Tag: lds blog

“One of the Worst Ways to Die”…Why would God let this happen?

    Recently while reading the Book of Mormon—Alma chapter 14 specifically—something new hit me that I had never realized before. It’s always really cool when that happens, so I’m going to share it! In this chapter, missionaries Alma and Amulek are thrown into prison for nothing more than preaching the word of God. Even worse, anyone who believed in their words—women and children mostly—were burned alive while Alma and Amulek were forced to watch. Alma 14:10-11 says, “And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames. But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.” That’s a bit intense…Okay, IT’S VERY INTENSE.
Quick story (and this might be just as intense…fair warning): I’ve briefly mentioned before that when I was in preschool, my mentally handicapped, very sweet & pure, beautiful neighbor…was murdered in her own home by somebody she barely knew, but had trusted. I will not go into details, and I never will in a public setting/online. It is not my story to tell. However, I will say this: the doctor who did her autopsy and examinations said that, even after everything he has seen professionally, my neighbor was killed in what he (AN EXPERT) believed must have been “one of the worst ways to die.” As a young girl, I trembled at the sound of those words. Still, that phrase sends shivers down my spine. We know horrible things can happen to good people. But to know somebody who was so pure and innocent, and know they suffered like only few others would understand and it led to her death…that’s something you hold onto for the rest of your life. I learned what real evil was at only 3 years old. Maleficent, Ursula, Captain Hook, and any other fictitious villains in my world at that time were nothing compared to what I learned real evil was capable of. As a child, I would ask my mom about this a lot. I would ask her, “she (our neighbor) wasn’t even capable of making a lot of her own decisions, she wasn’t capable of living alone (she lived with her parents, even well into adulthood), she never did anything wrong EVER, she was almost a perfect person, she loved us and we loved her so much. Why would Heavenly Father let something like that happen to her? And why would He let it be THAT BAD…as in ‘one of the worst ways to die?’” I’m not sure if my mother’s answer was just to comfort me or if this is what she really believed. Her response was always something along the lines of, “Heavenly Father loves her more than we can ever imagine. I’m sure He really hates what happened to her. I don’t think He let her suffer too much before taking her home to be with Him.” While that could very well be true, after reading Alma 14, I realized that Heavenly Father probably did let her suffer through EVERYTHING she was put through. Weirdly, it makes sense to me now that I understand better. Hear me out. Her killer is behind bars for the rest of his life without parole, thank heaven. Heavenly Father knows all and He is very just. But order to be completely just, He needs the heavyweight evidence—the full suffering ‘testimonies’ of the victims. Once that criminal is judged, Heavenly Father will be able to judge him perfectly because God refused to cut any corners even when my amazing neighbor was suffering horribly. Today, she is in paradise with God, her biological father, and many others she loved and cared about. She is not suffering anymore and never will have to again. She is also no longer handicapped either and is so happy. I know it. It warms my heart.
It’s easy for us to think to ourselves, “why me? I’ve done everything God has asked me to do and I’m still going through this horrible trial” [‘fire,’ if you will]. It can be even worse when that trial is brought upon us by the choices and actions of other people. “Why would God let them do this to me, and let me suffer so much, when I’ve done nothing wrong?” I often find myself wondering if Heavenly Father doesn’t love me as much if He let’s me suffer significantly, or I think He must be picking favorites and I am just NOT one of them.
It’s just not true. Heavenly Father’s love is unconditional, eternal, and indescribable for every. single. one of us. His love is unconditional, eternal, and tremendous for YOU. He doesn’t pick favorites. There is nothing in this world we can’t accomplish, no matter how hard it is…or even despite the outcome. Death is not the end. His plan is perfect. Even our worst trials are part of an eternal plan of justice, mercy, love, and most importantly: everlasting happiness. As we go through the trials of life, let’s not forget His plan. Remember that “all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good…fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” 💕

Good vs Bad

Picture of what was one of the happiest days of my life. Dalyn and I were talking a while back about what were the “worst days of our lives” (deaths of certain family members, hospital days, when my parents got divorced—which I realize now is actually a great thing but it was hard at the time, etc.). We of course started talking about what were some of the “best days of our lives” (wedding day, finding out we’re pregnant finally, the night before Dalyn left on his mission that he spent with family, the days we had the most spiritual and faith-building experiences ever, etc.). We quickly realized that it was soooooo easy to list off our happy days, which had more than quadrupled our bad days in number for sure. They just kept on coming! Even though the bad days can be traumatizing and devastating, the good ALWAYS outweighed the bad. The crazy part too, is that a lot of what happened in our “worst days” always had some good come from them, or even turned out to be complete blessings in disguise! For example, when I was 13, I didn’t want my parents to get divorced. I didn’t want two houses, two Christmases, two wards, two completely different worlds of people and family and even friends. Yes, I had to deal with all that, and still do in some cases. However, I have no idea where I’d be if my parents had stayed together and my assumption is that I’d be far worse off. Ludicrous, right? Seriously though! Without that trial, I wouldn’t have had to stand on my own two feet in several instances growing up. I wouldn’t have had to discover and build my testimony of Jesus Christ until later in life when it could have been too late. I would not have the relationship I have today with my biological brother—nor would I have ANY of my other siblings AT ALL. To me, the thought of that is worse than any bad day I’ve ever had. I would not have grown up with specific knowledge and standards for what I wanted out of my life and future marriage. I wouldn’t be with Dalyn had I not learned so much from this. The blessings always outnumber, outweigh, outlast, and straight up OUTDO the bad days and trials. CHALLENGE:list your worst/best days & think honestly. & if I’m wrong—call me out.

The Truth about Martin Harris

This is Martin Harris. Most Latter Day Saints remember him as the man sorta responsible for the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. Because of that, he doesn’t always have the best reputation. The truth is, though, he was loved so dearly by Joseph Smith and his family, regardless of his mistake. Martin Harris defended the church and Joseph Smith several times, even sometimes under oath in a court of law, against his own wife. Joseph Smith spoke so many times about his love for Martin and God’s love for Martin as well. I know so many people who believe they are no longer worth living or even worthy of God’s love because of something they’ve done, the way they think and question things, struggling with their testimony in the past/present, being LGBTQ+, or literally ANY OTHER REASON. That’s just not true. Seriously, it’s not. You are so loved, especially by your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. NO MATTER WHAT. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING will ever make you or any other person immune to God’s love. Please know that. If you take nothing else from any of my posts/books/blogs/etc. Please know this at least: God’s love is infinite, eternal, and unconditional. SERIOUSLY! 💕 I promise. 🤝 I’ve felt it, and you can too. Just trust Him. 🙏 You can learn more about Martin Harris’ story in my book “1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith” in my bio if you want.

LGBTQ+ Mormons (Part 2) | Clearing the Air…What is “Okay?”

     Hey! Welcome back. This is the post that might be a bit more controversial. Before we get started, I want to remind my readers that my blog posts are not necessarily ‘church doctrine.’ Regardless, I have researched this topic thoroughly in LDS Church doctrine. I also have a decent amount of personal experience on the matter. With that said, in this post, I would like to address a few misconceptions believed by many Mormons and non-Mormons alike. These myths surround the LGBTQ+ members of the Mormon church and I–based on my experience and understanding–do not believe are right. I am, in no way whatsoever, trying to ‘preach.’ I am just sharing what I genuinely believe to be correct based on personal revelation, experience, and LDS church doctrine. I want to put it out there for those of you who want help knowing how to handle something you never imagined going through. In this post I want to clearly state, bluntly, what God commands of us and what is expected of every member of the LDS Church. Specifically, I have seen so much confusion on what is “okay” and what is considered a sin in the eyes of God.

What is “Okay” (and even encouraged):

  • being gay/lesbian/transgender/belonging in the category of LGBTQ+ at all
  • being different
  • loving those who belong in the category of LGBTQ+
  • having, raising, supporting children/teens/adults who are unique/LGBTQ+
  • treating the LGBTQ+ person/people exactly the same way you treated them before
  • inviting them to parties, events, holidays, etc. without an ulterior motive for ‘conversion’ or persuasion
  • asking genuine, non-offensive questions about their life
  • listening to them speak about their problems, without giving unsolicited church-related advice
  • hugging them when they cry
  • hugging them when they are happy
  • hugging them just because 
  • postitive, loving counsel
  • giving advice when solicited, church-related or not…and even giving lifestyle/same-sex dating advice if you both feel comfortable
  • sharing testimony with them when they desire it and are comfortable with it
  • REFUSING to treat anyone differently for their beliefs, differences, sexual orientation, etc. and following through to the letter

What is Considered “Sin” in the Eyes of Heavenly Father: 

  • acting on same-sex attraction, gender identity, etc.                                                                                                     ****This is where it gets difficult. Yes, as of right now, Heavenly Father’s commandment is that relationships are to be between a man and a woman and that gender is essential to His plan. However, that does not mean that anyone who commits these acts deserves to be told that they are going to Hell–as members of the Church, we believe that all people (unless a son of perdition) will go to some degree of a beautiful Heaven regardless, so this has never made any sense to me. It is literally false doctrine, and very painful for a person to hear. It does not mean that they deserve to be “kept at arms length.” It does not mean that they are confused by the devil and need to be “converted,” “fixed,” or “cured.” It is not confusion. It is not a lack of faith. It is not because they did not pray hard enough to make it go away. It is something that they are born with and that Heavenly Father knew they would have to experience, and never planned/plans to take it away from them. Without it, they would not be the same person/people we know and love.
  • conditional love for others
  • name calling
  • gossip
  • offensive joking, whether in the presence of the LGBTQ+ community members or not (as far as you know)
  • altering the way you treat the person who just came out
  • judging/deciding what their fate shall be in the next life. Only God knows all. Only God knows us. Only God can judge.

What is Not “Okay:”

  • blaming “the Church” for the sometimes hurtful, offensive, mean remarks or actions from its members. I could be alone in this belief but in my opinion, because we believe Heavenly Father is in charge of the church, to blame the church for its imperfect people’s actions is to blame God. I personally believe Heavenly Father wishes His children to love one another unconditionally, without offending each other. Unfortunately, nobody is perfect and this literally happens to everybody at some point in their church-attending experience.
  • insisting that the LDS Church must change its standards and policies because times are changing. Like I mentioned before, God knows all and He is in charge of His church.
  • on the flip side of that coin: insisting that the LDS Church will never/should never change its standards and policies because God is the “same yesterday, today, and forever.” While this famous phrase is scripture and is true, God’s continuing revelations to His Prophets do change and have changed before (i.e. the law of Moses, Blacks in the Priesthood). This is not to say that God has changed or will change, but that society and His children have changed and are ready to receive that new revelation. I repeat: God knows all and He is in charge of His church. My point here is: we have no true idea of God’s plan is. We do not always fully understand why God’s commandments are the way they are, but we know they are right. We also know that when His children are ready, commandments can be altered by our Heavenly Father but that does not mean it will happen for sure.

This is an extremely touchy topic. The reason I have been so upfront and honest in this post is because I think it is absolutely necessary. I really feel like, until now, the truth has not been laid out in a clear format like this. This is something so sensitive. It is one of those things that is very difficult to understand until you experience it yourself, whether you belong to the LGBTQ+ community yourself or have a close family member/friend who does.

My little brother told me he is gay before he told my parents. I spent months trying to comfort him and let him know how much he is loved by me and his earthly and heavenly parents no matter what. I kept telling him that I believed he would feel best after he at least tells our family. That way, he would never have to feel like he was hiding behind a facade in front of them. One day I was at the gym with my mom, The Ellen Show was on one of the televisions in front of us and I thought I could cast out a hypothetical line to see what I could catch from my mother’s response. I asked, “So Ellen and her wife have been married for a long time now. When they enter into the next life, do you think they will still want to be with each other for eternity when the vail is lifted? I cannot imagine changing your mind after spending most of your earthly life with somebody.” She responded, “I don’t know.”        Unsatisfied with this answer, I fished deeper, “Do you believe gay people really are gay?” I knew about my brother at this point, my mom did not. I knew he was born with it. I knew he did not make it up. I knew he had genuinely struggled with this his entire life. I know my brother very well and I know he is not just confused or lost. I waited in anticipation for her answer, I will never forget it, “I think they believe they are that way.

My heart broke. Maybe Riley was right to be afraid to come out. Maybe they really would not believe him. However, just like I know my brother, I also know my mom. I knew that she–like me–knows my brother very well too. I knew that once he told her, she would have a huge faith crisis and she would be confused because it is contrary to what she originally believed. BUT! That she would ultimately realize for herself that Riley did not choose this but it was something he was born with and that it was somehow, someway part of Heavenly Father’s plan for my sweet little brother. I was right. Only a short while after that, he come out to our parents. They were extremely tormented and confused, mostly because they knew that Riley could not have chosen this for himself and that he did not lie for attention, nor was he confused or any other possible excuse commonly used for coming out of the closet in a religious culture. I think it is so difficult to wrap our LDS brains around the possibility of an LGBTQ+ Mormon until it becomes a reality in our own life. Because of that, I think it is difficult for members of the LDS church without this experience to fully understand the origin of same-sex attraction and gender identity, the gravity and weight of the trial, and the lack of understanding you really have of God and God’s plan until then. I am so grateful for my little brother and his bravery. I do not judge him for his differences, lifestyle, or choices; nor do I care. He is still my brother. He is still my partner-in-crime and I know Heavenly Father loves him, maybe even more than I do. I know that Heavenly Father will work things out however is best. I know that Families are Forever. 

LGBTQ+ Mormons (Part 1) | Unconditional Love for the “Unconventional” Person

So your devout LDS child/niece/nephew/sibling/cousin/friend/person just confided in you. They told you they are gay/transgender/etc. You are in shock. You are thinking to yourself, “I didn’t know Mormons were gay…I didn’t know it was possible.” Some of us even think, “Are they just saying this to get attention? Is this their choice? Are they sure?” In most cases, we very quickly realize that is just not the case–especially when we really know the person who just came out of the closet. Then we think, “What should I do? How should I react? How do I treat them from now on?” I will touch on those questions later in this post. Then the next questions are usually something like, “Will they be excommunicated? Will I have to cut them out of my life forever? How could God do this to me…to them? This is my child/niece/nephew/sibling/cousin/friend/person! I never imagined this for them. Have they been going through this hurt, for their entire lives?” The answers to those questions are, put simply and respectively: No they will not be excommunicated for simply coming out, No you should never cut anyone out of your life for recognizing and becoming who they were always meant to be, God knows all and God knows their hearts and loves them so much and we do not fully understand the His plan, Yes they most likely have been struggling with this for as long as they could have ‘crushes’ on what you might have assumed was the opposite sex or as long as gender roles were enforced.

Hey everyone! I am making this post in collaboration with a video my brother and I did on my LDS youtube channel a while ago. It is about loving unconditionally, specifically those in the LGBTQ+ community. You can watch it using the link above. My brother and I filmed this video a long time ago. However, I could never figure out exactly what to put in words on this blog for some reason…until today. We watched the new documentary by Imagine Dragons singer, Dan Reynolds called “Believer.” It is about the effect that the LDS Church has on LGBTQ+ youth. Anyway, I agreed with basically everything said in the film. It was then that I realized how I was going to explain my thoughts here…bluntly. It is not as necessary to be blunt in this first post on the subject. Although, part 2 may be a little bit more controversial.

As for the answers to the questions of “What should I do now? How do I treat them from now on?” The answer may seem complicated, but it only requires just a few simple steps.

Step #1. LOVE THEM TO DEATH & Treat them exactly as you did before you found out.

Step #2. KEEP LOVING THEM…no matter what they do, say, become, decide to act on,

‘side’ they choose, life choices, etc.

Step #3. repeat.

   Seriously! That’s it.

   And no, this simple 3-step-plan is not to help you ‘love them enough so they come to church.’ This 3-step-process is to ‘love them unconditionally because they are humans, children of God, and deserve it regardless of what trials they were born with.’

Jesus Christ commanded that we love everyone and withhold our judgements of others, as Heavenly Father is the only qualified, righteous judge. For some reason, the LGBTQ+ community is sometimes subconsciously considered an exception of this commandment. This is false. We are to love everyone, no matter what. 

My Experience with Mental Illness in the LDS Church | Part 2

     Hey everyone! So last week I wrote about my experience with mental illness. This week I am going to talk about how it effects my testimony and relationship with the church.

I never really suffered from anxiety and depression when I was growing up. I will admit, however, that I can now look back on my teenage years and recognize small tendencies I had towards anxiety and depression. Nonetheless, I did not start suffering full-time (I do not know how else to explain it) until I became an adult and started struggling with my chronic physical afflictions. I grew up in a beautiful family. Everybody seemed happy. I never actually witnessed any of my family members suffering with mental illness, so I thought I was the only one when I was first diagnosed. I eventually learned that some of my happiest and most positive family members have experienced their own trial with mental illnesses as well. It is just not something people like talking about, which is understandable. I don’t personally prefer to speak about my experiences either. However, I feel that with the path Heavenly Father has given me in life, and the platform that I have, I must share my experience to help others. There is something very important and specific that I want to talk about here regarding mental illness in the LDS church.

I do not share the most negative portions of my mental illnesses in detail in public/online. I believe too much detail might make those who are suffering similarly, feel even worse. For that reason, I will touch on this experience only briefly. One of the most difficult parts of the peek of my anxiety disorder, was how it effected my testimony.

I have written about my life-changing ordeal on the Church History Trip in 2014, where I genuinely believed that Heavenly Father had forgotten about me and stopped caring. I quickly, effectively, and memorably was corrected by the scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8 & 122: 9 (full story in my blog titled “Are you trapped in your own, personal Liberty Jail?”). I knew Heavenly Father was telling me that He had NEVER left me and that He NEVER would. Ever since then, I have always known the love of God and that He really exists. I have never doubted it. Although, I confess that when I began suffering with mental illness, that I physically could not feel the Holy Spirit. I would attend church and feel like I was going through the motions, even through the most uplifting talks and meetings where I found myself to be the literal, only “dry eye in the house.” It was so strange. How was it possible for me to feel so many negative things outside of church, and then when I would try to reach out to my Heavenly Father through scripture study, prayer, or church attendance to feel completely numb? How could I get so annoyed with the other members of the church who did nothing but smile at me in the hallway? What kind of a person am I to really dislike good people for no reason like this? How could I believe in the gospel that I couldn’t even physically feel was right anymore? Like I previously mentioned, I had never forgotten that Heavenly Father existed and that He was always there. I really believe that one of the main reasons I experienced that wonderful night on the CHT was to help me later on in life when I found it easy to forget God. I held onto that knowledge, even though it was extremely difficult.

Finally, I understood why I had felt so negatively and why I felt so far away from the Holy Spirit. I was introduced to the amazing and informative website: www.lds.org/mentalhealth . (HIGHLY RECOMMEND for anyone who struggles with or knows somebody who struggles emotionally). There I learned, among so many other beautiful things, that mental illness really can build a wall between us and the Spirit of God. I had no idea that was even a thing! Ohhhh, but I was sooooo relieved to hear it. It wasn’t really me. It wasn’t really God or the Gospel. It was mental illness. It was something that was not my fault, and that I had no control over (something else I worked hard to accept before this.) I found this website a few months or so before I started taking medication. I spoke last week about how the medication is what made the biggest difference in my life and most effectively improved my mental health. Everybody is different. This is not always the case for those who suffer with mental illness. But for me, it was exactly what my body needed.

    

     As a hopeless romantic, teenage girl, I watched the 2004 movie The Notebook a lot. It is a classic, tear-jerking chick flick. There are spoilers ahead for this movie, so skip to the end of the blog if you do not wish to read them but this is pretty important to the story. Anyway, right after I had started taking medication, I was able to attend church a few weeks in a row (something that is rare for me with my physical illnesses). Each week I felt closer and closer to my Heavenly Father and I felt my testimony and relationship with God was fully restored. One morning while sitting in sacrament, I was saying a little “thank you” prayer to Heavenly Father in my head. I wanted to thank Heavenly Father for helping me get back to feeling the spirit, helping me get back to being my positive self, and for being there the entire time. While I was praying, one of the final scenes from The Notebook popped into my head. It was the part when ‘old’ Ally finally recognizes her husband and remembers everything. She asks him, “What happened to me?” and he responds, “It’s okay. You just went away for a little while.” I felt Heavenly Father was telling me, in a way I could understand (yes, The Notebook, cheesy…I know, but that’s what Heavenly Father knew I would understand…I definitely speak the language of chick flicks!) that He was there all along, waiting for me patiently while I was “away.”

I wanted to address how difficult mental illness can be for members of the church in this blog, specifically how it effects testimonies and feeling the spirit. Unless you experience it for yourself, you never fully understand how challenging it is to feel God’s presence and even believe He exists at all. Like I said before, if I had not experienced what I had on the CHT in 2014, I might have lost my testimony completely before I was able to fix my chemical imbalance. I had to hold on– more tightly than ever–to my knowledge that God is real, that He loves us all, that He never forsakes us, EVER! My advice to those who struggle is to first of all, get help. Second of all, hold on tightly to what you know to be true. Remember those experiences of your life when you knew for a fact that God exists and that the church was true. Keep those memories locked inside your mind. One day, hopefully soon, you’ll be able to look back when you are speaking with Heavenly Father and He will say, “It’s okay. You just went away for a while, but I was here every step of the way. I am so glad to have you back.” God never leaves us. He never forsakes us…no matter your thoughts, no matter your actions, no matter how you feel about yourself. Heavenly Father has NEVER left you and He NEVER will. I swear, ask Him yourself! 

 

 

I’m back…Here’s why.

I’ve been somewhat MIA on this blog. I have to admit that it is wayyyy easier to post all about theme parks and funny stories on my other youtube channel and social medias than it is to try posting anything about God, the Church, Joseph Smith, my book, etc. and then deal with the aftermath of hate I almost always get in my DM’s/comments. The small, somewhat break has been nice. I feel amazing about what I am doing and the message I am spreading. I know the church is true, it has nothing to do with that. At this point, there is nothing anybody could say/do to make me believe otherwise (I’ve heard it all, I’ve read it all, I’ve researched the entire story from primary accounts and I have literally seen the truthfulness of the gospel with my own eyes. You can try me, but I don’t recommend it).

    Regardless, dealing with mean, hateful, or even sexual remarks from random strangers who do not follow me, but deliberately seek me out for the sole purpose of arguing or to bring me down is hard.

Believe it or not, I was NOT super pumped about writing a Joseph Smith book in the first place.

Believe it or not, I knew what would become of my public image and career if I did.

Believe it or not, I knew I would deal with more ‘bullying’ as an adult when this book was published than I ever did when I was a kid.

Believe it or not, I knew the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Mormon church were extremely controversial topics.

Believe it or not, I was asked several times by family members if I would ever write a book on Joseph Smith and I always responded with a “HARD NO…NOT IN A MILLION ZILLION YEARS” because I didn’t want to deal with what I now deal with.

However, believe it or not, once God told me to do it, I knew I needed to do it regardless of the mountain of trial that would come with it.

Believe it or not, it was the best experience of my life…hands down.

AND! Believe it or not, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true. I cannot stress enough, that I have literally seen it with my own eyes. And like Joseph Smith, “I knew it, and I knew that God knew it…and I could not deny it.” I am not going anywhere. People can and will keep hitting me with your weapons but my faith is not only unshaken, but unshakable in the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith

I have had a deep emotional connection to the Prophet Joseph Smith
ever since I was a little girl. The first time I read about his martyrdom, when
I was eight years old, I bawled my eyes out! Whenever we spoke about him
in church or seminary, I felt exceptionally interested and invested. My two
favorite scriptures of all time are about him. The first time I visited places like
the Sacred Grove, his home, the Kirtland Temple, Nauvoo, and other Church
history locations saved both my life and my testimony. I was diagnosed with
idiopathic gastroparesis at twenty years old; it was devastating. My dreams
of graduating from college and becoming a registered nurse were shattered.
Then I found a new passion: writing fact books. My first book is called Disney
Till You’re Dizzy: 1,001 Facts, Rumors, and Myths about the Disneyland Resort.
Only a short while after it was published, the Lord told me that it was time to
write a new fact book. This time, Heavenly Father wanted me to write a fact
book for Him, about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I was nervous and shocked.
I was accustomed to writing theme park books. I never thought I would have
to write about something so serious, important, and even controversial. But I
knew that if God commanded me to do it, He would help me through it. I was
right. God helped me every step of the way.

This book was definitely the most difficult one

I have written to date, but it was my favorite!

I genuinely believe that any decent person who seriously studies the
Prophet’s life through credible primary sources—including the writings of
Joseph himself—cannot honestly say that Joseph Smith was anything but a
truthful, virtuous, and incredible man, even if that person does not believe he
was truly a prophet of God. One of the main goals of this book is to tell the
real story, while making it simple to read and understand. 1,001 Facts about
the Prophet Joseph Smith is a history book for this generation. The entire book
can be read in one sitting, or readers can jump around to different moments
in the Prophet’s life and learn about their favorite and the most fascinating

events. I wrote it using only primary accounts to make it as accurate as pos-
sible. This book is not meant to portray Joseph Smith as a perfect man.

This book is meant to show Joseph Smith as the man he really
was—as accurately as possible—based on primary sources. This book contains
the real story.

A Pillar of Light

This week has been one of the most difficult of my life. One of those weeks where, just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get worse…it does! Something amazing happened this morning though. Things GOT BETTER for the first time this WHOLE WEEK. Ah! It happened right when I was about to give up, right when I almost lost hope.

When young 14-year-old Joseph Smith prayed in the sacred grove, something happened that made it extremely difficult. Years later he wrote about it saying, “immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction…I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.” If you don’t know the rest of the story, it’s pretty cool! You can find the rest of it on lds.org or mormon.org, type in the search bar “Joseph Smith first vision.”

Anyway, I am sitting here on my couch just thinking about the craziness that was this past week. I thought about how I, like Joseph Smith, was about to give up. How I, like Joseph, was “ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction.” But then all the sudden I, like Joseph, looked up to see light. I looked up to see God. Although I, unlike Joseph, saw God figuratively…God was there, and His light broke through the thick darkness that surrounded me this week.

Sometimes our hardest trials last only a few days, but others can last months, years, or our entire lives. However, I learned today that sometimes—even though God is supporting us the whole time—He will allow our trials to send us to our breaking point (maybe even passed what we THOUGHT was our breaking point) before He allows the trial to end, to teach us something—both about ourselves and about God. I am so grateful for this gospel, for the Prophet Joseph Smith and every Prophet before/after him, for my Savior Jesus Christ, and my Heavenly Father. And EVERYTHING they have blessed me with…good AND bad. 💙

Never Smile at a Crocodile

Image result for crocodile peter pan

I have a confession. I am imperfect…like SUPER imperfect. I have weaknesses, and those weaknesses sometimes lead me to mess up. I am going to share something I learned (or had to re-learn) today.

These past few weeks, I have not been living my life the best way I could. It was nothing too crazy or malignant, I didn’t put myself in too much danger…or so I thought. I could still feel the spirit when I read scriptures and prayed, etc. but I was basically allowing myself to experience two polar opposite emotions and spiritual thoughts all in one day when I entertained things that weren’t exactly uplifting and positive. I found myself bouncing back and forth between the line of good and ‘not-so-good.’ It made me feel this odd, slight distance in my recent relationship with Heavenly Father. It honestly was affecting my happiness as well, just felt slightly less upbeat and cheerful.

Fast forward to last night, I had this very, very vivid dream. I should mention that I often receive a lot of answers to my prayers through dreams, it is one of the methods Heavenly Father uses to communicate with me in a way that I understand. Not all of my dreams are from Heavenly Father of course, but this one definitely was. We were at Universal Studios/some church bus tour…don’t judge me, it was one of those weird dream locations, you know? We got to this body of water and it is filled with crocodiles. FILLED! For some reason, we had to drive through it to get home. Some crocodiles followed us home, terrorized us, and hid under our bed all while we are trying everything in our power to get them to leave. (Again, it was in weird dream world where this all seemed logical). Another thing I should mention is that I LOVE scary animals, especially crocodiles and sharks. I am an alligator/crocodile expert. I have loved crocodiles/alligators since I was a little girl. In fact, here is a picture of me on Halloween trick-or-treating with my friends who dressed as princesses while I dressed like…you guessed it, an alligator! (I think it was technically a dragon costume…because what normal kid wants to dress up like an alligator for Halloween?!)

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Anyway, in the dream I kept calling them crocodiles and if anyone ever referred to them as alligators I would correct them (the problem with that is the fact that crocodiles don’t live in North America…so when I woke up I was like “what the heck, why would I be so adamant about that when I was actually wrong?” #NerdAlert #SorryNotSorry). Nonetheless, the dream was all scary and vivid and we eventually got them out of the house before I woke up. I woke up thinking about it. I know that dreams are usually messages from your own sub-conscious, so I almost always research the meaning behind them to know what my body is trying to tell me.I looked up the meaning behind crocodiles and it said this:
“forewarns of hidden danger. Someone/something near you is giving you bad advice and is trying to sway you into poor decisions. Because crocodiles can live in water and on land, they also represent your conscious and subconscious and the emotional and rational. Perhaps something is coming to the surface and you are on the verge of some new awareness.”

I was immediately reminded of the “spiritual crocodiles” Mormon youth message that was popular when I was a teenager. I believe that’s why I was so persistent about making sure everyone in my dream knew that they were crocodiles, not alligators. God needed to make sure I got His message. If you need a refresher of the story, I will summarize. Even better though, here is the link to watch it yourself!

It comes from a talk by Boyd K. Packer warning the youth of the church against “spiritual crocodiles” or things that can “maul” or eat away our spirit, our testimony, our relationship with God, or our happiness. These ‘crocodiles’ are everywhere. He said that during his time in Africa, there was not a single body of water without a crocodile in or near it–whether seen or unseen–preying on innocent, unsuspecting animals and even humans. He warns the youth by stating, “Those ahead of you in life have probed about the water holes a bit and raise a voice of warning about crocodiles. Not just the big, gray lizards that can bite you to pieces, but spiritual crocodiles, infinitely more dangerous, and more deceptive and less visible, even, than those well-camouflaged reptiles of Africa. These spiritual crocodiles can kill or mutilate your souls. They can destroy your peace of mind and the peace of mind of those who love you. Those are the ones to be warned against, and there is hardly a watering place in all of mortality now that is not infested with them.”

I know it was Heavenly Father telling me to get my act together and beware of spiritual crocodiles. I physically felt God tell me, “I love you and I miss you. Please close this gap between us, stop playing with the spiritual crocodiles.” I am so grateful to have received that reminder from my Heavenly Father. The metaphor of spiritual crocodiles can be applied to several things, there are crocodiles who can destroy our happiness and mental health as well. It is so important to remember that we do not have to go in the water. We have the choice to stay on land. We have the choice to be happy, to seek help and advice when we need it. We also, unlike an experience with actual crocodiles, have the choice to get out of the water and fix everything, even if we have already been attacked.

I really felt like I needed to share this with you guys. Thank you so much for all your support and love. Remember how important and loved you are by our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. If Heavenly Father was willing to make sure I was as close to Him as I possibly could be and remind me of his tremendous and priceless love for me…He feels the same way about you. Do not forget why you are here, who’s hands you’re in, and how much He loves you. It is indescribable. Regardless of how close you’ve come to the crocodiles, or even how many times or how severely you have been bitten. It is never too late. God’s love is never ending and unconditional.