On Saturday we had a Women’s Conference for our area and I was asked to be one of the speakers.

I have a love/hate relationship with things like this. I love to push myself to think through things in more depth. I love learning and growing through that responsibility, but also, it’s uncomfortable. I also have a love/hate thing with uncomfortable things. Ha!

It was mostly streamed through a link with a very small masked audience in attendance (covid) which for some reason made me a little flustered up there, but hope I was able to touch the hearts of some. I figured I may as well share my thoughts here as well, in case anyone is interested, and for record’s sake.

So here you go!

I’d like to introduce you to my mother. Here she is on the day she brought home her ninth baby from the hospital:

This is an old picture, of course, but I love the light that is shining from my mom’s face. It’s almost as if her light is reflecting from each of us.

She is my hero for many reasons, but I’d like to share one of them today.

Growing up, for every Fast Sunday I can remember, we gathered to have our own “family testimony meeting.” We met up in the living room on our stiff, scratchy couches in there, and that room filled up with so much love we couldn’t even tell our seats were stiff and scratchy after a while 🙂

I loved the feeling in that room, and I think what made it the most heavenly was when my mother shared her thoughts.

She shared them with so much love, mostly all woven into Jesus, and I don’t remember a time she didn’t tear up.

She never had to tell me what a “testimony” was. She didn’t have to explain who Jesus was. I could feel of His goodness through her words, and the way they spread out and infused into the room.

In this, my mother created a place of security of all of us kids.

When we make a place sacred, it becomes safe.

In the talk this conference is based upon, “Embrace the future with Faith,” President Nelson talks about the “places of security” Captain Moroni [in The Book of Mormon] creates for his people at a time when their lives and their freedom is in grave jeopardy.

The enemy looms larger than life, with and vow to defeat the Nephites. It would seem to any onlooker that the Nephites would be a lost cause.

But Moroni instructs them to build huge banks of earth around what is most precious to them.

Around those banks they dig deep ditches.
They build timbers on top of the ridges.
They frame pickets to be strong and high on top of the timbers.
They build towers that overlook the pickets.
They even go so far as to create fortifications on the borders by the sea.

That is some serious protection!
And because of it, the Nephites were able to stay strong in the midst of so much danger surrounding them.

President Nelson invites us to build our own “places of security,” and describes that as being anywhere you can feel the presence of the Holy Ghost and be guided by Him.

Oh! How we need that guidance!

We need it in our relationships with friends and family, strangers on the street and social media.

We need it in our hearts as we work through all the refining fires of trials, big and small, that come our way.

We need it to fill up our homes.

In 1996 President Hinckley said:
“You sisters are the real builders of the nation wherever you live, for you have created homes of strength and peace and security. These become the very sinew of a nation.”

President Nelson says:
“When your home becomes a personal sanctuary of faith–where the Spirit resides—your home becomes the first line of defense.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an awful lot of responsibility to me!

Especially when sometimes this is how my house looks:

But if you think about it, the spirit can be felt smack dab in the middle of chaos. As long as that chaos it accompanied by love.

I’m going to show you a quick video of our home when my kids were younger that was definitely not calm and “holy” in the traditional sense, yet I believe it was a place of security:

I love this video because I know I’m biased, but to me, I can almost feel the Spirit that was there. Despite the chaos, all the junk strewn across the counter, the raggedy outfits they were wearing, there are three things that hit me that made that kitchen a place of security:

1) Those kids knew (finally!) what they were supposed to be doing, they had boundaries. I think this was when we were in the thick of dinner-job follow through. We had gone through all kinds of versions. (As a matter of fact, we are STILL changing versions!), but they knew what they were supposed to be doing. Who is in charge of the dishes, who clears the table, who entertains the little pesky sister 🙂

In order to create places of security we have to draw boundaries. We feel secure when we can learn to manage our time and resources. We feel secure when we give (or are given) boundaries. I remember having a bitter/sweet relationship with my curfew. It was often tough to be home by a certain time, yet there was something about it that made me feel safe.

We need to make boundaries with people who don’t make us feel safe.
We need to create boundaries with how we spend our time, how much time we will let in social media, podcasts, things that can be good and wonderful, but things that can take us away from what’s most important.
***When we give ourselves boundaries, we create places of security.

2) Those kids of mine in that video were also a team. They were working together, just as those Nephites had to work together. (There would be no other way to build so many layers of security had they not worked together.) You can tell that those kids felt like they belonged.

They were part of a clan.

This creates security.

In our family we have a family motto that helps us feel part of something larger than ourselves. We say it in unison together and even have actions to go with it. In this way we feel that we are working together. And each of us is important.

(more on the blog about that family motto HERE)

***When we work together in harmony and seek to understand each other, we create places of security.

3) Those kids also felt love.

Unconditional love.

No one cared that they were still wearing leotards from their gymnastics class or whether their dance moves were right on the beat. They knew they belonged.

We create security when we give that love unconditionally. One of my favorite stories is when my brother-in-law did something that merited him taking his son aside and apologizing for something he had done. He made himself vulnerable. He showed love.

Within a couple days, that son of his pulled his dad aside and let him know some things that had been weighing him down. His dad had created a safe place of unconditional love where he could feel comfortable talking about his mistakes. And in the process, learning how to fix them.

I love this quote I found on Instagram:

(Check out her Instagram HERE)

***When we give unconditional love and seek to love more than to correct, we create places of security.

Let’s go back to how President Nelson described “places of security” as “anywhere you can feel the presence of the Holy Ghost and be guided by Him.”

Of course, we can feel the presence of the Holy Ghost anywhere if we are still enough to seek and listen. We can create security in our work environments, in our extended families, in our church congregations, in line at the grocery store, the sky’s the limit!

I love how my sister-in-law created her own “place of security” at a time when she needed it most. She was in a time of life where she knew she needed a place to commune with God. She had three little toddlers crawling all over her at all hours in the day and not much quiet. So she found a spot in the basement storage room where she created her own place of security.

That place became holy for her because she took the time to commune with God there. She practiced stillness so that she could build up her own “banks of earth topped with timber and pickets and towers” like the Nephites did for when the winds would come upon her. And that “taking time” created a foundation that has helped her immensely in life as she continues to make “places of security” for her family.

I love the phrase “TAKE TIME.”

This will mean something different and unique to each of us, but are we “taking time” for sacredness? For some this may mean creating a space like my sister-in-law did, for others it may mean concentrating on kneeling prayer, for others it could be yoga or meditation. The important thing is that we need to take time to let the Spirit in. To let Jesus in, like my mom did all those years ago during our family testimony meetings.

When the Lamanites came up against the prepared Nephites, they were “astonished exceedingly, because of the wisdom of the Nephites in preparing their places of security.”

May we go forth and create our own unique (and astonishing!) kinds of secure places like those Nephites did long ago. Safety from the storms that surround us and will continue to billow and push us off kilter. We have the power, like my mother did as she teared up in our family testimony meetings with her love of Jesus, to connect with God to create security wherever we go.

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  1. You have a beautiful non-pushy way of making me want to be better. I’m going to “take time”, and create a safe place. Thank you for your blog. It always makes me feel good.

  2. Do you have any advice ( anyone ) for a mom with a teenager who decided they do not believe in the teachings of our faith. They are 15 and a very mature 15. I’m lost and heartbroken but my biggest thing right now is to make sure our relationship keeps strong.
    I just feel lost.

    1. As a non-LDS person, I applaud your teenager for not taking the church teachings at face value and going along because of family. It takes courage to stand up and say “wait, this just doesn’t make sense and I don’t believe it!”

      My first piece of advice would be, since you say he/she is very mature – ask them what exactly they don’t believe and why. Which teaching are they having an issue with? Maybe it will give you and your entire family a chance to actually examine all the teachings you were raised with and see if you actually believe them yourselves. Dare to challenge each and every belief, and if you can’t reconcile some of them, then for goodness sakes, take your leave! Then you won’t feel lost or scared, you will feel free!

      Even though it’s scary at first, using your own brain to reason out some of the teachings is refreshing and allows you not to be in a religion just because it is what is expected of you.

      Good luck to you all!

      1. I love this too…I think we gain so much from open, listening conversations. We can learn so much from each other!

    2. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. A couple of thoughts, although I haven’t directly experienced the same situation (but have had loved ones leave): 1) Make sure your teen knows they are loved and that you love them no matter what. Along these lines, is there some new hobby/skill you and the teen can pursue together (i.e a cooking class, pottery, bird watching, music, self defense, book club, photography, etc)? This will help you and the teen have time together. 2) Perhaps helping your teen pursue another faith each week until they find a good fit. I’ve heard of a mother that would go to her church each week and then take the teen (that didn’t believe or agree with the parents’ religion) to a different one as it was their house rules they attended a church each week. 3) Pray—our Father in Heaven knows and loves your teen even more than you do and He will help in small and simple ways. 4) Consider pursuing counseling for you and/or your teen (or entire family)—it can help with this transition. It’s apparent that you do love and sincerely care for your teen as you are reaching out for help here. May God be with you as you navigate these changes and strive to keep a strong bond and relationship with your teen.

      1. I love the idea to go to attend different religions. I have actually been feeling a pull to do that more with my girls lately. I love all these ideas. I think number 3 might be my favorite.

        1. How would you feel if Claire or Lucy decided they like one of those churches better, and that they believed their teachings vs LDS? They have many beliefs that are polar opposites of yours most likely, like the Trinity, going to heaven immediately when you die, never becoming “like God” (they consider that blasphemy), not living on an earthly paradise some day, not getting to rule over your own planet as a god… would you and Dave let them stop attending LDS church and get baptized in one of the other ones you attended? Just curious…

    3. Oh we are in a similar boat, also with our almost 15 year old. I feel your pain. We too have decided to focus more on the relationship we have with her. I want her to feel all my love no matter what. A member of our stake presidency said to me he would rather see an independent/critical thinker at this age, it’s good for them to look at their lives and ask questions. Love them, pray for them, and remember the choice they ultimately make is not a reflection on your parenting. So many parents blame themselves but we rejoice in agency, especially when they are making the choices WE want them to make, but we need to rejoice that they are strong, and wanting anwsers to their questions too!!

    4. Thank you for the sincere question, and I love that you recognize your relationship is the most important thing, because it is. Love is always most important, that’s the whole basis of our religion, and I feel like that’s what Jesus would do. I love these answers so much and I agree with all of them. I just wish I could give you a big hug, because I know this must be so emotional. I haven’t been through this myself, but I know many who have, and I am so sorry you are feeling so lost. I think as with anything in our parenting, we just want, with all our hearts, what we feel is best for our kids. And of course what we feel is best is going to come from our own lenses and our own experiences. If we love our religion, (which I do and it sounds like you do too), something that we have found so much joy and peace in, it is only natural for us to want our children to have that same satisfaction and beauty in their lives. But everyone is on their own journeys. I so believe that we each have to figure this all out for ourselves. Questions are beautiful, because to me, it means our kids are delving deep. They are figuring things out for themselves. They aren’t just going with the flow. And while the “go with the flow” thing sure makes motherhood easier, does that allow deep roots to grow? Conviction? I think there is so much more than just following. It sounds like your 15-year-old is mature and working to figure things out so I agree with these other comments, let them lean into you without judgement. They will find so much safety as you love them unconditionally. And in doing so you are creating a “place of security” for them to do their own growing and learning. Perhaps some day they will realize this is the religion for them after all, and perhaps they won’t, but they will always know that their mother loves them. And that they matter. And that, I think, is the very most precious gift we can give our children.

      I know that probably doesn’t make the aching go away, because oh! How we want things that we love so much for our children!! But as my Grandpa Dean said to my dad in his last letter before he passed away: “The greatest thought Christ left on earth is love. It surpasses everything else. If a person practices love, then everything else takes care of itself.”

      There is a really good podcast we listened to for our podcast group a while back that kind of touches a little bit on questions. Here it is in case you want to listen to it: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/all-in/id1439975046?i=1000489822361

      Sending you and also that 15-year-old so much love!

    5. Just wanted to answer from the perspective of a former 15-year-old doubting her faith and religion: the rigidity of any faith can be so confusing at that age. I was not a rebellious teenager but all of the sudden all of the rules of my religion started to seem really arbitrary to me AND I couldn’t wrap my head around the theology of it. When those questions happen all at once, it’s easier to just turn your back on the whole thing than to really parse out what you believe and what is your testimony.

      My parents still made me come to church with them because it’s just what we did, but other than that they just let me do what I wanted, faith wise. And honestly, that was the best thing they could have done for me. They showed me love and place of security even when I was rejecting one of their places of security (the church). It’s an example of grace and compassion that I hope to emulate with my own kids one day. Your child will find their way but what they will always remember how you reacted in this situation. Sending you hugs though, because it’s not easy!

      1. Molly, your parents handled that so well. It shows how much they love you. I know you will always remember that.

        Curious, though…. when you say “parse out”… do you mean that it’s ok to believe some teachings but not others, yet still belong to that religion?

        1. Maria – you are right, I am so lucky lucky to have such loving parents!

          I should say I’m Catholic (I did find my way back to the Church 😉 so this answer is particular to that faith. Yes – I’m definitely a “cafeteria” Catholic when it comes to how Church rules play out in modern times. For example, I use birth control, I believe that there are instances where a woman should be able to get an abortion, I think that same-sex marriage should be celebrated, I think that women should be able to be priests. To me, these are social issues that are more indicative of the time we are living in

          But when it comes to the actual doctrine or the true core of the faith, no, I don’t pick and choose. I believe that there is a Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I believe in a communion of Saints, I believe that when I receive the sacrament it’s the body and blood of Christ. But I also respect the fact that I’m just a human being and therefore I very well could be wrong about this whole thing. I don’t know if that makes sense!

          1. “I use birth control, I believe that there are instances where a woman should be able to get an abortion, I think that same-sex marriage should be celebrated…”

            Some would argue that these things you mention here are important things that the Catholic church forbids. If you believe differently than the Catholic Church on these things, how are you Catholic? The core doctrine includes these things, right? If a priest questioned you on what you believed as far as these “small” things go, and you told him this… would he say you’re Catholic?

  3. Not even LDS or mother of a teenager, but still having an opinion…
    Respect the choice. Don’t tell them they haven’t prayed hard enough or that they are doomed now.

    I hope you feel less scared soon!

  4. Although I am not of the same faith, I learn so much from your posts. I am at a time of my life where I am enjoying my grandchildren and am unexpectedly helping raise a toddler. Something I never thought I would be doing at my age (71) but it has been an amazing journey. One of your posts that really hit home with me was the one about the welcoming response. I know how it is so important for us all. I greet this sweet little girl, she will be 3 tomorrow, every morning with such a warm response, so happy to see her. She comes home in the evening and I get such an incredibly warm welcoming response from her. My heart melts every time that happens. I know that she wakes up every morning knowing that I am so happy to spend the morning with her. I had thought about that before but your post really brought it home to me, how important it is for us all. I have learned so much from your posts and look forward to reading them. Todays was wonderful. Thank you for all of the insight and wisdom you bring to us all.

    1. Oh thank you so much, Susan, those kind words mean so much to me. And I’m loving the welcoming response as well. I think about it every single day. Happy birthday to that sweet three-year old today!

  5. Shawni, Thank you for sharing your fun presentation with us. I always love learning from you and your experiences. I respect you and your religion and appreciate you sharing your life with us.

  6. Can I just say how much I love that “boo boo” face that Lucy is showing? I’ve actually seen it on some of your other posts and it just makes me smile!! That sweet little sad face is so darn cute! She reminds me of the kind of toddler that you just want to hug and squish to pieces!

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