How You Can Reach Me

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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.