How You Can Reach Me

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Dating and Change

I’ll preface by saying that I’m going to be talking about dating. If you don’t want to continue, I won’t be offended.

Still here? Thanks. Means a lot! And let’s face it: if you can use it in dating, you can use it in something far less complicated, like the rest of your life. In fact, I can think how this can apply to serving others, going to the Temple, learning new skills, and especially sharing the Gospel with others. I hope you’ll feel the same way.

Repentance is something I wish that I was better at. Right now I’m not even really thinking of repentance from sin, but rather more at the Greek root of repentance, “a change of mind.” I’ve been thinking a lot (I guess this isn’t really a new thing) about how I can change my mind.

I’ve been thinking about how I should be able to do the things that I want to. I should be able to have the confidence to date, to talk to those I would like to take out. I should just man up and take a chance...and yet I don’t. There. I said it.

I am fully capable of dating. I have the ability to open my mouth and talk to somebody I’m interested in, and that I think might be interested in me. I am fully capable of planning easy, cheap, and fun dates (or at least I think they’re fun).

So why don’t I do it? Because I haven’t seen success in awhile. I haven’t met someone that I care about that cares as much about me. That’s fine, I mean, I’m young, 22. I’ve heard a lot of “comforting” phrases telling me that everything is OK, and will continue to be OK. “There’s plenty of time,” “plenty of fish in the sea,” and “you just haven’t met the right girl yet, but when you do, she’ll be the luckiest girl in the world.” But let’s be honest: did any these things actually make anybody feel better?

I know I’m young. I know there’s plenty of great girls out there. I know that when I meet the right girl, things will be great. That comes from having faith that God has a plan for me, and that I do my best to follow His plan. I hope I don’t sound rude, or self-righteous, that’s not my purpose, but it’s how I feel. Everything works out. I have a testimony of it all working out, perhaps more than any other aspect of the Gospel (outside of knowing that God knows me and my needs, and that His Son has overcome all).

I just wish I knew how things were going to work out. I wish I knew exactly what to do, and how to do it. But guess what? I don’t.

But I decided this week, that I can’t do anything about not knowing what to do. I can’t do anything about not knowing what’s going to come. And when I decided this, I ran across a scripture from Ezekiel 36:

26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

I have truly had a heart of stone. I’ve refused to see the bright side, and I’ve refused to see what I can control. I can open my mouth. I can do my best to open doors, and make a girl laugh, I can be active in my church callings, and be willing to serve at a moment’s notice.

I can plan dates that are interesting and different, but not over the top or expensive. I can put myself out there, get a phone number, and then *gasp* call. I could probably even do something like allow myself to get set up (I hate it).

And I will.

So that’s my goal this week: to allow my new heart a chance at being more happy. To not anguish over things that I can’t do, and do something that I almost never do: ask a girl out that I don’t know very well. Do my best to be polite, and funny, and sincere (which is who I hope I am?) and then see where things go.

I’m not sure why I just thought of this, but when Moses and the children of Israel are escaping from Pharaoh, Moses didn’t know what to do until they were on the banks of the Red Sea what he was supposed to do. Then, the voice of the Lord came to Moses, telling him what to do, and how to do it. And the rest is history.

I hope my efforts yield the results I’m looking for, but hey, if not, there isn’t a pack of Egyptians coming after me (that I’m aware of). I hope that each of your endeavors this week, that you feel that your heart has turned to stone, and that you need encouragement in find success, as you put forth your faith and “turn to” where you want to go, and what you want to do.

I know that the Lord is the only way that we can do that. I know that because He has changed my heart again and again, and gently teaches me what I can do to become happier.

And I know the same thing will work for you. With all my heart.

Monday, August 16, 2010

God is the Great Compensator

Levi Ashton Cox was a remarkable LDS pioneer. After returning home to England from military service in India, he was exposed to the Church through his mother. Levi met and married his wife Susannah and was soon thereafter baptized. It took many years, but his wife also joined the Church after a blessing from the LDS missionaries confirmed to her the truthfulness of the Restoration. Several years later, they emigrated to the United States. While traveling via train from New York to Nebraska, all of their possessions caught fire in the train’s boxcar. Left with very little, the family traveled to Salt Lake City, and then later to Idaho. After a lack of farming success in Idaho, Levi and his family moved to Muskrat Springs, in what is now Hooper, Utah. Several of Levi’s neighbors obtained a grant to build an irrigation canal to Muskrat Springs. Levi and his wife prayed about settling in Muskrat Springs permanently, and felt impressed to stay and farm there. Levi agreed to dig his share of the ditch, in order to bring water to his farm. The shares were 16 ½ feet wide and 5 feet deep, with several yards being divvied up as labor, for the right to access to the canal.

Actually digging the canal is when things became difficult. In the boxcar fire that burned their belongings en route to Nebraska, Levi lost his shovel and all other digging equipment. The Cox family faced a difficult decision—leave Muskrat Springs, or somehow come up with the financial means to purchase a shovel. In their destitute condition, Levi and Susannah decided to pawn her wedding ring to raise funds.

Pawn her wedding ring. I can’t imagine the anguish and the long walk to the store where they sold it. I can’t imagine how the shop owner felt, nor how Levi felt looking at the short spade (not even a full-size shovel) gained from the pawning of the cherished ring.

But he did dig the shares, built a farm, raised his children, and lived his life. He performed in plays, he sold some groceries on the side, and did everything possible to make a return on that precious investment. Some years later, Susannah passed away, leaving a legacy of faith and sacrifice that the community remembers today.

Several years after Susannah had died, Levi went back into the store, probably looking to purchase some tools or groceries. The shopkeeper asked him if he wanted to purchase the ring that he had pawned decades before. The shopkeeper had been saving it for those many years, waiting for Levi to come back into the store and buy it back. In what I imagine was a tender moment, Levi purchased the ring back, and gave it to his daughter. The ring remains a prized possession of the family today, who still reside in Hooper, Utah.

What can this story of faith and sacrifice teach us about the Gospel? It teaches us that we don’t know what lays in store for us. It teaches us that we can overcome things that we can’t control. It teaches us that when we don’t know what to do, the Lord will lead us in what to do, though what He requires may not be easy.

But I believe more than anything, it teaches us that the Lord is always there in our sacrifice. I believe that the Lord will never require us to do something for which
we will not be rewarded.

The Lord has said, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Matthew 19:29)

He has also said “If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea; If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters…and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb…if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:5-7)

When Levi pawned the ring, he could not have expected the ring to be available to reclaim decades later. It was probably something that he did not think about much anymore, a sacrifice that had paid off many times what it had cost in effort and money. The shopkeeper had been holding the ring without being asked and without expectation of reward. But he was able to bless Levi by giving him exactly what he wanted, to unexpectedly restore what Levi and Suannah had sacrificed at such great emotional cost. It reminds me of what was taught by Elder Joseph B. Withlin:

“The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 26–28)

Levi was compensated for his sacrifice and effort, just as each of us will be, provided that we sacrifice with an eternal perspective, with a view of the end from the beginning. If we recognize the eternal compensation when it comes, our effort will not truly be sacrifice, but just a step in building faith. The trial will become a defining experience, and looked back upon with joy. Today’s sorrows will become tomorrow’s triumphs.

Monday, August 9, 2010

He WANTS Us to Succeed

You know, it’s a fascinating thing, that our prayers are answered. God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy commands us to pray to Him, in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Not only did He create us, He has an active part in our lives, and wants to know how we feel and what we want from our own lips. I was thinking about how He wants to hear from us, and He is willing to give us feedback when we ask for it.

Prayer is an intensely personal thing. Our conversations with Deity may be brief or lengthy, articulate or disjointed, but they are all heard by God. Richard G. Scott has said, “Prayer is a supernal gift of our Father in Heaven to every soul. Think of it: the absolute Supreme Being, the most all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful personage, encourages you and me, as insignificant as we are, to converse with Him as our Father. Actually, because He knows how desperately we need His guidance, He commands, "Thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private."1
I have had many experiences with prayer, and I believe that there are 3 general answers that we receive from prayer. First, a “yes.” Second, a “no.” And third, a “wait.” While “yes” and “no” are the answers we are generally looking for, I’ve found that the third kind, the “wait” answer is the most common. I’ve found that it is also the most frustrating.

I feel that I am as susceptible, if not more susceptible to think about how things would be easier if I knew exactly what was going to happen. I have a firm faith that things will work out, I would just like a detailed outline of how and when things are going to happen. When talking with my dad on matters of personal advice, he said “I wish I had a telegram from God to tell you what to do, but I don’t. I just know that things work out how they are supposed to, and that we all spend a lot of time worrying about things that we can’t control or know.”
I’ve been feeling this a lot recently. This will be my first semester (Fall) in my major, and I wonder if I am doing what is right. Should I be a teacher? Can I really be successful as an author? Will dumb things that I have done in my past come back to haunt me as I try and be an example of a faithful example? Would anyone ever want to pay tuition to hear me teach? To these things I have no answer, other than it feels like what I should do. Does it make sense to me all the time? No. But each time I think of what else I could be doing, it always goes back to the feeling that I had last October: “you can do what you want. But you know what you love.”

Another feeling that I have had is that I don’t do enough. That I can be a better friend, example, family member, co-worker, disciple, student, and person. I think we all feel from time to time as if we are wholly insignificant in the eternal scheme of things, and that it would be easier to stop trying. Actually, I think more about how it would be easier to stop caring. Not measuring up wouldn’t hurt nearly as badly if I didn’t care so much. For instance, I don’t really care that I’m in the bottom tier of fencing or sewing sequins. But I really do care that I perform with all my heart in callings, that I get good grades, that I am a good friend. And so that’s why I think it kills me when I don’t live up to my ideal of what I could and should do.

Whilst pondering this last weekend on this very subject, I attended a homecoming of a dear friend from high school. I remembered how I felt in giving my homecoming, that I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to communicate how I felt about my mission, and my testimony. I wanted to do my best, and I wanted each person in the congregation to know that I had given everything that I had and more. I wanted no doubt in anyone’s mind that I had changed through hard work and the Atonement of Christ.

And then memories of each time I was disobedient, or made a mistake, or was unkind, or was late to a dinner appointment came to my mind. I couldn’t write down my feelings, it was too hard to focus on what had gone right, when there was so much that I had done imperfectly. Feeling crushed by my weakness and imperfection, I followed hitherto forgotten advice from my mission president, to pray to know that the Lord accepted my service, and that my efforts were received with happiness from the Lord who had sent me. I felt peace, and was able to organize my thoughts into an outline of what I wanted to say.

When the time came to speak, I don’t remember much of what I said. But I do remember looking into the tearful eyes of one of my best friends, as she gave me the thumbs up. And more importantly, I remember the words of the Savior that echoed back to me as I sat down, “well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things…enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Hearing those words echo back to me meant more than I can say. And they still meant much, nearly 18 months later, after being brought to my memory by the Spirit

I don’t say this to toot my own horn, or to say that I was exceptional. I say this because each and every one of else can receive the same assurance, that our efforts are accepted of the Lord. Whether it be for a sacrament meeting talk, or primary lesson, home teaching, or giving a blessing. The words can and will echo back to you. Those words will mean a lot, especially with our society’s focus on the negative, and to point out everything that doesn’t reach our standard of success. As my Sunday School teacher said yesterday, “if we base our success off of what we see as success in those we love and want to succeed, we will find ourselves happier, and know when we have succeeded more often.”

Steven Dalton once said that “when we look back on our service, we will remember the joys and successes of our services, we will forget what went wrong.” I find this to be true as time goes on, for myself. Time seems to heal all wounds, and today’s tragedies turn into tomorrow’s comedies. But when the sting of seeming failures seem to overwhelm, pray to know that the Lord accepted your efforts, regardless of the outward results.

I know that the Lord sent us here to be successful, and puts us in situations to be successful, if we will do what He asks us to do. I know that He will guide us by His Spirit if we will do what He asks. And I know that even if we have wronged or been wrong, He CAN and WILL make it right…if we will let Him.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Fathers are given to us, that we may have models to live our lives after. While none of our fathers are perfect, they give us a pattern of leadership, love, and righteousness (in best case scenarios).

Our Heavenly Father loves us. Sometimes it is difficult to fathom, when we

don't get what we want.
don't follow His rules.
don't understand what He is teaching us.

Doesn't this sound a lot like our relationships with our earthly fathers? How many of us realized that Dad having us do chores would be a blessing in our lives? That doing well in school, serving others, and correcting us when are wrong would be some of the best things for us?

I am not a parent. But I recognize the complexity of raising children with different personalities, strengths, weaknesses, personalities, and motivations; alongside holding a job, serving in Church, the neighborhood, and in many cases, our nation.

Fathers are also responsible for teaching. The best thing that I learned from my Dad was how to serve. Whether it was driving the Teachers in South Carolina to a stake dance that was 2 hours away, or hometeaching, whether it was setting a pattern in serving a mission, or doing the dishes on Sunday after dinner, he is always serving. In addition to teaching me to love the Lord, he taught me how to be the Lord's hands. He showed me the Lord's love, by serving the Lord that he loves.

President Uchtdorf has said:

"True love requires action. We can speak of love all day long—we can write notes or poems that proclaim it, sing songs that praise it, and preach sermons that encourage it—but until we manifest that love in action, our words are nothing but “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”11

Christ did not just speak about love; He showed it each day of His life. He did not remove Himself from the crowd. Being amidst the people, Jesus reached out to the one. He rescued the lost. He didn’t just teach a class about reaching out in love and then delegate the actual work to others. He not only taught but also showed us how to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”12

Christ knows how to minister to others perfectly. When the Savior stretches out His hands, those He touches are uplifted and become greater, stronger, and better people as a result.

If we are His hands, should we not do the same?"

Thanks Dad. And thanks to all you "dads" I have out there. To friends, mentors, employers, teachers, and leaders, thank you. Your service and compassion is a sermon all its own.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Most Important Person To Forgive

This is the post of the week, I have been thinking that there are others like me who have a hard time forgiving themselves. Think of the tender words that President Hinckley shares, and then think about how you would apply them in forgiving others. Then think about something you can forgive yourself for.

I feel that we as a society are plagued by guilt, not all caused by sin. I feel that in the culture of today, when anything that anybody does could be on Twitter, Facebook, or sent in a text message, I feel that others will never forget the things that I do wrong.

Which is silly. Because if we, who have full access to our intentions and abilities in any given situation can't find it in our hearts to forgive ourselves, how can we truly forgive others? Why are we so much more apt to forgive others than ourselves? For the same reason that it SHOULD be easy to forgive ourselves: we know EXACTLY what we could do.

Let me tell you a secret: we can't do everything that we have the ability to do, in every instance of every day. Just accept it. Work hard, follow the Spirit, and accept the consequences. Please think of something that bothers you, and confront it. Whether you need help from a friend, counselor, or Church leader to talk it out, you will always find help when you seek it.

We are commanded to forgive all men. (D&C 64:10) This surely includes ourselves.

Gordon B. Hinckley, “Forgiveness,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 81

Somehow forgiveness, with love and tolerance, accomplishes miracles that can happen in no other way.

My dear brothers and sisters, I thank my Father in Heaven that He has prolonged my life to be a part of these challenging times. I thank Him for the opportunity of service. I have no desire but to do all that I can in furthering the work of the Lord, in serving His faithful people, and in living at peace with my neighbors.

I recently traveled around the world, more than 25,000 miles, visiting Alaska, Russia, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, and Nigeria, where in this last place we dedicated a new temple. We then dedicated the Newport Beach California Temple. I have just been to Samoa for another temple dedication, another 10,000 miles. I do not enjoy travel, but it is my wish to get out among our people to extend appreciation and encouragement, and to bear testimony of the divinity of the Lord’s work.

I often think of a poem I read long ago. It goes like this:

Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by—
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.

I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban;—
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
(Sam Walter Foss, “The House by the Side of the Road,” in James Dalton Morrison, ed., Masterpieces of Religious Verse [1948], 422)

That is the way I feel.

Age does something to a man. It seems to make him more aware of the need for kindness and goodness and forbearance. He wishes and prays that men might live together in peace without war and contention, argument and conflict. He grows increasingly aware of the meaning of the great Atonement of the Redeemer, of the depth of His sacrifice, and of gratitude to the Son of God, who gave His life that we might live.

I wish today to speak of forgiveness. I think it may be the greatest virtue on earth, and certainly the most needed. There is so much of meanness and abuse, of intolerance and hatred. There is so great a need for repentance and forgiveness. It is the great principle emphasized in all of scripture, both ancient and modern.

In all of our sacred scripture, there is no more beautiful story of forgiveness than that of the prodigal son found in the 15th chapter of Luke. Everyone should read and ponder it occasionally.

“And when [the prodigal] had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

“And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

“And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

“And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

“And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

“And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (Luke 15:14–21).

And the father caused that a great feast should be held, and when his other son complained, he said to him, “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32).

When there has been wrongdoing and then there has come repentance, followed by forgiveness, then literally the offender who was lost is found, and he who was dead is made alive.

How wonderful are the blessings of mercy and forgiveness.

The Marshall Plan following World War II with the gift of millions of dollars helped put Europe on its feet.

In Japan, after this same war, I saw great steel mills, the money for which I was told had come from America, Japan’s former enemy. How much better this world is because of the forgiveness of a generous nation in behalf of its former enemies.

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord taught:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

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

“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

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

“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:38–44).

Those are very strong words.

Do you really think you could follow that injunction? They are the words of the Lord Himself, and I think they apply to each of us.

The scribes and Pharisees brought before Jesus a woman taken in adultery so that they might entrap Him.

“But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

“So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

“And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

“When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

“She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:6–11).

The Savior taught of leaving the ninety and nine to find the lost sheep, that forgiveness and restitution might come.

Isaiah declared:

“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;

“Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:16–18).

The great crowning love of the Savior was expressed when in His dying agony He cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

In our day the Lord has said in revelation:

“Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:9–10).

The Lord has offered a marvelous promise. Said He, “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).

There are so many in our day who are unwilling to forgive and forget. Children cry and wives weep because fathers and husbands continue to bring up little shortcomings that are really of no importance. And there also are many women who would make a mountain out of every little offending molehill of word or deed.

A time back, I clipped a column from the Deseret Morning News, written by Jay Evensen. With his permission, I quote from a part of it. Wrote he:

“How would you feel toward a teenager who decided to toss a 20-pound frozen turkey from a speeding car headlong into the windshield of the car you were driving? How would you feel after enduring six hours of surgery using metal plates and other hardware to piece your face together, and after learning you still face years of therapy before returning to normal—and that you ought to feel lucky you didn’t die or suffer permanent brain damage?

“And how would you feel after learning that your assailant and his buddies had the turkey in the first place because they had stolen a credit card and gone on a senseless shopping spree, just for kicks? …

“This is the kind of hideous crime that propels politicians to office on promises of getting tough on crime. It’s the kind of thing that prompts legislators to climb all over each other in a struggle to be the first to introduce a bill that would add enhanced penalties for the use of frozen fowl in the commission of a crime.

“The New York Times quoted the district attorney as saying this is the sort of crime for which victims feel no punishment is harsh enough. ‘Death doesn’t even satisfy them,’ he said.

“Which is what makes what really happened so unusual. The victim, Victoria Ruvolo, a 44-year-old former manager of a collections agency, was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year-old assailant, Ryan Cushing, than in exacting any sort of revenge. She pestered prosecutors for information about him, his life, how he was raised, etc. Then she insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for 5 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.

“Had he been convicted of first-degree assault—the charge most fitting for the crime—he could have served 25 years in prison, finally thrown back into society as a middle-aged man with no skills or prospects.

“But this is only half the story. The rest of it, what happened the day this all played out in court, is the truly remarkable part.

“According to an account in the New York Post, Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you.’

“Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, ‘It’s OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.’ According to accounts, hardened prosecutors, and even reporters, were choking back tears” (“Forgiveness Has Power to Change Future,” Deseret Morning News, Aug. 21, 2005, p. AA3).

What a great story that is, greater because it actually happened, and that it happened in tough old New York. Who can feel anything but admiration for this woman who forgave the young man who might have taken her life?

I know this is a delicate and sensitive thing of which I am speaking. There are hardened criminals who may have to be locked up. There are unspeakable crimes, such as deliberate murder and rape, that justify harsh penalties. But there are some who could be saved from long, stultifying years in prison because of an unthoughtful, foolish act. Somehow forgiveness, with love and tolerance, accomplishes miracles that can happen in no other way.

The great Atonement was the supreme act of forgiveness. The magnitude of that Atonement is beyond our ability to completely understand. I know only that it happened, and that it was for me and for you. The suffering was so great, the agony so intense, that none of us can comprehend it when the Savior offered Himself as a ransom for the sins of all mankind.

It is through Him that we gain forgiveness. It is through Him that there comes the certain promise that all mankind will be granted the blessings of salvation, with resurrection from the dead. It is through Him and His great overarching sacrifice that we are offered the opportunity through obedience of exaltation and eternal life.

May God help us to be a little kinder, showing forth greater forbearance, to be more forgiving, more willing to walk the second mile, to reach down and lift up those who may have sinned but have brought forth the fruits of repentance, to lay aside old grudges and nurture them no more. For this I humbly pray, in the sacred name of our Redeemer, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Many Are Called (As Hometeachers),

This is a sum-up of my Elder’s Quorum Lesson. Enjoy!

When I gave my first blessing to Maria, when I was 18 years old, I was terrified out of my mind. I was giving a blessing in front of her non-member parents. My heart was pounding, and I wasn’t sure where to go with the blessing. My dad told me in the car that I should “pray to be able to convey the love that Father has for her, and just open my mouth, knowing that it would be filled.” I remember the feeling more than the words that I gave, like I had done something the way that the Lord wanted me too. My fears reminded me of the words of President Henry B. Eyring:

“I had grown up in the mission field where there was only a tiny branch, which met in my home. Then my family moved to where there were stakes and large wards and chapels and quorums of boys who all seemed to know so much more than I did about what priesthood holders do. They had in that ward a complicated pattern for passing the sacrament. I felt almost certain that I would make a mistake when my turn to pass or prepare the sacrament came.

In my fear and desperation, I remember going outside the chapel to be alone. I was worried. I prayed for help and for some assurance that I would not fail in serving God in His priesthood.

It is now many years later. I have held the Melchizedek Priesthood for more than 50 years. But in the last few days I have prayed with that same pleading for help and assurance that I will not fail in the call which has come to me to serve in the First Presidency. Others seem so much more able to serve and so much better prepared. But as I prayed this time I think I could feel an answer that was probably sent to me outside the Yalecrest Ward chapel long ago. It is the same answer you can expect to get when you face a call to serve in the priesthood which seems beyond you.”

As I have grown and matured in the Gospel, I have given a lot of blessings, and a lot of thought into how to give a good one. Elder Oaks gave a stellar talk in the April 2010 Priesthood Session, concerning this. He said that there are 4 parts of a Priesthood blessing:
1. Anointing
2. Sealing
(The words of the blessing are not a part of the official ordinance! In the missionary handbook, it states that other words after the sealing should be given “as directed by the Spirit.” Elder Oaks elaborates:
“On some choice occasions I have experienced that certainty of inspiration in a healing blessing and have known that what I was saying was the will of the Lord. However, like most who officiate in healing blessings, I have often struggled with uncertainty on the words I should say. For a variety of causes, every elder experiences increases and decreases in his level of sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit. Every elder who gives a blessing is subject to influence by what he desires for the person afflicted. Each of these and other mortal imperfections can influence the words we speak.
Fortunately, the words spoken in a healing blessing are not essential to its healing effect. If faith is sufficient and if the Lord wills it, the afflicted person will be healed or blessed whether the officiator speaks those words or not. Conversely, if the officiator yields to personal desire or inexperience and gives commands or words of blessing in excess of what the Lord chooses to bestow according to the faith of the individual, those words will not be fulfilled. Consequently, brethren, no elder should ever hesitate to participate in a healing blessing because of fear that he will not know what to say. The words spoken in a healing blessing can edify and energize the faith of those who hear them, but the effect of the blessing is dependent upon faith and the Lord’s will, not upon the words spoken by the elder who officiated.”
3. Faith
4. The Will of the Lord

The anointing and sealing are almost wrote. Faith is something that we have when we ask for, give, and follow the direction of blessings. The blessing works by faith, for “without faith it is impossible to please [the Lord].” Faith is something that we need to have coming into the blessing, and will grow as we act in harmony with the standards the Lord has set for comfort, counsel, or healing.

But accepting the will of the Lord is perhaps the most difficult thing to accept. In a very unscientific survey, I asked 28 girls, and 7 guys, what inspired trust in someone, to ask for a blessing from them, and focused largely on being a trustworthy home teacher. The top 5 answers go as follows.

1. Sincerity: defined by consistently asking what they can do to help, following up on things in their lives that they talked about before, making personalized lessons for them. We are to teach, and of course bless, by the Spirit of God. I think Elder Holland said it best when he said:
“When crises come in our lives--and they will--the philosophies of men interlaced with a few scriptures and poems just won't do. Are we really nurturing our youth and our new members in a way that will sustain them when the stresses of life appear? Or are we giving them a kind of theological Twinkie--spiritually empty calories? President John Taylor once called such teaching "fried froth," the kind of thing you could eat all day and yet finish feeling totally unsatisfied.”
Listening is perhaps the best tool we have in showing sincerity, and in helping solve problems. The following is taken from Preach My Gospel:
When you listen carefully to others, you understand them better. When they know that their thoughts and feelings are important to you, they are more likely to be receptive to your teachings, share personal experiences, and make commitments. As you listen, you will be able to more effectively adapt your teaching to their needs and interests.
Especially listen for the whisperings of the Spirit. As others share their feelings with you, thoughts or ideas may enter your mind that are directed by the Spirit. You will also be able to understand what others are trying to express.
While others talk to you, avoid the tendency to think about what you are going to say. Make sure you are really concentrating on the person speaking rather than planning your response. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “More important than speaking is listening. These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right, you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more. . . . If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us—by the Spirit and by our friends.”

2. Have contact outside of Church, inviting them to activities.
How often to do we text message, facebook, read blogs, check the weather, etc? How much harder is it to have sincere, weekly contact with those that we care about, and care for?
3. Offer blessings at every teaching appointment.

The following are excerpts from 2 girls, who really went above and beyond for helping me:
“My roommates also said that they really appreciate it when their home teachers remind them that they are always willing to give them a blessing whenever they may need it. I think as women we often feel like we are taking up your time by asking for a blessing, so it is just nice to be reminded that it isn't an inconvenience to give a blessing (unless it is, in which case don't lie) :) and that you are always willing.”
“My home teachers I have felt the most close to have visited regularly and asked me how I was doing with specific questions. They remember things that are important in my life. As the home teachers fulfill their callings, there seems to be a blessing of friendship formed with the home teachees and the home teachers. They would ask if there was anything they could do to help me.... That opens a door for a girl to feel comfortable enough to ask for a blessing. Some girls may have trouble asking for help when they feel like it's just out of the blue. Sometimes we feel like we could be burdening the boys, but when my home teachers tell me right off the
bat, any time, day or night, they are willing to come give me a blessing, I felt so grateful to know I have their support and the priesthood power available to me.”

4. Change into Sunday clothes.
“A couple months ago I asked one of the guys in our ward for a blessing and I really appreciated that he took the time to put on a white shirt and tie. He didn't have a second priesthood holder with him but one of the guys that was visiting my roommate immediately offered to run home and change into Sunday clothes and then help with the blessing. Although it would have probably been a lot easier and quicker for both of them to not have to change, it meant a lot to me that they valued and recognized the great power that they held enough to take those few extra minutes. So moral of the women we really appreciate it when guys wear white shirts and ties to give us a blessing. I understand that there are circumstances where that might not be possible, but we are usually willing to wait those few extra minutes so you can show proper respect and love for the amazing priesthood power that you hold.”
“We also really look up to and respect the guys that show the proper respect while they are blessing and passing the sacrament (or doing other priesthood ordinances like blessings or temple work.) The sacrament is so important and as women we are unable to do it ourselves, so we really appreciate those men that provide us with that opportunity. I think how men view and perform their weekly priesthood responsibility of the sacrament tells us a lot about how much they value the power that they hold to give blessings.”
5. Their attitude in and outside of Church, including language and crude jokes.
“I am so very grateful for so many wonderful men who worthily hold the priesthood. When I have home teachers that I feel really do care about me, there is strong support. I think part of this is due to their stewardship, and also remaining personally worthy.”
B. “Thank you Boys for staying worthy and exercising your priesthood
power. It is so greatly appreciated and cherished by the women.”
The only thing that every guy said was “don’t be judgmental when I ask for help.” Interesting.
Other tidbits:
Texting is not home teaching. (Weird)
People can tell the difference when their hometeachers are praying for them.
Don’t creep on your home teachees. They can’t get away from you.

After this interesting survey, let us consider the words of President Eyring once again:

“Now, tonight let us decide together what we are going to do. All of us, whatever our callings may be, face tasks that are beyond our own powers. I do and you do. That’s true from the simple fact that success is to get testimony down into the hearts of people. We can’t make that happen. Even God won’t force that on anyone.
So success requires people we serve to choose to accept the testimony of the Spirit into their hearts. The Spirit is ready. But many people aren’t ready to invite the Spirit. Our task, which is in our power, is to invite the Spirit into our lives so that people we serve will want to have the fruits of the Spirit in their lives—the fruits that they can see in ours.”

Work hard. Take the time to teach well. Love the people that you serve. Here is the line that ended an e-mail that I think we could do well when making decisions for further action:

“I am so very grateful for so many wonderful men who worthily hold the priesthood. When I have home teachers that I feel really do care about me, there is strong support. I think part of this is due to their stewardship, and also remaining personally worthy. Thank you Boys for staying worthy and exercising your priesthood power. It is so greatly appreciated and cherished by the women.”

Sunday, May 23, 2010


This is one of the more serious subjects that I have attempted to address. Suicide claimed the life of my friend Forrest, 7 years ago last week. The hurt that it caused me then, to say nothing of closer friends and family is something that cannot be worded well enough for me to write eloquently. To say that death brings a feeling of emptiness is an understatement. I have attended funerals where I have felt so very alone, knowing that I will leave this world alone, and that I cannot stop the inevitable. But I have also attended funerals that are full of love, compassion, hope, and faith. These are the funerals that incorporate the true message of the Gospel, the answer to the big question of death. It was phrased by the Prophet Job when he said, “If a man die, shall he live again?” I answer emphatically that YES, we will each live again, through the power of the Atonement, and the Resurrection.

It has been taught from the beginning that there would be a Savior provided for each of us, to answer the ends of the law. Lehi said that:

…redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

The Savior taught this in John, when he went to Bethany, hearing that his friend Lazarus was sick, and had died. This dialogue, taken from a non-KJV Bible states succinctly the power of the Lord to save us all:

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."

Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

The Lord broke the bands of death, allowing each of us to be Resurrected, to receive a perfected body that will never die. He broke those bonds through his selfless sacrifice on our behalf. “He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.” He only had been perfectly obedient to His Father, and thus able to fulfill the ends of the Law. He is STILL, our only hope, our Savior, our Redeemer, the Bishop and Shepherd of our souls.

We will all be resurrected, regardless of our obedience, as a result of our receiving our second estate and coming to Earth to receive a body. While suicide is not a topic widely covered by Church leaders, this talk “Suicide, Some Things We Know, And Some We Do Not” by Elder Ballard is the best one that I could find.


Each person will be judged according to the circumstances, mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional condition, that they make decisions in, and suicide is no different. To any and all who are struggling to hold on, to keep going, to find hope in the hurricanes of life, there is a way to find the guiding light of the Spirit.

1. Ask for help!
2. Ask for help in prayer.
3. Ask for help from family.
4. Ask for help from Church leaders.
5. Ask for help from friends.

I am no expert on mental health, but I have felt the light come on, so to speak, of finding help when I desperately need it. I have felt the voice of the Spirit whisper comfort to me in times of struggle, and have had friends and family lift me, when I thought I could go on no more. I’ve seen others go the extra mile, and I am carried each day of my life by the hope that I have in Christ. These words of Elder Wirthlin often echo back to me:

“The Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless. The Apostle Paul said, "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and [our] faith is also vain."5 In all the history of the world there have been many great and wise souls, many of whom claimed special knowledge of God. But when the Savior rose from the tomb, He did something no one had ever done. He did something no one else could do. He broke the bonds of death, not only for Himself but for all who have ever lived—the just and the unjust.6 When Christ rose from the grave, becoming the firstfruits of the Resurrection, He made that gift available to all. And with that sublime act, He softened the devastating, consuming sorrow that gnaws at the souls of those who have lost precious loved ones.

I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross.
On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth. On that day the veil of the temple was rent in twain.
Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were both overcome with grief and despair. The superb man they had loved and honored hung lifeless upon the cross. On that Friday the Apostles were devastated. Jesus, their Savior—the man who had walked on water and raised the dead—was Himself at the mercy of wicked men. They watched helplessly as He was overcome by His enemies.
On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled.

It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God. I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world's history, that Friday was the darkest.

But the doom of that day did not endure.

The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind.

And in an instant the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, stood before them as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence.

Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come. No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come.”

I know that this is true. Let us share it with others.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


This week I received a letter from a dear friend out in the mission field. What a spark it was to my week! In the letter, she asked if I had any advice on how to achieve success. When I write her back, it will be with regret to say that I don’t have any sort of insider tips on how to help people “receive the restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the End.” All I have to offer her is one thing that always makes me want to help others more.

1. Every day I pray that I will work hard and feel the Spirit.

These three things have helped me in my personal life more than any other pattern of living that I have yet experienced. It can be so hard in life, when we are constantly told that others are better, and that we are supposed to live up to other’s expectations and potential, and that if “you ain’t first you’re last,” to see the little successes.

Everyone has different levels of working hard, but we can all do our best to do our best. We can all keep to the tasks we’ve been assigned, whether it be in home, workplace, community, or church assignments. Something that I really admire about President Monson is that he always makes time for others, often on his own leisure time. I am convinced that the secret to enjoying life is working hard at everything you do, and working hard to help others enjoy the journey. President Ezra Taft Benson once said that

“One of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work! If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people and he will be happy. There will be no homesickness, no worrying about families, for [he will have] all [his] time and talents and interest … centered on the work of the ministry. Work, work, work—there is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work.”

This of course is not only true in missionary work. Work is the key to satisfaction in life, in finding meaning in what we do, and in what we do for others. Why would serving others feel so good and be so worthwhile if it cost us nothing? Often our service is as simple as holding a door, a friendly word, or, as Marvin J. Ashton once said, “keeping our mouths shut.” Service on a large scale, such as a citywide food drive, raising money for Haiti, and other large scale activities are the results of hundreds and thousands of simple actions lumped together.

This is where success comes from. It comes from hundreds of decisions, to act and not stand idly by. Success, as I understand it in the Gospel, is to build faith, and help others to do the same. President Eyring once said:

“Now, tonight let us decide together what we are going to do. All of us, whatever our callings may be, face tasks that are beyond our own powers. I do and you do. That’s true from the simple fact that success is to get testimony down into the hearts of people. We can’t make that happen. Even God won’t force that on anyone.
So success requires people we serve to choose to accept the testimony of the Spirit into their hearts. The Spirit is ready. But many people aren’t ready to invite the Spirit. Our task, which is in our power, is to invite the Spirit into our lives so that people we serve will want to have the fruits of the Spirit in their lives—the fruits that they can see in ours.”

So success is not purely based on tangible evidences of our effort, but rather the immeasurable attributes of love, patience, service, and faith. Someone I love changed my life by telling me,

“our [LDS} view of success is far too narrow. It is not just baptisms and confirmations. It is not re-activations and the number of names that have gone through the Temple. It is helping others develop faith unto repentance. Did your family change? Your friends? Yourself? Did you strive to do your best, and give your all? Any answer other than ‘no’ would mean you are a success in God’s eyes.”

Let’s work hard, be happy, and love the results. Let us make sure that our faith in Christ is not based on outcomes, but IS the outcome of whatever happens to us. If we are doing all we can, God will do the rest, even and especially when it seems like there is no success in sight. Answers will come. Miracles will happen. And this miraculous work will go forth!

Saturday, May 8, 2010


This past week I got some extra hours at the BYU Bookstore by volunteering for Women’s Conference. It was a lot more exciting and thought provoking than I thought that it was going to be. To set up the scene a little better, imagine thousands of women shopping for books, CD’s, totes, cinnoman bears, and keychains in a tent that’s about 100 feet by 100 feet. In Provo. In inexplicably cold 44 degree weather in APRIL. You might think that it was like a Black Friday, where people are elbowing, pushing and shoving each other for the bargains and buys for the holiday season, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone single woman had a smile on her face, and when I would ask them what the best part of the conference was, they would say, “all of it!” My initial thought was that this was like scout camp/girl’s camp/EFY for middle aged women, and that’s why they loved it so much. But upon further reflection, I think they love Women’s Conference because of the appreciation and love that they are shown.

Most places in the world don’t pat moms on the back for doing laundry, dressing kids, putting kids and husbands ahead of everyone in their lives. They pat women on the back for “taking strides in the workplace,” or other worthy accolades. While it’s great that women want to work outside the home, they are not generally commended for the nurturing and love that they instill into those that they have the greatest responsibility over.

M. Russell Ballard said: ““Is a woman’s value dependent exclusively upon her role as a wife and mother?” The answer is simple and obvious: No. Although there is nothing a woman can do that has more far-reaching, eternal impact than to rear her children to walk in righteousness, motherhood and marital status are not the only measures of a woman’s worth. Some women do not have the privilege of marrying or rearing children in this life. Yet if they are worthy, these blessings will come later. Men and women who do have the privilege of rearing children will of course be held accountable for that priceless, eternal stewardship. Although there is simply not a more significant contribution you can make to society, to the Church, or to the eternal destiny of our Father’s children than what you will do as a mother or father, motherhood and fatherhood are not the only measures of goodness or of one’s acceptance before the Lord. Every righteous man and woman has a significant role to play in the onward march of the kingdom of God.”

This is such a great message for everyone to remember, but especially to women, who are constantly told that they are told by society that no matter what they do, they are:

Not doing enough, making enough, serving enough, loving enough, or making enough of a difference.

When in all reality, they are doing more, making more out of less, serving more consistently and certainly more enthusiastically, show more love, and making all the difference in the world.

I think that this is the power of telling someone that they are appreciated is something that is rarely done, and rarely taken seriously. Mother’s Day is a day that we all hug and kiss our moms, do the dinner, give her little gifts, and tell them how much we love them. It’s a day that we do the dishes, and celebrate womanhood, and all the things that they do. Why don’t we do this more often? Why do we only do this for women that we are related to?

For every woman that has shown me love, from mission moms, ward moms, friend’s moms, my best friend’s wives, my best friends, and of course everyone in my family, THANK YOU! I wouldn’t be here without you.

P.S. Please. Tell your mother that you love her.

P.P.S. Tell her what you appreciate about her, and what you love about her, what she’s done for you. This will help her know that you’re not just saying it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Moroni in Finding Our Own Testimonies

The purpose of this blog isn't so much to convert anyone, as it is a public forum for me to share my testimony and beliefs, in the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm not looking to prove anybody wrong, but just to share how I feel spiritually. The Lord has blessed me with some rich experiences, and I feel it would be ungrateful not to share what I have heard, seen, and most importantly, felt. I was not trying to prove anyone wrong last week. I was trying to share what I know to be true, through the promptings of the Spirit.

While some promptings of the Holy Ghost get lost in the day's activities, others leave an indelible impression on my life. One such experience was when I first prayed to know that the Book of Mormon was true.

When I was 17, I was challenged to read the Book of Mormon, and to pray about it. I had never done it before, at least in really searching out to know the truth for myself. I had been living off of social climate, and the experiences of others in my life. It's not like I only did things because I was expected to, I had just never received a firm answer for myself.

I read every page of that book, and prayed about it. Such peace and power filled my soul, that I could not deny that I KNEW. It has been perhaps the most important experience in my life so far. All things that I strive to do come from that experience. And yet, I know that this experience can be had by anybody with a real intent, a sincere heart, and real intent. For practical purposes, this is what I feel these mean:

A sincere heart: Really wanting to know. I think that this comes from reading the Scriptures faithfully, and trying to find meaning in them. Sincerity can be seen from trying to understand the Scriptures, and "feasting" upon them.

Real Intent: Go to Church. Follow the Commandments. Act as if you are willing to follow through on any answer to prayer that you receive. Why would you receive an answer if you're not looking to follow through with the information?

Faith In Christ: PRAY ABOUT IT. Having faith in Him, means faith in His purposes, and that praying to the Father in His name will bring a real answer.

Now, will it come instantly? Probably not. Will it come when we are ready for it? Absolutely. Some feel that they have never received an answer to prayer, and to them I would say, "did seeking an answer change your behavior? Did it bring you more in harmony with divine teaching? Did you come to love the Lord because of your experience?" That is certainly an answer. The Lord does not answer us with a heavy hand, or a shout. He answers us in promptings, and in changes in our behavior.

If you're not sure what to do, move forward with a steadfastness in Christ, and His teachings. Greater happiness than anything you can imagine comes from a life of faith and fullness, through and in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Stay Far Away From The Muck and Mire

I can’t tell you how sad it makes me when those outside of the Church try to tear it down. What I think is perhaps the most regrettable is that people inside and outside of the Church associate the feelings of doubt and disgust when they read or see anti-Mormon material with the Church itself. Please remember that it is not produced by the Church. Most anti-Mormon material is taken completely out of context, or omitting words, sentences or paragraphs to make a point. (For a thorough analysis on how books such as “No Man Knows My History” skew history, read “No Ma’am, That’s Not History” by Hugh Nibley.)

Remember that the Lord works in his own due time, and in His own reasons. Remember what He has done for you. Remember what President Kimball wrote:

Apostasy often begins with criticism of current leaders. Apostasy usually begins with question and doubt and criticism. It is a retrograding and devolutionary process. The seeds of doubt are planted by unscrupulous or misguided people, and seldom directed against the doctrine at first, but more often against the leaders. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Pg. 462)

The Lord loves each and every one of His children. He wants them to return to Him, but the enemy of all righteousness would have otherwise. The Lord will answer all questions, through proper personal preparation on our part, and revelation from the Holy Ghost.

Elder Neil L. Anderson has said:
Challenges, difficulties, questions, doubts—these are part of our mortality. But we are not alone. As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have enormous spiritual reservoirs of light and truth available to us. Fear and faith cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time. In our days of difficulty, we choose the road of faith. Jesus said, “Be not afraid, only believe.”4
Through the years we take these important spiritual steps over and over again. We begin to see that “he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”5 Our questions and doubts are resolved or become less concerning to us. Our faith becomes simple and pure. We come to know what we already knew.

President Hinckley added:
[Faith], as it was then, so it is today. This precious and marvelous gift of faith, this gift from God our Eternal Father, is still the strength of this work and the quiet vibrancy of its message. Faith underlies it all. Faith is the substance of it all. Whether it be going into the mission field, living the Word of Wisdom, paying one’s tithing, it is all the same. It is the faith within us that is evidenced in all we do.

Our critics cannot understand it. Because they do not understand, they attack. A quiet inquiry, an anxious desire to grasp the principle behind the result, could bring greater understanding and appreciation.

I was asked at a news conference on one occasion how we get men to leave their vocations, to leave home, and serve the Church. I responded that we simply ask them, and we know what their answer will be.

What a marvelous and wonderful thing it is, this powerful conviction that says the Church is true. It is God’s holy work. He overrules in the things of His kingdom and in the lives of His sons and daughters. This is the reason for the growth of the Church. The strength of this cause and kingdom is not found in its temporal assets, impressive as they may be. It is found in the hearts of its people. That is why it is successful. That is why it is strong and growing. That is why it is able to accomplish the wonderful things that it does. It all comes of the gift of faith, bestowed by the Almighty upon His children who doubt not and fear not, but go forward.

If you are struggling with an issue in the Church, speak with your leaders. Pray about it. Work as hard at finding the answers as those who would convince you otherwise work at trying to lead you astray.

Remember that Joseph was a prophet. That President Monson is one now. And above all, that Jesus is the very Christ, the Son of God. That He taught, healed, suffered, died, and rose again. Because if this is true, what else matters? Really. What else matters?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Prophets Words: Always Scripture?

Prophetic authority is a distinguishing characteristic of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Indeed, when asked what sets Mormons apart from other Christians, the answer will always go back to a testimony of the Prophet Joseph or one of his modern successors. Whether the question of “why do we need more scripture?” to “why don’t you smoke or drink?” it all goes back to a testimony of the Prophet Joseph, that he was called by God, “to teach the Gospel, and administer in the ordinances thereof.” (Articles of Faith: 5) A true belief in Jesus Christ and His chosen leaders are essential to full and worthy membership in the Church.
But the words of the Lord, as given through the Prophet Joseph can give us a chance to stop and think: what is scripture? I think that this question is a good one. Scripture, as defined by the Bible Dictionary states that: “Latter-day revelation identifies scripture as that which is spoken under the influence of the Holy Ghost (D&C 68: 1-4).”

I think that this clarifies the problem more than is seen at first glance. Scripture is what the Spirit dictates to a specific audience of people, based on the spiritual needs of the people that are being addressed.

In one such example, a Bishop may be interviewing two different individuals for the same sin, such as immorality. Because of the specific circumstances surrounding the sin, the Bishop may require different lengths of time before taking the Sacrament, suspension of temple privileges, or other such injunctions. This would fall directly in line with what the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, when he said:
“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, 'Thou shalt not kill'; at another time He said, 'Thou shalt utterly destroy.' This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.”

“Scripture” and “cannon” are different words with different meanings, which Latter-day Saints often use interchangeably. Scripture can be given by any child who has been baptized may speak by the Spirit. As Alma has said, “little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.” Cannon is something that is accepted by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency as scripture for the entire Church. Cannon is something that could potentially be added to the scriptures, such as the Family Proclamation, not something that a missionary, Bishop, or little child could say in a meeting, as spoken by the Holy Ghost.

Cannon must apply to all. All the words that compromise the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are applicable to all. This designation is not afforded to the footnotes, or even the Bible Dictionary, or chapter headings. It seems to me that there is “scripture” for the individual, and “Scripture” for the Church.

Leaders are entitled to individual opinion. Let's forget that they are men, and not perfect, and that if we're allowed to have opinions, so should they.

I'm excited for conference. There is revelation to be had...if we're listening for it :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Questions with Simple Answers

Watch this video first, please:

Why do we have family concerns?

Why do bad things happen?

Why are we asked to “walk by faith, rather than by sight?” (2 Corinithians 5:7)

Why isn’t faith always verifiable by science?

Because it is part of His plan. Because “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Why must we do hard things?

Why is keeping a pattern of prayer and scripture study so hard, when we know the promised blessings?

Why must we ask the Lord for help, when He knows of our needs?

Because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Why is it worth it?

“because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.” (Alma 32:42-43)

There are many questions that I have about my faith, and about the Gospel. Why some lessons are so much more painful than others.

I don’t know. But I know enough. And if it’s true, what else matters?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Best of Friends

I think that I have the best friends in the world. Whether I’m struggling or succeeding, I have someone to commiserate or celebrate with.

What is a friend? I think a friend is someone who loves you enough to be honest with you, to look out for you, and to be there whether it’s feast or famine.

The Savior called us His “friends.” President Monson and Hinckley call us their friends. Do we not have a responsibility to be friendly to all?

Joseph M. Scriven penned a hymn to sum up the love and friendship that we have in Jesus:

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear

May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.
I’m going to change the words of Elder Wirthlin, from love to friendship in this quote:

“True [friendship] lasts forever. It is eternally patient and forgiving. It believes, hopes, and endures all things. That is the [feeling] our [Savior] bears for us. We all yearn to experience love like this. Even when we make mistakes, we hope others will love us in spite of our shortcomings—even if we don’t deserve it. Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us—even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will.”
Let’s not give up. Let us show the love that each of us wants to be shown.

And one favor, for me. Cory DeVaney is in Iraq right now. He is constantly on the brink of life and death. Will you join me in prayers for Cory this week? I feel like he needs them.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Just Do It

Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28 offers some powerful insight into the power that our Father in Heaven has given to each of us, to stand as a witness for Him.

26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is acompelled in all things, the same is a bslothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be aanxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are aagents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their breward.

I think that the phrase “for the power is in them” is an important one to remember, when considering our callings, and service in general. While we must acknowledge all that the Lord does, and enables us to do, He has made us “agents unto ourselves,” that we can choose to bring forth much righteousness. He has given us every gift that we possess, so that we can bless the lives of others.
This phrase reminds me of a story that my mission president’s wife, told me. When she was a child, and on into her teenage years, she played the piano with enthusiasm. But when she entered high school, she stopped practicing as much, and keeping up with the rigorous schedule her teacher gave to her. Years later, she performed in a sacrament meeting, and a member of the congregation told her that she could be a concert pianist. Laughing this off, she told her former professor what the ward member had said. In reply, her teacher said, “you were the best student I ever had, and could have been a concert pianist. You had the ability, but you were too lazy.” My friend said that these words still haunt her. True are the words of John Greenleaf Whittier, “of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, it might have been.”
I think that the power within us entails the spiritual gifts our Father has given us, combined with the righteous use of our own agency, to bless the lives of His children. So let’s do it!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Basic Doctrine, as Outlined by the Scriptures

D&C Section 20 has been called the “Constitution” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While it does not spell out each doctrinal position and each hierarchical position at length, it does touch on many of the doctrines and responsibilities of Church members, along with how the Church was organized and established.
Many outside of the Church have accused Church members of not being Christians, and not believing in many basic doctrines. Section 20 provides a helpful reference for those who are not informed of the basic tenants of the LDS faith. I find this list interesting. It’s in no way comprehensive.

Verse 1: The rise of the Church of Christ:
This is the Church of Christ. We are Christian, because we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Verse 2-3: Which commandments were given to Joseph Smith, Jun., who was called of God, and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ…And to Oliver Cowdery, who was also called of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ
Joseph Smith Jr., as the first prophet and President of the Church, was called and ordained, under Apostolic authority. The very keys that the Savior commissioned to Peter, James, and John have been restored. They were also given to Oliver Cowdery, using the pattern the Master established, “by two or three witness” shall all things be established.

Verse 4: And this according to the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom be all glory, both now and forever.
The grace of Jesus Christ is what saves us, and it is by that grace (love) that the Church was established. Baptism and temple work are important components of our part, but they alone do not guarantee the Celestial Kingdom. We are saved, justified, sanctified, and exalted by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Verse 8: And gave [Joseph Smith] power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon
Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. It wasn’t hit genius, a stolen manuscript, a dream, a vision caused by seizure, or any of the other suggestions put forward.

Verse 11: Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true
We believe the Bible. Anyone who declares otherwise is misinformed.

Verse 17: we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them.. And that he created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them…And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship.
I think that speaks for itself.
Verse 21-27, 29: Wherefore, the Almighty God gave his Only Begotten Son, as it is written in those scriptures which have been given of him. He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them. He was crucified, died, and rose again the third day; And ascended into heaven, to sit down on the right hand of the Father, to reign with almighty power according to the will of the Father; That as many as would believe and be baptized in his holy name, and endure in faith to the end, should be saved— Not only those who believed after he came in the meridian of time, in the flesh, but all those from the beginning, even as many as were before he came, who believed in the words of the holy prophets, who spake as they were inspired by the gift of the Holy Ghost, who truly testified of him in all things, should have eternal life, As well as those who should come after, who should believe in the gifts and callings of God by the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and of the Son;
We’re Christians. We don’t believe in a “different” Jesus. We believe in the Savior of the World, who paid for our sins and inadequacies with His blood, and broke the bands of death, that the “sting of death is swallowed up in victory.”
Baptism is essential.
So is enduring to the end.

Verse 28: Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end.
Jeffrey R. Holland: “Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”2 We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance.”

Verse 33: let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation;
Verse 35: And we know that these things are true and according to the revelations of John, neither adding to, nor diminishing from the prophecy of his book, the holy scriptures, or the revelations of God which shall come hereafter by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, the voice of God, or the ministering of angels.
I feel like these also speak for themselves.

I’m grateful that the Lord has given us clearly defined doctrines, so that we need not be defined by others, but be defined by articles and commandments that the Lord has set.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Missionary Work

Missionary work is the past, present, and future of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When the Master commanded His Apostles to go out into all the world, He was speaking not only to them, but to you and I. The Standard Works are chocked full of stories, examples, and miracles resulting as a result of missionary work. It is one of the three-fold missions of the Church (which are in fact one mission, salvation for all, broken into three parts). I think a lot about missionary work, and I consequentially think of the people that I have taught, fellowshipped with, and shared the joy of the Gospel with. But there’s another side to sharing the Gospel that is an absolute reality to each person involved: it is hard. It is emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausting.
This shouldn’t really surprise anyone, the Lord never promised that it would be unimportant, inconsequential, or passive. This is something that I think I was fully at grips with when I was serving full-time. I loved focusing on how demanding it was, that only those that worked the hardest, or took it the most seriously would prosper, and be able to further the work at a great place. Hard work is essential, but willingness and faith to do the work are vital to successful missionary work. Faith+willingness=hard work and success.
And now as I try and share the gospel with those that I know and love, I wonder why I don’t seem to have the earth-shaking experiences that some members had in my mission. Doors seemed to be open, at least once a transfer, that would lead to a baptism, but more importantly, a conversion. But almost every time I had a dinner appointment with members, the members would get sick of us asking for referrals, I would feel awkward asking for them, and there wouldn’t be any referrals. It seemed like members, for all the hard work they were anxious and willing to do, felt guilty for not knowing someone that we could teach and baptize that weekend. The Lord would never force His children to choose happiness, even when there are friends, family, and acquaintances around them that want them too. Not every person that we talk too will want to learn more.
In the Lord’s plan, requiring agency, each person seeking to do missionary work can only do so much. Remember the Lord’s invitations to “come and see” and “follow me.” Ask others to come and see, through inviting them to activities, not necessarily sacrament meetings, or invite them to dinner when the missionaries are over. Have or as your home page. Live your life in a way that you can feel comfortable asking others to learn what you love and live.
I spent so much of my time as a full time missionary thinking I wasn’t doing enough, that I wasn’t doing every single things I possibly could. I still fall into this trap, especially in areas of my life that I can’t control. But I know that the only way for the Lord’s work to move forward is in His time, way, and will. Instead of focusing on the things that we do wrong, let’s focus on the things that we do right. We read our scriptures, talk about Church activities, even something as little as putting what our religious views are on a facebook page. And no matter how frustrating or fruitless are efforts may seem, remember that each person the Lord invites to “come to Him” does not heed his call. How can we expect 100% success if we remember that Father's plan relies on the ability to choose? Remember the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

“Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?

You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same

For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.

The Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more importantly than it will carry the investigators. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

I bear witness that He came from God as a God to bind up the brokenhearted, to dry the tears from every eye, to proclaim liberty to the captive and open the prison doors to them that are bound. I promise that because of your faithful response to the call to spread the gospel, He will bind up your broken hearts, dry your tears, and set you and your families free. That is my missionary promise to you and your missionary message to the world.”

And remember, remember, “if ye know these things, see that ye do them.” Miracles will happen!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Master Gardener

I usually write about things that have already happened, and about how through the grace and Atonement of Jesus Christ, a way was provided for me to follow. This week has been something different for me. I’ve been struggling with decisions and relationships, promises and promptings, that I don’t know how to respond too. I’ve felt uneasy about things that others have felt, and wondered how the Lord can give people different promptings about the same things. And I’ve wondered why things aren’t easy for those who are doing the right things.. I don’t really have an answer, other than you “don’t receive a witness until after the trial of your faith.” But I know that everything will work together for my salvation, and my happiness, and those that I pray for and about. Dallin H. Oaks has taught:

“A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances where they pray for guidance and don't receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances where the choices are trivial or w here either choice is acceptable. We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us.”

Furthermore, in one of my favorite talks of all time, Elder Hugh B. Brown, in which he talks about what the Lord wants, versus what we want.

You sometimes wonder whether the Lord really knows what he ought to do with you. You sometimes wonder if you know better than he does about what you ought to do and ought to become. I am wondering if I may tell you a story that I have told quite often in the Church. It is a story that is older than you are. It’s a piece out of my own life, and I’ve told it in many stakes and missions. It has to do with an incident in my life when God showed me that he knew best.
I was living up in Canada. I had purchased a farm. It was run-down. I went out one morning and saw a currant bush. It had grown up over six feet high. It was going all to wood. There were no blossoms and no currants. I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and went after it, and I cut it down, and pruned it, and clipped it back until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it, and smiled, and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush talk. And I thought I heard it say this: “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me, because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.” That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’ ”
Time passed. Years passed, and I found myself in England. I was in command of a cavalry unit in the Canadian Army. I had made rather rapid progress as far as promotions are concerned, and I held the rank of field officer in the British Canadian Army. And I was proud of my position. And there was an opportunity for me to become a general. I had taken all the examinations. I had the seniority. There was just one man between me and that which for ten years I had hoped to get, the office of general in the British Army. I swelled up with pride. And this one man became a casualty, and I received a telegram from London. It said: “Be in my office tomorrow morning at 10:00,” signed by General Turner in charge of all Canadian forces. I called in my valet, my personal servant. I told him to polish my buttons, to brush my hat and my boots, and to make me look like a general because that is what I was going to be. He did the best he could with what he had to work on, and I went up to London. I walked smartly into the office of the General, and I saluted him smartly, and he gave me the same kind of a salute a senior officer usually gives—a sort of “Get out of the way, worm!” He said, “Sit down, Brown.” Then he said, “I’m sorry I cannot make the appointment. You are entitled to it. You have passed all the examinations. You have the seniority. You’ve been a good officer, but I can’t make the appointment. You are to return to Canada and become a training officer and a transport officer. Someone else will be made a general.” That for which I had been hoping and praying for ten years suddenly slipped out of my fingers.
Then he went into the other room to answer the telephone, and I took a soldier’s privilege of looking on his desk. I saw my personal history sheet. Right across the bottom of it in bold, block-type letters was written, “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.” We were not very well liked in those days. When I saw that, I knew why I had not been appointed. I already held the highest rank of any Mormon in the British Army. He came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.” I saluted him again, but not quite as smartly. I saluted out of duty and went out. I got on the train and started back to my town, 120 miles away, with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. And every click of the wheels on the rails seemed to say, “You are a failure. You will be called a coward when you get home. You raised all those Mormon boys to join the army, then you sneak off home.” I knew what I was going to get, and when I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap and my saddle brown belt on the cot. I clinched my fists and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.
And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.”
Answers to prayers unfortunately have to be “no” sometimes. I know with all my heart that this is true. But that God IS the gardener here. And He knows what He wants you and I to be. I just received the hardest “no” that I think I may ever receive. But I know what that means…find the meaning in it, and move forward.