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    Preparing to Enter the Temple

    “(She) who is best prepared can best serve (her) moment of inspiration.” 
    ―  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    You're going to the temple! Can we just soak in for two moments how freaking exciting that is?! Whether you've been a member of the Church for 100 years or 1, this is big deal. Not because anything freaky is going to happen, but because you're about to make another covenant that you came to this very earth for the very purpose of making! Receiving your endowment is how life compensates for bad blind dates and finals. 

    "Receiving your endowment" is just another way to say "making a covenant." Just like when we were baptized, when we go to the temple we make promises to the Lord regarding how we will live our individual lives. Making and KEEPING these covenants helps us become the people we came to this earth to become.

    My favorite scripture on this idea is in Alma 53. Before their "stripling warrior" days, the boys that made up the Army of Helaman were just normal good kids raised by good moms. Their parents made a covenant not to fight, but the boys had not made that covenant. Instead, "they entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites." The good part is in verse 19:

    "And now behold, as they never had hitherto been a disadvantage to the Nephites, they became now at this period of time a great support."

     Did you catch it? Making a covenant helped them go from good to great. That's exactly what this new covenant can do for you! It's getting you one step closer to the super rad person you're destined to become. 

    There can be a lot of emotions leading up to attending the temple for the first time and I think they're all justified. (Some more than others.) Some of the more negative emotions come because there is so much unknown. Two bits of advice to help you fight the fears 1. Prepare 2. Chill. 

    This entire blog post is meant to help you prepare. I'll address the "chill" aspect at the end.

    Below you'll find resources that I and many others have found helpful as we prepared to enter the temple. This is not a list to end all lists. I'm sure you know of some awesome resources, too! This is just a good place to start. Pretty please add all the goods you know of in the comments below so everyone can benefit from it. 

    What You’ll Need to Buy

    • A dress

    • White shoes and nylons

      • The Distribution Center offers really comfy little slippers and inexpensive knee highs. Yes, knee highs. You can totally wear full nylons in the temple. Knee highs just seem to be the more popular choice. (Which, I realize, is a statement no one has ever said before.)

    • Ceremonial clothing and garments

      • There are a few items of special clothing only worn within the temple that you’ll need. It's common to refer to this group of items as a "packet." You can buy your packet

        • at a Distribution Center near you

        • or onlineYou need to sign in to your LDS account to buy your packet online. If you don't have an LDS account just text your ward clerk. I'm sure he'd gladly help you out. 

      • You'll start wearing the garment during your first visit to the temple so you'll need to bring a set with you. Talk to friends or family about what fabrics and styles (yes, there are different styles) they prefer. Buy a couple different options/sizes to try out before making a huge purchase. It's best to make the big purchase once you know what you like. I'm a Carinessa girl, through and through. 

    • Slip and bra

      • It's smart to test out your dress before wearing it to the temple. Just try it on in your room and assess the see-through and static situation. White bras and slips never hurt anyone. 

    Study Resources

    Tip: Start with a prayer and focus on your thoughts and feelings more than the words you read. The Spirit is like your personal tutor. He will teach YOU exactly what YOU need to learn and understand. The below resources are just tools to help you hear what the Spirit has to say. 

    •  Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple

      • This is a great little 37-page book put out by the Church. You can read, print, listen, or download it HERE, or you can get it from the Distribution Center. If you're like me, getting through this kind of material can be tough because minds tend to wander. Give yourself some time, and don't feel bad if you don't read it in one sitting. My mom always says its best to drink a few glasses of water through out the day rather than an entire jug before bed. 

    • "Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings" by Russell M. Nelson

      • This talk goes over some of the basic details of the temple, like recommends, interviews, dress, and covenants.

    • Preach My Gospel

      • Whether you're going on a mission or not, Preach My Gospel is a goldmine of resources and study prompts. I've probably gained more from studying it since my mission than I did on my mission. (Don't tell my President Ellsworth.)

      • I especially suggest 

        • Chapter 3, Lesson 3 (pg 60-70)

        • Chapter 11, How Do I Help People Make and Keep Commitments?

          • Change the title to "How Do I Help Myself Make and Keep Commitments?" and you're ready to go!

        • Chapter 6, How Do I Develop Christlike Attributes?

          • The purpose of our life on earth as well as the purpose of the temple is to help us become more like Jesus Christ. It never hurts to brush up on the basics of what makes Him the best big brother ever. 

    • What do I need to do to prepare for my own endowment?

      • Pay special attention to the list of scriptures at the bottom of this link. Reading and understanding these will help so much of the temple feel familiar.

      • There is also a link to a great talk about garments. Win-win.

    Tips from my people. 

    I get that not everyone has people that they can talk with about the temple. If you don't, or do, I'll share my people with you. They have great advice and most of them are really normal and good humans.

    • Fast before, specifically to feel the Spirit when you go, but DON'T fast the actual day you go.       - Judy Nelson 
    • Read "The Holy Temple" by President Packer. - Marty Evans
    • Just relax. Try not to stress about remembering everything because it is a learning process just like the gospel. - Cindy Ries
    • Take the "small and simple things" approach: focus on the principles and doctrines you recognize and let everything else soak in over time. - John Evans
    • Wear a Q.Noor dress. - Mike Glauser (I swear I didn't pay him to say this, but I probably should have!)
    • Remember what happens in the temple comes from the Old Testament. And the OLD Testament is very OLD. The same service happened thousands of years ago and hasn't changed. - Zach Goodrich
    • I was nervous that something really creepy was going to happen. I wish someone would have told me before that I wouldn't be weirded out. - Mary Parker (Spoiler Alert: NOTHING CREEPY OR SHOCKING IS GOING TO HAPPEN. Scout's Honor!)
    • Focus on feeling the Spirit BUT don't be freaked out if you don't have a MASSIVE spiritual experience. - Abrie Shep (Sometimes our darn nervousness gets the best of us.)
    • Remember all the people who you know and love who have already been there and attend frequently. Trust them and trust the Spirit. - Lauren Merkley
    • Read Moses and the Pearl of Great Price. - Abby Howard
    • Even though wearing the garment is super different from what you're used to, you'll get used to them pretty quickly. - Leighana Chae
    • More goodness from more good humans found HERE

    MY BEST ADVICE

    As I am sure you're experiencing, everyone has an opinion on how you should prepare for the temple. Listen to those you love and respect, but remember this is between you and your Father in Heaven.

    As an MTC teacher, I had the chance to work with a lot of recently endowed people. Some prepared a ton to enter the temple, and some... not so much. After talking to so many people, it's my personal opinion that the best way to prepare for the temple is by attending the temple. Go often, before and after you receive your endowment. I see it as sitting front row at a class taught by the Spirit. He is there and most distractions aren't. Show up and you can't help but learn. 

    CHILL

    Call me crazy, but I was legitimately confused after my first visit to the temple because nothing weird or extreme happened. Did I miss the weird part that everyone was so worked up about? No. Honestly, if you do your part to prepare before the temple, you're going to be FINE. And when I say "prepare" I don't mean fast 40 days and 40 nights while reading every volume of scripture and humming the hymns simultaneously. Just do your best. How and how much you prepare is between you and your Heavenly Father. I have a bunch to learn about Him, but I do know he is a pretty reasonable guy. He doesn't expect you to be perfect right now. That would kinda defeat the whole purpose of going to the temple in the first place. 

    (I repeat, nothing crazy is going to happen! SCOUT'S HONOR!)

    You're gunna love it. And let's be real, if you don't LOVE it after the first visit then keep going till you do! Everyone is different and everyone is allowed to have a different experience. Just do all that you can to make sure your experience is the very best for you, even if it happens eventually.

    xo

    Rosie

    Nice to meet you!

    Hi! I'm Rosie and I'm so glad you're here. Q.NOOR stands for "queen of light" because in the temple we learn that's exactly who we are! 

    I've always been a little discouraged with the former temple dress options. I don't believe what you wear in the temple should be a main focus - at all. But I know from experience, that the first visit to the temple can be a little flustering. Wearing a dress that you don't exactly feel pretty or comfortable in doesn't help and can be distracting. 

    That's where Q.NOOR comes in! We want to help you and other women focus on what is most important in the temple. In your Q.NOOR dress you can focus on learning and becoming the woman you were made to be.  

    We firmly believe that whatever stage of life you're in, the temple is a resource from God to guide you on life's great adventure. We are so excited to tag along. We hope you, your friends, former companions, aunts, cousins, sisters and roommates are too. 

    Please click HERE to find Q.NOOR on Facebook.

    or

    click HERE to find Q.NOOR on Instagram. 

    We are currently in presales. This means we are gathering as many orders as possible before we move into production. Production will begin once we meet our sales goal for individual designs. We appreciate your patience. By sharing Q.Noor with your friends you help us get you your dress as soon as possible!

    Modesty isn't about shoulders.

    Last week, popular LDS music artist, James The Mormon posted this photo with his girlfriend, Lindsey from their New Years Eve celebrations. Clearly, it is a darling photo of a young and happy couple. #goals

    Sadly, as so often happens when people can remain essentially unaccountable for their actions online, the comments got shady. Strangers with zero context or connection to Lindsey quite brutally shamed her for her clothing selection. A lot has been said about this incident, I think very best by Lindsey herself and so I don't feel a need to rehash that whole situation. However, it has encouraged me to share an experience from my life that I had planned to mostly keep to myself. 

    So here are my two cents.

    For better or worse. 

    When I was 16-18 years old I modeled internationally with Elite Model Management. I have spent the last ten years speaking to Young Women groups and Relief Societies about my experiences as a model. Every ward is different, but I can always count on two things: 1. The leadership will ask me to address modesty at some point in my talk and 2. during the Q&A portion someone will ask "how did you stay modest while modeling?"

    First, I will answer the question "How did you stay modest while modeling?"

    Answer: I didn't.

    I entered the modeling world, with my parents' complete support, understanding this would not be a couple of years of "For the Strength of Youth" appropriate shoots. THERE WOULD BE NO KHAKIS. Just as a gymnast or ballerina spends her professional hours in a leotard or swimsuit, I, too, would have a unique job uniform. That being said, my parents and agents helped me set some hard boundaries to guide my career.

    No lingerie. 

    No sheer.

    No semi-nude.

    No nude.

    No alcohol or smoking.

     I cannot begin to tell you how hard little-insecure-teenage me worked to maintain those rules. I will forever be proud of little me for all the times I said "no" to influential and intimidating adults when it would have been so much easier and so much more financially beneficial for me to bend the rules a little.

    At the end of my two years, I wore a few scars from battles fought, but I was confident I had won the war. In my 18 year old mind, I had done it. I was sure I deserved some kind of medal for what a good little Mormon girl I had been.

    Time passed and one day my mom and I were discussing modeling when the idea of "regret" came up. I triumphantly stated that I didn't regret a single shoot. My mom, totally supportive and proud, lightly said she kinda sorta wished I could take back that "child prostitute shoot." 

    HOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLDDDDDDD UP, Mom.

    That child WHAT shoot? When the heck in the world did I do a child PROSTITUTE shoot? My brain raced for any memory of participating in something so disgusting and deplorable. Lovingly my mom reminded me of this shoot.

    The shoot took place in a dilapidated motel on Coney Island.  The room consisted of four bare and heavily stained twin mattress stacked two deep and shoved in a corner. There was one bashed up wooden chair and a dead rat behind the broken radiator. Luckily someone brought a flat bed sheet to cover the mattresses to create a barrier between me and the cockroaches crawling inside them. The photographer rented by the room by the half an hour and there was a communal toilet (no sink) in the hall. I was 16 years old. Call me naive, but it had never crossed my mind that prostitution motels even existed. 

    I just thought they picked the location because it looked different.

    As the makeup artist rouged my cheeks, I eyed my wardrobe for the shoot. Nothing looked more revealing than a one piece swimsuit. As the stylist laced up a vintage Dior leotard (read: corset) I felt relieved. I wouldn't have to push back or defend myself today. They posed me and coached me. The shoot went off without a hitch. The strangest part to me was the crew insisting I rub hand sanitizer on my body every time I got off the bed or floor.  

    It wasn't until years later, with the help of my caring mom, that I understood what I was depicting that day. Child prostitution is one of the lowest and most vile institutions on this earth and at the hands of a room of adults, I, a child, glamorized it. While it may seem silly to some, this shoot introduced a immense sense of shame and pain (rhyming unintentional) into my life for quite some time.

    With time, therapy, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ I have found peace, but I think this will always be a sore spot on my soul. (Note: As an innocent participant, I in no way had sinned. Luckily, the healing power of the Atonement is for so much for than that.) 

    Until now, I have never completely shared this story or these images.  Why? Fear and shame. I feared the day that someone would stumble onto these images online and treat me exactly how people treated Lindsey. This shoot has caused me to think a lot about modesty and after watching Lindsey's experience I knew it was time to move past the fear and share. 

    No one is perfect. We all have made and are making mistakes. The good news is we already have a perfect example and He is real good at His job. I'm inspired by the examples of Alma, the elder, and Alma, the younger; two really good dudes with really shady pasts. When appropriate, they were open and honest about their experiences and the role the Atonement played in helping them become more like Christ. 

    I am not perfect nor do I have it all figured out, but my hope is this experience can maybe help someone somehow. So there is it.

    This is what I have learned thus far.

    If modesty was just about girls covering their shoulder, tummies, upper thighs and wearing one-piece swimsuits then this shoot could be a New Era special on appropriate swimwear.  

    I hope we can all come to better understand, as is so clearly evident by this photoshoot,

    Modesty is more than body parts to cover. 

    Modesty, a principle taught in scripture to both men and women, is a commitment an individual makes privately with his or her Maker. If an individual's modesty, or any private commitment to God, was up for public opinion we wouldn't wear our garments underneath our clothing. Modesty is about who we are as children of God and how we act accordingly. Modesty is about treating ourselves and others with love and respect. It's having the inner confidence and peace that makes others' gaze and praise (rhyming intentional) unnecessary and unimportant. 

    While we are on that topic... modesty is many things but it is NOT about being HOT. May "modest is hottest" die a peaceful death and drift far away never to be heard from again. Why? Because we aren't fooling anyone and can we really imagine Heavenly Father teaching his girls that they should be modest so the boys will think they're hot? Really?! RIP

    Let's not short change our young women OR young men by denying them of the opportunity to learn the meat of the doctrine of modesty. If we really believe these are elect spirits reserved for the last days, don't we think they can handle it? Teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves. Sound familiar? When I speak to YW groups I choose to never mention what body parts to cover and how much. Today's little women are smart. They are powerful. They are learning and growing disciples of Christ. They, like all of us, need room to safely try things out without being ostracized or shamed. 

    I'm not saying we tell the MiaMaid who shows up to mutual in a mini skirt she looks like a total babe. In fact, unless you have a relationship of love and respect with her and are in private, it would be best that you not say anything about her appearance at all. Instead try out "So glad you are here!" or "That's a really good point you made." or "Wow! You're really good at that." 

    My experience in understanding the weight of my innocent choice while modeling could only be safely facilitated by my loving mother. Not everyone has that blessing. This guidance may need to come from a loving leader, sister, or friend. Regardless of the trusted role we play in a young woman's life, let's be sure we help her understand what modesty is really about. Help her feel the love of her Savior. It may not happen overnight, but as she comes to understand the love and respect He has for her, she will outgrow anything ill-suited to the queen that she is. 

    Lastly, as daughters of God, we are all in different phases of our "queen training." However we all know that Lesson One teaches us to love one another; never shame. 

     

    Life after the mission.

    Right after my mission, a friend lined up with a really nice guy. I was excited to be so quickly jumping into the next phase of life. “Look at me world! I’m normal!” I was also totally freaked out. You know those Vines where someone is slipping on ice and they’re kinda running in place and look ok for a second, but inside you know a painful crash is eminent? That was me.

    After a handful of dates, this nice guy invited me to join him in Park City for dinner at his parents' home with a bunch of his friends. As we all sat around a big dinning room table and ate, the conversation turned to a rehash of all the important pop culture events of the last year. It was late December and I had been home for two weeks. Obviously I couldn’t contribute an ounce to the conversation. As I sat quietly I felt stuck deep inside myself. I started to panic that they were thinking I was boring. As irrational as it was, the anxiety built and built. Eventually I apologized to my date and left because “I was tired.”

    As soon as I got into my car I burst into tears. Hard, gasping for air, big, ugly tears. I spent a few minutes trying to find my way out of the neighborhood to the freeway, but through my tears I soon realized I was lost.  I pulled out my phone to map my way out, but of course in this mountain neighborhood I had ZERO service. Nothing. To make matters worse, my battery was minutes away from death. I looked in the mirror at my puffy eyes and blotchy red cheeks streaked with black mascara and decided going back to the house to for directions wasn’t an option. I really only had one option. I pulled over and said a prayer. I will admit this wasn’t your standard sweet prayer. I think I said something along the lines of “Heavenly Father. I gave you 18 months of service. I need you to give me two bars of service and I need it now.” I looked at my phone and right before my eyes… one bar… two bars. Careful not to move the phone an inch, I quickly entered my home address as I spewed a stream of “thank you.” 

    Then I drove home.

    Yes, this is a ridiculous story, BUT in my eyes it is no more less of a miracle than Moses parting the Red Sea. It also is a pretty good metaphor for my transition home. I threw myself into things, flailed around, crashed, prayed, got back up, and then braced myself for the next hurdle. 

    If you just got home, there is a good chance you are familiar with My Plan, the Church’s program to help missionaries adjust to life after the mission. Before Q.NOOR, I was an associate producer at the Church and all the My Plan videos were my babies. Interviewing RMs around the world taught me a lot about coming home, but two things stick out in my mind as universal truths.

    1.     Stay close to God.

    Remember how badly you would prayed that your investigators would seek God on their own? Remember aching for them to have a personal relationship with Him? Well now it is your turn.

    Life, is hard and busy AND distracting. Insist that you have some Heavenly Daddy-daughter time EVERY SINGLE DAY. Get creative. Yes, you have so many more distractions now, but you also have so much more freedom regarding when and how you spend time with your Heavenly Father.

    Continue to seek revelation frequently and continue to ask on revelation He gives you quickly

    2.     Breathe and trust the Plan.

    Soon you will do something that you remember teaching your investigators was wrong.  Maybe you miss a couple days of scripture study or maybe you mess up with your boyfriend. It will happen and it will suck, but it will not be the end of world. It also doesn’t make you a hypocritical lousy weak RM. It just makes you a human.

    You will make mistakes. You will sin! GET OVER IT! Seriously though. Get over sin. Use the cleansing power of the atonement to repent and then use the enabling power of the atonement to move forward.

    Remember the Plan of Salvation is a not travel itinerary between locations. The little circles we draw are just places that He helps us become more like Him through the Atonement. The Plan of Salvation is the Atonement. Very literally it is the plan for how He will save us.

    I’m not going to pretend I know what you should do to smoothly adjust. This is an extremely personal process. Everyone has lots of advice but it really is something you need to figure out between you and Heavenly Father. However it is always smart to try to learn from people who have traveled a similar path. Below are a few tips and tricks from the Q.NOOR community. If you haven’t already joined us on Instagram, please do. There are thousands of really chill and smart women there who would love to help you.

    • Use PMG to help you set goals and make plans to adjust. Be kind and patient with yourself. @Reesie_pices
    •  Come home mentally. Being homesick as a missionary makes it hard to be a good missionary and being mission-sick makes it hard to be a good RM. It's okay to miss your mission and think about it daily (I still think about my mission almost every day!) but wishing and moping about not being back there doesn't do any good. So go out and have a life! Keep loving people, keep talking to everyone, keep serving people. Try new things, meet new friends and cherish old friends. Mostly, just keep progressing. @sadiebanksphotography
    •  I think I struggled a bit with feeling self-righteousness. It would have been helpful to pray to have more love and compassion for others. Everyone has struggles and we don't need to judge, just love and lift up. @bethyover1004
    • Oh man I was totally awkward for a few months. I just felt I had nothing to talk about with anyone. But I guess my advice would be to still go to social stuff and hang out and go on lots of dates cuz even if you don't feel like it. That helped me start to enjoy the next phase of life. @printitengineer
    • My advice is accept that you'll feel really weird for a long time after you come home, and that that is okay! @lauren_haws
    • A sister in one of the wards I served in gave me the best advice the day before I flew home: don't put yourself on someone else's "RM Timetable" - when you start doing "RM things" like dating, getting back to school or even watching movies and listening to music that's not "Jesus music" is up to you and the Lord. It helped me loads! @megredner
    • I would say, remember to use your family and friends as more of a support system. ASKING for help, love & support goes a long way! It's not just you and the Lord anymore - your fam and friends are there to help & they want to. @eleanor_cain
    • While I was a missionary it was really important to me to stay true to myself. Meaning I wanted Sister Sumsion and Katie to be the same person. So when I came home I wouldn't have an identity crisis. Coming home was a time of testing. Testing my testimony. Testing my commitment to commandments. Testing whether Sister Sumsion and Katie were the same person. So my advice! Focus your energy on NOT changing rather than changing. Focus on staying the person you have become as a result of your missionary service. @ktsumsion

    My last bit of advice is GO TO THE TEMPLE! I’m not saying that because I sell temple dresses. I’m saying that because it is a super easy and straightforward way to physically join Him in His work, just like you did as a missionary. Yes, you need to find ways to contribute to His work while in jeans, but while you’re figuring that out, take some breaks in the Temple. Let temple service help you to focus on helping others come unto Christ rather than yourself for an hour or two.  Your little heart, and the people you help, will thank you. 

    Choose Joy

    by Brittany Fisher  

    "It's important that we share our experiences with other people. Your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story, you free yourself and give other people permission to acknowledge their own story."  Iyanla Vanzant

         My story is one of heartbreak and healing, trials and triumph, mourning and miracles, grief and gratitude, pain and pure joy. I truly believe there is power in the written word. We all have experiences: the good and the bad, the joyful and heart breaking. We do not always get to choose what happens to us. Loss, grief and sadness touch all of our lives in one way or another. Although we do not always get to choose what happens to us, we do get to choose how we will react, how our life will develop and how we will tell our story.

        To understand my story you have to understand my relationship with running. I fell in love with running at 15 years old when I trained for my first marathon. From that moment on, I was in a committed relationship. Running was my refuge and my joy; it was also where I felt closest to God. During long runs I would pour my heart out to God and just talk to Him, as I ran through the beautiful nature He created for me.

        As a 21 year-old cross country and track runner at Utah State, life seemed to be going my way. I was thriving socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I was surrounded by the best of friends, had a healthy cross-country and track season, and felt closer to God than ever. I had such a strong desire to serve a mission, but I kept getting a resounding “NO”. I had spent months and months wrestling with God about serving a mission. Finally, I submitted my will to His and put an end to my mission papers. At the time I couldn’t fully understand why He didn’t want me to serve, but I soon found out He had a different type of mission for me in store.

         On March 12, 2012 my life changed forever. It would be the last time I would ever run, jump and climb in this life. I was always up for adventure, so when I received the invitation to go rappelling out at Cougar Cliffs near Snow Canyon in the early morning, I agreed.

        While out at the cliffs, I fell approximately 80 feet, upon impact I shattered numerous bones in my legs, feet and spine. The most significant break was the burst fracture at the T12 vertebrae in my spine - that burst fracture damaged my spinal cord, leaving me paralyzed from the waist down.

        In life flight there are two types of calls they go on: rescue & recovery. With rescue, they are planning on going in and rescuing a person that is in critical condition but still alive. A recovery is when they are prepared to just go in and retrieve a body of someone who has already passed away. Based on the situation described, the life flight crew assumed they were going on a recovery mission. You can imagine their surprise when they reached the bottom of the cliff and saw a blonde haired girl with hair strewn all over the place. Not only was I alive, I was wide-awake, alert and talking. I remember joking with the paramedics and life-flight team about not being about to race in my upcoming track meet that week and asking who would call my coach and tell him.

        From St. George I was life flighted to Las Vegas where I was officially declared paralyzed from the waist down. After over 10 hours of reconstructive surgery, I began a long road of recovery and rehabilitation. I was transferred to a specialty spinal rehabilitation hospital that became home for the next 3 ½ months, where I began to heal and learn how to live life in a wheelchair.

         A few days after I was transferred out of ICU, I found the courage to look down at my legs. From the night of my accident I hadn’t looked down at my legs because I was terrified of what I might see. As I laid in my hospital bed I looked down. All I could see were swollen, lifeless, cut up and bruised legs. It was one of the first moments I felt doubt creep into my mind. I remember looking down and wondering what is left? Who am I? Who is Brittany Fisher? Before, Brittany was a student-athlete, a runner, a zip-line tour guide, a rock climber and an adventurer. In that moment, I was in the midst of an “identity crisis”.

         In the days, weeks, months and years that followed I came to learn that my identity did not lie in the sports I played, the music I listened to or the clothes I wore. I learned that my true identity, and all of our true identities, lies within our divine and eternal roles - such as a daughter of God, a sister, a future wife and mother. I learned that WE ARE DEFINED BY OUR SPIRITUAL CHARACTERISTICS AND ATTRIBUTES – NOT OUR PHYSICAL ONES. I love this quote by Russell Ballard:

     “You weren’t chosen for your bodily characteristics, but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom and a desire to serve.”

        Over the past few years I’ve been taught countless lessons. I’ve felt the Lord take me by the hand and personally tutor me. One moment He was teaching me about His atonement, then patience, next forgiveness, and then suddenly He was teaching me about justice and mercy. The lessons have been constant and at times exhausting.

        But one of the most important lessons I would like to share is that because of the principle of free agency you get to determine how your story will develop. We all have “experiences” many of them leaving us with heavy burdens to carry - some last only a few days, others last from months to years and some last a lifetime. I’ve learned that most of the burdens and trials we carry cannot be seen by human eye. President Monson reminds us that our “decisions determine destiny”.

        Although we do not always get to choose what “experiences” we encounter, we do get to decide how we will react and how we will allow them to affect and shape our lives. The plan of salvation is based on the Atonement and free agency. We have the blessing of free agency to decide and choose for ourselves. I challenge you to CHOOSE JOY. Regardless of your experiences CHOOSE JOY. I love this reminder from President Uchtdorf:

    “It is your REACTION, to adversity, not adversity itself, that determines how your life story will develop.”

        It doesn’t matter nearly as much WHAT our specific trials are – what matters is how we respond. We can choose to turn to the Lord or away. We get to choose how we will claim our experiences and how we will move forward. We can allow our experiences and trials to claim us, making us victims or survivors. But as President Uchtdorf reminds us it is our reaction that will determine how our life and story will develop. In my story I have chosen not to become a victim or a survivor; I’ve chosen to become a fighter and more importantly I’ve chosen joy. Joy that is found in Christ and His gospel. When we share our stories in our own time and in our own way, we begin to take control and shape our future. Regardless of our experiences, injuries, challenges and trials we all have the same capability to live full and JOYFUL lives. Now I’ll be honest there was a season of heart breaking grief and depression. But in the end I learned I don’t necessarily get to choose what happens to me, but I got to choose how I would react - and I chose JOY.

         At times we face “experiences” that are supposed to be for our good. Human nature may tempt us to question God and ask “why me?” or “why do bad things happen to good people?” I found my personal answer to this early on during my hospitalization and maybe it can help you now or one day down the road. Richard G. Scott said:

    “Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more. God gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding and compassion, which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching and that generally entails discomfort and pain.”

         Your “experiences” are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more. There have been countless moments of discomfort and pain along my journey, but there have also been moments of great hope and tender mercies showered down upon me. I’ve been given the blessing of healing and I’ve learned that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to walk without assistance or run. But I’ve been healed by being given patience and understanding to bear this burden and submit joyfully. The Lord will help us grow through our unique experiences, teaching us how to become the daughter of God that He wants us to be. The lessons I’ve learned in these past 4 ½ years have been more than I can count and share all at once.

        My story has been filled with triumphant first steps that have led to slow and assisted walking, but they are steps nonetheless! My eyes have been filled with tears of grief and pure joy. This past summer I had the opportunity and blessing to be sealed in one of God’s temples to the most patient, kind, genuine, and (can I add) attractive husband. God’s promises are true and constant, no matter what “experiences” you have or had and regardless of the choices you’ve made. Through this journey I have experienced deep pain, but with that pain I’ve witnessed His tender mercies and pure joy because I chose God. I know He saved my life for this mission – to testify of Him and His strengthening and healing Atonement.

         What I love most about Christ’s Atonement is its ability to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually. The Atonement is not just forgiveness for our sins; it can heal, strengthen and change us. There is hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the scriptures. That hope will fill our lives with light and joy. Remember your divine identity as His daughter has nothing to do with your outward appearance or abilities and everything to do with your spiritual attributes. I know in God’s timing all things will work together for our good as we choose to react to life’s experiences with faith and hope in the Savior. He hears our prayers and answers them in His own time and in His own way. He has a unique mission for you and gives you your own “experiences” to grow and live up to your divine potential as His daughter.