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I love to watch a good sunset. One of the blessings of growing up in my parent's home, was being taught to take time for beautiful things. In the evenings, Mother read to us; and as a weekend reprieve from work and school, we would often take trips into the mountains neighboring our home. In elementary school, I loved art and science, and recall how particularly interested I was during a unit on the American Revolution. At recess I enjoyed soccer and four-square. Junior high progressed much the same as elementary school—except recess turned into PE. By high school, I noticed a specific enjoyment of art. Other subjects, such as the chemistry class I took, continued to hold great interest; but I took as many art classes as I could, and even had the opportunity to take a summer course in lithography at the local university. At the same time I was in high school, my father was making a career change from computer programmer to self-employed artist. By the time I graduated, I didn't think twice about participating in my parent's pursuit. I also served a full-time proselyting mission for the Church in Leipzig, Germany. It was my first exposure to worn cobblestone streets and a babbling foreign language. I saw one baptism during my ten months of service, and came away with lessons for life in making friendships and relying on the Lord. Upon returning home, I picked up where I left off in the family business (where I still work) and received a college degree in history.
Because of loving parents and grandparents who are Latter-day Saints, I was born into a home where principles of the restored gospel were taught as far back as I can remember. We had family home evenings, laughed, celebrated holidays, attended church and school and work, ate meals together, and did all the normal things a family does. Growing up in such an atmosphere, I felt secure and always knew the gospel was true. Later, as I consistently applied what my parents had taught, there was no storm of life that shook that belief. Though I have not experienced all the trials a person could have, I know that Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world, the First Vision is a reality, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church authorized to administer the ordinances of salvation. I also know that God listens to and answers sincere prayers, no matter who offers them, where or when. The first verse from a favorite hymn declares Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, Uttered or unexpressed, The motion of a hidden fire That trembles in the breast. See Hymns, 145, "Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire."
One of my ecclesiastical leaders once offered the promise that if I would read ten verses from the Book of Mormon every day, I would always find within them answers to the particular challenges of that day. During my application of that promise, there have been countless times when an already familiar passage has taken on new meaning, and I have found needed direction. The Book of Mormon is also a source of great comfort. One of my favorite passages is 3 Nephi 22, which quotes Isaiah 54. In it, the Lord promises ancient Israel: "For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee. "O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted! Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. "And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones." The promises extended to Israel are extended to all those who believe the Savior. Whenever we stumble, no matter how badly, He is there to help us up. And if we are bruised or broken, He will heal that as well.
Because of family traditions, I was introduced to the gospel at birth, and it has remained a steady part of family life. Family prayer and scripture study, Sunday worship, family recreation, and working through difficult times have all been seasoned and strengthened by The Book of Mormon and leadership provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. How much I would miss the restored gospel!
As an artist, I love working with my hands. When I gather my tools together and sit down at the table or head out to the backyard, I'm usually looking forward to what lies ahead. Invariably, however, during the life of the project, challenges and questions arise, a tool may break, or materials might be insufficient. In such cases, or even when things are going well, faith is necessary to see things through: an inner belief that a plan carefully laid out will work. Some of the projects I've worked on that I love the most, were ones that at some point seemed hopeless. I recall the drawing of a rose that I did from life. As I drew the petals, the shapes seemed to mash together. I thought to myself, "This looks terrible! How could this be a rose?" But I kept drawing, and it is now one of my favorite images. I even had it framed. I believe of critical importance is not simply to believe that things will work out, but that they will work out because of an omnipotent Heavenly Father. There have been many times when I've known that there was a problem with a given project, but knowing where to find the answer is just as important. Prayer, the words of ancient and modern prophets, even the advise of a passer-by can all be ways that a loving Heavenly Father helps us along the road to a goal.
The Sermon on the Mount is one of the first things that comes to mind. As one faces the fury of the world, the principles in the Sermon bring peace. They teach us how to live happily in the world without being improperly affected by it. I think, for instance, of Peter and John in Acts 5:41: "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for [Christ's] name." There may be times when we are oppressed, though we have chosen what is right; but in the end, we are always delivered and blessed with joy.
Making correct choices subjects us to a pattern or process that helps us in the future to continue making good decisions. When faced with a decision with far-reaching consequences, such as whom to marry or what kind of career to seek, one should study the available options, consult trusted associates as needed, and pray to seek Heavenly Father's counsel. Sometimes the answer received is definite: "So-and-so is just the right person to marry," or "Becoming a teacher in mathematics isn't a wise choice." At other times, no distinct answer comes, and we are left to make up our own minds, trusting that if we start down a particular path, Heaven loves us and will not let us proceed too far before either confirming or correcting our choice. (For two excellent addresses concerning decision making, see Richard G. Scott, "To Acquire Spiritual Guidance," General Conference address, October 2009; and David A. Bednar, "The Spirit of Revelation," General Conference address, April 2011. Addresses available at lds.org.) We gain experience as we practice this pattern. Our confidence in both ourselves and Heaven's guidance increase, and we become more teachable and happy.
What I learn at church seeps into all aspects of my life. A quorum lesson on honesty, for instance, affects choices I make in the workplace, inspiring me to keep my word and provide a meaningful day of work. Church activities held during the week, whether sports events, gospel study, or service projects, provide opportunities to enjoy the company of good friends.