Sunday, July 17, 2011

Opportunities to Do Good

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Opportunities to Do Good, by Henry B. Eyring
First Couneslor in the First Presidency

I saw something interesting at church today. In the opening of a meeting for the men, a leader made an announcement. He said something similar to the following:

There is a single sister who is moving on Saturday. I don't know who it is; I don't know at what time she is moving; I don't know any of the details because I just learned of this minutes ago. I don't know much, but I know she needs help.

This isn't the interesting part. What was surprising was that I then heard the person conducting the meeting calling out the names of men who were volunteering. While I wasn't counting, it seemed like there were at least fifteen names that were called! I think I witnessed a body of men who were seeking opportunities to do good.

But this isn't the end of the story. I'm in Florida starting a new job, working out details for my family's housing. I'm without a car, without a home; however, I've been "adopted" by a family who have provided me a place to sleep, a temporary home, and a ride to and from work each day. After these many men volunteered to help someone move, I stood and asked for help getting to the airport for an early flight (I will need to be there before 5am). Before I had finished asking for help, a kind man enthusiastically raised his hand indicating that he would be more than happy to help. I later learned that he is the type who "will do anything, anytime, for anybody."

Both of these examples show the kindness of others either without fully knowing what is involved, or to help someone they didn't really know.

I could repeat what President Eyring taught about Opportunities to Do Good, but these examples taught me firsthand that I'm surrounded by those who live this way everyday. President Eyring said:

Always the Lord’s way to help those in temporal need requires people who out of love have consecrated themselves and what they have to God and to His work.

I want to be more like these people; I want to be more like Christ, reaching out to those in need.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

LDS Women Are Incredible!

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

LDS Women Are Incredible!, by Quentin L. Cook
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

After listening to Elder Cook's talk, I jokingly asked, "When will there be a talk saying how great I am?" Perhaps I asked that mostly because I know how incredible my wife is!

As I write this, I'm far from my family. My wife is at home with our four children unknowingly showing me and the rest of the world just how wonderful she is! Many men may get credit and accolades for things they do in business and employment, but I think that even more attention should be paid to the mothers who lovingly and selflessly serve, serve, and then serve some more.

I know Elder Cook spoke of LDS women in general, but as I read his words, I continued to see my wife, the mother of our children, and the valiant young woman she was before (and after) I met her. As my mind drifted to the many roles my beautiful and amazing wife amazingly fills, I couldn't help but think of a couple of videos that mean a lot to me. The first is one I put together for her after hearing Sister Beck's talk on Mothers Who Know. The second is from a Young Women's conference where the choir sang about how they would act if the Savior stood beside them:

Mothers Who Know

If the Savior Stood Beside Me

In his talk, Elder Cook relayed a story of what was learned from the found purse of a young woman. Insights into who she was—meaning who she really was, not just her identity—were found with each item they took out of the purse. I liked the story and all it conveyed, but even more, I thought of my wife. Sometimes when we talk, she is concerned with one item from her "purse" (life) that is causing her concern. I often wish I could show her what I see: a faithful, loving, always-serving, kind, compassionate, laugh-out-loud-funny, amazing, beautiful, kind, appropriately silly, tender, caring, smiling, wonderful woman.

I'm grateful for the influence of an incredible LDS woman: my wife, my sweetheart, my best friend, my everything.

The Atonement Covers All Pain

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Atonement Covers All Pain, by Kent F. Richards
Of the Seventy

When I consider the Atonement, I often reflect on the power it grants Christ in standing as Mediator. I think of how it satisfies the demands of justice (see Mosiah 15:9 and Alma 34:16) and makes possible the resurrection for all and exaltation for the penitent. Too often, however, I neglect to consider the aspect of pain.

Pain can be found all around us—be it physical or spiritual—but is exquisitely appreciated when it is our own pain or the pain of a loved one. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I haven't experienced much personal pain; perhaps this is why I've sometimes wondered about the nonuniform distribution of pain in the world. There are some who have more than their share of pain (I'm speaking mostly of physical because much of spiritual pain can be avoided by proper choices). Elder Richards says that he, too, has "pondered about the purpose of pain."

In his talk, Elder Richards used a quote by Orson F. Whitney:

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. … It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.

The idea that pain is useful is well and good, but while in the midst of pain—or helplessly viewing the pain of others—it is difficult to see the benefits of pain.

We read in 2 Nephi that Christ suffered "the pains of all men" (9:21-23) as part of the Atonement. I think I can understand the idea of a mediator paying the price of another, but if Christ suffered also the pains of us all, and we still experience the pain ourselves, I admit that I have wondered why. I've thought, wasn't the suffering of Christ enough to make it so we don't suffer pain ourselves?

When asking similar questions while in pain himself, Elder Richards concluded:

As I pondered, I came to understand that during His mortal life Christ chose to experience pains and afflictions in order to understand us. Perhaps we also need to experience the depths of mortality in order to understand Him and our eternal purposes.

To me, it sounds like pain is a way for us to meet Christ on common ground; it is an environment that he knows personally. When we are in pain, we may not always find our pain relieved when we find Christ in our suffering, but there is comfort in knowing that He is there, and we are not alone. This understanding helps me more fully appreciate and understand what Paul wrote in Hebrews 4:16:

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

(NOTE: I often try to use an image or two to help share the feeling of a post. I purposely opted to not include an image of pain because we are all acquainted with it on some level, and it's not enjoyable to relive or see others in pain.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Followers of Christ

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Followers of Christ, by Walter F. González
Of the Presidency of the Seventy

Have you ever been asked why you're different?

At the beginning of a new career in a new location provides many opportunities to meet new people. In my situation, I'm finding that almost everyone is nice! People go out of their way to welcome me, kindly answer my questions, and make sure I'm comfortable in my new surroundings. With so many things that can be used to separate and divide people, it's nice to be around so many that are happy to be helpful.

As I'm observing how wonderful others are, I can't help but wonder how I'm perceived? There have been numerous times when I've been told that I'm different—sometimes even in good ways!

In his talk, Elder González spoke of "two characteristics [that] can help us recognize to what extent we follow [Christ]. First, followers of Christ are loving people. Second, followers of Christ make and keep covenants."

Elder González points out that there are millions who are already doing the first item: being loving. It is important to be loving, and it's important to be loving for the right reasons; however, simply being loving isn't enough, and it's usually not enough to make us stand out.

I remember hearing about someone's response to an interesting question (full disclosure: I don't have the actual quote, so this is entirely hearsay): A visitor to Salt Lake City was struck by how happy and loving people were, but even more, the visitor asked what it was that made LDS (Mormon) women so beautiful. After some thought, the guide had an answer.

Here's an example of a beautiful LDS woman!

Before reading what I remember the answer being, what do you think? What makes loving LDS women—followers of Christ—so beautiful?

The answer from the quote without a source is covenants.

How does the making and keeping of sacred covenants make us (I'll include the men, too) beautiful? Elder González said:

I testify that we are happier when we follow the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we strive to follow Him, the blessings of heaven will come unto us. I know His promises will be fulfilled as we make and keep covenants and become true followers of Christ.

In addition to the increases in beauty found in being happy and loving people, followers of Christ benefit from having an extra light or purity that can sometimes be perceived (see Alma 5:14,26). This light is made brighter through making and keeping covenants.

(At least this has been what I've observed being married to a beautiful follower of Christ who is loving and keeps covenants.)

Become as a Little Child

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Become as a Little Child, by Jean A. Stevens
First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency

Our Heavenly Father knows children are a key to helping us become like Him. There is so much we can learn from children.

I recently wrote about an experience where my five-year-old daughter helped me understand the Atonement through new eyes (link here). Her simple question about why we sometimes suffer after Christ suffered for all still touches my heart. (In fact, the ward I was at today had the same lesson that reminded me of her question last week.)

In her talk, Sister Stevens shared examples of children doing things that were likely natural to them that we can use to teach us how to as we ought to be. She spoke of:
  • a little boy behaving reverently in an art gallery with images of the Savior;
  • a young boy rushing to assist an elderly woman to her preferred seat;
  • a girl who left a loving note on her parents' pillow expressing her desire to be sealed as a family (they later were!); and
  • an ill boy who was optimistic during numerous treatments.

Seeing that I was preparing a check for tithing last week, my two eldest children enthusiastically asked if they could pay their tithing, too! Their question reminded me that we had recently had a family home evening lesson on tithing, and they were quick to implement its teachings, even without a reminder!

These children are providing examples of some of the childlike qualities we need to develop or rediscover in ourselves in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. They are bright spirits who are untarnished by the world—teachable and full of faith. It is no wonder the Savior has a special love and appreciation for little children.

I love my children. While they sometimes do things that make me shake my head and wonder why they do such a thing, they also sometimes do things that make me shake my head in a different sort of way and wonder how I can do or be like they are.

The Sabbath and the Sacrament

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Sabbath and the Sacrament, by L. Tom Perry
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I'm away from my family, and I miss them terribly. While speaking with my wife on the phone early this morning, she commented that she was already dressed and ready for church (our ward doesn't start until 1pm). When I expressed surprise, she said the reason: so the children will know it's Sunday.

In our family, Sunday is a special day: it's the Sabbath. I remember talking to a friend who was in many other ways very religious why he didn't outwardly do things on Sunday to set it apart. His response surprised me. He said that the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy was fulfilled and done away in Christ's Atonement. According to him, there was no need to do anything special on Sunday.

One may argue that having a worshipful attitude all week is better than forgetting faith Monday through Saturday and then acting pious on one day (they would be right), but there is great power in keeping the commandments.

And in case you're wondering, the Ten commandments are still commandments—even after the Atonement.

Elder Perry quoted from 1 Timothy (4:11-12) about being "an example of the believers," and then went on to say:

I can think of no better way for us to begin or continue to be an example of the believers than in our observance of the Sabbath day.

If we believe that it's important to observe the Sabbath, the next question may be, "How?"

In his address, Elder Perry spoke on the importance of the sacrament and how it is "the center of our Sabbath day observance." He also spoke of Christ "expects us to avoid such worldly distractions of businesses and recreational facilities on the Sabbath day."

Okay. Many people do this, but then he went deeper to a region that some are uncomfortable with. I'll preface the discussion on appropriate Sabbath dress with an observation: When I was a child, it seems that everyone referred to "Sunday dress" or "Sunday best" to refer to nice clothes worn to show respect (in this case, to God). It appears that now the phrase has been replaced by "church clothes," suggesting that these are only clothes one wears for a few hours at a specific location, not all Sabbath long.

Here's what Elder Perry said about dress (remember, also, what my wife said this morning about dress reminding the children about the Sabbath):

He also desires us to dress appropriately. Our youth may think the old saying “Sunday best” is outdated. Still, we know that when Sunday dress deteriorates to everyday attire, attitudes and actions follow. Of course, it may not be necessary for our children to wear formal Sunday attire until the sun goes down. However, by the clothing we encourage them to wear and the activities we plan, we help them prepare for the sacrament and enjoy its blessings throughout the day.

You may argue that there are more important things to focus on than how we (and our children) dress. You're right. However, if this is a big issue for you, ask yourself why it's a big issue for you. Are Sunday clothes (note: I didn't say "church clothes") too uncomfortable for lounging about the house watching sports? Too nice for running around in the yard? Too much for trips to the mall?

I think you see the point: you don't want to wear Sunday clothes when you're doing non-Sunday things.

Important note: just as the Pharisees remind us that there is more to just keeping the "rules" for the rules' sake, there is more to dressing appropriately on the Sabbath, particularly from a parenting perspective:

Parents, now is the time to teach our children to be examples of the believers by attending sacrament meeting. When Sunday morning arrives, help them to be well rested, properly dressed, and spiritually prepared to partake of the emblems of the sacrament and receive the enlightening, edifying, ennobling power of the Holy Ghost. Let your family be filled with love as you honor the Sabbath all day long and experience its spiritual blessings throughout the week.

I love the reminder that we should be well-rested and prepared, and that proper Sabbath observance blesses the whole of Sunday, and can carry throughout the week... even if you wear shorts and a tee shirt every other day!

It’s Conference Once Again

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

It’s Conference Once Again, by Thomas S. Monson
President, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Today was my first time in what will be our new ward in Wellington. It was fun to meet people I had corresponded with via email and meet many other totally new people, too! It's always interesting to see how much the same wards hundreds of miles apart are.

The first words President Monson said at the start of the last conference were about how many people were in the conference center—suggesting the growth of the church. Here's what he said:

When this building was planned, we thought we’d never fill it. Just look at it now.

In his opening remarks, President Monson announced three new temples. We're moving to a location that will soon have a new temple that was announced previously (in Ft. Lauderdale, in about two years).

The stake president, who was visiting our ward today, said something similar to these two parts of President Monson's remarks. He spoke of the blessings we enjoy because of the temples while reminiscing on how things were before the Orlando Temple was built (it's about three hours away and is presently the nearest temple). He commented on how much he admires the Lord's way of preparing things for temples; first a mission is established; after some time stakes are organized—led by leaders who hold priesthood keys; the stake president has keys necessary to prepare the faithful to enter the temple; when temples are built, temple presidents have keys authorizing the ordinances that occur there; these ordinances prepare the faithful for higher things.

I'm excited about the Ft. Lauderdale Temple. We went to the San Antonio Temple (about 90 minutes away) every month that we were in Texas (except for one month); I want to maintain our family's tradition of temple attendance and temple worship. It will be more of a challenge with Orlando being farther away, but if we can maintain the tradition, it will be that sweeter when the Ft. Lauderdale Temple is dedicated!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Home Sweet Home in Paradise

Paradise? It looks that way! We spent so much time wondering about the rooms, space, and appliances inside our home that we may have forgotten how amazing the outside of our dream home it! While it likely broke some rules, I spent a great couple of hours with the sweet elderly woman, Barbara, we're buying our home from--without the realtors! (It was nice to visit without them there for a change.) Here are some pictures I took on my tour of the outside (I just hope Barbara doesn't mind that I've already forgotten many of the plants' names!)

Here are the pictures:

View from the front door

Along the back fence

Bird of Paradise plant (blooms year-round)

Hidden tunnel path to neighbors' yard

Patio plant (with friendly lizard)

More patio plants

Friendly lizard with orange throat skin

Bananas!? (technically in neighbors' yard)

Pink flowers

Another pink flower

Mangos! (tree is in neighbors' yard, but it hangs into ours)

BIG pink flower

Patio plants, again

Fan plant

More of the Bird of Paradise plant

Door detail

Front door window reflecting the palm tree

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Reason for Suffering

While studying in preparation for tomorrow's Sunday School lesson (Lesson 25: "Not My Will, But Thine, Be Done," lesson, study guide), I remembered something that happened in the car on the way home from church last week.

Background first: We've been praying for "Little Hatcher," the chronically-ill three-year-old son of my wife's cousin, with the medical troubles he's been going through. In nearly every prayer for a long time, we would pray for "Little Hatcher;" my five-year-old daughter would particularly help us remember.

So we were in the car talking about the lessons we had when my daughter said they learned about the Atonement. With the level of sincerity that only children can muster, she pensively asked, "If Jesus suffered for everyone, why did Little Hatcher have to suffer?"

It's fun to discuss gospel topics and review Sunday lessons as a family, but this question--and its associated sincerity--reminded that this is real life. There are real connections from our lessons, the scriptures, and our prayers to our lives--our real everyday lives. I still don't know that I have a full answer to my daughter's question, but I do know that I'm grateful for the Atonement. We sometimes say, "He suffered so we don't have to suffer," but when I am suffering, I like knowing that I'm not alone--even when I sometimes initially feel like I am alone.