Tag Archives: Overcoming Trials

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:

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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.

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

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

Do Your Worst!

Edmond Dantès, portrayed by James Caviezel

“For the happy man prayer is only a jumble of words, until the day when sorrow comes to explain to him the sublime language by means of which he speaks to God.” [Alexandre Dumas in his masterpiece, The Count of Monte Cristo (completed in 1844).]

For some, sorrow is the teacher of this sublime language; for others, a storm is the teacher. Some in our family have been taking major tests and qualifying exams this year. For some, success is quick. For others, success will come later than expected or preferred. For everyone in our family, life has explained to us in new ways the importance of this sublime language. Here are more of the words in the language to which Dumas refers:

Albert Mondego (Albert de Morcerf), portrayed by Henry Cavill

Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome, Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you, as Albert Mondego, the man.

Storms teach. But the master teacher is what we see as we look into the storm.

Quote from Time 1:00-2:03 of a clip of the birthday toast from “The Count of Monte Cristo” (2002), on YouTube below (or entire movie, with or without subtitles.) :

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Mercédès Iguanada, portrayed by Dagmara Dominczyk

Mercédès Iguanada, portrayed by Dagmara Dominczyk

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

  • Header, 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
  • Bonus photo, “Edmond Dantès (Jim Caviezel) And Abbé Faria (Richard Harris), Imprisoned In Château d’If” —www. imdb.com/media/rm1540921600/ch0010200
  • Photo, “Edmond Dantès, portrayed by James Caviezel”—www. pinterest.com/pin/105764291222980072/
  • Photo, “Albert Mondego (Albert de Morcerf), portrayed by Henry Cavill”—henrycavill.org/en/filmography/best-known-as/perfect-book-boyfriend
  • Photo, “Mercédès Iguanada, portrayed by Dagmara Dominczyk”—fanpix.famousfix.com/0671183/012040677/the-count-of-monte-cristo-2002-picture.html
  • Photo, “Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words—Wait and hope.”—www. pinterest.com/pin/120541727497864394/

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“Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words—Wait and hope.”

“Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words—Wait and hope.”

Heroes, Superpowers, and Kindness

When I think of superheroes, I think of Maren Halversen.

We don't have to agree on anything to be kind to one anotherI am lucky to have learned from a leader in kindness. Maren was a friend in high school. Down Syndrome never kept her from trying anything. She was the first student with Down Syndrome in the state to have been integrated into the regular school system. When I moved to her school in 8th Grade, I was young and awkward. I remember that she always said hi to me. Maren always gave me good reasons to be kind.

At our 10-year high school reunion, Maren saw me from a distance and came running up and threw her arms around me. It was fun to introduce her to my wife. But it wasn’t until later as I reflected on the reunion moment that I recognized the real lesson at work here—that all along, Maren had been the leader. She had taught me to be kind. She had taught all of us well, and we had been following her lead. Why did I think that it might be the other way around? I was glad that I finally learned to see with better eyes than that. And, again, as I reflect now on that reunion moment and the strength behind her hug, I hope that—maybe, possibly—that I saw with better eyes than that even back in high school. After the reunion moment, I think that I simply had finally learned to recognize it. Again, Maren had lead me to that point.

As we all celebrate other reunions, I hope we take time to see and to recognize the real leaders in our lives. So often, they are not the ones clamoring for attention. So often, true leaders simply lead quietly, maybe even without realizing it. As Maren did. I think that was her superpower.

We can all be superheroes. What is your superpower?

The Superpower Of Listening Closely

The Superpower Of Listening Closely

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

  • Header photo, “Children Playing Around The World: In Vietnam, a small girl helps another to ride a bike by leading from behind”—expofotomiami.org/30-magicas-fotografias-de-ninos-jugando-alrededor-del-mundo/
  • Photo, “We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another”—Image with quote, from Twitter quote of Yahya Adel Ibrahim of Pemberton, Western Australia—twitter. com/yahya_ibrahim/status/587185223076487168
  • Photo, “The Superpower Of Listening Closely”—ldsmissionaries.com/tag/lds/page/13/
  • Photo, “Who Knew Reading Could Be A Superpower That Might Change Lives?”—ldsmissionaries.com/tag/lds/page/13/
  • Photo, “Young Man With Superpowers”—ldsmissionaries.com/tag/lds/page/13/

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Who Knew Reading Could Be A Superpower That Might Change Lives?

Who Knew Reading Could Be A Superpower That Might Change Lives?

Young Man With Superpowers

Young Man With Superpowers

Pains, Crucibles, Results

What is our mission in life?

When God provides what we need (even when painful), so that we start to see things as He sees them, He may stress and stretch our vision.

What will be our ability to make these changes?

Will it stretch us, break us, or shape us into a beautiful iron rose?

Kim Martin: “The greater our sorrow is, the greater our capacity is to feel joy.”
Spoken by an iron rose who knows.

My two older sisters have each passed away in the past month. The pain for those of us who remain is excruciating. It puts us to the test. Where we go from here will try our mettle. It helps us to see our mission in life…

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nephi-fashioning-the-plates

As he passes through a crucible of his own, Nephi uses fire to fashion metal plates for scripture

Bonus Materials:

Read, watch or listen to James E. Faust, “The Refiner’s Fire”, Apr 1979 LDS General Conference. “You are discussing a matter you know nothing about… I knew then that the angels of God were there.”

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

  • Photo, “As he passes through a crucible of his own, Nephi uses fire to fashion metal plates for scripture”—www. lds.org/media-library/images/nephi-fashioning-the-plates-447330?lang=eng&category=
  • Photo, mormonad-cool-it–it-is-in-your-hands—www. lds.org/media-library/images/mormonad-cool-it-1118404?lang=eng&category

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mormonad-cool-it--it-is-in-your-hands

Storm Clouds Clearing…

Whatever clouds you encounter, God will part them for your good.

Storm Clouds Clearing...

Storm Clouds Clearing…

In high school, I had a religious instruction class in the early morning at 7:30AM before general school classes started at 8:30AM. We also organized testimony meetings from 6:00-7:30AM on the first Thursday of each month, where anyone with interest might discuss with the group things he or she felt down deep about their own faith and beliefs. A small group of us decided we wanted a further opportunity to share among close friends, and we would sometimes go up on a nearby mountain to hold our own extra testimony meetings. This circle of kindred spirits was fundamental to my adult faith. One time, on our designated mountain testimony day, it had rained all morning, and we met at lunch in private in an empty classroom to pray for clear weather. The rain continued all afternoon, but we started walking up anyway. The clouds parted, the sun shone, we shared our precious testimonies, and then, as soon as we said the closing prayer, the clouds re-gathered and the rain started up again as we walked down the mountain. I don’t think that it was that important that I heard our testimonies that day, but I’m convinced that someone in our group had a need and that God knew it and provided a way. In addition, maybe He wanted someone in our little group to know without a doubt that He hears and answers our prayers. The town was a wonderful place to grow up and to grow in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If we were to expect everything to be delivered on our time schedule, would we learn patience? Spiritual clouds always depart—in time. If we were consistently to get what we want when we want it, would we learn to be selfless? In my own experience, it is more likely that we recognize the need to stand strong, if clouds and whirlwinds come our way and allow us a chance to learn to survive storms that come into our life. God will help. And He’ll do it His way, not our way. He tells us, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Whatever clouds you encounter, I know that God will part them for your good…

Clouds Clearing From Yoadcomb Scar, Wild Boar Fell, Three Kilometers From Low Dovengill, Cumbria, Great Britain, UK

Clouds Clearing From Yoadcomb Scar, Wild Boar Fell, Three Kilometers From Low Dovengill, Cumbria, Great Britain, UK

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Bonus Materials:

1. Concept of “in time…”: Read, watch or listen to Henry B. Eyring, “A Priceless Heritage of Hope”, Apr 2014 LDS General Conference.

2. Read, watch or listen to Neil L. Andersen, “Spiritual Whirlwinds”, Apr 2014 LDS General Conference.

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

  • Photo, “Storm Clouds Clearing…”—the-big-fat-lie.blogspot.com/2009/09/storm-clouds-clearing.html
  • Photo, “Clouds Clearing From Yoadcomb Scar, Wild Boar Fell, Three Kilometers From Low Dovengill, Cumbria, Great Britain, UK”— geograph.org.uk/photo/1630424

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Come Now, And Let’s Listen Together

Listening

Listening

Exquisite—That’s what it was. One of the most meaningful talks I’ve ever listened to was the one Neal A. Maxwell delivered as he was sustained as an apostle, “Notwithstanding My Weakness.” General Conference is an important time for any member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because we get to sit at the feet of a prophet and listen to the word of God. Like Mary of old, we want to choose “that good part”, and Elder Maxwell certainly helped us to do that. He spoke to anyone with recurring feelings of falling forever short. Maybe to each of us?

I was in the Missionary Training Center, getting ready to go to Argentina for two years to serve my mission. During General Conference, all of us missionaries wanted to take copious notes so that we might remember all of the wonderful ideas in these talks. Recordings were not generally available back then, and we knew that we’d be out of the United States by the time the text was available in the November 1976 Ensign. For Elder Maxwell‘s talk, after taking notes furiously for four or five minutes, wanting to retain quote after great quote, I paused to look around the room. All the other elders and sisters had already stopped trying to take notes and were just sitting there listening, hands and pens at rest, trying just to soak in the spirit of the rapid-fire, beautifully worded, carefully crafted text. It was like the lyrics of a song. I struggled for a bit longer to retain it all on paper, before I, too, gave up note-taking, rested my pen, and just sat and listened. It was an incredible moment for all of us. For weeks afterwards, nearly everyone said that their favorite moment in that General Conference was when they sat and feasted on Elder Maxwell‘s words, hands and fingers exhausted from trying to keep up. It was just sweet. Every time I re-read it, every time I listen to it yet again, I get emotional, just sitting — and remembering…

I invite you to read, watch or listen to the entire address from the October 1976 LDS General Conference. It is simply exquisite. It has something for all of us, and I hope you love it as much as I.

Putting The Fun In LDS General Conference

Putting The Fun In LDS General Conference

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Bonus Materials:

1. Great are the words of Isaiah, from which I take the title of this post: “Come now, and let us reason together…”

2. Article by Caleb Trujillo, “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice”: http://www.byui.edu/pathway/news-index/come-listen-to-a-prophets-voice

Article by Caleb Trujillo, 'Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice'

3. “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice”, Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

4. LDS Hymn 21, “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice”: https://www.lds.org/music/library/hymns/come-listen-to-a-prophets-voice?lang=eng

5. Thoughts and experiences of various people on this topic:

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

  • Photo, “Listening”—nature. berkeley.edu/ucce50/ag-labor/7article/article40.htm
  • Photo, “Putting The Fun In LDS General Conference”—www. lds.org/media-library/images/conference-events/general-conference?lang=eng&start=41&end=80&order=
  • Photo, “Article by Caleb Trujillo, ‘Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice’ ”—www. byui.edu/pathway/news-index/come-listen-to-a-prophets-voice
  • Photo, Hemingway quote-Listen completely—izquotes.com/quote/82873 (Source/Notes:
    As quoted in: Ernest Hemingway: the man and his work, by John K. M. McCaffery, World Publishing Co., 1956)

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Hemingway quote-Listen completely

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.

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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/

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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

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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)

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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

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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.”

.
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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

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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

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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 ——–

Scriptures, Sacred Feelings, and Other Small and Simple Things

There’s an expression that some people are “closed books”. It indicates someone who cannot be easily understood, someone unfathomable or puzzling, while others are “open books”. One may feel this way about a book of sacred writings. Some people I know feel that holy books are closed to them. Other friends feel that a book of God has things that speak specifically to them.

As a youth long ago, I learned to love the scriptures. To me, they are open books. In Seventh Grade, I remember starting to see specific verses as if they were a good friend. Learning, pondering, searching, and memorizing scriptures is like filling a cabinet with friends, values, and truths that can be called upon any time, anywhere in the world:

(Or same video at lds.org link.)

One’s feelings are key to an open book. If I love an author, it’s usually because I love the way the writer uses words, how I feel about how she or he expresses thoughts in writing. Some authors I like because they express thoughts similar to mine, while I love others, having expressed thoughts so distinct from mine, due to the way they open my mind to new things. What’s essential is less the words of sacred authors and more how their meaning resonates both to my mind and to my heart. God combines intellect and inspiration to tailor something personal to me, that nourishes my spirit, food that I need to feed my soul on a daily basis. Watch how he taught the Children of Israel this lesson:

(Or same video at lds.org link.)

I particularly love how I have come to see the scriptures as a proactive attempt on God’s part to be less puzzling, and I understand that openness to spiritual feelings is an important part of that. These spiritual feelings come in whispers to my soul. Did not our heart burn within us, …while he opened to us the scriptures? Heavenly Father speaks directly to his children through the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. One of life’s true paradoxes is that through these whispered feelings and thoughts, he does wonderful works through us.  By small and simple things, God brings to pass great things. “…by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.” 

As a boy, Joseph Smith learned from his parents to trust the scriptures. He learned to read by them, studied them, and struggled to understand them better. When reading James 1:5-6, he learned to ask important questions with confidence that God would reveal to him the answers. By following those answers, Joseph was able to help his family find certainty in uncertain times.

The epitome of the power of the small and the simple is expressed by the essence of this Christmas season—By a babe long ago in a manger in Bethlehem. Watch how we may use his scriptures to make small and simple changes to our actions in order to bring more peace into the world.

(Or same video at mormonchannel.org link.)

Christ wants all of us to feel safe and secure, even when we have pains and troubles, big or small. I have learned for myself that he has given us the scriptures to guide us away from ideas that lead us to mistakes and regrets and towards peace and happiness, both for us and for those near and dear to us. From our family to yours, may you have the happiest and holiest of holidays.

——– End of Post ——–

Bonus Material:

1. Watch how a teenage competition through a maze is used as an analogy to show how the scriptures help us get through life. (Length: 10:02.)

2. Watch how this teacher encourages young men to search the scriptures. (Length: 1:41.)

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

  • Photo, family scripture study—www. lds.org/media-library/images/scripture-study?lang=eng#family-scripture-study-208903
  • Video, “Words with Friends”—www. youtube.com/watch?v=IyMlkkkcbfs
  • Video, “Daily Bread: Pattern”—www. youtube.com/watch?v=2eMJ6ZDCAp4
  • Illustration, Joseph searching scriptures—www. lds.org/media-library/images/gospel-art/church-history?lang=eng&start=1&end=10#joseph-searching-scriptures-37717
  • Photo, snowflake ornament—www. lds.org/media-library/images/christmas?lang=eng&start=21&end=30#snowflake-ornament-130226
  • Video, “The Maze”—www. lds.org/media-library/video/2012-06-1030-the-maze?lang=eng
  • Video, “Searching the Scriptures”—www. lds.org/media-library/video/2013-03-002-searching-the-scriptures?lang=eng
  • Photo, lights in snow on Temple Square—www. lds.org/media-library/images/christmas?lang=eng&start=51&end=60#lights-temple-square-613721

——– End of WebCredits ——–

“Even darkness must pass; A new day will come!”

If anyone knows our family, they know we are huge fans of the Lord of the Rings! I remember as a young boy listening to my Dad read the trilogy to me and my brothers as we laid in our beds. Dad would put all his emotions into it as he would get excited with us, laugh with us, be sad with us, and, yes, cry with us. You can imagine our joy when we heard the news that they were making the movies! Needless to say, we loved them as well!

There is one scene in The Two Towers (that wasn’t in the book, but we’ve since forgiven Peter Jackson!) that I have been pondering about a lot lately. In the city Osgiliath, Frodo hits a breaking point when his burden as a ringbearer seems too much to handle and all hope seems lost. He is about to give himself up to temptation and be captured when Samwise the Brave comes to rescue him. Sam then delivers one of the most epic speeches about overcoming adversity and fighting for what’s right.

As I have watched and rewatched this scene, I ask myself, “How many times do I feel like Frodo here?” And I ask you, how often do you feel helpless, alone, and without hope? We often hit similar breaking points where our load seems too heavy to bear. In these “Frodo” moments, we ask ourselves the same questions in Sam’s speech. These moments are the shadows and the darkness he spoke about. Even Joseph Smith had Frodo moments in the Sacred Grove and in Liberty Jail when he cried out, “Oh God, where art thou?” (D&C 121:1.)

To those who feel, or have felt, this way before, I empathize with you. I too have come to up against the wall that seems impossible to get over and move on. I have longed for a “Sam” to come rescue me and tell me everything is going to be alright. I’m here to tell you that God will come! He is our Sam in the story. He reminds us that “even darkness must pass. A new day will come! And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer!” God reminds us of our purpose and “what [we’re] holding on to.” (See Joseph Smith-History 1:16-17 and D&C 121:7-10 for God’s response to Joseph’s Frodo moments.)

I want to share a story of one my own Frodo moments. A little over a year ago I was going through a really hard time. I had just lost the girl I loved, I was struggling with finding a major at school, work was wearing me down, and it just seemed like anything I desired was always out of reach. I felt helpless, abandoned, and hopeless. I’m sure I wearied my Heavenly Father with my endless prayers of gloom and sadness. My Sam in this story came in the form of a poem that I wrote. It brought peace and hope to my life as I was able to put my thoughts into words. It inspired me to keep going:

In the same place

In the same place night after night,
My corner chair that fits just right,
I examine my considered plight,
Which has become my endless fight.

In the same place I try to see,
While Pandora sings soothingly
To my troubled and longing heart,
The pathway that I now should start.

In the same place when all retire,
I earnestly search for the fire
That drives, that pushes, and inspires,
To achieve heart’s deepest desire.

In the same place night after night,
Past memories dance into my sight.
I muse, I smile, and seldom cry,
But often time think, “why, oh why?”

In the same place through thick and thin,
I overcome the pain within.
Arise, go forth, begin to mend!
Surprises will come around the bend.

As I wrote this, I could feel the Lord’s love surround me. I was not alone, help was given, and hope restored. God is ever aware of lives and what we are passing through in this very moment. He loves us! We may feel like Frodo in our own personal Mt. Doom hanging on for dear life. The Lord, just as Sam did, reaches out to us when we are about to give up and says, “Don’t you let go!” I want you to know that your shadow IS only a passing thing, and surprises do come around the bend! I echo the words that King David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.” (1 Chronicles 28:20.)

The Lord will not give up on you, so you shouldn’t give up on yourself! Look for the “Sams” in your life; I know you’ll find them. God answers our prayers in a variety of ways, often time through other people. May we also strive to be Sam in the lives of others.

I recommend these videos that helped me in times of need. They also touch on this topic:

The words from “Does the Journey Seem Long” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imd4fIjNx7s

“Good Things to Come” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nczw6xHJ0I