Personal Online Journal

Monday, December 21, 2009

Half of something

My wife bought me the Sunshine on Leith album by The Proclaimers for me recently. I love it! I remember around five years ago, I came home. Stephanie was gone for some reason. I put this cassette in and danced to it with the kids for at least an hour. It was one of those moments that you don't forget. How happy I was to be with my kids and the joy of dance and music.

On the way to work I was listening again. One line from the "Then I Met You" track is,

Thought that I was whole instead of being half of something

My dear wife is so strong, so persistent. She works hard and then keeps on giving. She is passionate. One recent example is the fortieth wedding anniversary she helped to organize for her parents. She gave it her all. I tell you what, I am so glad to have all of her back again. Her parents are worth it. It was only a limited time. I did miss her.

I think of this scripture when I think of my sweetheart,
...I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen. D&C 88:133

I am so grateful to have her. She is my better half. With her I am complete. As we continue to keep our covenants with God, we will become whole. We will fill the measure of our creation. Having her at my side gives me added confidence that I will continue in the path of God. She is a gift.

The Lord does not expect that we do what we cannot achieve. The command to become perfect, as He is, encourages us to achieve the best of ourselves, to discover and develop the talents and attributes with which we are blessed by a loving Eternal Father, who invites us to realize our potential as children of God. He knows us; He knows of our capacities and our limitations. The invitation and challenge to become perfect, to achieve eternal life is for all mankind.
Immediately after teaching that “it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength,” King Benjamin indicated that “it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize." God will not require more than the best we can give because that would not be just, but neither can He accept less than that because that would not be just either. Therefore, let us always give the best we can in the service of God and our fellowmen. Let us serve in our families and in our callings in the Church in the best manner possible. Let us do the best we can and each day be a little better. (Jorge F. Zeballos, “Attempting the Impossible,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 33–34, [Emphasis is mine])

I am grateful to have such a devoted, loving and kind wife as my partner in creating heaven on earth.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers"

I read a great post at Scriptorium Blogorium about a Oct 1999 General Conference Talk by M. Russell Ballard called "Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers".

I used the Mini-Stream Ripper to convert the asx file to an mp3. I look forward to listening to it again.

Monday, September 07, 2009

What is your most compelling reason for believing in God?

A post at prompted the following comment from me.
The most compelling reason I have for believing in God is the fruit of God I see in people around me. I start with my mom and dad. They are not perfect but they are faithful and happy and contented and busy. I see what being at work for God has done for them and I want the same for myself. I recall several other that I have gotten to know well enough to prove that their life is not just superficial happiness. I have seen hearts change and forgiveness bringing peace. I remember every day kind of people doing simple things that bring joy into their life and those they serve.

To be honest, I also can remember a couple of atheists that fit quite well into this description. I am satisfied that if they truly are being honest in their heart, they will be where any faithful believer is.

Another scripture comes to mind, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." John 7:17 When I have exercised my faith by doing what I know to be true, I feel the fruits of God in me. I have a clarity of mind. I feel good and right. It is when I am most obedient that I am most confident in God and His plan.

Hide Footnote Indicators on

I while ago I found the "Hide footnote indicators" option on It hides the footnote indicators within the text of the scriptures so that I can copy them without removing them myself. You get to it from the "options" in the upper right of the page. It is quite useful.

Paradox of Choice and Delighting in Fatness

A few days ago, a friend recommended that I watch Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice.

I remember hearing his story of being less satisfied with his purchase of jeans today than years ago when there was only one kind of jeans. In his experience, he ended up with a pair of jeans that fit far better than when there was only one kind. He was disappointed because he had concluded (I think unconsciously) that because there were so many choices there must have been one that fit perfectly. When he noticed something not perfect about the new pair, it was easy to think that he chose the wrong one.

He started his talk with a dogma of western civilization. It goes like this
- We should maximize welfare
- This means maximize freedom
- This means maximize choice
- More choice means more freedom
- More freedom means more welfare

Here are some more of some notes I took:

The secret to happiness is low expectations

Why Choice Makes People Miserable
1. Regret and anticipated regret
2. Opportunity Costs
3. Escalation of expectations
4. Self blame

We do better and feel worse

He concludes that income redistribution will make everyone better off because those that have too much choice will give more choice to those who have too little.

His perspective was very enlightening. I agree that I can easily slip into unhappiness by not being conscious of the choices I make. I do not, however, agree with his redistribution conclusion. I do think we are happier when we are charitable and give voluntarily of what we have been blessed with. "capitalism is the least worst system available to us — until Zion can be achieved" (Geoff B.)

If I allow myself to be consumed with these kinds of consumer-centric choice I will lead an unsatisfying life. This reminds me of what Nephi said,
Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness. (2 Ne 9:51)
Yesterday, my elder's quorum president gave a lesson on submitting our will to our Heavenly Father. He recently got a puppy, a mix between a lab and a pit bull. He has watched the Dog Whisperer. Following the teachings of that show, he recently held the dog down with his hand after it was trying to nip at his children. He gently but firmly held the dog to the floor with his hand. He had to hold it there for about five minutes until the dog finally relaxed and submitted.

His wife asked him if he was just breaking the spirit of the dog. I don't think he was. I have seen the show. It is a little disconcerting to watch him or the owners hold their dogs down like that. Yet this is what will bring the dog happiness. Dogs are happiest when they are submissive. They just need to be shown true leadership in a way dogs understand. Then they are so happy and they willingly live by the rules of the house.

The Lord is wise to allow me to work out my destiny here on earth outside of His presence. If I tried to get comfortable choosing the right in His house, I would need swift and perhaps final judgment on my behavior. Instead He planned a way for me to work out my salvation. Adam fell so that evil came into our world. Jesus came and provided for every good thing. So I find myself in this world where I learn very well between good and evil. The Lord is gratefully not present while I figure this out. When I choose badly, I experience pain and emptiness. Hopefully I learn and choose better. I feel the freedom that comes from entering into a covenant relationship with God. That I really can be forgiven. That I really can have another chance. I can choose to come closer to Father in Heaven. I can draw closer by obeying the Light the Lord shows me.

I am not talking about choosing a pair of jeans that fits, but following that voice that says, "why don't you get up and let Steph sleep this morning". Or the many many other messages about living according to the truth I know. This kind of choice is necessary and much more satisfying that mere consumer decisions. Real joy comes from submitting my will to that of my Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Things as They Really Are

Our bishop has chosen "Things as They Really Are" by Elder David A. Bednar at the May 2009 CES fireside for our fifth Sunday lesson. He gives a powerful warning and brought to my attention some things I had not considered.
... a simulation or model can lead to spiritual impairment and danger if the fidelity is high and the purposes are bad—such as experimenting with actions contrary to God’s commandments or enticing us to think or do things we would not otherwise think or do “because it is only a game.”
Today I raise an apostolic voice of warning about the potentially stifling, suffocating, suppressing, and constraining impact of some kinds of cyberspace interactions and experiences upon our souls. The concerns I raise are not new; they apply equally to other types of media, such as television, movies, and music. But in a cyber world, these challenges are more pervasive and intense. I plead with you to beware of the sense-dulling and spiritually destructive influence of cyberspace technologies that are used to produce high fidelity and that promote degrading and evil purposes.
If the adversary cannot entice us to misuse our physical bodies, then one of his most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are. In essence, he encourages us to think and act as if we were in our premortal, unembodied state. And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, ear buds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication. Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience.
Contrast that with this.
To feel the warmth of a tender hug from an eternal companion or to see the sincerity in the eyes of another person as testimony is shared—all of these things experienced as they really are through the instrument of our physical body—could be sacrificed for a high fidelity fantasy that has no lasting value. If you and I are not vigilant, we can become “past feeling” (1 Nephi 17:45), as did Laman and Lemuel long ago.
I had not considered that misusing technology could minimize the importance of my body.

He makes it clear that technology can also be used for good.
Brothers and sisters, please understand. I am not suggesting all technology is inherently bad; it is not. Nor am I saying we should not use its many capabilities in appropriate ways to learn, to communicate, to lift and brighten lives, and to build and strengthen the Church; of course we should. But I am raising a warning voice that we should not squander and damage authentic relationships by obsessing over contrived ones.
He gives us two questions to help us evaluate our use of technology:
For your happiness and protection, I invite you to study more diligently the doctrine of the plan of salvation—and to prayerfully ponder the truths we have reviewed. I offer two questions for consideration in your personal pondering and prayerful studying:
1. Does the use of various technologies and media invite or impede the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in your life?
2. Does the time you spend using various technologies and media enlarge or restrict your capacity to live, to love, and to serve in meaningful ways?
I recommend the whole talk. You can get audio or video of the talk here.

Update 2014-08-18
Here is a short video excerpting this talk in preparation for a talk tomorrow.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Thank you, thank you for my life"

I love, love Joe Vs the Volcano. I watched it with a bunch of friends that were in "South Pacific" with me my senior year in high school.

"Dear God, whose name I do not know. Thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG. Thank you, thank you for my life."

Another quote I like is, "My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement." Patricia Graynamore

Friday, August 07, 2009

“I Love the Lord”

At Be Not Weary, I found this video of the last song of the 2007 Priesthood session of General Conference. I love the tune from "Be Still My Soul"

“I Love the Lord”
I love the Lord. In him my soul delights.
Upon his word, I ponder day and night.
He’s heard my cry, brought visions to my sleep,
And kept me safe o’er deserts and the deep.
He’s filled my heart with his consuming love,
And borne me high on wings of his great dove.
Yet oft I groan,”O wretched man am I!”
My flesh is weak and I’m encompassed by
A world of sin, which holds me in its thrall,
If I give in and to temptations fall.
Then strength grows slack, I waste in sorrow’s vale.
My peace destroyed, my enemies prevail.
Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin.
Rejoice, my heart! And let me praise again
The Lord my God, who is my rock and stay
To keep me strict upon his straight, plain way.
O let me shake at the first sight of sin
And thus escape my foes without and in.

Breaking the unhealthy dance

My sister in law sent me a link to Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear. It reminded me of my Arbinger Institute training I did many years ago. If I am not careful, I can contribute to unhealthy attitudes in my relationships. I can dance with them so that they feel justified in bad behavior. Their behavior fits into my deception so I can also behave badly.

This story reminded me of the way to break that cycle. She didn't dance that unhealthy dance. She got out of the way of the issues her husband was having. She was patient and loving and independent. I like how she summed it up at the end,

My husband tried to strike a deal. Blame me for his pain. Unload his feelings of personal disgrace onto me.

But I ducked. And I waited. And it worked.
I also like this bit.
it’s not a spouse or land or a job or money that brings us happiness. Those achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but happiness has to start from within. Relying on any other equation can be lethal.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Softly and Tenderly

I love Randy Travis. Because of, I found out that he is a gospel singer too. I love "Softly and Tenderly" from his Worship & Faith album. It reminds my of "Bring back my Bonnie to me" that my mom used to sing to me. Here are the lyrics.

Softly and tenderly
Jesus is calling
Calling for you and for me
See on the portals
He's waiting and watching
Watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home
Ye who are weary, come home
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling, Oh sinners come home.

Why should we tarry
When Jesus is pleading
Pleading for you and for me
Why should we linger
And heed not his mercies
Mercies for you and for me.

Come home, come home
Ye who are weary, come home
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling, Oh sinners come home.

Come home, come home
Ye who are weary, come home
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling, Oh sinners come home.

Calling, Oh sinners come home...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Orthopraxy over Orthodoxy

It is aha moments like I found reading this comment by Seth R. that I love the bloggernacle, and evangelical-mormon blogs.

I think the reason for the “it’s not doctrine” line is that you’ve got Mormons who spend a lot of time wrestling with the formalized theology and dealing with its criticisms. Then you have all the other everyday church-going Mormons who don’t go in much for theological inquiry and frankly, don’t care much. The latter are far and away the majority in the LDS Church, and in most any other church, I would argue.

The question is how you deal with that divide.

In Protestantism, which emphasizes orthodoxy first and foremost, the solution is to put the thinking class in the leadership posts and charge them with bringing everyone else up to speed theologically.

In Mormonism, which de-emphasizes orthodoxy and instead pushes orthopraxy (”right practice”), the solution is to place the academically average LDS member in positions of leadership – even all the way to the top. The theologians are not put in charge, but are rather shunted off to a limited corner of Mormon life. A Mormon will typically almost always emphasize personal spiritual life over theological training as desirable qualities in a minister.

I think this approach is probably the main reason that Mormons can be so careless and unconcerned about the philosophical integrity of their religion. It’s also why it’s taking so freaking long to get Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph F. Smith out of our system, and why it took so long to get Brigham Young out of the system earlier.

You get someone with a strong vision of Mormonism, like those men, and if it’s serviceable in the day-to-day worship life of the average LDS, the thinking is – why not use them? Even when the theologically trained Mormons point out some problems with the paradigm, it still remains useful for most Mormons, and there just isn’t much sense of urgency about changing it. After all, the main concern is with ethical and spiritual living. Debatably, you don’t need a perfect theology for that.

Mormon theologians, on the other hand, recognize this emphasis within Mormon life and they don’t want to “kick over the beehive” just to make an esoteric theological argument. Building Zion comes first for Mormons – whether you are theologically minded or not. We’re not going to sabotage that just to score theological points.

I had never heard of Orthopraxy before. I also believe that "right practice" is much more important than having the "right opinion". I include in right practice my belief that Jesus Christ is my savior.

Friday, July 24, 2009

On the Impossibility of Genuine Self-interest

I just read "On the Impossibility of Genuine Self-interest" by Jeffrey Thayne. Years ago, I attended some seminars based on the work of Terry Warner. While and after I attended, I read a manuscript of Bonds That Make Us Free. About a year ago read Atlas Shrugged.

Atlas Shrugged makes some compelling arguments for objectivism. Jeffrey Thayne makes a more compelling argument for altruism. I particularly like how he describes our moral decisions as either an expression of love or malice, "altruism is not disguised self-interest. Rather, self-interest is disguised malice."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

“Give the horse the reins, and he will get you to camp.”

Elder F. Michael Watson spoke in the April 2009 General Conference on "His Servants, the Prophets". It is telling that he has served as assistant secretary or secretary to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency from 1970 until 2008 when he was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy.

This quote has more meaning when considering his first hand experience over the last 39 years.
During my growing-up years in the small farming community of Spring City, Utah, an opportunity afforded itself each summer to be with my father alone for two weeks herding sheep in the mountain range of the Manti-La Sal. On one occasion the fog rested heavily in the area to the extent that you could not see your outstretched hand in front of you, and the evening was drawing nigh.
My father suggested that I return to camp, and he would soon follow. I remember questioning how I would be able to find the camp amidst the fog. My father simply said to me, “Give the horse the reins, and he will get you to camp.” Following this counsel, I loosened my grip on the reins, and with encouragement to the horse, the journey began. At times I would be struck in the face by a low-hanging limb I couldn’t see or have my leg brush close to a tree. Eventually, the horse came to a complete stop, and the silhouette of the camp was in view.
Sometimes we may not always be able to immediately find the desired way before us, but the wisdom of those who have gone before, coupled with the wisdom of those who are with us still, will be our guide if we let them have the reins.
This also stood out to me.
Prior to his passing in December 1973, President Lee, speaking to an assembled group of Church employees and their families, posed the question after giving a history of the Church’s welfare program: “Do you believe these prophets knew what they were talking about?” Later in the same address, concerning the Brethren’s counsel to guard against the permissiveness invading the home through inappropriate literature and television, he asked, “Are you too close to the Brethren [so that you] think of them not as prophets but as men just guessing [such counsel] might be a good thing?”

Friday, July 17, 2009


The comment thread of Divide? Maybe not so much — Part 2 has prompted me to express what I believe exaltation to mean. Clean Cut commented
I believe in deification and becoming a god; sharing in God’s divine nature is fully scriptural. But I do not believe in being an independent God (as if we’ll become our own Godhead to other planets), and I don’t find scriptural support for it nor any evidence for it in the teachings of Joseph Smith. However we end up sharing in God’s power, it will be an extension of His power–”joint heirs”–not our own.
Until recently, I was not aware of this belief within orthodox LDS faith. It does not fit with what I see is taught in our scriptures.

In the oath and covenant of the priesthood it says, "And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him." (D&C 84:38) If I receive all that my Father has, wouldn't that also include being able to create what he has created?

D&C 132:20 says,
Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.
To be from everlasting to everlasting seems the same as being Eternal like God is. To have all power seems pretty clear.

Clear Cut summarized himself, "I do not believe I will become a “worshiped” God. Only the one true God (or Godhead) is worshiped–not all the gods whom He made so through His grace and the grace of His Son."

This reminds me of the time when Jesus was called Good Master and he replied, "And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." (Mark 10:18) We will defer honor to God the same way Jesus did. Any honor or power the Lord gives to us will only be because of the grace of God, because of the atonement. Any worship we may receive eventually will only serve to increase the glory and honor of God.

I have progressed spiritually very much in the last 14 years because I of my marriage to a kind, forgiving and persistent wife. She has helped me to repent and grow. I have thought about how is it that I can really become like Jesus is, to be perfect as He is. Perhaps our relationships with others who are also increasing in faith and honor of their covenants will help us to reach what God wants us to have. D&C 88:133 is a passage I have often been drawn to.
Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen.
What if we actually kept a covenant like this? As we grow in our faith and obedience to the Lord we will be able to.

Now I go on to my own thought. What if God's power comes from a covenant He has with other perfect beings? He is perfectly supported by those around Him. He perfectly supports the others in the covenant. Maybe God is preparing us to become part of this covenant that is perfectly kept and allows those who have grown to be able and willing to also keep this covenant perfectly.

Does this mean that all in this covenant are equal? I will always acknowledge where my strength comes from. It is only through His grace that I able to continue to work out my salvation. Any honor I receive will be given from Him and to His greater glory. Mathematics are different when you deal in the infinite. Even if the Lord gives us an infinite amount of power and authority and ability, it does not take away from His. Since anything we have we get from Him, it actually increases His dominion and power and glory.

Update 2009-07-19

I am putting some more comments from the original post for my own reference. Eric Nielson commented (#20),

Clean Cut:

For starters, I do not believe that God institutes the laws. These laws are eternal and must be obeyed, even by God.

Further, some questions:

What is your view of the purpose of eternal marriage?
What is your view of the purpose of eternal gender?
Do you believe that exlted couples will be able to experience a continuation of the ’seed’? i.e. have their own spirit children?

If so, do you believe the relationship between such spirit children and spirit parents would be the same relationship between us and our spirit parents? And if so, what does this have to do with gods and Gods?

Clean Cut responded (46),

Eric (#20), I just got back from a family trip; sorry I didn’t respond sooner. It’s unclear whether you were disagreeing with me or with Joseph Smith in terms of having the power to create the laws by which we advance and become exalted. I was merely quoting Joseph Smith. I’m not sure he’s talking about all laws of science or what not, but he IS specifically talking about God creating the laws by which we become “gods”, and I still maintain a distinction between God and subordinate gods.

I do believe that God intends Christ to be an example of what we can become through His atonement. Christ intends to make us what He is, if we will allow it. However, what does that really mean? What does it not mean? For one thing, I know it does NOT mean that we will somehow have to perform our own “atonement” and/or relive a mortality with 23 chromosomes from a mortal mother and 23 from an immortal Father. So whatever it means to become like Him and share in all he has, there will still be a distinction between us. Christ was the Savior; I was not. He was already God when he took upon himself flesh and became a mortal; I’m not God, and I need His grace to become divine and exalted.

The Father and the Son invite us to be “one” with Them (see John 17), but we’re left to speculate on what that really means. I believe that it will be glorious and a relationship of unity based on love. But I don’t go so far to speculate that being one with Them will make us an independent God of our own world. That would be a contradiction! Yes, He will share with us all that he has. This may even include powers of creation and participation in creating other planets or what not, but like I said–it will be an extension of God’s power, not my own.

As to your other questions:
“What is your view of the purpose of eternal marriage?”

Broad question here. Hmmm. I’ll keep this one short and sweet: To bring us joy and exaltation–the kind of quality of life God enjoys.

“What is your view of the purpose of eternal gender?”

Beyond what the Proclamation on the Family says, I don’t really have any other views to add.

“Do you believe that exalted couples will be able to experience a continuation of the ’seed’? i.e. have their own spirit children?”

I’m not really sure how to interpret D&C 132:19 and the “continuation of the seeds”. You seem to interpret it to mean having spirit children after the resurrection. I’m not sure that we can definitively say we know what it means or how it will work. Heck, I’m not even sure precisely how we’re “spirit children” of God and how that actually works–especially when you remember that Joseph Smith taught that spirits are co-eternal with God and uncreated.

I do know there’s more than one way to understand “Father” and even “Mother” (including in an adoptive sense, or simply nurturing an advancement of our intelligence, etc.), and the truth is we simply don’t know exactly how we became children of heavenly parents. I do know more, however, about how we are begotten children of God through the atonement of Jesus Christ (see, for example, Mosiah 5:7).

I personally don’t believe in a viviparous “spirit birth”, especially when Joseph Smith said over and over again that spirits are uncreated and eternal. I know that a lot of people synthesize these conflicting ideas by believing in the Tripartite model of existence (from intelligence to spirit to mortality), but Joseph never made any distinctions between eternal intelligence and spirit, and there are other concerns with the Tripartite model.

Whatever the “continuation of seeds” means, I don’t believe it involves a viviparous “spirit birth”. There are still too many unknowns, so I think I’ll simply decide to stop while I’m on firm doctrinal ground and not skate out on thin speculatory ice.

Clean Cut (46),

I agree that we can move out into speculatory thin ice. It is interesting to see your point of view.

My ten year old son has for a while been trying to grasp an eternal regression of Gods, with quite a bit of emotional angst. He, and I, have a hard time getting our minds around it. I also remember mentally struggling with it. I have settled in myself that it is something that I will fully understand only after this life. It is enough to accept the love and help of my Father in practicing the life he would have me walk.

Some say that the most important thing they learned in school was how to learn. The most important thing I can learn while in my school on earth is how to repent. I will exercise my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I will be willing to accept the teachings I get from Him. I will practice what I learn to obtain attributes God has like patience, kindness, service, hard work and love. Everything else I will learn and obtain if I have learned to turn to God.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

I loved the talk by Elder Kevin W. Pearson the April Conference, "Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ"

“Faith is kindled by hearing the testimony of those who have faith” (Bible Dictionary, 669; see also Romans 10:14–17). Do your children know that you know? Do they see and feel your conviction? “Strong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Bible Dictionary, 669).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Faith is a gift of God bestowed as a reward for personal righteousness. It is always given when righteousness is present, and the greater the measure of obedience to God’s laws the greater will be the endowment of faith” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 264). If we desire more faith, we must be more obedient. When we teach our children by example or precept to be casual or situational in obeying God’s commandments, we prevent them from receiving this vital spiritual gift. Faith requires an attitude of exact obedience, even in the small, simple things.

He reviews "Six Destructive Ds—doubt, discouragement, distraction, lack of diligence, disobedience, and disbelief" and how we can build our faith by avoiding them.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Spirit of Home Teaching

I can remember looking down at the ball in my hands on one freezing winter day and seeing my bloody fingerprints on the ball. I’d been outside so long that the cold had cracked the skin on my fingertips, but my mind and my eye were on the orange rim. I can still remember it, including the chipped paint on the front edge of the rim where you’d lock your eye and know the ball would fall just past that spot into the dirt-stained net. I can still remember the mark on the driveway I’d dribble to and know I was at the top of the key. I’d spin and jump for that last second shot, with the score tied. And I’d do it again and again, sometimes for hours, feeling neither time nor the cold.

You may have learned endurance playing a trumpet, or throwing a football, or riding a bucking horse, or drawing a picture. But you learned what we all did. Effort only “now and then” didn’t take you far. The dreams that turned into reality stuck with you nearly all the time. You worked at them, either in fact or in your thoughts, every day and almost every hour.
Henry B. Eyring, “Because of Your Steadiness,” Ensign, May 1988, 39
I love home teaching. I know that when done in the right spirit with persistence, lives change. I found this talk from Henry B. Eyring that captures the spirit of home teaching. He continues:
It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that the Lord has said to you and to me, “Watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them” (D&C 20:53). God loves us, and he intends for us to become like him. He doesn’t ask us now to worry about all his children in all the world, as he does. Instead, he begins with a call to watch over just a few families, just a few people. But he knows that to visit thirty minutes every month with the same lesson for every family would never produce the progress he wants for us.

Friday, July 03, 2009

My favorite Mormon blogs

There are a few Mormon related blogs I like to follow. I plan to make this post a list of them.

One is Clean Cut. Here he gives an explanation of how grace fits into my belief and how it is sometimes misunderstood by other Christians. It fits my belief also.

Another I follow is ClobberBlog. She is married to an active LDS man. I have appreciated her candor in speaking about the difficulties she has had in this relationship. Here you can get an overview of what she is about.

Things of My Soul

None Were with Him

I just listened to "None Were with Him" by Jeffrey R. Holland as I took a walk. I am amazed how much more I get from General Conference because they are made available in mp3 format. You can download it here.

I do not remember a talk that spoke more to my heart of the deep loneliness that I have felt especially when I have turned away from His guiding light.
Brothers and sisters, my Easter-season message today is intended for everyone, but it is directed in a special way to those who are alone or feel alone or, worse yet, feel abandoned. These might include those longing to be married, those who have lost a spouse, and those who have lost—or have never been blessed with—children. Our empathy embraces wives forsaken by their husbands, husbands whose wives have walked away, and children bereft of one or the other of their parents—or both. This group can find within its broad circumference a soldier far from home, a missionary in those first weeks of homesickness, or a father out of work, afraid the fear in his eyes will be visible to his family. In short it can include all of us at various times in our lives.
He goes on to tell of how Jesus knows perfectly how to succor us in this loneliness, not because he also has sinned and has cut himself off from divine support; but because his father allowed for it when he removed his influence from Jesus. He had been abandoned and removed from the support of his followers. Yet, it seems that Jesus did not understand on every level what it would be like to be completely severed from the influence of God.
Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; emphasis added)

The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour . . . is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”? (John 16:32; 8:29)

For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.


When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was “finished.” Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness and despair.
I am so grateful for the influence of Jesus Christ in my life. He has saved me from the lonely hell I had created for myself. Because of Him, I was enabled to put myself in a position to meet and fall in love with my wonderful wife. His grace has continued to strengthen me over the last 14 and a half years. He has ministered to me through his willing servants, most of all my angel wife through her patience, forgiveness and persistence. I will praise His name forever and our Father who sent Him.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Valiant in the testimony of Jesus

During Sunday school last week we learned about the plan of salvation. After reviewing the kinds of people that will inherit the Terrestrial Kingdom, I felt to share what I had heard from Stephen E. Robinson as my son and I were on a road trip recently.
When our twin daughters were small, we decided to take them to the public pool and teach them how to swim. I remember starting with Rebekah. As I went down into the water with Rebekah, I thought, "I'm going to teach her how to swim." But as we went down into the water, in her mind was the thought, "My dad is going to drown me. I'm going to die!" The water was only three and a half feet deep, but Becky was only three feet deep. She was so petrified that she began to scream and cry and kick and scratch and was unteachable.
Finally, I just had to grab her. I threw my arms around her, and I just held her, and I said, "Becky, I've got you. I'm your dad. I love you. I'm not going to let anything bad happen to you. Now relax." Bless her heart, she trusted me. She relaxed, and I put my arms under her and said, "Okay, now kick your legs." And we began to learn how to swim.
Spiritually there are some of us who are similarly petrified by the questions "Am I celestial? Am I going to make it? Was I good enough today?" We're so terrified of whether we're going to live or die, or whether we've made it to the kingdom or not, that we cannot make any progress. It's at those times when the Savior grabs us and throws his arms around us and says, "I've got you. I love you. I'm not going to let you die. Now relax and trust me." If we can relax and trust him and believe him, as well as believe in him, then together we can begin to learn to live the gospel. Then he puts his arms under us and says, "Okay, now pay tithing. Very good. Now pay a full tithing." And so we begin to make progress.
My Sunday school teacher went on to read at least part of a talk by Bruce R. McConkie. I think it balanced the grace that I expressed.
Now what does it mean to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus?

It is to be courageous and bold; to use all our strength, energy, and ability in the warfare with the world; to fight the good fight of faith. “Be strong and of a good courage,” the Lord commanded Joshua, and then specified that this strength and courage consisted of meditating upon and observing to do all that is written in the law of the Lord. (See Josh. 1:6–9.) The great cornerstone of valiance in the cause of righteousness is obedience to the whole law of the whole gospel.

To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him”; it is to deny ourselves “of all ungodliness,” and “love God” with all our “might, mind and strength.” (Moro. 10:32.)

To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to believe in Christ and his gospel with unshakable conviction. It is to know of the verity and divinity of the Lord’s work on earth.

But this is not all. It is more than believing and knowing. We must be doers of the word and not hearers only. It is more than lip service; it is not simply confessing with the mouth the divine Sonship of the Savior. It is obedience and conformity and personal righteousness. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21.)

To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.” It is to “endure to the end.” (2 Ne. 31:20.) It is to live our religion, to practice what we preach, to keep the commandments. It is the manifestation of “pure religion” in the lives of men; it is visiting “the fatherless and widows in their affliction” and keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27.)

To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to bridle our passions, control our appetites, and rise above carnal and evil things. It is to overcome the world as did he who is our prototype and who himself was the most valiant of all our Father’s children. It is to be morally clean, to pay our tithes and offerings, to honor the Sabbath day, to pray with full purpose of heart, to lay our all upon the altar if called upon to do so.

To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to take the Lord’s side on every issue. It is to vote as he would vote. It is to think what he thinks, to believe what he believes, to say what he would say and do what he would do in the same situation. It is to have the mind of Christ and be one with him as he is one with his Father.

Our doctrine is clear; its application sometimes seems to be more difficult. Perhaps some personal introspection might be helpful. For instance:

Am I valiant in the testimony of Jesus if my chief interest and concern in life is laying up in store the treasures of the earth, rather than the building up of the kingdom?

Am I valiant if I have more of this world’s goods than my just needs and wants require and I do not draw from my surplus to support missionary work, build temples, and care for the needy?

Am I valiant if my approach to the Church and its doctrines is intellectual only, if I am more concerned with having a religious dialogue on this or that point than I am on gaining a personal spiritual experience?

Am I valiant if I am deeply concerned about the Church’s stand on who can or who cannot receive the priesthood and think it is time for a new revelation on this doctrine?

Am I valiant if I use a boat, live in a country home, or engage in some other recreational pursuit on weekends that takes me away from my spiritual responsibilities?

Am I valiant if I engage in gambling, play cards, go to pornographic movies, shop on Sunday, wear immodest clothes, or do any of the things that are the accepted way of life among worldly people?

If we are to gain salvation, we must put first in our lives the things of God’s kingdom. With us it must be the kingdom of God or nothing. We have come out of darkness; ours is the marvelous light of Christ. We must walk in the light.
"There is a calculus that occurs in my life whether I want it to or not. I eventually get what I want. The trick is to choose that which will bring lasting happiness instead of only immediate pleasure." 1, 2

The grace of Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ enables me to keep moving, keep working. I am free from being overwhelmed by the perfect example I am striving to follow. It is miraculous in that I am forgiven of my sins. I do not have to be burdened by the effects of my sin and the sin of others. I am free to progress, to grow, to ultimately become like my Father is.

See also parable of the piano

Monday, May 11, 2009

Christ: The Light, The Life, The Way

My brother in law sang recently in a musical presentation called "Christ: The Light, The Life, The Way" in the LDS Boise Idaho Mission. My father in law was looking for a way to share it with family and friends. I tagged and ripped it to mp3.

I think the best way to share it is through Here is my user page on the site. I uploaded the whole program to it. You can listen to it online. It looks like it puts the most recent song on the top of the list, so everything is in reverse order except for "Amazing Grace".

You can also download the mp3 files, 1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Righteous Warriors: Lessons from the War Chapters in the Book of Mormon

This is a talk given by John Bytheway for BYU Education Week on August 23, 2006. My wife is giving this talk to her Sunday School class. I wanted an easy way to find this talk again.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Believing Christ

One of the most powerful books I have read is Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson.

In January I was feeling very over-whelmed. I felt similar to Stephen's wife. I felt like I couldn't do the gospel I know to be true. It is not the first time I have felt this way. The parable of the bicycle was very useful to me in understanding how the atonement works:
I was sitting in a chair reading. My daughter, Sarah, who was seven years old at the time, came in and said, “Dad, can I have a bike? I’m the only kid on the block who doesn’t have one.”

Well, I didn’t have the money then for a bike, so I stalled her. I said, “Sure, Sarah.”

She said, “How? When?”

I said, “You save all your pennies, and soon you’ll have enough for a bike.” And she went away.

A couple of weeks later I was sitting in the same chair when I heard a “clink, clink” in Sarah’s bedroom. I asked, “Sarah, what are you doing?”

She came to me with a little jar, a slit cut in the lid, and a bunch of pennies in the bottom. She said, “You promised me that if I saved all my pennies, pretty soon I’d have enough for a bike. And, Daddy, I’ve saved every single one of them.”

My heart melted. My daughter was doing everything in her power to follow my instructions. I hadn’t actually lied to her. If she saved all of her pennies, she would eventually have enough for a bike, but by then she would want a car. I said, “Let’s go look at bikes.”

We went to every store in town. Finally we found it—the perfect bicycle. She was thrilled. Then she saw the price tag, and her face fell. She started to cry. “Oh, Dad, I’ll never have enough for a bicycle!”

So I said, “Sarah, how much do you have?”

She answered, “Sixty-one cents.”

“I’ll tell you what. You give me everything you’ve got and a hug and a kiss, and the bike is yours.” Then I drove home very slowly because she insisted on riding the bike home.

As I drove beside her, I thought of the atonement of Christ. We all desperately want the celestial kingdom. We want to be with our Father in Heaven. But no matter how hard we try, we come up short. At some point all of us must realize, “I can’t do this by myself. I need help.” Then it is that the Savior says, in effect, All right, you’re not perfect. But what can you do? Give me all you have, and I’ll do the rest.

He still requires our best effort. We must keep trying. But the good news is that having done all we can, it is enough. We may not be personally perfect yet, but because of our covenant with the Savior, we can rely on his perfection, and his perfection will get us through.
(Stephen E. Robinson, “Believing Christ,” Ensign, Apr 1992, 5)

In January, I allowed my personal despair to turn against my wife badly. She was patient and kind to me. I learned something very valuable from her. When I am feeling overwhelmed, when my list of things to do and the list of stuff I have not done overcomes me, remember just a few things. Trust God, be happy and work hard.

"This too shall pass" is a phrase my wife has used. When I trust God, I remember that the difficulty I am currently feeling will not last forever. Trusting God to do His part is believing Christ.

Being happy is a choice. Regardless of the circumstances, I can choose it. And even if I don't feel it, I can be polite and kind. My wife has an amazing gift to show kindness even if she is not feeling well. Holding an unkind tongue can save me much grief.

Putting my effort into worthwhile tasks is a balm to my soul that comes from nowhere else. Yesterday was one of those days where I got a lot done. It feels so good to lay down to sleep and know you put in an honest day's work.

The story of brother Robinson's son touches me. There are times that I am not sure that Heavenly Father and I can "be friends". That is just a lack of faith on my part. Sincere, regular prayer builds my faith. As I do those things that build my faith in Jesus Christ, I feel confidence in Him. He is mighty to save. His grace sustains me. As I do my part, my confidence strengthens.

When all else fails, I will remember to Trust God, Be Happy and Work Hard.

Here is Stephen Robinson's May 29, 1990 BYU devotional address on the same topic.

See also parable of the piano

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Achieving Your Full Potential

This morning, I listened to a great talk by Donald L. Staheli that he gave a few years ago in a CES fireside, "Achieving Your Full Potential". I have paraphrased and quoted some parts of it below. It inspired me.

A favorite two-word statement
Joseph B. Wirthlin used frequently to motivate us: “Always improving.”

Spencer W. Kimball encouraged us to “lengthen our stride” and to “enlarge our vision”

Neal A. Maxwell said it this way, 'The Lord loves each of us too much to merely let us go on being what we now are, for he knows what we have the possibility to become!'

Faith - Quoting Gordon B. Hinckley, "the kind of faith that moves one to get on his knees and plead with the Lord and then get on his feet and go to work"

Prayer - "Nothing you will do during any day of your life will be more important to your temporal success or your eternal progress than consistent, humble, sincere prayers offered at least morning and night of every day."

Scripture Study
One of my fellow quorum members confided to me that he had not missed a day in reading or pondering the scriptures since he entered the Missionary Training Center in preparation for his mission. That was approximately 40 years ago. What a commitment! What dedication to the Lord! What a great example for each of us to follow!
Those who demonstrate the greatest consistency in their scripture study do so because they follow daily a set time to read. They do not speed-read so many pages a day. Rather, they read and then ponder about the application in their lives of what they have read. But they do it daily, and they do it as a serious part of their personal plan for spiritual growth.
My challenge to you tonight is to reflect carefully on how you evaluate your personal progress in the practice of your faith, prayers, and scripture study daily. Are you providing daily spiritual sustenance to your testimony? Are your actions in these areas providing the willpower against all that the adversary is showing you every day? If not, please think carefully about the changes you will make.
Obedience to the Commandments - "President Ezra Taft Benson simplified the principle of obedience for me when he said: 'When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power' "

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pray for Passion

Today I am not filled with the desire of the Lord.

In several places, scripture has said that this passion comes from praying with full devotion to our Father in Heaven. The passage when Jesus visited the ancient Americans first came to my mind, "he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire." (emphasis added 3 Nephi 19:24)

I searched for pray filled. I learned that Solomon prayed and the house of the Lord filled with His glory. Peter and John were filled with the Holy Ghost. Prayer can fill us with "knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding".

The more humble part of the Nephites "did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God."

Unspeakable joy filled the souls of those who heard Jesus praying for them in ancient America. When we pray with all the energy of our hearts, we are filled with the pure love of Christ

Other faiths refer to the Atonement of Jesus as the Passion of Christ. I think it is this same passion that filled the subjects of king Benjamin,
And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
A passion of obedience to the Lord's will.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Idle

Last night my wife was listening to "Righteous Warriors: Lessons from the War Chapters in the Book of Mormon" with our son. John Bytheway quoted Harold B. Lee when he was asked what is the most important commandment. President Lee said that it is the one you are having the hardest time obeying.

I tend to procrastinate. I have found some talks and scripture passages that I hope will help me get moving and stay focused on the most important things.

D&C 60:13 "Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known."

Phillippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

D&C 88:124 "Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated."

Alma 34:31 (Emphasis added.) "Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you."

D&C 128:22 "Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing."

Henry B. Eyring, “This Day,” Gen Conf Apr 2007.

Donald L. Staheli, "Achieving Your Full Potential", CES Fireside for Young Adults, 2 March 2003

Henry B. Eyring, “Do Not Delay,” Gen Conf Oct 1999. There is no mp3 currently available for this talk. I used Freecorder to record the asx file to mp3. Maybe will make a mp3 format available someday. I have posted the mp3 I recorded on my sky drive and my Google pages account. This part jumped out to me:
We know from our own experience that President Spencer W. Kimball was right when he wrote, “One of the most serious human defects in all ages is procrastination,” and then he defined it: “an unwillingness to accept personal responsibility now” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 48; emphasis in original). And so Satan works on both our desire to think we have no cause to repent and our desire to push anything unpleasant into the future. He has tempted you and me, and those we love, with thoughts like this: “God is so loving; surely He won’t hold me personally responsible for mistakes which are simply the result of being human.” And then, if that fails, there is the thought that will almost surely come: “Well, I may be responsible to repent, but this is not a good time to start. If I wait, later will be better.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Confidence Waxed Strong

On Friday night, I attended an Eagle Court of Honor. I was impressed by what I saw in the boy getting the award. It emphasized an impression I felt a few years ago when we first moved into our ward: That I would do my best to encourage and assist my boys to earn their Duty to God and Eagle Scout awards.

If there is one thing that I have felt lacking in my personal development, it is the confidence to do what the Lord requires of me. From the Lectures on Faith 3:2-5:
Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God, unto life and salvation:

First, the idea that he actually exists.
Second, a correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes.
Third, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will.
It is the third that is the kicker for me. The other night we were studying Alma 5, "do ye suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white?"

This is a hard doctrine. How can we expect the Lord to reward us the same as those who have sacrificed, exercised their faith, developed their character so that the Lord can trust them to only ask for that which is according to His will?

I am convinced that by following the program the LDS church has put in place, my boys will gain confidence in themselves to do the work of the Lord. They will be exceptional husbands, fathers, providers etc. While they are young, they will prove to themselves and the Lord that they have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They will also have faith in themselves. They will live and grow according to His word, "relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save". (2 Ne 31:19).

Monday, February 02, 2009

"To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed"

About a year ago I bought "Simple Gifts" as sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. When I turn my heart toward God I feel the lightness and joy this song has. The joy of simplicity! Here are the lyrics from
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when you find yourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come 'round right.

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be true,
'Tis the gift to labor 'til the day is through.
And when you find yourself in the place so fine,
'Twill be in the cool of the birch and the pine.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come 'round right.

'Tis the gift to be joyful, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift, 'tis the gift, 'tis the simple gift to be!
And when you find yourself filled with pure delight,
The gift to be simple has led you aright.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come 'round right.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How To: Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings

Here is a useful guide to help LDS members remember how to perform Priesthood ordinances and blessings. It is from the Family Guide Book.

Other resources:

“Chapter 21: Ordinances,” Gospel Fundamentals, 115