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Understanding Your Unalterable Individual Worth - What I Believe

In church this week I was asked to give a talk about 
Not being deceived by Satan about our worth or God’s feeling toward us. 
As I spoke, I realized that my message was entwined 
so deeply within my soul, 
that I needed to share this somewhere else important- my blog. 
So if you've ever been curious about what I believe,
or what Mormons believe.
Here is a lot of it.
I hope that it brings you, at the very least, a better understanding
of who I am 
and of who I see you as. 

I think what the above mentioned topic really boils down to in less words is 
Understanding your Unalterable Individual Worth.

Let me break this statement down word by word to explain what I mean. 
Understanding Your Unalterable Individual Worth.

The first word is “understanding.” 
How easy is it to be deceived by someone 
if they are explaining something that you don’t understand? 
The dishonest car mechanic would have you believing you need thousands of dollars worth of work done on your car because you truly don’t understand what is wrong with the parts. The dishonest lawyer would have you believe you need to pay to go through too many legal processes so that they can make an easy payday off of your lack of understanding.

But here’s where this gets important. 
Are all car mechanics dishonest? Definitely not. 
Are all lawyers dishonest? Although some may want to debate this fact, 
again the answer is definitely not. 
In fact, my mother is a lawyer who started her own law firm 
and I have watched her work tirelessly 
(and sometimes without pay) to protect and serve her clients. 
She is a true super hero in her own right. 
So would I recommend her to explain something legal to you? Definitely! 
Because she is a honest person. 
Understanding something fully comes from being taught by an honest and trustworthy source. 
Who is the most untrustworthy source out there? The answer is most certainly, Satan. 
He is the dishonest defector from the fold who wants to gain satisfaction from our pain, 
but we have the choice to be taught by those who are honest and just. 
Our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, teach us truth through scripture, the words of prophets, and the promptings of the Spirit.

Here’s the tricky part though. 
In life, when people tell us things that we know are wrong 
(because people, even honest ones, are imperfect) 
we generally can disagree and move on. 
However, Satan’s deception extends further that a verbal statement. 
He attempts to dwell in our minds, sewing his seeds of deceit into our very thoughts, and disguising them as our own! 
Is it any wonder that one of his names is, The Father of All Lies?

There is only One great enough to banish Satan from our thoughts, 
for light and darkness cannot dwell in the same mind together. 
We can choose to seek TRUE understanding by allowing the Spirit to bring the Light of Christ to our minds and by denying Satan a place within us. 
The few, humble words of a primary song that our children sing, 
“I am a Child of God,” 
can banish from the battlefield our greatest foe and remind us of real truth. 
We are children of God! 
Not just one of us, or one hundred of us. 
Every single person who has every lived 
and does live 
and will live on this earth 

This is the truth that our sweet missionaries sacrifice years of their life to teach people throughout the world. They carry the Light of Christ to those who they serve and they help stop Satan’s deceit each and every day.

A story to go along with my explanation of “understanding:” 
Once there was an LDS missionary serving in Russia. 
She was constantly dealing with the biting cold and overwhelming rejection of the people there. 
One week she and her companion were able to teach a lesson to a woman. 
As she taught the lesson, she came to a part where she asked the woman if she was ready to pray to find out if God was real and if the gospel was true. 
The woman looked at the missionary with anguish in her eyes and she explained how she lived and slept in a lice infested bed, wedged in between hundreds of others, at the factory where she worked. Each day she completed hard manual labor that left her drained and depressed and then after the lights were turned off for the night, others in the factory would beat her and do awful things to her. “How can I even think about if this gospel is true, if my life has no worth anyway? There is no purpose in my existence.” 
The missionary felt her heart bursting with what she could only imagine was the love of Christ for this woman and she told her that she did in fact, have worth. 
She told this woman that she was loved by the Almighty Creator of this world and that she was His beautiful daughter. 

The missionary cried out in sadness to her mother as she wrote home the next week at not being able to do more for this sister. That wise missionary’s mother reassured her, that she had in fact, done the best thing that she possibly could have for the woman. She had shined a light on the truth and planted a seed of hope for this woman to find a true “understanding” of her worth. 
That missionary, Sister Johnson, is my sister and she is still trudging through the freezing streets of Russia doing work that is the holiest of all - teaching her brothers and sisters the truth about God’s love for His children to all who seek the light she holds.
The next major word in my condensed topic title 
“Understanding Your Unalterable Individual Worth” 
is 'Unalterable.' 
I am certain that many of us (or ALL of us) have had moments where we have hurt others or others have hurt us in ways that we have great difficulty forgetting. 
Those moments may change the way we view ourselves. 
They may change the way we view others. 
Here, again, Satan swoops in with thoughts like, 
“There’s no way they can ever take back what they did. 
They can never make things right. 
They must have done that on purpose to humiliate me.” 
And especially, “I am no longer worthy. I’ve gone too far.” 
Although these moments may impact our mortal memories, there is one who forgets our sins and the sins of others the moment we reach out to partake of the atonement of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and be whole again. 
Our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us and created us with endless love. 
There is literally NOTHING we can do that can change our worth. 
We can allow Satan to influence us. 
We can ignore the sacrifice of our Savior. 
We can lose sight of our worth. 
BUT our worth does not change based on our actions! 
God does not love you less when you shut Him out. 
There is NO ranking system where those who have made the most right choices in life as being the most worthy to be loved 
and those on the lower end of the spectrum aren’t allowed to reach out to God. 
God loves each of us as His children and our potential for good can only be stifled by bad choices. Our worth is never lessened. 
Our Heavenly Father loves us every day for all of eternity and the only thing that changes 
is that His heart must break a little (or a lot) 
when we stray or allow Satan’s influence to guide us.

As I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon for our ward's 60 day challenge, 
I found myself thinking the same thing that I have always thought each time I read it.
(People about to be discussed here are from the stories in the Book of Mormon that we read as scripture alongside the Bible.) 
“What is the point of Laman and Lemuel?! I mean why are they even in there?! 
All they do is whine and complain and set great examples of what NOT to do.” 
However, as I have read it this time, it suddenly dawned on me. 
Maybe my heart was finally ready to understand this, 
but I realized there was more to the stories of Laman and Lemuel than I ever thought possible. 

Think about this if you will? 
At what point in the stories of the Book of Mormon does Nephi say, 
“Enough! We are leaving you behind!” 

At what point does Lehi say, 
“You’ve disrespected me too much! You are no longer my sons.” 

At what point does Sam say, 
“We are followers of Christ and you are not following Him, so get away from us.” 

It doesn't happen often. As a matter of fact, it doesn't happen AT ALL. 

Nephi, Lehi, and their family members love Laman and Lemuel. 
They continually reach out to them to share the light of Christ, to remind them that they are loved, and to urge them to be righteous. 
No amount of beating Nephi, ignoring visitations from angels, or disrespecting their family in every way possible can change the fact that they are worth saving. 
Nephi and Lehi and Sariah and Sam all LOVED Laman and Lemuel. 
They are broken hearted when Laman and Lemeuel choose to give in to Satan’s influence, but they never give up on them and they love them still. 
I believe that THIS is why Laman and Lemuel are in the Book of Mormon- to show us that our worth is literally unalterable. 
We are never beyond reach. 
We can never step too far away from the Lord to decide we want to turn back. 
We are never unlovable. 
Our Father in Heaven is always waiting with His arms outstretched for us to let go of our pain and our sins, 
even those that seem they cannot be lifted from our shoulders, 
and run toward Him. 
He is our Father and we are His children and that is “unalterable.”

The topic title was “Understanding your Unalterable Individual Worth” 
and the last remaining words are “individual worth.” 
We don’t just have worth. 
We have individual worth. 
What that means is that our Father in Heaven loves us so very much, 
that he made every single one of us unique. 
He gave us each our own talents, our own families, 
our own history, our own lives, our own quirks, and our own souls. 
There is not and never has been another Siri Baxter in the history of the universe. Might there have been other people with my same name? Of course. 
But there is no other me. And there is no other you.
My church calling as activity day leader 
(teaching activities twice a month for the 8-11 year old girls)
has only amplified my understanding of individual worth 
as I have striven to know how best to teach each of my girls. 
I love them all as a whole, 
but I distinctly see the great skills and qualities that they share with our group. 
I have seen one light up the room with her eagerness to share the joy in her life 
in order to lift others up. 
I have seen another think of the kindest words that need to be said to someone 
and then have the courage to say them. 
I have seen still another girl stitch up the gaps in people’s differences to  bring them together 
in the subtle ways that she reminds them that they are God’s children. 
I have seen one recognize when a concept is good and true 
and delve in completely to understand it and to be able to implement it in her life. 
And I have seen another in her quiet determination to succeed at something new 
and not give up when it’s hard. 
Not only those girls, but I see things in all of the many people I encounter in my life. 
I may not usually have the courage to walk up to people and talk to them to tell them what I have randomly been thinking, 
but I find myself thinking wonderful things 
when I notice the individual talents, qualities, and faith 
of each of my brothers and sisters here on earth. 
Satan would have us believe that we are not special and that we don’t have a purpose, 
or that we are more special than others around us, and don’t need them. 
But that is the thing about individual worth. We all need each other.

I believe that there is no one else who could have given me the hug and the love that one sweet sister did in the hallway last Sunday. 
No one. 
How she eased my troubled heart. 
In this, and many more moments, 
my brothers and sisters, have used their gifts of compassion to reach out 
and remind me of my individual worth 
and in the same moments I have seen theirs.

This is the point of being here together. 
Satan never rests. 
He commands many who follow him in his quest to bring us eternal misery. 
But the fact is that we are not put here to face the trials of life alone. 
We are given specific gifts and qualities that we will need. 
We are surrounded by family, friends, and good people 
who are willing to stand by us and take up arms in the army of King of Kings. 
We are not here to judge others or to give up. 
We are here to fight the good fight- 
to fill this world with so much love that those who have never heard of Christ 
will FEEL how much He loves them through us- 
to banish the darkness from our minds 
and strive continually to remember that we are loved by a Father in Heaven 
and by our Elder Brother, who gave His life for us, that we might know of our worth. 
He did not take upon him our sins and pains 
with the stipulation that we repent or He would not go through with it. 
He did it that we might remember how infinitely He loves us 
and loves our Father 
and that we might, in humility, find our way back to the light 
because there are no conditions placed upon His love for us. 

May we always remember the vital importance of 
Understanding our Unalterable Individual Worth 
and never let the Adversary take that understanding from us. 
May we look at others with compassion, 
seeking to see their strengths and forgive their weaknesses. 
And then may we look at ourselves the same way 
and understand that we have a divine destiny to have eternal joy 
with our Heavenly Father and those who we love. 
The Lord states in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 18:
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. For behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him… And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!”

In one last verse He tells us, 
“And if it be so that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, 
and bring, save it should be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my father.” 

Sometimes that one soul that you have to find and bring unto Christ is your own soul. 
Our Father in Heaven loves you with all of His might and I know of a surety that He loves me. 
I can feel the Adversary trying to distract me from this knowledge and deceive me, 
but I am resolved to endure to the end, 
repenting when I inevitably fail 
and always seeking the light of our Savior to remind me who I am. 
I am a Child of God. 
And so are you. 
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South Sudan's 5th Birthday

It's amazing to me how becoming a parent opened my eyes to so many things.
I suddenly understood the feeling of wanting to give your baby the whole world. 
When I had Svea I remember holding her in my arms during that first week
and already thinking of what books I wanted to read to her, 
wondering what activities or sports she would want to play,
and if she would like the same foods as me or not.

Now Svea is growing and thriving.
She loves
Swedish meatballs,
brightly colored bandaids,
Kermit the Frog,
and so many other things. 

Only a few years before I'd had Svea, 
the youngest country in the world, Sudan
was established. 
Mothers there gave birth to their sweet, little ones
in a time of peace
and I know that they dreamed and wondered about the same things
that I had. 
What would their children want to do with their lives? 
What would bring them joy in each day? 
But all too quickly, those hopes were dashed when war broke out. 

This is Zeieya. 
Photo by a CARE photographer. 

She is turning five years old, 
the same age as her country.
Her home was destroyed as war came to her town
along with the homes of 2.3 million other Sudanese. 
She collects firewood for money, 
has no opportunity for any schooling, 
and her favorite game is pretending that she has food.
Photo by a CARE photographer.

Just reading about this sweet, little lady
breaks my heart, 
because I know that feeling that parents have
of wanting the best life for their children. 
Not being able to provide physical nourishment,
or an environment where Zeieya can have a carefree childhood 
as she develops and discovers activities or hobbies that she loves
must be a heart breaking thing for her parents. 
Photo by a CARE photographer.

I know just how blessed I am to live in a country
where I can raise my daughter with nutritious meals, 
clean water, 
right to religion, 
a safe home, 
and the opportunity for her to be involved in activities,
 attend one of many schools available,
and know that her dreams are possible. 
So as I celebrate my independence this year on the 4th of July, 
I am also celebrating Sudan's 5th birthday with CARE.
CARE is a global humanitarian organization that 
fights poverty by empowering women. 

Having collaborated with them before to send messages of hope to refugees
I knew I wanted to collaborate with them again
to reach out to more families in need. 
They work hard so that literally .90 out of every dollar donated 
goes directly to helping refugees (like Zeieya)
around the world.
Photo by a CARE photographer.

Consider celebrating your independence with me this year 
by thinking about those not as fortunate as you
and sending whatever help you can!
or watch the video below for more information.

 Thank you to CARE for sponsoring today’s post and inspiring me to help South Sudan!
This post is sponsored by CARE, but the content and opinions expressed here are my signature
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Bright Night Event: How's This For Muchness

Several weeks back 
a blogger who I follow, Whippycake
posted about being the keynote speaker at a blogger event.
I'd never been to any event bigger than like a lunch
or a one speaker occasion,
but the more I read about this event,
the more I felt I wanted to be a part of it.
Luckily I'd had a garage sale and had enough extra money
for the ticket,
so I marked it on my calendar and looked forward to it.

The day of the event arrived
and suddenly,
so did a suffocating fear.
I had no one to go with
and no idea what to wear.
I literally knew NO ONE who was going.
I have blogger pals
and even my sister goes to blogging things with me,
but this time,
I was completely alone.
For eight hours.

I was terrified.
My sister did my hair and makeup
to give me a little boost of confidence.
Then I came home and tried on a million things
and kept thinking of what combinations of heels and a skirt
I could wear.
In the end my stress won out
and I rushed out of the house in the only things
I could bear to have on.
Loose, farmer style overalls
and Zuzii tennis shoes.

I put my red lipstick on to help me gather my courage.

I got to the event and everywhere I looked
I saw heels, skirts, and dresses.
These gorgeous ladies were dressed to impress
and all I could focus on was doubting myself.
Why was I wearing my dslr camera,
everyone else was using their phones to take photos?
Stupid choice.

I found the courage to sit down at a table -
one with people already sitting there
since there were no empty tables.
I was amazed that after weeks of anticipation
and excitement for the event
I found myself trying talk myself out of running for my life.
I chimed in when people spoke to me before the event began,
and I even probably looked excited as I tried to blend,
but in my head I was choked with fear
and I kept telling myself not to leave.
Inevitably when people talk to me for a while,
I tell them that I'm an "extroverted introvert."
In situations with people I know
and environments where I am in control,
I am quite extroverted.
However, in situations where I don't know anyone,
I will panic in silence
and respond only when spoken to.
I will try to go along with whatever is happening
but I may also quietly have a panic attack.

This is exactly what was happening.
Inside my head I was saying,
"I can go now, before it starts, and go get whatever I want for dinner."
"But I paid for the ticket."
"It's ok, they gave me a fun swag bag so that's worth it."
"But you wanted to hear Whippy speak."
"She doesn't even know me though and it won't matter if I stay."
"Just stay to hear Whippy speak and if you do,
you can be really proud of yourself."
"Ok, just long enough to hear Whippy speak."
"Look a tiny cupcake! I'll take a photo for my little girl!
She loves cupcakes."
Soon Whippy took the stage and began to give her presentation.
To my great surprise,
I found myself tearing up about half way through as
she talked about emotional connection and human touch
and how vital they are to us thriving.
She shared a story that truly opened my heart
and I thought about my daughter.
"My daughter loves when I wear lipstick."
I smiled to myself.
"She likes my overalls too.
Whippy is almost done!
I can make it!"

Soon she was finished and we were told to choose what class
we wanted to rotate to next.
 I looked at the schedule and saw that
one of them was a hand lettering class
that I had also really been looking forward to.
"You can't leave now,"
I thought.
"You just have to go to this one last class.
It will be fun."
"But I'll have to go sit by people I don't know. Again!
And who knows what might happen!"
"You might get better at calligraphy and hand lettering.
Nothing bad will happen.
Just stay for one more class
and then you can leave and be proud of yourself."
I talked myself into it
and then headed over for the hand lettering class.

I immersed myself in practicing the lettering
and halfway through the class,
the photographer for the event walked in.
I knew her!
It was Chrissy.
Someone I knew!
If was like a gasp of air after being pummeled down by waves of water.

She snapped some shots of me with my letters that I was practicing
and smiled as she left.
And I thought,
"I can do this."
Seeing her gave me just enough courage to keep going.

As the class wound down,
I clapped for the teacher
and then gathering my practice papers
and my swag bag.
I walked out to my car,
opened the door and put them inside.
"Now I can go. Phew! I did two blocks!"
I thought.
"But why leave now then? Don't you have enough courage for one more class?
After that it's just dinner.
You like dinner!
You're starving!"
"Oh come on. I was only going to stay for that class."
"But you could be really proud of yourself if you stayed for the last one too."
"Fine. But no dinner.
I'll get dinner by myself later."

I stared at my items in the car as if resolving myself to pick my purse back up
and finally,
I walked away from the car
and back into the building.

I walked into my last class
having no idea what the speaker would talk about.
I just wanted to prove to myself that I COULD stay.
In the back of the room I saw Whippy
and thought,
"I am proud of myself for staying to hear her.
I should get a picture with her to remind myself that I was brave."
I stared for about five minutes awkwardly as I managed to
get up the courage
and finally I walked up and asked her to take a selfie with me.
That was pretty much all I said.
It was awkward.
I do awkward well.
But we took a photo
and I felt brave.

The class started shortly thereafter,
and I realized that Natalie was far from an ordinary speaker.
She seemed to be expressing with every word
that she cared for me and saw my value.
That I didn't need to doubt myself.
She quoted Alice in Wonderland
during her presentation where the Mad Hatter says,

"You're not the same as you were before.
You were much more muchier.
You've lost your muchness."

Later Alice says to him,
"How's this for muchness?"
when she has found herself again.

As I walked out of that last class,
I realized that I had made it.
All that was left was dinner.
I walked out with more of my muchness
than when I arrived
and I found a little more of what I'd been missing.

Everyone else was thrilled to eat a yummy dinner
and dance the night away,
but I was simply ecstatic that I'd made it through the whole event
and no one really knew just how much courage
it had taken.
How's that for muchness, I thought to myself.
As I stood in line to get a Sodalicious drink,
I spotted the gorgeous photo booth set up.
I'm not here with anyone though,
I thought.
Then my courage rose
and I suddenly knew I HAD to have my picture taken.
Just me and my muchness.
And I somehow knew that I wouldn't look at it and point out the things I didn't like.
I would look at it and see my muchness within me.

I grabbed Chrissy who obliged me by shooting
a couple photos for me with my camera
and then I looked at the back of the camera
at that tiny screen
and sure enough,
I loved them.
I stood in line for my "Southern Gentleman" drink from Sodalicious
and even made a new friend.
And then,
when I headed home,
I was a different me
than the one that had come.
And I felt good.
I had glimpsed my muchness
and I was determined to chase it down
until it was all mine. 
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