Sunday, February 19, 2017

Principles and Promises Talk

Principles and Promises Talk 2/19/2017

Family Introduction
My name is Rachel Cox and we are part of the small group that was recently annexed into your ward. My husband BJ and I are both from St George. We met at Pine View High School where we played opposite each other in the HS musical “Carousel”. We became great friends through the course of the show. He was actually my first kiss, which was a stage kiss, in rehearsal under the watchful eye of our director.

I distinctly remember on the closing night of the show after the scene where we kissed thinking, “I’ll probably never kiss BJ Cox again.” Which, surprisingly, made me sad.  That sadness confused me, surprised me, and prompted me to ask him to Preference.

During HS we performed together in musicals and with the HS choirs. After high school BJ served a mission in Uruguay and I attended DSU and then BYU where I pursued a bachelors and then master’s in vocal performance. After BJ’s mission we were married and both studied at BYU and sang and toured together in the BYU Singers and in the opera program at BYU.

We then moved to Lexington KY where BJ attended dental school. I directed a collegiate women’s chorus and taught voice lessons and we began our family. We have 4 beautiful children, McKay, 8, Benson 6, Lily 4, and Kate, almost 2.  They are the joy of our lives and we absolutely adore each one!

After dental school we were able to purchase a dental practice here in St George and were delighted to move home. Since moving back to St George we have had some fun musical opportunities including helping to found the St George Chamber Singers and play opposite each other again in Into the Woods.

As you can see, singing is an important part of our lives. It brings us joy and feeds our souls. I can honestly say that some of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life have occurred while I was singing. It is one of the ways the holy ghost speaks to me.

I love to teach voice lessons, and as a voice teacher I want my students to love singing, but I also want them to learn to sing correctly and healthily. In order to do so, it is important that they learn correct principles of singing. For example, one of the most basic principles of healthy singing is breathing deeply. The sternum must be lifted and diaphragm must lower, allowing for full expansion of the lungs. This proper inhalation sets up the singer to sing a phrase correctly and beautifully. Principles of healthy singing such as deep breathing, proper posture, jaw, tongue and laryngeal position allow a singer to produce beautiful sounds.

Both earth and heaven are filled with principles which, if followed, will yield certain, specific results.

A principle is defined as a basic truth :a law or fact of nature that explains how something works or why something happens.

Certain principles apply universally to all. For example, if you want to improve at something, whether it’s singing or sports, painting or poetry, you must practice it.

The voice students who are the most successful are the ones who learn a principle correctly and apply it to their singing repeatedly. They practice a true principle until it becomes a part of them. And their singing always improves as a result.

D & C 130 20-21 states,
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
So here we learn that blessings from God are the result of our “practicing” or applying a true gospel principle.
The 4th article of faith states that the first principle of the gospel is Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
During October 2016 General Conference Elder Hales taught us, “Our children and grandchildren are our most important investigators.” So in our home we have been working on the principle of faith, helping to build faith and resulting testimony in the hearts of our children. Some children seem to be born with believing hearts and others seem to have to work to gain faith and a testimony of the gospel. In our family, we have some of each.
As a family and as a couple we have been praying for experiences that would build faith. We have been studying Alma 32 as a family, discussing the principle of faith and Alma’s invitation to try an experiment on the word of God. As parents, we have sought opportunities to help build faith in the hearts of our little ones. One such opportunity came during the Christmas season this year as our family participated in the “Light the World initiative.
On Christmas Eve the “Light the World” example was “Jesus cared for his loved ones and so can you.” Though Christmas Eve was a busy day, I felt that the way we should ‘care for those we love” was  to take the kids and pay a surprise visit to my grandparents, age 90, who live in town. So, the kids and I loaded in the car with a few small gifts and off we went to visit Grandpa and Grandma.
We arrived and rang the doorbell. When the door opened we sang, “We wish you a Merry Christmas” and presented our gifts. Grandpa and Grandma, who were in their pajamas eating a lunch of frozen dinners, sitting next to their small table-top Christmas tree seemed overjoyed to have some visitors on this Christmas Eve. They welcomed us warmly, showed the kids their rock and arrowhead collections, books about gem stones and dream catcher collection, all of which the kids found fascinating. They sang a Christmas carol with us and through some tears Grandma said, “you just made our whole Christmas”! It was wonderful and humbling to see what a difference a few minutes could make.
After the kids and I loaded back in the car from the back seat McKay said, “Mom, I’m really glad we visited grandpa and grandma today. That felt SO good!
I felt and realized this was an opportunity and answer to my prayers to be able to help McKay realize that he was feeling the Holy Ghost and feeling the Lord’s approval for his love and service to someone else.
This experience strengthened the faith and testimonies of each member of our family and confirmed to me that as we sought for faith and opportunities to build it in our family, we were given the promised blessing of having the opportunity to experience and acknowledge the Holy Ghost working in the hearts of our children, helping to build their faith.
President Monson’s talk to the priesthood brethren in October 2016 is titled, “Principles and Promises”. In it he teaches us that, “Those who are obedient to the Lord’s commandments and who faithfully observe the Word of Wisdom are promised particular blessings, among which are good health and added physical stamina.
The Word of Wisdom is another important gospel principle which, if followed, brings specific promised blessings.
After completing my master’s degree at BYU, I pursued post-graduate studies at the AIMS Institute in Graz, Austria. The AIMS program is an intensive opera program designed for both education and performance. Singers who attend, train with professional opera singers and coaches to refine language and performance skills. Singers also perform throughout Austria in a series of concerts and productions.
While there I performed several pieces with a group of 5 other singers. We became friends and enjoyed rehearsing and performing together. None of the other singers in my ensemble were LDS. Following performances, it was customary to go to a bar and get drinks together. After each performance, I would be invited to join the group at the bar. Each time I declined and headed back to my room alone.
 One evening toward the end of our performance schedule, the group, myself included, had just arrived home from a concert. We were standing just outside our dorms on a perfect Austrian evening. It was summertime at dusk, not too hot, not too cold, and the smell of flowers permeated the air. We had just finished a successful performance. Everyone was feeling great and having a wonderful time together. My friends were talking about heading to the pub for drinks and I once again turned to go back to my room. One of the men in the group said, “Seriously, Rachel, just come with us. It’s no big deal!” And that comment opened the floodgates for the rest of the group. “Yes, you don’t even have to get a drink, just come, or just get some wine, that doesn’t even really count as alcohol.”
After weeks away from my husband and my home, often feeling lonely and tired of sitting alone in my dorm, it was SO tempting to go with them. I actually did consider it. “I don’t HAVE to drink and I certainly wouldn’t” I told myself. Going with my friends sounded like fun. But there was something inside of me, that still small voice that sounded an alarm in my head. I knew it wasn’t where I ought to be. So, in spite of all the persuading, I turned my back and walked away.
I don’t know all that happened that night and the other post-concert nights at the pub but I did hear enough by the end of the program to know that things occurred under the influence of alcohol that were wrong and caused much unneeded pain in the lives of some of the other singers, whether or not they themselves had been drinking. I might have been a little lonely those nights, but by following the Word of Wisdom I was kept physically safe and spiritually clean.
I received another gift as a result of my obedience to the principles of the word of wisdom
D & C 89 verses 18 & 19 say,
 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
 19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

As a result of obedience to these principles, I received promised wisdom. Before attending the AIMS Institute, I had been trying to determine the course of my life following graduation. The next step after grad school for most singers is to begin auditioning across the country and pursuing roles in opera houses in the US and abroad.

I had always loved to perform and had wondered if that could be the next step for me. Of course, that path makes family life extremely difficult. But, prior to Austria, it seemed like an enticing path.

However, though my musical experiences in Austria were extremely positive, upon returning home I had a clarity of mind, a realization and a spiritual confirmation that performance on that level was not the path for me. I truly believe that it was a direct result of obeying the word of wisdom and listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost that allowed me that clarity and peace. That wisdom given to those who keep the word of wisdom.

It was less than a year later that McKay our first child was born and I began to realize the no thrill of performance could begin to match the wonder and joy of being a mother in Zion. Holding McKay and Benson and Lily and Kate in my arms, watching them learn and grow, sharing the gospel with them and loving them each day has been the joy of my life.

I testify through my own personal experience that I know that when we receive any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

As President Monson taught, when we obey the Lord’s commandments, we are given specific, promised blessings. My life has been blessed innumerable times as I have tried to keep the commandments and felt the blessings and tender mercies of the Lord in my life. I know this is true and bear testimony of it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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