Saturday, October 31, 2009

Waiting Patiently

Last Sunday, during Relief Society, I had an opportunity to thank our outgoing Relief Society presidency and to welcome a new presidency. While I was waiting for the meeting to begin, the Spirit opened my mind to a dimension of a woman's life that I had not seen clearly before.

I saw how women of faith, those that I have known personally and from afar, are called upon to wait patiently on the Lord in so many ways, but especially for their husbands and children and boyfriends. Certainly men must wait, too, but it is our wives and mothers and daughters that bear it in so many ways. It was to me at that moment almost the supreme office of their calling. (I am wrong on that point, but it seemed that way.)
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. —Ecclesiastes 7:8
In an instant, I saw how young women wait patiently for young men to grow in maturity and stature so they can be treated the way they deserve and want to be treated—with kindness and dignity and respect and love and concerned attention. They wait long years for missionaries to come home, or perhaps for their boyfriends to straighten out and prepare themselves for missions or the temple or even baptism.
Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [or trials]; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience...let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. —James 1:2–4
They wait to turn 16 and then to be asked on dates from boys they hope will ask them, or endure in patience the dates they wished they had never been asked on! Then much later there's "When will he ask me to marry him?" After the proposal, they wait for the wedding day, for that first baby to be born, for graduation day, their own or their husbands, for that "real" job and paycheck.

Perhaps the most difficult kind of waiting is for that boyfriend or husband or son or daughter to see the light, to straighten up and fly right, to get their priorities set, to repent of sins or bad habits, many of them serious and troubling. This is the most difficult kind of waiting.
Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days. —D&C 24:8
To the women of our ward, and to all women who read this message, I sincerely thank you for all your patient waiting. Patience is a not only a virtue, it is a powerful form of faith. It is a quality of love that beckons the wayward home. Your patience does not go unnoticed, nor unheeded, though you may be waiting even now for something that is taking an unbearably long time to resolve.

You have a promise from the Lord:
Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord...and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted. —D&C 98:2
May God grant you each of you the end of your patience. I love you and thank you with all my heart for bearing long with me as your bishop. It is one of the things that has gotten me through many trials and much anguish. May God bless you all.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another Miracle for the Willie Handcart Company

"Robert Smith had left his mother and five siblings in Scotland and traveled to Salt Lake in 1854. He settled in Lehi. When he learned that his family was traveling to Utah in one of the troubled handcart companies, he joined in the rescue.

"Elizabeth Smith, his 13-year-old sister, was encouraging their six-year-old brother, Alexander, to keep walking as they neared the Green River. Elizabeth related that Alexander had expressed his strong wish to see their brother, Robert, as they approached a creek bank.

"Just then Robert appeared in his ox-driven wagon.

"Robert rejoiced to see them and asked where their mother and sister were. His mother, Marjorie McEwan Bain Smith, age 51, and his younger sister, Mary, age 15, had sat down exhausted. It was just at that low point that Robert came running to them.

"He loaded them in his wagon and brought them with the rest of the company to the Valley. Once in the Valley he took them to his home in Lehi."

 —From Betsy Smith Goodwin, “The Tired Mother: Pioneer Recollections,” Improvement Era 22, no. 9 (July 1919): 780 (see The Travels of the Willie Handcart Company).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tested to the Very Limit: The Willie Hand Cart Company

October 19, 1856 was a very cold autumn day in the Nebraska Territory. After the Willie Handcart Company passed what is known as Ice Springs (nine miles west of Jeffrey City, in central Wyoming), snow fell for about half an hour. Due to low rations and exposure, many were sick and had to ride uncomfortably in wagons. Five members of the company died that day—the most to die in a single day since leaving England.

Just as things started to look as bleak as ever, a miracle happened. Four men—an advance party of the rescuers who had left the Salt Lake valley a few weeks earlier—suddenly appeared, Cyrus H. Wheelock and Joseph A. Young, a 22-year-old son of Brigham Young, among them. Their news of the coming rescue party with teams and wagons loaded with provisions, filled the weary handcart company with cheer and hope, in spite of the cold.

Joseph Young recognized Emily Hill (20 years old) from when he served in Great Britain. When he saw Emily in her near starved condition, Emily reported later the Joseph burst into tears. He gave her an onion to eat, but she saved it. When she saw a man near death, lying near a fire, she gave the onion to the sick man. The man later said that this small act by Emily saved his life.

Susannah Stone Lloyd, who was age 25 at the time, wrote of her own experience about a week before: "Only once did my courage fail. One cold dreary afternoon, my feet having been frosted, I felt I could go no further, and withdrew from the little company and sat down to wait the end, being somewhat in a stupor. After a time I was aroused by a voice, which seemed as audible as anything could be, and which spoke to my very soul of the promises and blessings I had received, and which should surely be fulfilled and that I had a mission to perform in Zion. I received strength and was filled with the Spirit of the Lord and arose and traveled on with a light heart."

When we are tested to the very limit, if we are living by genuine faith, we can expect a power beyond our own to reach down and lift us, whether by the voice of the Spirit or by hand of His servants.

It is through our extremity that we find that God is real and involved in the details of our lives.

For more information, see The Travels of the Willie Handcart Company.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pornography: The Ravenous Lion

The following is a talk I gave on pornography in sacrament meeting on October 11, 2009.

Brothers and sisters, it is an honor to serve you as bishop. Over a period of months, I have felt strongly impressed to talk to you about an important matter. Our ward goals this year have included the goal of understanding repentance more fully, and my talk will address an aspect of that.

One thing that has troubled me deeply as bishop is the use of pornography. Since I have been called, this topic has been discussed frequently during private interviews in my office. I am aware that, in very rare instances, pornography is used by women, though no woman has ever come to me to discuss this issue. The great majority who view it are men. [Men by nature have a visual orientation which allows them to be instantly stimulated by something they see, whether real or on the printed page or represented as pixels on a screen.]

Elder Richard G. Scott spoke of pornography at general conference last weekend.

“Satan has become a master at using the addictive power of pornography to limit individual capacity to be led by the Spirit. The onslaught of pornography in all of its...forms has caused great grief, suffering, heartache, and destroyed marriages. It is one of the most damning influences on earth.

“Whether it be through the printed page, movies, television, obscene [song] lyrics, vulgarities on the telephone, or [on a] flickering personal computer screen, pornography is overpoweringly addictive and severely damaging. This potent tool of Lucifer degrades the mind, and the heart, and the soul of any who use it.

“All who are caught in its seductive...web and remain so will become addicted to its immoral, destructive influence. For many, that addiction cannot be overcome without help. The tragic pattern is so familiar. It begins with curiosity that is fueled by its stimulation and is justified by the false premise that when done privately, it does no harm to anyone else. For those lulled by this lie, the experimentation goes deeper...until the trap closes and [the] addictive habit exercises its vicious control.

Participation in pornography in any of its...forms is a manifestation of unbridled selfishness. How can a man, particularly a priesthood bearer, not think of the emotional and spiritual damage caused to...his wife, by such...activity?

“Well did inspired Nephi declare, ‘And [the devil] will . . . pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, . . . and thus [he] cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.” (2 Nephi 28:21.)

Trouble with pornography usually begins during the teenage years, though sometimes even in childhood, and often, when viewed over long periods, what starts out as boyish curiosity develops into an addiction.

When a man believes that he can overcome this problem all by himself, the hungry lion of addiction may be subdued for a time, only to come roaring to the surface again when he encounters some unresolved feeling or emotion, when, solitary and late at night, the beast comes to devour its prey once again.

One of the hallmarks of the use of pornography is secrecy—the rush of risky behavior is part of the thrill. With desktop computers, laptops and even handheld devices, viewing vulgar and torrid imagery is convenient and easily kept under wraps, especially by the technically savvy.

One disheartening pattern I’ve observed in the cycle of addiction goes like this: A man comes humbly forward seeking help. As he reaches out for it, the help most surely comes. Confession may be painful and difficult, but more often than not, he finds that he is fully supported by his bishop, a patient, loving wife and often parents. After several months, when the issue appears to be under control, the man stops meeting with the bishop or seeking other help, and considers himself free of the addiction.

Then when that hungry lion comes to pay a surprise visit once again, the man or boy is understandably ashamed and is loath to confess his behavior to his bishop, wife or parents. With clenched fists, this determined soul pulls himself away from the great maw of the lion, and, rather than stirring up shame or suspicion, he tries to go it alone. He prays desperately for strength and finds it to a degree. “I can do this,” he tells himself. “No one needs to know so no one will be hurt except me.”

He may be successful for a time, for months or even years, in keeping the lion at bay, only to be suddenly overcome and mauled once again. The cycle of shame and secrecy continues as the man does his best to hold his head up, functioning in the Church, but with eyes that often look downward, a diminished spirituality, a reluctance to use his priesthood, and as the gap widens, he snarls at authority and his anger is set off by mere sparks.

The on-again/off-again use of pornography encourages what I think of as circumstantial obedience. The temptation is that one can clean up his act long enough to feel good about performing a baptismal ordinance or going to the temple to witness a marriage, only to be clawed to shreds again after the pressure lets up.

Circumstantial obedience cannot save us. It will never save any of us. It will only weaken us at the joints, so that when the wind blows with terrific force, we won’t be able to stand: it will flatten us. And in the near future, we will see that wind blow harder than we have ever seen it blow before.

So what is to be done? What can we do to break this cycle once and for all and to starve the lion to death?

We all know the answer: the answer lies in our Savior and His atonement. We know that, but we do not fully subscribe to the power by which He can and will help us to overcome any addiction, any sin, any burden whatsoever.

When we think that we can work out our salvation and gain the strength to overcome great obstacles all on our own, in the privacy of our own souls, we are misled. To overcome this misconception, we must understand and follow the true steps of repentance in faith. I find that it is not so much the sin but the refusal to properly repent that steers us off the path. Some of the steps of repentance include:

1.    Full recognition of and accountability for sin.
2.    Genuine, sincere sorrow for the sin. Godly sorrow is being sorry for offending God and loved ones.
3.    Full and voluntary confession to God, and, when serious, as is the case with pornography, to your bishop and to other persons involved, including spouse.
4.    Forsaking the sin and never returning to it.
5.    To the best of your ability restoring what has been lost or stolen, whether it be money, property or trust.
6.    Enduring to the end in faith and obedience.

I’ll focus on just the first aspect of repentance here that will likely help anyone among us who is struggling with an addiction to pornography or other serious sin. It is full recognition and accountability.

We sometimes try and try to forsake a sin, only to have it tear us open again. Sin has power over us when we leave something out of our spiritual lives. One step that will help a great deal is full and complete accountability—accountability to God, to ourselves, to our wives, parents, close associates, at times to our children, and in the case of serious transgression, our bishop.

Only by being fully accountable and aware of the lion and its enormous claws can you begin to escape from it. Turn to the Lord and plead for His help, “casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

We all need help—we all do in one area or another—and we know as members of the Church where to turn for it. Don’t deny yourself the privileges to which you are entitled, that is, the opportunity, with the help of the Lord, and others, to be clean and to make all things right again. Move towards your Heavenly Father, not away from Him. Turn up all the lights to full power. Lock the lion in his cage and stop feeding him.

Pornography strikes fiercely at trust, the very root of the marriage relationship. Accountability is part of the foundation of that trust. President Munk has advised all the bishops in the stake to encourage young women preparing for marriage to ask their fiancé whether or not he has had any exposure to pornography and to what extent. Any wife, especially a wife of a man who holds the holy priesthood and to whom she is sealed in the temple, is fully entitled to know if her husband has viewed or continues to view pornography.

The relationship between a husband and wife is preeminent. It is the most important of any relationship we will or can ever have. Parents and children may remain together for many years, but the ultimate goal is for each of our children to marry and to move out of the home. If uninterrupted by death, transgression or divorce, the marriage relationship continues for life and into eternity.

President Hinckley has taught:

“Let us not live a life…that would bring regret...It is not going to matter very much how much money you made, what kind of a house you lived in, what kind of a car you drove, the size of your bank account—any of those things. What is going to matter is that dear woman who has walked with you side by side as your companion through all of the years of life and those children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and their faithfulness and their looking to you…with respect and love and deference and kindness.” (“Inspirational Thoughts,” Liahona, Mar. 2006, 3–4.)

The quality of your marriage relationship can and should have a protective influence for both of you. If husband and wife are fully committed to each other, no matter how bad the weather gets, that commitment will protect them and their happiness

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said at a recent conference:

“Latter-day Saint spouses should do all within their power to preserve their marriages...they should be best friends, kind and considerate, sensitive to each other’s needs, always seeking to make each other happy. They should be partners in family finances, working together to regulate their desires.” (“Divorce,” Ensign, May 2007, 72.)

Finally, let me close by giving you my assurance that this ravenous lion can be completely subdued if husband and wife work together, hand in hand, and in partnership with your bishop. All the help you need is readily at hand for the taking. The check has already been written; it is up to you to cash it.

Husbands, recognize what you must do to be free. Be accountable to yourself, to your wife, your bishop and your Heavenly Father. Wives, make it safer for you husbands to deal with their shame and to be accountable to you. If together you create an environment where you can communicate all your feelings in safety, without recrimination, progress will be readily made. While trust is conditional, your love need not be, and your willingness to forgive one another is an important doorway to eternity that only you may open for each other. A wife’s confidence in her husband can be the most motivating influence he will ever have.

May we, before the Lord our Maker, be true to ourselves and to one another always, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

General Conference Quotes, Part 3

The quotes that follow are some favorites from the Sunday sessions of the 179th Semiannual General Conference held in October 4, 2009.

"The story of the prodigal son gives us all hope. The prodigal remembered home, as will your children. They will feel your love drawing them back to you. Elder Orson F. Whitney, in a general conference of 1929, gave a remarkable promise, which I know is true, to the faithful parents who honor the temple sealing to their children: 'Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold.' Then he goes on to say: 'Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.' You can pray for your children, love them, and reach out to them with confidence that Jesus reaches for them with you. When you keep trying, you are doing what Jesus does."

—Henry B. Eyring

"It was in the year 1849, just two years after they had arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, when Brigham Young, the great colonizer of the West, called a group of Saints to journey south and start building their homes and communities all over again in another desert wasteland. A short time after they had settled in Sanpete, President Heber C. Kimball, a counselor to President Brigham Young, visited the Manti community and promised them that on the hill overlooking the valley, a temple would be built using stone from the mountains to the east. Some years passed after the visit of President Kimball, and the citizens began to be anxious that nothing was being done to construct a temple for their use. 'We must have a temple in our community,' declared one of the citizens. 'We have waited long enough for this blessing.' Another one said, 'If we are going to have a temple, we had better get busy and build it.' And that is just what they did."

—L. Tom Perry

"We need not be a part of the virtue malaise that is penetrating and infecting society. If we follow the world in abandoning Christian-centered virtues, the consequences may be disastrous...The seedbed for all that plagues the natural man will have been planted, to the sheer delight of Satan."

—H. David Burton


"Prophets’ words warn, teach, and encourage truth, whether they’re spoken in 600 B.C., 1971, or 2009. I encourage you to listen to, believe in, and act upon the inspired words of those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. Holding to the iron rod is not always easy. We may let go because of peer pressure or pride, thinking we can find our own way back—later. When we do so, we are leaving our safety equipment behind."
 
—Ann M. Dibb

"Years ago, while immersed in the task of preparing a talk for general conference, I was aroused from a sound sleep with an idea impressed strongly upon my mind. Immediately I reached for pencil and paper near my bed and wrote as rapidly as I could. I went back to sleep, knowing I had captured that great impression. The next morning I looked at that piece of paper and found, much to my dismay, that my writing was totally illegible! I still keep pencil and paper at my bedside, but I write more carefully now."
 
—Russell M. Nelson


"Often we live side by side but do not communicate heart to heart."
 
—Thomas S. Monson

"For 179 years this book [the Book of Mormon] has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great-grandfather [George Q. Cannon], who said simply enough, 'No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.'"
 
—Jeffrey R. Holland

"This feeling of accountability, which is encompassed by the first great commandment to love God, has been described by some as 'obedience to the unenforceable.' [John Fletcher Moulton.] We try to do what is right because we love and want to please our Father in Heaven, not because someone is forcing us to obey."
 
—Quentin L. Cook

"While serving in Finland, I learned that my mission president’s wife, Sister Lea Mahoney, was a native of Finland. As a young girl she had grown up in the eastern portion of Finland in a city named Viipuri. As the ravages of war engulfed Finland and other countries during World War II, she and her family left their home, and Viipuri became part of the Soviet Union and was renamed Vyborg. In our zone conferences, Sister Mahoney would tell us of those left behind in Viipuri and of her desire that the gospel be taken to them. Following President Kimball’s challenge, we unitedly prayed that the hearts of the leaders of that nation would be softened so that the gospel could be taken by our missionaries into the Soviet Union. We would go to the border between Finland and the Soviet Union and see the guard towers and the fences, and we would wonder who those brave young men and young women would be and when they would cross that border to take the gospel to the people there. I must admit, at that time it seemed like an impossible task. Three years ago, our son Eric received a mission call to serve in the Russia St. Petersburg Mission. In his first letter home, he wrote something like this: 'Dear Mom and Dad, I have been assigned to my first city in Russia. Dad, you may have heard of it before. It is called Vyborg, but it was previously a Finnish city named Viipuri.'"

—Brent H. Nielson 
 
"We must identify temptations that easily beset us and put them out of reach—way out of reach...we need to frequently biopsy our mightily changed hearts and reverse any signs of early rejection."

—Dale G. Renlund 
 
"If you are like me, you will find what really brought an easiness and willingness to believe were not the circumstances but the commitment to live the gospel during these [stressful] periods of life. You were found more often on your knees and immersed in the scriptures during these periods. You found it easier to gather for family home evening and family prayer. You found it easy to be in church and to worship in the temple. You found it easy to pay tithes and offerings. Indeed, the daily living of the gospel brings a softness of heart needed to have an easiness and willingness to believe the word of God."
 
—Michael T. Ringwood 
 
"A new celestial culture is developing in homes, nurtured by the ready hearkening to the counsel of the living prophet to have daily prayer and scripture study and to meet once a week as a family in home evening. As a result, many are able to break free from the shackles of traditions that restrict the exercise of their agency."
 
—Joseph W. Sitati 
 
"There could never be enough rules so finely crafted as to anticipate and cover every situation, and even if there were, enforcement would be impossibly expensive and burdensome. This approach leads to diminished freedom for everyone...In the end, it is only an internal moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay. Societies will struggle in vain to establish the common good until sin is denounced as sin and moral discipline takes its place in the pantheon of civic virtues."
 
—D. Todd Christofferson 
 
"We live at a time when many in the world have slipped from the moorings of safety found in compliance with the commandments. It is a time of permissiveness, with society in general routinely disregarding and breaking the laws of God. We often find ourselves swimming against the current, and sometimes it seems as though the current could carry us away. I am reminded of the words of the Lord found in the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Said the Lord, 'Ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come.' [Ether 2:25.] My brothers and sisters, He has prepared us. If we heed His words and live the commandments, we will survive this time of permissiveness and wickedness—a time which can be compared with the waves and the winds and the floods that can destroy. He is ever mindful of us. He loves us and will bless us as we do what is right."
 
—Thomas S. Monson

Saturday, October 10, 2009

General Conference Quotes, Part 2

The quotes that follow are some of my favorites from the priesthood session of the 179th Semiannual General Conference of the Church held in October 2009.
 

"In my experience, fathers who are asked for advice try harder to give good, sound, useful counsel. By asking your father for advice, you not only receive the benefit of his input, but you also provide him with a little extra motivation to strive to be a better father and a better man. He will think more carefully about whatever it is that he advises, and he will work harder to 'walk the talk.' Young men, ask your dad for advice!"

—M. Russell Ballard

"There are books that are released to the market and quickly become best sellers. Sometimes they generate so much interest that people eagerly await their release. Such books seem to flood the market right away, and you can see people reading them everywhere. God, in His infinite wisdom, reserved the Book of Mormon for our benefit. Its purpose is not to become a best seller. Nevertheless, we can turn this sacred book into a best-read and best-applied book in our life. Let me suggest three activities that can help us turn the Book of Mormon into the best-read and best-applied book, which will empower us today to become more powerful priesthood holders, even as those in ancient times."

—Walter F. González

"Dear brethren, let us love our boys—although some of them are loud boys. Let us teach them to change their lives. Modern sons of Helaman come not only from our precious families within the Church but also from new and young converts who do not have parents in the gospel. You and your wives are to be their 'goodly parents' until they become like the sons of Helaman."
—Yoon Hwan Choi

"Work is an antidote for anxiety, an ointment for sorrow, and a doorway to possibility. Whatever our circumstances in life, my dear brethren, let us do the best we can and cultivate a reputation for excellence in all that we do. Let us set our minds and bodies to the glorious opportunity for work that each new day presents."

—Dieter F. Uchtdorf


"My bishop and those who served under him were determined not to lose even one of us. As nearly as I could see, their determination was motivated by love for the Lord and for us, not for any selfish purpose. The bishop had a system. Every adviser of every quorum was to contact every young man he had not spoken to that Sunday. They were not to go to bed until they had either talked to the boy who had been missing, to his parents, or to a close friend. The bishop promised them that he would not turn out his light until he had heard a report about every boy. I don’t think he gave them an order. He simply made it clear that he did not expect their lights to go out until they had given that report."

—Henry B. Eyring

"My brethren, we are all susceptible to those feelings which, if left unchecked, can lead to anger. We experience displeasure or irritation or antagonism, and if we so choose, we lose our temper and become angry with others. Ironically, those others are often members of our own families—the people we really love the most."

—Thomas S. Monson

General Conference Quotes, Part 1

The quotes that follow are some of my favorites from the first two sessions of the 179th Semiannual General Conference of the Church held in October 2009.


"The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit."

—Richard G. Scott

"The scriptures and the prophets teach what this constant companionship feels like...My favorite description...comes from an eight-year-old boy who had just received the Holy Ghost. He said, “It felt like sunshine.”

—Vicki F. Matsumori


"Thus burdens become blessings, though often such blessings are well disguised and may require time, effort, and faith to accept and understand."

—L. Whitney Clayton


"I remember as a young boy feeling carefree as I walked to the church for a Primary meeting. When I arrived, I was surprised to see all of the parents there for a special program. Then it hit me. I had a part in this program, and I had forgotten to memorize my lines. When my turn came to say my part, I stood in front of my chair, but not one word came from my mouth. I could remember nothing. So I just stood there and then finally sat down and stared at the floor. After that experience, I made a firm resolve never to speak in any Church meeting again. And I held to that resolve for some time. Then one Sunday, Sister Lydia Stillman, a Primary leader, knelt down at my side and asked me to give a short talk the following week. I said, 'I don’t give talks.' She responded, 'I know, but you can give this one because I’ll help you.' I continued to resist, but she expressed so much confidence in me that her invitation was hard to refuse. I gave the talk."

—Russell T. Osguthorpe

"Sometimes in a sacrament meeting talk or testimony, we hear a statement like this: 'I know I do not tell my spouse often enough how much I love her. Today I want her, my children, and all of you to know that I love her.' Such an expression of love may be appropriate. But when I hear a statement like this, I squirm and silently exclaim that the spouse and children should not be hearing this apparently rare and private communication in public at church! Hopefully the children hear love expressed and see love demonstrated between their parents in the regular routine of daily living. If, however, the public statement of love at church is a bit surprising to the spouse or the children, then indeed there is a need to be more diligent and concerned at home."

—David A. Bednar

"For what we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think and do. What we think and do determines who we are—and who we will become."

—Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"God’s love is so perfect that He lovingly requires us to obey His commandments because He knows that only through obedience to His laws can we become perfect, as He is. For this reason, God’s anger and His wrath are not a contradiction of His love but an evidence of His love. Every parent knows that you can love a child totally and completely while still being creatively angry and disappointed at that child’s self-defeating behavior."

—Dallin H. Oaks

"We must be careful not to constrain His influence. When we do not do what is right or when our outlook is dominated by skepticism, cynicism, criticism, and irreverence toward others and their beliefs, the Spirit cannot be with us. We then act in a way that the prophets describe as the natural man."

—Robert D. Hales

"Even when, from a purely human perspective, perfection can appear an impossible challenge to achieve, I testify that our Father and our Savior have made known to us that it is possible to achieve the impossible."

—Jorge F. Zeballos


"Yet sorrowfully, on occasion, some are willing to set aside the precious gospel truths restored by Joseph Smith because they get diverted on some historical issue or some scientific hypothesis not central to their exaltation, and in so doing they trade their spiritual birthright for a mess of pottage. They exchange the absolute certainty of the Restoration for a doubt, and in that process they fall into the trap of losing faith in the many things they do know because of a few things they do not know. There will always be some seemingly intellectual crisis looming on the horizon as long as faith is required and our minds are finite, but likewise there will always be the sure and solid doctrines of the Restoration to cling to, which will provide the rock foundation upon which our testimonies may be built."

—Tad R. Callister


"Tempered glass, like tempered steel, undergoes a well-controlled heating process which increases strength. Thus, when tempered glass is under stress, it will not easily break into jagged shards that can injure. Likewise, a temperate soul—one who is humble and full of love—is also a person of increased spiritual strength. With increased spiritual strength, we are able to develop self-mastery and to live with moderation. We learn to control, or temper, our anger, vanity, and pride. With increased spiritual strength, we can protect ourselves from the dangerous excesses and destructive addictions of today’s world."

—Kent D. Watson


"Once I was asked to meet an older couple returning to the Church. They had been taught the gospel by their parents. After their marriage, they left the Church. Now, 50 years later, they were returning. I remember the husband coming into the office pulling an oxygen tank. They expressed regret at not having remained faithful. I told them of our happiness because of their return, assuring them of the Lord’s welcoming arms to those who repent. The elderly man responded, 'We know this, Brother Andersen. But our sadness is that our children and grandchildren do not have the blessings of the gospel. We are back, but we are back alone.' They were not back alone. Repentance not only changes us, but it also blesses our families and those we love. With our righteous repentance, in the timetable of the Lord, the lengthened-out arms of the Savior will not only encircle us but will also extend into the lives of our children and posterity. Repentance always means that there is greater happiness ahead."

—Neil L. Andersen

"Learn to pray. Pray often. Pray in your mind, in your heart. Pray on your knees. Prayer is your personal key to heaven. The lock is on your side of the veil."

—Boyd K. Packer

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It Hasn't Always Been So

In my last blog, I hinted that our communication as husband and wife has not always been as good as it is now. We have had over 30 years of practice and it has gotten better and better over the years. To illustrate, let me share a vignette from one of my journals.

It was December 2, 1990, a Fast Sunday. I was 33 years old. That morning, before we even got out of bed, I asked Cristi what was bothering her—for some time, we had had a pattern of misunderstanding, and I wanted to get to the bottom of it.

I quote from my journal entry: "I gave her time to explain without resistance... Later, I repeated her explanation to her to make sure I understood her point of view. Then I wrote the four main points down with ideas on ways to overcome these differences. I have rarely felt so successful in resolving conflicts. Cristi read and approved what I wrote, and she seemed in a much better mood for the rest of the day."

Well, getting conflicts resolved seems so much easier to me now, but it wasn't so easy 20 years ago. But I forgive myself. I was learning how to be a husband, and I still am.

I feel now that it is my masculine role to lead out in resolving problems. My wife wants me to lead the way, and I often do. Maybe its just me, but I reason with myself that if the Lord put me on the earth to provide, protect and preside, I can't just wait around for it to happen. I don't like conflict of any kind, and I am more eager than ever to put it down and resolve it.

I first seek to understand what is at the root of the dust-up as soon as it appears, then set out to make it right. I find when I set aside my need to be right (which is a form of pride, and "only by pride cometh contention" [Proverbs 13:10]), and seek first to calmly understand what went haywire, things just go much, much better.

The other thing is that I am trigger-happy with apologies. Not groveling, beat-yourself-up apologies (I am working hard on not giving those kind anymore), but sincere recognition that I was wrong, want to do better and that I know I can do better. When I am genuine in my sorrow and quick in my recognition, it is amazing how it elicits a soft answer out of others.

To me, I feel much stronger, much more in tune with the Holy Spirit, when I can admit readily that I was wrong. The world's view is to never admit you're wrong and to go to great lengths to prove to everyone, including your spouse, that you are right. We all have direct evidence of what that leads to.

In closing, I want to draw attention to the last line I quoted from my 1990 journal entry: "and she seemed in a much better mood for the rest of the day." When my wife feels understood, and therefore, respected and honored by an intently listening husband, she is much happier. It is one of the elixirs of a happy marriage.

The most important point you can get across to your wife is not, for example, the reasons why you deserve a new four-wheeler. The point you really want to get across is that loving her and understanding her is more important to you than anything else. If she really knows that, by your consistent words and actions, your marriage will be a bit of heaven on earth as it was intended to.

And the new four-wheeler (or whatever) will miraculously show up in your life, once you let go of it, and put your heart where it really belongs.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

My wife and I went on a date last week. It wasn't an expensive date—in fact, it was the kind of date we used to go on when we were teenagers, when we had little money. We just went to the city park and walked around on the grass, circling it several times, holding hands and talking. I came away feeling like it was the best date I've ever had.

I have some decisions to make, problems to solve, answers to find. Decisions that will affect our future, decisions that have a lot to do with my work and income. You see, I have learned after long experience that the best way for me to get answers to serious questions is to talk things over with my wife. She is the best counselor I could hope for.

One bit of advice she gave me was for us to go to the temple together every day for a week. That's what we did over the last five days. Each day we had a theme. For example, Tuesday our theme was gratitude—just being grateful for whatever we have or are experiencing, no matter what. At the end of each temple session, we went to the celestial room, sat on the couch and talked (whispered, actually). It was one of the most worthwhile and productive weeks of our lives together, in terms of unity, understanding, seeing the big picture and the path ahead of us.

Sometimes life is difficult to understand. You do your best and then find within yourself something better than your best. You pray and fast and reach beyond your limits. You hit the road running (sometimes face first). You put everything on the line. You give and then you give more, and when you think you have nothing left, God asks you for more. And even then, the results are perplexing. You feel lost, unsure whether to run away or hide or give up.

But all our trials are gifts. The lessons that come from severe trials are usually permanent, meaningful, and ultimately refining, if we let them be. Seeking answers and making decisions is much easier, much more fulfilling, when your trials strip away superficiality.

This week, we received a special gift. After many years of trials and perplexities, clear answers came and, as a couple, we found complete unity. The answers came with a price, of course, but the price was worth paying. What we have lacked in this world's goods for a time, God has more than compensated us with the best, most important things in life. I can't say all the reasons why, but I might be the happiest husband on earth. I could not be that happy without the difficulties that prompted us to ask questions in the first place, nor without my wife by my side.

It hasn't always been so. I'll tell you why next time.