Tag Archives: Brother’s Keeper

In What Ways Do Mormons Serve Others In The Community? Our Family’s Answer.

What Can You Do For Your Community?

What Can You Do For Your Community?

Reader Question:
Last weekend, a friend asked, “In what ways do Mormons serve others in our community?”  

Family Answer:
Good question. In our family, and as Mormons, we believe strongly that sincere, honest questions are always a good thing. To gather other answers to this question, we talked to our adult kids, and here are the answers we gathered:

1. Joseph Smith taught us that we are “to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or in any other, or in no church at all.” (Times and Seasons, 15 Mar 1842, Page 732.)

2. Here’s an example of how we strive to help others In the Church of Jesus Christ. A handful of women touched the life of a youth named Lynne when her stepfather died. Because she saw these sisters help at a critical time when she was a teenager, Lynne was determined to take her turn to serve when she grew older. As an adult, she shared this story.

“A young mother in my congregation, one of my friends, suddenly lost her only child, a beautiful three-year-old daughter, to an infection that took her life before the doctors were even aware of how serious her illness was. The other counselor and I went to the house as soon as we heard of little Robin’s death. As we approached the screened patio door, we heard the father (who was not a member of our Church) sobbing as he talked long distance to his mother. Looking up, he saw us and, still sobbing, spoke into the phone: ‘It will be all right, Mother. The Mormon women are here.’ My turn once more.” (Daughters in My Kingdom, Chapter 10, “Live Up to Your Privilege”, Page 178.)

3. In our family, we like to serve at the local community kitchen, at an interfaith shelter during the winter, at a senior center, or at a local food warehouse. We want to get out of our comfort zone to rub shoulders with people in our community in a number of ways. I think it’s particularly important to do this with people who aren’t like me. It’s important to us not only to write a check but also to donate our labor free of charge and to make new friends by sharing our time and our conversations.

We hope this answers your question and helps you to understand us better, to understand better how your Mormon neighbors serve in your community, and how you may help them out by serving together.

And let us know how we may help you further! If you find that you have any questions about religious issues that you’ve been wondering about or that you haven’t been able to get good answers to, feel free to continue on discussion with us. It turns out that there are a lot of people with questions, and most of them have given up on churches as a source of answers. In our family, it is our experience that answers are out there, that God wants us to have them, and that they tend to be answers we like and have learned to appreciate. Working together with Heavenly Father allows anyone to find certainty in uncertain times.

-Dave and the MormonPanorama Family

How Can You Have Fun Doing It?

How Can You Have Fun Doing It?

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Bonus Materials:

1. Get Involved In Your Community Service
http://www.mormon.org/values/community-service

2. What Can We All Do?
https://www.lds.org/topics/humanitarian-service/help?lang=eng

3. Mormon in America: A guided tour of an LDS Bishop’s storehouse
http://www.nbcnews.com/video/rock-center/48745343#48745343

There are bishop’s storehouses in many locations around the world.

——– End of Bonus Materials ——–

WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, “What Can You Do For Your Community?”, from “Helping Hands Day Is A Community To Community”, The Davis Enterprise (Davis, California), dated 21 Sep 2014—www. davisenterprise.com/local-news/helping-hands-day-is-a-commitment-to-community/
  • Photo, “How Can You Have Fun Doing It?”, from “Helping Hands Day Is A Community To Community”, The Davis Enterprise (Davis, California), dated 21 Sep 2014—www. davisenterprise.com/local-news/helping-hands-day-is-a-commitment-to-community/

——– End of WebCredits ——–

I Would Be My Brother’s Keeper

In a class that I’m taking at school, I’m learning about the history of creativity. It’s a really interesting class and I love learning about the things people did in Medieval times, the Renaissance, and the Baroque Era. While we were studying the Renaissance, we learned about Albrecht Dürer and his painting “Praying Hands”. I had seen this painting before, and I’ve always appreciated it. But after learning the story behind the painting, it has become one of my favorites and truly inspires me.

Albrecht_Dürer_-_Praying_Hands,_1508_-_Google_Art_ProjectDürer came from a large family, and he and his brother, Albert, both wanted to become artists. The family did not have enough money to send both to school to learn art, so they made a pact in which one would support the other while he was in school and then, when the other was finished and famous, they would switch. Albrecht won the coin toss, so Albert was to stay and work in the mines to support him.

Albrecht found success very quickly and excelled in his schooling. He began to earn good money for his work. After finishing his schooling, he returned home to give his brother the opportunity to go on to art school. But when he told Albert the news, he began to cry and said, “No, I can’t.” He held up his hands which had been bruised and battered from working in the mines, so much that he could barely hold his mining tools, not to mention the tools of an artist. Albert had sacrificed his opportunity by supporting his brother. Albrecht was deeply moved and then immortalized the hands of his brother in his painting, “Praying Hands”.

I never thought I would get emotional while reading a textbook, but this story hit me hard. I was touched by the love that these two brothers showed each others. I immediately thought of my siblings and all the things they have done for me. They’ve all made sacrifices, big and small, for me to get me to where I am now. I am reminded of the third verse in the hymn “Lord, I Would Follow Thee”.

I would be my brother’s keeper,
I would learn the healer’s art,
To the wouned and the weary,
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper,
Lord, I would follow thee.

My siblings have been their brother’s keeper to me. Here are a variety of stories of some sacrifices made for me and lessons taught to me: Mike took me out for lunch and a movie one day for fun when my school lost power. Brian  was not being too cool to let me come to play Risk with his friends late at night. Whitney set me straight telling me to treat our Father with more respect. Kyle took time away from his wife to come down and watch the National Championship rugby game with me. Todd was willing to help me with a practical joke as I would drive with a blindfold over my eyes (I could see through it, don’t worry, Mom!) and he would pretend to direct me as onlookers freaked out. These are just a few of the special memories and times I’ve had with my siblings. It may seem small, but their examples and friendship have helped shape me.

I pray that I, too, may be my brother’s keeper. I may not be near a lot of my family at this time, but there are plenty of others who surround  me. We are all brothers and sisters in God’s family. I hope that I may emulate the love the Dürer brothers had and that I may make sacrifices for those nearby, to lift them up, to lend them a helping hand, and to bring them joy.

Much of the story of Dürer comes from the textbook, “History of Creativity” by Brent Strong and Mark Davis.

The World, Bathed In Light

This is a photo-essay, a collection of images with a theme. A long post, but with reason. Just a gallery of pictures and paintings. Images of light. People and places around the globe, many of them in a religious light. All of them to me are spiritual. Source credits included. There are 64, and we hope you enjoy them. Click on an image to make it bigger!

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Monks releasing flying lanterns during Loy Krathong
in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Monks releasing flying lanterns during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand
[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-TPDTLsq/A]
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 A monk lighting up candles in a pond during Visakha Bucha night
in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
A monk lighting up candles in a pond during Visakha Bucha night in Chiang Mai, Thailand
[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-5hjBsMs/A]
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A monk slowly lighting up candles during Asalaha Bucha
in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
A monk slowly lighting up candles during Asalaha Bucha in Chiang Mai, Thailand
[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-Sx7rh9D/A]
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Grand Palace upper terrace and statures of mythical creatures
in Bangkok, Thailand.
Grand Palace Upper Terrace and Statures of Mythical Creatures in Bangkok, Thailand
[Credit: From private collection.]
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Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple, in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple, in Chiang Rai, Thailand
[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-QhqjSb3/A]
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 Home interior, Cairo.
Home Interior, Cairo
[Credit: From private collection.]
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A sunset captured from the dock of a ferry
from Corfu, Greece to the mainland of Greece.

[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-V2Fxkb7/A]
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Cityscape panorama in Brindisi, Italy.
Brindisi Panorama
[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-rzC2grd/A]
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 A town of the Cinque Terre Bay of Liguria, Italy.
A town of the Cinque Terre Bay of Liguria, Italy
[Credit: http://www.understandingitaly.com/liguria-content/cinqueterre.html]
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Another town of the Cinque Terre Bay of Liguria, Italy.
Another town of the Cinque Terre Bay of Liguria, Italy
[Credit: http://www.touristmaker.com/]
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Basilica dei Fieschi in San Salvatore di Cogorno, Italy.
Basilica dei Fieschi in San Salvatore di Cogorno, Italy
[Credit: http://www.laterrazzasuifieschi.com/cosa-fare-cosa-vedere/la-basilica-dei-fieschi/]
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Family At Home in Accra, Ghana.
Family At Home
[Credit: http://www.lds.org/media-library/images/family-portraits?lang=eng&start=1&end=10]
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“Spruce Forest” («Еловый лес» or “Yeloviy Lyes”) (1892),
Ivan Shishkin, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Spruce Forest (1892), Ivan Shishkin, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
[Credit: From print in Shishkin book in private collection.]
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“Valiant Warriors of Old” («Богатыри» or “Bogatyri”) (1898),
Viktor Vasnetsov, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Valiant Warriors of Old (1898), Viktor Vasnetsov, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
[Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Die_drei_Bogatyr.jpg]
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Worshippers in the mosque in Muslim quarter of Xi’an, China.
Worshippers in the Mosque in Muslim Quarter of Xi'an, China
[Credit: From private collection.]
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Terracotta and flesh warriors in Xi’an, China.
Terracotta and Flesh Warriors in Xi'an, China
[Credit: From private collection.]
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 Mirrored walk, Parque Lezama in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Mirrored Walk, Parque Lezama in Buenos Aires, Argentina
[Credit: From private collection.]
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Behind a wall in Buenos Aires, a sublime house stood;
I knocked and asked to enter.
Behind a wall in Buenos Aires, a sublime house stood; I knocked and asked to enter
[Credit:  From private collection.]
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Turned out to be a house of God;
kind sisters gave me a tour of their chapel.
Turned out to be a house of God; kind sisters gave me a tour of their chapel
[Credit:  From private collection.]
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“Returning (Back to the Ranch)” (circa 1900), Ángel Della Valle
(“De regreso (vuelta al rancho)”).
Returning to the Ranch (circa 1900), Angel Della Valle
[Credit: http://www.arcadja.com/auctions/en/della_valle_angel/artist/403933/]
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Quintessential trees of unofficial sub-barrio Belgrano R,
in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Quintessential Trees of Belgrano R in Buenos Aires, Argentina
[Credit: http://www.latidobuenosaires.com/fotosbelgranorbarriobuenosairesargentina.html]
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Trees of Calle Melián, Belgrano R, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Trees of Calle Melian, Belgrano R, Buenos Aires, Argentina
[Credit: http://www.latidobuenosaires.com/fotosbelgranorbarriobuenosairesargentina.html]
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Avenida Santa Fe, Plaza Gral. San Martín, Barrio Retiro,
in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Avenida Santa Fe, Plaza Gral. San Martin, Barrio Retiro, in Buenos Aires, Argentina
[Credit: http://riowang.blogspot.com/2009_10_01_archive.html]
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Alpenglow of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, USA.
Mount Washington Summit In The Alpenglow
[Credit: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/portrait-or-landscape/]
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Mount Avalon in New Hampshire, USA.
The View From The Top. From Mt. Avalon To The Presidentials.
[Credit: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/portrait-or-landscape/]
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Female photographer waiting for sunrise
on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, USA.
Awaiting Sunrise. Mt Washington, NH
[Credit: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/portrait-or-landscape/]
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Layers of color on Mt Washington, New Hampshire, USA.
White Mountain Layers
[Credit: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/portrait-or-landscape/]
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Crescent Lake at night in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Crescent Lake at Night in Dhaka, Bangladesh
[Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhaka]
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Festival of Japan, bamboo light.
Festival of Japan, Bamboo Light
[Credit: http://www.123rf.com/photo_12401506_festival-of-japan-bamboo-light.html]
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Golden field in Italy.
Golden Field in Italy
[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-VMJ8DSf/A]
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Morning light during fall in Kentucky, USA.
Morning light during fall in Kentucky, USA
[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-nQzfF3N/A]
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 Grotto in Cancun, México.
Grotto in Cancun, Mexico
[Credit: http://www.lds.org/media-library/images/international?lang=eng&start=21&end=30]
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Climbing the Great Wall at Mutianyu, China.
Climbing the Great Wall at Mutianyu, China
[Credit: From private collection.]
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Tuyoq village in Turpan, Xinjiang, China.
Tuyoq Village in Turpan, Xinjiang, China
[Credit: http://www.drokpa.com/PotD.php?image=/PotD/Turpan,-China—Tuyoq-Village-81.jpg]
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Canal along Pingjiang Road in Suzhou, China.
Canal Along Pingjiang Road in Suzhou, China
[Credit: at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Near-Pingjiang-Road.JPG
or info at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzhou]
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The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE (United Arab Emirates) is seen as a construction to ‘unite the world’, using artisans and materials from countries such as Italy, Germany, Moracco, India, Turkey, Iran, China, Greece, and the UAE.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is seen as a construction to 'unite the world'
[Credit: http://www.canvas-of-light.com/2011/03/photo-essay-sheikh-zayed-mosque-uae/]
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 In the ablution room of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE (United Arab Emirates), worshippers clean themselves in order to be in a state of purity before praying. It is decorated with marble tiles and a large fountain in the middle of the room.
In the ablution room, worshipers clean themselves in order to be in a state of purity before praying.
[Credit: http://www.canvas-of-light.com/2011/03/photo-essay-sheikh-zayed-mosque-uae/]
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The main prayer hall in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE (United Arab Emirates), features the world’s second largest chandelier (the largest one being in Doha, Qatar) hanging directly below the largest dome. It is ten meters in diameter, fifteen meters in height, and weighs nine tons.
The main prayer hall features the world’s second largest chandelier, ten meters in diameter, fifteen meters in height, and weighs nine tons.
[Credit: http://www.canvas-of-light.com/2011/03/photo-essay-sheikh-zayed-mosque-uae/]
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Natural materials were chosen for the design and construction of the Mosque due to their long-lasting qualities, including marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. Again, in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE (United Arab Emirates).
Natural materials were chosen for the design and construction of the Mosque due to their long-lasting qualities
[Credit: http://www.canvas-of-light.com/2011/03/photo-essay-sheikh-zayed-mosque-uae/]
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“Paris Street; Rainy Day” (1877), Gustave Caillebotte.
Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877), Gustave Caillebotte
[Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gustave_Caillebotte_-_Paris_Street;_Rainy_Day_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg]
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Interior window in Sainte-Chapelle, Paris.
Interior window in Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
[Credit: From private collection.]
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Country chic staircase, The Queen’s Hamlet at Versailles, France.
Country Chic Staircase, The Queen's Hamlet, Versailles, France
[Credit: From private collection.]
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Water mill, The Queen’s Hamlet at Versailles, France.
Water Mill, The Queen’s Hamlet at Versailles, France
[Credit: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-queens-hamlet-versailles-gary-tinnes.html]
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Winter at Caravan Sarayi, 15th Century roadside inn
on ancient Silk Road, near Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan.
Winter at Caravan Sarayi, 15th Century Roadside Inn on Ancient Silk Road, near Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan
[Credit: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/kyrgyzstan/images/tash-rabat-caravanserai-kyrgyzstan$1758-11]
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 Dome interior of Caravan Sarayi near Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan.
Dome Interior of Caravan Sarayi near Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan
[Credit: http://www.traveladventures.org/continents/asia/tash-rabat.html]
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Interior hallway of dome of Caravan Sarayi
near Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan.
Interior Hallway of Dome of Caravan Sarayi near Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan
[Credit: http://www.traveladventures.org/continents/asia/tash-rabat.html]
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Caravan Sarayi dwarfed by surrounding mountains
near Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan.
Caravan Sarayi Dwarfed by Surrounding Mountains near Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan
[Credit: http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-of-the-day/silk-road-kyrgysztan/
(link no longer valid)]
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Top of the World in Lofoten Islands, Norway.
Top of the World in Lofoten Islands, Norway
[Credit: http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-of-the-day/
(link may be invalid)]
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 Women from Nigeria.
Women from Nigeria
[Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nigerian_women.jpg]
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Jerusalem panorama at sunset.
Jerusalem Panorama
[Credit: http://www.actforisrael.org/blog/blog/?attachment_id=4738]
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Arches above Eastern Gate (Golden Gate) in Jerusalem.
Arches Above Eastern Gate (Golden Gate) in Jerusalem
[Credit: From private collection.]
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The misty mountains of Yangshuo and Guilin
in the Li Jiang river region of China.
The misty mountains of Yangshuo and Guilin in the Li Jiang river region of China
[Credit: From private collection.]
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Riverside hamlet on Li Jiang Near Yangshuo, China.
Riverside Hamlet on Li Jiang Near Yangshuo, China
[Credit: From private collection.]
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 San Diego Temple
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(Mormon temple or LDS temple in San Diego, California, USA)
.
Mormon Temple in San Diego, California, USA[Credit: 
http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/sandiego/gallery/download.php?id=780]
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Newlyweds with bright eyes and glowing faces outside a Mormon temple.
Newlyweds with bright eyes and glowing faces outside a Mormon temple
[Credit: From private collection.]
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Plaza de Armas at night in Cuzco, Perú.
Plaza de Armas at night in Cuzco, Peru
[Credit: http://wikitravel.org/en/Cuzco]
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Roof mosaic in the Tomb of Hafez, Shiraz, Iran.
Roof Mosaic, Tomb of Hafez, Shiraz, Iran
[Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomb_of_Hafez]
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Tehran at night from Jamshidieh Park.
Tehran at night from Jamshidieh Park
[Credit: http://farrokhi.net/]
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Sunset over Granada, Spain.
Sunset over Granada - Spain
[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-bLsqCbP/A]
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The Alhambra palace during sunset,
shot from the mirador de San Nicolas in Granada, Spain.
The Alhambra at Sunset ~ Granada
[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-dppVjdR/A]
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The Plaza Isabel la Católica with a statue of
the Queen Isabel and Christopher Columbus in Granada, Spain.
Plaza Isabel la Catolica ~ Granada
[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-9g5W2DG/A]
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The Sun Voyager (Sólfar in Icelandic) is a sculpture by
Jón Gunnar Árnason (1931-1989), an Icelandic artist born in Reykjavik.
The Sun Voyager (Solfar in Icelandic) is a sculpture Jon Gunnar Arnason (1931-1989), an Icelandic artist born in Reykjavik
[Credit: http://canvas-of-light.smugmug.com/Portfolio/i-VTJdqfv/A]
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Two nuns walking down a small street in the historic district of Cuzco, Perú.
Two nuns walking down a small street in the historic district of Cuzco, Peru
[Credit: http://kathyadamsclark.blogspot.com/2012/12/peru-photo-tour-recap-cusco.html]
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Zenkoji Temple, Nagano, Japan.
Zenkoji is a place for prayer, light, and enlightenment.
Although it is a Buddhist temple, all are welcome,
regardless of gender, creed or religious belief.
Zenkoji Temple, Nagano, Japan
[Credit: http://smba2010.blogspot.com/2010/05/saturday-may-22-2010.html]

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Hope you enjoyed this view through our lens
and the lens of many talented folks.
A brief and wonderful view of the world.
And what a wonderful worldview!

Mormon Speaks At Ecumenical Event; Chapel Walls Fail To Collapse!

(Please forgive the long post. It’s for a good reason: a local interfaith/multifaith group invited me to speak at an annual ecumenical event for interwoven faiths as part of Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity. For twenty minutes. It was my pleasure to say Yes. Here’ s the result, if you wish to read it. Enjoy!)

Christian Crosses At A Joint Service For The Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity

Christian Crosses At A Joint Service For The Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity

I’ve attended many ecumenical meetings, but this is the first time I’ve ever spoken at one. As part of my faith tradition as a Mormon, I’m used to closing sacred remarks “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Will it be OK if I do so this evening at the end? (Response: Unanimous and general Yes.)


We are always teaching. What shall we teach? With the 2014 theme of this event being “Has Christ Been Divided?” and the scripture reference of 1 Corinthians Chapter 1: verses 1 through 17, I’d like to quote verses 4 through 7:

4. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
5. That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
6. Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
7. So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jewish Quarter, Old City, Jerusalem

Jewish Quarter, Old City, Jerusalem

This past week, Rabbi Jeremy Schneider, the spiritual leader of Temple Kol Ami in Scottsdale, Arizona, and vice president of the Greater Phoenix Board of Rabbis, toured the Mormon Temple in the nearby city of Gilbert during an open house for the new building. In the recent edition of Jewish News, he teaches us:

In last week’s Torah portion, we read about Moses learning a valuable lesson from his father-in-law, Jethro. Jethro tells Moses to appoint judges who will handle the burden of judging the people from morning until night, taking only the most difficult cases for himself. Jewish sages note that Moses learns this valuable lesson from his non-Israelite father-in-law Jethro, a Midianite.

Our tradition asks the question based on this interaction: “Who is wise?” The answer, “One who learns from ALL people” (Pirkei Avot, Chapter 4: Mishna 1).

We are always teaching. What do we teach? What do we teach about God? As part of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I have thought of my own powerful moments of communion with God. When I was a child and walked in to see my parents at prayer, I remember the whoosh of feelings of safety and security but mostly of sacredness.

Cairo, Home Interior

Cairo, Home Interior

My favorite memory of the power of a prayerful life is one at work. I knocked on a friend’s office door; normally, he responds quickly with, “Come in!”, and I open the door. Sometimes, I’ll hear water running in the office bathroom as he makes ablution, and I know not to knock at the door for a few minutes after he returns to his office. But this day I was distracted and failed to notice that my knock at the door from without brought no invitation voiced from within. Out of habit, I called him by name, adding the customary honorific suffix, and opened the door. I found my elderly friend kneeling lowly on his prayer rug. It was such a holy moment. I felt that I had entered a bubble – a bubble of spirituality – of spirituality established by my friend, as he created a sacred space for prayer. In a familiar whoosh of feeling, I was aware that I had missed the cues of the sounds at the sink. Having cleansed himself without as he focused on cleansing himself within, he was now talking with his Maker, expressing humility without as he voiced humility within. It was just like walking in on my parents at prayer. After prayers were done, we embraced; I apologized for disturbing a sacred moment. “Oh, I don’t mind. I am just doing my duty,” he said. I replied, “It is the duty of us all.”

When I think of my favorite moments of prayer, I will always see in my mind and in my heart an elderly man from Uzbekistan, with shoes removed from off his feet, kneeling submissively on sacred ground in his office, visible to none but to Him who sees all.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost

In Robert M. Edsel’s book, The Monuments Men, I recently found this gem:

Children live in a closed world, and young Harry [Ettlinger] assumed life as he knew it had gone on that way forever. He didn’t have any friends who weren’t Jewish, but his parents didn’t either, so that didn’t seem unusual. [In 1930’s Germany, he] saw non-Jews at school and in the parks, and he liked them, but buried deep within those interactions was the knowledge that, for some reason, he was an outsider. He had no idea that the world was entering an economic depression, or that hard times bring recriminations and blame. Privately, Harry’s parents worried not just about the economy, but about the rising tide of nationalism and anti-Semitism. Harry noticed only that perhaps the line between himself and the larger world of [his town of] Karlsruhe was becoming easier to see and harder to cross.

In September [1938], twelve-year-old Harry and his two brothers took the train seventeen miles to Bruchsal to visit their grandparents for the last time… Opa Oppenheimer[, Harry’s grandpa,] showed them, one last time, a few select pieces from his collection of prints… His art collection contained almost two thousand prints, primarily ex libris bookplates and works by minor German Impressionists working in the late 1890s and early 1900s. One of the best was a print, made by a local artist, of the self-portrait by Rembrandt that hung in the Karlsruhe museum. The painting was a jewel of the museum’s collection… Harry had never seen it, despite living four blocks away from it his whole life. In 1933, the museum had barred entry to Jews.

A week later, on September 24, 1938, Harry Ettlinger celebrated his bar mitzvah in Karlsruhe’s magnificent Kronenstrasse Synagogue… On October 9, 1938, they arrived in New York harbor. Exactly one month later, on November 9, [was] Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass… The Jewish men of Karlsruhe, including Opa Oppenheimer, were rounded up and put in the nearby Dachau internment camp. The magnificent hundred-year-old Kronenstrasse Synagogue…was burned to the ground. Harry Ettlinger was the last boy ever to have his bar mitzvah ceremony in the old synagogue of Karlsruhe.

Three generations of a Jewish family light a menorah during Hanukkah

Three generations of a Jewish family light a menorah during Hanukkah

But this story isn’t about Kronenstrasse Synagogue, the internment camp at Dachau, or even the Holocaust against the Jews… For when Private Harry Ettlinger, U.S. Army, finally returned to Karlsruhe, it wasn’t to search for his lost relatives or the remains of his community; it was to determine the fate of another aspect of his heritage stripped away by the Nazi regime: his grandfather’s beloved art collection. In the process he would discover, buried six hundred feet underground, something he had always known about but never expected to see: the Rembrandt of Karlsruhe. (Ibid, Pages 7-13.)

We are always teaching.

I was asked to share with you this evening the story of my own interfaith journey. I used to think that the work of interweaving faiths was about crossing lines, such as the lines that Harry Ettlinger saw between himself and the larger world of Karlsruhe. After years, I learned that I was wrong. Very wrong. I noticed that focusing on lines encourages designations of WE vs. THEY. So I started thinking instead about circles. Years earlier, when I was about eight years old, in our weekly family home evening, my mom had us memorize the poem Outwitted, by Edwin Markham:

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

So I began to move beyond the Here or There of lines, or even the In or Out of circles, and instead tried to focus less on who was In and who was Out and to focus more on expanding my circle to include another. Despite a person’s flaws, for me the challenge became to see the good in them, to see what good I could find to help me be good, to help me be better.

For example, I lived in South America for a couple of years as I served a Mormon mission among the people of Argentina. I had been there just a few months, when I was straightening up the bookshelf in my room, picked up some pamphlets, and saw something flutter to the floor. I stooped to pick it up and found that it was a U.S. stamp. On it was the image of Thomas Jefferson. And I burst into tears. My immediate reaction was, “I’m starting to lose it‼” But then I started to realize why I had burst into tears. This stamp was from my homeland. It had been months since I had seen anything from home. And this was Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father, author of the Declaration of Independence in just seventeen days, who wrote the words, “All men are created equal,” who wrote, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable,” which Ben Franklin changed to, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” I think that everyone should spend a couple of years after high school in a foreign country; it can deepen one’s feelings of patriotism, even without them knowing it. It certainly did mine.

Gauchos a caballo (1900), Ángel Della Valle (“Gauchos on horseback”)

Gauchos a caballo (1900), Ángel Della Valle (“Gauchos on horseback”)

Then, as I lived among the people of Argentina, I learned to love them. I learned traditional Argentine folk songs from our local Mormon bishop, who played a wicked Latin guitar, and we’d sing with gusto like gauchos around a campfire. I learned the National Anthem and sang it with gusto at every parade and holiday. It surprised everyone around me, but my heart just wanted to join in, and not just sing, but to know the words and why they were meaningful. In spite of the day of the stamp, I began to wonder what I was going to do when I returned home and no longer could buy delicious Mantecol candy bars or drink amargo, a bitter, BITTER soft drink that I had grown to love.

At that point, I discarded the idea of circles in my interwoven faith work. I loved the people of Argentina not because they were all Mormons—They weren’t! I found that my core feelings of being an American remained at my center and indeed were strengthened. I loved extending my circle as far as it could go, only to learn that, really, I could extend it yet a little further. But the circle analogy didn’t seem to work anymore; it just didn’t seem expressive enough for what I felt. I had lived in Argentina for not yet a year, and I realized that I no longer felt like an outsider extending my circle. I was Argentine. I was American. Americans were my people, and Argentines were my people. I had developed a dual citizenship of the heart. Just as I had moved beyond the We/They of lines, I had moved beyond the concept of designating circles. I had learned that what was important for me was to develop feelings down deep. I would be happy in the United States my entire life. I now would be happy in Argentina my entire life, “perhaps until the day I die.” I had succeeded in making their lives my life.

We are always teaching. What should we teach? I suggest that we take a cue from my Muslim friend and teach about duty. We should teach about our duty to God. Anyone involved in the Boy Scouts of America, youth or adult, uses the Scout Oath to teach others “to do my duty to God and my country.” Part of our duty to God is to listen to Him, to see as God sees, to think as God thinks, to act as He would, to be a tool in His hands. The prophet Isaiah taught us:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

Las Lajas Sanctuary, Ipiales, Colombia

Las Lajas Sanctuary, Ipiales, Colombia

I learned yet again to go beyond lines and circles, learning yet again the importance of feeling things down deep, when I hurried to help Felipe, whose wife and family had just died in a plane crash. I helped Arturo, his brother, as we stood and waited for hours in the heat, watching as officials opened each body bag they had carried from the helicopters to the basketball arena used as a temporary morgue, until, in the last helicopter trip of the day, the bags opened to familiar faces, and we were able to identify the bodies of their loved ones. Felipe wasn’t a Latter-day Saint; he was Catholic. I was from the United States, and he was from Colombia. He was athletic and an avid soccer player; my wife is the sportsman in our family. Despite our differences, Felipe and I bonded. Despite his being suicidal at the time, despite all the turmoil in his life that made him crawl into a shell and shut out the world, he would allow me in. This surprised me as much as it surprised his extended family, but in his darkest moments, they would come running to me repeatedly: “Come, Davy. Come quick. Felipe needs you again.” I’d hasten once more to his side—we’d sit, sometimes talk. He liked looking at pictures of my kids. But I felt that our hearts were in constant conversation, even in silence, and I could feel him taking strength from me, and I gave freely, for I knew that I had strength to spare. By connecting with those around him, with people for whom he cared deeply, he quickly learned to develop his own sources of strength.

Panorama Of Las Lajas Sanctuary, Ipiales, Colombia

Panorama Of Las Lajas Sanctuary, Ipiales, Colombia

Felipe asked me to be with him as he entered sacred ground, as he and Arturo returned to his apartment for the first time after the deaths of his wife and children. I was there when he entered the bedroom that he had shared with his wife, Amparo. Felipe just sat on the bed, and it was as if the energy just left him; he seemed like a beaten man, forsaken and alone. I looked over at the bedroom’s TV; on it, I saw a ceramic object and a stuffed toy, a plush lion cub, “Simba”, from “The Lion King.” A thought hit me to pick up the little Simba and to give it to Felipe to cuddle, which I did. Felipe pulled the toy to his barrel chest, doubled over as he sat on the edge of the bed, and just sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. My first thought was, “Oh, Dave, you blew it.” But immediately on its heels came the assurance that, no, this was exactly what Felipe needed. We stayed quiet a few minutes and let time pass; eventually, he approached me and said, “Thank you, Davy.  That was perfect.” I’ll never know what that little Simba meant to Felipe and Amparo, nor do I need to know; maybe its only meaning was simply something to cuddle for the moment. Regardless, I followed an impulse when it occurred to me, and it appears it was the right thing to do. I had no need at the moment to be a tool in God’s hands, but Felipe was hurting, and God knew he was hurting and needed to heal some very deep wounds. And God trusted me to listen and to know without trying what Felipe was feeling down deep. It’s my feeling that on that day, I did my duty to God.

Interfaith experiences can even occur among people of the same faith. When I lived in another state, my congregation leaders assigned me as a home teacher (a volunteer shepherd) to a family with five young children. Jason and I had nothing in common, and our belief systems were vastly different, even though we were both LDS. For example, he held a cultural belief in the little people, such as leprechauns and fairies, and several of his tattoos bore an Irish Celtic theme, whereas my Celtic roots are Welsh, and the little people are not part of my reality. Despite his severe substance abuse concerns, this young father and I bonded easily, to the amazement of everyone in our congregation, including ourselves. I’d been visiting him for about a year, and he was working very hard to stay clean—he had recently developed a deeper desire to conquer his addictions, to really lick it this time. On one visit, we had just sat down to talk with Jason and his wife, when he interrupted, “How do you do it, Dave? How do you get us to feel these things?” After that, we opened our hearts to each other like never before, and our souls were knit together like David and Jonathan of old. It was as if we could read each other’s minds. Each time, we would plan our next visit, a week away or more often a month away, depending on what he felt he needed for support. Sometimes, in the dead of night, when the pull of drugs was strong and he was weak and needed to talk, he would just call me out of the blue and say, “Please come, Dave. I need your help. I need to stay clean.” These were some of my favorite moments. We’d sit on the stoop of his small house in the darkness, and we’d have the most amazing discussions filled with light. As we talked of truths at night (“Sweet Is the Work,” end of Verse 1), I remember many times thinking, “There is nowhere else on earth that I would rather be than right here, right now, on this stoop, talking with this man.” I could feel him taking courage from me, and I gave freely, for I knew that I had courage to spare. But I simply could not go to see him often enough, and I looked forward to each visit with all my heart. Eventually, he moved away, then I moved, and always I will miss our conversations.

Accra Ghana LDS Temple Grounds

Accra Ghana LDS Temple Grounds

We are always teaching. What do we teach? What do we teach about God? We teach that, as important as actions are, the feelings behind our actions are even more important. We teach that there is no We/They; we teach that there is no reason to expand our circle, because mankind is our circle. We teach the need to stand in holy places, to spend time there, to spend some quality time there on our knees, not just during this Week of Prayer but always, for Christian unity and for global unity. We teach that God doesn’t need just one of us, he needs all of us, and that if we work together as individual wires of communication with God, that interwoven together, we become a cable, and with cables, we may all build a bridge. And we teach that life is too short merely to go through the motions but that we must feel these things in our hearts. Each of us must feel these things down deep.

In closing, I’d like to share another of Edward Markham’s poems, this one entitled Anchored To The Infinite:

The builder who first bridged Niagra’s gorge,
Before he swung his cable, shore to shore,
Sent out across the gulf his venturing kite
Bearing a slender cord for unseen hands
To grasp upon the further cliff and draw
A greater cord, and then a greater yet;
Till at the last across the chasm swung
The cable then the mighty bridge in air!

So may we send our little timid thought
Across the void, out to God’s reaching hands—
Send out our love and faith to thread the deep—
Thought after thought until the little cord
Has greatened to a chain no chance can break,
And we are anchored to the Infinite!

We are always teaching. What shall we teach?

I say these things in the sacred name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thank you for your time tonight.

(By the way, the sponsoring organization was the local Mennonite Fellowship congregation, with additional support from the Bloomington, Indiana Unit of Church Women United. My earliest years were in Eastern Ohio in the middle of Amish and Mennonite country. We spent long hours at friends’ homes with no electricity, and my pre-school was a local Mennonite Bible School. Consequently, at this Week of Prayer event, many congregation members looked so dang familiar, even though we had just met. I felt very at home, they made us feel very welcome, and I’m glad I hung around until the last dog was hung for the warm conversations afterwards.  It was just plain fun making new friends of people from all sorts of backgrounds and faiths.)

Experts say that parents modeling how to practice faith is important, but that influence can be blunted if either parent doesn’t have a close relationship with their children

Experts say that parents modeling how to practice faith is important, but that influence can be blunted if either parent doesn’t have a close relationship with their children

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Bonus Materials:

1. “Faith in the family: How belief passes from one generation to the next”, Article by Matthew Brown, Deseret News, Thu 26 Dec 2013

2. I Choose To Be Pure: Teens Of Diverse Faiths Speak Out On Purity And Chastity

(Or same video at lds.org link.)

3. Mormonism: A Christ-centered, Global Faith

(Or same video at lds.org link.)

4. Come With Us: Video for youth (see Moroni 10:32)

(Or same video at lds.org link.)

5. Mormon Myths and Reality

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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, “Christian Crosses At A Joint Service For The Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity”—en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Week_of_Prayer_for_Christian_Unity
  • Photo, “Jewish Quarter, Old City, Jerusalem”—carta-jerusalem. com/biblical-sites/old-city-jerusalem/
  • Photo, “Cairo, Home Interior”—Personal collection
  • Photo, “Three generations of a Jewish family light a menorah”—www. deseretnews.com/article/865593024/Faith-in-the-family-How-belief-passes-from-one-generation-to-the-next.html?pg=all
  • Painting, “Gauchos a caballo” (1900), Ángel Della Valle (“Gauchos on horseback”)—commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%C3%81ngel_Della_Valle_-_Gauchos_a_caballo,_c._1900.jpg
  • Photo, “Las Lajas Sanctuary, Ipiales, Colombia”—www. hotelclub.com/blog/beautiful-cathedrals-south-america/
  • Photo, “Panorama Of Las Lajas Sanctuary, Ipiales, Colombia”—www. hotelclub.com/blog/beautiful-cathedrals-south-america/
  • Photo, “Accra Ghana LDS Temple Grounds”—www. mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormonism-in-pictures-beauty-purpose-mormon-temples?cid=HPWE103013152
  • Photo, “Experts say that parents modeling how to practice faith is important, but that influence can be blunted if either parent doesn’t have a close relationship with their children”—www. deseretnews.com/article/865593024/Faith-in-the-family-How-belief-passes-from-one-generation-to-the-next.html?pg=all (NOTE: This image is not in the online version but only in the print version, Page P7.)
  • Photo, “Interwoven Faiths”—www. isna.net/. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is an independent, open and transparent membership organization that strives to be an exemplary and unifying Islamic organization in North America by contributing to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large. ISNA is committed to freedom, to eradicating prejudice and to creating a society where Muslims can live peacefully and prosper alongside other Americans from all walks of life and diverse traditions and faith. Everyone is helpful, warm and gracious, and Dave loves visiting there.

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Interwoven Faiths

Interwoven Faiths

Keeping The Right Balls In The Air

What makes a strong family?
“How we preserve time for family is one of the most significant issues we face in most cultures.

“At a time when I was…in our law firm, one lawyer explained to me how she always felt like a juggler trying to keep three balls in the air at the same time. One ball was her law practice, one was her marriage, and one was her children. She’d almost given up on time for herself. She was greatly concerned that one of the balls was always on the ground. I suggested we meet as a group and discuss our priorities. We determined that the primary reason we were working was to support our families. We agreed that making more money wasn’t nearly as important as our families, but we recognized that serving our clients to the best of our abilities was essential. The discussion then moved to what we did at work that was not necessary and was inconsistent with having time for family. Was there pressure to spend time in the workplace that was not essential? We decided that our goal would be a family-friendly environment for both women and men. Let us be at the forefront in protecting time for family.” (“Lamentations of Jeremiah: Beware of Bondage,” Quentin L. Cook, LDS General Conference, Oct 2013.)

Strength Against The Storm

What makes a strong family? The importance of a strong family narrative is highlighted in the New York Times article on well-researched studies on vital long-term benefits of family history,
The Stories That Bind Us“:

The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

“We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said.

And then something unexpected happened. Two months later was Sept. 11. As citizens, Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush were horrified like everyone else, but as psychologists, they knew they had been given a rare opportunity: though the families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, all the children had experienced the same national trauma at the same time. The researchers went back and reassessed the children.

“Once again,” Dr. Duke said, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack?

“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.

Strong narrative, strong family, strong kids. In the world we live in, we are expected to keep more and more balls in the air, with fewer and fewer on the ground. Well do I ask myself: How will I manage it? How will my adult kids and grandkids?

Maybe it’s a matter of Good, Better, Best?

How do YOU preserve time for family, for self?

Strength To Manage Floods That Happen In Life

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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, keeping the balls juggling in the air—womenonthefence.com/2009/11/25/keeping-the-balls-juggling-in-the-air/
  • Address, “Lamentations of Jeremiah: Beware of Bondage,” Quentin L. Cook, LDS General Conference, Oct 2013—www .lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/lamentations-of-jeremiah-beware-of-bondage?lang=eng
  • Photo, Strength Against The Storm—ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/09/extreme-weather/miller-text
  • Article, “The Stories That Bind Us”, Bruce Feiler, New York Times, 15 Mar 2013—www .nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html
  • Address, “Good, Better, Best,” Dallin H. Oaks, LDS General Conference, Oct 2007—www .lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/good-better-best?lang=eng
  • Photo, Strength To Manage Floods That Happen In Life—www.cuindependent.com/2013/09/17/photos-cu-independents-coverage-of-the-boulder-flood/46514

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