Saturday, July 23, 2016

Stumped at the branches - A Poll for My Readers!

To any and all who take the time to read my blog, thank you! To those who take the time to read and comment, triple thanks!

I’m stumped right now, friends. 

Photo Credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons, on Flickr
I have blog post ideas but the words aren’t flowing to the page, and they haven’t been for weeks, either. That's all fine as I generally just blog once a month these days. That said, I’ve been feeling the itch to write something and I believe getting some feedback from you lovely readers would give me just the spark I need to get something to really burn up this blog space. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section and on this poll. Which of these posts if any would be of interest or help to you in the near future? Don’t see something you’d like me to write about on the list? Please, tell me about it in the comments section! 

Cast your vote at this link. THANK YOU!!!!

Monday, June 6, 2016

When Your Pullets Turn Out to Be Roosters: Coming to Terms with Eating My Home-Grown Animals

Food has been a topic of my deeper pondering for years now. The more I learn, the more the way we eat in our home has become a matter of spiritual importance to me. I have come to the conclusion that the necessary, consistent, and routine matter of eating presents a wonderful opportunity to practice spiritual awareness. That we have been instructed through scripture to pray before we eat, is confirmation of that to me. Also relevant, is the command from God that we fast (prayerfully abstaining for food or drink) from time to time as a means of drawing closer to Him.



I have thought a lot about the instruction given in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 89, called, “The Word of Wisdom.” Anyone who knows even a hint about members of The Church of JesusChrist of Latter-Day Saints are aware that we don’t take recreational drugs, smoke, or drink alcoholic beverages, coffee, or any tea containing black or green tea leaves - the reason being the counsel offered in both this section of our scripture, and further clarifying statements from later prophets and church leaders. The Word of Wisdom, doesn’t however, just offer counsel on what we abstain from, but also gives insight into the dietary code we should follow.


Here is a portion of it (vs.10-17), with emphasis added on the scriptures I will be discussing more today:

And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.


In return for following this code, we are promised increased health, and spiritual wisdom. 

As we have studied this and other counsel offered on the subject, we have decided to drastically cut down our meat intake as a family. We are not vegetarian, but we are conscious and careful - often using one pound or a half a pound to feed our entire family a meal that can feed us 2-3 times, about once a week, and we are working to cut out more. 

One way I have helped us cut back on our meat intake, is to only buy meat that was raised humanely on excellent natural non-GMO, usually organic, feed or grass. We choose beef that is grass-fed and finished during it’s life, pastured pork, and organic chicken. I try to buy our birds whole when possible so I can stew them for broth so that not even their bones are wasted.  Buying meat that is substantially more expensive makes it so that we really can't afford to eat much meat!

Part of our attempt at healthier and more ethical eating has also included purchasing eggs from a local. The birds only eat organic feed, but mostly they forage around the fantastically wild yard in which they live. The eggs have the darkest orange yolk I have ever seen, and they are by far the best tasting eggs I have ever eaten. Purchasing eggs this way is expensive – as you might imagine. $3 a dozen to be precise, which is actually a really fair deal. But with our ever growing family with ever growing appetites, we need to be producing our own eggs. 

In an attempt to cut our egg bill, as well as increase our self-sufficiency and animal husbandry skills, we purchased chicks from our local C-A-L Ranch back in April. My first choice was to purchase from a small-scale local breeder. Large poultry operations hire professionals who can sex the birds at hatching. They have 90% accuracy. They do however, throw any chicks they believe to be roosters into a grinder to be killed immediately. I hated the idea of supporting such waste, but the breeder I selected was too popular and I hadn’t planned my breed purchases early enough. Additionally, the cost was substantially higher for each bird purchased, with no guarantee at all as to the sex of the chickens. I justified, that if I did end up with a rooster in my bunch, they certainly would not be wasted, and that any chicken under my stewardship would be offered a really, really good life. Not perhaps as free-wheeling as a life in the jungle, but a good life – complete with fresh grass and bug and worm forage galore. (Side note: Strictly vegetarian feed for chickens?! THAT is poultry abuse IMO!) 
 
So we got some chicks, and we got them in three installments. 
 
First two Buff Orpingtons (Penny and Opal), and a Silver-laced Wyndotte (Betty).
Next two Rhode Island Reds (Wilma and Lily) and an Araucana (Joan).
Finally, a Black Austrolorp (Nellie) and a Barred Rock (Dot).

We have loved growing our chicks. First inside a Rubbermaid tote in our basement. Then in a large kiddie pool in our basement and then the garage, and finally in a home-built, moveable coop. 




  Out of our 8 beautiful birds, it turns out we have two roosters.


 

 

Lincoln and Atley are feeding Dot rollie pollies and grit.
Our kids have spent time lovingly holding each one of our birds this way.

As it turns out . . .

Opal is really an Olaf.
Lily is really a Lucas.


For weeks I have struggled about this internally. I hoped the striking red comb was just a figment of my imagination. Maybe there weren’t really roosters?! There’s variation even amongst hens, right?  

Some have suggested that I give my roosters to someone else to raise or cull them. But that didn’t feel right. Part of why I am homesteading is that I want to be more connected to my food. And if I give my birds to someone else to kill because it bothers me that much – should I even be eating meat at all? I would posit, that there is an ethical disconnect there. 

I don’t think you can get much more ethically-raised meat than by the means of home-grown animals with organic and natural forage and a whole lot of love and daily care – and a name. (Or two names, in the case of our roosters.) 
 
Some like to boast of the meat they take in from hunting or that they eat with great abandon. My feelings have always and especially more recently match the feelings expressed by Gary Paulsen in his novel, Dogsong, a coming-of-age story of an Eskimo boy, which contains many beautiful reflections on life, death and our connection to nature:



They took meat from the bear, as much as Russel thought they could carry, but had to leave the hide, the beautiful hide, because it was too heavy. He took the skin from the front legs to make pants, but the rest had to stay.


She brightened when they reached the dead bear. “You did this,” she whispered. “With a spear you did this?”


He looked away. “And with the dogs. A man does not kill a bear alone. The dogs helped.”


“Still. It is a huge thing, is it not?”


And now he chose not to answer. The dead bear made him sad, doubly so because they had to leave so much behind. It seemed wrong to talk of it as being a big thing – killing the bear with the lance. He did not wish to speak cheaply of it, or brag of it. (pg. 168-169)


I don’t wish to speak cheaply of eating my roosters, or brag of their future culling - or of any meat that I choose to eat. I do not wish to waste any animal, nor do I want any animal under my stewardship to go out of the world without all the sincerity of heart and appreciation they deserve, either. This post is part of that expression of my love for them. Look at them! Aren’t they beautiful birds?


This is Olaf, formerly Opal.
This is Lucas, formerly Lily.

I had felt there was a kernel of spiritual wisdom for me to find that would help me make sense of all of this, but I didn't find it until this weekend. On Saturday, Squire had a rare day off, and we spent the morning at the Farmer’s Market getting a few more plant starts for our garden, and then at a Wild Hare Estate Sale, where everything was 50% off. I found a copy of Kalil Gibran’s, The Prophet - a fantastic book of poetry - for $1! That book coincidentally (are there any coincidences?) contains a poem that helped me process another encounter with death several years ago. This time though, it contained wisdom on the death of my food. It was exactly the message I needed to find comfort in it all:



Then an old man, a keeper of an inn, said,

Speak to us of Eating and Drinking.

And he said:

Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.

But since you must kill to eat, and rob the newly born of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship.

And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in man.



When you kill a beast say to him in your heart,

“By the same power that slays you, I too am slain; and I too shall be consumed.

For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand.

Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.”

And when you crush an apple with your

teeth, say to it in your heart,

“Your seeds shall live in my body,

And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,

And your fragrance shall be my breath,

And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”



And in the autumn, when you gather

the grapes of your vineyards for the winepress, say in your heart,

“I too am a vineyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress,

And like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels.”

And in winter, when you draw the wine,

let there be in your heart a song for each cup;

And let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.



(pg.23-24 in Kahlil Gibran’s, The Prophet)



What more can I add? Perhaps only Deuteronomy 15:14:



Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.


Have you had to process eating animals up close and personal before? What did you learn? 
Did it influence your relationship with your food and with God?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Why Warré? Intro to Holistic Beekeeping and Package Installation

 
Almost a year ago (our time in Idaho has flown by!) I went on a hike to Cherry Springs with my friend, Heather, here in Pocatello. I didn't know her well at the time, but we knew we had homeschooling, natural health and other homesteading interests in common. We were spending the afternoon outdoors getting to know each other better while our kids played in the creek. When she told me about her keeping bees in her backyard, it didn't take long before I blurted out excitedly, "Have you heard about the Flow Hive?! What do you think of it?" What a discussion ensued! I had had inklings of interest in bee-keeping before, but I didn't think I would be able to manage that for many years down the road or without a very large piece of property. Talking with Heather helped me realize beekeeping was more within my reach than I had ever imagined.

I had very little knowledge about different approaches to beekeeping. I thought there were basically two ways to keep bees - the traditional way (Langstroth), and this new Flow Hive way which sounded even better because honey could be harvested without opening the hive and disturbing the bees! While there is definitely truth to that, I learned that there were other realms of beeking yet to explore. That was the day I learned about the Warré approach, or "The people's hive." (I also learned a little about Top-bar beekeeping, but for the sake of simplicity I won't be focusing on that one today. Just letting you know it's out there so you can research more for yourself!)

Warré hiver's tout their philosophy as more apicentric (bee-friendly), sustainable, low-maintenance, and holistic than the Langstroth approach. The idea is to give the bees as natural a space to build, brood and store, as possible. For example, in the wild, bees build top-downward. And so, in the Warré method, boxes are added underneath (Nadiring) instead of on top (Supering) as the colony grows. Warré thought a round hive would be superior to a square hive, too, but that building one that way would make it too expensive. His idea was as much about being bee-friendly as it was to be accessible to laypeople, hence the nickname, "The People's Hive." Opening the hive is a rare occurrence in Warré-keeping. A plus for the bees, too, who like the temperature and light of the hive to be constant, and to easily keep close tabs on the pheromones the queen is transmitting constantly. A Warré keeper might open the hive a handful of times a year, whereas a Langstroth keeper is encouraged to check on their hives as often as every two weeks. This makes Warré keeping a more attractive approach for those looking to beek in more urban settings. With so little opening of the hive/opportunities for agitating the bees, keeping them is much more reasonable in a neighborhood setting. (By the way: Mason bees are another option for people with very small yards, just looking to boost pollination with very low sting risk!) Alternatively, signs of colony health are more regularly observed from outside the hive.
 
While honey production is often a surplus benefit of beeking this way, it is not the driving aim as it is in Langstroth hiving. (Though this cost-benefit analysis of the two different hives may be of interest to the reader!) It is common practice amongst Langstrothers to harvest all the honey from a hive, and Winter the bees over with sugar water, for example. In Warré keeping though, the beekeeper always leaves enough honey for the bees to feed themselves through the Winter, and only harvests the excess. The bees build their own comb each year - a point against honey production as well to be sure - but a point for helping to protect the bees against mites by having freshly-built comb each year (instead of plastic frames many years and many more (mite-infested?) generations old) in which to lay their brood. This is also a point toward beeswax harvest each year for the Warré. The Langstroth approach uses plastic frames or foundation with cells that are smaller than the natural comb cell size, in order to discourage the queen from laying drone (male) brood as they claim this helps prevent mites as drone cells are bigger and easier for mites to access. Drone do not contribute honey or do any work for the hive, so they are seen as undesirable in a Langstroth hive. Warré hivers on the other hand enjoy observing the natural lifespan of a colony, and the benefits to their bees that come from improved genetics as they work out all the details of colony production as they see fit. We figure bees have been doing this bee thing so long, they really do know what's best.

Many in the bee-keeping community believe mites are the root cause of colony collapse disorder. From my research, I believe Neonicotinoid pesticides, other chemical treatments, and highly unnatural beekeeping practices have weakened bees to the point that they are more susceptible to mite damage. But, who really knows?! There's always room for humility if we want to learn anything about anything.

Anyone who is taking enough interest to keep bees and learn more about how to care for them is doing a good turn for bees and our food supply in my book!     

Obviously, I have found the approach that works and feels right to me. Many Langstrothers feel just as passionately about their philosophy as I do mine and would argue against points that I have shared, here. I share this not to debate so much as to educate the populace within my circle that there are other ways of beekeeping! Who-da-thunk?! Some nowadays, keep their bees in hybrid or modified Langstroth hives by providing bars without plastic pre-fabricated frames for their bees to build in, etc. Michael Bush wrote the book, The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally. He has an excellent website with a wealth of knowledge for any and all beekeepers to check out! FYI: His book that I linked to above, is just a printed version of all the info you can access for free on his site

Other very helpful books I have found on bees so far:
(*Full disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links on the books! Feel free to purchase from my links or shop around! I always check out each title on www.booksprice.com, a book seller comparison site, before buying.*)
  • Natural Beekeeping with the Warré Hive, A Manual, By: David Heaf - This is another slim book, but it invaluable for the newbie and even those with experience. Heaf has essentially put together all the information available on all the different ways people have used the Warré method and explained the ins and outs, whys, and how-to's. It is a great resource. I recommend it to everyone wanting to Warré keep.
  • At the Hive Entrance, By: H. Storch - This book notes observations which can be made outside the hive with corresponding happenings inside the hive. Thin, but certainly invaluable. Especially for any beekeeper looking to take a more hands-off approach. 
  • The Bee-friendly Beekeeper, A Sustainable Approach By: David Heaf - This book goes into the ethics of beekeeping and explains why Warré.  
  • Bees & Honey, from Flower to Jar, By: Michael Weiler - This book is a delightful read, and an excellent overview of bees and beekeeping in general with illustrative language and helpful tips. The pictures are all in black and white, but still helpful.
  • The Buzz about Bees, Biology of a Superorganism, By: Jürgen Tautz - This book is a fabulous scientific textbook style read on bees. The information is unemotional, fact-based, and absolutely fascinating. Very good info for any beekeeper on the spectrum just wanting to learn more about the life-cycle and habits of bees. The photographs by Helga R. Heilmann are in full color and are beautiful to look at as well. 
  • Honeybee Democracy, By: Thomas D. Seeley - This book looks at all the research about how honeybees choose their new home. It is actually quite the democratic process! Seeley goes into lessons we as humans might learn about working together by observing and understanding how bees make their choices. I have found it enlightening to learn more about what makes a more ideal space for bees, as well. I'm not sure I would use this a constant reference, but reading it has been helpful and worthwhile once through.
  • Beekeeping for All, By: Abbé Émile Warré - The original book by Warré that started it all! Though Heaf's digestion of Warré is probably more user-friendly than only using the original, especially in this worldwide community we have now, with so much variety in climates and such, it is still nice to hear all the elaboration on the whys directly from the source. It is listed online for free at this link, if you don't mind reading on a screen! Reading this will give you the scope and sense of Warré's love for and great understanding of bees. 
A few tips on purchasing/acquiring bees:
  • The two main varieties of bees in America are Carniolans, and Italians. Though many of those are really probably mutts between each other! In a nutshell, both are pretty gentle, docile bees. Carnies are more gentle and less likely to sting, but their softer nature makes them not quite as active on honey production. This is a rule across bees breed - more aggressive, more honey, less aggressive, less honey. Carnies eat very little over Winter, as well. Italians are more active than Carnies, and produce comb faster and also produce more honey. They also eat more over Winter. Depending on your type of hive, your climate, and the location of your hive, you'll want to take all those things into consideration.You can read more about different bee breeds, here.
  • If you plan to buy an artificial package of bees (if you Warré keep, you'll need a package - NOT a "Nuc!") you should plan ahead and place your order around January. The later in Spring it gets, the less-likely it is for you to get a package, or to get your hive going early enough to really be successful. You can order from places like CAL ranch, but I recommend buying from local sources recommended by the bee-keeping group(s) in your area.
  • There is all sorts of information about baiting and capturing natural swarms which are arguably genetically superior. Check out videos on on youtube if you are interested! The Manual by Heaf I shared above has some helpful tips on capturing natural swarms as well.
  •  The earlier in Spring you can have your bees installed, the sooner they can get to work. There is an old 17th century saying: "A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly." This means that as Spring progresses into Summer, the time for bees to be able to collect pollen from flowers also dwindles. Keep this in mind.
**My final tip: Squire would have loved to build our hive (and there are free plans all over the internet, too) but he just didn't have time to do it. (This is our first hive, but I don't think it will be our last! He'll have more chances to build in our life after residency - does that exist?!) We bought our hive from www.beethinking.com and it is just beautiful and quality! We purchased the boxes with windows so we can observe more of the goings on inside the hive without having to open up the boxes. We ordered the hive  un-assembled, so he got to put it together that way at least! I let Bee Thinking know which day we were picking up our bees and they made sure our hive was delivered in time, even during this, their busy season. Highly recommend them.**

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INSTALLING BEES IN OUR WARRÉ HIVE

Today we picked up our bees from Blackfoot from 2Jay Honey Farms and we installed them in our hive. I thought I would just take a moment to walk you through what the process looks like.
Here I am being a dork, holding the bees who are trying to stay warm. Little do they know what is coming next . . .
I am simultaneously really excited and also more nervous than I want to be. I'm telling myself I am calm so the bees will believe I am calm and they will be calm and all will be calm because I have like 3.5lbs of bees in that box. That's thousands of those little buggers, and I am about to thump them on the ground and on their hive box until they all kind of drop out in some kind of horrifying bee blob. Seriously, what was I thinking! ;)
 
Rob, my friend, Heather's husband, came out with Heather to help on super short notice! And in a black short-sleeved shirt and shorts to boot. He's brave. We sincerely appreciated his help! And Heather's! She took all the photos of the bee installation. Here he is getting things ready for the bee dump.
 Working to lift the sugar syrup can out so we can extract the queen cage from the package box.
Rob has the queen in that box in his hand. I am trying to figure out how to put the syrup can in without squishing too many bees. I think this is about the point I got stung, on my right ankle. I unwisely wore ankle socks. Lesson learned for next time! Also notice, we are not using a smoker. This can be a helpful tool in some beekeeping practice, but we chose to forgo it so as not to intercept the queen's pheromone signals to her new colony at such a crucial beginning time.
 Can back in, and now I am working to pull the cork out of the queen cage (without letting her fly free!)
 I'm holding the tool over the cage, Rob is holding the fondant in the tube so I can insert that into her cage.
Working together to insert the candy into the queen cage. I poked a hole with a thin nail through the fondant beforehand to encourage the bees to eat through it a bit quicker.
 The queen is laid on the bars, with some attendants hanging on right next to her!
 We have removed the can, and I did a nice thump of the box on the ground to get the bees to drop out of their formation. Now I am thumping the box on the hive to get the bees to drop into the hive. Trying to be firm enough to get them to move, and not so firm that I squish bees.
 More tapping side to side to get the rest to move out of the package box.
 That'll do. Now I am installing the top bars.
Notice the package of bees is now located at the Southern-facing entrance (that is the direction bees like their hives to face - and in a warm place, too!) The bees will hopefully, if they have any sense, join the rest of their colony inside the hive! It was and is supposed to continue to be rainy and cold tomorrow and sporadically next week. So I hope they figure it out sooner rather than later for their own sake.
 We have laid down the cotton muslin fabric piece I cut to fit our feeder.
The feeder is now laid down . . . Rob has the brush ready to gently sweep bees away as we reassemble the hive. Don't want to squish anybody! Not pictured is Squire viewing this from the other side of Rob, passing tools and boxes as we need them - and the kids watching from within their playhouse on the other side of me.
 Now the home-stirred organic sugar water jars are placed on the feeder.
 And the box is put over the feeders.
 Next the quilt box, and finally the roof!
 Yay! We're done! And I only got stung once! Not gonna lie, it was a huge adrenaline rush to be working with several thousand bees and to be stung so early in the process. It's kind of like that time I went Wildcrafting with my friend Katie for the first time, and Touched stinging Nettle. It just totally enhanced the experience for me, though, actually. Weird, I know. :)
Thumbs up!
 The budding Apiarist wanted to give my suit a try.
 This one, too. Backwards beekeeping jackets are all the rage these days, didn't you know?!
 Ragamuffin baby saying "Cheese!" for the picture like the little goofball she is, with daddy.
 A photo of my bee sting, covered with a 1:1 mix of Bentonite Clay and Baking soda, with a little water stirred in to make a paste. So far, so good.
Our friends who inspired us to beek in the first place, and whose help we desperately needed and appreciated today. I am excited for this new chapter of learning in our suburban homestead! (Can I say we have a homestead now that we have both bees and chickens?! Did I even mention that we got chickens on this blog, yet?! We did! :) ) Fun times. Fun day.

P.S. I'm not sure "beeking" is an actual term, but Heather said it a few times, and I love it and think it works. So, beekers we are! :)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

On Dusty Temple Lights and Seeing Things for What They Really Are


Last month, I spent several weeks out of town – traveling to Disneyland (for my 7th birthday!) and then to Reno, (to visit my family while Squire was on an away rotation in Boise.) While we were there, I had the opportunity to go to the temple with my mom. Her ward was in charge of temple-cleaning duty that week, so she signed us up to go and help. Our plan was to go through the last Endowment session of the evening, and then stay after to clean.

I was excited. I had never helped clean the temple before and I was looking forward to the experience. As I sat in one of the rooms during our session, dust on the light fixtures on the walls caught my eye. This wasn’t just a little dust – this was dark, grey, and caked on over large parts of the fixtures. I was sincerely bothered. Hadn’t anyone noticed this sooner? How did these light fixtures get this dirty?! And in such a sacred space? I took a breath and relaxed as I turned my focus back to the session at hand, knowing that I could personally do something about this later.

As we gathered to meet for our cleaning assignment, the temple patron informed us ladies that we would be vacuuming. I rose my hand, informed him of the dusty light fixtures, and asked if I could clean those while we were vacuuming. My mom, made a joke about how while visiting her home I hadn’t made any such offerings to dust her light fixtures to which I (and everyone else) laughed. I rolled my eyes, and said something not nearly as witty in my defense. He told me he would get me the duster and that I could take care of it.

When I got into the room to dust the light fixtures, I anxious to get the work done and to do it right. As I got close, I rubbed the duster over the outside of the light and saw no change. I got closer and brushed my hands on the affected areas, even scraped lightly with my fingernails to see if I could unpack the dust – on both sides of the fixture. But to my surprise, the “dust” wasn’t really dust at all. The fixtures were made out of some sort of translucent glass that had some variegated coloring and the darker parts were just veins of variation in the material. They were clean. Perfectly clean. Every single one of them. And believe me, I went and inspected every single one just to make sure. And I laughed to myself and told God, “OK, this is significant, isn’t it? What am I supposed to learn from this?”

I was instructed that the lights were symbolic of God’s chosen servants. I had the impression that these lights specifically were symbolic of Prophets, apostles, individuals in fixed and high ranking positions in the church throughout time. Then, I felt a little guilty. “Father, was it presumptuous of me? To think that the physical lights in this room were dirty in your house? And is it presumptuous of individuals who question the authority of your chosen servants to do so?” He answered, “If the lights were dirty, it would indeed have been good for you to have taken action to make sure they were clean. Now that you know that these light fixtures already were, let it be known that you could question and inspect my chosen servants, with careful, close, detailed examination and you would find the same – that they are clean before me. The light shines through them more clearly in some portions than others, but they are clean, they are mine, and they are worthy to be where I have put them to serve.”

Wow. Isn’t God amazing? I love Him. It warms my heart to be known by Him and to hear His voice. He speaks so personally to each of us, and this one really spoke to me.

This experience came at a particularly good time for me. I am going through what I would call a questioning time, right now. I’m making efforts not to throw out babies I know are babies out with the bathwater so to speak, but I am also digging a lot further in my questioning of institutions at large – some that have been near and dear to me for a long time. (Political, national, cultural, medical, and even some religious - traditions, policies, and actions.) I’m doing this because I’m interested in Truth, and being aligned with it wherever it is. I think God was just lovingly reminding me with this experience in the temple, that His chosen prophets are not bathwater. That, if I need to put on my spectacles and look closely I can, but that my esteem of them and trust in their counsel is not worthy of going down the drain (unlike many old beliefs I have harbored and have recently re-examined.) And I appreciate that very much.

I thought of this experience over and over again as I listened to General Conference this last weekend. I am looking forward to studying all these words further over the next 6 months.

Here were my top three favorites talks, from men I know are called of and clean before God:

Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins, By: Elder David A. Bednar – An answer to a question I have been ruminating on for a while, the relevance of ordinances and their connection to repentance, salvation and sanctification.

He Will Place You on His Shoulders, and Carry You Home, By: President Dieter F. Uchtdorf – I have been pondering on the spiritual law described in Doctrine and Covenants 130:21 and how that works with God’s grace. This talk was at least a very significant portion of the wonderings of my mind and  heart on the question.

Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders Among You, By: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland – This talk gave a significant portion of an answer to the same question I mentioned above, but also with some great encouragement. I highly recommend this talk to everyone!

Tell me, how has God spoken to you lately? 
Did you tune into LDS General Conference this year? 
If so, what spoke to your heart?

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