I used the story below in a Relief Society lesson the first Sunday in January to introduce  the new year.  Each sister received a plaque with the words "expect Miracles" to display at home for a reminder every day.    I hope that we can share miracles, both large and small, with each other throughout the year.  Surely the Lord will bless us as we strive to strengthen home and family in the latter days!
Faith to be blessed with miracles is a principal of power.  I really like this quote on miracles from Light in the Wilderness by M. Catherine Thomas:  “If our life is focused upon the greater purposes of the Lord, and we understand the nature of [earth life], we may experience miracles in both the great issues and the small details of life--all that it is “expedient for man to receive” (1st Ne 17:30) – which is likely more than we have yet dreamed to ask for.  That means we can get up in the morning, call on the name of the Lord, contemplate Him in humility and EXPECT to participate in miracles through the course of our day.  We can do life, expecting miracles.  This is the Great Plan of Happiness.”  (Light in the Wilderness).

New Year’s Miracles,    from a Blog Post by Heather Farrell

“Instead of resolutions, my husband and I write down New Year Miracles. Each new year we write down three or four things that we’d like to see happen during the next year. They are always things that at the time seem utterly and completely impossible, things that if they really were to happen would indeed be miracles. Sometimes we ask for miracles for ourselves, but usually we ask for miracles to happen to people we care deeply about. Since they are things near and dear to our heart it isn’t hard to think about them often and to offer up silent and vocal prayers for them throughout the year.

My husband and I started this tradition not long after we were married and then several years ago I read this story by Elder Boyd K. Packer in which he and his wife do something similar. He said:

Donna and I attended an unusual dinner at the home of one of our beloved friends. It was a New Year’s Eve party. Our host had an activity for the evening. He read a quotation from Heber C. Kimball: “I have said often, you may write blessings for yourselves and insert every good thing you can think of, and it will all come to pass on your heads, if you do right.” (From an address in the Old Tabernacle, August 1853.)

He gave each of us a sheet of paper and an envelope and suggested we write upon the paper the [blessings] we hoped for the new year. We were asked to seal the envelope and put our name on it. “I will take these to the bank and put them in the vault,” he said. “A year from now we will meet again and have a dinner and I will deliver them to you. And we will tell if you wish, how nearly [they have come to pass].” We thoughtfully set our hopes (goals) that night and sealed them up, and they were delivered to the vault to lay unopened for a full year. Six things were on our list, each relating to a blessing for someone dear. Each seemed near to the impossible. One, for instance related to a sister and … marriage. Worthiness was no problem; it was her body so crippled with disease that a [marriage] was out of the question, or was it?

The year rolled by and the envelopes were delivered to us again. During the year, with those hopes [goals] in mind, we had prayed now and then, and then little opportunities came by. They would have gone unnoticed if we had not written them down. We were able to move forward, fi with one, then with another. Five impossible things had happened. The sixth related to the solution of a problem of a friend. It was on New Year’s Eve that I received a telephone call from across the country. My friend excitedly told me that his problem had been solved. He knew nothing of the notes in the envelope.”

Last year I wrote down four miracles, things that I was sure could never happen that year but which my heart yearned for desperately. I can bear strong testimony that God is still a God of miracles because one of my impossible things was answered directly this year, another was answered in a roundabout way, and one of the miracles I prayed for two years ago was answered this year. I’ve noticed that sometimes God doesn’t always perform the miracle in the year I pray for it but I’ve come to trust in God’s timing and wisdom. I know that the other two miracles I prayed for will someday be answered in His own time and His own way.

Perhaps these impossible things would still have happened if I hadn’t been praying for them to happen, but then they wouldn’t have been miracles. Miracles are things that need to be asked for… they take faith. Jesus never performed a miracle unless someone specifically sought him out and asked for it. They demonstrated their faith in His power by being humble enough to ask Him for the miracle they wanted, whether it was for themselves or someone they loved. If we want to see miracles we have to have the faith to ask for them."

Please share your miracles with us. 

I'm on the VERGE. . . of many things.  Alzheimer’s, menopause, loose skin disease.  I’m also on the verge of being an empty-nester before being a grandma.  This is not sitting well with me.  In one year my 17 year old will be submitting his mission papers and my almost 16 year old will be a senior in High School.  To top it off, the past few months I’ve been suffering from Mother’s Remorse.  But now I have a plan :).   It’s called “I’ve really tried over the past 27 years but just in case that isn’t enough I'm stepping it up on our Last Two,” or “Stepping It Up” for short.  Often our Last Two look at me in utter astonishment . . . they’ll get over it. 

Isn’t that what it’s all about . . . the “hastening of the work?”  Stepping it up?  Our children must be stronger, smarter, wiser than we were. They need to be more aware, more obedient, and more in-tune.  Our children need to know what the Plan of Happiness and the power of the Atonement mean for them personally. They need to know that they can access the atoning power every day.  And they need to be ready to take this knowledge to the world. 

We need to teach them.

Part of my “Stepping It Up” plan is to take “the home is the new MTC” to a higher level through family scripture study (FSS) and FHE. In January our family began reading The Book of Mormon Made Easier, by gospel scholar, David J Ridges.  Our FSS was less than amazing, and this study guide has proved to be a wonderful solution.  Along with the complete text of the Book of Mormon, it includes in-the-verse notes and additional insights and commentary from Brother Ridges.  And it’s working for our teenagers who no long groan when they are called to FSS. 

Another part of the plan is to use FHE to improve our sharing the gospel (STG) skills. When our last missionary returned home in July of 2011, the summer of 2015 seemed very far away.   My handmade Teach My Gospel Missionary Cards got buried deep in a cupboard and forgotten about.  I unburied them the first of the year.  My parents, who have served four missions and worked with many missionaries, said “Melanie, you need to share this resource with all the families out there who are preparing missionaries.”   So I spruced them up a bit and put them on-line.  Here is how we are using them in FHE.

First, we read letters from family members currently serving full time missions.   We are blessed to have cousins serving in Canada, Arizona, and Japan.  Their mothers forward their letters to us (thank you).  All three happen to be excellent letter writers.  I fear my future missionary will fall short in this area.  One-word response from him are protocol. And honestly, the thought of hearing only this from him for two whole years makes me want to keep him home.  I am hoping this letter reading activity will rub off on him.  What’s more, our missionary cousins are passionate about what they are doing.  They have t up weeks and down weeks, but they are happy and growing in their love for the gospel and their fellowmen.  What a glorious thing.

Next, we pick a lesson set, such as The Restoration, from our Teach My Gospel Missionary Training Cards  and distribute the cards evenly amongst our family members.  We  take 2-3 minutes to study the back of our cards, considering both the principles and a personal example/testimony of the concept.  Then we take turns presenting the cards in order to each other. It’s harder than you think, but we are getting better at it.   By the end of FHE we’ve each had the opportunity to gain confidence in teaching gospel principles and to share personal experiences. And when we're ready, we’ll take turns giving the lessons all the way through.  By the time our next missionary enters the MTC, he’ll be  confident in sharing gospel principles  and more able to focus on the Spirit, learning the language, and other important lessons from the MTC. 

I came across another FHE mission-prep resource this morning.  It is www.preparetoteach.com, a website put together by Alex, an impressive  returned missionary with a young family and a deep desire to provide clean, educational resources  that help pre-missionaries and their families hasten the work. There are hundreds of videos and resources on the site.  It’s a simple way to learn about the states and countries around the world where missionaries serve and actually hear from Elders and Sisters who have served in there.    

We'd love to hear about things you are doing to  hasten the work in your own homes.  Please share.

Several months ago I made a phone call to my young adult daughter.  I hadn’t been able to reach her through text for two or three days and it worried me because we communicate almost daily.  I wondered why she wasn’t replying.  To my relief, she did answer my phone call and after some probing from me admitted that she was struggling with something and was embarrassed and afraid.  She had watched a crime show on television a few weeks before and witnessed some very disturbing images.  She couldn’t get them out of her head and felt almost incapacitated.  She questioned her worthiness and her ability to receive divine help.  Because of my own experience with battling and conquering fear and negative thoughts, I was able to listen calmly as she shared her worries.   And because the Lord blesses us with personal challenges that, through our growth, enable us to better help others, I had some answers for her.   I’ll write about the answers in another segment, but for now know that my counsel calmed her and together we created a plan of action to help her overcome the adversary.

That very evening my mother, unaware of the needs of her grand-daughter, sent me an article called “I Cried Out “Why?”, from Meridian Magazine.  It was written by Ted Gibbons and in it he shared a personal experience similar to the one my daughter was having.  While serving as a missionary in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ted had been overcome with a terrifying inability to control his thoughts.  In his own words:  “I don’t know why it happened or even how much of it was a result of my own weakness.  I was not pursuing a course of my own choosing, but that did not diminish the pain I suffered with the problem.  I was in Hell. I hated to leave the apartment, so great was my fear of what my mind would do to me on the streets. I fasted and prayed and sought a blessing from my companion and district, but all without discernible results.”

Then he learned of an upcoming visit by Elder Kimball to his mission.  He rejoiced in the possibility that this may be an answer to his plead for help.  Each of the 18 missionaries in the Santos Zone was to have a personal interview with Elder Kimball after which he would address the entire Zone.  Ted earnestly prepared for his time with Elder Kimball.

The day finally came.  Ted says:  “Because of where I was sitting, I would be the last one interviewed. The elder next to me had been out for about five minutes. It was nearly my turn. I was praying silently, my head down, for the Lord to give me a solution to my problems during the interview when I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I looked up. It was Elder Kimball.

Elder, he whispered, I’m out of time. I need to deliver my message and travel to São Vicente for the dedication of the chapel. Would it be all right if I interviewed you the next time I come to Brazil?”

I felt shattered, my heart like a dishrag—twisted, stretched, and wrung out within me. I needed this interview! I had fasted and prayed in preparation. How could this be happening? And, of course, I smiled and said, “That will be fine, Elder Kimball,” As he walked to the front of the chapel, I leaned back with tears in my eyes, and cried out “Why?” in my heart.

Then Elder Kimball got up and gave a powerful sermon on CONTROLLING THOUGHTS. The message may have been a blessing to others, but I knew, as I listened in wonder and joy, that it was intended for me. I learned two things that day. I learned how to control my thoughts, and I learned that the Lord could respond to my very personal needs through the inspired public utterances of his servants.”

Ted continues, “As I have shared this experience over the years, I have been astounded by the number of people requesting the details of President Kimball’s counsel.”  Here is his edited recollection of President Kimball’s counsel on controlling thoughts so many years ago:

“President Kimball began by talking about mowing his lawn. He decided on one occasion that he no longer wanted to be troubled by a row of flowers along the edge of the lawn.   He said that once he had made that decision, he simply moved the mower over and cut them down.

But the next week when he mowed again, he discovered that they were still growing. The stalks had begun to  produce new green leaves and were continuing to flourish. So he cut them down again. The next week was the same and he mowed them once more.

After a few weeks, he said, the leaves had begun to turn brown around the edges and the plants appeared to him to be less healthy. He cut them off once more. The plants continued to deteriorate, week by week, because every time he encountered them, he cut them off at once.

Finally, they were gone.

I am certain that Elder Kimball elaborated on this analogy and experience, but of that I remember nothing.   The message is clear enough. The thoughts themselves were, like the flowers, unwanted. But it was when they were allowed to grow unchecked that their roots went deep and it became difficult to kill them.  It seems now that this is a remarkably simple solution, and an incredibly effective one. I left the meeting determined to keep the lawnmower running. Every time I was troubled by the blossoms of unwanted thoughts, I cut them off. They continued to come back for a while, but, as Elder Kimball had suggested, they soon began to appear with less frequency and beauty. After some time, they stopped appearing at all. I was free. I think part of what helped me then was the image of the lawnmower, and the fact that a prophet had helped the Lord answer my prayers. I know this at least: it worked! And it felt so good when the problem was gone.”

Now back to my daughter.  President Kimball’s counsel worked for her, too,  just as it has worked for me and can help you, or your child, or anyone else who has faith enough (or is desperate enough) to fight for control of his/her mind and thoughts by keeping the lawn mower running. 

But first of all we need to consider the source of our thoughts. How do we know which to mow down and which to consider?  The scriptures are full of counsel from the Lord on controlling our minds and thougths.   I know this because I have looked up and written down every one of them.  We are taught from our youth to “sing a hymn” when unworthy or unwanted thoughts creep in.  “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly;  then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:45).  “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole body shall be filled with light and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.  Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God and the day will come that you shall see him . . . cast away your idle thoughts . . . “(D&C 88: 67 – 69).

There is nothing I want or need more than days filled with light instead of darkness.  If I am confident in the presence of God, I will not fear man or circumstances or the adversary.   


But the adversary is strong.  He is out there, surrounding us, in his last ditch effort to destroy the noble and great spirits who have been saved for this day.   And he has a battle plan.  He has saved his most powerful and vicious tactic for now.  It’s getting into our HEADs!   The purpose?  To drive out the light. Stop us from doing good things. Get us to believe things about ourselves that aren’t true.  We see this in Ted Gibson’s experience, my daughter’s, and mine.   I am pretty sure Ted was Zone Leader at the time of his struggle. “I was in Hell,” he said, which would make him almost non-functional in his calling to build the kingdom of God --  until Elder Kimball came with an answer to his prayer.  If the adversary can stop us from doing good things, he is advancing.   Fear, depression, unworthiness, hopelessness, or the belief that we are --or are not-- this or that.  “And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters (Satan and his evil followers sitting upon the “many waters” reminds us that filthy water—as in the case of a devastating flood—tries to get into every aspect of our lives--The Book of Mormon Made Easier, David Ridges); and she had dominion over all the earth . . .and did gather together multitudes to fight against the Lamb of God” (1 Ne 14: 11-13). 

 “Man is not alone in his mind.”  We “live and move in the midst of many unseen influences and beings which can and do distort (our) perception  . . seeking access to the undiscerning and un-guarded mind.  These midst of darkness that drift across our mental paths play mostly on our fear, which generates pride, coveting, criticism, depression, selfishness, hatred, power ploys, and mental disturbances in general.  These thoughts are aggressive.  Sometimes they seem to be thinking us more than we are thinking them.  Without being conscious of these thoughts as visitors to our inner space, we attach to them as though they were ours, as though they necessarily represent reality.  We unconsciously personalize them, so they seem to be a true reflection of our circumstances. Our minds are mixed with many sorrow-producing thoughts, simply because we do not yet discern their nature.  They do not reflect reality or who we really are, yet they run our lives”  (MC Thomas, Light in the Wilderness).

This is why the Lord instructs to fill our thoughts with Him—with light.  Our thoughts shape our inner and outer reality.  In fact, our thoughts CAN CHANGE THE VERY STRUCTURE OF OUR BRAINS*.  This is why it is so important to “let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly.”

Okay, this post is much longer than I intended.  I haven’t yet addressed pornography addictions, SSA, eating disorders, and other epidemics that are attacking our youth.   But with the background I’ve presented, I’m sure you can see the direction I am headed.  I will discuss these in Part II.  Future segments will be “Neuroplasticity and the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s” and “Neuropathic Ski Slopes to Happiness”.

I will be sharing *BRAIN SCANS of addicted brains, which-- after applying gospel principles -- become healthy brains, scientific proof that “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a SOUND MIND”  (2 Timothy 1: 2).

But what if we already have problems— addictions, even?

 We find strength to keep the commandments through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Our minds can experience both spiritual and PHYSICAL healing by keeping the commandments of God.

This is VERY good news . . . for us, for our children, for the hastening of the work.   If you are a parent or work with youth, you won’t want to miss it. 

                             Please comment and share. 

One of the most telling days of my life was the day    my son did NOT get his mission call.

Nick was born in 1989, three months before his due date weighing, 2 lbs 9 ounces.  Two days after his premature birth, holes were blown in his lungs (due to excessive ventilator pressures) and stopped his heart. CPR was administered and his life was spared, but the result was a traumatic brain injury. 

This entry is not a story of his life.  I'll share that another time.  Instead I will tell you his life is a witness of the power of the Priesthood and love of our Father in Heaven.  In time, Nick learned to walk, to talk, to read and write and many other things the doctors said he may never do. Yes, he has mild cerebral palsy on his left side and a diagnosis of NLD (nonverbal learning disorder).   But with faith and prayer, sweat and tears, he grew, progressed in the gospel, earned his Eagle Scout award, and graduated from high school with a 3.4 GPA. 

Then he turned in his mission papers, and waited for his call.

 And waited.  And waited. 

And as he waited,  we began to fear that something was wrong. 

Finally one day the letter came, not to Nick, but to the Stake President  . . . honorably excusing him from full time missionary service.  He was shattered.  We were shattered. How could this be?  He was our miracle boy and we had known his whole life that he would serve a full time mission.  We knew it like we knew God lived and the Church was true.  And we believed we had been preparing him his whole life. 

The Stake President wrote a letter.  Nick was sent to LDS Social Services for an evaluation.  And we waited again.  But this time while we waited, we emphasized the active part  of prayer and faith.  We had been given a second chance to prepare him, and we went to work in our home to qualify him in every possible way for missionary service. 

Blessings came along the way. We were guided to a means of reducing his stress and anxiety without medication.  He was able to complete a college course on-line.   And we were prompted to help increase  his confidence in teaching by making the Teach My Gospel Missionary Training Cards you see on this site.  The first set was homemade.  With pictures cut from the Church’s missionary pamphlets and key words and concepts from Preach My Gospel,  I created the card sets so Nick could practice delivery and gain the confidence he needed to share the Gospel message.  He practiced every night with his father, a returned missionary from the Japan Fukuoka Mission. 

Finally, in October of 2008, Nick received a call to serve as a full-time missionary in the Florida Tallahassee Mission.  He entered the MTC on  December 18th. 

Since then I have given the Teach My Gospel
Missionary Training Cards
  to several youth preparing
to serve missions, as well as our daughter who was called to serve in the Korea Seoul Mission.  They have been used as a tool to solidify Gospel concepts and increase confidence in sharing personal experiences and bearing testimony. One young convert who had received a call to serve in the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission told me he barely knew the Gospel himself.  He appreciated learning with the cards as he practiced delivering the lessons to others before entering the MTC.   

The original cards were time-consuming and expensive to make (as the pictures were all copyrighted.)  I have just recently created the downloadable set available for purchase at minimal cost with artwork from the public domain and photography that I have purchased the rights to. 

I hope the Teach My Gospel Missionary Training cards will assist you as you teach your future missionaries to know and love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I also hope you will share your ideas for strengthening home and family and/or preparing our youth for missionary service on this blog.
                  “The home is the new MTC.”