From my former “LDS Women Converse” Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Christmas Advent Videos
During the last two Christmas seasons, I cobbled together some of my favorite paintings of Christ and His disciples and then converted them into a video series. I also added my own comments and then posted them all on Facebook and Instagram. Presently, I am in the process of gathering the videos and posting them on this page. Below are a few videos (in random order) with my original commentary. I was unable to transfer all of the content to this page.
Of all the innumerable women disciples of Jesus Christ, I hold my deepest respect and admiration for Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene. Raised in Magdala, Mary Magdalene was a Jewish woman who traveled with Christ throughout His ministry. She witnessed His crucifixion, helped prepare Christ’s body for burial, and was the first witness of His resurrection.
The Four Gospels mention her name 12 times—more than any other apostle except for Peter.
I’ve often thought about her initial introduction to Jesus Christ. The Books of Luke and Mark describe Mary “as possessed with seven devils” whom Christ cast out (Mark, 16:8; Luke 8:2). What exactly were the seven demons that held Mary captive? Did she suffer from a mental illness such as depression or schizophrenia? Whatever her demons, her suffering must have been terrible. When the Savior healed her, Mary’s life was profoundly changed, and she became one of His most devoted disciples.
Years ago, I read a book called, The Gospel of the Beloved Companion (also known as The Gospel of Mary), an apocryphal text about Mary Magdalene. The text originated from a Coptic translation preserved in a fifth-century manuscript and discovered in Cairo in 1896. Later, it was translated from Greek by Jehanne de Quillan. As with the “Gospel of Thomas,” these apocryphal ancient writings are not canonized scripture, but, in my opinion, are still worth reading.
The Gospel of Mary is significant because it’s the only surviving apocryphal writing named after a woman and written about a woman. In this text, Mary is portrayed as a visionary woman, married to Jesus, and anointed and given authority by Him to teach and spread the gospel. The Gospel of Mary parallels the writings of John in the New Testament. The text also emphasizes the idea that Mary understood Jesus in a way that His apostles could not.
Whether or not the Gospel of Mary is authentic, this text serves to underscore Mary’s strength, courage, and unwavering faith in Jesus Christ. His torture and crucifixion must have been unbearable for her, but she stayed with the Savior while disregarding her own safety. Her foreordained mission as the first witness to the resurrected Lord is eternal confirmation and proof of her righteousness, fortitude, and faith.
In her Ensign article, “Mary Magdalene—Tower of Strength,” Margo Hovley describes Mary’s faithfulness:
“In the Gospel of John, we learn that Mary Magdalene stood near the cross, along with Mary, the Savior’s mother (see John 19:25). Whether near or far, what’s clear is that Mary felt compelled to be with the Savior as He endured immense agony and suffering. Even in—and perhaps especially in—this dark hour, her devotion to and love for the Savior were manifest. She would remain His disciple to the end. The honor of being the first person to see the Savior as a glorified and resurrected being can’t be overstated. His victory over death is the greatest event in human history, and it was Mary, humble and devoted to the very end, who was the first to see the truth of it” (www.churchofjesuschrist.org).
During this Christmas season, I’m so thankful for the life of Jesus Christ; for righteous male and female witnesses who walked and talked with Him, and then testified of His divinity.
Preparing for Christ’s Second Coming
Jesus Christ’s parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25; D&C 45) becomes ever more meaningful to me as we prepare for His second coming. This parable (sometimes called a “watching parable”) is specifically directed to our generation–as individuals and as a church. The parable serves to reinforce Christ’s call for spiritual readiness in a time of upheaval and uncertainty.
It also emphasizes the bridegroom’s delay, which in turn, lulls half of the virgins into complacency, passivity, and even indifference—despite their initial excitement and anticipation. The bridegroom’s sudden appearance results in their chaotic panic and then bitterness at being denied entrance to the wedding.
D&C 45:57 mentions the “wise virgins” in cautioning us against deception. They are those who “have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived.” Deception can take many forms including secularism, trendy ideologies or popular opinion, pride, narcissism, self-deception, false teachers, etc. We are also counseled to avoid the assumption that our future place in Christ’s wedding chamber is unconditionally assured.
Surely, we all drift from our faith in varying degrees–and our patience and faith will be tested. For these reasons, the parable instructs us to be wise by accumulating and storing extra oil in our vessels. Extra oil requires extra work and self-discipline on our part in growing our faith, our spirituality, deepening our relationship with Christ, keeping our covenants, etc. Discipleship and spiritual preparation for the second coming is an ongoing, active, consistent process.
The apostle Paul compared his spiritual journey to a race. He wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul leaves no doubt concerning his struggles in holding to his faith and keeping his focus on Christ. This same theme is reflected in Hebrews 12:1. The line, “Let us run with endurance the race set before us,” underscores the idea that faith is akin to a marathon and requires disciplined tenacity.
Finally, the key to a successful race or marathon is to cross the finish line. “Finisher” is one of the many names given to Christ. Hebrews 12:2 says,
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
This Christmas season, I celebrate Christ’s faithful endurance. He exemplified perfect faith while enduring unspeakable suffering—completing His mission as our Savior and Redeemer.
The wise virgins inspire me to run my race with faith and tenacity, as I prepare to meet Christ at the finish line.
Christ Is the Living Water
My 25 Days of Advent is coming to a close. Interestingly, my initial intention was to focus on the events surrounding Christ’s birth. Though obviously significant and timely for this holiday season, the Savior was infinitely more than His mortal birth. Consequently, my focus changed into a personal testimony of Christ and His mission. But how do I possibly condense my testimon
Now, for the last remaining days, I will add water to my testimony of Jesus Christ. Lots of water. We know that that Christ used literal water in performing miracles and metaphorical water in teaching parables. In fact, one of His names is “The Living Water.” This name symbolizes our continual need for water to sustain our physical selves coupled with our essential need for Christ and His teachings to gain eternal exaltation.
Years ago, I read a National Geographic article about the preciousness of global freshwater resources. The hardships women endure to obtain water shocked me; the task of fetching water defines life for many women in developing countries. Journalist Tina Rosenberg followed an Ethiopian woman, Binayo, for a day and watched her spend nearly every hour of every day fetching water. I quote Ms. Rosenberg: “Where clean water is scarcest, fetching it is almost always women’s work. In much of the developing world, lack of water is at the center of a vicious circle of inequality” (“The Burden of Thirst,” 2004).
After reading this article, I felt shame and guilt for having been naive as to the preciousness of water and the hardship these women endure. Conversely, I am well acquainted with and greatly appreciate the preciousness of the “living water” of Jesus Christ. I simply cannot survive without this crucial resource. As we know, Christ lived in a land where water was scarce. Biblical women were also required to fetch water at the wells. At Jacob’s well, Christ talked to the Samaritan woman and said, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, ‘Give me to drink,’ thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14). I admire the Samaritan woman for recognizing Christ as the Messiah while so many others could not and rejected Him.
So what exactly is the living water? Elder Bruce McConkie defined living water as follows:
• The words of eternal life
• The message of salvation (meaning Christ’s atonement)
• The truths about God and His kingdom
• The doctrines of the gospel
- The prophets of God: Where there are prophets of God, there will be found rivers of living water, wells filled with eternal truths, springs bubbling forth their life-giving draughts that save from spiritual death (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1965, p.151-2).
To physically drink water requires a series of specific acts: First, we must find water, then find and use a utensil or cup to use for drinking (using our hands is ineffective), then fill the utensil with water, then bring it to our lips, and then swallow. And we must do this consistently every single day, or we die. Likewise, to drink the living water, we must also consciously and consistently choose to seek and receive the water. When we do this, we eventually become a well of living, nurturing water for others. I’ve learned that there is a direct correlation between the depth of our individual wells and the strength of the water current as it springs forth and flows within us. To dig and deepen our wells while increasing our water flow requires the following:
• A willing heart to search for oases of living water
• A committed heart to spending and sacrificing the required time and energy to fetch the living water. A humble heart: If we think fetching water is beneath us or mundane, we will thirst and eventually suffer spiritual death.
• A trustful heart: It takes guts to follow God, as He leads us through hot deserts to oases of living water.
• A heart of faith: Even Christ questioned whether to drink from “the bitter cup.”
• A heart of love for Christ and for His children.
• A courageous heart: Others will often criticize and mock us as we drink the living water.
Elder David A. Bednar, in his talk, “A Reservoir of Living Water, further clarifies this imagery:
“Given the vital role of water in sustaining all forms of life, the Savior’s use of the term ‘living water’ is supernally significant. As described in the fourth chapter of John, Jesus and His disciples passed through Samaria as they were traveling from Judea to Galilee. In the city of Sychar they stopped at Jacob’s well:
‘There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, ‘Give me to drink.’ Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, ‘How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.’
Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.’
The woman saith unto him, ‘Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?’ Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life'” (John 4:7–11, 13–14).
Elder Bednar continues:
“The living water referred to in this episode is a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. And as water is necessary to sustain physical life, so the Savior and His doctrines, principles, and ordinances are essential for eternal life. You and I need His living water daily and in ample supply to sustain our ongoing spiritual growth and development.”
The Scriptures Are a Reservoir of Living Water
“The scriptures contain the words of Christ and are a reservoir of living water to which we have ready access and from which we can drink deeply and long. You and I must look to and come unto Christ, who is ‘the fountain of living waters’ (1 Nephi 11:25; compare Ether 8:26, 12:28), by reading (see Mosiah 1:5), studying (see D&C 26:1), searching (see John 5:39; Alma 17:2), and feasting (see 2 Nephi 32:3) upon the words of Christ as contained in the holy scriptures. By so doing, we can receive both spiritual direction and protection during our mortal journey.”
Obtaining Living Water from the Scriptural Reservoir
“I now want to review with you three basic ways or methods of obtaining living water from the scriptural reservoir: (1) reading the scriptures from beginning to end, (2) studying the scriptures by topic, and (3) searching the scriptures for connections, patterns, and themes. Each of these approaches can help satisfy our spiritual thirst if we invite the companionship and assistance of the Holy Ghost as we read, study, and search” (BYU Devotional, Feb., 2007).
This Christmas season, I’m so thankful to Jesus Christ, and how He allows me to drink constantly and deeply the living waters from His holy well.
Christ Calms Our Stormy Seas
Here’s my last post for my 25 Days of Advent. I have broken it down into three parts:
1. Christ Calms the Stormy Sea:
The Four Gospels tell of Jesus and the apostles crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat. A sudden furious storm threatened to sink the boat, and the panicked apostles awakened Jesus saying, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Luke 8:22) In response, Christ rebuked the storm saying, ‘Peace be still.’ And “the men marveled, saying, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!’” (Matt. 8:27).
Eric Huntsman’s BYU New Testament Commentary entitled, “Calming the Stormy Sea,” further explains:
“The disciples’ terror contrasts with the unperturbed calm of Jesus, who seemingly would have slept through the storm had his friends had not roused him, begging for his aid. In the second part of this miracle story, Jesus, in a moment of divine majesty, ‘arose, and rebuked’ (Mark 4:39). Jesus’ direct rebuke of the storm is followed by an implicit reprimand of his disciples in the next verse, when he says, ‘Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?’ The concluding part of the story relates the reaction of the disciples: “’they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ (Mark 4:41) The common literary motif of greatness weaves the sections of the miracle story together, stressing the great storm that occasions the miracle, the great calm that ensues, and the great fear of the disciples that results” (2015).
Every time I turn to Him, Christ calms the tumultuous and stormy seas in my life. The water might not be perfectly still, and safe land might not be in sight, but that’s ok. Christ still navigates me to my eventual destination rather than leaving me tossed, floundering, seasick, and alone.
2. Christ Walks on Water:
On another occasion, the disciples boarded a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. There, they would meet Christ who had gone up to a mountain to pray alone. While crossing the sea, a violent storm emerged causing the disciples much distress. Their fear worsened when they caught their first glimpse of Christ walking on the water toward their boat. Telling them to, “Be of good cheer,” He bid the apostle Peter to step out of the boat and come to Him by walking on the water (Matt. 14: 22).
I love the Apostle Peter. I love his impetuousness and his zeal. He was also the only disciple courageous enough to get out of the boat and walk on water toward Jesus Christ. Yes, Peter started to sink, but his courage was still admirable. Even more, Christ caught him before Peter completely went under. Pastor/Speaker, Joyce Meyer reminds us that Jesus Christ is not found in our boatload of fears. Rather, He’s out on the water and beckons us to step out and walk toward Him. Most likely, we’ll feel increased anxiety as we “water-walk,” and like Peter, we’ll probably sink a few times along the way. On the other hand, as with Peter, Christ will not let us drown. He is our peace in the midst of our fears and anxiety.
3. Christ is our Prince of Peace:
Isaiah surely got it right when he prophesied:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Shortly before His crucifixion, Christ reassured His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). After Christ’s resurrection, John records the stressful and dangerous environment the apostles were living in: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you'” (John 14:27; John 20:19).
Many years ago, I read the book “The Road Less Traveled,” written by Dr. Scott Peck. I was so impressed with his insights, I read three more of his books. His writings completely changed my definition (and thus my attitude) about notions of peace. In “The Road Less Traveled,” Dr. Peck includes a quote about the peace of Christ from writer Thomas Beckett:
“But think for a while on the meaning of this word ‘peace.’ Does it seem strange to you that the angels should have announced ‘Peace,’ when ceaselessly the world has been stricken with war and the fear of war? Does it seem to you that the angelic voices were mistaken and that the promise was a disappointment and a cheat?
Reflect now, how our Lord Himself spoke of peace. He said to His disciples, ‘My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.’ Did He mean peace as we think of it: the kingdom of England at peace with its neighbours, the barons at peace with the King, the householder counting over his peaceful gains, the swept hearth, his best wine for a friend at the table, his wife singing to the children? Those men, His disciples knew no such things: they went forth to journey afar, to suffer by land and sea, to know torture, imprisonment, disappointment, to suffer death by martyrdom. What then did He mean? If you ask that, remember then that He said also, ‘Not as the world gives, give I unto you.’ So then, He gave to His disciples peace, but not peace as the world gives.’”
Dr. Peck continues:
“So with the peace of grace come agonizing responsibilities, duties, obligations. Most people want peace without the aloneness of power. And they want the self-confidence of adulthood without having to grow up [emotionally and spiritually]. So it is with spiritual growth, which is inseparable from the process of psychological maturation. For the call to grace in its ultimate form is a summons to be one with God. So the fact that many are called but few are chosen is easily explainable in view of the difficulties inherent in response to the call to grace” (The Road Less Traveled,1978).
I will end my 25 Day Advent by once again expressing my endless gratitude for Christ’s birth, His mission, His atonement, and His resurrection. Because of Him, I feel joyful. Because of Him, I feel triumphant. Because of Him, I love this season. And because of God’s grace and His magnificent plan, our Savior is the greatest gift to us all. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the prince of my inner peace.
Christ Is Our Advocate
For nearly 25 years, I taught a G.E. college course called “Argumentation and Advocacy.” Advocacy has many forms and contexts and is defined as any action that speaks on behalf of an individual and/or group who can’t speak for themselves. Advocacy also favors, recommends, argues, supports, pleads, or defends a cause.
Argumentation is coupled with advocacy. Listed below are the course objectives outlined in my syllabus. These objectives were the basic required skill sets in determining students’ grades. The objectives also served to blend the concepts of argumentation and advocacy:
1. Learn the basic principles of argumentation, models of argument, and how to put them into practice via written and oral communication.
2. Learn the principles of inquiry and advocacy in public discussion along with the necessary basic skills for intelligent participation in discussion and debate.
3. Learn how to think critically and engage in critical and analytical listening.
4. Learn how to assume the ethical responsibilities of the public speaker, including a basic understanding of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the access and use of information.
These objectives might sound clinical and impersonal, but as students learned, applied, and practiced these skills, they “found their voice” and “came alive.” By the end of the semester, they had come to realize their potential power to persuade and influence.
So, what does this have to do with Jesus Christ? Everything–every particle of those course objectives (and infinitely more) pertain to Jesus Christ and His mission. Christ is the ultimate and perfect advocate. In the pre-mortal realm, He engaged in analytical listening (followed by critical analysis) while Lucifer presented his own ideas and plan of advocacy for the eternal salvation of our souls. Lucifer’s arguments sounded well-meaning, altruistic, and were obviously very persuasive to many. Jesus Christ, however, recognized the fallacies in Lucifer’s arguments. Even more, Lucifer’s concept of advocacy was, in the end, self-serving narcissism disguised as altruism.
Christ’s idea of advocacy was loving selflessness: While in mortality, He would be our intercessor with the Father by taking our sins upon Himself, and offering Himself as a perfect (and perfectly innocent) sacrifice to atone for our sins. This is advocacy in its truest and perfect form.
The New Testament mentions Christ’s advocacy only once (although the word “intercession” is used); the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants directly and plainly discuss Christ’s advocacy. In a BYU Easter Conference, the Academic Vice President, John S. Tanner, taught:
“Even so, I believe that scripture provides a remarkably intimate glimpse into the mechanics of mediation—that is, into how it is done—in its descriptions of Christ as our advocate and high priest. Scripture allows us to overhear the Son pleading our cause to the Father. It invites us to enter into the heavenly Holy of Holies, where God dwells with our great high priest and where every day is a Day of Atonement. The scriptures we will consider provide sacred glimpses into how it is done. So on this Saturday before Easter, let us mentally doff the shoes from off our feet and enter into the sanctuary where our salvation is wrought.
The fullest and most intimate description of Christ as advocate in modern revelation occurs in Doctrine and Covenants 45:3–5. I have come to regard this passage much as I do Doctrine and Covenants 19:15–20, in which the Savior recounts His atoning sacrifice, “Which suffering caused myself, even God, . . . to tremble because of pain’” (Christ, Our Advocate and High Priest, 2006).
This Christmas season, I give endless thanks to Jesus Christ and His advocacy in my behalf. Through Him, I can gain eternal life. He has unselfishly and lovingly paid my debt in full, as I make and keep covenants with Him and consistently participate in the repentance process.
Influential Women Whose Righteousness Made Them Powerful
Though oft written through a patriarchal lens, history (including The Holy Bible) offers glimpses of powerful women–as individuals and as a collective group.
Even when cultural norms stifled their voices, strong and faithful women were righteously and enormously influential.
The same can be said about women who used their power for unrighteous purposes.
This Christmas season, I give special thanks to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ; Mary Magdalene, a devoted disciple of Christ; and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Their divine roles as righteous women, mothers, and exemplars to Christ and the Baptist illustrate the power of women.
“I will never stop publicly declaring my faith…”
(Originally posted Christmas Eve 2019)
A few months ago, I stopped making my Facebook posts public. I had put my voice “out there” regarding various issues of personal concern so felt no need to continue addressing them. And, due to the growing hostility and divisiveness on social media, I take great thought and care before I post or comment.
However, I will never stop publicly declaring my faith. This Christmas, I honor the birth of Jesus Christ. My discipleship is imperfect but sincere; I’m full of gratitude for His gifts to the world. ❤️
As our society grows ever more secular, I gain an ever greater appreciation for the Christmas season. This is the time when secularists and non-Christians who still celebrate the festivities of the season must acknowledge—on some level—the Savior’s birth. I also ponder and stand in awe of Mary’s holy calling in birthing and raising the Christ child. Our stake conference was this weekend, and my favorite part of the meetings was singing the wonderful Christmas carols. “Oh come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant.” This is how I feel because of Him.
“Silent night, holy night…
Shepherds quake at the sight…”
Christianity’s value and influence in Western societies will continue to diminish. Regardless, one’s personal faith isn’t constrained by societal gravitation and influence. Faith is a multi-faceted principle of power and action–be it individually or collectively.
My greatest treasure is my faith in a newborn baby boy who matured and eventually changed the world…and who also changed my world.
The contrast of the light to the dark is what draws me to this painting. Jesus Christ is the light.
I love a night nativity for the penultimate darkness of the year.
This is the moment she is reaching out, without any hesitation.
She extends her hands, herself entire, toward her wee babe.
She looks at him directly, face to face, right in the eye.
No burning bush, no misty cloud, no pillar of fire, no angels at Mamre, no whisper to Elijah, no dreaming sign or heavenly messenger.
This is love unfeigned.
Hugo van der Goes, The Nativity at Night, National Trust, London
The label “sheep” has morphed into an insult to those who don’t, won’t, or can’t think for themselves.
I am proud to be one of Christ’s sheep. I follow Him. I’ve come to know His voice. And His voice speaks all truths.