Faith, Sacrifice and Making a Living


 

avjet_wwii_smallSeveral readers have asked me if I am still blogging. The answer is no, even though this is a new post. To me, blogging is writing often, like two or three times a week, and spending considerable thought and research on the subject. Active blogging also involves promotion in order to increase your readership. I did that for many years, but now I write just to share observations on occasion.

Something I have noticed over the past few years is how much sacrifice the Lord asks of us. He asks kindly, but can be rather insistent at times. Agency is honored, but if we think about what the Lord is trying to accomplish, He is more than willing to provide glimpses of what He has in mind. That’s a general rule I’ve noted. Sometimes, it’s a strong impression with no explanation.

May I share an example that may help? Even if everyone who reads this responds that what I have written is benign and obvious, I feel the need to share, to be sure I understand the trial through which I am passing. We all have trials, don’t we? I think I’ve shared in a previous post of the strong, very strong and unusual impression I received to resign from my employment early last year.

BTW, the picture above is where I have worked for the past twelve years. Obviously, the picture was taken during WWII. My office is in the front middle hangar. We have two server rooms, tied together with 10Gb fiber, with onsite and offsite redundant backup. It has been a wonderful place to work, but the daily commute is a killer.

The Cardinal Rule

servers1It’s been drilled into me all my life that the husband in a marriage has the responsibility to provide for his family, both temporarily and spiritually. I’ve had a good career, but to resign from a lucrative position after twelve years without any other prospect in sight is breaking a cardinal rule in the process. Men think mostly about their work. It’s always on our minds.

I enjoy my work. I’m a computer generalist, meaning I have a broad knowledge of a lot of things related to computers, networks and managing technical projects and people. But I’m also a bit of a specialist in many areas such as ensuring disaster recovery, removing viruses, blocking spam and administering networks, especially through VMWare and Microsoft Active Directory.

Enough of the boring stuff. The point of this post is you don’t break the cardinal rule when you feel the urge to change jobs. That is exactly what the Lord asked of me last year. My employer was bought out and I felt, through the process of prayer, that the Lord wanted me to leave that company, for reasons which I’ve explained in my last post. So I gave a good six month notice.

Assurance from the Lord

linkedin-timmalone1I hesitated several months after the company was sold before I gave my notice. I kept thinking, “I can’t do this. I don’t have anything else lined up and I’m too young to retire.” But the Lord is insistent. The impression continued for months. Finally, to my wife’s dismay, I resigned and reported back to the Lord. His response? Wait. He asked me to wait until the end of the year.

Wait for what? I was to wait to begin my job search. Carol and I prayed every morning and night for the faith to be patient. We asked continually for the Lord to show us the path, prepare the way and open a door when the time came to begin the search in earnest. That day came just after Christmas last year. You can read about it in my last post. In the meantime I worked and prayed.

The day after I posted about Preserving the Fruit of the Restoration, which fruit I believe to be marriages, I received a text from a long-time reader indicating he felt impressed to contact me about an opportunity, which by the way, involved moving to a foreign country. At first I dismissed it, but each night in prayer the Lord asked if I had responded to this individual yet.

A Whirlwind Journey

passport1The Lord really is patient with us, but He can be very insistent. Finally I reached out to my reader and he began the process of sharing what he had in mind. I was very intrigued. I was invited to visit the company, which is not based in my home state of California, and spend some time in interviews and meetings. At the end of the week, I had an amazing offer in my hand.

I was invited back for a week of training, made travel arrangements, and waited. Imagine my surprise when I received a call from the HR Manager five days before I was to begin my journey informing me the offer had been rescinded. The call came as Carol and I were in the car so she heard the entire conversation. Gratefully, she bit her tongue as I tried to salvage the deal.

Wow. What a shock. We had arrived at home and sat in the car numbed by what had just taken place. How could this happen? We had a written offer. I had given up a month of my search time in preparing for travel out of country – renewing my passport, starting the process of packing, and in general wrapping our heads around the idea of living in a completely foreign environment.

Consultation with the Lord

refinersfire1Our scripture reading and prayer that night were especially poignant. Tears flowed as we begged the Lord to help us deal with this turn of events. Truly, the Lord will wrench our very heart strings in testing us in the refiner’s fire. Yet, we know we are made perfect through sufferings. It has been a few days. I decided to take next week off to dedicate to connecting with my network.

I have one month of gainful employment remaining. Normally this close to the end of the job, I would have something new lined up. This is surely a test. I’ve been fired two or three times in my career, each time through no fault of my own, usually due to the completion of a project. The last time it took seven months to land a job. I think I’ve described that process in a blog post.

I’ve asked the Lord privately why this happened, what I should do and what lies before us. I can honestly say this is one of those times when I know we did everything the Lord asked of us and have every right to expect his blessings in answering our many months of prayer together. The only thing I hear from the Lord when I ask is,” Be faithful. Do your part. You are being tested.”

A Common Experience

georgewashington1Obviously we are not the only couple in the world to have gone through a challenge like this. The difference is that I would never quit a job without something else lined up. Yet, the Lord asked me to do so, to step out into the unknown, to see if I trusted Him enough to provide. In some ways, this is a double test, because I thought it was nailed down. Yet now we begin anew.

The last time I was let go at the end of a computer conversion project, I fasted and went to the temple every week. I intend to follow that same plan this time, only my temple will be on the mountain top each Saturday afternoon. I can’t think of any trial that can break up a marriage faster than unemployment. Yet our scripture reading and prayers remain sacred and sweet.

I am grateful. It is an opportunity to show the Lord I trust in Him no matter what. It is so easy to give in to fears and play “What are we going to do?” That’s exactly what Satan wants. That is not the Lord’s way to deal with a challenge like this. The Lord requires the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I feel both. I so appreciate having my sweetheart standing at my side.

One last note

christianreformation1I promised Denver I would mention the new website about the 500th anniversary of the history of the Christian Reformation. I have spent some time at the site, viewing the videos and reading the items under the tab entitled “Reformation.” It is well done, teaches truth, and makes some things so much clearer than the way I remember being taught growing up. It’s well worth your time.

www.christianreformation500years.info

…and…

www.youtube.com/channel/UC6cEtBt6U_A0oDKfQCGoCjA

God bless.

Charity NEVER Faileth . . .


Let me repeat. Charity NEVER Faileth . . .

In our quest for Zion, Charity may be our number one weapon both personally and collectively. Here’s what Paul said about it (essentially mirrored by Moroni) in 1 Corinthians 13:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Charity is everything in forming Zion. Charity is the key to knowledge (along with meekness) to discerning truth from error.

Faith is the first part of the exercise for individual salvation. Faith IN and through Jesus Christ, understanding His character, motives, and intentions is the first step . . . but for some people, they are smitten with unbelief and faith fails them. For others, they have the next step, hope. Hope comes after faith has been tested and the Power of God has been made manifest to at least some extent in a person’s life. Hope then becomes the wellspring that can be counted on for the person to continue following the Words of Christ unto Eternal Life. Yet even with hope the vicissitudes of life can overwhelm our patience and set us back.

charityCharity can overcome the setbacks that a person may encounter with either faith or hope. When you practice charity, it may not even matter if you believe–there are agnostics that can exhibit many of the principles of charity which literally calls down the Grace of God to overcome any obstacle from which you may be suffering. Stumbling blocks are removed, forgiveness is granted, unbelief is destroyed, hope is made perfect, and ultimately, if one has not had the Baptism of Fire and the Second Comforter, those things are promised through charity.

Since I like to write about practical things, and these topics are often very abstract, let me drill this one down for you.

Charity can be practiced in a few ways.

  • Denying not the beggar – I’ve discussed this before, but it is the starting point for any discussion about charity because our Western minds gravitate towards charity as the term for “helping the poor and disadvantaged.” But let me take it a step further. One may give a dollar to a man, but to give a dollar with love, with kindness, with care, and with taking a few minutes to show love, that is a thing a beauty. There is a clip on youtube that I saw a few month ago that showcases this perfectly. Notice the look on the beggar’s face after the surprise that he gets from these three helpers. He is puzzled and bewildered, but touched as well. His heart changed a little from the kindness showed him by three strangers. I know of a ministry of remnant Mormons, anonymously, who visit some very shady places where the homeless hang out. They go down not just to feed them soup, give them a meal, or a handout. This isn’t a “shelter program.” Instead, they meet with them on their terms, in their “homes” on the sidewalk and spend time talking to them, getting to know them, loving them. Yes money is exchanged, but that’s almost beside the point. Several of them have been healed by the laying on of hands. Sicknesses and injuries where there is no money to fix have been healed by the Power of God. The next time you think about what kind of charity needs to be practiced by those aspiring to Zion, I want to call attention to their unsung example.
  • Loving Thy Neighbor as Thyself – And who is your neighbor? Jesus gave a parable on this, and it certainly isn’t the person who lives next door. To put it in today’s context, it is a Christian who has the opportunity to serve a gay couple (think less wedding cakes and more fixing a blown tire on the side of the road), or as what happened to us last weekend, helping a Mexican family find their drunk husband and father who had wandered off in the city park–even though we didn’t speak Spanish. We ought to show genuine care and kindness for anybody that comes in our path, whether they have tattoos and piercings, or wear garments with stiff necks.The Boy Scout virtues apply here.
  • Forgiveness, Praying for our Enemies – We answered who our neighbor is, but who is our enemy? While it may be a distant political leader that doesn’t share your persuasions, I suggest that it’s more likely a mother, a father, a spouse, a fellowship member, or anyone with whom you have had a falling out over one thing or another, justified or not. Injustice is never an excuse not to forgive. Neither is pain. If you are struggling with answers to prayers or with an endowment from the Lord, may I suggest you check your heart for an “enemy” that needs your mercy, forgiveness, and prayers. From the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, we find these gems:
    • Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

    • 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

    • 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

    • 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

    • 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

    • 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

    • 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    • 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

  • Praying for Zion – The last example of charity I wish to discuss is one I have learned recently as I have sought blessings from the Lord. I often feel compelled in my instruction from the Spirit to pray for my fellowship groups, for long periods of time, extending my heart until it will break for a brother or sister. The prayers are intense and personal. Usually they are accompanied by an outpouring of love from the Spirit. What this does is prepare me to accept their needs and wants in my life to be above my own. If we are ever to achieve Zion, it must be so. I believe the reason I feel compelled to pray and love my group more intensely than any other group I associate with, including my extended family, is that we are all willing, our hearts are broken and ready . . . to receive the Lord. I believe charity to this group is where the Power of Zion can be found.

If Anything will Doom us . . .

As I’ve talked about charity, and meekness, I have cased other forums, Facebook, etc. where I have seen anti-charity and hard hearts, particularly over the discussions of gay rights and plural marriage. We can all agree the Church doesn’t have Priesthood keys, we can break bread over that, but we will break off fellowships, destroy the peace of others, and otherwise create contention over a hard-fought position on a thing. We may even have some revelation to back up our position–whether it’s of the right source or not. Some of us are well-learned and we lean upon the understanding of the world–science and historical consensus–to inform our opinions and it lifts us up past the fog of the simpletons to declare our position as sound. We need to stop all such nonsense and re-establish our positions as one that knows NOTHING. Only then can the Lord teach us His ways.

There are even some who wish to co-opt this movement from the beginning. We ought to flesh that out as unsound and wrong. The statements Denver Snuffer has made on plural marriage ought to suffice for the attention given to that thing IF you are a Zion seeker. No . . . it’s not because he’s impervious to error as a servant of the Lord . . . it’s because he’s right . . . we need to focus on our own personal attention to the principles of repentance, finding a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and coming unto Christ in a way that can soothe our feelings and iron our errors so we CAN come into a unity of the faith. The Grand Key of Discernment will teach us that this is right.

I declare this as truth at least to me–anyone who sets up stakes BEFORE they are redeemed will a) never be redeemed and b) most likely turn out to be an agent of the adversary before it’s all over. There is a group of folks out there who have had an idea about what would happen when the Lord would begin rising up servants to cleanse the Church. This has been informed over decades as a core doctrine. I imagine the Zealots in the time of Christ when they began seeing the signs. They expected one things, and got another. When that promised political delivery didn’t happen, many ceased walking with the Lord at that time. When Denver Snuffer began his testimony and lectures, there was much hope imbued upon him to be the guy who was going to “set the Church in order.” He has perhaps tacked to a different path on this issue than many have hoped. Some have ceased to walk with the remnant at that time. I cannot help but notice the shift in some of the forums that declared Denver to be a false prophet right after the polygamy talk. At least they were honest to their own stakes, but many haven’t been as transparent about their change of heart. They ought to be.

711299Others have read deep into his talks to find the silver lining of the future reality of polygamy. I wish we would not do this. I reminds me of when Joseph Smith publicly declared that he was against polygamy, but then was teaching it in private (as the historical record describes), or when Wilford Woodruff declared that polygamy was suspended, gave his infamous statement about the prophet not being able to lead the Church astray, and then STILL authorized polygamous marriages in secret. When one “seeks deep,” I an reminded of this scripture in Isaiah:

“Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?”

If anything has brought great mischief upon the Church, it is HOW polygamy came into the Church, and HOW it left the Church. If anything has caused people to be lead astray, led to strong-man fundamentalism, set up prophet worship in the Church, led away into secular paths, destroyed the tender feelings of the daughters of God, it is HOW this principle was handled (note: I’m talking about it’s application here–the reality of such a doctrine is a discussion for a different time). I am not keen on trying to scope out a “wink, wink” from Denver Snuffer over the eventual return of polygamy doctrine to the Church of the Lamb of God. Instead I say let it lie, and let a man’s words be “yea, yea, and nay nay.”

Finally, others are so pained by the damages done in the name of plural marriage, sexual abuses, iniquity of the marital yoke, that while they laud the monogomist language of Denver, their stakes are even putting them at risk for future guidance from heaven that may challenge those stakes. I don’t believe this will happen, but I loath to never allow for something to happen. It is enough to know a thing is not true today. Let the future take care of itself and be humble. There may be other sacrifices that are possibly harder to accept than plural marriage. We must be willing to accept such sacrifices.

I am reminded of 1 Nephi 14:1:

“And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks.”

That verse is talking about us, about Mormons, right here, right now. There IS a stumbling block. I would state that ultimately it’s how Mormonism set a man between a person and God through the misapplication of Priesthood keys–but the best example of how Priesthood keys have been misapplied has been the entrance and exit of polygamy. Almost all of the break-offs are related to these two issues. It is the stumbling block prophesied, and I for one, would like it removed, no matter which direction the removal takes us. I want to be part of the Church of Lamb of God who the Lord will gather in along with the remnant of the House of Israel.

Back to Charity . . . 

And that requires us to use charity on this issue. We ought to throw a cloak of charity over our brothers and sisters who have a different view on things. We ought to pray for them. In doing so, we may find our own stakes to soften, to moderate, to be more pliable to the workings of the Spirit, insomuch that we CAN come to a unity of the faith. I challenge all of us to apply charity to the stumbling blocks of our day–be it plural marriage, gay marriage, or Church authority. Pray for our enemies, love our fellowships, our wards, and I believe we can work all of this out. I hope that we do, and the Lord has PROMISED me that it will work out if we do!

The Encouragement Talk


This is a talk I prepared a long time ago for an occasion just like this. It’s a talk I’ve always wanted to hear from the pulpit and one I hope is helpful. It has to do with encouragement.

Paul said, “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” I’ve thought often about this statement and wondered why Paul suggested it. Perhaps it’s because he knew we all need to be encouraged from time to time.

Do you ever get discouraged? I do. I’m older than some of you and younger than others but I’ve had enough experience in life to discover there’s not always someone there to cheer you up or help you on your way when things get tough.

Or is there? I’ll address that in a little bit.

Sources of Help

I learned very early in life that my parents didn’t have all the answers when it came to dealing with difficulties. I saw them struggle sometimes just like I did. I watched them make mistakes, lose their patience or give bad advice to others.

It was a little disconcerting at first, especially since I loved them so much and wanted them to be perfect. I’m grateful that over time, the Lord helped me to see my parents as good people trying to do their best but occasionally, no, often, failing. This realization only increased my love for them.

There comes a time in most of our lives, especially when we are young, when we turn to friends for guidance and direction. Maybe we don’t specifically ask them in words like “Hey, can you help me figure this out?” but we nonetheless look to them for help in dealing with things that concern us.

Unfortunately, friends can disappoint. Even though they may be well-meaning, they can sometimes be less than encouraging, mainly because they have no clue themselves what to do in our situation. It’s good to have friends, especially those who are patient and kind, but friends with good answers are rare.

We’re all Sinners

So what do you do when you get discouraged? You’re a good person, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. But you make mistakes. We all do. I do. The scripture usually cited to back this up is 1 John 1:8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Don’t be upset if this is the first time you’ve been called a sinner. We’re all sinners. If I were to pause right now and ask everyone here to think about some sin or weakness that is bothering you, everyone here would be able to bring something to mind, even if it’s the mistaken thought that you have no sins.

In fact, I think I will. I’m going to pause for just a few seconds. I promise you the Holy Ghost will help you think of something that bothers you, something you can improve or something that you know is displeasing to the Lord.

OK, that’s long enough. The thought or image that came to your mind was probably not very pleasant, was it? The memory of my weakness causes me to feel like a failure. It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life. I’m not going to tell you what it is and I don’t want to know what your weakness is.

Hope and Gratitude

Now I want to talk about hope. For me, hope is tied closely to gratitude. I’m grateful I’ve been taught all my life that we can overcome our weaknesses. It gives me hope to remember the reason I’m here on earth is to learn from my mistakes. That means I will make mistakes when I try to accomplish good things in life.

Just remembering that thought is very comforting to me. One of the biggest results of discouragement is that we stop trying to do new things or stop trying to do better in ways we know we should. For example, I know I should study the gospel more and read the scriptures every day. I don’t do as well as I should.

Every time I come to church and hear someone share something they discovered in their gospel study, I am encouraged and filled with hope. I then feel I can and will do better myself in my efforts to study the gospel during the week. I am especially encouraged by good teachers who are prepared to lead our classes.

God Gives Us Weaknesses

I just finished reading the Book of Mormon again. As I came to the twelfth chapter of Ether, I once again read these words with joy, “… if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble … if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

I have decided I will confess my weakness unto you after all. In James 5:16, we read, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” I ask for your prayers in my behalf. Even though I’ve already been talking about it, to be very specific, my fault, my weakness is discouragement.

Now you may say, “Discouragement is no sin. We all experience it.” Yes, I know, but it can be debilitating, especially when it’s used by the adversary. When I get discouraged, I have a hard time remembering all the good things the Lord has done for me. I forget promises I have made about doing better each day.

I have made every effort to come unto the Lord as he has asked us to do in the scriptures. The Lord has not only shown me my weaknesses, he has also shown me how the adversary uses them as stumbling blocks to keep me from reaching my full potential in this life. Discouragement causes me to feel overwhelmed.

When I get overwhelmed, I tend to shut down. I refuse to take on new tasks or try new things. Do you ever get that way? When I get overwhelmed, I have a hard time deciding what among all the good things before me I should do with the limited amount of time I have been given. So I do nothing. That’s not good. Or worse, I waste my time with things that are not worthy of me.

Turn Weaknesses Into Strengths

I want that promise in Ether to be fulfilled. I want my weak things to be made strong. I also remember that the Lord gave me my weaknesses. Since my weakness is discouragement, can I accept that the Lord gave me that weakness? I can, especially because I know he wants to help me turn that into a strength.

Gratefully, this scripture teaches the secret to have our weak things turned into strengths. It is to humble ourselves before the Lord and to have faith in Him. In other words, we need to believe His promises and act upon them. He promises to help us become strong. I believe Him. That gives me hope.

I don’t know exactly how he does it. At this point in my progression, it’s still a miracle to me, something I don’t fully understand. I accept it on faith. I know that the Lord loves me and I know that he wants to help me. He has proven that to me many times in the past. I’m encouraged by the hope this scripture brings.

Working a Plan

So I pray unto the Lord, and even though I know He already knows, I tell Him I’m discouraged. I tell Him I’m overwhelmed. I tell Him I don’t know which of all the demands on my time I should address first. I tell him I’m tempted to do nothing for fear of masking a mistake or wasting my time.

Because He loves me, He doesn’t always tell me what to do. In fact, He is rarely specific. But He does remind me I have agency, encourages me to make a decision on a course of action and then present it to Him for confirmation. So I make a list, order the tasks in the way I think they should be done and then return to him in prayer with my list and a few ideas on how to accomplish them.

Invariably, the Lord says, “OK, sounds good. Go ahead. Looks like you’ve thought it out. Let’s see where that takes you.” Never have I heard, “No, that’s not a good idea. That would be a waste of your time.” The Lord always honors my agency and encourages me to try things to see what results I get. Occasionally, He even shows me the results in my mind’s eye in advance so I can plan better.

Doing the Work

Sometimes I discover after starting on my task that it did not produce the results for which I was hoping. That’s OK. At least I tried it. I then go on to the next item on my list and the next until I can return to the Lord and report I have tried everything I could think of to fix the problem. I know that pleases Him.

In the process I discover I have accomplished a lot of good things I might not have done had I not been trying to solve this problem, to fix this weakness, to overcome this sin or this temptation. People compliment me on how organized and efficient I am or that I get a lot done. Trust me, it’s only because I’m trying to do everything in my power to eliminate stress from my life.

In the end I know I can’t fix myself anyway, only the Lord can do that. I keep asking and keep pleading to be healed, but know that it will be on his timetable after I have learned whatever it is I am supposed to learn from the process of overcoming. Perhaps what I am learning most is patience with myself.

Thorn in the Side

I feel like Paul when he said that he had asked the Lord three times to remove a thorn in his side. We may never know in this life what he was talking about. Many scholars have assumed it was some sort of physical weakness or frailty. I don’t view it that way. Paul called it a messenger of Satan. I think it was temptation of some sort. He said it kept him from being overly exalted.

He also said he received an abundance of revelations. I’m not going to make a claim like Paul’s, but I will say I have felt the Lord give me answers to prayers and guide me in my thoughts as I turn to him for help in solving my problems. I have no doubt the Lord knows me and is willing to help me through this life. I am grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost that seems to grow stronger each day.

As a people, I think we tend to be overly hard on ourselves. We’re prone to expect perfection sooner than we are ready for it. The word perfect has interesting connotations. In one sense, it means complete. We remind ourselves that in this life we cannot be perfect, but in the same breath, we say we must be perfect because we are commanded to be so. I think the Lord was simply telling us to finish the race, to endure to the end and to pass though all we are supposed to before we die.

Finish the Race

In other words, don’t quit, don’t give up before our days are through. I think most of know someone who has fought cancer or some other illness that, in the end, took the life of our friend or family member. I am constantly amazed by the faith of those passing through such illnesses. They believe they are going to get better. Their courage is a source of inspiration to all those around them.

But then they die. All of us must die. We don’t like to think about it. Sometimes we act like mortality will go on forever, especially when we’re young. “I have time to finish that self-improvement project,” we say to ourselves. When I graduate from college, once I get married, when the kids are grown, when I retire. The list goes on and on. But today is the day to do the work we are here to do.

Alma 34:34 – “Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.”

In other words, our eternity is what we make of it here. How can we become something we are not? The purpose of this life is to prepare for eternity, to be the person we want to be in the life to come. If we are happy when we depart this life, we will be happy when we enter the spirit world and when we’re resurrected.

I’m not teaching anything new here. This is all standard doctrine found in the scriptures. What I am trying to do is to help us step back and take another look at the big picture just for a moment. In the context of encouraging us to do those things that we know are hard to do, remember that this life is short and the whole purpose is to do those hard things, not to relax, take it easy or be entertained.

Constant Companionship

At the beginning of this talk I said that there’s not always someone there to cheer you up with you get discouraged. But then I questioned that statement. I’d like to clarify. If there’s one thing of which I am a witness, meaning I know from personal, first-hand experience, it’s that we are not alone. We are never alone. We have been given the promise of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion.

I read a lot about this idea, even from General Authorities, who teach that there are times when we will be left alone to work things out on our own. While I agree with them in principle, I still feel that we have the right to ask the Lord to send his spirit to help us through our trials and difficulties. When we are in agony, we can do as the Savior did and pray even more earnestly.

We are taught that in the end, the Savior was left on his own while on the cross to be able to claim the full power of the atonement as His. I can understand and do support that teaching. Like I’m sure you have, I have passed through some terrible moments when I fell entirely alone. I knew I was being tested to see how I would respond. I have prayed with great earnestness that perhaps my cup, my trial could be taken from me. I also prayed that the will of the Father be done.

Help from Angels

Even when I have felt that nobody could take the pain or sorrow from me, I have always felt that the Lord has constantly been there and very much aware of what and how I’m doing. When I have felt anger at having to suffer, or despair at the loss I knew I was about to experience, still, I knew the Lord or His Angels were watching me. Even when I did not have the comfort of the Holy Ghost, I felt the presence of someone watching over me. Always. All my life. Every day.

I don’t think I’m special or any different from any of you. I am tempted and tried. I make mistakes. I fail. I commit sins. I often do less than my best. But as far as I know, I have not had to pass through the feeling of being left totally alone that the Savior suffered in those last few moments on the cross. I am so grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Light of Christ and the presence of angels to watch over me and bear me up. Because of this, I know my Father in Heaven loves me.

He wants me to do better. He wants me to succeed. He wants me to be happy. He wants me to overcome and master the flesh. He understands that I am weak but continues to encourage me to be strong, get up and try again. If there’s anything I can say to help anyone here today who is discouraged, it would be just that. Get up, try again. God knows your struggle. He is cheering you on. I am too.

The Power of the Sacrament


I wrote an essay several years ago on my old blog that still gets a lot of hits even though I retired that blog and transferred everything over here. I’m glad I kept the old blog up because occasionally I get a comment there that inspires me to write something profound. Well, I think it’s at least inspired and uplifting. I felt impressed to share it here. It starts with the comment from Samantha:

Hello,

I recently started meeting with my Bishop to repent for other sins that I had committed. I was almost ready to get my Temple Recommend when Satan came at me with full-force. I began to engage in watching pornography and masturbation.

My Bishop is a wonderful man, but I am far too scared to tell him of the addiction that I am faced with. It is not a daily habit, but it is still a problem. I have prayed, and I have come to realize I cannot overcome this on my own.

I feel so awful and depressed after engaging in these behaviors. I want to be clean; I want to go to the temple.

Is there anything else that I can do that would be sufficient for the repentance process? I don’t want to tell my bishop, at all. I do want to overcome this addiction immediately though. Or at least be able to refrain from such atrocities.

Please help.

And my response:

Hi Samantha,

Much love your way. Thanks for reading and adding your comment. I commend you for your desire to increase your self-mastery. That’s a big deal. Some people are not bothered by viewing porn or masturbating. “It’s normal,” they say. In fact, we’re looked upon as being weird because we want to adhere to a higher moral standard commanded by the Lord and his servants.

I recommend visiting the sites I linked to at the end of the original essay. There is a lot of good advice to be found in those pages. Most of the comments I have added here over the years are intended to give hope and encouragement. I want to continue that in responding to your plea for help. I think I wrote this previously but I’ll share it again. This trial can bring you to the Lord.

I feel impressed to share something that may or may not be applicable to you. Perhaps it will be helpful to future readers. It has to do with responsibility and accountability. Going to the temple is a big deal. The temple is a place of revelation. When I go there I always come away knowing more about myself, what I really want out of life and what I want to do with my free time.

I’ll bet like most people who have written me about this problem, you’re fine as long as you keep yourself busy. If you’ve got a regular schedule of work or school or both, you do well in that structure. The difficulty usually comes when there are no pressing demands on your time and nobody waiting for you to do something for them – a teacher, a co-worker or a family member.

That’s usually when your thoughts turn to yourself and what you want. Those are the defining moments of life. Satan knows that, which is why temptation seems to strike hardest when you are pondering something like going to the temple. We grow and advance in our lives when we go to the temple. We come closer to fulfilling our purpose in life as we attend the temple regularly.

The best advice I can offer is to partake of the sacrament and ponder the promises found in the sacramental prayers. The key phrases are “always remember him” and “have his spirit to be with them.” I know you’ve probably heard this in every public prayer and perhaps you offer it your own private prayers – to have his spirit. But do we focus as much on “always remember him?”

There’s something special and wonderful in the Sacrament that even after more than fifty years I still don’t fully understand. No, it’s not magic. We don’t believe in that. But it is powerful and it is real. I feel hopeful after partaking of the sacrament with real intent. I want it to work in my life and because I want that, believe that it can, it does. My power is strengthened by the Sacrament.

At the end of every Sabbath day I feel empowered, partly through offering service but mostly because I have partaken of the sacrament and have pondered how I can better remember the Savior during the week. I think ahead to the moments when I know I will have down time and think what I can do to show the Lord that I do remember him and want his spirit to be with me.

For me, there is something of a miracle that takes place in those quiet moments. Because I have asked, the Lord reveals to me what I will be doing during those quiet moments during the week. I can see myself working on some writing project or some other activity that will be helpful to me and to others. No, it’s not guaranteed that I will do exactly that, but it’s clear that it can be so.

My desire to do good things and be good is strengthened. I am in a partnership with the Lord to make something special out of my life. It is in the quiet moments that my life really develops. But it doesn’t work unless I make the effort to remember the Lord. Every time I do, he gives me special sacred feelings that encourage me and help me feel like I can do all I’m asked to do.

I hope this helps. There is no easy answer. It’s not like you can turn off a switch. Sorry. You’ve got hormones and that’s a good thing. Without them you’ve have no drive or ambition in life. Well, I’m speaking from a man’s point of view. For a woman I suppose that without hormones you would have no desire to nurture and strengthen relationships. I thank God for the sex drive.

Please don’t be so hard on yourself. I have a theory about why we feel depressed or hopeless when participating in pornography or masturbation. I’ve shared it elsewhere. It has to do with the influence of unclean spirits – those who have no hope or light of Christ in their lives. It’s just a natural result of allowing them to use you, even for just a moment. You feel what they feel.

Of course if you don’t believe in the existence of evil or unclean spirits you’re going to think this is crazy. That’s OK. As I wrote at the beginning of my essay, I’m not writing this to those who are unbelievers. My experience in life has settled the question for me. They are real and I know of their existence through experiences too sacred to share. But let’s not dwell on that aspect.

Focus on the Savior. Focus on building hope. Believe that you can eventually master yourself. Be happy that you even want to. God bless you in your efforts. Nobody can do this for you. In the temple we learn all ordinances are personal, performed one at a time for each individual. No answer fits everyone, but I have found this plan has met with success time after time in others.

Good luck and God bless. You can do it.

My Interview with Mormon.org


On this Pioneer day, I decided to answer all the personal questions that you are asked when you fill out the profile on Mormon.org.  There are a whole lot more under the FAQ section (about 80) but that will have to wait for another day when I have more time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process of answering these questions and felt like I was being interviewed, thus the title of this blog post.

01. Please explain the part prayer plays in your life?

Having grown up with daily prayer, I can’t imagine a day go by in which I don’t communicate with my Heavenly Father in prayer.  We start the day in prayer as a family asking for the Lord’s blessing upon us as we work.  We end the day in prayer the same way, usually kneeling by the bed, reporting our activities to God and thanking him for his help.  We give thanks for the food we eat at mealtimes and participate in public prayers in our weekly worship service.  It is through prayer and reading scriptures that I feel close to God and directed in my life.

02. Which of the Savior’s teachings have influenced you in your life?

The most powerful admonition of the Lord that has helped me find happiness in this life is his commandment that we love one another.  I remember this whenever I feel that I have been misunderstood or hurt by someone else, either intentionally or not.  It is so easy to take offense in this world but the end result is that we only hurt ourselves when we do that.  To love others is to trust in the Lord that he will help make everything all right, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first.  He also requires us to forgive others since we all make mistakes and errors in judgment. We show our love by forgiving.

03. Please share your feelings/testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel.

Even though I grew up hearing the Joseph Smith story I am still amazed as an adult to realize just how powerful his history really is.  Think about it!  Angels, gold plates, visits from God, Jesus Christ and ancient apostles and prophets – these are all miraculous events that we just don’t hear about everyday.  It is truly a marvelous thing to learn all that the Lord did through Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God.  I am especially grateful for revealed doctrines that clarified and corrected the errors of man in the many religions of the world.

04. Please share your feelings/testimony of Joseph Smith.

I have read at least a dozen biographies of the life of Joseph Smith, and continue to be amazed that the Lord was able to accomplish so much through this one man.  He was a prophet in every sense of the word in that the Lord revealed his will for us through him and continues to do so through the prophets that have followed.  But it was Joseph who paid so dearly with his life even though he did what the Lord told him to do in bringing forth the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I hold Joseph Smith in high regard and look forward to meeting him in the world to come.  I want to thank him for his faithfulness in translating the Book of Mormon.

05. Why do Mormons go on missions?

I went on a mission because I watched a video of the prophet asking all worthy young men to serve the Lord as missionaries.  As he shared his vision of how the gospel would go to all the world, I deeply felt a desire stirring within my soul to be a part of that great army of missionaries.  It was a major sacrifice for me to leave my studies and spend two years in Central America seeking out those who would respond to the Lord’s invitation to come unto him through baptism.  I loved my mission experience and found joy in testifying to the world that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  We go on missions because we are commanded to share the gospel and feel the desire to seek out and bring the message of the truth to all who will receive it.

06. Why do Mormons do family history or genealogy work?

Besides being a commandment to seek out our ancestors, we do family history research because we feel a desire to know and appreciate the story of those to whom we are indebted for our very lives.  I am a product of all those who came before me.  My parents were influenced by their parents and they were who they were because of their parents and so on back as far as we can discover.  Once we have the basic facts of their lives such as names and dates, we are privileged to go to the temple and perform proxy ordinances for them so that they too may meet the commandments of the Lord to be baptized and enter into covenants of exaltation.  We do family history work so we can be saviors on Mt Zion (Obadiah 1:21).

07. How has attending Church services helped you?

One of the highlights of my week is to attend church services each Sunday.  I serve in a leadership capacity in my church, and attend a few more meetings besides the regular three-hour block of Sacrament, Sunday school and Priesthood meetings.  I love the interaction with others who believe as I do and feel as I do about trying to follow the teachings of the Savior.  I say try because nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes each week.  That’s another reason why I love to go to church each Sunday – I get to renew my baptism covenants by taking the Sacrament each week.  I learn more of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these church services and feel a unity with God and with my fellow saints as we worship God and Jesus Christ together.

08. What has helped develop greater harmony in your home?

Like everyone else, I have experienced moments of argument and disharmony in my home which leave me feeling frustrated, resentful, hurt or angry.  I do not like such feelings, especially in my home where I want to relax and feel happy, safe and secure.  So over the years, I have made a greater effort each day to promote harmony and unity by not arguing and not finding fault with my family members.  I was not very good at this as a youth and so I appreciate the blessings that have come to me as an adult as I try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to love others, especially members of my own family, who need and deserve my love the most.  We can have a harmonious home by practicing kindness and forgiveness.

09. What have you done successfully to shield your family from unwanted influences?

Of all the teachings of the church about family, this idea of keeping out the world has been the most difficult but the most rewarding.  Television and the Internet are two of the most challenging types of media to monitor and control.  We believe in freedom so we encourage each other to seek after virtuous and uplifting material.  So the shield we put into place is not anything controlling such as “thou shalt not!”  It is more of making sure that we understand the differences that certain material, music or entertainment can produce, compared to the results of worthy content.  We seek out and support worthy entertainment and uplifting media content and pray constantly that we will each desire such material over the worldly offerings.

10. Could you talk about your baptism?

I was eight years old when I was baptized and for me, that is a long time ago.  My father, who was a recent convert, had to work the evening of my baptism, so he was unable to perform the ordinance.  I was baptized by a young man who was preparing to serve a mission.  My father was able to confirm me a member of the church the next day and I remember the special feelings that came to me as he conferred upon me the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I remember my primary teacher was there and gave me a picture of the Savior mounted on a small piece of wood.  I still treasure that memento and the words of encouragement that she penned on the back.  I’m sure I did not understand all the implications of the covenants I was making at eight years old, but I have come to appreciate the blessings of this ordinance more and more each Sunday as I take the Sacrament and remember what the Savior miraculously did for me in taking upon himself the effects of my sins upon conditions of repentance.  It is baptism that makes my repentance possible.

11. Why/How do you share the gospel with your friends?

I am not a very outgoing person so I believe that the best way I can share the gospel with others is through providing a good example of following the teachings of the Savior.  I have been amazed over the years as I see the influence that my behavior has on others.  I feel it brings respect and a kind of trust that can come in no other way.  I am sometimes surprised that people, including co-workers, will unsolicited confide in me details of problems they are working out and seek my advice and opinion.  I am then able to share my beliefs that following the teachings of Jesus Christ can and does help me deal with problems and that it can help them too.  Because I am shy, I find great comfort in sharing my feelings about the gospel online and am an active LDS blogger.  I also use modern technology like Facebook and Twitter to share my life.  The gospel comes up in the natural course of sharing things online and results in online dialogs in non-threatening and informative way.

12. How does making right choices help us make more right choices?

When we choose the right even when it is hard to do, we strengthen our character and develop integrity.  Deciding to do the right thing one time makes it easier to do the right thing the next time.  Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the added advantage of the gift of the Holy Ghost.  This gift helps us understand what the right thing to do is in difficult situations.  When we decide to follow the impressions of the Holy Ghost in making life’s choices, we show God that we value and appreciate this gift.  The impressions of the spirit will then become stronger or easier to recognize and we can grow in always making right choices.  Of course, being mortal, we will all make mistakes.  The Holy Ghost can also help us repent and make better choices in the future.

13. In what ways have your prayers been answered?

There are so many countless examples over the years that it is hard to share just one or two.  Perhaps the most dramatic for me was on the day that I proposed to my wife.  After I returned home from my mission, I had been praying for quite some time to find a woman who believed as I did and with whom I could be happy.  I was dating my wife’s best friend but the chemistry was just not there.  One day my wife invited me to a ball game and I told her about my troubles getting her friend to like me.  I could see that her feelings were hurt. The next day I visited her in her home and had a long conversation about life and marriage and family.  I had some very powerful spiritual feelings as I was talking to her that I knew were an answer to my prayers.  I proposed on the spot and we were married a few months later.  The Lord helped me with one of the most important decisions of my life.

14. What are you doing to help strengthen your family and make it successful?

My role in the family is to provide security and stability – both financial and spiritual.  I enjoy my responsibility to work and earn the money that we need to have a home, food, clothing and other necessities of life.  But more importantly, I enjoy my responsibility to provide spiritual direction for my family.  We are strengthened by attending church together, by praying and reading the scriptures together and by pursuing worthwhile family goals.  For example, my wife and I take classes at the local community college in the evenings in an effort to improve ourselves and keep our minds active.  We are strengthened as we work together as a family to accomplish good things with our lives and to provide service in our church and our community.  The gospel of Jesus Christ helps us in this endeavor.

15. How has your knowledge of the Plan of Happiness changed/benefited your life?

Sometimes this life can be a drag on the spirit because of all the disappointments and setbacks that come as a natural part of living in this world.  Understanding the Plan of Happiness helps me to realize that such setbacks are temporary.  I remain convinced that the Lord is very involved in my life and wants to help me through my journey until I am ready to return to his presence in the life to come.  Knowing that I lived before I came to this world to experience mortality helps me to have a bigger picture of things.  Knowing that I will live in the world to come and that I will someday be resurrected with a glorious and eternal body give me hope that goes beyond the drudgery and dullness that this life can sometimes be.  The Plan of Happiness is just that – a plan for me to find and achieve happiness through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and enduring to the end of mortality true to what I know.

16. What is hope and what do you hope for?

Hope is the belief and conviction that there is purpose and meaning to this life.  Hope is the understanding that even though we pass through trials and troubles, we can have the assurance that our experiences are for our good and will cause us to grow.  I hope for a glorious resurrection.  I know that this is dependant upon my personal righteousness and my works of faith in this life.  Yes, the resurrection is a free gift to all men, but we believe that the quality of our lives in the hereafter is very much dependant on our actions here.  This life is a time of testing and proving and we can hope that our efforts in struggling against opposition in this world will be rewarded by a just and merciful God who wants to bless and help us through it.

17. How has the Book of Mormon helped you understand the purpose of life?

In the Book of Mormon we read that “men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).  I can’t think of any more concise and explicit scriptural reference that helps us understand the purpose of life.  Of course, the Book of Mormon provides a lot more insight into how we go about finding that joy and even helps us to understand what true joy is.  One of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is the prophet Lehi’s dream about the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8).  In his dream he partakes of the fruit of the tree which is desirable to make one happy and is sweet above all that he had ever before tasted.  Eating of the fruit fills our soul with exceedingly great joy.  The fruit of course is the love of God and we obtain it by holding fast to the Word of God that is represented by the Rod of Iron in Lehi’s dream.  What a great story!

18. How has the Holy Ghost helped you?

I consider the Gift of the Holy Ghost one of the greatest blessings in my life.  There have been so many instances in which I have been helped by the Holy Ghost that it is hard to imagine getting through this life without this wonderful gift.  The Holy Ghost inspires me and encourages me to do things that are hard to do but that result in happiness for me and for others in my life.  The Holy Ghost has warned me of danger many times, prompting me to stay away from certain things and places.  The Holy Ghost has helped me by prompting me to a certain course of action that I otherwise might not have considered.  The Holy Ghost has been my constant companion in my work, helping me to remember things that, if forgotten, could have been the cause of much distress or pain.  The Holy Ghost has comforted me in times of sorrow and distress, helping me to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior even when I do not feel worthy of their love.

19. What blessings have come through your faith in Jesus Christ?

It is because of my faith in Jesus Christ that I am able to get through some of the more difficult aspects of my life.  For example, it is hard for me to do things in a public setting.  But I have been taught and believe that it will be for my good.  The Lord has promised me through the scriptures that he will help me through these difficult circumstances as I exercise faith in him.  And like everyone in this world, I am no stranger to making mistakes and poor choices, even when I know better.  It is through my faith in Jesus Christ that I put into practice one of my favorite little sayings that helps me keep going: “Success is not in never falling, but in getting up each and every time we fall.”  I know that I can be a better person than my fallen human nature would dictate, and it is through faith in Jesus Christ that I am willing to make greater effort each day to be the man that I know he would have me be.

20. How can we develop greater harmony in our homes?

One of the best ways I know of to live in harmony as a family is to do all within our power to avoid criticism, cutting remarks or any attempt to make another family member feel less than loved.  We do this by sharing the same ideals and goals – to seek happiness in living the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Where some family members may not have fully accepted the vision of the gospel, we can provide an example of tolerance and patience with them, just as our Heavenly Father and our Savior do with us.  Fighting, arguing, bickering and contemptuous behavior toward any family member is not the way to have peace and harmony in our homes.  Thus, we pray each day that such undesirable activities are mitigated by expressing love and kindness in all that we do.  We are each at differing levels of maturity in our understanding of this concept, so it is up to those who do, to live it better each day.

21. Can you think of a specific challenge in your family that Gospel Principles helped overcome?

Like most families, we have experienced our share of challenges that have tested our faith and caused us to lean deeply on our understanding of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to overcome.  For example, my wife and I have both lost parents to death, have had our share of serious health problems, including cancer, and have suffered through multiple seasons of financial stress due to unexpected unemployment.  In addition, we have been pained as not all family members have accepted our faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  But it is because of the teachings of Christ that we are encouraged to be patient, that we are comforted when discouraged, that we are inspired when distressed and that we are given strength when we feel weak.  We go on and we press forward, believing that it will all work out for our good, either in this life or in the life to come.  We meet those challenges with strength knowing that we are not alone and that God has promised to help us through them if we will but exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and remain true and faithful to him.

22. How can your talents and gifts bless others?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God gives gifts to each member for the purpose of blessing and supporting each other in this life.  Some of those gifts and talents are more obvious, such as singing, musical ability, acting, performing or even a talent to be able to speak with confidence in front of the congregation (trust me, not all members have this talent).  But the scriptures teach that God gives some gift or talent to every member.  Perhaps one is blessed with the ability to be a good listener, another to share heart-felt testimony of how they know the church to be true, others with the gift of teaching children or even just the talent of being able to live peacefully among their neighbors.  When we share our talents and gifts with others, God blesses us and we are “magnified” or made more effective so that others can receive the same benefits that we enjoy.

23. Think about your everyday activities. What are things you act upon each day where you cannot see the end results? How does faith move you to action?

A very simple everyday activity for me that is an act of faith is prayer.  I have never seen an angel or heard a voice in response to my prayers, but I continue to pray each day, believing that God does hear and answer my prayers.  And indeed he has – by sending the comforting feelings of the Holy Ghost to bless and confirm to me that he loves me and wants me to know the truth for myself.  My faith in God and my trust in the words of his prophets as found in the scriptures causes me to continue to pray both as an individual, with my family, in my congregation and in the homes of other members of the church that I visit.  The end results of my prayers are not always evident right way but are just as certain as if I had seen the effects at the time of the prayer.  I am confident; yes I can say that I know, that God hears and answers our prayers that are offered in faith and with real intent.

24. How has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to God?

I first read the Book of Mormon when I was very young – probably 5 or 6 years old.  I read it out loud with my mother, who was a schoolteacher.  Our family had recently joined the Mormon Church so this was also my mother’s first time reading the Book of Mormon.  I remember the special feelings I had as we read it together.  I felt a warm and comforting spirit as I read. I have read the Book of Mormon many times in the many years since I first read it.  In fact, there is not a year that goes by in which we do not read from it either individually or as a family.  No matter how many times we read the same passages, we always seem to learn something new or have our faith in the truthfulness of the book reaffirmed.  The same warm feelings always return. But it is by following the principles of the gospel that are written in the Book of Mormon that we draw closer to God.  It is in the pages of the Book of Mormon that we learn more about the purpose of life and God’s plan of happiness for us.  The Book of Mormon teaches us to study things out and to pray about them that we may know of their truthfulness for ourselves.

25. Can you talk about the missions of the Church and your participation in them?

Up until recently, we as members of church recited the mission of the church as follows: to preach the gospel, redeem the dead and to perfect the saints.  Within the past year, a fourth mission has been added: to care for the poor and the needy.  We now call these four areas of focus simply the purposes of the church.  In my life, I have participated in each of these areas by serving a mission and continuing to share the gospel, by doing family history or genealogy work and by magnifying my callings to serve in the church as a teacher, leader or whatever I’m asked to do.  I’m grateful to be able to assist in caring for the poor and the needy by contributing money to the fast offering funds of the church and by volunteering to serve food at the local homeless shelter on a regular basis.  These missions or purposes of the church help me as an individual member focus on what is really important to our Heavenly Father – to save his children, both temporally and spiritually.

President Uchtdorf: Pray for Obama


We have been invited by a prophet who attended the inauguration ceremony earlier this week to exercise our faith and pray for the 44th President of the United States of America. This is not a strange or unusual request and one that I am sure can be appreciated by people of all faiths. President Obama needs our faith and prayers.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve attended the inauguration and the National Prayer Service the next day. The two represented President Monson as they attended the events.

Hope and optimism

I like what President Uchtdorf had to say to the media after the events. He said that he prays for President’s Obama’s success in leading this country. Compare that to what popular commentator Rush Limbaugh said recently when he expressed that he hopes that President Obama fails. He later qualified that to be his policies.

I have always enjoyed President Uchtdorf’s positive outlook on life. Every time he speaks, he seems to express optimism and hope. I need more of that in my life. As he expressed to the media, these are important principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He pointed out that President Obama is also focused on these high ideals.

Deep emotion and unity

Isn’t it amazing how a person who is full of hope and optimism always seems to see the bright side of life? It makes you want to know that person better and figure out what makes them tick. In the case of President Uchtdorf, I think he was born with that natural optimism. It is a gift that we need more from our leaders today.

After the National Prayer Service, President Uchtdorf said he felt deep emotion and great unity among the people. He said he hoped that feeling of unity would continue through the years of President Obama’s administration. He also said he felt that the people of America are going to unite behind the new U.S. president.

Unity in First Presidency

President Monson said that it is always an honor for the Church to be represented at the inauguration of a new president. “We send our best wishes to President Obama and pray for the blessings of a loving Father in Heaven to be upon him and his administration.” President Uchtdorf reported that he felt those blessing there.

“We felt we were in the right place with all those whom we call brothers and sisters, to pray for this presidency, for this administration, and with them to pray for all the governments around the world to bring again peace and prosperity and unity to all countries.” I join my faith and prayers with our First Presidency.

Difficult economic times

We are facing difficult economic times. Some have expressed that they fear we will move right past a recession and into a depression. That could be catastrophic. In times like this, prayers for unity and success for the leader of our nation and in effect, the free world, are very appropriate. Many hope for a new positive change.

The start of a new administration brings optimism and hope for those who believe in the needed change. I confess that I am not one who likes change. I like routine and steady progress. I’m not sure if a government can bring about the correction to our economic situation but I’m exercising my faith and prayers as we go forward.

A historic transition

A change in power in a nation is always a historic event. In our democracy, we show to the world how that peaceful transition takes place. Liberties, freedoms and justice for all are not just hollow phrases but truly are principles of our great nation that we uphold. This is more than just a racially historic event in America.

President Obama is young and somewhat inexperienced. He has wisely chosen to surround himself with more experienced individuals. Just as we pray in the church for our prophet and those who surround him, we can do the same thing for the leader of our nation. Carol and I often prayed for President Bush and his family.

Social Commentary

If you have read many of my past essays, you could probably ascertain that I am very conservative in my political persuasions. I have written previously about Rush Limbaugh and how I enjoy listening to and reading his commentary on the political process and other events in this great democracy we call the United States.

I like many of the things that Rush says and agree with a lot of his viewpoints. However, in this instance, I am going to follow the counsel of a prophet and hope and pray that the objectives of our newly inaugurated president can be met. In fact, President Uchtdorf expressed that we need to help President Obama in his task.

Withhold judgment

I’m not sure if there is much I can do for President Obama from way out here in California. I will pray for him and his family just as I did for President Bush. Of course I will continue to pay my taxes and obey the laws of the land as best I can. I will contribute to the economy by buying needed goods and services as usual.

I think something else I can do to help President Obama accomplish his objectives is to not criticize. I plan to withhold judgment of the man and his policies until I see how well they work. I confess that I have initially disagreed with his efforts in the economic crisis, but then I also disagreed with what President Bush did there.

World situation

I am of the opinion that what is happening in the world around us may be beyond the help of a single nation. It may require the uniting of the world in a way that we have not considered before. I strongly suspect that President Obama is the man to do that like no other president we have ever had before. I will be watching him.

I will probably not agree with some of the things he proposes. But as things get worse, economically speaking, and I believe they will, I suspect that we will be in for some drastic measures that some will interpret as infringing upon our civil liberties. That happened with President Bush and I suspect it will happen again.

Summary and conclusion

I have noticed that I have been somewhat pessimistic over the last few months. My father is dying and I am struggling with what that means in my own life. I have much I want to accomplish before my time is up in this world and my father’s health reminds me that time is a precious gift that we can never, ever get back.

I want to have the kind of optimism that I saw in President Uchtdorf as he invited us to pray for President Obama. I need a renewal of hope and want to believe that things can get better. That would be a big change for me, but then, now is a prime opportunity for that needed change. As President Obama has said, “Yes, we can.”

The hope of a Savior and Redeemer


“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” Paul informs us in Romans 3:23. To commit sin is to willfully disobey God’s commandments or to fail to act righteously despite a knowledge of the truth. Many in the world do not believe in sin or in repentance from sin. In fact, some do not even believe in God.

The central theme of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that He is our Savior and Redeemer and that through His atonement, we can obtain forgiveness of our sins. These phrases don’t mean much to those who don’t believe in God or Christ, but they fill with hope those who understand and accept that there is sin in this world.

A Savior is one who delivers from a predicament or an unavoidable trap. Paul also taught us in Romans 6:23 that, “The wages of sin are death.” Sometimes those who are young reject the idea of spiritual death because physical death seems so far away. With maturity, they are more inclined to believe and to want to learn.

The household of faith

Those who are born and raised in a home of faith, where the good news of the gospel is believed and taught, have so much the advantage over those who have neither heard of Christ nor understood the role of repentance in their lives. I had that advantage and will be forever grateful to a mother who taught me to believe.

However, being taught the gospel as a youth places an added responsibility on us. That burden is that we have at least an intellectual understanding of the principles of the gospel. Whether we believe them or not is a different story. It is difficult to pass faith from one generation to the next. The secret is example and pure love.

And yet, children have their agency and can choose to believe or not believe. If the acceptance of the world around them is stronger than the acceptance of their own family, it makes it difficult to choose to believe. Peer influence in a young person’s life can be so much more powerful than the teachings of a loving parent.

Born in the covenant

Life sometimes has a way of leading a rebellious youth to the realization that the path of faith is real, even if it is difficult and not the way of the world. It can be a harsh awakening for a child born in the covenant to understand that they can never be the same as the world around them. Their promises and expectations are great.

Because they have been born in the covenant, their parents have a special claim on them, no matter what their level of belief or obedience. That phrase has a unique meaning in our church and carries with it an understanding of promises, made both by God and by the parents. The children born to such a marriage inherit promises.

Sometimes children born in the covenant reject the faith of their parents and decide to live after the manner of the world – in a state of unbelief. True faith, as found in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, is a powerful thing but is foreign to those who do not believe. Faith is different from belief. You can’t have faith without belief.

Invited to believe and be faithful

There comes a time in every person’s life when they must choose to believe or to not believe in God and His ways. I can say that because we are clearly taught that such a choice is the primary purpose of this life. That choice is presented over and over again until it is clearly established that such faith will be accepted or rejected.

In fact, the role of the Holy Ghost in this life is to entice us throughout our journey to a path of faithfulness. The parents of the rebellious teenager or young adult who has been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost, can constantly ask the Lord to help the child recognize the enticing of the spirit in their lives. That is part of the promise.

I am convinced that as long as the parents pray for that child and ask the Lord to soften the child’s heart towards the gospel of Jesus Christ, that the Lord is bound to honor that request because of the promises inherent in being born in the covenant. He will send the Spirit to prick the heart of that child at the request of the parents.

The Savior will receive and forgive

I have seen numerous examples of rebellious children returning to the faith of their parents many times over the years. Sometimes it is dramatic and shocking to see the difference in the child as the light of the gospel begins to shine in their face. They go on missions, marry in the temple and begin to raise their own families.

But it does not always work like that. Sometimes too much time has passed. A mission is out of the question. That’s OK. They can serve later in life. Many do. Sometimes a marriage in the temple is not forthcoming because of an unbelieving spouse or divorce has already visited the young family, leaving a single parent.

But in spite of poor choices early in life, the Lord is eager to forgive and to bless. He holds out his arms to the wayward child, just as the parents have done for so many years. But the Savior offers something that the parents can never provide – healing and peace. He also offers hope of deliverance from the despair of sin.

Summary and conclusion

We all need our Savior. None of us can save ourselves from the effects of our sins. We cannot wash ourselves free of the contamination of wickedness. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can do that for us. He offers that gift freely, to young and old, parents and children. He offers to redeem us from death and hell and an endless torment.

Members of the LDS faith have an additional understanding of what it means to be saved from death, hell and endless torment. We have additional scripture, as found in the Book of Mormon that teaches us plainly of the significance of redemption. We find great hope in what we learn there about our Savior and His love for us.

Our hope is in Jesus Christ. We proclaim Him to the world to be our Savior and Redeemer and the Son of God. We know Him. We love Him. We worship Him. We preach of Christ and teach our children to believe in Him. I will be forever grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who reveals His Son to those who obey Him.

Image: The Prodigal Son, Artist: Clark Kelley Price

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