Tuesday, June 2, 2015


A few weeks ago, I got my Temple recommend renewed. (Yay!)

Working for the Church News has given me a unique insight into the inner workings of the Church, a lot of background information on our Church leaders that generally doesn't get shared, and a greater awareness of the events of the Church and the world. (Payson Temple Dedication coming up! Woo hoo!) "Don't let working for the Church News affect your testimony," has been said to me more than once.

Why? Because I can see how every person in this Church is human and subject to all the weaknesses and frailties of men. All of them. Physical. Mental. Possibly spiritual, but probably on a different level than all of us. I can see how someone could be blindsided by these revelations if they had mistakenly placed the Apostles on a golden pedestal.

What I am learning from meeting Seventies, General Auxiliary leaders and Apostles? Each time I get to shake their hand, the Spirit confirms to me that this mortal man or woman has been called of God to fulfill this job. They're not perfect, but they are worthy.

Thankfully, that's the same requirement I have to get into the temple. I'm not perfect. I'm so not perfect that I was scared to even ask my Bishop for a Temple Recommend interview. Fortunately, he's the one who checked up on me.

Saying, "Yes." felt really good. "Yes." with a period — not a question mark, not an ellipsis preceding it, not a pair of quotation marks around it to indicate I've taken it from someone else. I know that President Monson has been called by God to lead the Church. I sustain the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve and all other General Authorities and Auxiliaries.

And yes. I am worthy to enter the temple.
I felt so good that I immediately went to Deseret Book and bought a shiny new Temple Recommend holder
and learned how to spell 'recommend.'

Friday, March 27, 2015

Broken Flower

On Tuesday, March 24, on my way to the Assembly Hall, I came across a yellow pansy on the sidewalk. The groundskeepers had probably broken it off when they walked around the flowers to trim the bushes surrounding the Triad Center. I picked it up and carried it with me for a while, brushing the dirt off it and moving the petals back to their original place. Scuffed and marred, the flower still had some beauty to it.

Admittedly, the first thing I thought of when I held the pansy was of a documentary called India's Daughter, about a woman, Nirbhaya, who was gang raped on a bus in New Dehli while coming home from seeing The Life of Pi. She was so brutally tortured that she died of her injuries a few days later. One of the most stunning things about that documentary are the interviews with the men defending her attackers. ML Sharma, defense lawyer for the four rapists, said, "A female is just like a flower. It gives a good-looking, very softness performance, pleasant. But on the other hand, a man is just like a thorn. Strong, tough enough. That flower always needs protection. If you put that flower in a gutter, it is spoilt. If you put that flower in a temple, it will be worshipped." Attached to this metaphor is a stigma that when a woman is raped, she loses her value permanently and ultimately deserved it.

I don't like those guys. I also don't like anyone that thinks that women are objects. Anyway...

Sometimes I feel like this pansy that has been ripped off and stepped on, except I feel like I have done the damage myself —that I've smashed the flower into the pavement with a sledgehammer, ground it into a pulp with my heel and spat on it for good measure. Worthless. Permanently damaged. Good for nothing but compost.

Let's just say that the guilt that accompanies sin really sucks. Especially when you feel like you can't get away from the sin no matter what you do or how hard you try.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


In honor of Super Pi Day, I thought I would make the one and only (useless) definitive list of Chapter 3 Verse 14 that have ever existed in the Standard Works. Just because. You're welcome!

Book of Mormon

1 Nephi "But Laman fled out of his presence, and told the things which Laban had done, unto us. And we began to be exceedingly sorrowful, and my brethren were about to return unto my father in the wilderness."

2 Nephi "And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled. Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise;"

Jacob "These plates are called the plates of Jacob, and they were made by the hand of Nephi. And I make an end of speaking these words."

Mosiah "Yet the Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people, and he appointed unto them a law, even the law of Moses."

Alma "Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them."

Helaman "But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work."

3 Nephi "And he caused that fortifications should be built round about them, and the strength thereof should be exceedingly great. And he caused that armies, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites, or of all them who were numbered among the Nephites, should be placed as guards round about to watch them, and to guard them from the robbers day and night."

Ether "Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Five Things In My Carry-on That Will Help Me Carry On

So, this is a post I've been carrying around for five months.

I was given the topic, "Carry on, carry on, carry on!" to speak on in church a week before I came home. I imagine Bishop Hood wanted me to talk about the song, but I was sneaky and just a little creative. In this world where we are still in a war of words and tumult of opinions, I need all the help I can get if I want to keep on the straight and narrow. These are five things that we can each carry around, if need be.
1. My Pedigree Chart

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Clock King

"Valerie, where have you been? You've missed all of January and now February is nearly out!" —Y'all. Probably.
I know guys. I got a new job.
See? I'm employed.
I started an internship with the LDS Church News at the start of January. I can tell you it's been one major learning experience after another. One of the biggest things I've learned is that I will probably never have a start to a new job as awkward as this one.

The other thing is that the Lord has perfect timing.

From 2008 to 2012, I studied Mass Communication at the University of Utah. This degree covers things like new media, PR, advertising and my least favorite of all subjects: journalism. Oh, how I hated calling up complete strangers, asking them personal questions, expecting them to give me their time for my benefit. It didn't help that my previous forays into journalism — the high school year book (Olympus 2007-08) — were less than self-confidence boosting and made me hate all aspects of the art with a deep self-loathing. I just can't be a journalist, I concluded. So I did an emphasis in strategic communication so I could just do advertising for the rest of my life.

Then I went on a mission where I talked to complete strangers, asked them deep and often personal questions, and asked them to give me a bit of their time so we could help them spend eternity with their families.

So I came back home a freshly Returned Missionary and Unemployed Bum and searched for work. After a two-month stint at Deseret Book, I landed an internship at the Church News. I had an awkward first week of work (They weren't expecting me to come in until the next week... They let me stay... I don't want to repeat that experience.) and then got right to the stuff I hated.


Fern Nichols with pictures of her family
Well, specifically interviewing people. Covering a devotional isn't that bad because you don't have to talk to anyone. Doing a profile on an adorable, sweet old lady who has been giving tours at the Church Office Building for the past ten years? Terrifying.

Walking up to Fern Nichols' door, I felt like a greenie missionary once again stepping up to a stranger's door to knock on it, except this time without a companion. What am I going to ask? What if she doesn't like me? What if I don't get enough quotable stuff for a story? What if there is no story here?

I just want everyone to know that this woman here is the sweetest lady named Fern I've ever met. Also the easiest hard-of-hearing woman I've ever talked to. Did you know she doesn't dye her hair, still drives her own car, and lives basically independently. She's also a joy to talk to and learn about her life. It felt just like talking to all the old, beautiful, sassy Southern women I met in Florida and Georgia. I left with a bounce in my step and a story in my head.

What in the heck happened? I wondered. I distinctly remember nearly sabotaging my own grades in my journalism classes because I kept putting off doing interviews, as well as doing enough of them. This is a completely different person, one who likes journalism. One who wants to be a journalist.

The answer is, of course, Heavenly Father and His perfect timing. God knows me perfectly, and He knows I like things compartmentalized. I was not going to consider stopping school to go on a mission because I wanted to go until I was done. Fine by Him. At the end of my schooling, I felt a need to go on a mission. So I applied. I may have procrastinated turning in my papers and getting my thesis done, but I applied.

My life has gone 1. school 2. mission 3. career 4.? 5. marriage 6. profit (skip steps 4-6).

I don't know what would have happened if I had gone in a different order, but that's the way things had to work out. If I had not been obedient and gone on a mission, I would not have learned the things I needed to in order to be a happy, willing journalist. It wasn't just being obedient and going, but I had to strive for obedience my entire mission, meaning I had to open my mouth and talk to everyone. I wasn't perfect, which is why I was continually striving, but the point is I keep working on it.

I still feel a bit of hesitation picking up the phone and calling a stranger to ask them for their life's story, but I feel much more confident now. Far more than if I had gone straight from school to work.

The Lord says in Doctrine and Covenants 82:10, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise."

Additionally, King Benjamin taught in Mosiah 2:41, "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."

Be obedient, yo. Now go out and find me a story.

And remember: the Church News comes with the Deseret News on Saturdays and the Deseret News National Edition. You should totally sign up for one of them if you haven't already.

You're going to ask me what I've been doing for the Church News, so here it is: I covered this devotionaldid a profile on a 99 year old lady, did a follow-up to a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event, summed up a forum at BYU with the president of Pixar, got on the cover with a story on the Family Tree Center, did another profile on a 100 year old lady, wrote this moment on missionary work and have a story coming up on a group — not a branch — that meets on Catalina Island. I've also taken some press releases and made them fit to print.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Paralysis of Paper

I have a bookshelf. I also have a lot of books. I also have lots of binders and folders and files with papers in them. During my culling of my closet, I also had a go at the bookshelves and ended up with one of these:
A box o' books for my favorite Julia who lives in Georgia.
I sent these to a girl who will probably have devoured these by now. Oddly enough, even after doing this, I still had no room in my bookcase. So I had another go at the bookshelves, attacking the worst of the offenders: papers...


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Fitting In With The EMZ Crew

So, I do Zumba now.

Early Morning Zumba, also known as EMZ, is exactly what it says on the tin. We meet at 5:30 a.m. five days a week. This makes it convenient for those of us who have to work. It's also a completely free community service offered to whoever wants to show up. Sinai Pauni founded EMZ back in 2010 as a way to practice teaching Zumba. It eventually evolved into the community it has now. None of the instructors are paid to come every morning, set up the music, and provide an entertaining workout for the day. EMZ has attracted lots of faithful followers who have just as much enthusiasm for the program as the instructors.
I'm the one with the Batgirl shirt.
I started attending EMZ about a week or so after I came home from my mission. I needed something to keep me on a schedule. Apparently waking up at 5, much earlier than I ever did on my mission, was exactly that thing. As an added bonus, I am losing weight, feeling healthier, and experiencing more energy than ever before. Exercise does tend to do that to you.

But some days I just really don't want to go to Zumba. And yet I go.

I don't really know why. I remember one morning getting out of bed and feeling so physically tired that I felt sick and unable to move my body. But I went anyway. Other mornings, sleep just feels so darn good and I do not want to get out of my warm, snuggly bed. But when my alarm goes off, and then the snooze alarm finally wakes me up, I get dressed and head out the door.

When first started going to Zumba, I felt out of place and self conscious as a white newcomer among a veteran crowd of women, at least half of whom are Polynesian, the other half Hispanic. I knew everyone would judge my dancing and ability to follow the instructors, which I messed up on a lot. Finding a place on the gym floor that no one had claimed proved doable, but somewhat difficult. I eventually settled at the middle of the free throw line on the right side of the gym.

What really set them apart from me and my family, though, didn't have anything to do with skin tone or cultural background. A culture had developed in those years before I started attending -- one where everyone came to class with an enthusiasm I just don't understand. They shout along with the songs, run up to the stage to participate with the instructors, and several come wearing matching shirts, costumes, or accessories. In short, they are just so freaking happy and I don't get it.

We didn't plan this.
Slowly, I'm coming to have more fun with going to Zumba. I haven't made any friends there yet, but I now go on stage when the instructors ask me to participate. I even jump into group pictures and wore a costume to the Halloween party. (Shoulder Angel from Studio C.) I'm still not as crazy as all the other attendees and volunteers, and I probably never will be. I don't feel the need to document my exercising with photos and videos that I immediately post on Facebook. But I also don't mind trying to have fun while I'm attempting to move my hips as fluidly as Sinai does.

I would liken this to coming to church every Sunday, and even beginning a habit of church attendance for new converts. It's weird walking into a new group of people that you don't know, but you intend to get to know. It will be impossible to just jump in like you know what you're doing already and not make mistakes. The only way to learn the rules to the established culture is to keep exposing yourself to them. That means you have to keep coming, even on those days that you really don't want to be there. Those days suck, but you have to push through it to get the real payoff that comes weeks later.

It's the happiness. Why are those Mormons, and the EMZ crew, so freaking happy? The same reason: Living the gospel brings true joy. Whether it's keeping the Sabbath day holy or living the Word of Wisdom, consistently working towards true principles brings lasting happiness, more than anything else that gives instant, fleeting gratification.

Wait, going to Zumba is part of the gospel? In Doctrine and Covenants 130: 20-21, it's explained that, "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated -- And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." Taking care of our bodies is a commandment from God. So [regular attendance to EMZ]+[consuming healthy food]=Blessings!

If you'd like to join us early in the morning, Monday through Friday, EMZ meets at the Stake Center at 961 W Fremont Ave. (1122 South), Salt Lake City, UT 84104.

And remember: For an easier time getting up in the morning, do not argue with the alarm clock. Snooze buttons kill.