Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mother Told Me

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Mother Told Me, by Elder Bradley D. Foster
Of the Seventy

My wife and I take turns being our children's favorite; often a child prefers one of us over the other. During the times when I'm the "also ran," I sometimes get to hold or otherwise comfort our little ones when their mommy leaves on an errand or to a meeting. I see their little faces scrunch up, see those big alligator tears pour down their faces, and hear their anguished cries for "Mommy!"

There was a time when I would be heartbroken either at their pain and longing or at the loss in pride at not being the momentary favorite, but now I actually smile when these partings occur. I don't think my smiles come because I'm a cruel and terrible father—I usually don't think I'm cruel and terrible—but because I'm happy that my children love their mother and long to be with her.

Since the last conference, in the times that I've found myself standing on the porch holding our littlest one as he bemoans his mother leaving, I always think of Elder Foster's talk:

Perhaps the reason we respond so universally to our mothers’ love is because it typifies the love of our Savior.

In his talk, Elder Foster shared a story of his friend that I just love. Please forgive me recounting it in its entirety:

I understand in a personal way the great influence of mothers.

My good friend Don Pearson shared an experience that highlights this influence. One night his four-year-old son asked him to read a bedtime story. Eric had picked out his favorite book: The Ballooning Adventures of Paddy Pork, a story about a family who lived on the isles of the sea and traveled from island to island by hot-air balloon. It was a picture book that had no words, so Brother Pearson made up words to the story.

“Paddy is in a hot-air balloon. He is landing on an island now. He is dropping a line over the side of the balloon.”

Eric stopped him. “Dad, that is not a line. It’s a rope.

Brother Pearson looked at Eric and back at the picture book, and then he continued:

“Paddy is getting out of the balloon and climbing down the tree. Oh no! His coat is caught on a limb!”

Again Eric stopped him. “Dad, that’s not a coat. It’s a jacket.

By now Brother Pearson was somewhat perplexed. He said, “Eric, there are no words in this book, just pictures. Why do you insist that it’s a jacket?”

Eric answered, “Because Mother told me.”

His father closed the book and said, “Eric, who do you think is the last word, the ultimate authority in this house?”

This time Eric thought carefully before he answered, “You are, Dad.”

Brother Pearson beamed at his son. What an exceptional answer! “How did you know that?”

Eric quickly responded, “Mother told me.”

A few days ago I went to the university's main library and found many picture books—books without words—including The Ballooning Adventures of Paddy Pork. I've enjoyed looking at these books with my two youngest children (because the eldest reads like a champ), but I've enjoyed more watching them look at them themselves. While my children don't have the history with these books that the little boy in the story does (along with his mother), I can see the imagination and overall love of books that my sweet wife—their mother—has instilled in them.

I'm grateful for my amazing wife and all she does to teach, train, and love our children.

Now, I wonder what their response would be if I were to ask, "who do you think is the last word, the ultimate authority in this house?"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our Duty to God: The Mission of Parents

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Our Duty to God: The Mission of Parents and Leaders to the Rising Generation, by Elder Robert D. Hales
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I recall being terrified as we were expecting our first child. I felt that the timing was right, but I remained petrified about a couple of things in particular: holding such a tiny little person, and if I would be able to do what was expected of me as a father.

The first fear stayed with me until I held our little (and I mean little) son for the first time and was surprised that I actually felt comfortable. The second fear didn't quite go away, but was addressed as I prepared for fatherhood. You see, I figured that the ultimate role of parents is to be representatives of the parenting that children experienced before coming to earth. A tall order, I know. Despite the gravitas of this realization, I came to think that if such was expected of me—thinking of parenthood as a calling—then I could expect divine help along the way. This expectation gave me courage to not worry as much (though I did still worry—I still do!).

Considering this (that parenthood is a calling), it is natural to wonder, as did Elder Hales, "what is my duty to God in relation to the youth?"

Perhaps not surprisingly, the general answer reminds of the old statement:

There are three ways to be a successful parent: Example, Example, and Example!

Growing up (and still today), every time example and parenthood were discussed in any church capacity, the stripling warriors were cited: "We do not doubt our mothers knew it" (Alma 56:47-48). I love this reference, but I have issue with how many people read it; almost every time I hear it read there is an added pause between doubt and our. It's as if people are saying "We do not doubt [and here's the reason why:] our mothers knew it."

While I don't doubt that the success of the stripling warriors is heavily attributed to their parents' example, I have come to love even more the actual way that this verse is written: that the honorable, brave, and true stripling warriors did not doubt that their mothers [and hopefully fathers, too] knew and lived the gospel.

If parenthood is a calling of which we can expect help (and I think it is), and if our duty to God is (in part) to be examples for our children, and if righteous examples can help our children to be like the stripling warriors, then I want to make sure I show that I know what I say that I know. Also, I want to do the many other things that Elder Hales outlined: walking alongside my children, having "regular, warm, friendly, caring interaction" with them, listening, being there, and looking in their eyes and telling them that I love them and that Heavenly Father loves them.

The greatest love and the greatest teachings should be in our homes.

I love my family, and I want them to know that I love them and that I love the Lord.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Generations Linked in Love

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Generations Linked in Love, by Elder Russell M. Nelson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Each time we visited the school library when I was in elementary school, we would try to find a copy of Guinness Book of World Records. Once procured, we would spend much time gawking at the obscure and absurd. If you ever did this, you may already know about Gary Duschl.

Gary Duschl is the world record holder for the longest gum wrapper chain. His chain is over twelve miles long! That's a lot of links. (You can read more specifics about the chain here: link)

We recently had a high council speaker (Kent Eastley) visit our ward who spoke about Mr. Duschl and his chain. He compared his chain of links with the family history chain of links—linking generations together—that Elder Nelson spoke of. I remember the speculations on the amount of time and energy devoted to the paper chain, and the follow-up question of how much other linking (read: geneology) could have been done with that much time and effort.

What seems like ages ago, I was feeling nostalgic as I wrote on our family website about family history (link):

Each of us is benefited by those who have gone before: we live in houses we did not build, we drive on roads we did not pave, we are governed by laws we did not write, and we have names that we did not choose. We want to make the most of these endowments—we feel we have a responsibility to do so—and we want to reflect the honor and dignity that are in our names.

What's in a name? Much more than we realize. The people listed [in our pedigree] are part of our family tree, and like a tree's roots and branches, they have provided strength and protection for generations—for us.

As strange as it is to quote myself, I still believe what I wrote back then. But what have I done to lengthen the chain, as it were? Not much. I've taken a family history class that introduced me to the new FamilySearch (link), but on the last lesson—the one that actually would have helped me lengthen the chain—I was absent substitute-teaching another class. I feel that I'm missing the vital ingredient inside of me to help me do something.

When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves. Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors through sacred ordinances of the temple.

I've felt the burgeoning of this change; but I need to do more! I want to help with a longer, more important, chain of links: "the creation of one common pedigree. . . Together we are striving to organize the family tree for all of God's children. This is an enormous endeavor with enormous rewards."

I want the time I can devote to building links and chains to have eternal ties. The Guiness Book of World Records was fun, but I want to help write a greater book:

The great day of the Lord is at hand . . . Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter‑day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple . . . a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation (D&C 128:24).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

He Is Risen!

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

He Is Risen!, by President Thomas S. Monson

Shortly before I left for home, I had the distinct feeling that I would die if I didn't drive carefully on the way home. The feeling came as I had a quick thought about my motorcycle ride home. It was interesting to note the response feelings that came in quick succession after the initial foreboding feeling; at first I wondered if I were prepared to die. While I didn't long for "the sweet release of death," I did feel comfortable with the thought of dying (macabre as it may sound). However, this thought was almost immediately changed as I thought of my sweetheart and dear children whom I would leave behind. Finally, I felt grateful for the gifts of the Atonement of Christ, including universal resurrection and the ability for exaltation.

Interestingly, this gamut of feelings and their associated emotions was quite in line with the message from President Monson that I reviewed just hours after I arrived home alive (I should note that I felt reminded of [and heeded] the need to use caution as I rode home, particularly at a certain stretch); his message included:

Among all the facts of mortality, none is so certain as its end. Death comes to all.

The universality of death is matched by the universality of the Atonement of Christ. I'm grateful for the gifts that we celebrate and commemorate on Easter:

The empty tomb that first Easter morning was the answer to Job’s question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” To all within the sound of my voice, I declare, If a man die, he shall live again. We know, for we have the light of revealed truth.

I'm comforted by the truths of the resurrection and the pathway to exaltation. In addition, today, I'm especially grateful for the promptings that come from time-to-time that stave the certainty of death and give renewed hope for life.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

We Follow Jesus Christ

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

We Follow Jesus Christ, by Elder Quentin L. Cook
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

"The quest of getting something for nothing leads to addiction." That was a message I wrote in my notes at a recent stake priesthood meeting. The speaker used examples of people who try to circumvent the "costs" of building a healthy relationship, courtship, and marriage and instead settle for the ultimately empty nowness of pornography—which is just a shell of true intimacy.

Further examples of something-for-nothing included lying, stealing, and anger.

"Anger?" you ask. "How does anger relate to trying to get something for nothing?"

Consider parents (and non-parents) who lash out in anger when they want to get things their way with minimal results, instead of their opposites who use persuasion, love, kindness, gentleness, and the full suite of Christlike attributes (see D&C 121 for more). Yes, anger can provide quick results, albeit inferior with addictive results.

I thought of the too-common reaction of anger as I reviewed Elder Cook's words:

There are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught. . . . how we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable.

This counsel reminds of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:44):

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.

Popping around in the news is the overturning, again, of marriage laws in California. You'll remember that after the results of the Proposition 8 ballot initiative came in, many who "lost," or, rather, who voted (or would have voted) against it, responded with hate, vandalism, and anger.

Now that the judicial process has reversed the decision again, how will those who were for Proposition 8 react? Will they exercise the true nature of the Christianity that many of them cited as motivation for the initiative in the first place?

I hope so.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received public criticism for its support of the proposition. It was interesting to review the Church's statement (link) on the overturning. After restating their position and calling for dialogue came the following: "
we urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion."

There was no "call to arms." There was no inciting of violence, vandalism, or villainy. Instead, there came the call to love with the reminder that we follow Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

That Our Children Might See the Face of the Savior

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

That Our Children Might See the Face of the Savior, by Cheryl C. Lant
Recently Released Primary General President

For our family scripture study, we look at a scripture picture book, reading a chapter, and then the children choose which picture they like and we read the corresponding scriptures from the Bible. In this way their attention is kept, they learn the scripture stories, and learn to recognize the language of scripture (particularly the King James English). We are currently reading from the Old Testament (here is the scripture story book we're using: link), in Exodus with Moses and the children of Israel.

The other night, we read of how the Lord instructed the host of Israel to come to the bottom of Mount Sinai where He spoke to them from a cloud (see Ex. 19:9-19). As we read, the children were asked what they thought it would be like to hear the voice of the Lord. We also discussed what we would like to hear the Lord say to us. It was a good discussion.

As we continued to read, they were surprised to learn that after hearing the 10 Commandments, the people were afraid and no longer wanted the Lord to talk to them. They asked that Moses speak instead (see Ex. 20:18-21). My children couldn't understand why anyone would not want Jesus to speak to them! In fact, they wanted to be in the group of 70 who later went up higher and actually saw Jehovah (see Ex. 24:9-11)

The same night that we read this, I reviewed Sister Lant's talk. I thought of how much my children wanted to see the face of the Savior, and wondered what I needed to do further to help them (and me) prepare. Sister Lant addressed this:

What does it mean to seek the face of the Savior? Surely it means more than just recognizing His picture. Christ’s invitation to seek Him is an invitation to know who He is, what He has done for us, and what He has asked us to do. Coming to Christ, and eventually seeing His face, comes only as we draw close to Him through our faith and our actions. It comes through a lifetime of effort. . .

It is our sacred responsibility as parents and leaders of this rising generation of children to bring them to the Savior so that they might see His face and the face of our Father in Heaven as well. As we do so, we also bring ourselves.

Now that we recognize the duty of parents, the question remains: How?

Sister Lant answered this by using the example of the righteous Nephite parents who literally brought their children to see the face of the Savior when he visited them following his resurrection and ascension into heaven (see 3 Ne. 11 & 17). She spoke of a three-part pattern:

  1. Love the Lord with all our hearts and love our children;
  2. Become a worthy example of seeking the lord and striving to live the gospel; and
  3. Teach our children the gospel and how to live it.

I'm grateful for my sweet children who want to see the face of the Savior, and I'm grateful that I, as a parent, have the opportunity to help them—and our whole family—to come to Christ, "see [His] face, and know that [He] is" (see D&C 93:1):

We can help them to one day see the face of the Savior as we teach the principles of the gospel and fill our homes with the joy of living them. Together we can come to know Him. We can feel of His love and His blessings. And through Him we can return to the presence of the Father. We do this as we are willing to be obedient, faithful, and diligent in following His teachings.

Will it be easy? Of course not! But it will be worth it!