This blog is dedicated to things I've written of a non-journal-esque nature, i.e. poetry, advice prose, essays.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Living the Gospel

Note: This is a talk I wrote for church. I borrowed from a talk by Elder Ballard and several books I own, but they're not properly cited as this is not a scholarly paper and I wrote it to read in church. If that bothers you, let me know, and I'll get you a source list.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to Live the Gospel, and why it is that some chose not to anymore. In Elder Ballard’s most recent Conference address, entitled “To Whom Shall We Go?” he explores some reasons that people choose to leave the Church. He says that “For some, Christ’s invitation to believe and remain continues to be hard—or difficult to accept. Some disciples struggle to understand a specific Church policy or teaching. Others find concerns in our history or in the imperfections of some members and leaders, past and present. Still others find it difficult to live a religion that requires so much. Finally, some have become “weary in well-doing.” For these and other reasons, some Church members vacillate in their faith, wondering if perhaps they should follow those who “went back, and walked no more” with Jesus.”

There are many surface reasons why people choose to stop living the gospel. But I think it all boils down to Eternal Perspective. It’s hard to make day to day choices that don’t always yield immediate rewards. Satan’s path tends to yield those immediate rewards. But Satan’s path doesn’t lead us to the end that we truly desire. It’s hard to go through each day, making tiny daily choices, tiny bitty baby steps, toward a goal that won’t be realized in this lifetime.

Our Heavenly Father gave us the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation to be used as a tool for this purpose – a compass. Sister Sheri Dew, in her book No Doubt About It, explains, “Our spirits long for us to remember the truth about who we are, because the way we see ourselves, or our sense of identity, affects everything we do. It affects the way we behave, the way we respond to uncertainty, the way we see others, the way we handle pressure and disappointment, the way we feel about ourselves, and the way we make choices. In short, it determines how we live our lives.” This knowledge we have of where we came from and where we’re going helps us keep the eternal perspective we need, helps us keep our end goal in sight, so that we can make the tiny daily choices that keep us on the right path. This is what it means to live the gospel. Every day we have to make conscious choices to do so.

President Hinckley said “We must walk with hope and faith. We must speak affirmatively and cultivate an attitude of confidence. We all have the capacity to do so. Our strength will give strength to others, and the cumulative, rippling effect will be tremendous.” I strongly believe that we will find whatever we look for. If we choose to complain, there will always be more and more things we find to complain about. If we choose to look for excuses for our behaviors, we will be able to justify anything we want to do. If we choose to look for reasons to leave the Church, we will find them. BUT. If we choose instead to look for blessings in each day, we will be overwhelmed by them. Tender mercies abound, and are given to us through the hands of our friends, neighbors, and families to help us get through hard times. To help us see the strength of God’s angels on the earth. If we choose to find reasons to give, to serve, to bless, there’s no end to what we’ll find we can do. In the world today there are wars, economic struggles, natural disasters, and local families living in poverty. Plenty of opportunities for service. If we choose to look for reasons to stay in the Church, to continue on as the Lord’s disciples…Well. Elder Ballard gave us a pretty good list in his talk. Considering the effects of leaving the Church, He asks: “Where will you go to find others who share your belief in personal, loving Heavenly Parents, who teach us how to return to Their eternal presence? Where will you go to be taught about a Savior who is your best friend, who not only suffered for your sins but who also suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” so “that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities,” including, I believe, the infirmity of loss of faith? Where will you go to learn more about Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness and peace, a plan that is filled with wondrous possibilities, teachings, and guidance for our mortal and eternal lives? Remember, the plan of salvation gives mortal life meaning, purpose, and direction. Where will you go to find a detailed and inspired Church organizational structure through which you are taught and supported by men and women who are deeply committed to serving the Lord by serving you and your family? Where will you go to find living prophets and apostles, who are called by God to give you another resource for counsel, understanding, comfort, and inspiration for the challenges of our day? Where will you go to find people who live by a prescribed set of values and standards that you share and want to pass along to your children and grandchildren? And where will you go to experience the joy that comes through the saving ordinances and covenants of the temple?”

Having the immediate blessings that come to us as we strive to live the gospel daily spelled out like that makes our choice seem pretty obvious, doesn’t it? We HAVE to choose to continue to live the gospel. We HAVE to choose to remember where we came from and where we’re hoping to go. And we HAVE to continue strong in our faith.

Faith is not just something you feel. It is this massive power that gives you the strength and courage to do things that seem impossible to some. I think of the story of Peter walking on water to Christ through the storm. He had massive faith in his Savior, and knew that if he asked for such a miracle, it would happen. In Matthew 14 we read: 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

I love this story. First of all, it shows that when we have faith, we can do hard things. It also shows that our faith can and will be shaken by the storms of the world. And lastly, it shows the mercy and tenderness of our Savior. He IMMEDIATELY caught Peter when he fell, as he does for all of us. He then gently congratulates Peter for the faith that he had to be able to walk on water, while also encouraging him to continue in faith, rather than doubting because of the trials and distractions he’s faced with.

We can all have faith. But all of us will stumble at one time or another. We may be driven off the path because we want to follow our friends. Or, as is likely more often the case nowadays, we may be bombarded with articles and blog posts and conversations via Facebook that plant a seed of doubt in our hearts. President Hinckley pointed out that “A sustained diet of a negative point of view has serious repercussions…This spirit of negativism grows and begins to hang as a cloud over the land…reaching down to the individual man and woman and influencing attitudes, outlook, and even values.” There are so many issues being discussed online these days. You could spend all day reading about various points of doctrine that are being disputed. And I don’t mean to say that it’s not important to be aware of these issues, and more important still to love those that are struggling with their faith, or who make different choices than you or I. But I think it’s easy to get lost in all of it. Much better to seek the light, rather than the dark. Sister Dew teaches that “The light is stronger than the dark, and Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Light. During His earthly ministry the Savior proclaimed, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

She goes on to explain - “There are many kinds of darkness that can come into our lives. Loneliness, discouragement, and disappointment can cause us to feel a kind of darkness. Betrayal and pain can do likewise. When we make foolish mistakes or succumb to sin, we can expect to feel varying degrees of darkness, depending on our motive and intent as well as on the light and knowledge we have enjoyed previously. But there is one source of Light that pushes away all darkness…“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day…And I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you” (D&C 50:24-25)”

It is so important to resist the darkness that comes into our lives. George Q. Cannon taught: “It is true that some have greater power of resistance than others, but everyone has the power to close his heart against doubt, against darkness, against unbelief, against depression, against anger, against hatred, against jealousy, against malice, against envy. God has given this power unto all of us, and we can gain still greater power by calling upon Him for that which we lack.”

I know that many if not all of us struggle with some of those hard issues Elder Cannon says we have been given power to triumph over. I think the key lies in his final statement, that we can call on God for extra power. What is amazing to me is that not only does He answer those prayers, but He very often answers them through the people around us. We have each been given divine gifts of the spirit, but we weren’t all given the same ones. Why not? Because we are not here alone. This isn’t a solo journey through mortality – it was never meant to be. We have been blessed with families as the basic unit of society. We have been given the opportunity for eternal marriage to our chosen companion, who will be with us as we stumble to help pick us up. We have been given this amazingly well-organized Church, which again, is not run by one person. Isn’t it incredible how we all work together to make this ward a success? For each person in it? BECAUSE OF each person in it? And there are millions of wards across the world, bringing the Gospel to individuals far and wide. Do you think that happened by chance? I don’t. I firmly believe that this Church was organized the way it is so that we can all help each other succeed. We are all on this earth for the same reason, and it’s not a race. Far from it. It’s a team sport, and we all get to win by helping each other.

In exploring the process of choosing to live the Gospel or to give it up, I think it’s important to identify the boundaries that have been set for us. George Albert Smith explained “There is a division line well defined that separates the Lord’s territory from Lucifer’s. If we live on the Lord’s side of the line Lucifer cannot come there to influence us, but if we cross the line into his territory we are in his power. By keeping the commandments of the Lord we are safe on His side of the line, but if we disobey His teachings we voluntarily cross into the zone of temptation and invite the destruction that is ever present there. Knowing this, how anxious we should always be to live on the Lord’s side of the line.”

So how do we live “on the Lord’s side of the line?” How do we live the gospel every single day? How do we make the best choices, especially when there are so many distractions, temptations, trials, and stressors surrounding us? Well, we come to church, where we’re surrounded by our friends and we can feel the Spirit that pervades, and here we make good decisions to hopefully guide us through the week. We try to have family home evening, we try to read our scriptures every day, and we do our best to pray several times to stay close to our Heavenly Father. These are such important baby steps to take. They strengthen us more than we know. I think the biggest factor in keeping our goals is understanding that it’s a very long process. Just like gaining muscle or perfecting a sport or practicing an instrument – it’s not like one day you make the decision to be a pro in one of those areas, and then just by making that choice you achieve that goal. Every single day you practice. Every single day you make tiny choices to move in the right direction. If you get off track, you recognize your weakness. You can see where you need to improve. Living the gospel is no different. You can see the results of neglecting your spiritual “practice” pretty immediately. And it’s then that you have to decide to do better, and then DO better. It’s not easy. It was never promised to be easy. What was promised is the help of our Savior. But we have to ask for it. Elder Ballard teaches: “I don’t pretend to know why faith to believe comes easier for some than for others. I’m just so grateful to know that the answers are always there, and if we seek them—really seek with real intent and with full purpose of a prayerful heart—we will eventually find the answers to our questions as we continue on the gospel path”

I found this hymn a few months ago, and want to share it with you today. It’s called Be Thou My Vision:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

To close, I’d just like to reiterate what I think are the two keys of living the gospel. First, keep your Eternal Perspective. Remember that you are not making daily choices for daily rewards, but eternal ones. Remember that each day you are taking baby steps toward reaching exaltation. Remember that it IS hard, but the Lord can and WILL be your vision if you let him. And second, remember what you already know. Elder Ballard suggests: “Never abandon the great truths revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Never stop reading, pondering, and applying the doctrine of Christ contained in the Book of Mormon.”

He goes on to say “If any one of you is faltering in your faith, I ask you the same question that Peter asked: “To whom shall [you] go?” If you choose to become inactive or to leave the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where will you go? What will you do? The decision to “walk no more” with Church members and the Lord’s chosen leaders will have a long-term impact that cannot always be seen right now. There may be some doctrine, some policy, some bit of history that puts you at odds with your faith, and you may feel that the only way to resolve that inner turmoil right now is to “walk no more” with the Saints…before you make that spiritually perilous choice to leave, I encourage you to stop and think carefully before giving up whatever it was that brought you to your testimony of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in the first place. Stop and think about what you have felt here and why you felt it. Think about the times when the Holy Ghost has borne witness to you of eternal truth.”

I know that it is hard to make daily decisions to live the Gospel. But I know that it is worth it. And I know that the spiritual experiences we've had stay with us, and the testimony we gain from those experiences never leaves. It's there to buoy us up when times get hard, as are our friends, family members, and loved ones. Our Savior will help us when we ask, and we have to ask. I know these things to be true, and I share them with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Top 11 Things You Should Know Before Applying to Medicaid

I finally wrote this up after a recent phone call from Medicaid reminded me of how confusing their process really is. Enjoy!

1. There’s a hierarchy for who will be accepted to Medicaid coverage. Children from poor families are the easiest to get on. Next easiest are pregnant women who are either very poor or became pregnant before having health insurance. Men are pretty much impossible. Even if you apply as an entire family, they will choose who deserves to be covered. Even if you make next to nothing, your husband might not be able to be covered. Here is a to the income limit chart, which will help you at least get an idea of whether you and your family has a chance at getting covered.

2. To be under the income limit is one part. Another part is having your assets analyzed and added to the “asset limit”, which is $3000. This includes savings and assets, including 401Ks and cars. There is a $12,000 allowance for a first vehicle, and any additional vehicles will be included in the calculation of your assets. For example: Our truck is worth about $6000, our Corolla, according to Medicaid, is worth about $4000. The truck, since it is worth more, goes under the allowance, and the Corolla pushes us way over the asset limit because of its value. Our Corolla is definitely not worth that much, so we were given the option of having it appraised by one of their approved car shops and turning in the appraisal to have it lower our asset level, so that's another option you have. Unfortunately for us, it's still worth too much to balance our other assets out to below that asset limit, so it's basically a lost cause.

3. If you make little enough to qualify, but have too high assets, you can still qualify with a required “spenddown”. This is basically a one-time premium. If your income increases, you may be charged another spenddown.

4. Every now and then they’ll have open enrollment for their Primary Care Network, which is one way you can get men covered. It’s slightly easier to qualify, the application isn’t as extensive, but just know that if said man is a student at a university which offers health insurance (i.e. BYU) he does NOT qualify. Even if they let you on for a few months, they’ll kick you back off again.

5. The timing of your application is very important. Once you apply, you have 10 days to schedule an interview. During the interview you’ll get more information about what types of documentation you still need to submit, and you’ll have an additional 20 days to complete the submission of that documentation. Sometimes your interview will come sooner than the 10 days, as sometimes they call you instead of waiting for you to get your letter and call them. Either way, from the time you apply you have 30 days to submit documentation. If you are unable to get everything in on time, they will give you an additional 30 days for straggling documents. HOWEVER: it takes 3-4 days from the time you scan/fax your documents until they are actually received at the imaging center. So plan accordingly. Keep in mind that some things may take longer than you expect to receive. I needed employment verification from one of my jobs, and it took over a month for them to get it to me. I faxed it in the day before my 60 days was up, and it wasn’t early enough. For this reason, it is a good idea when you start your application to apply retroactively. That way you’re covered for 90 days before you applied, no matter what goofy stuff happens. Just save yourself some headache and do it right the first time.

6. Just a tip on some of the identification you need to bring: A passport can work instead of a birth certificate, and if you are applying as a pregnant woman you need a note from your doctor stating that you are pregnant. I just got a prescription sheet that said “Jill-Marie is pregnant with an EDD of 5/25/2011” which was signed by my doctor, and that was plenty good enough for them. You also need immunization records and a birth certificate for any children who are applying with you. Some documents you can fax or email (I wouldn’t trust the email, it has never worked for me), but the ones described in this paragraph must be brought in to your local DWS office so they can scan them directly into the system.

7. You need to keep basically EVERYTHING that is any part of your application/acceptance process. Do this for several reasons, but mainly in case you have to re-apply or if they ask for any verification. Keeping all of your documents in one folder or file will make it easy for you on days where you have to run out the door and might have time to stop by DWS on your way home. Additionally, you’ll need to keep your Medicaid cards once you start receiving them, so it might be a good idea to put together a binder or folder where you can keep track of everything.

8. You will need to verify your employment. This is easy if you are a W4 employee, but if you’re a 1099 or self-employed at all it gets a little complicated, so the rest of this paragraph is only talking to 1099 or self-employed persons. When filling out your application, do NOT say you are employed. This will just cause confusion and you’ll have to change information and it may not get changed properly at HQ and it’s just a big mess. So don’t say you’re employed, say you’re self-employed. As part of the process, you’ll receive a letter stating that you need to submit documentation for your self-employment, and they may tell you that the forms can be found online. They cannot. I looked, I asked. They’re not there. You need to go to your local DWS and ask for a “Self-Employment Ledger” and "Self-Employment Information Sheet". They are very nice and will print one for you, then tell you to use their copy machine to make as many free copies as you need. You need one of each of these forms for each month that you are self-employed. Yeah. This is why I recommended a binder. It’s a good idea to fill out all the basic information on the first sheet before making copies, and then you can adjust the other information, such as specific months and amounts, as needed. You need to fax EACH of these pages to DWS, and they may not all go through, so again I’m going to suggest keeping them all together in one place.

9. The best way to get in touch with someone about questions you have about your Medicaid application, case status, or general questions about the process, is through their online chat. Hold times are ridiculous (I’ve never had one less than 30 minutes). If you get on the chat in the early morning, before 9 am, you’ll get an answer very quickly. All you do is go to then click on “myCase” under “Assistance”. Scroll down and at the bottom right there’s a button that says “Let’s Chat!” Just click on that, type in your question, and wait for a response.

10. Once you get on Medicaid, you’ll have to go to a class to choose which plan you want coverage through. Yeah, I don’t get it either. I thought Medicaid WAS my plan. Anyway if you have doctors you like, you need to check with them personally and ask if they take Medicaid, and if so under which plan. Additionally, you’ll need to know which plan goes with which hospital. For example: I wanted to keep my OB/GYN, so I had to check with him and found out he only takes Molina. This also means that instead of having the option of delivering at UVRMC OR Mountain View, I now HAVE to deliver at Mountain View. To keep my doctor, I chose Molina coverage. This also means that if I want to go to the local emergency clinic I have to go to the one in Spanish Fork instead of the one in Springville. Red Tape. Gotta love it.

11. Keep in mind all the other great programs that are connected with your Medicaid application. Medicaid is ridiculous to get onto, but if you qualify you should do it. In addition to that, you can get on Food Stamps, which is basically a credit card that they load up for you to buy food with. I’m not on this program at present, so that’s about all I can say. If you make too much for your family to qualify for Medicaid, you can at least get your kids covered through the CHIP program. This costs a manageable yearly fee, I think it’s near $75 a year per kid (possibly less, don’t quote me on that), and the coverage is I think quite comparable to Medicaid.

Be Come by Jill, May 2006

The Spirit of the Lord speaks to me
It fills my heart
It fills my soul with truth

I am close to God in the quiet hours
I am close when I seek
to do good
to do right
to help others
to be at peace

I feel His love in those who surround me
They fill me with love
And show me the way

I search his words
I search myself
And I can see the things
that are good
or bad

I know I have to change
to come to Him
And with Him dwell

I need to grow
I need to be
I need to come
to Him.

Sabbath Peace by Jill, March 2006

Hymns of praise to Him
Whose life for me was giv'n
Lift me up and fill my soul
with the sweet peace
of the Gospel of love

I love the Lord
I love His Spirit in my heart
I love the gift of Eternity
Given to me

He paid a price He did not owe
He bought my soul with blood
And I in humility go forth
To share His light
through my deeds
and my thoughts
and my joy

Joy that is full this day
Knowing He watches over me
guides me
loves me
and sends His sweet spirit
to fill me up
lift me up
and guide me home.

One by Jill, January 2006

for Life

for Love

Two to Share
Both to Dare
Born to Care
for the Other


What they See


For All
For Us
For Me

for Life

To Love
As He

I Pray by Jill October 2005

Before I sleep
each night
Before I set out
for each new day
I pray for all to be well

With me
With friends
With those I don't know

I pray for help

for those who stray
for those in need
for those I love

I pray for happiness
I pray for joy
I pray for comfort
I pray for peace

for all

Missionary Heroes by Jill, October 2005

When I wrote this, I thought it was a sonnet. I guess it's really not. Oh well.

Truth is found for me through those who know
The bath of truth, the way we all must strive.
Faith from strength of others helps me grow;
It's there for all to hear - that they might live.
I ache for those who say they can't believe,
Who turn away from truth, from love and peace.
Those who go forth, comforts and friends they leave
Cause my heart to swell, my pride increase.

The word of God makes my heart to sing.
I want to be a part of this great work.
From far and wide members are gathering
To hear that which will guide them from the murk
of the world, the darkness all are in
Save those who grasp the rod with all their might
And lead their fellow men back to the light.