Tag Archives: Fight For What’s Right

Answers Of Courage From Unexpected Sources

"Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning." --Winston Churchill

“Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning.” (Click on image to enlarge)

Sometimes, we ask why life doesn’t turn out the way we expect.

Or for any topic, sometimes, the answers available to us have little or nothing to do with the answers we want.

It’s times such as this that test our mettle. What we do at times like this can determine our level of courage.

Esther, Queen of Persia, decided to show courage at such a time as this:

Watch/download on Mormon Channel or via YouTube below:

——– End of Post ——–

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

  • Header image, “Courage”, www. lds. org/media-library/video/2013-03-004-courage?lang=eng
  • Photo, “Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning”, quote from Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, www. slideshare.net/ssuser63877e/famous-quotation-the-courage
  • Painting credit, “Queen Esther”, by Minerva Teichert (1888-1976), www. lds.org/media-library/images/queen-esther-old-testament-792485?lang=eng.

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Esther, Queen Of Persia, Book Of Esther, Old Testament, Holy Bible

Esther, Queen Of Persia, Book Of Esther, Old Testament, Holy Bible

Who Is Herding Whom? What Do I Allow To Herd Me?

Australian Cattle Dog Herding A Cow

This week, I was talking to a friend who’s a gardener. We talked about what she does to fight local garden predators, such as rabbits and deer. They have a lot of land, and she has a cattle dog to keep the deer clear of the garden. Last week, she came home to find him lying down among the deer, some of which were lying down with him, and some of which were standing and munching her early garden greens. When the dog saw her and her husband, he started and quickly stood up on all fours, with a definite demeanor of guilt on his face. The dog glanced up at his deer friends, back at his masters, back at the deer, back again at his masters, clearly took a moment to make a decision, and then started barking at the deer to run them off. She said that if they had had a video of it, the absolute look of guilt on the dog’s face would have won them first prize on America’s Funniest Home Videos. My friend said that one deer was more aggressive than the others, nipped at the dog, and started chasing him around the garden. My gardener friend said simply, “That is one dead deer.”

Dog Herding SheepHow often do we put ourselves in the position of the dog? The shepherd expects a shepherd dog to do certain things. A dog is to herd the sheep, keep them together, and keep them in the pasture rather than in the hinterlands where they don’t belong. Making friends and laying down with wayward sheep may be fun for time but such haphazard fun is unlikely to continue when the shepherd comes around.

Dog Herding DucksEver notice how, after we have just a bit of fun lying down with the deer that we’re supposed to run off, some of those same deer have the nerve to chase us around the pasture? And here we thought they were friends! When we try to take control of the situation as we should have from the start, the deer show their true colors by nipping back and giving us the run-around. Some friends! Maybe the shepherd knew all along what he was talking about. Who knew?

Rin Tin Tin

Rin Tin Tin

The next time I hear the siren call of one of my pet temptations, maybe I’ll consider this story of my friend, the gardener. I may not want to follow her lead by shouting, “Kill Bambi!” or “Death to the deer!” But I may wish to consider being just as tenacious in shooing away the temptation. Maybe I’ll allow for the possibility that the good shepherd expects me to do certain things for a good reason. And who knows? I might find that supporting the shepherd by being steadfast and immovable might well be its own reward. And I may feel a bit more in control of my own life.

German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd Dog

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Materials:

Read, watch or listen: Mary Ellen Smoot, “Steadfast and Immovable”, Oct 2001 LDS General Conference.

Read or listen: David Bednar, “Steadfast and Immovable, Always Abounding in Good Works”, Ensign, Jan 2008.

——– End of Bonus Materials ——–

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

  • Photo, “Australian Cattle Dog Herding A Cow”—us/muay-thai-thailand/balance-inequality-muay-thai/attachment/australian-cattle-dog-herding-a-cow
  • Photo, dog-herding-sheep”—www. dailypuppy.com/articles/how-to-train-a-herding-puppy_802.html
  • Photo, dog-herding-ducks”—thelife-animal.blogspot.com/2012/03/border-collie.html
  • Photo, “Rin Tin Tin”—www. com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/rin-tin-tins-life-and-legend
  • Photo, “German Shepherd Dog”—www. com/german-shepherd-dog/
  • Photo, “Gary Larson’s The Far Side: ‘Bummer of a birthmark, Hal.’ ”—www. philipchircop.com/post/9178910566/what-is-your-birthmark-gary-larson-creator-of
Gary Larson's The Far Side: 'Bummer of a birthmark, Hal.'

Gary Larson’s The Far Side: ‘Bummer of a birthmark, Hal.’

——– End of WebCredits ——–

How Do I Teach A Teen To Step Out In Faith? Our Family’s Answer.

Reader Question:
How do I teach a teenager around fifteen years old to step out in faith?

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

When Jesus walked on water and invited Peter to come join him, Peter’s faith waxed, and Peter walked on water for a three or six feet. When Peter’s faith waned, Christ said to him:

O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

Watch, and focus on how amazing it would be to walk that three feet. With His question, was Christ scolding Peter, beckoning Peter to think how he might walk further next time, maybe a bit of both?

(Or watch/download same video at lds.org link.)

For many of us, if not all of us, from time to time, faith may either wax or wane. What are some ways that we may teach our kids or grandkids not only to walk by faith but to step out in faith? Not just to mosey along the strait and narrow but rather to hasten down the path. Not just to act in faith but to act in faith with a bit of spunk!

Here are some ways that worked that we have found to teach 15-yr-old-ish teenagers to step out in faith:

  • Set an example; model the behavior.
  • Teenagers need to be taught, “Stick to your guns!” I hated it when my mom told me that, but now that I’m older, I now know that it was exactly what I needed to hear.
  • Teach the Why. Help teenagers understand the Why of things, both in and out of a religious realm. Beginning at 13 or 14 years old, you need to feed those cognitive processes.
  • Help teens see the need to be anxiously engaged in the gospel.
  • Encourage teenagers to bear testimony, to attend testimony meetings or other group opportunities to share what they know, to share that they know. Even if they’re silent the whole time, they get to be thinking about their own testimony for 45 minute or whatever. You think, “I don’t have anything to say, and maybe I should.” I definitely learned things from standing and sharing with friends my feelings about spiritual things.
  • One of the best things you did, Dad, when I pushed back and challenged you on stuff, was to say, “Because I’m your father.” I had to suck it in and do it anyway, only because you asked me. Heavenly Father does the same thing to all of us, over and over, and He expects me to do it even if I don’t understand, even if I don’t agree that it’s right.
  • My parents were so Mormon all the time. I kept thinking, “Do we have to be so Mormon all the time?” It took me a while to finally get that, Yes, we do! We do this to be the same inside and outside the home, just like Atticus Finch (of To Kill a Mockingbird fame).
  • After a lesson for family home evening, I love that we always posted the lesson visuals on the walls around the house. Same with pictures of the temple, of Christ, of the Family Proclamation. It helped remind me, but it also gave me missionary opportunities. It taught me not to be embarrassed by friends’ questions, no matter what they were.
  • In our home, we had a picture of Christ in our front room. All my friends, as they left, they’d always say, “ ‘Bye, Jesus!” It was a bit flippant, but it was never snide, and it helped my friends in and out of the Church to maintain a proper standard of behavior, no matter where we were.
  • All the things that we’ve listed apply not only to teenagers but also to people of any age, even to adults.

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

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Materials:

1. Read, watch or listen: Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s entire address, delivered as he was called to be one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.

2. Watch or listen: Videos on Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

——– End of Bonus Materials ——–

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

  • Photo, Waves-in-Hawaii—www. org/media-library/images/oceans?lang=eng
  • Photo, Community-on-the-ocean—www. lds.org/media-library/images/oceans?lang=eng

——– End of WebCredits ——–

 

Are Mormon Woman Oppressed? Do Women Hold Positions Of Authority In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Our Family’s Answer.

Reader Question:
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, who happens to be Muslim, said to me, “People are always asking me whether or not I feel oppressed as a woman in Islam. And I don’t! Are Mormon women oppressed? Do women hold positions of authority in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”

Family Answer:
This truly is a good question. And my friend was asking in the best way possible—with a sincere heart and mind. It was a “clean question”, a phrase we use in our family to indicate a question free of any agenda. She had no intent to pounce on my answer; her question was in no way mean-spirited; she was not intending to entrap or embarrass me or the Church. She merely was seeking information and was simply an open book. It was refreshing to see her approach, because this question, being truly a good question, unfortunately is not always asked in such a constructive way. In our family, and as Mormons, we believe strongly that sincere, honest questions are always a good thing. To gather answers to this question, we talked to our adult kids, and here are the answers we gathered:

rocks on a misty beachAuthority to act in God’s name and the fullness of gospel truths were lost in the centuries after the death of Jesus (Bible, Amos 8:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 2:3). For example, Christ established important roles for women disciples—As the Lord’s Church was lost in apostasy, this pattern of discipleship was also lost (Julie B. Beck, Ensign, Nov 2011). After this apostasy, people noticed inconsistencies between what the current church taught and what they read. They protested against these errors and taught the truths they saw in the Bible. Various people were inspired by God to fight against various false doctrines, and little by little, many churches moved closer to the doctrines of Jesus Christ. This process also created divisions and sects that taught a variety of conflicting doctrines. When Christ restored His authority to the earth, He restored this authority to everyone, in all walks of life. Specifically for your answer, He restored His authority both to the men and the women of the world. Here are some of the ramifications. We hope that some are meaningful to you.

···oO0···

1. Video by Sheri Dew: What do LDS women get? Are Mormon women oppressed?

···oO0···

2. While serving on a Relief Society board, Lillian DeLong visited a rural area of Ghana. Her husband was in Priesthood meeting in another room, and she was in Relief Society meeting, each conducting leadership training. After it was over, a woman came up to Lillian. In her beautiful Ghanaian church dress, she shook her hand and kept saying, “This is a woman’s church.” Lillian asked, “What do you mean, ‘This is a woman’s church?’” And she said, “We have just been in the marvelous Relief Society that teaches us not only spiritual things but temporal things about how to make our lives and our children and our families better. And at the same time your husband is in the Priesthood room and he is teaching our husbands that the culture of the church does not allow for them to beat their wives and their children.”

And she said, “In this church, my husband and I get to go to the temple and we are going to seal our children to us. And I have seven of my eleven kids that are dead. And I want my children with me. This is a woman’s church because it protects me and gives me all of those things.” (Sharon Eubank, Director, Humanitarian Services and LDS Charities, “This is a Woman’s Church”, FairMormon Conference, Provo UT, 8 Aug 2014.

···oO0···

3. In and out of the Church, Mormon women lead all the time; the influence of their leadership extends far and wide. As a global leader in the Relief Society, Sheri L. Dew taught us in Oct 2001: “Sisters, some will try to persuade you that because you are not ordained to the priesthood, you have been shortchanged. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge ‘armed’ with power. The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the powers of darkness. Most significantly, the fulness of the priesthood contained in the highest ordinances of the house of the Lord can be received only by a man and woman together.” (Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society, Chapter 8, “Blessings of the Priesthood for All: An Inseparable Connection with the Priesthood”, Page 128.)

I have learned for myself that women who know and live the gospel of Jesus Christ understand that “the priesthood of God is not owned by or embodied in those who hold it. It is held in a sacred trust to be used for the benefit of men, women and children alike.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, as quoted in Daughters in My Kingdom, Chapter 8, Page 127.)

···oO0···

4. Just as Isaac and Rebekah of the Old Testament put a lot of work into ensuring that their son Jacob and his future wife enjoyed the blessings of an eternal marriage (Julie B. Beck, Aug 2009, “Teaching the Doctrine of the Family”), my wife and I have put a lot of work into our marriage and into raising our kids. The two of us together are better than the sum of the two of us separately (Sheri L. Dew, LDS General Conference, Oct 2001, “It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone”). As Isaac and Rebekah did, we want to be the man who has the keys and the woman who has the influence, working together as a two-are-better-than-one closely-knit team to see that we are prepared and to bring about the work that God wants us to do, equally yoked in our responsibilities as spouses and parents. “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers should help one another as equal partners.” (Family Proclamation.)

“The world does not know us, and truth…demands that we speak… We are not inferior to the ladies of the world, and we do not want to appear so.” (Eliza R. Snow, 6 Jan 1870.) While women do not hold the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ, women leaders in the Church impact all of us. “The world’s greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus the Christ.” (Daughters in My Kingdom, Page 3.)

Early in her life, my wife, Kim, nurtured a strong desire to be a woman of power and a woman of influence. She decided that she could do that most effectively by choosing to stay at home to raise a family. Her influence on our six adult children and on their families cannot be measured. That is influence; that is power. We are grateful for her wisdom to wield these skills in such a way as to have a true impact on society.

···oO0···

5. Established in 1842 for women 18 years old and older, the Relief Society is the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world. The motto is “Charity never faileth”. President Julie B. Beck has taught us: “Relief Society should be organized, aligned, and mobilized to strengthen families and help our homes to be sacred sanctuaries from the world. I learned this years ago when I was newly married. My parents, who had been my neighbors, announced that they would be moving to another part of the world… This was before e-mail, fax machines, cell phones, and Web cameras, and mail delivery was notoriously slow. One day before she left, I sat weeping with her and asked, ‘Who will be my mother?’ Mother thought carefully, and with the Spirit and power of revelation which comes to women of this kind, she said to me, ‘If I never come back, if you never see me again, if I’m never able to teach you another thing, you tie yourself to Relief Society. Relief Society will be your Mother.’ Mother knew that if I were sick, the sisters would take care of me, and when I had my babies, they would help me. But my mother’s greatest hope was that the sisters in Relief Society would be powerful, spiritual leaders for me. I began from that time to learn abundantly from women of stature and faith.” (Daughters in My Kingdom, Pages 96-98.)

I have learned that the women of the Relief Society build faith and personal righteousness and help those in need. They have strengthened my family and my home.

···oO0···

We hope this answers your questions and helps you to understand us better, to understand better how women hold positions of authority in the Church of Jesus Christ and especially how Mormon women lead others, all the time and in all they do.

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

woman running on a beach

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Materials:

1. “You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory,” Sheri Dew, President and CEO of Deseret Book Company, BYU Devotional Address, 9 Dec 2003, Read: http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=984,
or Watch/Listen:

2. “Mothers Who Know,” Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President, LDS General Conference, Oct 2007, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/mothers-who-know?lang=eng#watch=video.

3. “Teaching the Doctrine of the Family,” Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Satellite Broadcast, 9 Aug 2009, http://theredheadedhostess.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/2009-beck-teaching-the-doctrine-of-the-family__eng.pdf.

4. “The Moral Force of Women,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson, LDS General Conference, Oct 2013, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/the-moral-force-of-women?lang=eng.

5. “What I Hope My Granddaughters (and Grandsons) Will Understand about Relief Society”, Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President, General Relief Society Meeting, Sep 2011, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/what-i-hope-my-granddaughters-and-grandsons-will-understand-about-relief-society?lang=eng.

——– End of Bonus Materials ——–

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

  • Photo, rocks-on-a-misty-beach—www. org/media-library/images/oceans?lang=eng
  • Photo, woman-walking-on-a-beach—www. lds.org/media-library/images/oceans?lang=eng

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Modern 20-somethings: Explorers Or Procrastinators?

Over the years, our societal culture has embraced delayed adult development. To me, it indicates a certain lack of faith. Could it be that many parents fail to teach their kids to step out in faith?

Debating

Debating

Our daughter Whitney has always been wiser than her years and taught us repeatedly about stepping out in faith. She excelled at debate and won many awards in high school. She was going to be a senator, and she would have excelled at that, too. Then suddenly, she stopped. I was stunned. She explained, “Dad, it makes me hard.” Seeing that that was an unwise development, she no longer felt good about it, and she decided to employ her time elsewhere. She had talked with her Maker about it and chose to step out in faith in a new direction.

Leonard Bernstein said that to achieve great things, you need a plan and not quite enough time. Clinical psychologist Meg Jay teaches us about what she calls the benign neglect of adult development: “So what do you think happens when you pat a twenty-something on the head and you say, ‘You have ten extra years to start your life’? Nothing happens. You have robbed that person of his urgency and ambition, and absolutely nothing happens.” She continues:

So when we think about child development, we all know that the first five years are a critical period for language and attachment in the brain. It’s a time when your ordinary, day-to-day life has an inordinate impact on who you will become. But what we hear less about is that there’s such a thing as adult development, and our 20s are that critical period of adult development. But this isn’t what twenty-somethings are hearing. Newspapers talk about the changing timetable of adulthood. Researchers call the 20s an extended adolescence. Journalists coin silly nicknames for twenty-somethings like “twixters” and “kidults.” It’s true. As a culture, we have trivialized what is actually the defining decade of adulthood.

It’s a bold message. Here’s why she’s bold:

And then every day, smart, interesting twenty-somethings like you or like your sons and daughters come into my office and say things like this: “I know my boyfriend’s no good for me, but this relationship doesn’t count. I’m just killing time.” Or they say, “Everybody says as long as I get started on a career by the time I’m 30, I’ll be fine.”

But then it starts to sound like this: “My 20s are almost over, and I have nothing to show for myself. I had a better résumé the day after I graduated from college.”

And then it starts to sound like this: “Dating in my 20s was like musical chairs. Everybody was running around and having fun, but then sometime around 30, it was like the music turned off and everybody started sitting down. I didn’t want to be the only one left standing up, so sometimes I think I married my husband because he was the closest chair to me at 30.”

Where are the twenty-somethings here? Do not do that.

I’m glad our kids decided to skip the kidult decade. Instead, they decided to pass GO, collect $200, and become adults. They stepped out in faith in choosing a career. In choosing to date as well as to hang out. In choosing a spouse. In choosing to start having kids. In choosing to stop having kids. In choosing to stay married even when times get tough. Our kids are ready for all of these decisions. They were ready for these decisions before they turned 20.

Familia en la Ciudad de México, Distrito Federal, los Estados Unidos Mexicanos

Family in Mexico City (México, D.F. or Federal District), Mexico

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

1. See Meg Jay’s presentation here on video, or interactive transcript in a variety of languages. In it, she states revealingly:

Too many thirty-somethings and forty-somethings look at themselves, and at me, sitting across the room, and say about their 20s, “What was I doing? What was I thinking?”

2. A recent line of ads is from AT&T, “Embrace Your Fear Of Commitment”. Note that AT&T ironically labeled the video: “I Heart Freedom”. This is not freedom; this is selfishness. This is choosing to share your life in a friendly adolescent way and adamantly refusing to share your life in a family adult way. Delayed adult development oozes from the text of the ad:

“Marriage is a No-go,” states Joshua in the 30-second version of the ad, which is no longer available, since AT&T decided that they no longer wanted to be married to the shorter version of the ad.

The Woodstock woman says, “It’s not that I have a fear of commitment. It’s more like, uh, interest in exploring all of my options. I have a commitment to that. I have a commitment to exploration.”

Sounds good, but here is Meg Jay on the above ideas: “I’m not discounting twenty-something exploration here, but I am discounting exploration that’s not supposed to count, which, by the way, is not exploration. That’s procrastination.”

3. A related video, at least in my mind, is from Sir Ken Robinson in his presentation, “How Schools Kill Creativity“, or see interactive transcript. It reminds me of a saying in our family that you can’t let schooling get in the way of your education. Some of the most important things we must learn in life we will learn outside of formal education.

——– End of Bonus Material ——–

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

  • Photo, “Debating”—digitaldebating.idebate.org
  • Photo, “Family in Mexico City (México, D.F. or Federal District), Mexico”—Ensign Magazine, May 2014, Page 96
  • Photo, “Couple in Love”—Personal collection

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Couple in Love

Couple in Love

Teach Others To Recognize Temptation

Is temptation real or imagined, internal or external? Is there such a thing as a devil or Satan, or is such a concept pure fiction? Is God real?

Tea SetI knew an incredible woman in Mendoza, Argentina. Hermana Montanini was quick, intelligent, inquisitive, ready to speak her mind, a new member of the Church of Jesus Christ and willing to ask tons of questions. We started teaching a second woman, Hermana Re, who happened to live across the street from Montanini, and although they didn’t know each other, they became fast friends. Hermana Re struggled with part of our law of health, the invitation to abstain from drinking tea. She really enjoyed her tea. She shared her struggles with Hermana Montanini, who taught her about temptation in a way that we had not yet considered. “Have you ever prayed to Heavenly Father and felt that your words just bounced back down from the ceiling and never got through to Him? I promise you, that if you give up your tea, you will find that it will free you to communicate more effectively with God, and he will reward you with a closer relationship with Him.” Hermana Re put Hermana Montanini’s words to the test, gave up her tea straight away, and discovered for herself the enhanced interconnection with God that had previously eluded her.

Plato on Victory Of Conquering SelfTemptation for me is a win-or-lose thing. When I succumb to temptation, I lose and become timid. I defeat myself. When I conquer temptation, I boldly conquer fear. I am victorious over myself. As a Mormon, I believe that within me, within each of us, is the natural man, which is an enemy to God and wars against the spiritual man, also within each of us, who invites us to become as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, in every way the opposite of the natural man.

If God is real, does He care that we choose His ways over other ways?

My son, Todd, thinks that God cares and that we have a responsibility to teach others about temptation. Todd works as a manager at a city pool. One of his coworkers asked for time off for a family gathering. After being granted the time off, she happened to share with Todd that she also planned to go to a band concert during the time off. In a fun way, Todd let her know that his mom taught him that any intent to deceive is a lie and that he expects her to share the whole truth next time and not just part of the truth. They shared a good laugh and decided that she hadn’t been as honest as she could have been. This will allow them to communicate as friends and as co-workers without him having to say each time, “Is there anything else you wish to share with me?” Todd feels that he successfully found a way to teach her about the need to avoid temptation at work when it comes to telling the whole truth.

Temptation is a battle. A battle with self. The arena is the arena within. It is as real as confidence, as real as bravery, as real as love.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, …who at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
—Theodore Roosevelt, as posted in the NCAA Hall of Champions, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

I have learned for myself that temptation is indeed very real, that Satan exists and tries with every power he has available to distract and deceive us, and that God is real and cares that we choose His ways. If we love God, if we listen to Him, we can emerge triumphant every time.

Plato on Knowledge And Virtue

Plato on Knowledge And Virtue

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

1. Harvard Business School innovation expert Clay Christensen teaches us these same concepts in his YouTube video, “Teach People to Detect Temptation”:

2. John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) reads The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis. Screwtape is a senior devil teaching the basics of tempting humans to junior-devil-in-training, Wormwood:

3. Carlos Fusco, President, Brazil Fortaleza East Mission, says of the people in his area: “Our country has so many youth. It’s a young country. They are thirsty for something different than what the world is presenting to them.” How thirsty are you?

——– End of Bonus Material ——–

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

  • Photo, tea-set—www. facebook.com/TurkmenSuratlar
  • Quote, Plato-on-victory-of-conquering-self, www. quotesvalley.com/quotes/victory/page/52/
  • Quote, “Plato on Knowledge And Virtue”, www. quotespedia.info/quotes-about-knowledge-knowledge-becomes-evil-if-the-aim-be-not-virtuous-a-3027.html
  • Quote, “Aristotle on Courage To Conquer Self”, www. quotespedia.info/quotes-about-courage-count-him-braver-who-overcomes-his-desires-than-him-who-conquers-his-enemies-a-1903.html

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Aristotle on Courage To Conquer Self

Aristotle on Courage To Conquer Self

Beyond Dirt, Beyond Opposition, Beyond Bullying

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 by Dorothea Lange

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 by Dorothea Lange

Bullying begins early, especially when faith is involved. My friend who shoved my face in the dirt was one of many. In elementary school and junior high, when kids learned I’m Mormon, they would often ask how many moms I had. I remember wondering how much they really knew about the birth process.

I have Muslim friends, Catholic friends, Jewish friends, friends of many faiths, all with experience getting their faces shoved in the dust. Gritty, tough, beautiful faces.

 

Dirt and faith go together. Opposition, criticism, and antagonism are companions to truth. Whenever the truth is revealed with regard to the purpose and destiny of mankind, there will always be a force to oppose it.

Faces Of Kevin At 3 Years Old

Faces Of Kevin At 3 Years Old

When our son Kevin was three or four years old, an older sibling had a soccer match after a week of rain. At the side of the field was a narrow 25-foot-long puddle. Kev quickly learned that if he ran and threw his body on the ground in just the right way, he could slide the entire length of the water. Before long, the families around us began to watch Kevin instead of the game. One photographer mom missed her son’s only goal of the season as she focused her lens on Kev. “Gotta set priorities. Look at that face!” she said, kept snapping shots, and gave us copies of her images later that week.

Dirt and Faith on the Mexican Baja

Dirt and Faith on the Mexican Baja

Years later, Kevin’s face was again caked with dirt, this time from the dry dust of Tijuana, made a bit muddy by the ample sweat of his brow. He loved working closely with friends from Mexico as they labored to teach the truth. At one point, weeks of opposition and criticism were taking a heavy toll. His close friends were truly discouraged, and it weighed heavily on his heart. Kev decided to rip his bedsheet in two and scribbled on his Title of Liberty, “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children”, and fastened it upon the end of a pole. He called his flock of fellow laborers together to encourage them and, in his strong voice, shouted in Spanish, “Whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and promise with me that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.” After signing the rent cloth, Kevin invited them to sign. They all did. And their courage was restored. People started really talking with these young men once again, sharing feelings down deep and listening to them, as the weeks of opposition and antagonism evaporated, leaving only the local dust on their tired, smiling faces.

Look for the biggest dust cloud billowing above the most dirt, and you’ll find that it’s being kicked at someone standing for the truth. Sometimes, no one stands with them.

“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing, persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny many defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited very clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”—Joseph Smith

Bullies will always assemble themselves. Why? Because someone is teaching the truth, and the truth will always be opposed. Time to labor harder, time to work smarter, time to smile that feel-it-deep-down smile…

Two men looked up from prison bars,
One saw the mud, the other saw stars.
—Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Defying Opposition

Defying Opposition

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

Many of these thoughts are inspired by Lawrence Corbridge. Read, watch or listen to his entire address, “The Prophet Joseph Smith”, Apr 2014 LDS General Conference.

A Father's Gift, Liz Lemon Swindle

“A Father’s Gift”, Liz Lemon Swindle

——– End of Bonus Material ——–

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

  • Photo, “Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 by Dorothea Lange”—www2. artsmia.org/blogs/new-pictures/category/mia-photo-exhibitions/
  • Photo, “Dirt and Faith on the Mexican Baja”, from private collection
  • Quote, “The Standard of Truth,” Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, Volume 4, Page 540, from the Wentworth Letter, just before the Articles of Faith
  • Quote by Dale Carnegie, www. goodreads.com/quotes/420532-two-men-looked-out-from-prison-bars-one-saw-the
  • Photo, “Defying Opposition”, from private collection
  • Painting, “A Father’s Gift”, by Liz Lemon Swindle. Swindle tells us that this tender painting portrays the love of three fathers. Our heavenly Father entrusted the twins to John and Julia Murdock. When Julia died after childbirth, Brother Murdock entrusted them to Joseph, who brought them to Emma. Emma had just lost her own twin babies within hours of their birth. Joseph and Emma loved and raised the twins as if they were their own. See www. ldsart.com/p-10603-fathers-gift.aspx. Dave adds: To me this painting is about how a loving God follows opposition and trials by restoring smiles.
  • Painting, “Hope”, by Liz Lemon Swindle.  See www. world-wide-art.com/art/Liz_Lemon_Swindle.html. Peter and John were no strangers to criticism and antagonism, which had cost them dearly. Swindle teaches us about illustrating a tender moment just before their faces learn to smile again:

When Mary came to the tomb, she found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. She ran to the disciples crying, “They have taken away the Lord…and we know not where they have laid him” (John 20:2). Peter and John immediately ran to the tomb.

What did they think as they ran? Were they simply curious to see for themselves? Did they fear, like Mary, that their enemies had stolen the body? Or did they remember His promise, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”?

The decision that faced Peter and John that Sunday morning is the same decision that faces each one of us today. Will we doubt? Will we hope? Or will we know that He lives? I know that He lives.

  • Photo, “Smiles After Opposition”, from private collection

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Hope, Liz Lemon Swingle

“Hope”, Liz Lemon Swingle

 ···oO0···

Smiles After Opposition

Smiles After Opposition

A Good Reason To Get Beaten Up

Sometimes, you just gotta rock the boat and stand up for what you believe.

I remember that, when I was a kid in Columbia, Missouri, a friend at school picked a fight on the playground. He had criticized my beliefs as a Mormon and called me a moron. I chose to say, “Yes, I believe those things,” and he beat me up. A couple years later in Fifth Grade, while waiting in line at the water fountain in the hallway, another friend asked me, “Do you really believe that Old Joe Smith saw God?” I remember thinking, “Who the heck is Old Joe Smith?” And then it hit me that he was referring to the prophet Joseph Smith (whom I’d never heard called Old Joe Smith before). I said, “Yes, I do believe that Joseph Smith saw God.” He shrugged his shoulders, and that was the end of it. We got our sips of water and went back to class.

Sometimes We Row Alone

Sometimes We Row Alone

In my previous post, I discussed the importance of being at our best—Not the importance of individual achievement but of working as a team, when we all get in the boat together and pull as one. Have you noticed that being our best can demand more than mere teamwork? Sometimes, when singled out to row without help, criticized for what we think is right, we are called upon to stand alone. And while on occasion, it happens with a bang, like my fight on the playground, I’ve noticed that in general it happens quietly. Like when I volunteer at the Family History Center—I thought I would help others learn to connect with their families, but most of the time, I find I’m slowly learning more myself. Or when I’m together with friends of multiple faiths—Not only do I learn to listen better but also to express myself better so that I invite rather than annoy. No bang, just slow progress towards being our best and working as a team.

But, on occasion, we must be willing to rock the boat.

Mashed Potato Face

Mashed Potato Face

One young woman learned this as an LDS missionary. “My companion and I saw a man sitting on a bench in the town square eating his lunch. As we drew near, he looked up and saw our missionary name tags. With a terrible look in his eye, he jumped up and raised his hand to hit me. I ducked just in time, only to have him spit his food all over me and start swearing the most horrible things at us. We walked away saying nothing. I tried to wipe the food off of my face, only to feel a clump of mashed potato hit me in the back of the head. Sometimes it is hard being a missionary, because right then I wanted to go back, grab that man, and say, ‘EXCUSE ME!’ But I didn’t.”

Jeffrey R. Holland teaches us further:

Unfortunately, messengers of divinely mandated commandments are often no more popular today than they were anciently, as at least two spit-upon, potato-spattered sister missionaries can now attest.

Run Along And Pick Marigolds, Or Stand For Something

Run Along And Pick Marigolds, Or Stand For Something

It is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds.  [See Henry Fairlie, The Seven Deadly Sins Today (1978), Pages 15-16.]

Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them.

I have learned for myself the value of standing for something. It’s especially satisfying when I may do so as part of building a team that rows as one.

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

The importance and vitality of the strait and narrow path:

Be strong. Live the gospel faithfully even if others around you don’t live it at all. Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them. A long history of inspired voices, including those you will hear in this conference and the voice you just heard in the person of President Thomas S. Monson, point you toward the path of Christian discipleship. It is a strait path, and it is a narrow path without a great deal of latitude at some points, but it can be thrillingly and successfully traveled, “with … steadfastness in Christ, … a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.” In courageously pursuing such a course, you will forge unshakable faith, you will find safety against ill winds that blow, even shafts in the whirlwind, and you will feel the rock-like strength of our Redeemer, upon whom if you build your unflagging discipleship, you cannot fall. [Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Cost—and Blessings—of Discipleship”, Ensign, May 2014, Pages 6-9.]

Sometimes, You've Got To Rock The Boat

Sometimes, You’ve Got To Rock The Boat

——– End of Bonus Material ——–

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

  • Photo, “Sometimes We Row Alone”—pseudophilosoph.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/welcome-life-has-no-meaning-but-it-can/
  • Photo, “Mashed Potato Face”—www. flickr.com/photos/mamajulie2008/6883972123/
  • Photo, “Run Along And Pick Marigolds, Or Stand For Something”—rosylittlethings.typepad.com/posie_gets_cozy/2007/08/last-night.html
  • Photo, “Sometimes, You’ve Got To Rock The Boat”—hopeofglory.typepad.com/into_the_fire/2013/04/dont-rock-the-boat-baby.html
  • Photo, “Marigolds”—gardening.about.com/od/plantprofiles/ig/Marigolds/Marigold-Colors.htm

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Marigolds

Marigolds

As I Walked In The Door, Everyone’s Jaws Dropped

The 1936 Varsity Crew, University of Washington

The 1936 Varsity Crew, University of Washington

I lived in Oklahoma and worked for a telecommunications company during the years leading up to the Year 2000. The entire computer industry had to deal with Y2K, adapting each line of millions of lines of code to allow for a four-digit year (where previously only a two-digit year had been the standard). In my group, we worked together well for the benefit of the team. During a critical week of software installs, one night I was assigned to be at work at 4AM. I woke up with a start at 1AM and felt I should go in early. As I walked in the door, everyone’s jaws dropped, and they couldn’t believe I was there. They had just identified a major concern, I was the only one who knew how to investigate it, and they had just confirmed these two facts when I happened to walk in the door in the middle of the night. They all said that they got goose bumps when they saw me, and for years, a few of my execs teased me about whether or not I could still do that “mind reading” thing. We had studied our code thoroughly, we took responsibility for working together well, we knew what was at stake, and we simply were in synch as a team.

Cover, The Boys In The Boat--Nine Americans And Their Epic Quest For Gold At The 1936 Berlin Olympics

Teamwork to me has always been more satisfying than claiming center stage for oneself. Maybe that’s why I loved reading The Boys in the Boat last month, which was on the LA Times bestseller list for nine months and on the NY Times list for eighteen months. In the words of author Daniel James Brown, “This is a story of who we are when we are at our best. But it approaches it not as a story about individual achievement but a story about what we do when we come together, when we all get in the boat together and pull as one.”

Here are two of my favorite quotes and what they mean to me:

“Good thoughts have much to do with good rowing. It isn’t enough for the muscles of a crew to work in unison; their hearts and minds must also be as one.” [George Yeoman Pocock, as quoted in The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Daniel James Brown (2013, Viking, New York), Pages 297.]

Losing Of Self Entirely To The Crew As A Whole

Losing Of Self Entirely To The Crew As A Whole

“Where is the spiritual value of rowing?…The losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew as a whole.” [George Pocock, ibid., Page 353.]

 

 

 

An Andes Evening In Godoy Cruz

An Andes Evening In Godoy Cruz

When I lived in Argentina, while in the city of Godoy Cruz, we just clicked with the local folks and were able to serve others as never before. Six nights a week, my missionary companion and I would would split up, go in pairs with people in the area who happened to be Mormons, and four to eight times each night, we would teach people the gospel of Jesus Christ. These people sacrificed much of their time just to help us in our work, and that certainly helped us to build a more effective team. We grew close to these people and close as missionary companions. It was an absolutely beautiful way to spend our evenings, week after week.

It’s a delight to read stories of people when we are at our best. It’s especially a delight to read stories of not being mastered by our circumstances, stories of subjugating self to team, stories that focus on conquering ourselves.

The 1936 US Olympic Rowing Team

The 1936 US Olympic Rowing Team

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

1. Video: 1936 Olympic rowing film orchestrated by German media mogul Leni Riefenstahl (with footage of actual race, then Riefenstahl was able to get her rowing close-ups with the teams a day later)

2. Video: Daniel James Brown “The Boys in the Boat” (taped author presentation)

——– End of Bonus Material ——–

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

  • Photo, “The 1936 Varsity Crew, University of Washington”—plus.google.com/+XenoM%C3%BCller/posts
  • Photo, cover, The Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans And Their Epic Quest For Gold At The 1936 Berlin Olympics—www. startribune.com/entertainment/books/211547891.html
  • Photo, need to row—www. telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/10135281/Eton-Dorney-Rowing-World-Cup-2013-Great-Britains-Olympic-champion-mens-eight-finish-third.html
  • Photo, “Losing Of Self Entirely To The Crew As A Whole”—www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/rowing/9757012/Rowing-should-get-on-its-bike-says-Greg-Searle.html
  • Photo, “An Andes Evening In Godoy Cruz”—www. mendoza.travel/Godoy_Cruz.aspx
  • Photo, “The 1936 US Olympic Rowing Team”—www. newsrt.co.uk/news/the-boys-in-the-boat-by-daniel-james-brown-review-1923027.html
  • Photo, “Godoy Cruz, A Park At Night”—www. liveargentina.com/mendoza/GodoyCruz.php

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Godoy Cruz, A Park At Night

Godoy Cruz, A Park At Night

Safe And Secure Walls Around Us

What do you do in your family to develop strong young adults? Here’s what works for us…

"Great Wave Off Kanagawa", Hokusai (1829-32)

“Great Wave Off Kanagawa”, Hokusai (1829-32)

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
William Shakespeare
(Marcus Brutus in Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene 3, lines 217-223.)

One of the first things a little child learns in swimming lessons is the importance of the wall on the side. When kids swim out into the pool, whenever they flounder, they can always come back to the safety and security of the wall.

Learning The Importance Of The Wall On The Side

Learning The Importance Of The Wall On The Side

No matter where they go or how scary the open water gets, the wall never moves. The wall is always there. Gospel standards, the words of the prophets, the commandments of Christ: All provide my family with the safety and constancy of the wall in the water of the pool. These standards give us the confidence that we can manage things just fine, even when we get in over our heads and the water runs deep.

“…the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; … deep water is what I am wont to swim in.”
Joseph Smith

As my kids grew up, I knew that the unquestioning faith they had as children would be replaced by all the important questions of youth. As parents, Kim and I encouraged lots of intellectual exploring by reading widely, continually discussing and debating with our children. It helped that she and I are usually at opposite ends of any spectrum of opinion, so the kids grew up knowing the importance of disagreeing agreeably and of digging out answers that satisfied their individual concerns. But we united as parents as far as eternal truths are concerned, and it was important that our kids have confidence that they could get solid answers. They could get solid opinions from Mom and me, and they could get solid answers directly from God. It was especially important that they do so when it came to matters of faith, whether to live righteously, to keep commandments, to stay morally clean, or to follow the weightier matters of the law. When they were teenagers, we’d spend hours studying to master scriptures and to wrestle for gospel answers, making a game of it whenever possible. Bribing with Skittles candy made it fun — It was a game only when the kids felt it was fun. Tackle scripture chase, anyone?

In the process, our children learned not only to stand on their own but to fight for what they know is right. Generally speaking, they’ve made decisions worthy of any adult, even when they were teenagers. They continue to choose to keep their feet firmly planted on the strait and narrow path, teaching their families to do so as well.

What deep discussions have achieved really is pretty dang incredible – thoughtful gospel education has helped the young adults in our family to feel the right things. It allows them to take time out of their busy schedules, to rebuke the winds of change and to calm the sea of life. It gives them experience with spiritual feelings. It gives them experience with standing on their own.

“And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”

Family Garden

Family Garden

The opportunity to experience and experiment with spiritual feelings is essential to my kids, both as teenagers and now as adults with families of their own,  as they come to know Christ and to learn the variety of ways by which He interacts with each of us.  This training of their spirit with eternal communication processes is enhanced as they have consistent experience repeatedly hearing the words of the Prophets.

“But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.”

I have learned for myself that these things not only bring me joy. They bring me safety and security.

Building Strong Young Adults

Building Strong Young Adults

“And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.”

.
.

Elder Bednar on answers to every question and challenge:
“Acting in accordance with the teachings of the Savior invites spiritual power into our lives—power to hear and heed, power to discern, and power to persevere. Devoted discipleship is the best and only answer to every question and challenge.”
-David A. Bednar, Ensign, March 2014

The secret of strong young adults for our family? Start ’em young. Keep sharing with them what’s really important to you when they’re old. Works for us…

Still Sharing And Finding Safety And Security In The Wall

Still Sharing And Finding Safety And Security In The Wall

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

1. A Change in Course: Watch the Hopf Family story. (Length: 4:06.)

2. An Incredible Meeting, an Answered Prayer: Watch François Verny’s Story. (Length: 4:03)

Raising Strong, Studly Adults Who Contribute To Society

Raising Strong, Studly Adults Who Contribute To Society

——– End of Bonus Material ——–

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

  • Ukiyo-e Woodblock Print, “Great Wave Off Kanagawa”, Hokusai (1829-32)—en.wikipedia. org/wiki/File:Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2.jpg, with further info at en.wikipedia. org/wiki/The_Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa
  • Photo, “Learning The Importance Of The Wall On The Side”—www. eagerbeaverswimschool.com/
  • Photo, “Start ‘Em Young To Have Confidence In The Wall”—www. examiner.com/article/study-swimming-lessons-appear-to-have-a-protective-effect-against-drowning-for-tots

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Start 'Em Young To Have Confidence In The Wall

Start ‘Em Young To Have Confidence In The Wall

Let The Storm Rage On — Committing To Fight The Good Fight

Quick: What do you think of when you hear this word? “Ordinances.”

Okay, that may be a bit strange. Try this one: “Covenants.”

What went through your mind? Good? Bad? Ugly? Modest? Fight? Commitment?

Sometimes (often?) I feel a need to fight against expectations. At times those expectations are of good behaviors, at other times of bad. In the movie “Frozen”, the character Elsa seemed to feel much the same way:

Not everyone appreciates her the way I do, but I love the way Idina Menzel sings. To me, the good in this song is inspiring. But not the bad. In the song, good and bad are juxtaposed, in opposition to each other, just as they are in life. And as in life, I thank Heaven for the bad. By Celestial design, the bad helps me to recognize, appreciate, and embrace the good. Some of the lyrics:

I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Let the storm rage on.
Cold never bothered me anyway. (All good.)

…the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all. (good)
It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through. (good)
No right, no wrong, no rules for me. (bad) I’m free. (good)

Let it go, let it go. (good) That perfect girl is gone. (bad)

Good, bad. Bad, good. What the heck does it matter? Well, according to the prophet Isaiah, it matters a lot:

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness…

“The emphasis on truth as the way things really are suggests that it contrasts with the way things seem to be, no matter how convincing that deception may be. One such truth is the reality of evil. As Isaiah pointed out, at the heart of moral relativism is an inability or unwillingness to recognize evil.”
Daniel L. Belnap

Dave, what does this good-evil stuff have to do with ordinances? I thought you’d never ask. Ordinances in any faith community help us to shun evil, to choose the right, to commit to be good. It draws a line in the snow. It draws a line in the sand, in the dirt, on the concrete.  A bar/bat mitzvah means “son/daughter who is subject to the commandment, to the law of God”. The first pillar of Islam is kalima shahadah, meaning to promise/testify/witness my word to God. Christian baptism is a covenant with God to repent, to be clean before Him, to accept Christ’s invitation when he said, “Come, follow me.” Ordinances and covenants are a two-way promise: We promise to follow God; he promises us certain blessings.

One thing I really, really love about being a Mormon is that my faith is full of ordinances. At eight years old, I was baptized. At twelve, I was ordained to the priesthood. At twenty-four, my wife and I were sealed for time and all eternity. Then our family gets to go to the temple together and do it all for others. Over and over. Each time, each ordinance, is a line in the snow/sand/whatever. Each is an additional level of commitment and reverence to God. Throughout life, we all make decisions. Ordinances help. They help us choose the right. They help us witness to God and to others that we will choose good over evil.

So, do what Elsa did. Do what you think is right. Be brave, and do it your way. Stay modest. Thumb your nose at a world that wants you to take your clothes off, and keep them on. Instead, yank off the gloves, and pull no punches. Stretch your powers as far as they can possibly go, and then stretch them a bit more. Say what is on your mind and in your heart.

FIGHT. Commit. Draw lines with ideas. Fight the good fight. Fight the good fight of faith.

I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Let the storm rage on — Good never bothered me anyway.

Elsa Ready To Fight

Elsa Ready To Fight, Gloves Off

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

1. Just like Elsa has powers she must learn about and learn to control, so do we. Listen or read Elder Ronald A. Rasband’s address regarding ways to tutor ourselves in having our hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another, entitled, “Building Spiritual Power in Priesthood Quorums”. (Length of audio: 16:18.)

2. Listen or read how God’s covenant with Abraham blesses us all. (Length of audio: 12:36.)

3. Read more about moral absolutes contrasted with moral relativism in an address by Dallin H. Oaks, “Religious Values and Public Policy“, Ensign, Oct 1992.

——– End of Bonus Material ——–

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

  • Illustration, “Else Ready To Fight, Gloves Off,” www. moviefanatic.com/gallery/frozen-elsa-idina-menzel/

——– End of WebCredits ——–

5 Secrets of Staying Clean

Have you ever been so grungy that you clearly felt unclean? In St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, in the days after Hurricane Katrina, I joined a group of volunteers to help people clean up and repair their homes in the communities of Covington and Mandeville on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. It was grueling work, and we were truly grungy. We overnighted at a local church with no power and no shower facilities. Someone came up with the brilliant idea to make an outdoor camp shower by drooping a garden hose over the top of a fence as a makeshift shower. For modesty, tarps were thrown over the fences, allowing a couple hundred volunteers from a dozen states to take a decent shower. I was surprised that it felt so good to be clean after a long day of backbreaking labor—and from such a small and simple thing.

Staying Clean And Sober

Staying Clean And Sober

I remember a close friend who worked very hard to stay clean, a young father with five small children. He had severe substance abuse problems with various substances, but he had recently developed a deeper desire to conquer them, 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 brothers. 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, 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, sitting and talking in the dark on the small stoop outside his home. But I simply could not go to see him often enough, and I looked forward to each visit with all my heart.

Getting Clean, Staying Clean

Getting Clean, Staying Clean

These experiences remind me of how I felt on the day I was baptized. I was eight years old, and I think I was prepared to understand its value. In the months leading up to it, I remember distinctly talking to some young friends who had been baptized recently about how if I were to do any big-time sinning, I had better do it quickly before I was baptized so that I could wash away all those wrongs. While I didn’t yet have the attitude that God wanted me to have in recognizing the sacrifices that His Son has made on my behalf, it was clear that I understood the meaning of the ordinance of baptism as a symbol of cleansed sins and living a new life.

So, here are some secrets of staying clean:

  1. Recognize the need to get clean.
  2. Commit to getting clean.
  3. Put yourself in situations/places where you may stay clean.
  4. Ask for clean help when you need it.
  5. Be honestly curious. Learn more about staying clean.

I have learned for myself the importance of getting clean and staying clean. For me, the symbolic cleansing of baptism is a vital part of me doing so. 

Alma Baptizing People (Mosiah 18:7-17)

Alma Baptizing People (Mosiah 18:7-17)

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

1. Read or listen: Alma baptizing as people came into the church of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 18:7-17 (in The Book of Mormon)

2. Watch, listen, or read James E. Faust’s address regarding this sacred ordinance, entitled, “Born Again”. (Length: 18:02.)

3. Resources to stay clean from drugs (most towns have some great community resources; this is merely an example): http://www.louisvilledrugrehabs.com/rehab-types/staying-clean-from-drugs/

——– End of Bonus Material ——–

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

  • Photo, Katrina volunteers—www. perfectplank.com/katrina.html
  • Photo, “Staying Clean And Sober”—www. louisvilledrugrehabs.com/rehab-types/staying-clean-from-drugs/
  • Photo Montage, “Getting Clean, Staying Clean”—blog. docsuggest.com/753/personal-hygiene-sofiya-sujad/
  • Illustration, “Alma Baptizing People”—www. lds.org/media-library/images/gospel-art/book-of-mormon?lang=eng#alma-baptizing-people-39653
  • Photo, “St. Tammany Katrina Clean-up”—www. nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2014/01/fema_canceling_disaster_loans.html

——– End of WebCredits ——–

St. Tammany Katrina Clean-up

St. Tammany Katrina Clean-up

On Leprosy and Being Cleansed

Have you ever seen a person with a conspicuous disease such as leprosy? We read of an honorable military leader in the Old Testament, “a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.” Naaman sought the help of God and then rejected it: the task was too small, too simple. But upon submitting to God’s counsel, upon bathing in the small river as instructed, he was cleansed. He was healed of the leprosy, and his skin was restored to the flesh of a baby.

As Heavenly Father established His teachings among mankind, He designated symbolic cleansing as an outward proclamation of an inward commitment to serve Him. By celestial design, the act of baptism is a small and simple thing. Note that God did this not to demand subservience as does a king, queen or any human magistrate but rather because He knows that, as humans, we are at our best when serving a Higher Source than self. When the Father sent His Son to bring us back to His teachings, he re-emphasized man’s need for baptism. After we strayed anew from those teachings, God did so as He restored His truths once again.

I was very young when I learned the value of all this. I grew up on a farm in Missouri in a friendly Mormon congregation, where a number of folks in the community decided to join us in our faith. Those who joined our church were baptized in our pond. Bob, a local college student, yearned to be baptized, and he wanted first to receive the permission of his parents, whom he loved dearly. For years they refused, and, as Bob waited for their hearts to change, after each time someone else was baptized, he would stay down at the pond. For long periods of time, he would cry out his soul to God for patience and understanding, with clenched fists and raised voice. I remember seeing him come up to the farmhouse, his eyes red and puffy, and I heard him say through tears how much he looked forward to his turn in our pond, when he could finally show his willingness to put his sins behind him. His earnestness made an impression on my young spirit, and to this day, each time I see a baptism, I see in my mind’s eye the intensity of Bob’s joy when he was finally able to do this for himself.

Short-sightedness and sin have made lepers of us all. A little symbolic cleansing can help.

Cleansing Hands

Cleansing Hands

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

Watch, listen, or read Elder David A. Bednar’s entire address regarding the priesthood ordinance of baptism, entitled, “That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us”. (Length: 16:33.)

——– End of Bonus Material ——–

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

  • Illustration, Naaman cleansed—www. sermonview.com/cart/product_info.php?products_id=5321
  • Photo, baby’s skin and dad, the epitome of safe and secure—www. webmd.com/parenting/baby/ss/slideshow-baby-skin-care (gallery image 13 of 21)
  • Photo, Missouri pond—thepanoramapoint.wordpress.com/category/photos/page/2/
  • Photo, “Cleansing Hands”—yankeecandleblog.wordpress.com/
  • Illustration, “John Baptizes Jesus Christ”—www. lds.org/media-library/images/gospel-art/new-testament?#john-baptizes-christ-39544

——– End of WebCredits ——–

John Baptizes Jesus Christ

John Baptizes Jesus Christ

Women of Power, Women of Influence

Don't Be A DummyThis morning, I was struck by this thought-provoking sentence: “I don’t know one of [my own circle of girlfriends] who doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past.” I read this in a footnote to a talk in a recent LDS General Conference interestingly titled, “The Moral Force of Women.”

The entire two-paragraph context by author Jennifer Moses is good:

So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn’t), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don’t know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We’re embarrassed, and we don’t want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.

Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don’t know one of them who doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I’ve ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she’d “experimented” more.

Don't Short Change YourselfIn fact, the entire WSJ article is good, and not only because it stirred up a strident response. (See “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?”, Jennifer Moses, Wall Street Journal, 19 Mar 2011, Page C3). Here is a selection from the address that referenced Moses’ article:

[In the view of many in the world, in sharp contrast to God’s view,] there has long been a cultural double standard that expected women to be sexually circumspect while excusing male immorality. The unfairness of such a double standard is obvious, and it has been justifiably criticized and rejected. In that rejection, one would have hoped that men would rise to the higher, single standard, but just the opposite has occurred—women and girls are now encouraged to be as promiscuous as the double standard expected men to be. Where once women’s higher standards demanded commitment and responsibility from men, we now have sexual relations without conscience, fatherless families, and growing poverty. Equal-opportunity promiscuity simply robs women of their moral influence and degrades all of society. In this hollow bargain, it is men who are “liberated” and women and children who suffer most. (“The Moral Force of Women”, D. Todd Christofferson, LDS General Conference, Oct 2013. )

In his address, Christofferson also teaches us the importance of appreciating everyone’s influence for good, regardless of the ways they work all day: “A pernicious philosophy that undermines women’s moral influence is the devaluation of marriage and of motherhood and homemaking as a career. Some view homemaking with outright contempt, arguing that it demeans women and that the relentless demands of raising children are a form of exploitation. They ridicule what they call “the mommy track” as a career. This is not fair or right. We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career—we all benefit from those achievements—but we still recognize there is not a higher good than motherhood or fatherhood in marriage.”

Are Your Standards ShrinkingIn a second footnote are cited important words from another address: “If being ‘selfless’ means a woman must give up her own inner identity and personal growth, that understanding of selflessness is wrong… But today’s liberationist model goes too far the other way, stereotyping women as excessively independent of their families. A more sensible view is that husbands and wives are interdependent with each other… The critics who moved mothers from dependence to independence skipped the fertile middle ground of interdependence. Those who moved mothers from selflessness to selfishness skipped the fertile middle ground of self-chosen service that contributes toward a woman’s personal growth. Because of these excesses, debates about the value of motherhood have, ironically, caused the general society to discount not only mothers but women in general.” (“Motherhood and the Moral Influence of Women”, Bruce C. Hafen, World Congress of Families II, Geneva, Switzerland, Plenary Session IV, 16 Nov 1999.)

Some may assume that these thoughts refer to virtue, to dressing modestly, or to the value of a working woman, rather than viewing them as a related whole. For me, the issue here is one of influence and of power. Women wield power and influence in diverse ways, and everyone should appreciate good work, independent of where a woman chooses to do it. I have learned for myself that, regardless of our views, it is selfish to say unkind things. We can learn to use our power and influence to build rather than to belittle, even if a person makes choices we would not make for ourselves. Women should not limit themselves to roles that others define for them. The far-reaching effects of the power and influence of women is well described in and certainly not limited to the why-do-we-let-our-kids-wear-immodest-clothes article by Jennifer Moses, Matt Walsh’s …Me?-Ha!-I-WORK! post, Sheri Dew’s two-are-better-than-one talk, or Julie Beck’s mothers-who-know address. “The world’s greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus the Christ.” (Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society, Page 3.)

Early in her life, my wife nurtured a strong desire to be a woman of power and a woman of influence. She decided that she could do that most effectively by choosing to stay at home to raise a family. Her influence on our six adult children and on their families cannot be measured. That is influence; that is power. We are grateful for her wisdom to wield these skills in such a way as to have a true impact on society.

——– End of Post ——–

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

  • Poster, Don’t Be A Dummy: A mannequin wears whatever the world is selling. Your standards are higher than that.—www.lds.org/media-library/images/mormonads/dress-and-appearance?lang=eng#mormonad-dont-be-a-dummy-1118328 [Church standards of modesty apply equally to all genders.]
  • Poster, Don’t Short Change Yourself: The way you dress advertises your standards. Send the right message. (See For The Strength Of Youth, P. 8.)—www. lds.org/media-library/images/mormonads/dress-and-appearance?lang=eng#mormonad-short-change-1118313 [Church standards of modesty apply equally to all genders.]
  • Article, “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?”, Jennifer Moses, Wall Street Journal, 19 Mar 2011—online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748703899704576204580623018562
  • Address, “The Moral Force of Women,” D. Todd Christofferson, LDS General Conference, Oct 2013—www. lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/the-moral-force-of-women?lang=eng
  • Poster, Are Your Standards Shrinking? If it’s too tight, too short, or too revealing, it doesn’t fit church standards. Don’t stretch your standards to fit the world’s. (See For The Strength Of Youth, P. 14-16.)—www. lds.org/media-library/images/mormonads/dress-and-appearance?lang=eng#mormonad-standards-shrinking-1118383 [Church standards of modesty apply equally to all genders.]
  • Address, “Motherhood and the Moral Influence of Women,” Bruce C. Hafen, World Congress of Families II, Geneva, Switzerland, Plenary Session IV, 16 Nov 1999 —worldcongress.org/wcf2_spkrs/wcf2_hafen.htm
  • Blog Post, “You’re a stay-at-home mom? What do you DO all day?”, Matt Walsh—themattwalshblog.com/2013/10/09/youre-a-stay-at-home-mom-what-do-you-do-all-day/
  • Address, “It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone”, Sheri L. Dew, LDS General Conference, Oct 2001—www. lds.org/general-conference/2001/10/it-is-not-good-for-man-or-woman-to-be-alone?lang=eng
  • Address, “Mothers Who Know”, Julie B. Beck, LDS General Conference, Oct 2007—www. lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/mothers-who-know?lang=eng
  • Book, Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society (2011, Intellectual Reserve, Inc., United States of America)—www. lds.org/relief-society/?lang=eng

——– End of WebCredits ——–

Bats, Courage, And The Modern Pioneer

Townsend's Big-eared Bat

Townsend’s Big-eared Bat

Our prophet has recently highlighted the global need for pioneers today. In what ways can we be a pioneer?

Bats And Blind, Shallow Courage
I was a pioneer once, and it was scary. A friend with a new baby called and asked my son, Todd (then in high school), if he could come help her out—Her husband wasn’t at home, and she had a bat in her house.  It seems that bats and mothers of new babies don’t do well together. Todd assured her that he’d be right over. Then he called me immediately. I was in a meeting, which was terminated for the bat. Neither Todd nor I had any batty experience; it was just the blind leading the bat. Fortunately for us, our friend happened to have a wastecan, which we emptied in order to shroud the squeaky thing. Fortunately for the bat, it had become more orderly by the time we arrived. We grabbed the empty can and a piece of cardboard large enough to cover the mouth of the wastebasket, calmly placed the container over the stationary animal, inserted the cardboard between the can and the wall, and carried the contained bat outside. Our meager courage did not fail.    

While our winged mammal required us to have courage, its capture is a fairly wussy example of being a modern pioneer. Dictionary.com defines a pioneer as “one who is first to settle a region for development by others” or “one who is among the earliest in a field of inquiry, enterprise or progress.” So there may be a lot to learn from a non-wussy pioneer. For instance, there’s Matt Harding. Stuck in a job he didn’t enjoy, he decided that he was willing to take a risk and try something new. He has turned his silly characteristic dance into a video model of global community outreach, and people all over the world jostle to be with Matt, to laugh, jump and clap hands together. Now, it’s his full-time (yes, paying) job. All from some great music and from being willing to dance badly in front of people: Fun to watch.

Seeing More Deeply
So why pioneer? What’s the urgency to pioneer? The importance? As President Monson taught us, “We forget how the Greeks and Romans prevailed magnificently in a barbaric world and how that triumph ended—how a slackness and softness finally overcame them to their ruin. In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security and a comfortable life; and they lost all—comfort and security and freedom.” (See Paragraph 11.)

Learning Our Heritage--Minute Men in the Making at Lexington

Learning Our Heritage: Minute Men In The Making At Lexington, Massachusetts

I love the hymn They, the Builders of the Nation. Becoming a pioneer today takes courage, and it takes some out-of-the-box thinking. How may each of us be a “pillar, guide, and inspiration to the hosts of waiting youth”? (See Verse 3—sing, read or listen.) What are some important ways that we may broaden our understanding of how to serve more effectively the community around us? How to serve those who may have needs that we don’t perceive, and how we may be a part of meeting those unmet needs? Each of us can do things to become modern-day pioneers and to tread new ground in some important ways. Even if it isn’t to us, it can be very important to whom we serve.

Bogatyri (“Valiant Warriors of Old”) (1898), Viktor Vasnetsov

Bogatyri (“Valiant Warriors Of Old”) (1898), Viktor Vasnetsov

Now that I think deeper, I was indeed a pioneer when I hurried to help my friend whose wife and family had just died in a plane crash. Despite being suicidal at the time, he and I bonded, and in his darkest moments, his extended family would seek me out repeatedly: “Come, Davy—Come quick. He needs you again.” I’d hasten once more to his side—we’d sit, sometimes talk, 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.

Again, I was a pioneer when I served diligently in our congregation as a home teacher (volunteer shepherd) to a family with five young children. Despite his severe substance abuse concerns, this young father and I bonded easily, and he sometimes called me in the wee hours when the pull of drugs was strong and he was weak and needed to talk. As we’d sit on the stoop of his small house in the darkness, we’d have the most amazing talks filled with light. He opened the door to whole new era in my home teaching experience when one day, he interrupted me mid-sentence to ask, “How do you do it, Dave? How do you get us to feel these things?” 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. When we talked of truths at night (Hymn 147, “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. He moved away, then I moved, and always I will miss our conversations.

Consider More Deeply
So, consider increasing your courage. Do what is right. Serve others not on your terms but on theirs; meet them on their level not yours. Get out of your box. Each of us may enjoy doing what we can to stand with other people for that which is good, for that which we know to be right. Be a pillar, a guide. Maybe be an inspiration. Maybe to youth. Couldn’t we all benefit from spending some time to consider how we may improve our efforts to become a modern pioneer? I know I will.

Modern Pioneers in Many Ways

Modern Pioneers In Many Ways

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

  • Photo, “Townsend’s Big-eared Bat”—en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Big-eared-townsend-fledermaus.jpg
  • Address, “The World Needs Pioneers Today”, President Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, Jul 2013—www .lds.org/ensign/2013/07/the-world-needs-pioneers-today?lang=eng
  • Painting, «Богатыри» Or Bogatyri (“Valiant Warriors Of Old”) (1898), Viktor Vasnetsov (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)—en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Die_drei_Bogatyr.jpg
——– End of WebCredits ——–