Wednesday, August 31, 2011


This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Testimony, by Cecil O. Samuelson Jr.
Of the Seventy

Former students of Church universities may feel a certain affinity to the presidents that served while they were students. Depending on when they were enrolled, Elder Oaks (BYU 71-80), Elder Holland (BYU 80-89), Elder Bateman (BYU 96-03), or Elder Bednar (BYUI 97-04) may have a special place in former students' hearts. Such is the case for me with Elder Samuelson.

I entered BYU just as Elder Samuelson became its president. I thought it was fun that we started at the same time. While I was there, I had limited interaction with him, but I do have his signature on a couple of things (scholarship letters and diploma).

I studied civil engineering at BYU. Despite a background in medicine, Elder Samuelson accepted an invitation to give a guest lecture in an undergraduate fluid mechanics course (the semester after I took it). While he taught, he mentioned how excited he was for the opportunity to merge his professional training with his testimony. For the first time in years of teaching, he was able to share his testimony explicitly as he taught. He spoke of how the human heart is a pump, and blood flow is analogous to the flow of water studied in the course, and later shared his testimony in a powerful way.

I like Elder Samuelson. As I reviewed his most recent address today, I thought of the fluid mechanics classroom story and how he shared his testimony as I read a talk titled "Testimony." All while reading the words in his distinctive voice. (It made for a good lunchtime study session.)

As I thought of the message of the talk, I asked myself, "How can I help my children gain a strong testimony early before the times of struggle and distress set in?"

I found an interesting answer in the talk. Before I share the quote, I'll describe what I thought of. As Elder Samuelson compared a testimony to a living organism, I couldn't help but think of microorganisms—like bacteria. I imagined testimony meetings where the person speaking was trying to infect others (in a good way!). It gives sharing a testimony a new meaning altogether!

Okay, here's the quote:

A testimony is similar to a living organism that grows and develops when treated properly. It needs constant nourishment, care, and protection to thrive and prosper.

Perhaps it would have been better if I had thought of the testimony organism as something cute like a puppy, kitten, bunny, or hamster.

Okay, that's better!

Regardless of the comparative organism, a testimony needs care. As I'm helping to ensure that my children (they're organisms, too!) are growing and developing well, I need to provide an environment where their testimonies can likewise grow and develop.

Gaining a testimony is the result of choices. While I can't make that kind of choice for my children, I can help them by showing how my life and my testimony are influenced by my choices.

People do good and important things because they have testimonies. While this is true, we also gain testimonies because of what we do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Establishing a Christ-Centered Home

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Establishing a Christ-Centered Home, by Richard J. Maynes
Of the Seventy

Last night, we were expecting a service call right at the span of time when we usually have dinner and family home evening (it was Monday yesterday). As we ate together around the table, I realized that because the repairman was late, we likely wouldn't get everything done in time for family home evening.

What could we do?

Being a fan of communication, I relayed my thoughts to the family. Looks of disappointment filled their faces until my wise wife said, "Don't worry, we'll still have dessert!"

After telling everyone that we would indeed have a lesson and great activity the next day, I thought of the change that occurred when dessert was mentioned. Was it the treat at the end that motivated us, I wondered.

During my thinking, I remembered something from a sacrament meeting talk given nearly ten years ago. While in a married student ward, we had a visiting guest (I think it was a member of the Area Presidency) and his wife speak. I don't remember what he said, but I remember the message of his wife: Always have pie!

With an adorable European accent, this good sister encouraged a collection of newlywed students to establish celestial traditions now. Her focus was on family home evening, and she said, in essence, "It doesn't matter what lesson you have, or how long it lasts. What matters is that you always have pie! Give a short lesson—especially when the children are young (but when they're old, too)—have a fun activity, and end with pie!"

What is magical about pie? Are cookies a satisfactory substitute? (After the meeting I actually asked her if it had to be pie. She laughed and said that cookies were fine.)

The point she was making was to not just have family home evening, but to make it a celestial tradition with enough weight or pull—provided by the treat—to draw everyone back the next week. Sure, together time is great fun, but sitting together sharing a treat strengthens the love that is sown in family home evening.

Elder Maynes said:

Recognizing that we have a heavenly family helps us understand the eternal nature of our earthly families. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches us that the family is fundamental to the order of heaven: “And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory” (D&C 130:2).

Later, he taught:

Learning, teaching, and practicing the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our homes helps create a culture where the Spirit can dwell.

It's interesting to note that the scripture he quoted goes further:

And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy (D&C 130:2, emphasis added).

I propose that we can start to enjoy loving sociality coupled with eternal glory as we establish the traditions and culture of a Christ-centered home... and remember to always have pie!

...just be nice when you do!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Face the Future with Faith

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Face the Future with Faith, by Russell M. Nelson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The young people sang in church yesterday. I was excited to hear their song because it's one that my amazing wife plays on our piano beautifully, and I wanted to hear the youth sing it, too. The song is commonly called the EFY Medley by Michael R. Hicks (his video is below); it's a mash-up of As Sisters in Zion and We'll Bring the World His Truth.

So the young people from our ward (congregation) were singing, and I was enjoying it, when I glanced over and saw my two eldest children (aged seven and five) were staring at the singers with unblinking eyes and a look of wonder on their faces!

When the song concluded, my little girl looked at me with a twinkle in her eye, and I asked her how she felt listening to it. She didn't say anything, but her smile grew larger. I followed-up and asked if she felt the Holy Ghost making her heart warm. Again she didn't say anything, but she did nod in agreement before giving me a hug.

I thought of this as I reviewed Elder Nelson's talk today. The message I got from it is that I need to take more opportunities to teach faith "with deep conviction."

If I do this, I can prepare my children (and myself) to face the future with faith and enjoy the blessings of faithfulness (knowing that "rewards come not only hereafter").

Coincidentally, an interpretation of the message of the EFY Medley song can easily be to face the future with faith!

Guided by the Holy Spirit

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Guided by the Holy Spirit, by Boyd K. Packer
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Reading President Packer's address reminded me to update my profile (link). When it's updated, it will say "I'm a Mormon."

I've met many people since moving to Florida. If the introductions proceed beyond the superficial, I wonder which option I should choose for stating my religion: "Should I say 'I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' or 'I'm a Mormon'?"

It's a good question, but I almost always say both.

I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A Mormon.*

When I do this, I imagine a little asterisk at the end. In my mind, I think of the official usage guide the Church has for its name—similar to what President Packer shared:

The use of the revealed name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (D&C 115:4), is increasingly important in our responsibility to proclaim the name of the Savior throughout all the world. Accordingly, we ask that when we refer to the Church we use its full name wherever possible. …

When referring to Church members, we suggest ‘members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’ As a shortened reference, ‘Latter-day Saints’ is preferred.

I know the name of my church, but many I've spoken with don't. That "I'm a Mormon" clarification at the end helps connect the name of the Church—and Christ's name—to what many may only know of us. The word "Mormon."

I liked President Packer's reminder:

The world will refer to us as they will, but in our speech, always remember that we belong to the Church of Jesus Christ.

I like that.

The connection from Mormon to the Church that has Christ's name is one small link. I hope that as those I meet get to know me they will see me as President Packer described:

A Latter-day Saint is quite an ordinary individual. ... We live ordinary lives in ordinary families mixed in with the general population.

We are taught not to lie or steal or cheat. We do not use profanity. We are positive and happy and not afraid of life.

We are “willing to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.”[link]

I know I'm not much, but I'm trying to be like Christ.

That's what Mormons do.

I'm a Mormon.

Statistical Report

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Statistical Report, 2010, by Brook P. Hales
Secretary to the First Presidency

A lot of people say they don't like statistics (or probability), but I'm a big nerd, so I think they're great! Instead of presenting a statistical analysis of the numbers presented compared to previous years, please enjoy these two goose-bump-inducing videos that just might put statistics in a new light for you.

The first is Church growth shown by number of stakes (the Church made this one), and the second is Church growth by temples (I put this one together).


Church Growth by Stake

Church Growth by Temples

Church Auditing Department Report

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Church Auditing Department Report, 2010, by Robert W. Cantwell
Managing Director, Church Auditing Department

We just bought a house! Well, we just entered a looong mortgage process, at which end we will have bought a house. Also, I finished graduate school, got a fun job, and moved my family to Florida!

It turns out that I'm not the only one to be making advances, though. My brother-in-law, Brett, completed arduous exams and became a CPA! (I think CPA means certified public accountant.)

When I reviewed the Church Auditing Department Report, I had to think of him:

The Church Auditing Department is independent of all other Church departments and operations, and the staff consists of certified public accountants, certified internal auditors, certified information systems auditors, and other credentialed professionals.

Congratulations all around, but a special congratulations to those whose certifications are mentioned in General Conference! (They didn't say anything about PhD's in civil engineering...)

The Sustaining of Church Officers

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

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

*Raise my right hand with a happy smile on my face.

-Wait a second, is that the back of my brother's head? (I'm seriously wondering...)