Thursday, December 31, 2015

book review: Sheri Dew's "Women and the Priesthood"

Every time I walked into Deseret Book in Rexburg the last month or so, which was quite frequent because I actually just love walking around inside Deseret Book for some reason, something stuck out to me. I'm not talking about the Florence's chocolates that are super duper tasty that they have on display at the registers, though that is often the most difficult temptation to overcome in that store. It was a book by Sheri Dew titled Women and the Priesthood.


I'm a young woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a church that gets a lot of attention from the world for being full of peculiar people. Issues about homosexuality and women's rights within the church are particularly heard about and very very much misunderstood. I'll have to bypass the homosexuality topic today, though you should know that your perception of how the church views homosexuality is probably incorrect and you are welcome to send me an email or something and we can talk about it. Women and the Priesthood is a book that explores the essential, vital, and incredibly divine role of women in God's restored church on the earth today. It was completely worth reading and better established how I feel about being a woman in the Mormon church.

What shaped my view of this book was knowing who the author was. Sheri Dew is 62 years old, has served in Relief Society at the stake level and as the second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, meaning she oversaw the Relief Society organization over the whole church, which is the gathering place, alongside priesthood quorums for men, for all the adult women of the church. But what stuck out to me most in her personal and very spiritual writings about women, marriage, motherhood, callings, and everything else was that she has never been given the opportunity to marry and have children in her life here on Earth. That's right; a working woman who never mothered children of her own wrote a deeply inspired book about women in a church deemed sexist, patriarchal, and unfair by the world. In fact, from the start, she talks about how she doesn't understand such claims and tears them down with her own arguments.

Now, on to Women and the Priesthood itself. Sister Dew organized this book into eight chapters, and it's a reasonably short one, too, under 200 pages. The first chapter, "The Question of Perception", discusses how the perception the world has of the role of women in the LDS church is completely wrong. She clears up any misunderstandings the reader may have about the church. From there, she moves on to discuss the divine errand women have without telling us what that is, because each woman on Earth has a different one. We each have personal purposes from God, and she discusses how we are each tasked with discovering what ours is, and the help we have been given in that task. She segues right into "God Expects Women to Receive Revelation", which is essential to finding our divine errand and performing it, but also writes about the importance of this in auxiliary callings and how women are blessed to be naturally receptive to the spirit. The next chapter details the perfection of God and His Son, which gives us security in following the revelation we receive. Chapter 5 discusses the sincere importance of women in the Lord's church and how it would never be successful without our participation. In chapter 6, Sister Dew talks about how men and women have access to the greatest blessings God has offered us, really focusing on the temple ordinances in a sacred way. She describes how no man or woman alone can receive the greatest ordinance of temple marriage; it requires one man and one woman together in unity. Chapter 7, for me, was the most touching chapter; Sister Dew writes about motherhood from her own unique perspective and how God has given us as women His greatest gift, which is to be co-creators with Him to give His children bodies of their own. She is not insensitive to those who have not had motherhood in its literal sense made available to them in this life, either. Sister Dew concludes the book with a chapter all about how "Converted Women Can Change the World".

I feel that there are some great aspects to this book. First, Sister Dew wrote using some personal anecdotes, but most of her writing referenced a few stories from women around the world and a great wealth of doctrine given by apostles and prophets from all dispensations of the Earth. She backed all of her writing with proof and included in the beginning that she had sections checked many times by scholars and leaders in the church. Second, this book was not written to a single specific particular audience, but rather it applies to men and women and it applies no matter where the reader is in their journey of developing a testimony. She described things with detail to make sure you understand things exactly the way they are, which is so important when it comes to talking about the priesthood and related things. She teaches you, whether you are building knowledge or whether you may have had some misunderstandings that needed clearing up.

Women and the Priesthood was such an awesome read. I felt empowered as a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while also recognizing the broad spectrum of how much work I have to do to improve myself! And at the same time, I don't feel abandoned in my work. I understand the importance of Relief Society, the greatness of my personal purpose on Earth (whatever that is), and I feel even more on equal ground with priesthood-holding Latter-day Saint men. The way Sister Dew explained the Priesthood itself cleared up questions I never knew I had. Her description of divine errands and motherhood and the temple make me want to learn so much more about why Heavenly Father has me on Earth at this very moment. I better understand the kind of person God would have me be. 

I have learned from this book, and I have a place to go back and reference when things look confusing. I could write about this book for hours, but then there wouldn't be a point in having you read it too, would there? So if you're looking for a good book to read, whether male or female, whether your testimony is huge and strong or (especially) if it's small and barely growing, I recommend this book.

Friday, December 18, 2015

they don't make scholarships for me

My math professor was saying to a classmate that companies more and more won't hire people who had a 4.0 GPA.

That those who had a 4.0 GPA are conformists. They don't challenge authority to make improvements to the system. They go with it. They're sheep, followers, 1984, doing what they're told.

That morning, I was stressing over final exams wondering if I'd make my 4.0 GPA. Wondering if I'd keep my school-given scholarship because of grades. I was thinking about how my sweetheart and I would live in an apartment at all if we had to pay for my school too.

But that's just because they don't make scholarships for me.

When I say "they", I mean all the groups and brotherhoods and corporations and and .coms and .govs and .orgs whose charitable works involve paying for their future patrons' educations. I mean the national honor societies, the groups of recognition, the kindly rich folks who give and give. They don't make scholarships for me.

I'm a woman, I'm studying physics, but the thing is, my future in science and innovation and furthering humankind deals less with government-sponsored projects and state-college research papers and more to do with nurturing children and driving a minivan and making dinner and supporting my husband. My husband's future is making money to put bacon on the table and give us a roof over their heads. They don't make scholarships for us.

They don't make scholarships for the 40-hour "part-time" worker who sacrifices his grades and gets Cs in all his classes to work enough minimum-wage hours to afford rent because the company won't give him benefits. They don't make scholarships for the women who write about their goals to inspire their own children to achieve anything. They don't make scholarships because they think we are average, mediocre, and a bad investment.

They don't make scholarships for me because my alms in secret don't qualify when they ask for all the service I've done in front of others' eyes. They don't make scholarships for me because my education is for inspiration and not for making them rich and famous. They don't make scholarships because I'm not a sheep, because I'm not a follower, because I know where my worth lies and I know I don't need to be rich and famous and I know I don't need to spend my life on a single math problem and die miserable because I never figured it out and got my Nobel prize.

I know who I am, and I know why I'm here. I am getting my education because I want my children to know that whatever they want to achieve in their life is doable. I want my children to know that they are never too small, too silly, too slow, and absolutely never too stupid to make their dreams reality. I want them to know that I never gave up what I stood for, that they always came first, and that they are my greatest accomplishment. If I someday get to teach high school science, then I will teach those young men and women the same things I taught my own. Their worth has nothing to do with their grades, and it has nothing to do with what other people see them as. It has everything to do with who they are, and they are absolutely beautiful children of an almighty and all-loving Father in Heaven.

They don't make scholarships for me, but I don't need them at all.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

the house of the Lord

I am going to take as much care as I possibly can when I write this post, because the temple is a sacred place where sacred things are taught and it's an incredible blessing to be able to go.

On November 21st, I had the blessed opportunity to go through the temple to take out my endowment. I made the 2.5 hour drive to Twin Falls so I could meet up with my parents for the first time in 2.5 months. It was great to see them. Ben came with me, and we were all there at a Jamba Juice to get some food (I had hardly eaten at home because of anticipation but my appetite was in full force by the time we got there, an hour early) in our Sunday best.

The experience that followed was incredible and life-changing. But I won't talk much about it at all. Other than the fact that it was very overwhelming and probably 98% of what happened there went right over my head.

The thing about the temple that I will say is that what goes on inside is not of the world at all. We do not discuss it outside of the temple because it is sacred (not secret). I've said this three or four times by now, but what does it mean? Because the learning and the ordinances that we participate in the temple are so important and of God, we cannot allow the world to tarnish them. They are the greatest gifts we can receive on this earth and they are the key to the kingdom of heaven. So when you go for the very first time, you have no idea what you're going to do. When you're there, you really aren't 100% sure what is going on. When you leave, you aren't entirely sure what to think of it. But although it felt overwhelming and unfamiliar, so many of the truths I found there were little more than what we learn on Sunday and what we read in the scriptures. It all felt true, and as I have pondered on the temple since, I have come to understand bits and pieces and I anticipate every opportunity I have for the rest of my life to go back and learn more.

The temple is a great place of peace and solace. I felt welcome there, I felt like I was at home, when in actuality I was in a place that I have driven through twice in my life. It was beautiful and I felt the spirit so strongly. I could really feel the love of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. It came through in every word spoken. Having my mother by my side was a blessing. I will always cherish the memory of my first visit.

Unfortunately, I must also give this post with a warning. There are plenty of things you can find out on the internet about the temple. Keep in mind that those who understand how sacred it is will not reveal it to those who are unprepared, because that gives an unfair accountability to that person. Those who do not understand its sacred nature have no moral obligation to avoid lying about what is taught. They defile what is most precious to us on this earth and seek to confuse and turn away our hearts from the things of God. So if you have a desire to learn more, stick to lds.org and the members of the church you know. Ask questions but understand there can only be so much answering with something as special and holy as the temple. Above all else, pray with a heart seeking truth and light to know whether temples really are the house of the Lord, whether or not you are LDS yourself. Pray about the sacredness of what is inside. Visit a temple, walk on the grounds, if there's a visitor center, go inside. There is such incredible peace to be found at the temple, whether you are inside or not. I promise this to you.

I testify that temples are God's houses, and that they are pieces of heaven on earth. They bring peace to troubled souls, comfort to those in need, and blessings to all who come as they are and as they can.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

prayerful marriage (guest writer)

I promised, and here I am delivering: a blog entry from yours truly, Ben Godfrey, sharing his side of our unorthodox love story.

Hey folks! Ben here. Not too long ago Aileen wrote a blog about how she and I ended up together. I thought that I would share my side of the story because it creates a broader perspective. About a month before I met Aileen I prayed that I would meet someone that I could get a little dating experience with, someone I could call my girlfriend and perhaps consider having a future relationship with. When I first met Aileen I had no idea that I would ever consider marrying her or that she was an answer to my prayers. In fact I didn’t even think she would end up holding the title girlfriend. She was a quiet shy girl that I enjoyed talking to at the school library on Tuesday mornings. I thought she was really cute. I’d see her every other day at institute and would sit behind her during class. I was too afraid to sit next to her though.  I’d thought about it a number of times but never summed up the courage. Silly me.

Anyways, as I said before I talked to her on Tuesdays at the library. I always looked forward to that. I would see her sitting at a table by herself and join her. She would spot me coming and look at me with this face akin to embarrassment. So I’d go embarrass her. It wasn’t often that I had the courage to talk to a girl I thought was attractive especially when I couldn’t tell if she wanted me there or not but for some reason I didn’t care. I would talk and talk and talk and she would listen despite the fact I interrupted her astronomy homework. One particular Tuesday morning I talked really loudly and she shushed me. She was so embarrassed that I was as loud as I was that her face turned bright pink. I couldn’t help myself. I talked even louder. I wasn’t intending to be a jerk or anything of that sort. Her reaction was just so cute and funny that I had to see it one more time. She seemed to think it hilarious that I was so loud. It probably seemed innocent to her.

Later that day or perhaps later in the week I invited her to come to an activity I was planning. She said she would let me know but didn’t show. I was pretty disappointed. A week later I invited her to another activity I planned. Again to my great disappointment she didn’t show. But this didn’t faze me because she had sounded so sincere about coming that I had to assume the best of her. I figured she got lost or something. So I didn’t worry about it. One Thursday shortly thereafter, I was at the Rocklin institute building trying to decide if I should go to the Book of Mormon class or if I should try to get some homework done I was worried about. I decided to go to the class on the basis that the prophets had told us to. I told myself to have Faith. After class Aileen decided to wait out in the hall for some reason. It was the first opportunity I had to talk to her outside of the library or class because usually she would take off without a word. I talked to her for a couple of minutes about random stuff and then went to the restroom. Then I started kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to ask her out. She was quite pretty after all and I figured that though she had missed my activities perhaps she would be interested in going out with me. So I did a 180 out of the bathroom and then asked her if she wanted to join me for a movie. I was scared to death when I asked her. To my surprise (and great relief) she said yes! I booked it into the main room of the building where everyone liked to hang out and ran around the room excitedly shouting out my success. Don’t worry, Aileen was not in ear shot so she didn’t hear my excitement or see all the high fives I administered.

The next day we went and saw the movie and had Chick fil A. I wasn’t really sure what to think of her at that point except that she was really funny and seemed sweet. So I asked her out again that same weekend. I started asking her out over and over. She would come to my place and I would go to hers. She watched general conference with my family, helped me feed some cows, became the llama queen, and took pictures with me on the statue of Claud Chana etc etc. Finally there was the evening when I attended her concert. She played the oboe well enough that she was in the Sacramento State University Orchestra. We had a good time together. I went home that night quite in love with her. She texted me wondering where we were at as far as a relationship was concerned so I called her. I was scared to death because I wasn’t sure where I was at with the whole thing. But I couldn’t seem to get enough of her so I asked her to be my girlfriend. She said yes to that too! We dated for several months. Then I went off to BYU Idaho. I didn’t really think things were going to work out since there would be about eight months of time between the two of us. I remember the horrible knots that were in my stomach as I drove across Nevada. I believed that was the end. Once I was established in Idaho however we started Skyping. After three or so months of that I really thought I should go and date other people so I could find my wife. I didn’t think Aileen was it at that point. I wanted her to be but I thought Heavenly Father had other plans for me so on April First I broke up with her, in person. She came up to visit me and I broke up with her. Pretty cold right? Actually it was the most harrowing experience of my life. I loved her so much. But I thought it was the right thing to do.

I didn’t enjoy being separated from her. It was a lonely time for me. I took some other women on dates and I even got excited about one or two but I kept comparing them all to Aileen. They would remind me of her and it would make me sad. On occasion I would think to myself, “at least they don’t do such and such,” trying to justify my separation from her with anger. She had made me mad from time to time, but I missed her. I even loved her for being a pain in the butt on occasion. Well, after dating around and finding that most of the girls either thought they were too good for me or finding that others were not half as intelligent as Aileen was I began to question my decision. After a few months of this I got a random phone call from guess who! Months of not talking to her and suddenly out of the blue Aileen calls me. I couldn’t stop talking to her after that.

It took very little for me to fall right back in love with her, though when I think about it I can’t say I ever fell out of love with her. For those three months I missed her and was also angry at her. I was angry at her for not being “right” for me. I soon realized that was a false presumption. She was right for me. It took the separation for me to realize that. Not long after she contacted me I told Heavenly Father that I was done looking and was going to marry her if possible.

I remember saying to him, “I’ve decided I’m going to marry Aileen Carroll and I was wondering if you would support me in this.” To my surprise he said that he would. A few months later I asked Aileen to marry me and she also answered in the affirmative. I realized that I had to make the decision first before Heavenly Father would give me a response to that question. I had to choose her, then he would choose us. To anyone out there who is considering someone, decide, and then ask. Don’t expect to get a response from Heavenly Father when you ask, “Is she the right one for me” or “Who should I marry?” Those are for you to decide. Only then will Father in Heaven give you a response.


I love Aileen. I bear witness that it was God that brought us together. I will always be grateful for that, and for her.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

scribes and samaritans

Forgive me already; I have slept a total of 1 hour in the last 38 hours. But I felt impressed to write, and it is Thursday, and it has been a while.
"A poor, wayfaring Man of grief / Hath often crossed me on my way, / Who sued so humbly for relief / That I could never answer nay. / I had not pow'r to ask his name, / Whereto he went, or whence he came; / Yet there was something in his eye / That won my love; I knew not why."

Many of us, religious upbringing or not, are familiar with the parable of the good Samaritan. A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, when some thieves ambushed him, taking his clothes and his belongings and injuring him. They left him to die on the side of the road. A priest soon came walking by, and upon seeing the man, hurried to the other side of the road and kept going, giving him nothing. A Levite soon came down the road, and repeated this same action when seeing the Jew, naked and dying, on the side of the road. Finally, a Samaritan, whose people have a bit of a tense history with the Jews, came along this road and saw this man, his enemy. He was moved with compassion. He stopped, washed and bound the man's wounds, and took him to an inn where he paid for him to stay and be fed until he was restored to health.

In the New Testament, Christ speaks often with the different groups in charge of religion in the holy land. It is not uncommon that He calls them out on their hypocrisy, on how hard they make it for others to enter the kingdom of heaven, how they make the calls and act without love in their hearts, and many other awful things. The Scribes and the Pharisees get plenty of this talk in Matthew 23; Christ calls them out on being hypocrites time after time after time, culminating in informing them of their condemnation for killing the prophets of God.

Finally, in Christ's teachings, He commands us to love our fellow men as we love ourselves and our God. What we do unto "the least of these [our] brethren", we do to Christ. All of our actions, whether they be love or malice, selflessness or envy, charity or hatred, come down to the simple truth that we do these things to Christ. Our Savior bore all things; does it not make sense that He bears the things we do to each other in these ways?

Even as it is taught in the Book of Mormon, when Christ visits the people of the Americas and delivers the same sermon He gave on the mount in 3 Nephi 12:
22 But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
23 Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—24 Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.

We are taught that we have to love our brother, with no hate or anything, before we can stand righteously in front of God and our Savior and deserve entry into Celestial glory.

How should we treat those Syrian refugees? How should we treat the Muslims slaughtered by the cowards that hide behind their peaceful faith? How should we treat those that choose to live here among us as our fellow men and citizens in this blessed country?

It will never cease to amaze me how many of those who claim that this country is God's, who post scripture and doctrine, turn to spit hatred on those of a different faith. Even as the children of Israel were told to love strangers, for they too were once strangers, so should we. We are all strangers, we are all wanderers in this life. It is only through love and love only that we will find our way.

I do not intend to show any ideas of how to fix this problem. I am a 19 year old college student, and if I could fix all of this, it wouldn't be a problem. I simply mean to show my testimony of Christ and what a true disciple of His should be. I simply believe that we can never go wrong when we listen to the Spirit and serve and love our fellow men, especially those poor wayfaring men, women, and children of grief.
"Then in a moment to my view / The stranger started from disguise. / The tokens in his hands I knew; / The Savior stood before mine eyes. / He spake, and my poor name He named, / 'Of me thou hast not been ashamed. / These deeds shall thy memorial be; / Fear not, thou didst them unto me.' "

Sunday, November 15, 2015

teachers

Long time no see! 16 credits and 6 classes are kicking my butt. But I found time (mostly just motivation) to write today.

Don't worry, that promised guest post will happen soon. Just have to get him to do it.

I was sitting in Sunday school today, feeling the weight of my life and my weaknesses. I came before the Lord with a broken heart as my offering. When you do that, He always gives you so much to heal you and uplift you, and all you need is faith to be healed. The lesson was taught by a gorgeous young woman who started off by saying that it was mostly a video lesson because she hadn't had time to prepare much. The lesson she taught would never have revealed that. Each video seemed to have been carefully selected. All of her discussion questions provoked thought and brought the spirit. She waited patiently through silences for the Spirit to speak to class members. And I learned things I needed to, and I was taught by the Spirit what I needed to learn. I turned to Ben and commented on how I liked the way she taught; where the men who teach in my ward don't like the silence and sometimes step on it with "Anybody? Anybody?", she waited.

At the close of her lesson, she broke into tears. She apologized for what she thought was a sad excuse for a lesson, and explained how sad she was because all of us in the audience had served missions and knew way more than she did.

My heart broke. This woman had so much humility she thought she had failed when she had taught better than some RMs that I've heard spend an hour sharing mission stories. She taught of Christ with the Spirit so strong. She felt she was less simply because she hadn't served a mission.

The age change has brought so many blessings. It saddens me that so many women now feel inferior because they haven't had the experience of a formal mission call. There is no ranking in Heaven that places those who did not have the opportunity to serve under those who did. There is no rule that states that some things can only be taught to those called by the prophet himself to serve for a set length of time in some area. All of God's teachings are available to those who ask. We should never act prideful or judgemental about a mission. It is a blessing, but for some of us sisters, it is not necessary.

I hope that the woman who taught today trusts all those that told her how beautifully she taught. She is just as worthy as any RM. And any RM is just as worthy as her. We are all equal to our Savior so long as we follow His commandment to come unto Him.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

womanhood in the classroom(s)

Last weekend was LDS General Conference, where we were addressed by the leaders of the church on inspired topics of doctrine. It was a wonderful conference; I was so worn out from Saturday's sessions that I could hardly stay awake through Sunday's. It didn't help that Ben and I arose early to drive out to see his grandparents.

I did, however, get to listen to about 3/4 of Sunday morning's session on the radio. The first couple of talks were great. Then, Russell M Nelson gave his address: "A Plea to My Sisters". This powerful talk struck me deep and made me feel such love and appreciation from the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

To summarize, he talked about the importance of righteous covenant-keeping women. He discussed our unique spiritual sensitivity and abilities and implored us to speak up in meetings and classes and councils and all other places where our voices are needed. He stressed the importance of our perspective and abilities in the home in conjunction with priesthood holders. He made me feel important and validated in my role and in my divine nature and in who I am.

One time, in a religion class at the LDS institute, my teacher asked a question. I gave an answer, a little hesitant, to which he responded, "Okay..." and asked for another answer. Needless to day, a young man raised his hand, gave the same answer, and was told that his answer was excellent.

Few things drive the Spirit away faster than that. Few things make me not want to ever raise my hand in a classroom again like that.

At BYU-Idaho, there are about 3-4 girls in my math and physics classes. On Tuesday, in my physics lab, all three of us girls were in one group. I often feel the need to be quiet, to not take charge, to not lead my peers, and when I do so, I can sometimes feel ridiculous and out of line. Of course, I'm an anxious and introverted person when it comes to speaking up and speaking out, so it would obviously be different for a headstrong girl in my shoes (go you! you do you! keep on doing that! it helps people like me!). But I always learn the hardest concepts better when I guide others through it and allow others to guide me, by voicing my thought process, by helping other people and being helped by them. Learning is a group effort, and the voices of men and women have distinctly different properties that can work together to bring about incredible things.

In any given religious classroom, most of the time, you'll hear deep male voices bellowing mission stories and gospel principles. Sometimes, the same guy has a 2-minute answer to every question. Sometimes, you sit next to that guy and just want to punch him (love thy neighbor, Aileen, love thy neighbor.....). But the more I've learned to overcome hand-raising anxiety and speak up, the more I've felt the Spirit teach me and the more I've been able to discern between answers specifically for me and answers I need to share with the class for someone else to hear.
"My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration....you sisters possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition you have received as gifts from God. We brethren cannot duplicate your unique influence.
We know that the culminating act of all creation was the creation of woman! We need your strength!"
Listen/read/watch the talk I referenced above. I'll add it here, too. President Nelson gave such a powerful address that every woman needs to hear and hold in her heart as true Christian doctrine. The power of speech is never to be ignored or downplayed. The Spirit will only speak as much as we do, so as much as we listen, we must also do.

(Here is a summary if you're short on time)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Abrahamic sacrifices and my totally BYUI engagement

I've decided that to help with consistency of my posts that I might try out some kind of spiritual thought posting on Sundays. Stay tuned to see if I can figure this blog out!

This post is special because one year ago today I went on my first date with my now-fiancé Ben Godfrey. Here's a little spiritual tribute to that. But my story with Ben is one of trials, faith, and great sacrifice. It built my testimony sky-high and it is my hope that even just one person who reads this will find comfort and strength through the Spirit.

Last September, I was a mess. I did an okay job of hiding it, of course, but I was in shambles. High school ended, all my friends were leaving, and I was dealing with four years of anxiety buildup. When I met Ben Godfrey, it was my second day of Sierra College. I went over to the institute because I thought there would be class. Brother Paul Watkins took me under his wing and gave me a grand tour of the place, but not until he took a picture of me with his phone. This blonde guy with glasses and a blue plaid shirt (Bendini's trademark) was there, discussing how you can't charge your phone all the way because that worsens the battery. Thank goodness I can only remember such weird specific details of people and never things like, oh, their name. He ended up in my Book of Mormon class. I was taking Prozac out the wazoo and felt awful surrounded by such strong spirits in that class. Little did I know that one of them was admiring my hair and my "head shape".

Every day, I'd bolt out of class. I was overwhelmed with SSRI side-affects and the depression and worsened anxiety they caused in me. One day, however, I felt this urge to hang out in the hallway and see what would happen. Completely contrary to what I wanted to do. But I did it anyway, and after saying "Hi" and going to the bathroom, Mr. Genius realized that it was his chance to ask me out on a date: "So, uh, there's this movie, The Maze Runner."
"Yeah, looks good!"
And then, the frightening question:
"Yeah! So I was going to maybe see it this weekend... would you want to come with me?"
"Sure, sounds like fun."
Apparently, he then proceeded to run into the lounge and high-five everyone and give this other guy an empowering speech on how he should just go ask women out (this guy then went out to the hallway and chatted me up, which drove Benjamin mad!).

Time passed, and we dated, and then we became a thing, and I eventually gave up the experimental drugs, and then he got into BYUI. I was devastated, and he was anxious too, because he didn't think I could be the one to marry but he didn't want to give me up. We went long distance for three hard anxiety-ridden months. Seriously, long distance is the actual worst.

Spring break came. I got out of jury duty and my plans to come up and visit him and my best friend were coming to fruition. We drove overnight the day I found out about jury duty, and it was midnight in Elko when I got the text: "Sweetie, we need to talk." My stomach dropped. I fitfully slept in the car the rest of the day to Rexburg where I endured the hardest day of my life: April Fool's Day 2k15.

Thinking about that day still hurts. It was the day I lost my best friend. Ben was at work all morning, and I was a zombie running errands with Danielle, crying frequently, not eating, sick to my stomach. He got off work, and when I saw him, we embraced so tightly and so sadly. He took me around campus and we cried and it was absolutely hard and miserable. I had to give up my best friend. I'm marrying him now; do you understand what he meant to me then? What I meant to him?

I still tear up when I picture my last goodbye, shutting the door.

The thing about life is that God calls us to make great sacrifices for the sole purpose of qualifying us for incredible blessings. Many are familiar with Abraham and Sarah from mid-Genesis. Abraham and Sarah were promised early on (back in the Abram and Sarai days) that they would have children to outnumber the stars of the sky and sands of the sea. 70 years of infertility, of questions and faith, and they had nothing. No children at all, though they desired a family so much. Finally, in the Lord's time, they were given a son. They named him Isaac, from the word which means "to laugh/rejoice".
Then came the fateful day that the Lord tried Abraham and asked him to give his only son in sacrifice. How hard that day must have been. The heartache of Abraham as he took days' travel to the appointed place on Moriah. Consider the faith he had in the Lord as he bound his son and raised the knife, being so believing that he knew if Isaac died that the Lord could make him live again. Consider the faith Isaac had in submitting to his father. In accepting his role as the sacrifice, in embracing the knowledge that the Lord only asks us to do hard things (hard is really truly an understatement in this case) because it is how He blesses us best.

Ben and I had to learn a lot in breaking things off. I had to learn how to be Isaac. I had to learn to have perfect faith that things would be made best. I had to learn how to pray intently and walk without seeing and trust in the Lord to take me where He knows I can go.

I cried every day in April. Every day. And I cried a lot in May. I had lost such an integral part of me. I had lost the one thing that mattered so much to me. What could I do to ease my sorrow? How many times I plead with the Lord to deliver me, to uplift me, to support me, to raise me, to lead me through the darkest valley of my life. How long, O Lord, would I have to suffer?
I knew what to do. I had been taught it since I was a child. I had been taught it when I had Ben before. And I knew it was true. I turned to my scriptures, I turned to my God, I went to the temple because I had been promised great things and comfort. Though it did not come quickly, it entered into my life quietly, and I grew so much more than I had ever grown in my life.

And yet, I never got him out of my mind. I thought about him daily, hourly. It took a long time to quit bothering him. He called me on May 15. We texted once or twice. But boy, did my soul ache for his company. I prayed often for the Lord's will to be done, but that if my will was okay, that He would see it through.

He did. June 30th, before I left to hike Half Dome, I called Ben. He answered. He was about to leave, so he didn't have much time, but he promised to call me back. He did.

A month of rebuilding went by. I was super stressed thanks to my 8-week integral calculus course. He supported me, but I was intent on taking things slow. We were testing the water. But we really couldn't stay away. We talked more and more. My prayers were answered. I was unsure and afraid but I knew if I kept doing what I needed to that Heavenly Father would bring me nowhere but where I needed to be. August 3rd, and we were publicly back together. Right where we left off.

The thing is, this was still all long-distance. We hadn't seen each other since January 1st, not counting the unfortunate day in between. He made plans to come out and see me. August 31st, I hid in his car, surprising him best I could with all the junk he had in the back, and we picked up as though nothing ever happened.

Something did happen. He broke up with me. And I will thank Heavenly Father forever for that experience. I would never choose to relive it. I know there are greater trials ahead. But I will have my best friend, someone that Heavenly Father put in my life to bless me and strengthen me and grow with me.

So yes, Ben and I are engaged after three weeks together in person. But we know it's right. We know that we love each other, that we always have, and that Heavenly Father wants us to marry each other. The thing about Mormons is that we get engaged "too fast" because we have no reasons to wait. We know that if you ask God the right thing, He'll answer. We know He will tell us when we are on the wrong path. He is waiting for opportunities to bless us and help us out. We just have to have faith.

Sometimes, those opportunities come in the worst of circumstances and the greatest of sacrifices. But He will utilize them to teach us beautiful and incredible things. He did that for me. He helped me and Ben to know that we love each other and that He is looking out for us and supporting us in all things. I'm engaged. But I am also happy, blessed, and in no way fearful for my future with Ben when it comes to the big things. I have a testimony of sacrifice, trials, and blessings. I have a testimony of the perfect love of perfect Heavenly Parents and a perfect Savior. And this is how I have known and always will know I will be okay in the end.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

education in the world but not of the world

By the time this is posted, I will be mostly through my second week at BYU-Idaho. I have barely begun and barely slept and yet I have already come to notice awesome new things about life for me out here in Rexburg. It totally is what you make of it.



My ability to receive spiritual promptings and insights has been heightened. The campus invites a clear mind and open heart. My roommate mentioned last week how you can find bad things just by simply looking for them, but there is still an overwhelming abundance of good. Coming from Californian junior college, I see the difference so well and I have greater gratitude for it.

Questions I've had for months have been answered. I have seen, even if for the first time, answers I was given long ago. I have received new ones. New questions, new answers, old questions, old and new answers, I just feel so much more attuned to the Spirit. Things that I always imagined would be frightening and full of anxiety are way more easily approached with peace.

I have my tough math and physics classes every day instead of my usual twice a week, but it is far better suited to my needs because each class is only an hour long. There is no oversaturation; people, like sponges, can usually only learn so much at one time until they can't absorb anything at all. Of course, this means I have plenty of homework (15 units of math, science, humanities, Old Testament, and biblical Hebrew) and I spend 8 or 9 hours on campus most of the week, but it's worth it.

The Rexburg temple looks so huge on the hill. It looks huge up close. But every morning that I hike to my first class, just as I get to the building, I see Moroni on the point of the temple over the top of the Ricks building. When I get a ride, we drive almost right up to it. It's a perfect daily reminder.

I feel so much more passionate about my learning. Reading the Old Testament is powerful. Math 215 for the first month is review from integral calculus, and I had such a solid foundation with high school physics that all the basic stuff in my class is making me motion-sick (ha!), but I know once I start learning the scary stuff I will find the drive to get it done. I'll be able to get study buddies despite my tough schedule. I have been greatly blessed by an eternal Father and wonderful earthly parents. I feel the love of all those around me. I am right where I need to be.

I'm also blogging while music is playing and a party is going on right outside of my window. College life.

Last of all, in classrooms full of 95% men, I've never felt prettier.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

obligatory post

It's been a couple Thursdays, and since this is a personal blog, I guess I can insert some brief personal stuff.

I'm currently typing from my new apartment in Rexburg. I start classes on Monday. It's been a heck of a week.

I just want to mention a couple points. I owe such gratitude to my Father in Heaven. I had a wonderful week with a wonderful someone last week, and I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend my last week at home. And on the way here, I got to spend some time with my parents, stopping by Salt Lake City. We toured the conference center, where in a short month, General Conference will be held and the Spirit will be felt and we will get to hear the words we need to from the General Authorities of the Lord's restored church. The words will be inspired and will touch an open heart easily. The spirit felt in that building was strong. There is art everywhere, and each piece I looked at was a witness of the truth of the gospel.

In particular, there was a series of oil paintings featuring women in the scriptures. I love women in the scriptures. Besides a couple outliers, the few women that are mentioned are so incredibly faithful and devoted to God. They change the world. They inspire me, from Eve to Sarah to Mary to Abish. All the art there is original, and I saw a couple of my favorite paintings of biblical women. I'd write more about the subject if my head didn't hurt and it wasn't 11:20 PM.

I have felt such peace throughout the last week, when I should normally be crazy and off the walls and sad and nervous and anxious, etc, etc, etc. I know it is an answer to prayers I have given to feel peace.

I'll make sure to write a real nice post in a couple weeks. Until then, wish me luck.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

line upon line, eureka! upon eureka!

I missed a week, but that's okay, because after writing this, it's better that I did. As with all of my posts, I hope that just one person reads this and feels it has been written for them. If you're that person, let me tell you: it was written for me too.

As a physics major, I can tell you, "Eureka!" moments are, for me, few and far between. The ones that come are from dedication and work and practice and rereading and being frustrated and re-rereading and studying and plenty of crying. When everything comes together and I finally see things and next time I can far more easily than ever remember how to calculate the energy of the photon emitted as an electron jumps to a lower energy shell, it's a beautiful sense of peace and clarity.

And then it's back to the books for the next pain in my neck.



Too often we feel that the Spirit will tell us the answers we seek in these big magnificent ways, or that we’ll realise everything about our situation at once, that we’ll have the whole plan given to us on a rolled-up piece of blueprint paper. We think that the gift of the Holy Ghost that we as confirmed members have means that we are set, or that because we really really want something, we’ll get it when we think we need it. As I write this, I think, nah! I know that’s not true! I know that isn’t how things work!

But honestly, in the thick of things, I want my answers, I want them then, and I want them under my terms and conditions.

That is hardly conducive to the Spirit! Perfect heavenly parents would never spoil me in such a way; how could I learn and grow? How could I develop the meek, mild, humble, and patient spirit I (sometimes, I feel, foolishly) ask my Father for if I was given everything as I felt I needed it? I believe in a God who is an eternal being who sees all things as they were, are, and will be; how can I forget that this so often means my faith, patience, and long-suffering will be tried?

The Spirit speaks in plainness and truth, only in the language that we will understand. But He also speaks line upon line, precept upon precept. There are times where the circumstances are dire and a person might hear a very clear thing that they know to be the spirit. I, personally, cannot even think of a time that I have heard the voice of the Spirit. Isn’t that crazy? I’ve lived on this earth almost 19.5 years. I was baptized and confirmed at 8. I have had the Holy Ghost as my constant companion for more than half of my life, and I have never heard His voice (that I can recall; but I do feel that if I had, I’d remember it, because though it is mild, it pierces the heart).

This fact has shaken me before. Just a week ago, I was really fighting with this. But why doesn’t that shake my faith now? How do I continue forward when this is such an important part of my testimony?

I hold to the fact that the Spirit does speak to us exactly in the way we need Him to. I feel the Spirit. I am a deeply emotional person, and the Spirit moves my heart in ways that I can understand the direction in which I need to proceed. I trust my heart and I trust that the Lord will only guide it in righteous paths so long as I am obedient in His commandments and as I keep covenants I have made with Him. I grow my testimony in reading the scriptures and as I write and as I speak I feel that sense of peace.

Line upon line, I have been able to come to terms with the ways in which the Spirit doesn’t actually communicate with me at this time. A good friend gave an incredible Sunday School lesson on the Spirit. I heard something very relevant in a Sacrament Meeting talk from a stake high council member. The concern I expressed to Heavenly Father for a while was addressed in such simple but personal ways as I went about doing what He needed me to do. Such is another language of the Spirit.

I feel this is a subject that I will ponder for years to come. I know I can develop new ways for the Spirit to communicate me. Maybe someday, in some very deeply personal situation, I will hear His voice.

As I left the temple just yesterday evening, walking from the house of light into a dark and warm August evening, I felt peace and love. It was hardly overwhelming, but it moved in my heart. Just a simple feeling. Plain. But I knew it was of the Spirit.

Heavenly Father is waiting to bless us. We so seldom understand His timing until we see it all in perspective. He knows what we need and when we need it. All He expects from us is to ask for it and then to trust that He will hear us out--but only when it is the appropriate time. He works no sooner, no later ("a wizard is never late”).

I testify of these things in the name of my beloved Redeemer, my best friend, Jesus Christ, amen.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

the Joseph Smith experiment

In my last post, "the scientific method of testimony", I detailed in what I assumed was poor writing in my tiredness the process of gaining a testimony. It's all in there, it turned out okay, so I won't write too much here for redundancy's sake. It got over three times the views of my last couple of posts, so I figure it's safe to assume most people reading this read that one as well. But feel free to skim for a recap, because I'm going to be talking about the same thing right here.

I am taking a summer class at the LDS institute across the street from Sierra College. I took outstanding Book of Mormon classes there this last year. The class I'm currently enrolled in is the Pearl of Great Price class, where we study other works of Joseph Smith than his Book of Mormon translation and revelations in the Doctrine & Covenants. It's all fantastic stuff, worth reading and explanations that are too lengthy to include here. We finally made it through to Joseph Smith - History, studying the first 20 verses that any member of the faith (especially returned missionaries who know verses of it by heart) would recognize. Joseph Smith details his "First Vision" to put rumors to rest about it. 

Recap: 14 year old boy during the Second Great Awakening in the Eastern US wants to know which church to join. He's way more sober and thoughtful than your average twerp this age, though he is a farm boy with little education. He studies the Bible religiously and is distraught by the confusion and hype of the time. He reads James 1:5 (If you lack wisdom, ask God about it, and he'll let you know what's up) and decides that there is no other solution possible to him. He finds a good place in a grove of trees a short walk away and heads out there one spring morning to pray and hopefully know which church to join. He has no idea what's coming; he fights off the very powers of hell, prays vocally for the first time with all the strength he has, and God and Jesus Christ appear before him. They essentially say that none of the churches are true, they're all there to get gain and be popular, they don't have the fulness of the gospel, so it's now going to be Joseph's job when he gets a bit older, but for now, he's just gotta chill.


I've been a member of the LDS church my whole life. And yet, I have never really had a testimony of this first vision, the very basis of the restored gospel. I know the Book of Mormon is true; I've done experiments. I know about the Atonement for the same reason. Logically speaking, I now know that Joseph Smith was the real deal... right? But I had never experimented, and therefore never had a real witness, and I honestly couldn't tell you what makes him different than Islam's Mohammed.

Well, I could, obviously. He got the full gospel of Christ. The Lord's church, the whole plan of life, the reason we're here, where we're going, etc. But I couldn't feel it.

Remembering what I had just blogged about, I figured it was time to do some science.

I'm grateful for a particular friend. I will call them "Samwise", because I'm a huge nerd and that's essentially the role they played. As I formulated my experimentation methods and made my hypotheses, they were there to support me and provide any help I needed along the way. A returned missionary with a firm testimony, Samwise was a blessing in my endeavors.

The first thing I did was pray. I told Heavenly Father that I was set out on a mission to gain that testimony. I told Him I knew how to do it, I told him what I was planning on doing, and asked Him to give me the witness that I needed that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that he did restore the gospel to the earth in these days, just as good as Adam or Enoch or Moses or Noah or Nephi or Alma or Alma and so on. Knowing that the Lord would consecrate my actions for my gain, I set out on my journey.

I read and re-read the account of the first vision. I didn't feel anything. Clearly we were off to a great start. I told Samwise about my goal. They offered to give me some good stuff to read, and I told them I wanted to teach them the missionary discussion on the Restoration. They've done it so many times that I knew they'd be a help; they were happy to train another little greenie.

Teaching the first discussion was interesting, to say the least. I had studied Preach my Gospel and how to be a missionary during a particularly rough time, so I had remembered a lot. Unfortunately, studying a book doesn't quite make you a missionary. Samwise gently guided me, telling me to teach less and testify more, guiding me through different passages to read. The greatest part was exchanging witnesses; each question they asked, I responded to, and then they did. As I testified of Joseph Smith, as foreign as it felt on my tongue, Samwise felt the spirit. And as they recited, "I saw a pillar of light...", I felt it. Just a tiny little bit. The beginning of the seed growing up towards the sunlight.

Samwise wasn't my main source of observation; though helpful as they were, the most witness came from looking up "Joseph Smith" on lds.org. I avoided google, not because I'm afraid of the "truth", but because anti-Mormon propaganda is there for the express purpose of confusing poor souls like me, strong in the gospel and faithful in Christ but weak in belief of its great prophet-restorer. The truth is found within Church doctrine, not to brainwash, but to invite the Holy Ghost to bear witness of truth and light, as His calling is. The first night, I was too tired to stare into the backlit screen of my laptop, so I listened to the words of prophets and apostles as they taught and testified of Joseph Smith. It all felt good, bringing peace into my heart. I had yet to feel a true witness, but I knew that through my diligence, because of the peace I had felt so far, I would get it. I'd feel that warmth in my heart.

And I finally did. As I sat down to read just a little bit more, I prayed again to receive a witness. This prayer was not great, majestic, or anywhere near my "Best Prayer Ever" (is there such a thing?). It was just as simple as any other. And I began reading. The words I read brought a swelling into my chest, and as Heavenly Father knows how I need to feel the Spirit, I did. I received that kind of witness that I, Aileen Carroll, need in my life to know of gospel truths with a surety. The kind of knowledge that grows stronger and stronger until it is undeniable. Matter cannot be created nor destroyed. Jesus Christ suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane through all of our pains, weaknesses, sins, and sorrows. The Book of Mormon is truth in its testimony of Jesus Christ and the great Plan of Redemption. Joseph Smith is a true prophet, ordained before this life to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ in its complete entirety in these last days before Christ comes again.

My testimony is not wordy, it is not eloquent, it is so far from perfect. It's little more than anything you hear from adorable primary children that get up on fast Sundays. But it is mine. I have cultivated it. I have experimented and grown my seed. It isn't a huge, magnificent tree yet. In some places, it may be getting there faster. But it is surely growing, and it is only by experimenting and coming to my own knowledge and my own faith.

My testimony never comes all at once. There are one or two experiences where I felt an overwhelming outpouring of the Holy Ghost. The rest of it is, as the scripture says, "...line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" (2 Nephi 28:30). Each small witness of some truth follows another. It takes time, effort, diligence, and patience, but it is so rewarding.

My testimony is mine. It is not yours. The Spirit may not even witness to you like He does to me. But I encourage anyone, how small your seed may be, to experiment. Even if it's that first simple question of "Which church should I join?". I implore you to kneel and ask. Heavenly Father loves all of His children; that is the first thing taught in the missionary discussions. He loves us so much that He makes sure we have the full knowledge of Him, so much that He gave His only perfect firstborn Son for us to come home, so much that He is so very aware of your specific needs, no matter how petty they may feel. What is important to us is important to Him. Ask Him. He is waiting for you to ask so He can answer.

I testify of these things in the name of my Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

the scientific method of testimony

I finished the Book of Mormon today. For the fifth time, but for the second time that it really counted.

My "girl who just got her mission call" picture..... hahaha

It's interesting, really. A lot of things have coincided with ending around this time. About a month, almost two, before I started reading the Book of Mormon again, a really, really difficult trial presented itself to me. One of those where there is no way around but through. One of those that you remember for the rest of your life, one of those where it takes a long time before you're able to talk about it to anyone, one of those where it takes even longer to be able to say to the public world what actually happened. I had huge amounts of grief, fear, uncertainty, etc. I had the WORKS when it comes to trials; five scoops each of a different flavor, whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry (I'm lactose intolerant to add another layer of intensity to this metaphor). It was easily the most difficult thing that I've ever had to do, the most difficult thing to ever give up. But I had no choice.

And reading the Book of Mormon like I did, with the intensity and the depth and the faith that I had for it, finishing it just over 2 months later, I really owe a lot of my strength to it. I felt the Atonement work in my life. And it was incredible.

But I'm not talking about that here. I'll probably talk about it a lot somewhere else. This is a blog of science and faith. Not one or the other.

So let's talk about Moroni 10, the very last chapter of this entire book. Mormon, Moroni's father, abridged 1000 years of history from 600 BC to 400 AD. This history was a written record of the people who inhabited North America. This book is to be a second witness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness, it's meant to testify of His divinity and His atonement and our Heavenly Father's perfect Plan of Salvation/Redemption/Happiness. If you want to learn more, I can tell you all about them. But in chapter 10, Moroni is writing his big conclusion before burying the records to be found in latter days by a chosen servant of the Lord. Verse 4 reads as follows:
And when ye shall receive [the Book of Mormon], I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true, and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
He continues to include just how the Holy Ghost tells us when things are true, and I will hyperlink the chapter right here for all y'all who haven't read this five times.

I bring this up because a lot of people who are not religious argue that religion brainwashes, limits choice, and stifles creativity and all those other things. I argue that religions that do that are hardly true, and the Book of Mormon says plenty about that once or twice. The true church of Christ "exhorts" its members to ask. It wants them to hypothesize and pose questions and experiment on the words they receive. Alma 32 is all about that. Most Mormons know this chapter all about faith. I implore any of you to (re)read it now. But verse 37 will suffice to make my point:
But behold, if ye will awake and arous your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you. 
Alma continues with a parable of planting a seed, the seed of faith (ahem ahem mustard seed, anyone?). It's all about planting the seed and making observations and looking at real results and using those results to make conjectures about the seed you planted. If it's good, and you feel good, and it brings forth good fruit, then obviously, the seed was good in the first place. If it was all bad, and it brought forth bad fruit, then you know it was all wrong. But Alma promises that this seed, properly planted (none of those confounding variables can make correlation into causation!), will indeed bring forth fruit. But he encourages us to try for ourselves, to ask for ourselves, to see for ourselves.

I could go on for hours. But I'm tired, it's getting late, and I think I've made some semblance of a point.

We find our faith by experimentation. We find it by acting and seeing results, by praying and receiving, by experimenting and seeing miracles. Heavenly Father wants us to ask Him for whatever we need. He's literally waiting on us to make the decision to plant and cultivate our testimony, to "come and see" for ourselves whether He is there and His love for us is real.

I'm not too happy with my words in this post. But Moroni wasn't too happy with his writing either. I just hope that someone out there, just one person of the few who read this, will take on my own challenge to ask. If it's been a while, or if you've never prayed, I know it'll feel so awkward. But just do it. I promise you that you'll receive an answer however you need it. He's waiting on all of us, meeting our imperfect and flawed nature with such perfect and whole love and understanding. He's known us for eternities; we forget Him at our birth, but spend our lives trying to make some meaning of the world.

Read the Book of Mormon. It will draw anyone closer to Christ than any other book. There are promises made in its pages that are unmatched by the world.

Plant that seed. Start that experiment. Make your observations.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

entropy and divinity

Since this is an LDS and science combo blog thing, I figured that when I stumbled across this link, I ought to share it. It presents examples of how church members differ in teaching their children, and allows me to comment on the fact that science and faith are both absolutely necessary for each other.

Perhaps I don't understand the universe in its fullness because I'm a first-year physics major who hasn't even taken college-level introductory physics other than my (excellently taught) high school AP physics class and arguably AP chemistry, with the same teacher who couldn't care less about exam scores but rather preferred to prepare us for university science. It has been well over a year since I last heard someone with a degree talk about entropy. But even from my tiny baby-hand grasp of the metaphorical thumb on the entire giant man that is entropy and the universe and all related topics, there was one thing on my mind, and it was this:
If, according to the laws that govern the universe, all things are naturally hurdling apart from each other on everything from molecular to astronomical levels, moving from higher potential energy to lower, how can there be so much order and so many things coming together without someone helping out?
I know, from a mathematical standpoint, you can argue that with infinite possibilities, assembling is bound to happen. Everything is bound to happen. Math. But even so, it's in every single detail. Yes, galaxies are all flying super duper scarily fast apart (I don't like thrill so I really try not to think about this nightmarish twist on bumper cars crossed with roller coasters that's been going on for billions of years; this ride ain't stopping anytime soon so I'll just panic quietly in my computer chair). If you build the Millennium Falcon out of Legos and shake it around a bunch, pieces will fly apart. But if you look at my phone call history, if you look at the order of the planet system and babies being born and long-lost lovers and people meeting missionaries at the perfect time and just everything that is so deeply detailed and so important and so beautiful, well, how can you deny a God?

I'm not saying that the earth was built in 6 days and has been around for 6000 years. The Bible, especially the Old Testament, is so chock full of symbols that I just don't get why that's the one thing Christianity takes so dang literally. I honestly look forward to the day that I'll actually remember the creation I observed with wide eyes, excited and nervous for the day that I would take up my mortal body and learn and grow and experience all that physicality has to offer. I'm just saying that I cannot deny a God, not just because I've felt it in my heart and feel it as I type, not simply because my parents raised me bringing me to church every Sunday. I know it because it makes so much logical sense. I cannot deny science, but I also cannot deny my faith. The world's climate is changing, and likely to bring about divine purposes in these latter days. The stars shine, wave/particles from light-years away hitting my retinas, all creations of a divine Father.

There is too much order to deny His existence. His presence is in every single stitch that weaves together the fabric of the universe. He knows me so perfectly and so intimately and everything the last couple of weeks has happened so perfectly ordered that I cannot deny the divine intervention of a loving Father in Heaven. I testify of His flawless love. I know He has known all of His children from the beginning of eternity. And if you look, both eyes of faith and science wide open, you'll see it.

And if any of my non-Mormon friends or followers have read this far, I open any inbox I have to you. None of this is secret Mormon stuff, I just understand that it can sound a little crazy without the context of the gospel. It is to you that I extend the same invitation of the Savior Himself, Jesus Christ: "Come and see."

Suggested reading if you like this kind of stuff:
Jesus the Christ by James E Talmage, Ch 11, section "Miracles in General" (last section) and Note 7 (very end of chapter)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

achieving mediocrity

I got a 72% on my exam.

Oh, the joy I felt when I got that test back. First, shock. Then, my eyes got a little bit watery. I passed. I passed. I was honestly hoping for at least a D. But I passed!

When I took that exam, I was cool as a cucumber. But then I finished all the stuff I knew how to do, and panic ensued. See, my coping mechanism for any emotional event, good or bad, is to cry. It just happens. I got it from both parents. It's a struggle. It's normal for me, but when you see someone else cry, you immediately go "HOLD UP. What is wrong. What is hurting you little flower." At least, I do. People just react, that's all. And I don't typically want people to react; I'm trying to get myself to stop reacting so I can proceed. But here I am, getting all sniffly and teary eyed, sitting directly in front of my professor. He's standing at the computer, I'm sitting right in front of him, and a couple of times, I could feel his eyes burning into my sad pathetic-looking sniffling soul.

But I made it, and I got a 72. A 72!

Anyway, so this class is super difficult, yes? Well, I have the convenience of having an English class, so I'm writing essays every week, essentially, and I work the completely inconsistent cashier job in retail. Some days get a little tricky. Tuesday, I had my regular 4.5 hours of school. I had an hour to eat lunch, change, and go to work. 4 hours of work. I had one more hour, and then I was picking up a friend who I had felt inspired to bring with me to go to the temple. I have institute class Wednesday nights and this Thursday night I had to visit with someone over some important stuff. And with the temple schedule only having open baptistry Tuesday through Thursday at 8 PM, Tuesday was my only chance.

That was the day we learned about arc length and surface area of rotated objects. Not too different from volume of solids of revolution, but different enough, and with these "Chucked up" problems as my professor (named Chuck, mind you) and other students call them, I have to do plenty of homework problems to prepare myself. I almost didn't go to the temple to do baptisms. I almost texted that girl to cancel. I almost stayed home to do some dumb homework problems. But I knew I had to go. The blessings of temple work are always so incredible. Temple attendance has healed me in my deepest hurts. The peace I feel there is powerful. It's my home. So I went. And I did no homework problems on that lovely Tuesday.

Wednesday came around, and I was prepared to score my third 2/10 on the daily homework quiz. The lights shut off in the building, and since we're in the one room without windows, we had to search around for a room with enough ambient light. By the time we got there and learned about mass and hydrostatic force (which was pretty easy thanks to my awesome physics teacher from high school), and quiz time came at the end of class, my professor just turned to us and asked, "Do you guys want to take a group quiz?" A girl in my group knew exactly what to do on the problem, and I got a full 10/10 on that quiz. The blessings of the temple are real.

I was going to talk about how wicked cool hyperbolic functions are, but looking at the length of this entry, I'll save it for next week. We're learning more about them, and hopefully I'll better understand some of it. Euler's number (e) is so fascinating, but I don't really know how the dude got it, or why it works in the natural world so much and why it's literally everywhere. I'm learning the language of gods. I'm in the very beginning of it, and never in this lifetime will I know it all, but it's amazing.

As a final note, NASA named a star "Nasty 1" and I think that's just dandy.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

inception

I've had this blog in my brainspace for a week or so now. But I wasn't intending on starting it until September.

That's when I start "real college", Brigham Young University - Idaho, as a declared physics major heading into my second year of undergraduate schooling. I haven't done much in the ways of STEM at junior college, so it didn't feel right to make this blog until I was really getting into my studies. I haven't even taken a physics class since junior year of high school.

But tonight, as I spent hours slaving over my calculus II material for my exam tomorrow, I realized that now's just as good a time as any.

I'm stressed. Majorly. As much as I want to deny that this is junior college and it's not the real deal, the professor I have for my 8-week calculus course is killer. Just killer. It seems as though half of my class is taking it after failing the same guy's class during the 16-week spring semester. And the way they talk about his exams just gets my blood pressure up there. I printed out the practice exam, and needless to say, I was not let down.

It took me over an hour to get through #1. Granted, it had parts (a) through (o). But still.
And the rest of these problems.... They are worded so complexly, it's a struggle to understand what he wants me to do with the functions. Once I get a hint from the solutions, I'm fine. But before that, I'm lost. I'm hoping it's just the fact that I've been working my brain for a few hours now.

It's so easy to get myself discouraged. It's so easy not to believe in myself, in my capabilities, and all those things. But when I participated in the discussion online about why everyone is taking the class, my professor responded saying that the math department at my junior college is super rigorous. They prepare you for universities; in fact, students often come back and say how overprepared they were. This is an echo of my high school physics teacher. Refusing to teach to the exams, he told us that he would better prepare us for college than any of the other guys. If we wanted proof, we needed to look no farther than the students who sent him emails or came back to visit.

This is a huge trial of my academic career. Calculus II is said to be the basis for all other math. If you can get through it, you can succeed beyond it. This is my first make-or-break test. 8 weeks of rigorous homework, little sleep, and the way my job is going, plenty of hours of work.

But just like any other trial, it will help me to see what I am capable of. It will stretch me and help me to see how far I can go with a prayerful mind and real intent to learn these things. Through God, nothing is impossible. This is not impossible. I can't get discouraged with myself; rather, I should have faith in myself and in the blessings I have been given. I have been promised that I would be able to gain an understanding of this material. I have been told that the things I learn will help me comprehend newer and more complex things. Why should I doubt? Why should I be in sorrow? Why should I fear that Heavenly Father will let me down? He never has before. And He never will. He'll probably give me plenty of lower grades to keep me humble and help me to recognize His hand. But He won't leave me in darkness. So long as I am trying hard and giving my best effort, He will help me and make things known. He'll help me make connections and bring things to my remembrance.

All of this requires such simple things: faith, trust, dedication, and obedience. Such simple tasks on our part brings such amazing and beautiful miracles. I have seen them in my life before, and by having faith now, I will see them again.

Alright, enough procrastinating. I have integrating to do.