Personal Online Journal

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

30 Years of service in the Quorum of the Twelve

"I've tried to reduce my highlights of 30 years in the Quorum of the Twelve into 10 specific topics."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Disagree without being Disagreeable

"I recently spoke about how, as followers of Christ, we should live peacefully with others who do not share our values or accept the teachings upon which they are based. Following the Savior’s example, we can show loving-kindness and still be firm in the truth by forgoing actions that facilitate or seem to condone what we know to be wrong." (Dallin H. Oaks, Oct 22, 2014) See full talk at "Loving Others and Living with Differences"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Other Ways of Knowing

We believe that doubt can have a powerful and tremendously useful and productive function in one's faith journey, but its something that we aspire to move through and beyond; not to wallow in endlessly. And then the idea "a crucible refines us", the scriptural imagery of a refiner's fire. There is something to be said for the way in which a crucible tries you but ultimately can strengthen you. (Terryl Givens, "Reflections on the Quest For Faith by Terryl and Fiona Givens", Fair Mormon Interview, YouTube 7:21)
It is a great interview of both Terryl and his wife Fiona about their book, The Crucible of Doubt. Questions are what started the Reformation and the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I love the way he describes other ways of knowing besides rationality.
We are great admirers of science. I am personally. Our culture is today and we should be. Science has pioneered incredible new frontiers. It's been the spearhead of technological innovation and enhanced standard of living. The problem is when we come to think that science or rationality are the only, or the necessarily superior avenues to ultimate truth and knowledge. A little bit of reflection indicates that in our actual, lived experience, that's never the case.

We don't rely upon logic or rationalism or science for those decisions of greatest importance and moments in our own lives. We don't shape our moral responses on the basis of reason. We don't say for example that rape or child abuse is wrong because of some calculus of cost benefits. We intuitively, instinctively respond on the basis of moral intuition to those realities, as well we should. So our point is: Why in religion should we not also credit other ways of knowing. 

Art is another means that we give some examples of. Art can be much more powerful and effective in revealing and conveying truth, than any cold analysis of facts. Perhaps the greatest scientist of all time, Einstein, once said, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." ( ) All we are trying to do is help in this work of rehabilitating the gift of intuition and spiritual discernment along side of science and rationalism.
(Terryl Givens, 19:52)
I had never thought of the Savior as an example of asking questions. Fiona explains,
The Savior is the model here. When we look at the garden of Gethsemane treatment by Luke, Christ looks at what's in front of him and he realizes the horror that it entails and he doesn't want to go there. So he asks God to please make a way for his escape. But God can't do that. He can't take the cup. There are billions of people, whose salvations rely on this particular event by this particular man who cannot be replaced.

What Christ does then is that, famous, "not my will, but thine, be done". We tend to breeze over that. What Christ is actually saying there is, "I understand that you may not be able to take this away but please give me a way to be able to endure it". He gives God room to answer his question in another way. And God is able to do that. God then sends an angel who comforts and supports the Savior through his agony.

I think that is the risk that we have to take. We have to open ourselves out to the myriad ways God may actually respond to our question. He may not be able to take that cancer away. That may be something He is not able to do so in our questing there is this trust element that God will somehow answer our question in another way. Help us be able to go through this.

That shows great risk. But I think it also shows that God is trying to talk to us in numerous voices. He is trying to help us see His hand print in various parts of our lives. So by not requiring God to answer us in the way we expect him to answer, we are more likely to receive answers to our questions in beautiful, miraculous and God-touched ways. (Fiona Givens, 34:20)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spiritual Confidence before God

I loved the talk in General Conference on Sat afternoon by Elder Jorg Klebingat, "Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence" (His name is pronounced Yurk Kleningaat)
Whenever the adversary cannot persuade imperfect yet striving Saints such as you to abandon your belief in a personal and loving God, he employs a vicious campaign to put as much distance as possible between you and God. The adversary knows that faith in Christ—the kind of faith that produces a steady stream of tender mercies and even mighty miracles—goes hand in hand with a personal confidence that you are striving to choose the right. For that reason he will seek access to your heart to tell you lies—lies that Heavenly Father is disappointed in you, that the Atonement is beyond your reach, that there is no point in even trying, that everyone else is better than you, that you are unworthy, and a thousand variations of that same evil theme. 
As long as you allow these voices to chisel away at your soul, you can’t approach the throne of God with real confidence. Whatever you do, whatever you pray for, whatever hopes for a miracle you may have, there will always be just enough self-doubt chipping away at your faith—not only your faith in God but also your confidence in yourself. Living the gospel in this manner is no fun, nor is it very healthy. Above all, it is completely unnecessary! The decision to change is yours—and yours alone.
Here are the "six practical suggestions that, if heeded, will dissipate these evil voices and restore to you the kind of peaceful assurance and spiritual confidence that is yours to have if you only want it."
1. Take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being.
2. Take responsibility for your own physical well-being.
3. Embrace voluntary, wholehearted obedience as part of your life.
4. Become really, really good at repenting thoroughly and quickly.
5. Become really, really good at forgiving.
6. Accept trials, setbacks, and “surprises” as part of your mortal experience.
I also liked this part,
acknowledge and face your weaknesses, but don’t be immobilized by them, because some of them will be your companions until you depart this earth life. No matter what your current status, the very moment you voluntarily choose honest, joyful, daily repentance by striving to simply do and be your very best, the Savior’s Atonement envelops and follows you, as it were, wherever you go. Living in this manner, you can truly “always retain a remission of your sins” (Mosiah 4:12) every hour of every day, every second of every minute, and thus be fully clean and acceptable before God all the time.
Elder Uchtdorf pronounced Jorg Klebingat as Yurk Kle-bing-aught.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Anger Is an Indication of Weakness

Anger is not an expression of strength. It is an indication of one’s inability to control his thoughts, words, his emotions. Of course it is easy to get angry. When the weakness of anger takes over, the strength of reason leaves. Cultivate within yourselves the mighty power of self-discipline.  (Gordon B. Hickley, "Our Solemn Responsibilities", Oct 1991 )
This is the talk that helped Ken Niumatalolo make a goal to keep his temper in check. He is one of the people featured in #MeetTheMormons

Thursday, October 09, 2014

What your husband really wants

I agree with everything he says 

Five Compelling Ideas

Joseph was utterly alone in the Christian world in promulgating each one of those five ideas, with one possible exception.  Those ideas being that
[1] we believe God’s heart beats in sympathy with ours; that
[2] we lived with Him as pre-existent beings; that
[3] life is not a fall, but an ascent; that
[4] God has the capacity and the desire to save the entire human family (shared by some Universalists of the day); and that
[5] heaven is a perpetuation of those relationships we cherish here and now.
Now any one of those five ideas is sufficiently compelling, I think, to attract adherents, but put all five together and you have a unique combination that had no contemporary parallel. And I’m not surprised, that with those five doctrines at the core, that there have been few dissenters, once you embrace that original mosaic. (Terryl Givens, "Exclusive Interview with Terryl and Fiona Givens with the release of Terryl’s new book, ‘Wrestling the Angel’", Oct 8, 2014)
A few years ago at the time of the scandal relating to Mormons baptizing Holocaust victims, I was interviewed by a Jewish radio host in Philadelphia.  And his first question was direct and to the point. He said, “What are you doing baptizing my dead ancestors?”  And, Mormons tend to be very uncomfortable with the doctrine of baptizing the dead.  It seems weird, and it conjures up gruesome or rather strange images in the mind, and we tend to avoid that topic.  But what I said to this radio host on that occasion was, “Well, Mormons believe in a Heavenly Father who wants to save the entire human family.  And at the last day will provide a wedding feast to which He wants His entire human posterity invited.”  And I said, “Mormons see ourselves as putting everyone’s name on the guest list. And not everybody has to attend, but we feel everybody should be invited.”  His answer to me on air was, “What a beautiful idea. How do I get my name on your list?” Now, that explanation isn’t always going to elicit that response.  But that is an example of the fact that our theology is much more powerful and compelling and morally appealing than we have recognized, and I think we need to lead with that more often.(Terryl Givens, "Exclusive Interview with Terryl and Fiona Givens with the release of Terryl’s new book, ‘Wrestling the Angel’", Oct 8, 2014)


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Dominant, Expressive, Analytical and Amiable

Cross posted from here. Originally from Oct 2008.

In July, I attended a personality seminar run by Persogenics. I have done several personality, self helpy things in my life. Sometimes I get a little wary of this kind of thing. There are a few things I found useful from the seminar.

The workshop focused on improving the communication between people with very different styles. There are four patterns people use to communicate: Dominant, Expressive, Analytical and Amiable. Most people have a primary and secondary way of communicating.

One of the best stories was one the facilitator told of a rafting trip they went on as a company. It was a hoot to hear how the people of the different styles interacted with each other.

The bottom line for me were two things to remember per communication style. One was what the person of the style was to remember. The other was what others could keep in mind when communicating with the person. This is what I remember:

A dominant communicator should remember to ask not tell. Others should remember to take them seriously but not personally.

An expressive communicator should let others know when they are talking out loud. Others should restate what they heard them say. If appropriate, touch them to let them know you understand what they said. Paraphrase, playback.

An analytical communicator should let others know when they are thinking, "Let me think for a moment". Others should give them time (5-10 seconds) after asking them a question.

An amiable communicator should remember to speak up now, sooner is better than later. Others should ask to ask, "May I ask you something?"

This came up for my wife and I last night. It has helped us to avoid misunderstandings. It may help me at work too. It will serve me to remember these lessons.

Do You Think He Will Make You Be Together?

This morning, after I woke up my daughters, one came to me crying because they had fought and hurt each other. After trying to listen and then stopping to listen because their story seemed so long (i am sure i was impatient), I told them this.
Do you think you will be together forever if you don't like each other? Do you think Heavenly Father will make you be together if you don't like each other? Wouldn't that be a punishment? Do you want to be friends? Do you want to grow up and think, "I don't like my sister I will just keep away from her"
At this point my six year old daughter started to cry with real depth. I stopped her by saying, I only want you to remember two words, repent and forgive. All you have to do is repent and forgive. Then I asked her what she needs to do. She went on about forgiving, and I asked what the first word was. She didn't remember right away and I (being impatient) said "it is not a trick, it starts with an r"
I then went on to say that we should ask for forgiveness and forgive. I realized that it was a little tricky for a six year old who was very emotional and talking to an impatient dad. Asking for forgiveness is repenting. Forgiving is repenting from not loving each other as God would. So they are really the same thing.
I hate a fault. I avoid it even when it is better to have it out. As I thought about this experience, I thought of an LDS Facebook group I am in. And I thought about the true order of prayer we learn in the temple.
We must be willing to ask for forgiveness and forgive. We must repent and allow others to repent. Let's try to develop relationships of trust. That means we must be trustworthy and be willing to risk trusting others.

There are some pretty diverse opinions in the group. The thing am most sure of is that I do not have the complete vision that God has. I know that I have some things wrong. And that it will remain that way for a looong time. I believe in the doctrine of Christ.
We should all seek for the ideal stated in the explanation of the true order of prayer. I don't expect to reach this ideal in the group, or really in most communities, but if we work toward it, we can create a little Zion right where we are.

What is the Doctrine of Christ?

After declaring the doctrine of Christ, Jesus says this, "And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them." (3 Nephi 11:40)

This makes me think of these scriptures on what is the priority:
 "Say nothing but repentance unto this generation; keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed." (D&C 6:9)
"And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost." (D&C 19:31)
"And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen." (D&C 16:6)

It seems to me that the core of the "Doctrine of Christ" are
- Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
- Repentance
- Baptism, by immersion for the remission of sin and
- The laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In 3 Nephi 11
- Believe is found 4 times
- Repent is found 4 times
- Baptism is found 13 times
- Holy Ghost is found 6 times
- The chapter heading says, "Christ’s doctrine is that men should believe and be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost"

Some other points of the Doctrine of Christ.
In 1 Nephi 11:1-17, Jesus confirms the faith of many. If it is possible that there were any that did not yet have faith, he offered it to them.
In 1 Nephi 11:18-27, Jesus calls Nephi to be the presiding authority among the people. He gave him power to baptize the people and to call others to. It confirms the need for the ordinance and that authority is necessary to perform it.
In 1 Nephi 11:28-30, he declares that disputations and contention are not of God.

1 Ne 11:31 says he will state his doctrine.
:32 the Father gave the doctrine to him. He bears record of the Father. The Father bears record of the Son. The Holy Ghost bears record of the Father and the Son. This is his declaration that we are to have faith in.
:32 The first commandment he gives here is to "repent and believe in me". It is interesting to me that repentance comes before faith. Although the first half of the verse is also about faith.
:33-34 if we believe in Jesus and are baptized we are saved [from the consequences of sin]. We will inherit the kingdom of God. If we do not, we are damned.
:35 He states again what his doctrine is, to believe in him, and the Father and if we do, the Father will visit him with fire and the Holy Ghost.
:36 They bear record of each other
:37-38 Repent, be baptized, become as a little child. What is it about being as a little child? Humble, coachable, eager.
:39 Declaring again what the doctrine is. And that it is a sure foundation that hell itself cannot shake us from.

Monday, October 06, 2014

"It was tangible and I could feel it"

Kathryn Skaggs decided to share her conversion story.

"Whenever I was around my mother's family, I felt the Spirit and knew that I was amidst truth.  It was tangible and I could feel it. I loved being in the midst of that feeling. To me I was home."

This is how I feel about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unlike Kathryn, I was raised in a practicing Mormon family. They practiced in letter and in spirit. I was raised by parents that love the Lord and are following the best they know how. The Lord requires no more of anyone.

I love the gospel and feel its power down in my bones. It has been a long time since I have gotten emotional about it, but I am now. To be connected to God by knowing and doing His will is life and light and joy to me.

"Everyone has their own ongoing conversion journey..." I love this message in Kathryn's post. Testimony and conversion are not binary. They are spectrums. We move from darkness to light, ignorance to knowledge. From a rebelling attitude to one of freely giving to the One who gave us life. We grow from a seed to a tree and beyond.

Adjourn or Adieu

When I hear "adjourn" at the end of General Conference, it seems rather formal. When I think of what it means, break off (a meeting, legal case, or game) with the intention of resuming it later", it reminds me of the last word of Jacob, adieu.

Jacob seems to be saying, "farewell until we meet with God". President Eyring is not saying "Fare well, I may never see you again". He is saying goodbye, or "God be with you until we meet again".

The Odd Use of the Word "Even"

Sometimes LDS speakers in General Conference use the word "even" in an unfamiliar way. One phrase is "even Jesus Christ". If you search the usage of it in the scriptures you will find many. As I have thought about it, I think it might mean something similar to the phrase, "the very same". So if someone says "even Jesus Christ", it may mean "the very same Jesus Christ I have told you about."

The MacMillan dictionary captures this definition

Even is used for emphasis mainly before a word, a phrase, or a clause beginning with "as," "if," or "though." When emphasizing verbs, even comes before an ordinary verb: They even served champagne at breakfast. But even comes after an auxiliary verb, a modal verb, or the verb "to be": She doesn't even know his name. ♦ Some computers can even talk to you.

Sometimes even is used after a word for emphasis: São Paulo is a huge city, larger even than New York. ♦ The task might be difficult, impossible even.

  1. used for showing that you are saying something that is surprising
    not even
    even now (=used for saying it is surprising that something still continues)
    even then (=used for saying that something is surprising after what has happened)

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Charity Never Faileth

Charity, the pure love of Christ, exceeds almost all else.

1 Corinthians 13
 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

"I, the Lord, will feel after them"

"And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them." (D&C 112:13)

I have sometimes sung "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" to my children at bedtime. I have fond memories of my mother singing it to me as she rocked me to sleep. It is among my earliest memories. Years ago, as I sang it, a new meaning came to me. My children are far from me. Far because of the truth of the free will of the human soul. God designed us that way. His plan for our eternal happiness depends on it. Jesus defended the Father's plan against Lucifer in our pre-mortal life.

The song reminded me that I must invite and persuade my children to follow Jesus. It is not possible for me to force them. And God would not want me to. We are here on earth to learn the difference between good and evil and to learn to choose the good. To be good, to become good like Jesus has shown us.

The scripture above tells me that the Lord feels after us. He will not force himself upon me. My experience with the Holy Spirit has taught me this. God allows us to do unspeakably horrible things to each other. Why? Maybe because that is the only way some of us will learn to stop doing them. Stop being selfish. Instead to unify my will with His.

This life is short. But it is not a practice sand-box. We are making real decisions causing either real, supernal joy, misery or something in between. What do I want? As soon as I decide to make a half measure toward God, I sense him feeling after me as we see in Michelangelo portraying.

He is reaching after me. So my heart can be softened. So my neck can be loosened; to be converted and healed. So I can learn to live after the manner of happiness.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Knowing That We Know

When the 23-year-old Heber J. Grant was installed as president of the Tooele Stake, he told the Saints he believed the gospel was true. President Joseph F. Smith, a counselor in the First Presidency, inquired, “Heber, you said you believe the gospel with all your heart, … but you did not bear your testimony that you know it is true. Don’t you know absolutely that this gospel is true?” 
Heber answered, “I do not.” Joseph F. Smith then turned to John Taylor, the President of the Church, and said, “I am in favor of undoing this afternoon what we did this morning. I do not think any man should preside over a stake who has not a perfect and abiding knowledge of the divinity of this work.”  
President Taylor replied, “Joseph, Joseph, Joseph, [Heber] knows it just as well as you do. The only thing that he does not know is that he does know it.” ("Knowing That We Know". Douglas L. Callister. Oct 2007)

Within a few weeks that testimony was realized, and young Heber J. Grant shed tears of gratitude for the perfect, abiding, and absolute testimony that came into his life.

I was reminded of this great story when I listened to How Do I Know If I Know? by John Bytheway. I loved the book. It had great insight.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Forget Yourself and go to Work

As a new missionary serving in Preston, England, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley was facing a major trial in his life. He was sick when he arrived in the mission field, and he quickly became discouraged because of the opposition to the missionary work. At a time of deep frustration, Elder Hinckley wrote in a letter to his father that he felt he was wasting his time and his father’s money. A little while later, Elder Hinckley received a reply from his dad. It said, “Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.” (Gordon B. Hinckley. "Sweet Is the Work: Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church". May 1995)

It Is Better to Look Up

At the end of a particularly tiring day toward the end of my first week as a General Authority, my briefcase was overloaded and my mind was preoccupied with the question “How can I possibly do this?” I left the office of the Seventy and entered the elevator of the Church Administration Building. As the elevator descended, my head was down and I stared blankly at the floor. 
The door opened and someone entered, but I didn’t look up. As the door closed, I heard someone ask, “What are you looking at down there?” I recognized that voice—it was President Thomas S. Monson. 
I quickly looked up and responded, “Oh, nothing.” (I’m sure that clever response inspired confidence in my abilities!) 
But he had seen my subdued countenance and my heavy briefcase. He smiled and lovingly suggested, while pointing heavenward, “It is better to look up!” As we traveled down one more level, he cheerfully explained that he was on his way to the temple. When he bid me farewell, his parting glance spoke again to my heart, “Now, remember, it is better to look up.” (Carl B. Cook, "It Is Better to Look Up", Oct 2011)