News of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pittsburgh area, counsel from its leaders, and reflections from its members.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Something Extraordinaire" in Review

Last Saturday's Stake Relief Society Mini-Conference was a great success. So many excellent ideas were taught and shared; unfortunately we couldn't all attend every class. Here are some useful reviews and insights from the instructors and attendees, including handouts from many of the presenters.


by Barb Williams

Sister Williams reviewed tons of useful information for starting seeds, choosing soil, and container gardening. (Here's her informative handout on container gardening.) For advice on gardening, you can always use the Dr. Phipps Greenline online (through email) or by calling the Greenline at 412–665–2364. Barb is also willing to offer her personal assistance—you can email her at

Barb’s tips for planting garlic:

If you are going to plant garlic this year consider this.  Garlic does better if it is planted during the dark phase of the moon.  You should plant in April to harvest in October and plant in October to harvest in April. This year the dark phases of the moon fall on April 1-2 and 28-30, and October 22-24.

Also take note, garlic is amazing.  No matter how deep you plant it—4inches, 7 inches—when the bulbs are harvested they are always found 6 inches deep!

Phipps has a Tomato and Garlic Festival every year toward the end of August.  It is usually free admission with a donation to the Pittsburgh Food Bank.

Here is a recipe for tapenade to try:


  *   1 medium clove of garlic
  *   2tbsp capers (optional)
  *   4 oz black olives
  *   2tbsp fresh parsley
  *   1tbsp fresh lemon juice
  *   2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  *   Salt
  *   Black pepper


  1.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and blitz until a paste is formed (I like to keep mine fairly coarse). Season to taste.
  2.  Serve on bread or toast, pita chips, crackers,  with pasta, in soup, or however else you fancy it.

Insights from those who attended:

  • It’s easy to start seedlings using egg cartons and plastic bread bags (Madelyn Roehrig)
  • Plant flowers in odd numbers to make more interesting arrangements (Madelyn Roehrig)
  • I was amazed by the sheer variety of items that can be used as containers. The old boots, pair of denim cutoffs. I could have listened a lot longer. Thanks for the inspiration and info. (Bonnie Frederick, McKeesport Branch)
  • Water from the bottom—water on the top is heavy for the plants/seeds (Jaqueline Haines, Pgh 5th Ward)
  • When vegetable gardening, don’t overplant to avoid depriving plants of nutrients. (Jaqueline Haines, Pgh 5th Ward)
  • To start seeds, use egg cartons. Put in 1–2 Tbsp soil (don’t tamp down), add a few seeds, sprinkle some more soil, water from bottom. (Lindsey, Pgh 7th Ward)
  • If a container you want to plant in doesn’t provide drainage, throw something in the bottom, like a handful of gravel. (Lindsey, Pgh 7th Ward)

Family Home Evening

by Mandy Roos

Sister Roos shared her 8 practical steps to make Family Home Evening more practical and powerful. See her handout for details!

Insights from those who attended:
  • FHE is about teaching your children the importance of the gospel through meeting the individual needs of the family, spouse, and kids. (Sam, Oakland YSA Ward)
  • Begin with the end in mind and guide your family to the end by meeting their specific needs. (Katie, Pgh 1st Ward)

Photography & Journaling
by Tracy Bernard

Learn how to preserve memories of the day-to-day, especially using blogging.

Insights from those who attended:

  • Very informative and inspiring (Ashley Clark, Pgh 1st Ward)
  • Loved the video—Keep me, protect me, share me . . . we all have family photos to share. (Susan Malone, Pgh 5th Ward)
  • Write down stories and take pictures of the every-day (Florida Garr, Wintersville Ward)
  • Keep in mind what you wish you could see and hear about your ancestors (Florida Garr, Wintersville Ward)

Techy Tips
by Adam Dyal

The Church has provided us with incredible amounts of resources online. These resources, especially the Gospel Library, can enhance our personal scripture study and our preparation for Sunday lessons. You don’t have to try out everything, but you might want to incorporate some more technology into your own scripture study. See his handout for links and ideas.

by Danette Brown

Insights from those who attended:

  • Resources:; has a free coupon class—watch it! It’s 1 hour long, but has lots of info (Pgh 7th ward)
  • Target price matches with online retailers like (Stacee Burrow, Pgh 7th Ward)
  • Watch out for fake sales and try and get items at their true lowest price of 50% off. (Stacee Burrow, Pgh 7th Ward)

Getting Organized
by Kim Behling

There are so many ways to get organized, whether it’s creating a home management binder, making a cleaning schedule, or finding a new way to stay on top of laundry. Ideas were compiled and shared during this class.

In particular, one stake member shared her recipe for homemade laundry soap, which she swears by, and other homemade cleaners. See her blog at

Insights from those who attended:

  • Great tips! Lots of ways to adapt to your individual situation (Heather McArthur, Wheeling Ward)
  • Declutter often, create a cleaning schedule that works for you, and work with your children—teach them to work!
  • Never leave a room empty-handed. (Casey Giles, Uniontown Branch)

First Aid Kits
by Pam Virgi

Make mini first aid kits to carry around, and you’ll always be prepared! Here’s the handout detailing the contents of these kits.

Pressure Cooking

by Sharonlea Bayles

Pressure cooking is a great way to save time and to use energy more efficiently. Sister Bayles provided some very useful handouts on the basics of pressure cooking, including cooking times for beans, meats, and vegetables, as well as some recipes for beginners.

Pressure Cooking Time table for a roast = 15 minutes per pound thawed meat, 25 minutes per pound frozen meat.

Insights from those who attended:

  • Pressure cooking—I can do this! What a great way to cook quick and healthy meals! Can’t wait to try a roast. (Courtney Banton)

Power Outage Preparedness
by Phil Conklin

Brother Conklin reviewed specific ways to prepare for electrical outages and simple ways to do the best with what you have. One of the first things you should do is identify the problem, so you know approximately how long the power may be off. As a source for heat inside the house, one class member recommended fuel cells, which are inexpensive and can burn safely indoors for up to nine hours.

Useful links:

Insights from those who attended:

  • Taking care of human waste is important—totally forgot about that! (Margie Pruitt, Uniontown Branch)
  • Fill up leftover space in your freezer with milk jugs filled with water. They can keep your freezer cold for longer, or you can use the water as needed. (Margie Pruitt, Uniontown Branch)
  • Concerns in summer: we want to keep food good. Concerns in winter: we want to keep ourselves warm. (Washington Ward)
  • Lack of anything is a state of mind (Washington Ward)
  • For winter power outage—kerosene heaters are an alternative to a power generator. (Molly Peterson, Pgh 1st Ward)

by Bonnie Kerry, Judy Baker, Laura Macbeth, and Ken Britten

Here’s a thorough handout on how to get started indexing.

Insights from those who attended:

  • I’ve never done indexing before. I really appreciated having someone walk me through it! (Anne-Marie Crawford, Pgh 2nd Ward)
  • This renewed my interest and desire to index again. (Elaine Steffenauer, Pgh 2nd Ward)

Some women spent time working on the quilts in the overflow, while others made white bracelets with clips to use for temple names.

Informational Posters
One classroom included posters with ideas for 72-hour kits and resources for enjoying the community more fully.

Finally, Sister Ginger Hollander gave the keynote address on seeing our worth as daughters of God, and how we can see it more clearly. Here's her handout

Together we enjoyed a soup lunch and some sisterly conversation, and then went our separate ways. Thanks to everyone who attended, to the presenters, and especially to our stake leaders who carefully organized this event!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Recap on Stake Conference (Sunday Session)

Pittsburgh Stake Presidency
From left: Dwight Ferguson, Brennen Murray, Erich Peterson

The Sunday morning session of Stake Conference, held on February 23, 2014, was broadcast from Green Tree, Pennsylvania, to nine buildings throughout the stake, which encompasses parts of western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Those in attendance heard a series of heartfelt messages about conversion and this year’s stake theme: rescue.

President Ferguson spoke on marriage and family, first discussing the ideal family as outlined in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Although we desire the ideal family, we are imperfect and unideal. No matter what our situation, we should remember the following two points:
1. We should heed the commandments, even if we don’t understand them.
2. We should not harden our hearts.

Christine Robker (Monongahela Ward) told about being introduced to the Church while in nursing school in Pittsburgh. “The Gospel of Jesus Christ,” she said, “is lasting nourishment for the soul.” To avoid “spiritual illness,” we must partake of spiritual nutrients, specifically the nutrients of prayer and scripture reading. She particularly suggested that we look up and read the talk “Because My Father Read the Book of Mormon.”

Jory Bulkley of the Wheeling Ward joined the Church at age 18. He alluded to the many challenges he faced when he joined the Church, whether it be through family not accepting his decision or through not initially finding friends in the Gospel, and touched on a number of other challenges that people face regularly. In our trials, we must turn to Christ and his example of love, of not shrinking, and having faith to be healed (“not my will, but thine, be done”). He concluded, “Trials will come, but if we let them, they will consecrate us rather than consume us.”

Anne Martz of the Pittsburgh Sixth Ward knew of some Mormons in her high school, and she always observed their behaviors. “People notice you when they know your Mormon,” she said. She didn’t really start learning about the Church until she was in college, and, though she was scared when she felt that the Church was good, she decided to act and be baptized. Though the conversion path is not easy, she says that “things that are worthwhile take hard work.” She knows that she would have lived a good, happy life without the gospel, but not as happy as she has been with it.

President Clint Topham, the mission president reminded us of the role of the Book of Mormon in rescue—the Book of Mormon is our most powerful resource. If you want to approach the Book of Mormon with new eyes, read more about how missionaries may present the Book of Mormon to someone they’re teaching.

In the final address, President Murray spoke of three Rs: Rescuing, Remembering, and Repenting. Particularly on the last point, he shared several quotes form Neal A. Maxwell’s October 1991 talk, “Repentance,” a talk that is definitely worth reviewing. In particular, President Murray reflected on the phrase from Christ in 3 Nephi 17: “Bring them hither,” Christ says of all those who are sick or afflicted. “Bring them hither and I will heal them.” The people who bring the sick and afflicted ultimately find themselves at the feet of the Savior, also being healed. Whether we be sick, or whether we be the ones carrying the sick, there is room for all of us at the feet of Jesus. As we participate in our stake-wide efforts to rescue, we will find that healing comes to all who participate. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Arbor - January and February 2015

The January and February 2015 issues continue the Arbor's tradition of providing inspiration and guidance for overcoming addictions of all kinds. Each month the Arbor focuses on one of the twelve steps to recovery. With the beginning of the new year these issues focus on steps one and two.

The January issue focuses on step one, honesty. As A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing explains:
Living in recovery requires absolute honesty. However, denial, self-deception, and isolation are hallmarks of addictive behavior. "By being humble and honest and calling upon God and others for help, you can overcome your addictions through the Atonement of Jesus Christ" (vi).
 The February issue features step two, hope. An anonymous contributor explains:
I learned I had to . . . seek God's help for me. As I felt His help and comfort, my hope increased. This is where I need to be. This is where I want to be—turning to God with faith.
The Arbor lists both face-to-face and telephone recovery groups (which can be completely anonymous) available to anyone at no charge. All are welcome. You can recover through the faith in Jesus Christ.