#ContactForm1{ display: none !important; }

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Presentation on the Second Coming

Here are the slides from today's presentation on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The sequence of events presented follows the chronology found in the scriptures, but still, these are only approximate. Here, too, are my notes, which are similar to the slides, but are in PDF.


The important thing is to understand what the scriptures say about these events and to be prepared for them, so that as they unfold, we will be ready. "Therefore, dearly beloved brethren [and sisters], let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." (D&C 123:17.)

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Christ-Centered Home

One of our stake visitors for ward conference suggested that I publish the list of characteristics of a Christ-centered home from my talk. Here is a list of some things you will find in a Christ-centered home (not all of which got read over the pulpit):
  • True, consistent faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer.
  • An example of obedience. Nothing is more unsettling than seeing our own children emulate our sins and weaknesses. Any disobedience on our part undermines the faith of our children. If children and parents are taught one thing at Church, and a parent willingly, knowingly and unapologetically goes counter to those standards, it takes the temper out of a child’s steel. We will all make mistakes, but if we learn to apologize to our children and strive to do better, the temper in their steel can be restored.
  • The Holy Ghost is the honored guest, not just an occasional visitor.
  • Meaningful, daily prayer and regular, patient scripture study—where parents as co-captains ply an ocean of stories and truth.
  • Memorable family nights and regular personal interviews by dad (rubbing my daughter's feet while interviewing her goes a long way in terms of her attention span).
  • The eyes of the children will be on the temple if the parents eyes are on the temple, too, and if the parents attend often and enthusiastically.
  • Fasting is done with a spiritual purpose—it's not just starvation with an opening and closing prayer.
  • Talking is communicating and parents know how to apologize to their children and to each other.
  • Patience prevails with kindness and attention as well as support in trials and illness.
  • There is more concern over being right with your wife or husband than in merely being right.
  • The television is off more than it is on.
  • Family members are making progress towards worthy goals, with the encouragement and support of others in the home.
  • Their children know their parents’ conversion story.
  • Behavior and decisions are not controlled or forced, but the desire to follow the word and prophets of God is irresistible.
  • With broken hearts and contrite spirits, we observe our covenants by sacrifice (D&C 97:8). The word sacrifice means "to make sacred."
  • There is no need to hide on the wrong side of our weaknesses, the wrong side being where we try to cover our sins and errors and weaknesses with fig leaves rather than letting Christ's atonement cover a “multitude of sins” for us.
  • In this life, we do not find perfection, only the path to it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Two Quotes from Ward Conference

Here are two notable quotes that came from our stake president yesterday, both from Hugh Nibley.

Can I be counted among the righteous?

Brother Nibley asks the question, "What defines a righteous man?" His answer, "Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting he is a righteous man. There is hope for him. And no matter how good he has been all his life, if he is not repenting, he is a wicked man. The difference is which way you are facing. The man on the top of the stairs facing down is much worse off than the man on the bottom step who is facing up."

Am I making a difference?

"In reality, we can only make a difference if we are different. Indeed, disciples of Christ are to stand in stark contrast to those who conform, concede, and thereby compromise."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Truce and Beyond

Here is the third blog in a series for couples. In the last two blogs, I talked about what she really wants and what he really wants. Now let's talk about how to bring you two together.

I promise you that if you apply all the principles described here, your relationship will dramatically improve.

I like something Elder Russell M. Nelson said in a recent conference talk he gave on celestial marriage. "Mortal misunderstandings can make mischief in a marriage. In fact, each marriage starts with two built-in handicaps. It involves two imperfect people. Happiness can come to them only through their earnest effort."

It's important to be humble, to realize that in marriage, both husband and wife are imperfect, with "built-in handicaps."

When a truce is called, both sides recognize their weaknesses, decide that they need to work on change and are willing to do so, for their own good and for the good of those around them. If you think your spouse is the only one that needs to change, your mirror is probably steamed over. If you are not willing to take an honest look at yourself in that mirror, it will be difficult for you to maintain a healthy relationship with anyone for a sustained period.

Remember this verse from the Book of Mormon:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. —Ether 12:27
You have to be humble to be happily married. Only then can you find the grace you need to knit your heart together with the heart of your spouse. You have to be able to recognize and admit your weaknesses in order to find your way out of them. You also have an obligation to make it safe for your spouse to expose and own up to his or her weaknesses. This is essential to the truce.

It is inevitable that misunderstandings and irritations will arise between any two people, not just spouses. Think about all your relationships—between parents and children, siblings, close friends, and even your bishop and other leaders. Petty differences have occurred and caused you grief. It's just part of mortal life. Even Marjorie Hinckley would get irritated with President Hinckley when he would leave his ties draped over the back of the couch.

How many times in your own life have you witnessed a couple break up because of these irritations, only to find a different set of irritations (or worse) with their new companions? Wouldn't it be far better to work out differences than to make a mad dash for a new wife or husband—and a whole new set of problems?

Now, I know that some problems arise that are too painful, too monumental to reconcile between two people, because one or both parties will not make the changes necessary to hold the marriage together. If you are doing all you can to follow your Heavenly Father under such circumstances, none of His blessings will be withheld from you.

When we learn to recognize that our weaknesses are a big part of the problem in our marriages, we should also recognize how important it is to apologize to one another, on a regular basis. What is sweeter than being taken up in the arms of your husband or wife and hearing the words, "I'm sorry. I love you. I'm trying to do better. Please help me."? Go and do likewise.

In spite of our differences and difficulties, it is essential that we completely respect each other as husband and wife, in the same way our Heavenly Father respects us. He gave us our agency and allows us the freedom to exercise that agency, even when He sees that we are doing wrong. Likewise, we need to respect our spouse's freedom of choice, even when we disagree with their choices. Certainly, we have a right to speak up and express our views, especially if our spouse is in transgression or headed in that direction. But we can never control or force our wives or husbands to do and see things our way.

There is a sacred boundary that we must not cross. If we begin "to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness," Amen to the sanctity and security of that marriage (see D&C 121:37). It is "only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned [and] by kindness" (see D&C 121:41-42) that we can hope to win the trust and respect of loved ones, friends, and family members. Any other method or effort will not be sanctified by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and if that Spirit is absent, we are in enemy territory.

In the same vein, seek to fully understand your spouse. Instead of being quick to judge and grudge, learn to ask the important questions, the ones that take some courage. You can never effectively impose your opinions or views on another, but you can understand another by asking sensitive questions and listening patiently to the answers.

No, I don't mean questions like "Where have you been and when are you coming home?" or "Haven't you paid the cell phone bill yet?" or "Why don't you call me when you are going to be late?" Can you hear and feel the accusing edge, the irritation?

Not those questions, but important ones like these:

"How do you really feel about that?"

"Is there anything I can do for you right now?"

"Can I take you out to dinner tonight? I'll get a sitter."

"I was wrong. Will you forgive me?"

Questions like these, sincerely asked and patiently offered, are what make a marriage.

Finally, show enough evidence of your love that you could be convicted in court. This is especially for the men. Your wife needs your affection like a flower needs sunlight and water and air. She needs you to hold her hand, to put your arm around her, to hold her close. She needs to hear you say "I love you" and to see it in your eyes. If you cannot learn to give her that part of you—the part that you gave so freely when you were dating and courting—she will dry up and wilt. You owe it to her, to win her love again and again, day by day. If you refuse to do this, she may honor her covenant with you in this life, but God will not obligate her to a doltish man forever. Charm her. Keep courting her. Pursue her—she wants to be caught. Be her hero.

In summary:
  • Be humble
  • Recognize that there will be irritations between any two people, so work them out patiently
  • Learn to apologize and mean it
  • Completely respect each other
  • Exercise no control or force in your relationship
  • Feed your wife every day with the love and affection she needs and wants
As your bishop, I promise you that if you follow these principles honestly and earnestly, God will bless you with a happier, more peaceful, more fulfilling marriage. Trust will grow, love and affection will blossom, and old differences will become completely irrelevant. God bless you all with the happiness you long for and deserve. It will be yours, if you follow Him.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What He Really Wants

Now I turn to the men and what they really want. This one is written for the wives and for those who will be wives.

Your greatest power, I believe, to influence your husband for good lies in your tenderness towards him. Sure you can get results from other methods, but nothing will influence him to honor you more than your tenderness. In fact, after a lifetime of observation, I believe that your tenderness is one of the greatest influences for good in the world.

Let me explain.

No one has shown me more tenderness than my wife. She does and says the kindest, most thoughtful things for me, without even realizing what she's doing. It just comes natural to her.

She compliments me without even trying to. She brings me things that I need without my asking. She believes in me when I don't believe in myself. She inspires me to do and be my best, not by putting me down or finding fault (which she could easily do if she wanted) but by helping me keep my eyes pointed upward, always looking toward heaven and toward all that is true and holy.

Here are several personal examples. I can iron my own shirts as well as anyone else in our house (yes, even with today's fabrics, a shirt needs ironing from time to time). Sometimes, with a shirt in my hand while I head downstairs towards the ironing board, she will intercept me and insist that she iron it for me. Now, she isn't trying to baby me or "mother" me. She does it because she cares and she just likes to do things for me.

Here's another one. One evening, back when I was teaching early morning seminary, I had laid on the bed to rest and had fallen asleep, even though it was way before bedtime. When I woke up, Cristi was sitting next to me, holding my hand and clipping my fingernails! It was not a pleasant task for her, but she knew how busy I was those days—overwhelmed is probably a better word—and she just selflessly was taking care of a small need, without my asking. It was one of those moments that I felt enveloped by her love, her kindness, her tenderness. It was a simple act that I have never forgotten, even though she has.

For me, the tenderness of my wife is an irresistible force. It draws me to her. It is one of the ways that I know she loves and cares for me like no other. And it motivates me like nothing else to be true to her, to honor her, and to love her in every particular, no matter what.

She doesn't baby me, and I don't want her to. I'm a grown man, and I can see to my own needs for the most part. But the fact that she wants to care for me when there is no reason to other than that she really loves me—why would I ever resist that? I can't resist it, and I won't. Ever.

In my darkest moments, my wife has always been there for me. She brings me to my senses with her gestures, her touch, and her comforting and wise words, her seeing beyond the limits of the moment. When I think of this, I am reminded of the Lord's counsel to Emma Smith: "And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto...thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness" (D&C 25:5).

To me at least, tenderness is one of the greatest influences for good over men and boys on the planet. More men and boys have been influenced to succeed in this world by this power than by any other. Ask any man who has fought in a war, "What did you think about when you were alone with your thoughts out there?" Will he say he was thinking about his motorcycle, his favorite old dog, his schoolmates? Sure. But what he probably thought about most was the tenderness of his mother, his girl, or his wife.

Yes, your being upset with your husband will motivate him, too, but the long-term results will not be near as good. You have to decide if you are going to push him with your anger and disappointment or draw him with your tenderness. Chances are, you will have to use a little of both! But the tenderness will win over his soul forever, not just his mind for the moment.

Another thing that your husband will really like is when you respect and honor him, when you don't put him down to your friends or your sisters or mothers (either in his presence or out of it), and when you trust him, in spite of his weaknesses. As a woman, you have a gift of insight. Use that gift to see his strengths, and emphasize them to your husband and to others. You will find, over the long haul, it will yield much better fruit than your resentment or cleverness. (This doesn't mean you shouldn't talk about your frustrations with him! But if you focus on his strengths, those strengths will shine through brighter than if you dwell on his faults and follies.)

One last thing: Respect his need to hide out. Women often resolve inner conflict by talking about it; men usually do it by thinking about it, while doing something else. He may look like he is doing nothing, but, really, while his hands are full of one thing, his mind is full of another. Let him have his time to putter, to recharge. He'll be better off. (This doesn't mean you should look the other way when his leisure time is dominated with selfish pursuits. He knows better than that. If he is tempted to do that all the time, ask yourself what he is trying to get away from.)

I hope this has helped you. All my life I've heard, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." I also think it's true that wives who lead their husbands with genuine love, tenderness and respect will one day rule the universe with the only legitimate power that will last beyond the edge of time.

Next time I talk about the topic of love between husbands and wives, I'll talk about how to call a truce.