Here for a Season…now Gone

While all of my posts pertain to things that I want my kids to know, this post is going to be more personal than many of my previous posts. This week, I need my children to know my thoughts and feelings regarding babies, eternal families, and miscarriages.

For several years, we’ve known as a family that there were children missing from our family.  As we gathered the kids to go somewhere, we’d look at each other and ask who was missing and then count heads.  Eventually we accepted that these feelings were promptings that children were missing, so we started the adoption process.

After nearly two frustrating years of little to no progress toward adoption, we decided to see if God wanted us to add to our family by pregnancy.  About six months later, we were so very excited when we found out that we were pregnant. Now Momma’s not old, but let’s just say that she’s not exactly in the average child-bearing age range.

Within a week of hearing the heartbeat of the new baby, we got a text out of the blue from someone in Salt Lake City.  It seems they had found our profile on Adoption.com (which had seen virtually no activity in over a year) and felt prompted that we were the right family for a child they knew needed a home.

I won’t go through that whole process now (mainly because it’s still not finished).  It felt like we finally found our answer…we were going to adopt a child and have a child, then our family would finally be complete.

Mom discovered at her regular 16-week checkup this week, that our baby stopped growing at 9 weeks.  One week after we heard the heartbeat, that little heart stopped beating.

I had so many questions swirling around in my head, the biggest of which was why God would bless us with a baby, only to have that baby die before it was ever born?

Like so many people today, I turned to the Internet to try to make sense of what was happening to my family.  Here’s what I learned during those searches:

  • The Prophets have spoken regarding still born children.  They are to be recorded on Family Group Records.  If the parents have been sealed in the Temple, then these children are considered as “Born in the Covenant” and require no further ordinances in order to go to the Celestial Kingdom.
  • The question of when life begins is not understood: some believe life begins at conception, some when the heart beats, some during the “quickening” and others believe it begins at birth. There are a whole host of other possibilities that I won’t dive into.
  • Miscarriages happen all the time…a lot more frequently than we even realize.  Most of them occur before the mother even realizes she’s pregnant and are thought of a late, heavy period.
  • It is difficult to communicate the emotions felt due to a miscarriage

Now for my opinion on the matter.  Let me start with the principle of eternal families.  Heavenly Father placed men and women on this Earth so they could become a couple which would “multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). This is the first commandment given to Adam and Eve and it has never been revoked. We are also told that we are to have joy (2 Nephi 2:25). As I’ve said in another post, families are meant to be eternal.  It would be a cruel and unjust God who let us fall in love and and create a family, only to be told it couldn’t be forever.

“For all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fulness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; And not one hair, neither mote, shall be lost, for it is the workmanship of mine hand.” (D&C 29:24-25). Surely a baby in the womb is counted in the phrase “all things.”

“For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:14-16).

Not much has been said on the topic of miscarriages.  Perhaps this is part of the discussion of when life begins.  Suffice it to say, that I believe the doctrine taught regarding stillborn children can also apply to miscarriages. (Tears in Heaven)

I likewise find it difficult to believe that God would bless my wife with a baby…allowing us to get our hopes up of building our family, only to be told that it was a false alarm…a practice run…a mistake.  That doesn’t make sense with the God I understand my Heavenly Father to be.

I don’t have the answers, but I have hope and faith.  I have faith in a loving Father in Heaven who hears and answers my prayers.  I have hope in a future that includes this child so recently departed from this earthly sphere.

A good friend shared this thought with me:

I know He has provided a plan for us, a plan of eternal salvation that gives assurance of happy reunions and endless relationships.  I also share your hope that you will not only see your baby again, but you…will be able to hold him tenderly in your arms.

We do have a Father in Heaven who loves us very much. Through the Plan of Salvation, He has provided a Savior, Jesus Christ, to atone for all our sins, our pains, our sadness, and our grief. This doesn’t remove these feelings from us–we still have to travel this mortal life on our own–but it does allow us to lean on someone when we feel overwhelmed.  We can always know that Jesus Christ is there, ready to support us.  “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art though greater than he?” (D&C 121:8).  When we feel that no one understands what we are feeling, we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ knows exactly how we are feeling.

I’m grateful for a Father in Heaven who loves me and my little family.  I don’t understand why this challenge is ours to face, but I know that “all these things shall give [me] experience and shall be for [my] good” (D&C 121:7).

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The Cunningham Family

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To Be a Man

I recently read a talk by President Russell M. Nelson that has caused me to think a lot about the kind of man I am and the kind of man I want to become.  You can read a million different articles about the qualities of “real men.”  Here are some thoughts I’ve had on the subject based on what I read by President Nelson (along with thoughts of my own).

Real man:

Developing Priesthood Power requires a man to pay the requisite price by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself. A man who has paid the price will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity. In fact, President Nelson uses an interesting phrase…”In the coming day…” Here is the entire passage:

“In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and help others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity.”

Of all the things I heard and read in General Conference, April 2016, this is the most prophetic sounding…there’s something about these words that stir a feeling of action within me.  

So what is the price to be paid? It is to live these qualities: faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, holiness, brotherly kindness, charity, diligence, humility.  It is also to pray from our hearts–even if that means having the courage to pray to know how to pray.  It is to earnestly study the scriptures and feast on the words of Christ.  It is to worship in the Temple regularly and ask Him to teach us about priesthood keys, authority, and power.

In the end, there is very little that’s new in this talk–we’ve heard all these things before.  But for me, today, there is something powerful about hearing an Apostle give me direction on how I can protect my family…on how I can be a better man.

The question is this:

have I spent my days working on my birthright…

or eating a mess of pottage?

True Conversion

As a disciple of Christ, one of my goals in life is to become converted to the Gospel. I don’t mean that I’ve joined a particular church and pay tithes and offerings.  I mean I desire to become truly converted.  But what does this entail?  A quick Internet search yields many pages that list qualities and characteristics of true conversion.  I have read through many of these lists and have compiled my own characteristics of true conversion.

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www.azquotes.com/quote/479831

I believe that True Conversion manifests itself by:

 

  • Striving to be different from the world
  • Showing great love and compassion toward others
  • Standing as a witness of Christ at all times, and in all things and in all places
  • Desiring to be an instrument in the hands of God
  • Having no desire to sin
  • Seeking after righteousness
  • Praying always
  • Pondering the Word of the Lord frequently
  • Demonstrating gratitude, even in the face of adversity
  • Enduring all things to receive Exaltation

There are many other things a true convert will show, but these items sum it up for me (at least at this point in my life). Now for some details regarding each of these items.

Striving to be different from the world

“…ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darknessinto his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9, emphasis added).

“…Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people” (Exodus 19:4, emphasis added).

As we obey the commandments of God, we become different from the world…we set ourselves apart from our neighbors as something unique, something special. This then opens many doors for us.  Sometimes it opens the door to missionary work–as people notice our differences, we have opportunities to testify of Christ.  Other times it opens the door to ridicule–then we have the opportunity to learn patience and long suffering.

Showing great love and compassion toward others

We are commanded to show love and compassion toward others.  When Christ walked upon the Earth, he went about showing love to everyone–those who were easy to love like his disciples…and those who were shunned by society like the lepers. One time, he was asked what the greatest commandment was.  His answer? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Having this great love is so important that Paul later teaches this lesson: “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2). Without Charity, we are nothing.  Without a love for our fellow man, we are nothing.

Standing as a witness of Christ at all times, and in all things, and in all places

The Book of Mormon Prophet Alma taught his people repentance, redemption, and faith. Then he presented this proposition to them: “Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” (Mosiah 18:7-10).

When we are truly converted, there will be no time or circumstance we find ourselves in which we are not willing to testify of Christ.

Desiring to be an instrument in the hands of God

For this quality, I want to share a parable.

“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:20-22).

As we purge from ourselves unrighteous thoughts and behaviors, we become an instrument ready for the Lord to use to further his work.  We become, in the words of Alma, “instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work” (Alma 26:3).

see also “Become an Instrument in the Hands of God

Having no desire to sin

The people of King Benjamin, once they were taught the gospel, all declared to King Benjamin that they had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). When we are truly converted, we lose our desire to sin.  This doesn’t mean the temptations will all go away, simply that the temptations are no longer desirable to us.

Seeking after righteousness

The 13th Article of Faith declares: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” I also like the description given in Psalm 42:1-2. “As the [deer] panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”

Perhaps most beautifully are the words of the Savior himself. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). I do not think it is an accident that Christ uses the words “hunger” and “thirst”.  We are told elsewhere to “feast on the words of Christ.”  We also literally “eat” and “drink” in commemoration of his Atoning Sacrifice.  Righteousness is found in the Savior and we are to seek it out.

Praying always

This is one of my favorites because it gives me a communication path to my Father in Heaven.  It lets me know that not only can I pray, but that I am commanded to pray. In Ephesians 6, Paul teaches us about the Armor of God.  After we put on the whole armor of God, we are then told to “[Pray] always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and [watch] thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi taught:

And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” (2 Nephi 32:8-9).

Pondering the Word of the Lord frequently

I hope that when I one day stand face-to-face with the Lord, I will recognize his voice.  In order to be ready to recognize his voice, I have to know what it sounds like.  I can learn this by studying his words in the Holy Scriptures.  There’s something very special about the words of Christ that are recorded in the Holy Bible and in the Book of Mormon.  They teach us directly from the Savior–no intermediary.  As we come to know these words, we’ll be ready to listen to the Savior when we meet him.

Demonstrating gratitude, even in the face of adversity

This characteristic isn’t an easy one.  Perhaps the best known Bible story on adversity and gratitude is Job.  Here is a man who lost everything…and yet still showed gratitude. The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith these words: “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious” (D&C 78:19).

see also “Grateful in Any Circumstance

Enduring all things to receive Exaltation

Finally, we must remember that this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God.  This life is part of the journey to eternity…it is not the destination.  When we die, we will be Resurrected…either to eternal glory or eternal damnation.  The choices we make now, the actions we take each day, will determine our eternal reward.

As I said in a previous post, families are eternal. But in order to be with our family throughout all eternity, we must strive toward that eternity together.  We have to be ready and willing to endure all things here and now so that we can receive all things later. When things get tough and we think we’re at the end of our patience and hope, we can find solace in the words of Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith.

“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8).

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