What is your lot in life?

Have you ever wondered why things happen the way they do? Why you? I do.

I have a friend suffering with stage 4 cancer and fighting for her life. I keep asking myself why her, why now, why does she have to suffer so much? Is it really her lot in life?

I decided I’d look up the word ‘lot‘ and find out what that meant. Of course, I turned to the 1828 dictionary and read “that which is the determination of providence; the part…that falls to one by divine determination.” What is providence then? Providence is “the care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures.” I actually find comfort in that. My friends cancer is providence, a lesson God is teaching her and all the rest of us a lesson that will bring us closer to him. Our job is to find that lesson and grow from it even though it is painful.

I’ve noticed that there are not many movies, books or music that refers to providence as there use to be in the early 1900’s. My daughter and I just watched all the Anne of Green Gable movies over the Christmas vacation. They are filled with the belief in God, that his hand of providence is guiding them. Why doesn’t the world acknowledge and trust in God any more?

I am reminded of the two examples from the Book of Mormon about 200 B.C. One, Amulon is given permission to teach the Lamanites how to read and write in the Nephite language (see Mosiah 24:1). Alma taught the new converts how to read and write too, but he added the reverence of God within his teachings. The consequences are drastically different! They both began to flourish, opportunities were opened up, both increased in riches and wisdom.  The Nephites “did multiply and prosper exceedingly in the land” and “they built a city” (Mosiah 23:20) and “Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.” (Mosiah 24:15) On the other hand, the Lamanites delighted in wickedness and plundering (Mosiah 24:7).

So, back to my other question. Why don’t I teach, write, acknowledge and trust more in providence? Why don’t I only entrust teachers of my children who teach providence? Do I not want the results of my children bearing their burden with ease? Be cheerful? Have patience? To prosper and build cities?

I know you are the choir and that you teach about God’s hand throughout all of history, literature, time, music, etc.  I am re-committing myself to do better at finding, pointing out and seeking for Providence, evidence of God’s hand in all the details of learning so that my ‘lot’ in life will be one filled with the awareness of Christ’s hand in the little things, in all things.


You miss a lot when you don’t believe
little things mean a lot.

A Tale of Two Mothers

This is a Tale of Two Mothers – Hannah of the Old Testament and Mary of the New Testament.

Hannah and Mary both lived in times of uncertainty and transition. Hannah lived in Israel during the time of Judges. After 350 years the Israelites were looking at other nations and noticing they had Kings at their head and started demanding a King to be their governor.

Mary, a young woman from Nazareth lived a thousand years after Hannah. After the Jews were carried away captive into Babylon a few returned to Israel to rebuild their nation only to see it taken over by the Selecids. A revolt by the Maccabees resulted in a free Jewish nation for a time. But, now the Romans and their appointed king, Herod, ruled over the Jews.

Hannah was the wife of Elka’nah who also was the husband to Penin’nah. She had bore him many children, but Hannah was barren. In Israel having many children was a blessing. Hannah pleaded with God at the temple, “Give me a son and I will give him back to you for all the days of his life.” Eli, the priest, told her that her prayer would be answered. Sure enough, Hannah name the boy Samuel, meaning, “I have asked him of the Lord. As promised when Samuel is weaned, she gives him to Eli to raise. At that time she offered up a song of thanksgiving.

My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in thy salvation.

There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee; there is no rock like our God.

Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength.

Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.

The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts.

He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.

He will guard the feet of his faithful ones; but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail.

The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.

Mary received a visit from the angel, Gabriel who told her she was to be the mother of the Messiah. Soon afterwards she traveled to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. Elizabeth greets her warmly. Mary responds with a song of thanksgiving.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

Many of the characters and event in the New Testament have types in the Old Testament. Hannah is a type of Mary. The parallels and imagery of the two prayers or songs are blatant. They both reference the poor and down-trodden, the mercy of God, etc. Mary must have studied the scriptures and read Hannah’s song many times. She may have memorized it and applied the words until they became her words, her feelings. What a reunion it must have been in heaven when the two met again. They may have compared stories of how they both handed over their first born sons to God to raise and their thoughts and fears and blessings and testimonies.

Who do you relate to in the scriptures? Who is your mentor and hero?

For me I have liked Eliza R. Snow and love to hear her stories and read her poetry (hymns). I admire her work and feel a connection to her. I look forward to meeting her one day.

Stand for the And

“Stand for the AND”

This statement is often heard within the personal develop world concerning the power of the mind, believing you can receive both items (things, service, place, etc.) you desire rather than one or the other. I’d like to look at this statement in a scriptural context.

When Oliver Cowdery asked the Lord if he could have help “concerning the engravings of old records” the Lord answered, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 8:2, emphasis added) Christ asked him to feel the answer in his “mind” AND his “heart.”

“Mind” can be substituted for anything found on the head, for example, “My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.” (Psalm 49:3, emphasis added) or “The multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed” (3 Nephi 19:33, emphasis added) The mind is associated with seeing, hearing and speaking and also with reason, intellect and knowledge.

When speaking of understanding you’ll often find the word “heart” as in this proverb, “So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding” (Proverbs 2:2, emphasis added)

David Bednar said, “When the Holy Ghost confirms in our hearts as true what we know in our minds, understanding occurs…A confirming spiritual witness in our hearts concerning the truth of what we have come to know in our minds is obtained through the process of revelation.”

When Nephi was commanded to build a ship his brothers lacked the faith necessary to do the task and began to murmur. Nephi talked to them about the importance of reason (mind) and revelation (heart.)

“Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.” (1 Nephi 17:45) Laman and Lemuel had received the knowledge but had not “applied their hearts to understanding” (Mosiah 12:27.) They were blessed with knowledge, but had not allowed their feelings to penetrate their hearts. They did not “Stand for the And” and allow God to reveal a spiritual witness into their minds and their hearts with understanding.

The Holy Ghost speaks to us in our minds and hearts. Satan can mimic the feelings of the mind and of the heart, but he can not do them at the same time. Only the Holy Ghost can bring a witness to both the heart and the mind. So “Stand for the And” and receive the revelation God is waiting to give you in your mind and in your heart.

With One Heart on a Thursday

We are the only nation that celebrates our holy day on a Thursday. As I listened to “They Saw our Day by Lance Richardson of the American Family Institution I heard him talk about a specific quatrain of Nostradamus where he mentioned a nation that “will celebrate Thursday as his holiday.” Lance researched the other nations and could not find any other nation that celebrated on Thursday other than The United States of America. The quatrain continued saying that America will “bring trouble to” or come out conqueror against “the East” Europe, Asia and Africa. This idea of being the only nation that celebrates on a Thursday intrigued me, so, of course, I researched it.

I discovered that the Council in 1676 sent out a proclamation setting apart the 29th of June as a day of giving thanks. Then George Washington, as president, in 1789 wrote the “Proclamation. A National Thanksgiving … assigning Thursday the 26th of November to be devoted … to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”  Then in 1863, Abraham Lincoln wrote the “1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation.” which states:

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

Whether or not Nostradamus’ prediction was about America and her Thursday holy day I believe God had his hand in selecting this day. How grateful I am for amazing national leaders that set apart a special day for us to gather as with one heart and one voice to give thanks and “supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions.”

May we as a nation remember the providence of God in our individual, family and national lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

With Love,

Tresta Neil

Halloween, celebrate or not?

Exactly 500 years ago, on Halloween, he made an attempt to change the current beliefs of the world. What was going on you ask? It all began with the history of Halloween.

I was recently asked if I would write a blog about Halloween and my thoughts about the celebration. This is my answer – I include much of the history of Halloween and then I share my personal story at the end. I have bolded the ideas I find relate to home and family.

The evolution of this community celebrated day has many religious and symbolic meanings. 1500 years before the Celts who lived in Northwestern Europe celebrated “Samhain” meaning Summer’s End on October 31, because their New Year was on November 1st. They celebrated the end of harvest, end of the season. They believed that ghosts of the dead returned to earth damaging homes and causing trouble with relationships. They would build large bonfires, burn portions of their crops and possibly offered sacrifices. After the ceremony led by the Druids, the Celtic priests, they would take home the hot coals from the bonfire and light their hearth fires, believing their home would now be protected from evil spirits. [if you attended the Biblical Tabernacle at BYU this last month – this may sound very familiar to you]

The Roman’s who conquered the Celts also celebrated the fall harvest. Their celebration was on November 1st and centered around Pomona, the Goddess of the harvest, of love and fertility.

When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in A.D. 380 they decided not to ban the celebrations of Pomona and Samhain, but chose to assimilate them into their own Christian celebrations. They celebrated “All Souls Day” on October 31st and “All Saints Day” on November 1st. “All Souls Day was a day to remember and pray for the dead and “All Saints Day was to remember and pray to the Saints. England began calling this day, “All Hallow’s Day” and later “All Souls Day” changed to “All Hallow’s Eve” which later became “Halloween.”

Years later, Martin Luther, who didn’t agree with the church on many different issues, including on how someone became a saint. He believed that a person became a saint through the grace of God, not just his actions and those running the church. On All Hallow’s Eve, October 31st, 1517, exactly 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 points against the church on the doors of the All Saint’s Church in Wittenburg. He must have chosen that day because of “All Saint’s Day.” 

Soon after the church split into the Catholic and Protestant religions. Many Protestant countries banned the celebrations because they viewed it as a Catholic celebration. England, a Protestant country, instead, celebrated Guy Fawkes Day on Nov 5. Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Protestant-sympathetic Parliament in 1605. They would reenact Fawkes’ punishment by parading a scarecrow and other political figures through the street. Boys would dress up in costume and beg for coal to burn the scarecrows and play tricks not their neighbors.

In America, Puritan colonies banned the celebration, but other colonies celebrated All Souls Day and All Saints Day. After The Revolution Halloween evolved into a community event rather than a religious one combining different traditions, including harvest and carnival ideas like bobbing for apple and carving pumpkins on October 31st and November 1st.

In the 1900’s magazines and candy shops promoted the idea of giving out candy to those who wanted to play tricks. Soon department stores promoted decorations and costumes.

Today, you see parents parading their children in costume from home to home asking for treats. It is a day filled with picture taking and games and lately the eating of chili and cornbread. Halloween continues to evolve.

How do you celebrate Halloween?

On a personal note, I have jumped around. I started out celebrating and dressing up my children. Then a trusted friend taught me that Halloween was a pagan holiday and should not be celebrated. So I stopped. My older children will tell you of how we would go down to the basement and turn out all the lights and watch movies, like Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang and Lady Hawk. We then moved to the city and had many friends in our ward that decorated their homes, so beautifully, with fall decorations and pumpkins. I liked these families and yet I felt I should worry about them. Basically, this led me to great confusion and much study on the subject. My conclusion is still evolving just like the celebration itself. Today, I decorate my home with autumn colors and pumpkins and yes, we have candy available for the neighborhood kids. We eat chili and cornbread and we talk and discuss how Martin Luther played a large role in bringing about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Reflecting Octopus

Did you know that octopuses can change their color to match their environment? How they change is most interesting. The outer layer of their skin is made up of millions of small pigment sacs called chromatophores. Nerves within his eyes sense the brightness of the light and contract or expand these sacs. When expanded they give the octopus a dark brown color. When contracted the underlying reflective leucophores are exposed reflecting whatever color of light is most abundant. If the octopus is swimming in an algae-covered pool it will reflect the green color. The octopus’s ability to change color is really nothing more than a side effect of an ability to detect changes in light which adjust its skin to become more or less reflective.

We have the same opportunity to reflect more or less of the influences around us. What are you reflecting away from you? What are you not reflecting enough?

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