Thursday, December 25, 2014

5 Star Stable

Sharing a Christmas blog post has been on my agenda since Black Friday, but for the majority of the month I couldn't think of anything unique to write. I knew that the birth of the Savior in and of itself was fit to print, but I also wanted to share a message that wouldn't be lost in the monotony of ritualistic Christian gratitude. The commercialization of Christmas is overdone, as is a narrative of Christ's birth (Luke beat us all to the punch with that one). To be honest, I don't have any moving Christmas tales from my own life, so I am settling for a post about something I learned from my personal study of the Savior's life this year that I could apply to my own circumstances.

I have lost track of the number of times things haven't gone as I planned and in turn lead to much better results. I have gone through my own personal version of the pride cycle many a time.The Poppe Pride Perennial has been known to go through the following steps:

1. I create a meticulous plan that generally spans from the moment I pen it until approximately the end of eternity. 
2. Shortly thereafter, something doesn't go as I said it should.
3. I get frustrated and begin to believe that nothing will ever go right.
4. I pray and have a one sided rant session with Heavenly Father.
5. I feel guilty and repent for my lack of faith and slightly angry mental tone in step 4's prayer.
6. I decide to live life and see what happens now that things are going Heavenly Father's way and not my own.
7. I always come to find that Heavenly Father's plan allowed for my wishes as well as His.
8.1. I feel more guilt because I realize that I am happier than I would have been if my life followed my plan... I repent some more and add in a lengthy gratitude list.
9. I rededicate myself to trusting Heavenly Father and promise that I will never doubt His hand in my life again.
10. Repeat steps 1-9.

The largest examples of this have been when I moved to Minnesota in high school, went to BYU, and came on a mission. All were things I didn't want to do at the outset and turned out to be the biggest blessings in my life. As I have been serving a mission I have made it a goal to leave the field with 100% faith in Heavenly Father's plan for me. I have worked very hard to cut out steps 2-8.1 of the PPP and instead focus immediately on being grateful for the path my life has taken. A part of this growth cycle has included looking for the hand of Heavenly Father in other people's lives in the scriptures. This lead me to a unique observation while viewing a Nativity film this year.

As I watched Joseph lead a swollen and fatigued Mary through the crowded street of Bethlehem I started to day dream because the story was so familiar. Luckily I snapped back to attention as Joseph knocked on the door of an inn and was immediately shown the crowd of people and told that there was no room. For the first time in my life I found myself thinking that it was a blessing that they weren't admitted into an inn. I'm sure that delivering a child in a stable was not in Mary's birth plan, but it sure beat delivering the son of God in a rambunctious and over occupied hotel. How often do we think of the humble circumstances of the Lord's birth without associating it with the blessing it turned out to be for Mary and Joseph? They were able to privately absorb all that was happening to them. It isn't mentioned in scripture, but I imagine Mary's heart brimming with gratitude that her plan was exchanged for something better. No awkward onlookers, no Roman tax collectors, no nosy women trying to give unnecessary advice. Nothing. Nothing but two new parents, a host of angels, a handful of quiet livestock, and the spirit. It wasn't ideal, but it was exactly what the young couple needed to peacefully start their lives as the earthly caregivers of the first gift to humankind. It wasn't the Marriott, but Mary did deliver the Prince of Peace in a 5 star stable and that quiet delivery has given all of us the opportunity to return to our own 5 star mansions above.

Merry Christmas all! If you haven't already, explore this great Christmas website. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Leap from Laman to Nephi

A brief introduction of the Book of Mormon will be necessary for this post to make sense.

In 600 B.C. a prophet and his family left Jerusalem and set out for the American continents. As is usually the case, Heavenly Father saw fit to try the family during their already stressful jump from one hemisphere to another. As such, they spent eight years being lead through the wilderness before they set sail for a land of promise and opportunity. This prophet had a quiver full of children, but we are only going to focus on three of them; Nephi, Laman, and Lemuel. Nephi was, and continues to be, the poster child for exact obedience and faith. Laman and Lemuel were just punks. Whenever the Lord asked the boys to do something, Nephi willingly obliged and Laman and Lemuel muttered, cursed, and published angsty tweets and insta posts. 


Children who grow up in the LDS faith are told to be like Nephi more times than anyone else, save Jesus himself. Every parent wants a Nephi, every child thinks they already are a Nephi, and every girl wants to marry a Nephi. One of the most quoted (and sung) scriptures in all of Mormondom accurately encapsulates Nephi's perfection, "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commanded them." (1st Nephi 3:7).

As I have studied the Book of Mormon throughout my life I have always aligned myself with Nephi. I obey the commandments and I have an affinity for strappy sandals. I had a thought while studying one day on my mission though; Laman and Lemuel follow most of the commandments and adore strappy sandals too. The real thing that sets Nephi apart from them is his attitude. My mind continued to ponder the significant differences between the brothers and I slowly started to realize that I should have been aligning myself more closely with Laman or Lemuel. Laman and Lemuel went back with Nephi to Jerusalem to retrieve the brass plates and lady friends.  They also wandered in the wilderness and embarked on the transoceanic journey to a new land. On their chore chart, they had a sticker for completing all of the same tasks that Nephi did.

I mean, my pedicure is nicer than his, but we both have a sandal fetish.

Not a lot of insight is given as to why Laman and Lemuel were generally obedient. They clearly never wanted to do what was asked of them, but frequently they did it anyway. Perhaps fear motivated them (they were visited by a threatening angel after all), boredom, or even a very small desire to actually do what is right (though this is unlikely). Perhaps a part of them hoped that if they would obey they would actually get what they wanted (as has been my motivation far too often in life). Selfishness likely lined their motives and weaved itself between the mumbles, groans, and foot stomping. In this respect, aren't we all a little like Laman and Lemuel? How many times have sighs and grumbles been the precursor to a visiting teaching appointment? How often do we accept callings because we feel like we can't say no? Do we give fast and tithing offerings out of obligation or devotion? I know I've been guilty of going through the motions in the hopes that blessings would greet me on the other side. I am Laman on occasions and Lemuel on others. I whine, ignore, and doubt.

Perhaps the most recent example of my Lamanitis was when I hesitantly entered the MTC.  It is no mystery for those who know me (or those that read this previous post) that a mission was never in my life plan. Even after I entered the MTC I spent sleepless nights contemplating if I really wanted to follow through with the 18 month decision I had just made. There were things I genuinely enjoyed about my mission, but really I kind of just wanted to be back in Provo in the comfortable environment I spent nine semesters creating. With doubt overshadowing my small pinprick of desire, I continued to do what I knew I needed to do and attempted to fan the delicate flame of devotion alight in my heart.  It wasn't until I had been out a little over a month that I actually wanted to be on a mission. I started the transition from Laman to Nephi at this point. It took a lot of study and prayer to actually develop a relationship with Jesus Christ that enabled me to want to serve him. I didn't realize how selfish I was until I came on a mission.  It had always been easy to follow the commandments and promptings of the Lord because his will didn't vary from mine. In my first real attempt to put the Lord's will before my own I was failing miserably. Did I truly love him? I think that I did, but I was experiencing the pains of outgrowing my childlike reverence for his name and actually getting to know the brother I had never spent much time with.

Sister Laman Poppe. January 29, 2014; her first day in the MTC
At times the cavity seems wider than it is. It takes a mighty leap to get from a Laman-like attitude to one like Nephi's, but it isn't impossible.  Essentially we just have to develop a relationship with Christ that leads to enough love that we follow his example because we want to, not because we feel like we have to.  Perhaps following Nephi's example is a stepping stone on our journey to becoming more like Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

6 Things I'm Grateful For

Allred #9 is a humble apartment one block south of BYU campus. This tiny box was my home for 9 months during my junior year of college.  The small living quarters housed a lot of 20-something angst the year I lived there. While each of my two best-friends-turned-roommates and I were going through our own unique trials, we came up with the same solution to combat our pitiful state of being. We would blog lists of things we were grateful for periodically to put our seemingly insignificant problems into perspective. Since that moment, I have made it a tradition to write and/or blog a list of things I'm grateful for at least once a year.

6 Things Sister P is Grateful for This Special Mission Holiday Season:

6. Satan's 5K is Over! 

Not only is it over, but I didn't die! I learned a lot from the entire experience and am not only grateful that it is over; I'm grateful that I participated. Training for the 5K was the first time in a very long time that I stuck with something I hated (and that I wasn't paid to that one awful job I had for 2.5 years in college). It was humbling, stretching, and tiring--just like any good trial should be.

Sister Jenkins and I celebrating in the only appropriate way...with a jumping picture, clearly.

High fives for all!

Run/walk heat partners for life. Seriously, I prayed that Heavenly Father would make the 5K less awful and he blessed me with an awesome sister who was going at the same pace as me to talk to.
The gazelle makes another appearance on the blog.
If you blow this picture up like a creeper, you'll notice that I am actually smiling while I'm running...WHAT?!? I think it is when I made the comment to my neighbor about a 5K being less than you would walk in a day at Disneyland, therefore it was doable, yet still not as fun.

5. A Testimony in Heavenly Father's Plan and Timing

When I came out on my mission my trainer asked me to think of a goal for myself that didn't involve things I couldn't control (i.e. number of baptisms). I quickly knew that if I only accomplished one thing on my mission, I wanted to have 1,000 percent faith in Heavenly Father's plan for me. I'm not sure when I gained a testimony of this principle, but sometime during the last ten (TEN?!?!!!!!) months I did. I don't doubt anymore. I know that at times His plan is hard, but I will always know that it is right, and that it will lead to happiness in the end.

4. My Companions

I have loved all of the companions I've had on my mission and that is a huge blessing, because being with someone 24/7 is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Heavenly Father has really been looking out for me! I've learned important lessons and Christlike attributes from each companion. My future husband and children will be able to thank each one of them for making me an easier person to live with I am sure.

Sister Whitten (I don't have a picture handy of just the two of us, because she was my MTC companion, back in the day before the iPad).
Sister Gillespie
Sister Dumas
Sister Dawson
3. My Family

Being on a mission has made me appreciate my family about a million times more than I already did (and I already appreciated them a lot!). I miss them a lot and actually understand the importance of being sealed to them for eternity now. I am never going to not see them for 18 months ever again in my life, because it is awful.

2. The Opportunity I have to Serve the Lord Full Time

Never again in my life will I have the opportunity to give all of my time, talents, and dedication to my Savior. 

1. Jesus Christ

There was a lot I didn't understand about what Jesus Christ did for me before I came on a mission, and there is still much I can't wrap my head around. My heart has learned a lot about the enabling power of the atonement while I've been on a mission, and for that I am extremely grateful. I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and before my mission I really didn't. I passively acknowledged his ability to clean my sins from my soul, but other than that, I didn't recognize all that he did for me in the Garden of Gethsemane and on his long journey to Calvary. He is the reason I know that there is so much more in store for me than I can even imagine. He is the reason I can persevere through everything difficult and un-enjoyable. He is the reason I can return to live with my Heavenly Father and family after this life. He is the reason for everything.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Training for Satan's 5K

When I was in 6th grade I decided I had had enough of our physical fitness tests in school. I devised a plan to get me out of our spring half mile run that proved to be successful. I knew that if I could come up with a reason to go to the doctor that I could manipulate my mother into making the appointment during gym class on the day of the infamous 800 without her suspecting anything. I wasn't going to fake an illness; that would be too hard to pull off.  I knew my abilities and limits. I have been cursed with ingrown toe nails my entire life, compliments of my father's genetics, and that was my in.  My dad had just had one removed at the doctor and I was going to follow his medical example. Our gym teacher gave us a week or so notice for when the big event would be and then I artfully waited until two or three days before then to tell my mom that I HAD to go to the doctor to get my toe nail fixed. She said she would call the next morning. I nonchalantly suggested the day and time that would work best for my overbearing 6th grade schedule and she conformed. When we arrived at the doctor, I was informed that my ingrown toenail wasn't that bad and was sent back on my way.  I didn't care though, because I got out of running at a humiliatingly slow pace with all my classmates and my only punishment was a reprimand for being a drama queen about my toe and a B in PE because I conveniently never had time to stay after school to make up my run. I tell this story to illustrate one important point; I absolutely loath running.

I've tried to get into running a few times during my life because I wanted a runner's physique, but it never stuck. I usually give it a go for a few weeks and then decide that it isn't worth the effort. Imagine my horror when my mission president and his wife announced that we would be running a 5K as a mission the Monday before Thanksgiving. I immediately hated my life. We were given a modified Couch to 5K training schedule and cheerfully told to give it our all and results would follow. Shortly thereafter I dubbed the race Satan's 5K and didn't truly know how fitting that name would prove to be.

From the get go I knew it would be harder than ever to get into running because I couldn't bump my jams while I hit the pavement. In the past I put my ear buds in and turned up some form of teen pop music to a volume just beneath ear drum shattering in order to drown out my heavy breathing. Without upbeat melodies and horribly written, yet alarmingly catchy lyrics in my ears, I was left with only an angry inner diatribe and gasps for air to serenade my run (which is really more like a brisk walk with a bounce). Very quickly, my negative thoughts branched out and multiplied until every morning my work out included a tangled web of self loathing thoughts and lies. Not too long after we started training for our 5K, the destructive ideas started to leak past my half an hour work out and into the hour I got ready as well.

"I hate running because I'm so out of shape," lead to, "I'm never going to get good at this," which usually turned in to, "if I don't get good at running, I'll never be in shape." That line undoubtedly spun in to, "and if I'm never in shape I'll clearly never get married."  From there, my thoughts rapidly escalated to, "if I never get married, I'll be such a disappointment to my family and culture.  And if I never get married I'll never have kids and I'll never fulfill my womanly duty to be a mother. Why am I even on a mission? Maybe we are struggling to find people to teach in this area because I'm not pretty enough. I bet attractive missionaries have more success.  That's the real reason why we have to run this 5K. We're supposed to be getting into better shape so we can be more beautiful and find people to teach. Why is my companion such a fast runner; she is literally a gazelle. A GAZELLE. MAYBE AN ANTELOPE. I DON'T KNOW.  I'm so slow and she has got to hate me for slowing her down. I wish I could just fall on a cactus and break my leg so I wouldn't have to run anymore and be a hindrance to my companion. Why aren't there any cacti on our running route? I would probably be a hindrance to a husband too. I mean, I'm 23 and on a mission. Man, my breathing sounds like an angry walrus gasping for air. Maybe Heavenly Father sent me on a mission as a form of busy work, since I have approximately 60 more years of unmarried life ahead of me. Well, probably only 40 since I'm bad at running so my heart will give out." And on and on an on, for an hour and a half every single morning.
Me when I was angry about running. GRRRRRR.

My companion during her morning run.

Maybe I'm a little dramatic. I know. But c' was running! Without Selena Gomez!

When it got to the point that I couldn't sleep at night because I was dreading waking up in the morning because I knew I would have to run, and subsequently spend an hour and a half with my own brain, I decided something needed to change.

As missionaries, we reference the scripture Ether 12:27 frequently. It reads, 

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their 
weakness [RUNNING].  I give unto men weakness that 
they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all 
men that humble themselves before me; for if they 
humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, 
then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

(emphasis and angry color choice added)

Running is definitely a weakness of mine, but I realized that my bigger weaknesses were pride and doubt. I felt that running was such a trivial thing that I couldn't pray and ask for help because Heavenly Father didn't want to hear about my physical activity woes. After I humbled myself and knew that the only way I was going to get myself out of bed morning after morning was with a lot of divine help, I went to my knees and my thoughts changed. Did I really believe that I'll never get married? No. But it is still my biggest fear, and Satan plays on our fears. When I acknowledged that I was allowing Satan to be my running partner every morning it made it far easier to change my attitude and perspective. The only true statement in my angry stream of consciousness was that my companion is literally a gazelle. I can get in shape in a thousand different ways that aren't running. I can get married without being a model (or a gazelle). I will have children at some point in eternity, because I have been promised that. I don't really want to break my leg; that would be awful. I will most likely live beyond the age of 63. Most importantly, Heavenly Father didn't call me on a mission to kill time while he came up with something else for me to do. We're never asked to do something to just occupy our time.

I was so upset at myself for letting Satan rule my thoughts and guide the opinions I had of myself. I should have known better than to let him diminish my self worth and divine nature. But that's why he's so good at what he does, he's sneaky. With a lot of prayer and a conscious effort to think of happy (or at least neutral) things while I ran, my weaknesses became stronger. When I can't think of anything positive while I'm running, I count. It's not necessarily uplifting, but it keeps my mind occupied, and eventually I find that my mind has wandered somewhere else more positive. I often think about what Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ would tell me if they were running beside me. I'm sure they wouldn't judge my slow progress, in fact, they would likely commend me for building myself up to the point that I can almost run a mile without stopping. As I pray each night and in the morning I ask for the strength to push myself a little harder and for the mental endurance to keep my thoughts positive. AND IT WORKS. Every single day that I depend on the Lord, He makes it possible for me to do something I hate. More impressive than my running triumphs, is the progress I've made in turning my doubt to faith and my pride to humility.

I can testify that the Lord will truly help us along our paths if we seek His assistance. We can expect immediate assistance and gradual growth. 

Maybe I will look like this down the road when I am 100% better at running. Except I would never wear a red head band with a pink sweater. So maybe that will just be my running aura.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Real Talk: 6 Thoughts on Anti-Mormon Literature

I often feel the need (and desire) to start my blog posts with a story, anecdote, or some form of pleasantries.  Writing 101 dictates that you suck your audience in with something exciting before you delve into your thesis and more important topics. Today, I'm writing about something too important to waste time with a tale from my youth or a prolonged analogy. Ain't nobody got time for rhetorical devices! I've had a lot of encounters with individuals on my mission who struggle in their faith because they've stumbled upon anti-Mormon literature. It's time that this issue is addressed from my pulpit.

I just posted this to suck you in.  Since I don't have the time for a story or anything.  Awwww, it's a bear waving at you!

Setting aside my obvious faith in the Latter-day Saint religion, there are a lot of facts to observe about why anti-Mormon information is flat out uncalled for, disrespectful, and preposterous. This has lead to my Six Thoughts on Anti-Mormon Literature (Literature. If you can even call it that):

6. There is a disproportional amount of hatorade for Mormons compared to other religions.
In a quick study I just conducted, I googled the terms "Mormons", "Catholics", "Lutherans", "Baptists", and "Islam" to see what each search would generate.  I only looked at the first page of results and gathered one solid conclusion; people love to hate on Mormons. On the first page of hits, there was already anti-Mormon sentiment.  At the bottom, related searches were things such as "why are Mormons weird," "Mormons exposed," and "Mormons polygamy".  Every other religion, including Islam, which tends to be at the center of a lot of hot button issues, didn't have a single negative website or related search surface on the first page of gathered information.

5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a transparent organization. Mormons don't share all of the details of their sacred temple services, but they always strive to inform people of their beliefs.  Ask anyone who has completed a temple service about what they did, and they will share as much information as they can without casting their pearls before swine and sharing something sacred. Beyond the specifics of temple worship, there is a lot of information that Mormons are eager to share. There is a website,, that has information, personnel ready to live chat anyone with questions, and easy to understand doctrines plainly presented for all to see.  There is a wealth of reliable, truthful information that can be found. Like I said in a previous post, don't ask Miley Cyrus for help with your Biology homework.  Don't read some bogus page called Mormon Haterz 4 Lyfe to learn about my faith. Above and beyond the written word the church produces, the church has an army of over 88,000 men and women who have one purpose: to talk to others about Mormonism.  This army will even seek you out with a few taps on your front door. For a church that is "mysterious" there are sure a lot of members that are willing to talk to others about their faith.

4. Good grief, we just want to bring you salvation. Missionaries don't get paid.  Bishops don't get paid. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir doesn't get paid.  I'm telling you, no one gets rich for being a Mormon, and there is absolutely no tangible incentive for being instrumental in someone's baptism. We really just believe we have something special to share and we want to share it with the world. Why is that a problem?

3. Remember that one time the Catholics lead THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE? We all have moments from our history that aren't trophy worthy. Polygamy and the failure to give colored peoples the priesthood previous to the Civil Rights Era are two dead horses that people continue to beat. How can the Mormons even be considered human beings if they once practiced polygamy? Eventually, we left the Catholics alone for sending adolescents to kill off the Muslims, so maybe it's time we stop basing an entire religion's beliefs on a brief period of their history. My dad only has one wife, so do all of my friends' dads. Kind of like how my Catholic friends don't send their babies with swords to Afghanistan anymore. But maybe in a few hundreds years people will let it go.

2. Remember that one time the Catholics lead THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE (Part II)? I know, you're still hung up on polygamy and the blacks and the priesthood.  Because seriously, how can the Mormons think they're the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and have still made mistakes. There isn't an official statement about why either of those events transpired. A lot of people have conjectures, but no one of authority has ever spoken on either issue.  This much is true though, Heavenly Father often gives revelation in a stop, go, stop pattern because he can see all of eternity in one panoramic photo (He updated to IOS 7 and has that capability). Polygamy was practiced throughout the Old Testament as prescribed by the Lord. There were times in the Old Testament that he also forbade it. We don't always know the rational, but if we have strong enough faith, we can know that all things happen for a reason. I don't know why I'm the descendant of an early Mormon polygamist family, or why Alex Boye can have the priesthood, but countless men from his ancestry couldn't. I do know that Heavenly Father calls prophets on the Earth and that the Book of Mormon is true and is valid evidence that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true.  You can only reach this knowledge through prayer, study, and experience.  You can't read a website and be swayed in either direction, because that only speaks to your intellect, not your soul.

1. Mormonism is a Threat. If you're running for governor and your competitor is doing better than you, you bash him even harder than you were before.  If you and another girl are interested in the same guy, you hate her. If you're Tanya Harding and you're threatened by the talents of Nancy Kerrigan, you get some men to brutalize her leg. It's how things happen often. Satan knows that the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring people happiness, joy, and strength, so naturally he wants it abolished.  If you don't think that Satan can persuade people to do his bidding, then we can have a conversation about a man named Adolph Hitler over some Smashburger a little later. Anyway. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon church, IS the church Christ established while he was on Earth.  It was lost when he was crucified and revived through Joseph Smith. People can sense truth, and to some that is a fearful thing. Why not use a few red herrings to lead people away from the truth? LOOK! TEMPLE GARMENTS! OR AS I CALL IT, MAGIC UNDERWEAR, RUN AWAY FROM THE TRUTH. I'm telling you, one of the biggest testimony builders of the validity of Mormon doctrine for me is the fact that so many people try so hard to tear it down. There are probably more tubes of Burt's Bee's Lip Balm that are sold a year than members of the church. We aren't a threat because of our size, we're a threat because we're right.

People who have strong opinions will always share them, but that doesn't mean they're true. I once penned a blog post about Taylor Swift and her lack of talent.  I hate her music; it's no secret, but that doesn't mean that my single opinion is correct. As always, I know that my words will not sway you in either direction. If you're set on reading anti-Mormon literature, then you will continue to do so. I know that the only way you'll ever find truth, peace, and understanding is through study and prayer.  Pick up your Bible, get a Book of Mormon, study them together and pray and you will get an answer.  Answers come through feelings.  If you feel something positive, it's of God.  If you feel something negative, it's of Satan.  It's a simple litmus test.  How do you feel when you read 78 Reasons Mormons Are Actually Man Eating Dragons? How do you feel when you read The Book of Mormon?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Jesus Wasn't a Perfectionist

I wear my perfectionism like a white ink tattoo on the inside of my wrist.  If you're looking for it, it is definitely visible. The slightly inflamed lettering flashes into view in certain circumstances, but for the most part the inconspicuous location and natural camouflage don't draw attention to the defining art work. It peaks out more abundantly in some situations. Such occasions as when I scrub the kitchen sink with a toothbrush or when I am scrap booking. But then it retreats and stays hidden from the general public on the safe inside of my right wrist where it won't make a mockery of the girl it has always been attached to. There are days that is seems as if I've outlined the tattoo in glitter eyeliner because my perfectionism is so forthright and painfully obvious. In those moments I often reflect on why I have such a strong desire to cling to an unattainable standard of performance.

I have spent the majority of my life allowing perfectionism to cripple my talents and abilities because I am afraid to do anything in the eyesight of others that could be rated as anything less than five stars. I stopped playing volleyball in high school because I deemed myself not athletic enough. I refused to play the piano at church because I would miss a note here or there and knew that my imperfect performance would simultaneously draw too much negative attention to myself and detract from the spirit of the Sabbath. I didn't audition for music groups in college because clearly my lack of perfect pitch made me unfit for musical performance, though my years of high school experience spoke far greater of my musical capabilities. I never entered any writing scholarship competitions in college because I figured it was a waste of the judge's time to even read my losing piece of work. I even spent two years talking myself out of serving a mission because I knew my talents and capabilities would never classify me as the stereotypical sister missionary. Time and time again I decided that others would judge me before I gave them the opportunity to. 

I often justify my behavior by believing that Jesus was perfect, therefore I should strive for that as well. In fact I was told regularly as a child through Sunday School songs, teacher's words, my parents expectations, and Christian culture at large that I should strive to be like my perfect brother Jesus.  WWJD was more than the embroidery on a fad bracelet that covered my tattoo; it was, and continues to be, the driving force behind many of my actions. 

Here's the thing though, Jesus wasn't a perfectionist.

per·fec·tion·ist: a person who refuses to accept any standard less than perfection.

He was definitely perfect.

per·fect: having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.

But never was he a perfectionist.  

Jesus spent his entire life surrounded by some of Heavenly Father's most imperfect children, yet he loved them all.  Further, he came to Earth with the single goal of bringing to fruition His father's goal, "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" through his selfless sacrifice (Moses 1:39). We were commanded to be perfect, but we were never commanded to be perfectionists.  Being perfect includes helping our fellow men, loving God above ourselves, and not killing people.  Being perfect doesn't require that we pin every hair perfectly in place on our heads or that we spend over 20 hours on a 10th grade literature project that only required an hour or 2 of labor (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience...). 

Being perfect requires relying on Heavenly Father and Christ; there is simply no way to do it alone.  That is where perfectionist ideology completely dies.  A perfectionist will do all that is required of her without the assistance of anyone or anything. We are told, "Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ;...that ye become holy, without spot." (Moroni 10:32-33).

Through the flawless and redeeming act of Christ's suffering in Gethsemane and crucifixion on the cross, we may all be made perfect in him.  His grace will be sufficient to make us clean, whole, and perfect. No amount of intelligence, skill, practice, or exertion can compensate for the grace of God through Christ's atonement. I will never be a perfect pianist, singer, sister, missionary, culinary artist, friend, or athlete, but neither will anyone else. I can become a perfect daughter of God though, and that is all my father has ever expected of me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

An Open Letter to My Truth Seeking Friend

An open letter to my truth seeking friend:

I know you are lost. I know you are confused. I know your eyes are closed. Your posture, expression, and words tell me some of this. Your sighs, attitude, and reluctance share the story as well. Your hands fidget, your gaze adverts, and you cross and uncross your legs as you feel the truth and then let it slip through your fingers just as
quickly as it grazed your heart. You believe. You don't believe. You trust, and then you don't. You desire; you always desire. Through all the conflicting silent thoughts your betraying face screams, I know a desire and yearning for the truth is the single constant in your clouded mind of variables.

Your ceaseless desire to align your will with God's is the beginning seed of faith. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma wrote, "...yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words." (Alma 32:27). Your desire can crowd out doubt and carve a small enough space in the fertile soil of your soul for a seed of faith to flourish. Focus on your desire when instinct tells you to zero in on the ever present possibility that your small seed will never grow into something self-sustaining, let alone something large and beautiful. Let your desire fuel you as you dedicate yourself to tending the seed of faith you planted. Doubt will hail down and annihilate your faith, so keep it out of your forecast. Shower your seed with desire, fertilize it with diligence, and nurture it with time. A crop doesn't sprout over night, and your faith won't either. Don't let go of your desire.

I know, I know. I know you are lost, but I also know you are found. Heavenly Father desires for you to learn the truth more than you desire it for yourself. In this respect, you are found. As you wander, He watches. As you struggle through the maze, he places people at pivotal points in your path to guide and help you. You may feel that you're lost, but He is aware of where you are. Trust in those who are there to help you. In Matthew 7:20, Jesus said, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." If your Heaven sent helpers are inviting you to do good things then their fruits are good. If they aren't inviting you to do good things then they're not Heaven sent and you don't need to pay them heed. This can be confusing if you let it, so don't. Judge every fruit and then cast away or keep the tree the fruit is coming from. And remember, you desire to know the truth.

Still more, I know. I know you are confused, but I also know you have all the answers. Answers come in a variety of ways. If you pray with sincerity to know something, you will be provided with an answer. It probably won't come in a strike of lightning or as a grand vision. Heavenly Father answers our pleas through scripture, prophets, other
people, and personal revelation. You can't say you haven't heard God speak to you if you haven't explored all possible avenues. Read the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon. These books both testify of Christ and are inspired accounts by real prophets. Within the universal messages these books proclaim are tiny treasures tailored just for you. Beyond personal studying, many answers can be found through religious peers and leaders. Go to church to be edified by others. I am here for you and others are too. Reach for them. Let them grab you and take you in. Meditate on all that you've learned and pray some more. Through a faithful regiment of studying, praying, discussing, and listening without doubt and cynicism, you WILL receive answers. I promise you this. You do desire answers after all, they will come.

I know, and He knows too. I know your eyes are closed, but I also know that you are seeking. Though your heart remains hard at times, it is softening. As you tentatively begin to earnestly seek for answers, your eyes will open. It will take work. As long as you're not willing to work, your eyes will remain blind to the truth just in front of
you. Until you are ready to read from holy scripture (not shady websites and un-sourced blogs), worship with supportive believers, and open your heart to the possibility that your perception may be wrong, your eyes will remain closed and I will genuinely pity you. I desire that you will stop desiring and start working.

I've yet to meet a farmer that yields success without sacrifice, but I've also never met a farmer that doesn't love his crops. Sacrifice time. Sacrifice old habits. Sacrifice pride, pre-conceived notions, and fear. Sacrifice it all and I promise your heart will swell as you survey your spirit and find vast fields of faith ready to cultivate and harvest. It is time to let your desire grow.

With love and the utmost sincerity,

Your friend who holds the truth

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#sharkweek and addictions

This is Bruce. Bruce is addicted to fish; particularly tropical fish. Take your eyes off of his bared teeth for a moment and focus on his eyes. What are his eyes telling you? To me, they're saying, "I don't care that I have consciously promised myself--and my fish abstaining sharky pals--that I will not eat another fish. Fish are definitely food, not friends and I AM TIRED OF SEAWEED. #angryshark #carnivore #iwanttoeatalltheseafoodintheworldbecauseiamashark." That is a lot for a pair of undersized eyes to relay, but I am confident they are shouting those words. Bruce's eyes aren't the only ones that have said that. The eyes of addicts everywhere glaze over and are laced with the same amount of crazy drive each day.  Like Bruce, countless individuals vow to not take another drink, never pop another pill, or quit their pornography habit cold turkey. In a less dramatic, but more realistic way, others swear off chocolate, say they'll never play Candy Crush again after they reach level 500, and fast from online shopping. Addictions come in a variety of boxes and not all are life threatening, but all are spiritually threatening.

As a missionary, I am frequently asked why members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abstain from alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, coffee, and tea. While there are inherent health benefits in not partaking of certain substances, the potential for addiction is a large reason why Mormons don't consume specific items. We are counseled to steer clear of any thing that may be personally addicting because the moment we become enslaved to something, we lose our agency and our ability to make clear decisions. Is Bruce choosing to hunt fish, or are his insatiable senses driving him to do something mad? Is your Words with Friends habit just a fun hobby, or does it get in the way of your homework, chores, scripture study, and other duties? Bruce has such a fish problem, that when he sees Dory and Nemo he doesn't have control at all. In his haste to satisfy his enormous cravings, he inadvertently sets off a host of old WWII bombs and creates an inferno in the Benthic Zone. Addictions change us into someone we are not. Anything is able to be overcome, even problems that you have struggled with for years, even decades. Genetic dispositions are no excuse either; all is possible with diligence and a firm dependence on Christ. Look into support groups, ask friends for help, and remove addictive substances, habits, and tendencies from your life.  Most of all though, rely on the savior, Jesus Christ to help you overcome addictive obstacles. It won't be easy, but it will be doable. 

***Here are a few good talks about addictions! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Boiling Frogs

From the Kitchen of: Sister Poppe
Recipe: Boiled Frog

First, you fill a pot with lukewarm tap water. After this is completed, you lovingly set your frog in the temperate H2O. Next, you place the pot on your stove top burner and gently increase the heat over time. You must be careful to not increase the heat too quickly, as the frog will catch on to what you are doing and hop out of the pot. As you incrementally increase the heat, you will subsequently cook the frog. When the frog is cooked through, remove the pot from the heat and enjoy with your favorite condiment and a sprinkling of sea salt.                                                                                                                                                     
*Note, you can also cook a frog over a campfire, though this should only be done by experienced frog boilers.                                                                                                                                             

Thursday, July 10, 2014

6 Ways To Up Your Member Missionary Game

Before I became a missionary I had a skewed perception of what the job entailed.  I thought the weight of conversion rested upon the shoulders of the young servants of The Lord and that as a member of the church my responsibility was to just be a good example of the believers.  As I began to study Preach My Gospel and trained to become a missionary, I learned that members of the church are vital for successful missionary endeavors. The work is being hastened. The Lord is upping the speed of the treadmill whether you're in shape or not; are you going to pick up the pace and help Him or are you going to fly off and run into a wall? While you ponder that and inevitably conjure up a hilarious mental image, enjoy one of my favorite quotes about missionary work from Elder Bednar, "We properly pray for the safety and success of the full-time missionaries throughout the world. And a common element in many of our prayers is a request that the missionaries will be led to individuals and families who are prepared to receive the message of the Restoration. But ultimately it is my responsibility and your responsibility to find people for the missionaries to teach. Missionaries are full-time teachers; you and I are full-time finders. And you and I as lifelong missionaries should not be praying for the full-time missionaries to do our work!" Wow! Missionaries are full time teachers, not full time door knockers and street roamers? Yes. Yes. Yes. An apostle of The Lord has made it clear that members are the cornerstone of successful missionary work. Now that that has been put out there, I want to outline six ways that I believe everyone can become better member missionaries.

6. Don't Leave Church out of Your Weekend Water Cooler Conversations

"Hey Bob, what did you do over the weekend?"-Jim the Catholic

"Oh ya know. Family stuff. The lawn. Manly things. Painting dressers for the wife. Eating Steak. Hunting deer. What about you?"-Bob the shy Mormon

"The same. Except I'm more of a pheasant guy."-Jim the Catholic

"Cool."-Bob the shy Mormon

That was awful. Bob spent three hours of his weekend attending church services and didn't mention it! Not to mention the fact that Bob probably also went to the temple, cleaned the church, helped with a youth activity, served at the Bishop's Storehouse, had the missionaries over for dinner, or did something else on Friday or Saturday that involved his faith.  How can we open ourselves up for missionary opportunities if we won't even pluck the low hanging fruit? I know that I used to always omit church from my weekend synopsis and it was such a foolish habit I had.  Repentance is real though, and Bob rectified his actions the next time Jim asked about his weekend.

"Hey Bob, what did you do over the weekend?"-Jim the Catholic

"I went to my in-laws' cabin on Friday and Saturday, but we came back Sunday morning so we could make it to church."-Bob the ENTHUSIASTIC Mormon

"I didn't know you were a church goer, Bob. Which church do you attend?"-Jim the Catholic

"I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church. We meet on Celestial Boulevard and Truth Street. Do you go to church, Jim?"-Bob the BRAVE Mormon

"I hit up mass when it is convenient, but I have been thinking about maybe going to church more often now that my wife is pregnant."-Jim the Catholic

"If you ever want to try something new, we would love to have your family in our congregation. You can even come over for lunch after church. My wife can cook some of the deer I slayed last weekend."-Bob the FISHER OF MEN (and slayer of deer) Mormon

Conversations like this can happen all of the time if we allow them to take place. As members of the church we are always doing something that can be traced back to our faith; Mormonism isn't a religion, it's a lifestyle. Talk about family home evening, mutual, scripture study, and ward activities. Normal people in other religions spend time with their families, send their kids to youth groups, glance at the Bible, and have congregational activities. We aren't that weird, so stop letting that get in your way.

5. Use Social Media to Your Advantage  

If you have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or another social media application on your computer or phone you should use it to express who you are; a son or daughter of Heavenly Father. Simple posts can plant a seed that may eventually grow. Did you have the missionaries over for dinner? Take a picture and put it on Facebook with a caption that says, "Our family hosted the local LDS missionaries for dinner this evening. They're such fun young men with good morals.  I'm glad we were able to serve others in such a fun way, even if they did eat us out of house and home!" Did you have a prayer answered lately? Tweet about it, "Heavenly Father helped me find my missing left Michael Kors wedge! #answeredprayers". Your posts don't have to be abrasive, confrontational, or lengthy. In fact, they should be none of those things! If you can post a 78234th rant about gun legislation or another picture of your baby kind of crawling but not really, then you can post an uplifting quote from General Conference.

4. Get to Know Your Neighbors

Do you set a land speed record every night as you step out of your car and bolt into your house so you don't have to be social with anyone? Do you think your neighbors may have three kids, but possibly four because you're still not sure if the glimpses you've seen through the fence are of a dog or an infant? Rectify that! People love meat. Invite your neighbors over for a BBQ and don't even mention the gospel.  Just get to know them; once you've fed them a few times and formed a relationship they will notice the Spirit in your countenance and in your home and will have questions.

3. Invite People to Church When It Is Easy

Are you giving a talk in sacrament meeting? Are six of your kids singing in the primary choir on Sunday? Do you have a son or daughter giving a mission farewell talk? Are you giving the lesson in High Priest Group? When you are doing any of these things, you have a valid reason to invite others to come and watch you. You would never hesitate to invite people to your son's soccer game, your daughter's choir concert, or your Pampered Chef party, why hesitate to invite them to church when you are "performing"?

2. Listen to The Spirit

It's so easy to listen to the quiet words of the Holy Ghost when we agree with what He is telling us.  It is completely different when He asks us to step outside of our comfort zone. I promise you that He is giving you missionary opportunities daily, you just aren't always taking them.  Sometimes it doesn't make sense to talk to your co-worker about The Living Christ, to invite your high school best friend to your child's baptism, or to strike up a conversation with the stranger in front of you at the movie theater, but through small and simple things are great things brought to pass.

1. Remember That No Isn't the End of the World

If you've tried some of the above listed things or other techniques to share the gospel but haven't had success, then don't let that discourage you.  Jesus definitely didn't let others stop Him from doing His thing, and as members of the church we have covenanted to take upon ourselves His name.  With His name upon our hearts we can act as He did, teach as He did, touch hearts as He did, and be the messenger of good tidings and peace that He was and still is. We often focus on the power of the atonement as a saving and soothing grace, but it does other things too.  The atonement can enable us to become better people and to do that which is frightening to us. You have a pearl of great price to share with as many as will accept it. Why hide it because of fear, apathy, or shyness? Pray for help and Heavenly Father and Christ will help you, even if that means he has to start from the very beginning by planting the desire in your heart to share the truth of the restored gospel.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Holla Atcha Ladies!

I brought my good friend, Kyle, with me to church a few times while we were in high school.  After one of our trips to church she said, "Every time I go to church with you they talk about womanhood! I'm going to start calling the last hour of church Womanhood."  I assured her that we learned more than how to clean a home, raise children, and make our husbands happy at church, though I'm not certain she ever fully believed me. We had a few lessons a year on homemaking, but typically we focused on other religious topics.  During my teenage years I was a stereotypical go-getter.  I was overly involved in extra-curricular activities, enrolled in many AP and honors courses, and made it a point to spend as much time with my friends as possible.  I was pegged as a kid that was "going somewhere," and I had intentions to arrive at a spectacular destination one day. My father in recent years has taken to comparing me to Leslie Knope from the TV show Parks and Recreation because I am always taking charge of a situation and trying to get others to just do what I want them to do (I like to think that I am as funny as her too, but I'm not sure that is a contributing factor in his comparison). I did want to be a mother and a homemaker, but I felt like no one quite understood why I was so reluctant to resign myself to that fate when I had other talents to share that didn't involve birthing children. Given my personality and the ambitions I have to literally rule the world, I resented the many conversations we had at church about being a stay at home mother until I fully understood what it means to be a woman.

Sometime during my freshman year of college my mindset changed and I realized that there is inherent power in being a woman. During this same time I also took Economics 110 in which we discussed specialization and productivity.  By luck or divine design, I was able to relate my Econ 110 studies to my blossoming testimony of the Lord's view of women.  We talked a lot about a fictitious setting in which Robinson Crusoe and Friday had to collect X amount of coconuts a day and Y amount of fish.  If Robinson is better at catching fish than Friday then it makes sense that Robinson only catches fish and Friday only collects coconut.  If Friday is better than Robbie at nothing, then you find the point at which both individuals are working at maximum productivity and then have each individual do what will yield the most product with the least amount of work.  I realized the same is true in marriage.  Women have been blessed with the innate ability to love and nurture children, siblings, friends, community members, puppies, angry grocery store clerks, and literally everyone they come in contact with.  That isn't to say that men don't have the ability to love and nurture as well, but women have been blessed with a far more infinite capacity and tendency to do so.  I know all too well that some women have also been given the gifts of leadership and intelligence.  While this is true, if Robinson was better at taking care of a family than Friday wouldn't it make sense that, if their income allowed, Robinson was asked to stay at home while Friday was the CFO of a corporation?

I also recognized that I was only bothered by the go to work or be a stay at home mother dilemma because the world told me that being a stay at home mom was stifling my abilities and wasn't as important as being in the top echelons of corporate America.  There was a large part of me that yearned to get married and have children, but it was hushed by my ambition to please the masses.  Raising children, giving back to the community, supporting members of a church congregation, and efficiently running a home are noble goals.  Further, my leadership abilities and intelligence would be used in the arena of motherhood, just in different ways.  I will use my bachelor's degree and leadership abilities every day as the CEO of my own small brood.  Ultimately I realized that no matter what I decide to do, Heavenly Father will love me unconditionally.  While I decided that my ambition was ultimately to be a stay at home mother, other girls I met at college were still determined to have a career while they raised a family.  I am certain that they too will be loved as much by Heavenly Father as they were the day they left His heavenly care.  Regardless of what women decide to do with their lives, one fact remains the same; that it means something to be a woman.  It means love, it means sacrifice, it means nurturing, it means power, it means talent, it means ambition, it means adventure, it means daughter, friend, sister, mother, and teacher. It means God loves you.

To close, I want to share a quote from Quentin L. Cook:

"First, no woman should ever feel the need to apologize or feel that her contribution is less significant because she is devoting her primary efforts to raising and nurturing children. Nothing could be more significant in our Father in Heaven’s plan. Second, we should all be careful not to be judgmental or assume that sisters are less valiant if the decision is made to work outside the home. We rarely understand or fully appreciate people’s circumstances. Husbands and wives should prayerfully counsel together, understanding they are accountable to God for their decisions.
You devoted sisters who are single parents for whatever reason, our hearts reach out to you with appreciation. Prophets have made it clear “that many hands stand ready to help you. The Lord is not unmindful of you. Neither is His Church.”21 I would hope that Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents."

**Check out some great articles about what it means to be a woman in the LDS faith here, here, and here!