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Helping a good seed to grow…

Helping a good seed to grow…

20160613_205539I grow a lot of plants for my garden each year. I have a short growing season, and if I want tomatoes or green peppers, I need to start the seeds in January in my house, nurture the little seedlings and help them to grow as fast as possible. The young plants are transferred to a heated greenhouse in April, where they are planted in bigger and bigger pots until they are finally prepared to live outside in June. Throughout each stage, the seeds and plants must be carefully protected from the cold, and nourished constantly, or else they die and I have to start over. If I have to start over, I lose most of the potential of the plants, because the temperatures will drop to freezing again in the fall, just when the fruit begins to ripen.

Nourishing a seed of faith requires the same diligence as raising a tomato plant in the winter. When I learn a truth that just yells to me “Heed me, I will make your life better!”, I feel excited and eager to make it part of my life. Now comes the hard work, though. If all I do is notice that little seed of faith, and let it wash over me without heeding it, it soon disappears in the daily distractions of life. If, however I begin to nourish it, it is like putting a heating pad under newly planted seeds- the warmth of the Lords guidance makes that seed sprout and bear fruit.

To nourish a new idea, a good seed, I have found that I need to do the following: 1. Write it down, including my impressions and feelings 2. Talk to Heavenly Father about it immediately and ask for help understanding how it should impact my life and 3. Continue to focus on it in the days to come.

Writing down what I have learned is the first thing I do once I hear something important. Taking notes during conference is a good example of heeding good seeds that I want to grow. Then, to have that good seed grow requires help from Heavenly Father. That requires communication with God on a regular basis. Talking to Him about what I have just learned, and asking His help to understand it is like putting a grow light over my baby seedlings- the Holy Ghost can pour light on even the most difficult concepts. Heeding the guidance that we receive about the seed will assure that the seed will continue to grow. Once it becomes a habit to pay attention to the seed that has now become a seedling, I am on my way to assuring that the good seed will become part of my life.

When I grow seeds for my garden, there has to be constant, daily focus on the process. If I forget to water them one day, the next day they are weakened. If they are not watered two days in a row, they dry up and die. The seed of faith has to be treated just as consistently. I cannot hear a truth, write it down, and then ignore it while expecting it to continue to grow. If it is something that requires action, I can’t wait until Sunday to do something- by then I will have lost the momentum and the seed will have withered and died. I will have lost the feeling and excitement and it becomes just part of the background noise- if I remember it at all.

Sometimes we find a good seed, and then it is killed off by inattention. Inattention is the frost of faith. What we want to grow, we have to focus on. As that seed becomes stronger, we understand it more, we have made it part of our lives, and it becomes a plant that bears fruit in our life and in the lives of others.

Those good seeds are worth the time and cost.

 

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The Pathway Home

The Pathway Home

The Pathway Back Home

I just returned from a Stake Baptism*, mostly relieved that everything had gone well for the 3 children that were excited about this special day, but also with a new feeling of understanding and appreciation of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesusbaptism-lds-593669-gallery Christ.

Jesus made it very clear that children under the age of 8 do not need to be baptized or forgiven of sins. Until they reach the age of accountability, children do wrong things of course, but their wrongs are not counted as sins because Jesus’s atonement removes the curse of Adam’s transgression until they truly understand right from wrong. Once a child reaches the age of 8, however, there are certain requirements that they must satisfy, just like the rest of us, so that they can return to live with Heavenly Father again once their turn on earth is over.

Is life random?

children-all-over-the-worldI was born in Canada, to good parents. My life isn’t random- I didn’t just pop out of nowhere and begin to exist in that little town full of mosquitoes. I am a child of my mom and dad, whom I love very much, and I am also a child of my Heavenly Father- just as you are. You are my brother or sister, and so is every person of every climate, color and culture, in this entire world. There is a purpose to our existence, and a purpose to where and when we were born here on earth.

Why are we here, and where did we come from?

Our spirits, our souls, are much, much older than this short time we have lived on earth. The time we spend on earth is just a drop in a full bucket of our existence. We did a lot of living and learning before we came to earth, but we each had the need to have a physical body so we could keep growing and learning as Heavenly Father wants us to. Like a caterpillar, we needed to find our ‘wings’ so we could see and experience things we never could without a body.

We had to leave the presence of God, a pure and clean place, in order to come to earth.  The plan is for us to go back to God, to our Home, when our turn on earth is complete. The problem, though, is that we have to be clean from sin before we can walk back through that door of Home. In order to ‘decontaminate’ from the sins of the earth, there are steps we have to take- it doesn’t happen automatically. Jesus did the hardest part- He made the universal atonement for all the sins of all the people in all the world. In order to take advantage of the atonement, though, we have to do our part.  The greatest part of it? We have help! God gives us pretty clear directions as to what we have to do, and gives us a companion to keep us on the right road home.

 

Gods instructions

jesus-christ-greg-olsonThe first two pieces of instruction are principles: First, have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Have faith that Jesus is our most trusted tour guide in this life, and in His making the atonement available to me and you.  Having faith in Jesus means to examine His life carefully, and follow in His footsteps the very best we can.

I am grateful to be able to report that God prepares a way for each person to gain faith in Christ when we are ready. He knows each of us personally, and, when we are ready He gives us the Holy Ghost, who will testify of the truth. Faith is a gift from God that we are required to accept of our own free will and choice. Faith is the key to our return Home. I received my gift of faith when I was 25. Some people are 8 years old, some are 108. Each of us starts life on a different road, but when we are truly ready, God makes sure our road converges with the pathway home- but we still have to choose to get on that path and stick to it.

The second principle is repentance. We cannot return to our heavenly Home (‘Be saved’) with sins attached. The atonement that Christ made for us has a condition: sincere repentance. Christ paid for our sins, but we have our part to do before it applies to us.meme-vinas-repentance-1578482-gallery

I was baptized when I was 25 years old. Unlike a child, I had a lifetime of sins that weighed me down. Having faith in Jesus was the easy part for me. Repentance took a bit longer to accomplish, but coming up out of the water washed as white as snow was worth the effort.woman-baptism_1179144_inl

Repenting means to recognize and confess sins, then quit the sin and repair injuries, if any, that have been done. Repenting is much more than just saying “I’m sorry”, it means to have a contrite spirit and a softened heart, and the firm determination to do what Christ wants us to do from that point forward. When we have honestly gone through the steps of repentance, the stains of sin are taken away through the atonement of Christ- and we receive peace.

The next two directions that God gives us are ordinances.

‘In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism,<and> confirmation…’ 1

The first saving ordinance is baptism. Being baptized under the proper priesthood authority is an essential part of returning to God. It is a covenant that we make with God. During our baptism, we make four promises to God:

  1. To take upon us the name of Christmeme-christians-1254102-gallery
  2. To bear one another’s burdens that they might be light. In other words, to help and serve other people
  3. To stand as a witness of God at all times, in all things, and in all places, even until death.
  4. To obey the commandments of God and to serve Him the best we can. (Mosiah 18:8-10; D&C 18:21-25)

 

What makes our baptism a covenant is that in return for our promises, God makes promises to us:

  1. To accept us as a member of his Churchmeme-eyring-spirit-1578543-gallery
  2. To forgive our sins if we repent
  3. To give us the gift of the Holy Ghost
  4. To open the door into the kingdom of God in heaven at the end of the path of obedience (we call that enduring to the end).

 

I have a personal goal of 100% integrity, 100% of the time. It’s what I desire, but it’s hard to make the right choice every minute of every single day. Sometimes I really don’t know what the right choices are. Heavenly Father knows that. He also knows that I am often forgetful, I’m rebellious at times, and sometimes I just make mistakes. So, God gave me, and each person who is baptized, a special gift- the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost is given to us to be our companion, a voice to help us choose the right. As long as we are repentant and trying to do our best to follow Christ, the Holy Ghost will be with us to direct us on our journey home. If we listen to its guidance, it will lead us right up the path back to our heavenly Home, and accompany us all along the way.

The Plan of Salvation is God’s work. He loves you and me and every other one of His children, and what He wants for us is the same as that which we want for our own children- that we will grow and learn, and be successful and happy, not only today, but throughout eternity. He hasn’t left us alone to muddle through life- He has given us very clear directions and continues to give directions as long as we are willing to listen to Him. Faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost are the keys we need to stay on the right path, make the right choices, and experience joy along the way back to our Heavenly Home. I can’t wait to slam open that door and yell to my heavenly parents- “I’m home!”

I can testify that the difference between just ‘existing’ in life and growing and enjoying life to its fullest is faith in Jesus Christ. Having the meme-monson-joy-journey-1282479-gallerypeace that comes from knowing God and Jesus Christ are rooting for me every day, and lovingly making up for what I lack, makes life so much less stressful. That peace fills me with the joy of knowing who I am, where I came from and where I am going.

 

‘ We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ 4th article of Faith 

 

 

 

  1. https://www.lds.org/topics/ordinances?lang=eng

* Stake baptism: a Stake is an organized group of LDS congregations in a certain geographical area. Stake baptisms are held on a monthly basis (or as needed) to baptize the children of members of the congregations who have turned 8 years old, the age of accountability for their sins. The children are baptized by immersion, often by their father or another member of their family who holds the Aaronic priesthood. Following the baptism of each child, they are given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by members of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

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Who is Jesus Christ?

Who is Jesus Christ?

jesus-christ-greg-olson
Jesus Christ, by Greg Olson

On the title page of the Book of Mormon, Moroni says that the purpose of the book is to convince the Jews and the Gentiles that Jesus is the Christ. So just who IS Jesus Christ?

A clarification

Christ is not Jesus’s last name; it is a title. The word Christ means *messiah, or, anointed. Calling Jesus the Christ means that We acknowledge that He is the savior that was prepared from the foundations of the world to provide the atonement.

Mormons have a very clear belief in Jesus as the messiah, the literal Son of God, the Holy one of Israel, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, and the one and only path back to where we came from- His father, and our Father, in Heaven. We believe in no uncertain way that Jesus, through the atonement, made it possible for us to be forgiven of all the sins we have made and become clean as little children.christ-and-the-children

A little back-history…waaaaaaay back.

Jesus was prepared to be the Savior long before He came to earth. Let’s go back before the earth came to be. First, there was Heavenly Father (and Heavenly Mother). Then came their children. Jesus was the eldest, second born was Satan. Then came the rest of us. You, me, everyone around you, are all sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. That makes Jesus our eldest brother, and every person on earth a relative. It is why we refer to each other as Brother so-and-so, and Sister so-and so. Of course, Satan is in that mix as well, but that is a subject for another day, another post.

jesus-and-the-black-sheepSo, there we were, one big family in Heaven. The problem was that in order to keep progressing, we needed to get a body. Our spirits are wonderful things, but there are things that we cannot do without a physical body. To get that body, God prepared a way that we could take a journey to earth and be born in the mortal world. Just getting a body isn’t the whole story- there are things we have to learn while we are here, and if we want to continue to progress In the next life and be all that we can be, we have to prove ourselves by the choices we make here.

greg-olsen-o-jerusalem
O Jerusalem, by Greg Olsen

Now here was the problem.  Once we came to earth, we would  choose to make some serious mistakes (sins), which meant we would not be able to live with God again because only perfectly clean beings can live there. So, as part of the plan, Heavenly Father prepared a mediator to atone for all of our sins and make it possible for us to go back to our home in Heaven clean. Jesus, the eldest son, volunteered for that role. Satan also volunteered, but while Jesus was backing Heavenly Father’s plan (called the Plan of Happiness), Satan wanted all the power and glory for himself (the original power monger), he wanted us to worship him, and Satan wanted to control our every move so we would not be able to choose good or bad- we would be his puppets doing what he wanted at all times. Suffice to say at this point, Jesus got the job because His desire was to do God’s will, as well as secure our salvation and happiness.

Jesus’s mission was to create the world under the direction of Heavenly Father, and then to provide the atonement to save his brothers and sisters from the spiritual and physical death brought about by Adam and Eve’s Fall.

adam-and-eveA few relevant words about Adam and Eve and their choicejay-bryant-ward-studios

There is a lot of misconceptions among Christian denominations about Adam and Eve. When the two of them lived in the Garden of Eden, they were in a state of innocence, not knowing or needing to know good from evil. They also would not be having children there. They had to leave the garden in order that ‘man might be’. God knew perfectly well what would happen- He knew about the serpent, He knew what Eve would choose, He knew that Adam would choose to stay with her and cause ‘the fall’. Everything that happened was accounted for in the plan of Happiness, right from the beginning.  Adam and Eve made choices, and they were beguiled by the devil, but the devil cannot frustrate God’s plan- God is a step ahead of the devil, every foot of the way. Adam and Eve sacrificed their own happiness and security in the Garden of Eden so that we could get our turn on earth. Jesus was prepared to give the atonement after the fall so that we can go back to heaven.

President Ezra Taft Benson taught that “just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ…no one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind. And no other book in the world explains this vital doctrine nearly as well as the Book of Mormon” (2).

So, Who is Jesus the Christ?

Jesus is our elder brother. He created this earth for us. He chose to follow God’s will and knows what we need to do to have happiness now and in the eternities. greg-olson-lost-no-more-600Jesus is part of the Godhead which includes Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost- three distinct personages. Heavenly Father and Jesus have bodies, the holy ghost remains a spirit so he can help us. Jesus was the Jehovah of the Old Testament, and Messiah of the New Testament. He loves us enough to have paid a terribly high price for us- and all He asks in return is that we follow Him so we can have the happiness we so desired before we came to earth. He asks us to repent of our sins, be baptized for the remission of our sins (so we can take advantage of the atonement), and do our best to follow His example of love, compassion, and service. He Lives! He is aware of each one of us, loves us and more than anything, wants us to return to him.

I testify to you that I know that He lives. I know that He is the Christ, our Lord, the Messiah, the Son of God and He is our elder brother who loves us.

~Margo

 Is there one question about what I have written that you would like to ask me? Leave me a comment and I WILL respond!

 

Note: Most of the pictures featured here are the work of Greg Olsen .  https://www.gregolsen.com/

(1). *Messiah is a Greek word translated from the Hebrew word messiah, meaning anointed.

(2). The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, Ensign, May 1987, 85).

( 3). The Plan of Happiness < https://www.lds.org/ensign/1993/11/the-great-plan-of-happiness.p1?lang=eng  >

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The Divine Origins of The Book of Mormon

The Divine Origins of The Book of Mormon

 I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the ‘Mormon’ Church.

mormon-abridging-the-plates-39649-tablet
The prophet Mormon abridging the plates

The nickname ‘Mormon’ was given to The Church because of The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The book is named after the prophet that compiled and abridged a lot of records of the Nephite and Lamanite people on the American continent. Mormon is not someone that is worshiped (that is reserved for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ), but we do honor him for his contributions and his life of service to God. The nickname of ‘Mormon’ was used as a derogatory term when the Church began, but we do not mind being called ‘Mormons’ in our time…It is certainly a quicker name to say, and  recognizable over most the world.

The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religionherman-arch-keystone_1207593_inl

A keystone is the stone that is placed last in an arch. It is what holds up the arch. If the keystone is removed, the arch falls.

The keystone of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon has a divine origin, Joseph Smith translated it, and The Book of Mormon stands as a true witness to the truthfulness of the Bible and the role that Jesus Christ plays in this world. Our faith hangs on the reality and truth of the keystone- The Book of Mormon.

How did we get The Book of Mormon?

angel-moroni-appears-to-joseph-129546-print
The angel Moroni visiting Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith had an angel appear to him in his bedroom at the age of 17. He had already spoken with God the Father, and Jesus Christ 3 years earlier, and had been praying to find out what his standing was with the Lord. The angel told him that he was a messenger from God, and that God had an important work for Joseph to do. The angel talked to him about what was to come, and told him about the golden plates that had been prepared for our day. Joseph first saw the plates the next day, and when he had grown and matured for several more years, Joseph Smith was given the golden plates by the angel and translated them by the gift and power of God.

For those that scoff at God’s ability to do such a thing, I offer a couple questions: If you believe in God (and I am assuming that you do believe in God), and that He is all-powerful, all knowing, and has a heck of a lot more abilities than you or I, and If you believe He made this world- not only man, but everything in this world… why would you put a limit on what He can do? Of course God can make an angel appear in a bedroom if He chooses to. Of course He can provide a translator. Just look at the cell phone in your hand and pull up Google Translate if you think such a thing is impossible.  If men can make such things with their puny wisdom and understanding, God with His experience, knowledge and ability can make a simple translator for Joseph to translate a bunch of records full of eternally important writings.

But, you might protest, this was 150 years ago- there were no cell phones back then. Agreed, and there were none 1000 years ago when God gave such stones to the ancient Israelite priests. Remember, He built a world a few billion years ago- God is more advanced technologically than some give Him credit for. And, He has known for a long time that we need The Book of Mormon today, so He made it happen.

What exactly IS The Book of Mormon?

gold-plates-39682-tabletThe Book of Mormon is a collection of writings from prophets that were aware of our day, who were aware that we would need  another witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ. These were prophets that had a personal relationship with God.  Nephi, Alma, Moroni, Enos, and many more prophets of God were involved in writing down the religious history of the people on this continent,  descendants of Jacob and the House of Israel.

We know that Heavenly Father has other plates and records in reserve that are sealed to us at this point but The Book of Mormon is the teachings that we need to know right now, in our day and generation.

Why would God give us another book- we already have the Bible!

bible-and-book-of-mormon-261218-tablet
The Stick of Judah and the Stick of Joseph

As a world, we need to know that the Bible has timeless truths in it, that its witness of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost is true. In 1 Nephi :13, we are taught the reasons that we need this second witness of Christ- because there have been plain and precious things, including covenants, removed from the Bible to keep men without full knowledge of the Gospel of the Lamb.

The Book of Mormon clarifies many of the teachings in the Bible, reaffirms the divinity of the scriptures, and through it, Heavenly Father corrects the translation errors that men have made over the years. There are some verses and teachings in the Bible that have many different interpretations within different sects of Christianity. The Book of Mormon, as a second witness, makes clear where men have strayed from the meaning, by accident, and in some cases by design. Having a second, independent book of divine scripture is a powerful witness to the truthfulness and reality of both the events and people of the Bible.

We need to know what our purpose in life is, what happens after we die, what the consequences would be if we turn our backs on God. We need to know the covenants that God made with His people- the covenants that include us and our day, not just in the Old Testament times. We need to understand that God loves us each as an individual, and desires each one of us to make sacred covenants with Him so that we can go back and live with Him again when our turn on Earth is completed. We need the Holy Priesthood. These are the truths that we learn in The Book of Mormon.

Why a 14 year old, uneducated boy, Joseph Smith?

the-first-vision-82823-tabletThere are examples in the Bible of God using young men to do His work. The boy Samuel , Daniel (of the lions den)and the other boys who were taken by Nebuchadnezzar, even Joseph of Egypt (with the coat of many colors) was a youth when he was taken and begun on his path to being a prophet of God.

Joseph Smith was 14 when he realized he needed to know which, if any, of the religions in his area were true. His family was split between several churches, and Joseph wanted to join the right one, so he approached God in prayer to ask- just as it says to do in the Bible. Now, an important point to understand is that Joseph Smith was not just a random teenager in a random place having a spectacular experience. He was fore-ordained, and guided by God to play the role in returning the Gospel of Jesus Christ back to the world in preparation for the second coming of Christ. He was in the right family with the right lineage,  was born at the time God ordained, and lived in the place that God chose many hundreds, or even thousands, of years before. None of this was random, it was a carefully crafted chain of events by God.

The angel Moroni giving the plates to Joseph Smith
The angel Moroni giving the plates to Joseph Smith

When we are born, we have forgotten our pre-existence in Heaven. That is by design so that we can learn and grow by faith without compulsion, and decide for ourselves who we want to follow for eternity.  Joseph Smith the boy had no idea that he was going to be a prophet and have conversations with God and Jesus Christ. He was just a young man that wanted to know the truth. He found it- or, the Truth found him, ready and willing to do the work of the Lord. Translating The Book of Mormon, and reestablishing the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth was what Joseph was foreordained to do.

Joseph’s wife, many years later, told her son The Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me for hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him”. < “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald 26 (Oct. 1, 1879), 289–90.>

The 8 witnesses of The Book of Mormon

There were other witnesses to the Golden Plates as well, none of whom ever denied the reality or truthfulness of what they had been privileged to see and handle, even after some left the Church.

The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith by the gift and power of God. For more information on the translating process, click HERE 

What are the covenants contained in the Book of Mormon? melchizedek-priesthood-given-to-joseph-37721-tablet

A covenant is a 2-way promise between Heavenly Father and His children. It is an “If you do this, then I will do this for you” kind of promise that God makes with us. There are many covenants that God wants to make with each one of us. What He asks in return is that we obey His commandments; That we love God with all our hearts, might, mind and strength; That we follow Christ and be a witness of Him, always remember Him, and that we love and serve Him by loving and serving one another.

In return, God covenants with us that we will be sanctified through Christ, that we will be forgiven of our sins through the atonement of Jesus Christ, that we can be with our families for eternity, and that we will live with Him and our families again. And these are just a few of the covenants.  Read through 1Nephi 13 to identify specific covenants that God made with the prophets, that apply to us today.

My testimony of the truthfulness of this gospel

I was given a testimony by Father in Heaven over 33 years ago, and it has continued to grow and mature through the years. I know that The Church is true, I know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the Christ and that He loves each one of us. I know that God answers our prayers, although sometimes the answer is “No” or “Be patient”. I have had my prayers answered in unmistakable ways and had experiences that have guided me to distinguish truth from false. I know that the Book of Mormon is a divine record, and that we can get closer to God by prayerfully reading this book than we can by any other single action. The Book of Mormon is the true keystone of our religion, and it is a precious Margo and Scriptures (4)treasure for each person.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the HolyGhost.” (Moro. 10:4.)

God does not lie, and He is always reaching out to His children. Prove Him by reading the Book of Mormon with a sincere heart and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If it is something you truly wish to know and you approach it with an open heart, He will answer you. Nothing important is easy, so put some effort into it.

“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words.” (D&C 46:13–14.)

I leave this testimony with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior.

Amen

To my readers:

I have recently begun my university studies again. This post is an assignment for one of my classes.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints understands the importance of education which is why they have 3 universities- BYU Provo, BYU Hawaii, and BYU Idaho. Unfortunately, there are only so many people that can be admitted to these outstanding universities. To make an education available to members all over the world, BYU Idaho began a program called Pathway. Through this program, a student goes through 3 semesters of preliminary classes to assure that they have the understanding and knowledge necessary to be successful in a degree program. A student earns university credit while working through the Pathway program, and pays only $68 per credit (in the United States- the cost is different in each country. For example, Russians pay only $17 per credit because of the difference in economies and cost of living). Once the student successfully makes it through the 3 semesters of Pathway, he or she then has the opportunity to continue on and work towards a certificate, Associates degree, or a Bachelors degree, all at only $68 a credit or less. These degrees are all online, making it possible for anyone, anywhere to receive a university education.

I will be-finally!- completing my BS through BYU-Idaho, starting with the Pathway program.

 

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Raising Free Rabbit Meat

Raising Free Rabbit Meat

My rabbits have access to free range, but always come running for their bread ‘treats’

A Rabbit in every pot…In many parts of the world, rabbits are raised as an inexpensive, easy to raise source of meat.  It is possible to do the same here at home, with a little effort and the right conditions.

Many people have grown up with the idea that animals do not thrive unless they are fed commercially-prepared foods. This has been a carefully crafted sales pitch during the past 70 years from pet food companies who sell over $21 billion of animal food each year. By the 1960’s, The pet food industry was spending over $50 million a year on advertising to convince pet owners that table scraps were unhealthy for dogs and cats. We now face billions of dollars of pet food advertising each year, designed to make us believe that we cannot feed our animals and beloved pets properly unless it comes out of a bag or a can. Rabbit pellets were developed for the commercial rabbit industry in 1950’s and then adopted by the pet industry by the 1960’s when rabbit meat began to go out of ‘fashion’ and bunnies became a favored pet.

Rabbits can get the nutrition that they need the same way wild rabbits do– from a variety of weeds and greens, dried grasses (hay) and veggies, flowers, seeds, twigs and bark. Add some old bread, and your grower rabbits will grow as quickly and remain as healthy as any rabbit raised on pellets.

To know if your rabbits are getting the nutrition they need, evaluate them: Are they healthy? Do they have healthy, large litters? Do they breed easily? Do the young grow at a steady rate?  If the answers are all yes, your feeding strategy is working.

This method of feeding is not for everyone. I am the first to admit that I am in the perfect spot to raise rabbits with a natural diet- I have access to a LOT of weeds starting in mid-late spring, and a majority of those weeds are alfalfa which I mowed down for 20 years before realizing what a resource they are. I also live in a rural area where I can walk down the dirt roads and harvest any weeds I see. Hay is easy to purchase as well, with an 80 pound bale of excellent hay going for about $6.  For those that do not have access to weeds (and don’t have a large enough yard to plant alfalfa or other feed-plants) and hay, using pellets may be the best alternative- but do supplement them with horse hay cubes so they get to gnaw a bit. Note: DO NOT feed unknown plants to your rabbits until you know what they are and if they are edible or toxic! Same with leaves, bark and other vegetation.

To feed rabbits naturally, they should have access to feed 24/7. Rabbits in the wild are grazers- they nibble here, nibble there, taste a bit of this and that. They are designed to eat constantly and when we keep them confined, they are healthiest if they have consistent access to food.  Greens should be fed at least once a day, with it lasting for most of the day. If you can cut it fresh, feed it twice a day. I use a home-made feeder made of fence wire and stuff it full twice a day- my rabbits are never without access to live food during the spring, summer and fall months. In the winter, I scavenge for greens at grocery stores. Small mom-and-pop grocery stores are often willing to give away old or less-perfect vegetables.  Avoid root vegetables except as treats or during the coldest months, as they are higher in starch than rabbits can easily digest. Also avoid iceberg lettuces, as there is no nutrition in them. 

Bread is a part of my feeding plan. I understand that there is controversy about feeding bread to animals, however I have used bread for many years for rabbits, chickens, horses and cows with my vets blessing, and have never had a health issue. There is a bakery in town that throws away old bread and is willing to dump a bunch of it in my trunk once a week. A bread outlet in town also sells their old bread for $10 per truck. I feed the organic bread to the rabbits. Each pregnant or nursing rabbit gets 1 slice twice a day, the buck and non-breeding does get a half slice twice a day. The growers are free-fed bread. Some rabbits love the bread and eat it first, others nibble on it throughout the day.

We have cold, snowy winters here, with nothing green in sight for 3 months. For the best health and contentment, rabbits need variety, although their main diet is hay during the winter. I give each rabbit a handful of pellets as a treat each day, and to provide variety. I also buy one bag of horse alfalfa cubes per winter, to give the rabbits something to chew on and to vary their diet.

I grow wheat grass for the rabbits during the winters. They get a cupcake size handful of growing grass each day during the coldest months. I grow the grass in the house, or in the greenhouse when it is heated. Sunflower heads are another treat that the rabbits love, and can be grown in the garden during the summers.

Most of the rabbits I raise are used for our families meat needs, as well as ‘dinner gifts’ for neighbors. In order to pay for hay and a few bags of pellets each year, I advertise rabbits as pets and breeders on Craigslist and on several Facebook ‘For Sale’ pages in our area. I always breed to sell to the ‘Easter Bunny’ crowd.  To avoid the ‘after Easter bunny dump’,  as a condition of the sale of every rabbit I sell, I offer a ‘free return’ option. Customers can bring a rabbit back to me, although I do not refund the cost. I will go pick up the bunnies if necessary. This prevents bunnies from being abandoned when parents realize that they actually take some care.

One disclaimer that needs to be stated: Although I spend no money out-of-pocket for the rabbit meat, the time it takes me to gather and grow feed is considerable in the long run. I spend about 1.5 hours for each pound of meat that I produce. Like many people, time is valuable and extra time is scarce in my life. When weighing the time vs cost saving, however, I still feel I am coming out ahead- I eat nothing but organic, humanely raised meat. I know exactly what has gone into each and every one, I know they have lived a happy life and had a humane ending. To me, that is worth the time and effort.

 

 

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Raising Meat Rabbits

Raising Meat Rabbits

Why eat rabbit meat? For many reasons, Rabbit is the single best meat on our planet.

It is the highest protein, lowest fat and calorie meat available. It can be raised inexpensively by almost anyone, city or rural. With the right circumstances, the meat can be raised for next to nothing. It is the most sustainable and ecologically friendly meat. Do you want to eat organic?  Is humanely raised and processed meat important to you? Do you want to raise your own meat but are not in a situation where you can raise cattle or chickens? If your answer is yes to any or all of these questions, rabbit is the solution.

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Rabbit meat is one of the most nutritious meats available.

It is high in easily-digested protein, lower in sodium and cholesterol than chicken or beef, and being a white meat, is lower in calories than even white meat of a chicken.  The taste is comparable to chicken, and can be used in almost any recipe calling for chicken.

Rabbits will live and grow happily on a natural-based diet of grasses, hay and other greens, supplemented with grains or grain products and kitchen left-overs. Feeding a rabbit organically is easily accomplished in a small rabbitry. Rabbit pellets are expensive and unnecessary in some circumstances, although rabbits can also be raised quite successfully with a diet of supplemented pellets as well.

Rabbits can produce 6 pounds of meat on the same resources that a cow produces 1 pound, making it a much more ecologically friendly source of protein.

Rabbits can be raised humanely or inhumanely– the choice is yours! Google ‘Factory Farming‘ and spend some time examining the conditions your hamburgers, bacon and fried chicken have come from. Rabbits, unfortunately, can also be raised in factory farm conditions so if you choose to eat rabbit, visit the farm they are coming from- or grow your own.

Rabbits can be raised in an apartment, a city backyard, or in a rural setting. Unlike cattle or chickens, they are quiet, require very little space (compared to larger animals), and are an easy livestock to handle and care for. Supervised children can run a small rabbitry, learning many valuable life lessons while they do so.

In my next post, I will show you my small rabbitry, and give a few tricks to make it easy and fun to raise rabbits!

 

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For Spacious Skies and Smithsonian

For Spacious Skies and Smithsonian

An article written in the Smithsonian Magazine, by the Smithsonian Institution, in 1994. Featuring For Spacious Skies and it’s founder, Jack Borden.

From the Smithsonian, an article featuring Jack Borden, founder of For Spacious Skies
Smithsonian Magazine 1984, featuring For Spacious Skies and it’s founder, Jack BordenSky M37Sky M36

Sky M38Sky M39Sky M40Sky M41Sky M42Sky M43Would you like to know more about For Spacious Skies? Click here to be taken to the For Spacious Skies website.

Find For Spacious Skies on Facebook  and Twitter

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6 easy steps for Growing Microgreens

6 easy steps for Growing Microgreens

Microgreens are nutrient powerhouses and are easily grown by practically anyone- no yard or garden needed! They are costly to buy in stores- if you can even find them! But have no fear-they are cheap to raise, and growing microgreens is also a fun introduction to gardening for children. 

Microgreens add excellent nutrition, freshness, and beauty to many dishes.

Depending on the seeds grown, Microgreens add a delicate, subtle, or strong flavor to many dishes.  IMG_9700

Don’t confuse microgreens with sprouts or baby greens. 

Sprouts are eaten when the seeds are just beginning to sprout a root and stem, usually at 2-5 days. Microgreens are ready to eat in 5-14 days, depending on the temperatures in the house, and the variety of seeds. As soon as they have two leaves, they are ready to eat. Baby Greens have grown longer than microgreens, usually from 2-4 weeks, and are often sold bagged in supermarkets in the produce section.

Growing Microgreens requires little more than a container, seeds, water, and a little light

Microgreen seeds
Seeds for microgreens- sunflower, lentil and flax from the grocery store

I buy most of my seeds at a grocery store. Raw sunflower seeds in the shell, lentils, and flax seeds are very inexpensive and can be found in bulk food areas as well as in small bags. The seeds that grew into the greens above cost less than twenty cents.

You can also purchase seeds online- Kale, broccoli, mustard and other types that give variety in taste and color. In the middle of wIMG_9763inter when you crave flavor and greens is a good time to experiment with different varieties.

With a container and a cover, seeds, a little soil, paper and water, you are ready to grow any type of microgreens with very little cost- and a big reward.

A nutritional study was carried out in 2012 by the University of Maryland. The study indicated that microgreens are 4-40 times higher in nutritional value than mature vegetables.  That’s a pretty good reason to grow microgreens!

Directions for Growing Microgreens.

Equipment: Tray, soil, single-ply toilet paper, seeds, spray bottle, water, sunny windowsill or grow light. 

Examples of growing containers for microgreens
Any low-sided, clean container can be used to grow microgreens

Any low-sided container will work as a tray for growing microgreens. 1. Put 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) of soil in the bottom of the container.  
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preparing the tissue paper for the microgreen trays
Separate the tissue into a single ply layer

2. Cover the soil with a natural brand of 2 ply toilet tissue that has been separated to make a single ply layer. The purpose of the paper is to keep the soil separated from the microgreens, but allow the roots to easily penetrate to the soil.

Tissue covered microgreen planters
Cover the soil with a single ply layer of organic tissue

Growing trays ready to plant microgreens
Spray the covered soil with enough water to moisten it thoroughly, and pour any excess out before planting microgreens

3. Spray the paper-covered soil until it is well-moistened, but not soggy. There should never be any standing water.

Microgreen seeds planted
Microgreen seeds sprinkled in a single layer on top of the prepared soil/paper covering

4. Cover the paper with a thin, single layer of seeds, and spray the seeds with water. The soil and seeds must be wet, but never standing in water. If you get too much water in, just pour the excess out.

Sunflower seeds ready to grow into microgreens
Cover migrogreen sunflower seeds with a single-ply layer of paper to retain moisture

Cover larger seeds such as sunflower seeds with an additional layer of the paper to help retain moisture. The microgreens will grow right through the paper. Keep the paper moist at all times.

Turning microgreen planters into mini-greenhouses with a plastic bag
After planting, cover the microgreen trays with a plastic bag to keep the moisture in. Keep them on a counter, out of the direct sunlight

5. Place each tray in a sealed plastic bag or cover it with plastic wrap to keep the seeds evenly moist. Leave the plastic over the tray until the seeds begin to sprout (1-3 days, depending on the type of seeds). Keep the planting containers out of the sun until the plastic cover has been removed.

A layer of paper on top of the seeds helps retain moisture until they sprout. The seeds easily grow through the layer.
Microgreen sunflower seeds sprouting through the paper covering

Microgreens sprouting and ready to put in the sun to continue growing.
Microgreen seeds beginning to sprout and ready to have the plastic bag removed.

6. Once the seeds have begun to sprout, remove the plastic bags and place the trays in a sunny window sill, or under a grow light. They must have strong light to grow well and healthy.

Microgreens ready to harvest
1 week old microgreens ready to harvest. Flax, lentil, French lentil

Spray the growing seeds once or twice a day to keep the dirt and paper wet. If the paper looks dry, the dirt under is too dry- add more water. Once the greens have 2 leaves, they are ready to use in salads, sandwiches, as garnishes, or in many other ways…

Using scissors, cut the microgreens just above the roots
harvesting microgreens

Growing microgreens without soil in the greens
Healthy microgreen roots that have grown through the paper, keeping the soil out of the greens

You can see in this photo that the roots have grown right through the paper cover, keeping the greens clean.
Snip the greens at the soil level. The soil (and paper) can be added to a compost pile or fed to a worm bin, or thrown into a garden.

Using your microgreens in a salad
Microgreens and baby kale form the base of the best salad you have ever eaten

Store microgreens in the refrigerator for up to 3 days
Place cut microgreens on a paper towel in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Store the cut microgreens covered in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Placing a napkin under the greens to help the microgreens remain fresh, longer.
My favorite way of eating microgreens: add several different kinds of microgreens to chopped baby kale, grated carrots, tiny cubes of a sharp cheese, any other raw vegetables that I happen to have on hand,  and add a poppy seed dressing…. excellent!

For recipes and over 100 ideas for using microgreens, look for Microgreen Margo on Pinterest

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Loving your ACV

Loving your ACV

Braggs ACVYou are going to look forward to your daily ACV from this day on!

 Be sure the Apple Cider Vinegar you use is raw and has the ‘mother’. Did I lose you already? Have you already thought “Nasty! No way am I going to drink that stuff!”? Don’t give up, you know it’s good for you. I have the answer, and you are guaranteed to love it!

 There are many pages and sites that will give you a thousand-and-one uses for ACV.  I take it to stop the night time cramps that have bothered me for several years. It’s effective and only takes two days of not taking my ACV for the cramps to return.

The trick to loving ACV is to turn the taste to your advantage. This takes two ingredients: fruit juice and a sweetener. My favorite juices are orange, elderberry, and apple. Be creative and try every juice you enjoy! I prefer liquid stevia as a sweetener. It is natural, inexpensive, easy to use, no calories, and has a few health benefits of its own. Don’t use more than a few drops, though, or you will have an unpleasant aftertaste. You can also use sugar, honey, or other natural sweeteners.20160222_191753

Here are a couple of recipes to start you on your path to loving your ACV:

  1. Guiltless Soda  To 8 oz of sparkling water (I use seltzer water as it does not contain quinine or sodium), add 1/4 cup of orange juice, 1 Tablespoon of ACV and 4 drops of liquid stevia.  Stir and enjoy. This is also excellent with other juices. My grandchildren call this ‘Grandma’s special soda’.
  2.  ‘Better’ Juice: To one quart of water, add 2 tablespoons of any flavor juice concentrate, 2 tablespoons of ACV, and 12 drops liquid stevia.
  3. Apple juice with a fraction of the calories: In a quart jar, add 1/2 cup apple cider, 2 tablespoons ACV, and 12 drops liquid stevia. This tastes as good as a quart of apple juice, with 13% of the calories!
  4. Cold remedy: In 8 oz of water or seltzer water, add 1-2 tablespoons elderberry syrup, 1 tablespoon ACV, and 4 drops liquid stevia. Not only does this taste amazing, in my experience it reduces the length of colds to just a day or so. I drink it 3-4 times a day when I first feel a cold coming on, or when I have been exposed. Information on Elderberry uses from Perdue University can be found here.

Now, take it from there, and let me know the ways YOU take ACV in a tasty way. Please leave a comment!

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Rosemary Cookies and the Importance of Family

Rosemary Cookies and the Importance of Family

 Once a month my little grandson comes to spend a couple of days with Grandma and Grandpa. Dante and I always do a project or two while he is here, something we can enjoy doing together.

It is our way of building a family bond that will last through eternity.

Families can be forever, and I want Dante to know how important he is in my life today, and throughout all eternity. I do that by spending time with him.

Today Dante would like to share with you his recipe for ‘Dante’s Rosemary Cookies.

He is fascinated by the idea of people in other countries reading about his cooking project! Made from a honey cookie recipe with rosemary, whole wheat flour, and applesauce, they are a very tasty and healthy snack. I developed this nutritious cookie especially for him when he was just a year old- along with his special ‘Super Dante Juice’….which will be a post for another time 🙂

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Step 1(Dante likes to break every job into ‘steps’): Cut the rosemary into tiny pieces. 

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Step 2: Grind the wheat to make flour. Fresh-ground flour tastes so much better and retains more vitamins than what we buy in the store. White flour also works in this recipe, but  has very little nutrition.

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Step 3: Get honey from the store room and be sure to smile for Grandma’s camera!

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Step 4: Measure all the ingredients into the bowl and mix it up.

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Step 5: Scoop out the dough and place it on parchment paper. Bake it in the oven. It takes a l…o…n…g time (10 minutes is a long time to a 5 year old!) to bake, so don’t forget step 6:

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…Enjoy a spoonful of cookie dough! 

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And of course, what is better to go with fresh-baked cookies than a glass of milk and a board game?!

Spending time with family is one of the most important things we do.

It often means putting other important things off until later, but the ties that we develop with our families can last for eternity.

“The family is the basic unit of society. Countries can be no healthier than its families. No government can long endure without strong families.” ~ Spencer W. Kimball

Is there anything more important than spending time, and building strong bonds, with your family? We have so many important activities that pull us in every direction, and especially away from our families. Despite the importance of everything we have to do each day, the answer to that question is still  a resounding “No!”

“Never before have there been so many insidious influences threatening the family as today, around the world. Many of these evil influences come right into the home—through television, movies,radio, magazines, newspapers, <and social media>.”  Spencer W Kimball

The most important work...family quote

 Dante’s Rosemary Cookies

 Recipe Type: Healthy Desserts
Cuisine: American
Author: Margo
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • ¼ c real butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tblsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 tsp dried or fresh rosemary, chopped small
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Mix butter and sugar together until creamy. Add egg and mix well. Add the applesauce, honey and lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Mix dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture. Drop by teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet, or on parchment paper for easy clean-up. Bake at 325 F (165 degrees C) 10-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on a rack before storing.

 What have you done to increase love in your Family today?

The moments that matter most….

We would do well to slow down a little, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most.

 

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