preview it. It is beautiful. By studying it, your eyes will start to open up to the incredible beauty and poetry of the Hebrew language. Any time you can translate a word into the ancient Hebrew pictograms, your heart will behold wonders you  never knew existed about our language, its depth of meaning, and its connection to God and the ancient Hebrews.

Here is Katie’s story about why she wrote this introductory guide along with a testimonial from Hebrew scholar Dr. Avraham Gileadi, founder of the Isaiah Institute:

After I asked God what he wanted me to do to prepare for coming days, and was shown (read my story here), I began learning more and teaching what I call Symbolic Hebrew (Ancient Biblical Hebrew).  I quickly began to see our story in this beautiful language.  I started to learn more of who I really am and how we all are connected to this Ancient people.

As I researched these things over the years, I found many House of Israel stories which have helped me illustrate more about this Hebrew language and people.   It is my desire to share those stories with everyone!

This past winter, I awoke from a dream with an idea to share some of what I have discovered, in a simple Alphabet book.  This Early Semitic Pictographic Alphabet book takes the depth of my ten year research, which most are not ready for, and distills it into simplicity.

Pre order your copy today from this link.

The books will be printed and shipped out at the end of May.  If you know others who would be interested in this book, your efforts to share would be much appreciated so we can keep the cost low, or, buy in bulk and save on shipping.

I can’t wait for you to read it!   Learning more about this Ancient Hebrew can greatly add to your understanding of the scriptures, the Ancient Tabernacle and your connection to them.

God bless you in learning, living and becoming with your family!

-Katie HansenA.G. testimonial

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The Best Toy Swords Ever

 

Do your kids like sword play as much as mine do? With five boys in our family, we’ve had a variety of swords pile up around here in two decades’ times.

 

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Nerf swords, no-brand-name swords from the store, plain homemade swords out of two thin planks of wood, and fancy homemade swords out of PVC pipe and foam have all fought in battle around here.

 

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Not to mention all the weapons made out of popsicle sticks or random old branches from bushes in the yard. We have so many swords that whenever all the brothers are home, they can all get in the act, even with their big sister. Here she is, still in a dress and heels, fighting with her brothers, impressing her soon-to-be husband!

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The swords that have lasted for over a decade are made out of PVC pipe with foam and fabric covering the pipe to make them safe for play. They do the job, but admittedly, they don’t look super cool.

 

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That’s why I am so thrilled to tell you about my new favorite ultimate source for the best-looking and funnest toy swords ever! I recently stumbled upon it and feel so fortunate. It’s Prime Swords by Formidable Toys. These are the best! They take sword play to the next level! As unique works of art, with eye popping colors and designs, they look so epic, you would think that you had entered into one of Tolkien’s tales while wielding one.

They are super durable and super safe. They come in lots of dynamic colors and styles, from the basic swords like these, the Eon style:

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To fancier ones like this with a double cross guard, the Riven style:

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To the ultra super fancy ones like this, the Dragon style:

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All of them have interchangeable pieces, so you can mix and match the blade, cross guard and handle, among your collection. So they become customizable. You can have a fire blade with an ice hilt, or vice versa. How cool is that?

You can check out all the styles and buy them here. The paint stretches with the foam sword so it is non-flaking, because who wants the cool colors to fade and wear off?

Here’s a video review showing how awesome these swords are:

 

 

Talk about the best birthday gift for a little boy ever! These swords encourage active and outdoor play. We all want more of that for our kids in the easy-screen-for-entertainment-age, right? What’s best of all is these swords were designed by a real life dad out of his love for his little boy. Here’s the story of how Formidable Toys got started in the founder’s own words:

Formidable Toys started in 2011 with my son’s wild imagination. He has always loved swords and making them out of anything and everything. One day he started asking us to draw swords for him with different styles of blades and grips.

Over weeks the drawings evolved and I thought that it would be cool to have a toy sword that had dragon heads as cross guards and blades that could be switched out, so that, for example, an ice dragon could have a fire blade in its mouth. At that moment, Prime Swords was born.

From basic drawings and concepts, my very talented cousin Mark drew the first fire dragon sword. His art elevated Prime Swords to a whole new level. We worked through developing the components and models of each sword so that everything worked well together and looked amazing.

At Formidable Toys we feel strongly about inspiring kids’ imaginations and providing quality products that kids will love. We hope you see the value of our products and have some crazy fun adventures with your kids as you battle with Prime Swords.

So go get some Prime Swords  today and start forging your own adventures!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

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When You Feel Broken, Know that God is There

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Whew! We got child #3 off to college last week to start spring semester at BYUI. What a whirlwind! He was bound and determined to leave, despite his look alike baby brother’s protest that he stay home. I have loved having him since October when he got home from his mission. I also felt stretched mothering five children with so many different schedules and needs. It has been early mornings and late nights and careful coordination of cars for all their different activities and education, what with seminary, jobs, Scouts, Mutual, homeschool, dates, parties, dances, etc., not to mention my own needs!

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The gift from big brother that caused a lot of talk about how to get from Texas to AZ.

I had to leave that morning early for our homeschool group/commonwealth so I didn’t get to see him off. The weekend before, he flew to Texas to pick up a car his generous older brother bought for him, and then he drove it back in a day. Wow, after all those weeks of talking about how and when that would happen, it finally worked out. Squeezing a trip like that into our schedule was trickly. The next day, we did a family outing hiking and exploring a cave for one last hurrah.

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Then he was scheduled to leave before we left bright and early for our normal Thursday commonwealth (homeschool group) day but car trouble reared its ugly head. He was able to get a mobile mechanic to come to the home to fix the car and leave around 2:30 to head out. I’m sad I wasn’t there to see him off. He spent the night in Henderson NV, got to see his aunt and uncle in St. George, then drove to Idaho the next day and got settled in. I tell you, every time a child leaves for college I feel the pain of my nest emptying even more. Thank goodness for the hope I have of grandbabies filling it up again! I’ve just go to move back closer to what I hope will be the crossroads.

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I’ve spent a lot of days driving lately for my  kids homeschool group, their Shakespeare play practice, a youth temple trip, and my 17 year old son’s final huge activity for his Quest class. Thank goodness for books on CD, Audible, and podcasts, right?!

One of the podcasts I loooove is the one for BYUI devotionals. (And BYU Provo’s too.) I listened to this talk by Elder Kim B. Clark from BYUI’s recent winter semester convocation. It’s called, “Home and Family Convocation Remarks.” He tells the most amazing story of God’s hand manifesting in the life of his daughter who went through a bitter divorce. I won’t spoil it for you, you have to listen! As he says, “There are miracles!” God provided a huge tender mercy for her in the form of rerouting two plane flights so she could have a long awaited for blessing. This was amazing to hear! I love what Elder Clark says, that no matter if you are married or single, you can continue to do things to build an eternal family. “God is in your life. He sent his Son Jesus Christ so that you can have an eternal family, and have joy and happiness here, and eternally.”

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