Friday, July 30, 2010

Turn to the Lord

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Turn to the Lord, by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom
Of the Presidency of the Seventy

There is great value in contrast. When two things are compared, it often becomes easier to determine which is better based on the comparison.

Yesterday something reminded me of the classic contrast scenario: A daughter approaches her parents, face looking stricken. In deep anguish, and with tears in her eyes, she tremblingly tells them, "I'm pregnant." The daughter is young, unwed, and in nowise ready for motherhood. Discouragement, disappointment, and remorse settle on the group.

Compare this with an alternate story—it can even be the same characters, only set later: A daughter and her husband approach their parents, faces looking radiant. In pure bliss, and with tears of joy in her eyes, she reverently tells them, "I'm pregnant." This couple is young (but perhaps not as young as in the first scenario), happily married, and in every respect prepared for parenthood. Enthusiasm, rejoicing, and thanksgiving settle on the group.

While the same two words were said, "I'm pregnant," the moods could not be different.

Although contrast is ofter used to illustrate the extremes, it is still effective as an illustrative teaching and analysis tool. In his talk, Elder Hallstrom presents another comparison scenario. His example, likewise, has to do with a small child, but with different results. He compares two families, both of whom encounter great loss when a child and/or mother die due to various complications at or around childbirth. The results of how these families deal with this challenge are, as you now expect, quite different. One family turned away from the Lord and drift to spiritual inactivity. The other family "immediately turned. . . to the Lord and His Atonement." They, and their posterity, found comfort, solace, and inspiration through this tragic experience.

The words of the prophet Lehi are applicable here: "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things" (see 2 Nephi 2:11). Without opposition, contrast—and it's positive and negative effects—could not be possible:

Throughout the world and among the membership of the Church, there is great joy and great pain. Both are part of the plan. Without one, we cannot know the other.

I'm grateful for the examples of faith and trust at the crux of contrast—during that pivotal time where eternity hangs in the balance. But even more, I'm grateful for Christ and His Atonement, and that we can turn to the Lord and find peace and comfort in our most painful times.

I just saw a new YouTube "Mormon Messages" video that is entirely applicable:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

He Lives! All Glory to His Name!

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

He Lives! All Glory to His Name!, by Elder Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

While I was serving as a full-time missionary, I received a bracelet from my brother-in-law. It simply said, "WWJD."

You are likely familiar with this once popular trend. The bracelet was actually the first I had heard of the WWJD trend. Of course, the meaning was "What would Jesus do?"

At the time, I had difficulty with the phrase. When I was in difficult situations and I remembered the WWJD, I would honestly answer, "Well, I'm pretty sure Jesus would perform a miracle or cast out a demon." My probably-too-literal interpretation kept me from fully embracing the message; I always thought there was a better way to encourage myself (and other people) to be Christlike.

I remembered this WWJD dilemma as I reviewed Elder Scott's talk on the Atonement. The solution I came up with for the WWJD question disconnect was repeated verbatim by Elder Scott: "What would the Lord Jesus Christ have me do?" Instead of asking what Jesus would do, I decided that the way to success would be for me to personalize it with a rephrasing.

It may seem a small thing, but it worked well for me (see Alma 37:6). Instead of asking what Christ would do, I used His teachings as a model as I wondered what He would have me do. Elder Scott agrees:

The best way to make a permanent change for good is to make Jesus Christ your model and His teachings your guide for life.

As I thought of this, I wondered how the Atonement can help us to find success in other aspects of our lives. Sometimes when we encounter successful people, it seems that we can place them in one of two camps: those who place the credit on Christ; and those who think they are successful because there is no God. I want to be successful, but I want to only be so if I can stay in the first camp.

Your understanding of the Atonement and the insight it provides for your life will greatly enhance your productive use of all of the knowledge, experience, and skills you acquire in mortal life.

The desires we all have for success are very real—and by success I mean having a happy, covenant-keeping family. This definition of success may seem difficult to maintain in a world of questionable values. Nevertheless, Elder Scott provides comfort:

As the world becomes more devoid of foundational standards and as honor, virtue, and purity are increasingly cast aside in the pursuit of appetite, our understanding of and faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ will provide strength and capacity needed for a successful life. It will also bring confidence in times of trial and peace in moments of turmoil.

I'm grateful for the hope of success that is made possible through the Atonement of Christ. I'm grateful for the cleansing power of the Atonement, too, but as I reviewed this talk, I was impressed by something I don't hear discussed much: that of Atonement-driven success in life.

It makes sense, though. Strength and power are found in covenants, and Christ's Atonement makes covenants not just valid, but real, lasting, and forever true.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

“You Are My Hands”

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

“You Are My Hands”, by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

The theme of President Uchtdorf's address reminds me of a little quote that my sister wrote in a journal she gave me before I left on my mission. Scattered throughout the journal were various quotes that were handwritten by her. I remember one more than any others: "Wouldn't it be great if God could count on you to answer someone's prayer today?"

Speaking of Christ's example, President Uchtdorf reminded:

As we emulate His perfect example, our hands can become His hands; our eyes, His eyes; our heart, His heart.

I recently attended a conference in San Diego. As we walked to and from the conference center and around town we encountered scores of people asking for "spare change" each day. As always happens, I wondered what I could or should do to help. When I didn't feel comfortable giving money, I would be sure to make eye contact, acknowledging them, and try to share an understanding and caring smile. While it may not have put food on their plate, it may have helped them to feel valued and important.

The request for "spare change" got me wondering: who has spare change anymore? I remember my father always having a small plastic coin purse he would carry in his pocket when I was younger. I think this was in the day when people actually had cash. It seems that so many of my transactions are done electronically (either online or via credit card) that I rarely even have cash, let alone change.

I was thinking about this when I was walking alone. After making a rare cash transaction, I was asked by a woman for spare change. I was thrilled that 1.) I felt that it was a good idea to share with her, and 2.) I actually had change! This time, I not only looked in her eyes and smiled, but I reached my hand in my pocket and gladly gave her all my change.

This talk of money—cash and change—reminds me of something President Uchtdorf shared from a woman who had a hard life:

I have come to realize that I am like an old 20-dollar bill—crumpled, torn, dirty, abused, and scarred. But I am still a 20-dollar bill. I am worth something. Even though I may not look like much and even though I have been battered and used, I am still worth the full 20 dollars.

While many of us have felt like this tired woman, I think it's even more useful to think of the others that we encounter that are feeling this very way when we see them. Do I look on others as being worthless or worth less than they really are? I hope not. I want to be Christlike as I try to do what He would do

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Preparation Brings Blessings

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Preparation Brings Blessings, by President Thomas S. Monson

During a recent work lunchtime conversation, we were talking about skateboarding. I shared experiences from my childhood where my eldest brother was really into the skateboarding scene. In fact, I shared, we had multiple skateboard ramps in our back yard where my brother's friends would all congregate to skate.

At this point, a friend said, "Wow; you must have great parents!"

I admitted that I had never considered this evidence before. I now acknowledge that my parents are wonderful, but for the longest time as a youth I struggled with them. If only I had seen them through the eyes of my work friend—as great parents.

Now, I don't know why they allowed the ramps in our back yard. It is hard to contemplate their reasons, particularly considering our litigious society now. I wonder if they simply wanted my brother to spend more time at home where things could be more under their loving influence. . .

The connection between my parents and President Monson's talk is somewhat circuitous. President Monson's talk reminded me of the For the Strength of Youth (FSoY) pamphlet (link, pdf). Recently my father taught a Sunday School class where he compared current FSoY guidelines with those that he grew up with. His efforts to embrace Church teachings reminded me of how great he and my mother are. This reminded me of the skateboard discussion.

The 1965 FSoY pamphlet seems quite different from that used today. It discusses women wearing slacks and curlers in their hair. For the men, it mentions the appropriate places of sportswear and having the glow of health from meticulous grooming. Also outlined are posture, littering, and dance styling and clever footwork.

Despite the differences in the two booklets, I'm grateful for guidance to supplement the norms of culture and society. Whereas the current principles are more explicit (of necessity) than their 1965 counterparts, they are necessary when going against what is portrayed as acceptable in common media nowadays.

President Monson teaches:

The Lord cuts through all the media messages with clear and precise language when He declares to us, “Be ye clean” (see D&C 38:42).

I'm grateful for the words of prophets and other inspired leaders. Their messages can cover a wide spectrum, but a brief summary is provided by President Monson:

Happiness comes from living the way the Lord wants you to live and from service to God and others.

Act in All Diligence

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Act in All Diligence, by President Henry B. Eyring
First Counselor in the First Presidency

I was recently asked to give a talk using this talk by President Eyring as a base. Here is my talk, if you're interested:

Opening Story
Picture in your mind the most perfect of summer nights: the temperature is moderate, the humidity is low, the sky is crystal-clear, and there is an unobstructed view of the stars. Can you see it? Have you experienced such a night, perfect for lying on the grass, looking at stars, quietly contemplating? As a teenager, I found this night—the perfect night—with my greatest friend.

In the—as the books put it—“comfortable silence” of star-gazing, we lay looking at the stars. You’ve experienced this, where suddenly everything big in life shrinks in comparison to the wonders of the night. You may find yourself feeling incredibly small. Well, this is where we were, when my friend, almost more to himself than to me, asks aloud, “Who am I? Why am I here? What happens after this life?”

Coming as a surprise to both of us was my reply, “You mean you don’t know?”

He thought I was making light of his openness. As I tried to explain that I wasn’t making fun, I realized for the first time that I knew the answers to his questions. I knew the answers!

If I had a colored lens, I could look through it and see things differently. I might see different patterns in the petals of an otherwise plain-looking flower; through a different lens I might be able to see through the reflecting light on the surface of a lake; another lens might magnify things allowing closer inspection.

Today, let’s look at life through the lenses of duty and diligence and see what stands out to us.

Now, I don’t expect much from this talk. I don’t really expect it to be remembered—do you remember what talks were given two weeks ago? Instead, my goal is for the Holy Ghost to whisper to you and to me things that we need to do to better learn our duty and act in diligence.

Much of my talk will be my response to President Eyring’s remarks in the last Priesthood Session of General Conference, from his talk titled, “Act in All Diligence.” That phrase, you’ll recognize, comes from D&C 107 (99-100):

Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.

Recall my friend’s questions: “Who am I? Why am I here?” and, “What happens after this life?” He wasn’t the first one to ask these questions, nor was he the last. I imagine many of us have wondered these same things.

Earlier I claimed that I knew the answers. Because of the blessings of the restored gospel, we all know the answers to these questions. Let’s step through them, one by one.

Who Am I?
What is the difference between the questions, “Who am I?” and “What am I?”

Scientists who deal in genetics may say that “what we are” is determined by our genetic makeup—a distinct code unique to each of us. Every child here will tell us that “what we are” is a child of God—they may even sing it to us. These two sources agree that “what we are” does not change.

Who we are, on the other hand, is the result not only of what happens to us, but more importantly, how we choose to react, and what we choose to do. You’ve probably heard someone say, “I’m not the same person that I used to be?” Why are they different? Because of distinct life choices.

As children of a loving Father in Heaven, we’ve each been given the light of Christ to guide us in our decisions. The light of Christ—or conscience—helps us to know what is right, and what is wrong. In addition, we, as members of the Church, do not have a monopoly on the Holy Ghost. Of course, it is only through the ordinances of the priesthood that we can receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost—which entitles us to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost—but all children of God can receive flashes of insight, instruction, and teaching from the Holy Ghost.

How we respond to these influences—the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost’s promptings—determines who we ultimately are and will become.

In summary, what we are never changes, but who we are never stops changing. Nevertheless, knowing what we are—a child of God—can and should influence who we are, and who we are trying to become.

Why Am I Here?
Once we understand who we are, we may be more equipped to answer “Why am I here?”

In addition to the familiar answers of “to get a body,” “to be tested,” and “to learn,” I would like to add the following: We are here to “learn [our] duty, and to act in the office in which [we are] appointed in all diligence.” This line of instruction comes from the 107th section of the Doctrine and Covenants—listed as a “revelation on priesthood”—where the Lord gives us a pattern for success, or guidance on why we are here.

If we believe that our Father in Heaven has a plan for us—and not just a general plan for all of mankind, but a distinct plan for each of us—then it is understandable that we be expected to learn of that plan and then do our best to accomplish His designs for us.

The scripture says that we are to “learn [our] duty, and to act in the office in which [we are] appointed in all diligence.” What is meant by duty? In the latest conference, Bishop McMullin taught:

The duty of which I speak is what we are expected to do and to be. It is a moral imperative summoning forth from individuals and communities that which is right, true, and honorable. Duty does not require perfection, but it does require diligence. It is not simply what is legal; it is what is virtuous. It is not reserved to the mighty or high in station but instead rests on a foundation of personal responsibility, integrity, and courage. Doing one’s duty is a manifestation of one’s faith.

President Monson said of it: “I love and cherish the noble word duty.” For members of the Church of Jesus Christ, our path of duty is keeping our covenants in daily life.

In conference we were reminded why the youth organizations use Personal Progress and the soon-to-be-released new Duty to God programs. Regarding Personal Progress, President Eyring taught:

President Monson put it this way: we must “learn what we should learn, do what we should do, and be what we should be.” The Personal Progress booklet for young women makes the purpose clear for them: “The Personal Progress program uses the eight Young Women values to help you understand more fully who you are, why you are here on the earth, and what you should be doing as a daughter of God to prepare for the day you go to the temple to make sacred covenants.”

Regarding Duty to God, President Eyring spoke of a “pattern from the new Duty to God booklet. It is to learn what the Lord expects of you, make a plan to do it, act on your plan with diligence, and then share with others how your experience changed you and blessed others.”

Can it really be that simple? Is what I’m claiming true? … that the reason why we are here is to learn our duty and act in diligence?


The scriptures are full of examples of righteous men and women who did just that:

Remember Nephi, who after learning of his father, Lehi’s, duties, prayed, received a visit from the Lord, learned his duty, and went and did many great things.

Remember another Nephi (the one who prayed in his garden tower and told the gathering crowd of their chief judge’s murder); he was recently released from prison after the whole chief-judge issue was sorted out and was on his way home when he heard the voice of the Lord. After receiving positive feedback for his “unwearyingness” and empowered with the sealing power, he was given a new duty to “go and declare unto [the] people” that they needed to repent. We read of his diligence:

And behold, now it came to pass that when the Lord had spoken these words unto Nephi, he did stop and did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes who were scattered about upon the face of the land, and began to declare unto them the word of the Lord which had been spoken unto him (Helaman 10:12).

Remember Abraham, who was “a follower of righteousness, desiring also … to be a greater follower of righteousness,” who wanted “to receive instructions [learn his duty], and to keep the commandments of God” [act in diligence] (v. 2). Because of this, he received the priesthood and survived an attempt on his life where wicked priests tried to sacrifice him on an unholy alter (where three young women had lost their lives earlier because of their virtue and refusal to worship false gods). (See Abraham 1)

Remember Joseph Smith, who three years after the First Vision, sought to learn his duty through repentance. This is when Moroni appeared in his bedroom and proceeded to teach him. You’ll recall that Moroni’s message was given a total of four times. Shortly thereafter, Joseph saw the plates of gold at the Hill Cumorah and began an extended time of training over the next three years before he commenced more fully with acting in his office in all diligence—through translating the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.

Remember Enos, who was a grandson of Lehi, a nephew of Nephi, and the son of the prophet Jacob. He was not unlike Joseph Smith, who sought repentance—but not for “any great or malignant sins,” no doubt. He received a remission of his sins, was worthy to hear the voice of the Lord, prayed for his people and the Lamanites, learned of his duty, and diligently acted. Enos is famous for his “wrestle… before God,” but perhaps more importantly is that he went among the Nephites, “prophesying of things to come, and testifying of the things [he] had heard and seen.” Through his diligent service, he, with the Nephites, tried to teach the Lamanites. His whole life was dedicated to teaching of Christ.

There are many others who likewise learned their duty and acted in all diligence. You may have thought of some yourself: Peter and Christ’s other apostles who were instructed to “Feed my lambs, … Feed my sheep, … feed my sheep.” Esther who saved an entire race of people because of her diligence. Or even Abish from the Book of Mormon who, with Ammon, played a role in the conversion of King Lamoni’s people.

Consider one final scriptural example of duty and diligence. Remember Samuel the Lamanite, who came to cry repentance to the Nephites. In speaking of the Lamanites’ present state of righteousness, he said:

The more part of them are in the path of their duty, and they do walk circumspectly before God, and they do observe to keep his commandments. … Yea, … the more part of them are … striving with unwearied diligence that they may bring the remainder of their brethren to the knowledge of the truth (Helaman 15:5-6).

Is there any more guidance in this pattern of learning our duty and acting in diligence? Let’s return to the Lord’s charge in the Doctrine and Covenants (107:99-100):

Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.

He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand.

Ooh… that second verse doesn’t sound very good! [repeat verse] How can we avoid the temptations and tendencies to be lazy? President Eyring has a suggestion:

We are to learn our duty from the Lord, and then we are to act in all diligence, never being lazy or slothful. The pattern is simple but not easy to follow. We are so easily distracted. Studying the daily news can appear more interesting than the priesthood lesson manual. Sitting down to rest can be more attractive than making appointments to visit those who need our [charitable] service.

When I find myself drawn away from my … duties by other interests and when my body begs for rest, I give to myself this rallying cry: “Remember Him.” The Lord is our perfect example of diligence in [charitable] service. He is our captain. He called us. He goes before us. He chose us to follow Him and to bring others with us. … The Savior’s example gives me courage to press on.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. This is a day when we remember. We remember those who died, striving to walk their path of duty in military service. Earlier I quoted Bishop McMullin, who said: “For members of the Church of Jesus Christ, our path of duty is keeping our covenants in daily life.” We just participated in the sacrament covenant. Elder Holland reminds that “as members of [Christ’s] Church, we pledge every Sunday of our lives to take upon ourselves His name and promise to ‘always remember him.’ So let us work a little harder at remembering Him.”

What Happens After This Life?
We now get to the third question my friend raised: “What happens after this life?” The answer to this question is dependent on the previous two. Who we are (or who we ultimately become) is the result of how well we diligently fulfill our duty. If our duty is to keep our covenants, and “keeping covenants is the safest road to eternal happiness” (Ballard) then we have some indication of where we will end up.

But first, and most importantly, let’s be clear: because of, and only through the Atonement of Christ, we can all qualify to be with, and be like Christ.

From the great chapter on the Plan of Salvation, we read:

For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice … and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel (2 Ne. 2:26).

In the intercessory prayer, Christ taught while praying to His Father:

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:3).

From the vision outlining the qualifications for exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom we learn of those who “[receive] the testimony of Jesus and [believe] on his name” [learned their duty] and “[keep] the commandments” through covenants [act in diligence]:

These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever (D&C 76:62)

Summed up in section 14, we find:

And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God (v. 7).

I’ll always remember when I realized for the first time that I knew the answers to my friend’s questions. I knew the answers! Because of the restored gospel, we all know the answers. We all know the answers.

In walking our path of duty with diligence, the Lord, in the Doctrine and Covenants, invites us to “walk in the paths of virtue,” “lay aside the things of this world,” “and cleave unto [our] covenants.” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:2, 10, 13)

As we always remember Christ, we can find the strength, courage, and fortitude to “learn [our] duty, and to act in the office in which [we are] appointed in all diligence.”

Continue in Patience

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Continue in Patience, by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

It seems that lines are like kryptonite to me.

During my business travels last week, I encountered many lines. Perhaps most amusing are the lines at airports. For example, when departing, I arrived at the recommended two hours early time, so I had plenty of time to make my way through various lines. I noticed that even though I had loads of time (and the lines weren't even very long), I still felt that there was some great hurry; I even became frustrated when I chose the slower of two lines.

It was at this point that I remembered President Uchtdorf's talk where he reminded how hard waiting can be:

Waiting can be hard. Children know it, and so do adults. We live in a world offering fast food, instant messaging, on-demand movies, and immediate answers to the most trivial or profound questions. We don’t like to wait. Some even feel their blood pressure rise when their line at the grocery store moves slower than those around them.

As I remembered this, I felt all my anxiety melt away—I even enjoyed a laugh at myself. I had become like those in traffic that I think are so silly: the people who race from one red light to the next as though they are in a hurry to wait.

There I was, in a hurry to wait 90 minutes on the other side of the security checkpoint. After I made it through and put my shoes back on, I saw a colleague patiently waiting in a chair. We had a good laugh at my (and others) foolishness at being in such a rush when the line speed was entirely out of our hands. We concluded that it's much easier to be patient if you are prepared (arrive on time) or have a friend to help pass the time (in positive, constructive ways).

Despite this conversation, my theory—and resolve—was put to the test when we saw a multi-hour line at the airport where we landed. I don't know if I could have been patient if I had to wait in that line. . .

In my nightly prayers, as I examine my day, I often decide that many of my problems stem from my own impatience. In fact, if you've endured my many General Conference Application Series posts, you may have noticed many where I've lamented on the same. I think my problem with my impatience is that I know that it stunts my development (i.e. I become damned).

Without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace.

I'm grateful for the reminders of the importance of patience. I think of this talk every time I go shopping, go for a drive, or otherwise encounter a line. I don't always remember (or respond) fast enough, but I'm always grateful for the boost of patience that simply remembering his words on patience provides.

President Uchtdorf's words are like a shield to the weakening effects of lines' kryptonite-effects on me.

With these frequent reminders, I can be more of a Super[Patient]man!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Magnificent Aaronic Priesthood

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Magnificent Aaronic Priesthood, by David L. Beck
Young Men General President

My sacrament experience was exceptional today. Perhaps it was because I was out of town at a conference last week and was unable to attend church. Whatever the reason, I'm grateful.

My family sits near the front of the chapel, and we have an almost unobstructed view of those who pass the sacrament. Today, I noticed that my friend was helping the young men. I saw him lovingly teach a young man how to better fulfill his priesthood duty. Then, as the group of young men walked off to their "stations" to pass the sacrament, I saw my friend quietly and reverently bend to pick up a single piece of bread that had fallen off of a tray onto the floor. He did this without drawing attention to himself (I just happened to see it), but as he did it, he showed great respect and demonstrated the magnificence of the priesthood.

Seeing this unfold reminded me of other times when I've seen similar things. I've heard a story (unverified) of a prophet who quietly left the stand during a priesthood meeting, walked to the rear of the chapel, bent to gently pick up a piece of bread, and then quietly returned to his seat officiating at the meeting.

I imagine we've all either heard of stories or seen them ourselves. Interestingly, Brother Beck shared a likewise touching story of a frail man who could not eat anything—even the small piece of sacrament bread—but who lovingly held it to his lips in reverence:

The young man said when he saw this faithful brother express his reverence for the sacrament, he felt as though he were watching him kiss the feet of the Savior. He could tell that he loved Him.

I'm grateful for the sacrament. I love the opportunities that we have to regularly covenant through real, lasting, meaningful covenants that supply protection, power, and promises, as administered through the magnificent Aaronic Priesthood.


In his talk, Brother Beck spoke of a monument he encountered "along the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal." I was curious to learn more. I think he spoke of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) (link to Wikipedia entry).

Here are two pictures I liked, and what Brother Beck had to say about the monument:

On a cold morning a few weeks ago, I jogged along the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal. I came to a monument dedicated to the Portuguese explorers from centuries past. I stopped as the sun rose and splashed its warm light on the imposing monument and on me. I was inspired as I looked at the determined faces of the explorers gazing out over the water. These were men who were willing to do things that very few had done. They left a familiar and comfortable world and courageously went out into the unknown ocean and discovered new lands. They changed the world.
I see you when I think of that monument of courageous explorers. I see you on a personal journey that few in the world today choose to pursue. I see you fulfilling your duty to God.
I pray that we may all understand the magnificent Aaronic Priesthood and trust, as God does, those who bear it.

The Divine Call of a Missionary

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Divine Call of a Missionary, by Elder Ronald A. Rasband
Of the Presidency of the Seventy

Upon graduating from BYU, we were faced with a major decision: where should we go for graduate school. I had been given wonderful offers from two great schools, but the decision was still ours. After study, fasting, and prayers, we decided on Texas. However, on occasion after we had moved, I would wonder, "What if we had chosen Illinois..." It was during these times of wondering that I would strongly recall the powerful experienced my wife and I shared as we contemplated this great decision, and the ways we saw that hand of the Lord directing our lives to come to Texas.

It was during these times of remembering that I would recall the revelation given to Oliver Cowdery, where he was given insight regarding witness: "What greater witness can you have than from God?" (see D&C 6:22-23 for more)

Remembering all of this reminds me of instances I had while serving as a full-time missionary in the Idaho Boise Mission. Sometimes I was asked what my thoughts/feelings were upon opening my mission call and learning that I was going to Idaho. These questions were almost always given by people who expected me to say that I was somehow disappointed. However, each time I would testify that I knew immediately that my call was right for me.

When questioned about my call, I would share how my mother and I knelt and prayed that we would both know "perfectly" that my call was inspired (my mother was included because I was the first missionary in our family, and it might be hard for her to say goodbye).

As soon as I read the words "Idaho Boise Mission," I knew (and my mother knew) that the call was from the Lord. It helped that both of my parents are from Idaho, so I was returning to the land of my fathers (just not the land of my forefathers!).

In his talk, Elder Rasband shared a story that I expect I will forever remember. It was the story of how he and President Eyring sat together, as part of Elder Rasband's training, and issued assignments to missionaries. I loved the systematic process of it all; I could imagine that I was sitting there, too!

Learning of the guided way that missionaries are given their assignments, I more fully appreciated Elder Rasband's testimony:

Every missionary called in this Church, and assigned or reassigned to a particular mission, is called by revelation from the Lord God Almighty through one of these, His servants.

I'm grateful for the Lord's guidance; I'm grateful that we can receive great witnesses from God (recall D&C 6:22-23); and I'm grateful for His servants and all they do to assist in His work.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Healing the Sick

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Healing the Sick, by Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

While traveling home from a conference yesterday, I listened to two interviews with scientists whose views on God were diametrically opposed to each other; they were Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins. One is a world-renowned scientist who had a firm faith in God, the other is a world-renowned scientist who has no belief in God.

I was reminded of these conflicting views when I reviewed Elder Oaks words: "Latter-day Saints believe in applying the best available scientific knowledge and techniques." To me, he was saying that faith and science are not mutually exclusive, as many in both camps (the religion camp and the science camp) try to claim. It is possible (and, I think necessary) to have an understanding of both science and God.

In speaking on healing the sick, Elder Oaks quoted from Brigham Young, who was replying to the question of trying to apply faith without science/reason:

If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed.

I loved Elder Oaks' talk, and not only for this one little bit in the introduction. Nevertheless, it was a nice reminder that science and religion do coincide, and should coincide in our lives.

We do all we can while we seek the Lord's help in all things. Not doing this seems, to me, to be ignoring the many advances that the Lord has already given to us, His children, all while asking for a remedy that He may have already supplied!

Let me be clear: I'm grateful for science, medicine, and remedies. Even more, I'm grateful for the knowledge that these are in harmony with the grand plan of our Father in Heaven, and that the order of priesthood blessings exists to bless lives in multiple ways.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul, by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Much has been said about public cell phone conversations, particularly regarding the volume that people choose to speak (i.e. too loudly). However, have you ever heard someone talking to a loved one, who after an overly-loud conversation ends the call with a very quiet, "I love you"?

If you haven't, then maybe you've heard my conversations with my wife or children. If you have, you may remember that our "I love you"s aren't muted, diminished, or silenced at all. We're not afraid that people know we love each other!

As I reviewed Elder Holland's important message, I thought of the love that my family shares for each other as he told of the love that he and his wife share. Here is my favorite snippet of his comments (when he compared love to lust):

True love we are absolutely giddy about—as I am about Sister Holland; we shout it from the housetops.

This feeling (and other good feelings) can be contrasted to lust. I was somewhere recently when an older song (titled, perhaps, "I want to fall in lust," or something similar) came over the speakers. Recognizing the song, I instantly felt cheapened—like something I hold dear was insulted.

Perhaps it was. Especially considering my heightened feelings of love considering my present separation from family as I was away at a conference.

Speaking of lust, Elder Holland said:

[Lust] is a sin because it defiles the highest and holiest relationship God gives us in mortality—the love that a man and a woman have for each other and the desire that couple has to bring children into a family intended to be forever.

I'm grateful for love. I'm also grateful for the important reminders and actions that Elder Holland spoke of.

I want to keep my love pure, holy, and forever.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Watching with All Perseverance

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Watching with All Perseverance, by Elder David A. Bednar
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

When I was studying at BYU, I helped a friend with his graduate research where we stood on the side of a highway and recorded locations where people started to brake. This was part of a study to determine the effectiveness of an advanced warning system for a light change on a high-speed roadway.

As we were doing out study, we raised a question. The study was based on the assumption that drivers would brake earlier if warned in advance, but what of drivers who responded (in my opinion) more rationally: those who were warned of a change ahead and simply started to coast, instead of continuing to drive full-speed, but just braking sooner.

I was reminded of this experience as I read of Elder Bednar's comparison to advance warning regarding keeping watch on our children. Does this comparison assume that our children are going to get into trouble (if, at least, in the future)? Probably not; but it is much more helpful if a system is in place and it is heeded in cases of impending trouble. Following such a pattern helps to avoid the blame game that many parents play after the bad life choices of their children, including the inevitable "If only I had known..."

Among the suggestions given, I enjoyed the following:

Discussions about the doctrines and principles in the Book of Mormon provide opportunities for parents to observe their children, to listen to them, to learn from them, and to teach them.

I especially liked the mention that parents can learn from their children in a gospel-sharing home. I know that I'm often the student when my children and I have meaningful discussions of the important things. It seems, though, that these opportunities arise when parents take the initiative and start the discussion:

Parents should be vigilant and spiritually attentive to spontaneously occurring opportunities to bear testimony to their children. Such occasions need not be programmed, scheduled, or scripted. In fact, the less regimented such testimony sharing is, the greater the likelihood for edification and lasting impact.

Spontaneous discussions that come to my mind include the times when the children and I are on the temple grounds and these kind of discussions seem to naturally pop up. . . almost spontaneously, you could say.

I'm grateful for my wonderful children and for the fun, meaningful times that we enjoy. I'm also grateful for the insight that these times and discussions provide, casting light on potentially dangerous times to come. Then we can prepare (similar to the coasting response mentioned earlier), instead of having to react quickly later on (like those who just keep going and then brake earlier).

Just like an advanced warning system.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When the Lord Commands

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

When the Lord Commands, by Elder Bruce A. Carlson
Of the Seventy

On the way to a meeting this morning, I took an alternate route, thinking it would be a shortcut. After winding my way through back parking lots and across small pedestrian crossings, I ended up back on the initial path of which I was trying to find a shorter route.

I'll have to consult a map before I try to find a shortcut again!

As I reviewed Elder Carlson's words, I was reminded of my walking adventure. He spoke of fishermen who repeated a fail-prone plan expecting a different result. Of this, he said:

Occasionally we believe that there must be an easier way, a shortcut or modification of the Lord’s commandments that will accommodate our individual circumstances. Thoughts such as these fail to acknowledge that strict obedience to God’s laws brings His blessings and failure to abide by His laws leads to foreseeable consequences.

Interestingly, before the failed walking shortcut, I got temporarily lost on the way to the temple. I thought I could find a shorter way on my own, without consulting a map. I was wrong.

As I went on my way, thinking I was just fine, I felt that I should pull off and consult a map. I complied and easily corrected my course.

Myfailed shortcuts reminded me of Elder Carlson's words, "our partial or selective compliance with God's laws will fail to bring the full blessings of obedience" (emphasis mine).

Sure, I arrived at my destinations with only slight delays, but I could have had a more full trip experience had I consulted a map. The map could be compared to God's laws (such as the scriptures). I'm grateful for the maps we enjoy that guide us on our way, but even more, I'm grateful for the guidance that the commandments provide.

Helping Hands, Saving Hands

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Helping Hands, Saving Hands, by Elder Koichi Aoyagi
Of the Seventy

Elder Aoyagi shared a great story about his conversion and subsequent reconversion. He tells that after being baptized, he left home to attend University. While there, he fell out of activity in the church. After receiving a loving postcard of a ward member back home, he evaluated his life, experienced anew the influence of the Holy Ghost, and changed. Of this experience, he said:

This spiritual experience changed my life completely! I decided to serve a mission out of gratitude to the Lord and to the Church member who rescued me. Following my mission, I was sealed in the temple to a wonderful girl, and we have been blessed with four children. Not coincidentally, this is the same girl who saved me by sending a postcard.

How great that the caring ward member later became his eternal companion!

I enjoyed reading Elder Aoyagi's account, because it reminded me of the universal application of the Spirit's influence. It seems that we often speak of such experiences primarily regarding initial conversion. It's nice to be reminded that the Holy Ghost changes lives, be it the first opportunity, the second, or more.

The Blessing of Scripture

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Blessing of Scripture, by Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

How close (proximity) are you to the scriptures. If you're reading this, then I guess you're simply one click away ( Digital options aside, think of the nearest set of good old-fashioned turn-the-pages scriptures. The bookshelf, the desk, the bedside table . . . where are they?

Contrast the relative ease of scripture access we enjoy to the situation in 1536 when William Tyndale was executed for translating and publishing the Bible in English. Elder Christofferson recounted moving stories of dedication and devotion of individuals who made amazing sacrifices to make the Bible available to many.

Whereas historically people were persecuted, punished, or even killed for trying to make the scriptures available, we now have a society where scriptures are nearly ubiquitous. You see multiple copies at thrift stores, you find them at yard sales, you can even see a Bible in many hotel rooms! Nevertheless, given this great coverage, I wonder what importance we, as a society, place on the scriptures. Elder Christofferson has something to say on this:

Today the Bible and other scripture are readily at hand, yet there is a growing scriptural illiteracy because people will not open the books. . . Where scriptural truths are ignored or abandoned, the essential moral core of society disintegrates and decay is close behind.

I'm grateful for the scriptures, but I wonder if I'm appreciating them as much as I should.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mothers Teaching Children in the Home

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Mothers Teaching Children in the Home, by Elder L. Tom Perry
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Passionately curious. That is how I would describe my childhood. I remember always wondering about things: how they worked, what they were made of, how they were made. Perhaps this natural tendency led me to the field of science in my studies. Nevertheless, I see these same curiosities in my children.

One of the greatest things about having inquisitive children is that we, their parents, get to try to answer their questions. I've often heard of small children getting on a "why" chain—where each answer is followed by another "why?". Instead of seeing this as an annoyance, I took it as a chance to teach—to take the question seriously and do my best to answer.

One of our children is an elementary school student. He did amazingly well in kindergarten, and seems advanced in all regards (and I don't think it's just because I'm talking about my son!). Why did he do so well? He was raised on loving, first-hand teaching, not on unsupervised media immersion. He was fed a steady diet of books, drawing, and creative play, not vegetative television and video games.

Here is a picture of a typical scene in our home: my sweet wife reading to children:

Raised on reading, our eldest is now participating in the teaching process:

Reading Elder Perry 's talk, you would think he had a SuperMom!

I'm sure he did.

How can I be sure? Because my children have a SuperMom, too!

I'm grateful for my loving wife. She chooses to stay at home with our little ones, tenderly teaching and loving them everyday. If you've met my wife, you will likely have noticed the light or glow that seems to shine off of her. She really does radiate love. I was reminded of my 100 Watt wife as Elder Perry reminded that parents are to bring up their children in light and truth (see D&C 93:40). How is this done? Here's Elder Perry's answer:

Parents must bring light and truth into their homes by one family prayer, one scripture study session, one family home evening, one book read aloud, one song, and one family meal at a time.

I'm grateful for my wonderful wife and all she does to help our family, and all she does to help me.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Statistical Report, 2009

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Statistical Report, 2009, by Presented by Brook P. Hales
Secretary to the First Presidency

I remember when the statistical report was nothing more than words for me. Now, however, I get interested in trends in the data and other analyses. I won't go into them, though.

Also, the older I become, the more names I recognize in the list of Church members who passed away in the previous year. As sad as their passing may be, I like to think of how I've been positively influenced and blessed because of their service. I guess this is an indication that they accomplished what they set out to do.

Church Auditing Department Report, 2009

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Church Auditing Department Report, 2009, by Presented by Robert W. Cantwell
Managing Director, Church Auditing Department

I'm grateful that not only does the church follow appropriate laws and practices, but that monies are handled according to revelation and Church policies and procedures.

The Sustaining of Church Officers

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Sustaining of Church Officers, by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

Sustaining others, be it at church or during conference, is more fun when done with small children. (And potentially meaningful when they ask questions.) Also, it's unifying to commit, as a family, to follow, support, and assist our leaders (and the Lord).

Help Them on Their Way Home

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Help Them on Their Way Home, by President Henry B. Eyring
First Counselor in the First Presidency

As I prepared to serve as a full-time missionary as a nineteen-year-old, I took opportunity after opportunity to be with the missionaries then serving. Of each missionary I met, I would ask the same question: "How can I best prepare to serve the Lord as a missionary." Perhaps not surprisingly, their answer was always the same: Learn to hear and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

At the close of a successful mission (where, incidentally, I did my best to hear and follow promptings), I did my best to apply that same way of life to education, courtship, and, after a time, marriage. As I reviewed President Eyring's talk on helping children, I chuckled to realize that his advice for parents was the same as the many missionaries that helped me in Chicago was: learn to hear and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. However, in Elder Eyring's application, parents (and others who help the youth) are also to help young people to likewise hear and follow.

The best counsel for us to give young people is that they can arrive back to Heavenly Father only as they are guided and corrected by the Spirit of God.

I'm grateful for my little ones. They know that my favorite places to be are at home with my family, or somewhere else with my family. I love when they come with me on errands, on walks, or on trips in our imaginations. Likewise, I want to go with them. President Eyring spoke of the greatest help we can give:

Of all the help we can give these young people, the greatest will be to let them feel our confidence that they are on the path home to God and that they can make it. And we do that best by going with them.

I love my family. I'm grateful for the advice we've been given to continue on our path home. . . together!

Mothers and Daughters

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Mothers and Daughters, by Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

In his last address, Elder Ballard addressed fathers and sons. I remember watching that talk with my eldest son, and when he told me that I was perfect (click here for more details). Interestingly, I watched this talk on mothers and daughters with my wife and little girl (spoiler alert: I love them both very much).

The other day, my little girl and I went on a short daddy-daughter date; we shared an ice cream cone at McDonald's. Half-way through our cone, as I sat across the table from her in a comfortable silence, I looked at her and saw a beautiful daughter of God, full of admirable qualities. In fact, seeing her many amazing qualities shining before me reminded me of her mother, my wife.

Before I was married, I tried to envision what my wife would be like. I had the picture of perfection in my mind (a picture, I'm happy to report, that wasn't nearly good enough because my wife is even better than I had pictured! ). This mindset of what I wanted in a spouse was mostly selfish at the time. Now, however, I see that there is a serendipidous additional outcome to my wife's perfection—my children are either inheriting her goodness, or they're learning it from her firsthand. (Actually, it's probably both.)

The wonderfulness of my wife is spreading to the whole family (including to me), but Elder Ballard spoke of the special relationship that is shared by mothers and daughters. While I could point to many quotes in his address that reminded me of my two wonderful girls (or women, if you prefer), I think I'll just let them speak for themselves. Watch them and you'll see, as do I, that they love the Lord, they love each other, and they love our family.

I'm grateful for my two perfect princesses.

The Rock of Our Redeeme

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Rock of Our Redeemer, by Elder Wilford W. Andersen
Of the Seventy

I'm on a committee in my church where we get to organize cultural arts activities/events. Yesterday our committee had a Pioneer Celebration! Unfortunately, I was on an airplane the whole time the event took place. Despite this, I've been thinking of pioneers lately—including my own pioneer forebears.

When people think of pioneers, difficulties and trials are also imagined. You'll often hear the question: "Would I have had the courage/strength/determination/fortitude to press on despite difficulty?"

I enjoyed Elder Andersen's account of the wooden signs on Parley Street in Nauvoo that carry excerpts from pioneer-era journals that reflect confidence, commitment, and even joy!

So, then, is devastation and distress a requirement for being a pioneer? It seems that the answer is an oft-overlooked "No!" The pioneers were able to confront hard tasks not because of discouragement, but because of confidence and commitment.

In whom was their confidence placed? To what were they committed? Their confidence lay in the Rock of our Redeemer. They were committed to Christ and sacred covenants.

I'm grateful for the comforting reminder that great things can happen when we face difficulty and trials (and even comfort and easy times) with hope, faith, and confidence in the promises of the Lord.

If I can do this more, I, too, can be a Pioneer. . . even if I don't have to lead a team or pull a handcart.

Our Path of Duty

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Our Path of Duty, by Bishop Keith B. McMullin
Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

Before I met my wife, my best friend was my roommate. We both came from Chicago to attend school together, we donated plasma together, we worked at the same place together. . . Everything was hunky-dory.

After I met the most beautiful woman in the world (my wife, of course), we went on double-dates with my roommate and his dates, but as I spent more and more time with my girlfriend, something happened to my friendship. What was once conversations full of inside jokes and all-around comradery became the silent treatment. It seemed nothing could be done to reconcile the confusing change.

My experience is nowhere close to the potentially awkward situation outlined by Bishop McMullin; the account of the holocaust survivor who was confronted by a camp prison guard who cited conversion and asked for forgiveness. In her account, she stated that as he stood there with outstretched hand, the decision of what to do was "the most difficult thing I had ever had to do."

I loved the resultant feelings she described after praying for help and taking his hand:

Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. As I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart.’
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.

As I read that she had never known God's love so intensely, I remembered the situation that I described between myself and my roommate.

Here's the rest of the story:

Being able to bear the discomfort and silence no longer, I tenderly approached him and said that I wasn't sure what I had done to upset him, but that I desperately wanted to be friends again—hoping against hope to see his crinkly smile again.

Unfortunately, the forgiveness issued in Bishop McMullin's story was not extended to me. My friend simply turned and walked away from me, and I don't think he ever said anything else to me again.

With my requested reconciliation denied, I longed to feel the intensity of God's love flow through me. While I still feel haunted by the whole shunted roommate situation, I'm left to wonder if I've ever denied forgiveness from someone who sought it from me.

I hope that I can better walk my "path of duty," including by forgiving and asking forgiveness of others. In addition, I want to live so that I don't offend others—including best friends—to the point where they don't feel comfortable returning to friendship with me again.

Now, I realize that some readers may say, "losing one friend while gaining an eternal friend (wife) is an acceptable loss." This may be true, but imagine the happiness that could have been experienced to share such a happy union with a long-time friend.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


This entry is part of my general conference application series.

“And upon the Handmaids in Those Days Will I Pour Out My Spirit”, by Julie B. Beck
Relief Society General President

Even though Sister Beck's address seems primarily addressed to the women of the church, I think of her counsel often. I'll let you determine the scenario when I'm reminded of her words; here is the quote:

Mothers [and fathers] can feel help from the Spirit even when tired, noisy children are clamoring for attention, but they can be distanced from the Spirit if they lose their temper with children.

I'll give a hint: I'm trying harder to not lose my temper with my sweet children.

So, that's what I've been reminded of since I first heard her talk. However, a different part stood out to me on the most recent reading.

While working with some full-time missionaries recently, we were discussing family traditions with fireworks. When the subject of the legality of certain types arose, one said, in essence, that the law could just be broken.

"What of exact obedience?" I asked.

"That's just a mission thing," was the I'm-hoping-he-was-joking reply.

I wondered about my obedience level later—to both eternal laws as well as laws of the land. I wanted to recommit to exact obedience and the associated freedoms.

This interchange and introspection came to mind when I reviewed Sister Beck's definition of success:

We are doing well when we develop attributes of Christ and strive to obey His gospel with exactness. We are doing well when we seek to improve ourselves and do our best. . . When we have done our very best, we may still experience disappointments, but we will not be disappointed in ourselves. (emphasis mine)

I want to be more Christ-like, at minimum by being patient (not losing my temper). I also want to live the gospel with exactness.

As I review my actions at each day's end, I want to have fewer and fewer shudders as I recount the times I disappointed myself.

I want to do well and do my very best!

The Power of the Priesthood

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Power of the Priesthood, by President Boyd K. Packer
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Do you like salt? I've heard that salt is amazing for many reasons, including: it can make anything taste better (granted that you use the right amount), and it aids in healing (it might sting, but it does heal).

Despite the benefits of salt, many health experts advise to limit salt consumption because of the harmful effects on the heart if a diet includes too much salt.

In summary, a little—or the right amount of—salt is good; too much is bad. Remember this as you recall the Sermon on the Mount: "Ye are the salt of the earth" (Matt 5:13).

In a recent church meeting, I heard someone use this reference (and others) to allude to the fact the the Lord's covenant people will be relatively few in number—despite the gospel message being spread far and wide. I was reminded of this as I reviewed President Packer's comments that:

We now number nearly 14 million members. Even so, we are a tiny fraction when compared to the billions of people on earth. But we are who we are, and we know what we know, and we are to go forth and preach the gospel.

Despite the proper salting of the earth, President Packer reminded that:

We can and in due time certainly will influence all of humanity. It will be known who we are and why we are.

Considering the fewness of our numbers may add emphasis to the observation that "it has never been easy to live the gospel of Jesus Christ." Nevertheless, "we have very positive feelings about what lies ahead."

Considering the doom-and-gloom state of events (as portrayed in nightly newscasts), how can we feel positive? After a meaningful explanation, the summary is given:

The power of the priesthood [is] given to the Church to protect us and guide us. And because we have that, we have no fear of the future.

I'm grateful for the authority and power of the priesthood and the blessings that are available to me, to my family, and to the world!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Welcome to Conference

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Welcome to Conference, by President Thomas S. Monson

Today is Independence Day (4th of July). As we contemplated how we would celebrate the birth of our nation, I was, at first, concerned because it didn't seem that there was much that we could do. In striving to keep the Sabbath day holy (see Exodus 20:8), we wanted to stay away from BBQs and lakeside festivities. However, my concern turned to gratitude; I wish that more major holidays fell on Sundays because it enabled us to cut to the heart of the celebration and focus on the real reasons for the holiday: freedoms and blessings.

As I think of the many freedoms that we enjoy, I cannot help but realize that this grand suite of freedoms provided the perfect ground for the Restoration of the Gospel. Where else could the fulness of the gospel come forth?

In his opening remarks to general conference, President Monson reminded that it was "180 years since the Church was organized." Moments ago, my wife and I had a mathematical exercise where we determined just how old our nation is (234 years), and when it will be 250 years old (2026, btw). Obviously this is older than any of us are, but it's striking at how young—or recent, if you prefer—the Church and nation are.

While I'm sure that many—if not all—Church members have contemplated on the correlation of Independence and the Restoration (which sounds almost contradictory: correlation and independence), I'm grateful for the environment of freedoms that enabled the Restoration and the unfolding of many additional truths (e.g. advancements in science, technology, industry, society, and medicine).

I thought of the blessings that our Independence provided as we sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," and "America the Beautiful" at church this morning. This is because of lyrics speaking of "templed hills," and extolling the merits of "heroes proved in liberating strife,"and ending in the Lord purifying us all "till all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine."

As I parse this most recent general conference in hopes of improving my life and more fully being in line with what the Lord expects of me and who He wants me to be, I hope I can remember that the very life I live now is the result of divine help in preparation for grander things, even the Restoration of the Gospel.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

June Pictures

We've added pictures from our grand Texas adventures (click here).