Friday, January 29, 2010

How Did That Happen?

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Throughout last year, there was a small blue number in the upper-left corner of the white board in the bishop's office. The number was 67. It represented a goal for the year: 67 percent sacrament meeting attendance.

I was sitting at the computer in the clerk's office last Sunday, at the end of the day. Without really thinking much about it, I decided to print the quarterly membership report. I looked down at the sacrament meeting attendance for the fourth quarter, 2009. I think I had to blink twice and look again. The number was 67.1 percent.

I could hardly believe my eyes. It had been a high goal. I thought when we set it, that it would take some reaching. If you were to ask me the specific measures we took to achieve this number, I wouldn't know what to tell you.

There are so many factors that go into this, and it wasn't just ward members attending who made this number rise.  And no, this does not represent attendance for the whole year. But it represents a significant jump when compared to some quarters earlier in the year, and year on year.

All I know is, I am astounded and grateful to my Heavenly Father.

Respect, Trust and Love Part 2

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Last time, I wrote about the importance of respect and trust in the marriage relationship. Respect and trust are the foundation of love. Without them, love withers and dies. With them, love flourishes and grows forever.

I also said that I believe it starts with the husband. He has the divine role to preside, provide and protect. We often think that the word provide refers to providing for financial necessities. That is true. But I also believe it involves providing for emotional and spiritual needs as well. And the word protect: does that refer only to physical protection? Or does it include emotional and spiritual protection as well? I have no doubt that the roles of providing and protecting include physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions.

Among people of faith, a man who worthily fulfills these roles has no trouble presiding and leading because his wife and children will respect, trust and follow him. He will lead in righteousness. But if he is self-centered and surly, the divine plan breaks down and "Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man." (D&C 121:37.)

I spoke to a friend in the ward last night. He reminded me that when the husband is fully connected to his Heavenly Father, he will naturally lead his wife and family righteously; but if he is not close to his Father in Heaven, the wife-husband connection cannot be strong or fulfilling. Yes, this responsibility rests firmly on the man's shoulders, right where God placed it.

He can't do it alone, though. It is impossible for him to do it without the support, cooperation and love of his wife. Impossible. How could he do it or why would he even want to do it without her?

Respect and trust are the glue that holds marriages together. And that glue holds the world together. It heals the world.

So where does respect and trust first break down? It usually happens early in marriage. It happens to most couples in one form or another. This is how it goes most of the time.

Courtship often is wonderful, a dream within a dream. The husband-to-be is usually very attentive to his fiancée. There are midday phone calls, humorous cards, multiple emails daily, silly texts, surprise gifts, and lots of flowers. There is gallantry and thoughtfulness. There is a listening, attentive ear. The fiancée is entranced and reciprocates her love with the same. All is blissful anticipation.

After the wedding, life is exciting and fun. There are a few bumps in the road, but for the most part, the couple gets along swimmingly. They are enamored and in love. It is an intense and wonderful time.

As time passes, though, there are those small disagreements and irritations, disappointments and unpleasant surprises. Then comes the day when a small insult is hurled, unintentionally or intentionally. Feelings are hurt and there is silence, sometimes tears. Apologies are easier in those days, and feelings soon are healed.

But this is where the erosion of respect begins, either in finding fault or receiving insult. We become defensive and raw feelings, often hidden, fester. Doubts enter our minds and troubled thoughts spiral downwards. Respect is tarnished and trust, damaged even slightly, begins to tilt sideways.

If the pattern of insult or accusation continues, respect and trust slowly recedes, and contention, anguish, and feelings of anger and loss ensue.

What is to be done? I''ll write again soon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Respect, Trust and Love Part 1

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I've often heard my daughters and other girls express exasperation for teenage boys. "They just don't get it," they say. And they are right. They get a lot of things—like football or skate board stunts or computer games—but they don't get girls. A few of them do, but most don't.

I certainly didn't understand girls when I was a young teenager. I liked them, but I did not understand them. I personally know that my lack of "getting it" hurt several girl's feelings deeply. I feel terrible about it now.

As teenagers, boys are often not fully ready to treat girls the way they want and deserve to be treated. I think it's probably a good thing because it acts as a sort of girl repellent. It saves girls a lot of heartache to not invest too much too early.

In my late teens, I started to get it. And now that I am much further down the road, I think I am really starting to get it, though I still have a lot to learn.

It's all about respect. Respect is the first step and foundation of love.



It's the place where love starts. And it's the place love ends when it disappears. When you know how to show it, love thrives. When you don't know how to show it, or refuse to show it, love dies.

According to the dictionary, respect is "an act of giving particular attention or consideration." It is shown by a "high or special regard or esteem" and "expressions of...deference."

Think about it. You husbands, when you first became interested in your wife, did you attract her attention by showing her disrespect? Of course not. Why? Because disrespect is one of the biggest turn offs a girl can stomach.

In boy culture, we often play the disrespect game with each other. It's a sort of sport we play. We challenge each other. We play slap down. We chip away at each other endlessly. It's a way boys find out if the other guy has any moxie. It's the competition thing.

Girls do not like this game. I repeat, girls DO NOT like this game. (Well, some girls like this game, and some are entertained by watching boys play it, but most girls won't play it with a boy.)

Fortunately, most boys and men get it figured out over time.

They learn to show their genuine interest in you. They ask you important questions and listen intently to your answers. They express sincere gratitude for the little things. They watch their language. They conquer bad habits. They open doors. They wait. They notice you. They ask you what they can do to help you. They make phone calls for no other reason than to see how you are. They honor your opinions, even if they disagree with you. They never put you down in any way. They seek your comfort, and help you feel safe and protected. They ask you out on dates often, even if you have been married for many years. They recognize their personal faults and admit to them. They apologize to you. They defend and shelter you. They show their emotions to you, but keep the unsavory ones under control. They honor all of your sacred boundaries, and refuse to violate them, before and after marriage.  They keep trying and trying. All of these things show respect.

Girls like this a lot. I repeat, girls REALLY LIKE this.

Your respect is how she knows she can trust you. If you show the least amount of disrespect to her, her trust sinks, sometimes rapidly. If you are constant and vigilant in your respect for her, even if you disagree with something she says or does, even when she makes mistakes or is overly conscious of her weight and appearance or can't keep up with all she has to do, it is still by respect that you seal her love to you forever.

Husbands, you may have been sealed to your wife by a holy ordinance in a temple, but unless you show her complete respect, you dishonor that covenant. Yes, this is a probationary time, and God and your wife may grant you the space to repent, but if you don't show her your honor and respect, you will lose her heart, and without her heart, what do you have?

It is my opinion that men must lead out in this. We must take the lead in respect, even if she says or does something you think is unworthy of your respect. She will trust her heart first above any other consideration—it is her greatest ally. If her heart says you are not determined to show her respect, you cannot expect to hold her in time or eternity.

Next time I pick up this topic, I'll talk about where respect starts to break down, and what we can do about it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Phone Call Changes Everything

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Today I received a phone call from one of my closest friends. It was not the kind of call you ever want to get.

He called from Oregon to tell me that his youngest son, who had just returned from his mission four months ago, had died unexpectedly.

Tony and I met when I was a sophomore in high school. He lived several miles north of our ranch, on Fishback Mountain. It was closer to get back and forth by horseback than by driving a pickup truck on gravel roads. We were team roping partners. We became very good friends. When I joined the Church during my senior year in high school, Tony thought the cheese had slipped off my cracker. But just a few weeks before I left on my mission, Tony was baptized, too. And he left on his mission about one year after that.

Tony and his wife Edna had been away on a trip. When they got home, they saw Tyler asleep on the couch downstairs. But he was not asleep. Imagine trying to wake your child and finding him lifeless. I just can't hold the picture in my mind.

So far there is no cause of death. The coroner told Tony, "Sometimes people just die, and we don't know why."

Tyler served a great mission. His mission president and the many missionaries he worked with are reeling from the news.

Near the end of our very painful conversation, Tony told me something that I'll never forget. He thanked me for introducing the gospel to him and baptizing him. "The Church means everything to us," he said. "I know I'll be with my son again."

Thanks in part to faithful friends like Tony, the gospel means everything to me as well.

One last thing he said. "Never take your children for granted...When you hug your kids, don't let go..." I don't know if a word of advice has ever sunk deeper into my heart.

Tony and Edna, I'll be with you in a few days.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Temple in Payson Announced Today

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© 2010 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
President Thomas S. Monson announced today (January 25, 2010) that a temple will be built in Payson, Utah. The temple will be built near 800 South, the Wal-mart exit off I-15 (see the photo on the left).

It will serve 22 stakes from Spanish Fork to Nephi, and the nearly 80,000 members of the Church living in those communities. This will be the Church's 152nd temple. It appears that Mapleton will remain part of the Provo Temple district.

If you are not familiar with temples or Latter-day Saints, see this background information on temples if you would like to learn more. For a chronological list of temples, starting with the first temple dedicated by Latter-day Saints in 1836, see this list.

For the full-story, see this link.

Church Publications in PDF

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I just found this link this morning: If you'd like to access a lot of Church publications in PDF format, click here.

You'll find magazines, such as the Ensign and Friend,  Sunday School (for example, Old Testament Times at a Glance) and youth materials (such as the Young Women Camp Manual), all nine volumes of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church (here is the David O. McKay manual, for instance) even the Bible and the Triple Combination.

Have fun with these links.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Sacred Key

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I quote I heard yesterday at our stake's Family History Fair inspired a search on the Internet that led me to this story. Some years ago, President Thomas S. Monson and his wife Frances visited Sweden. He tells the following:

"The mission president in Sweden at the time of our visit was Reid H. Johnson, a cousin to my wife. As he and our group were journeying throughout that area, we went to a large Lutheran church. As we walked into the building, President Johnson said, 'I think you would be interested in an experience my companion, Richard Timpson, and I had in this city at the termination of our missions back in 1948.'"

President Johnson said, "We came to this town because we knew that our family history was recorded here and had been lived here. As we entered this large church, we were met by a most hostile keeper of the archives. Upon hearing that we had completed our missions and had a few precious days in which we would like to seek out the records which he maintained in his church building, he said that no one had ever been given the opportunity to peruse those valuable records, far less a Mormon. He declared they were under lock and key, and he held up to view the large key to the vault in which the records were stored. He said, 'My job and my future, and the sustenance of my family, depend upon how well I safeguard this key. No, I am afraid it would be impossible for you to peruse these records. But if you would like to see the church, I’ll be happy to show you through. I'll be glad to show you the architecture and the cemetery which surrounds the church—but not the records, for they are sacred.'"

"President Johnson indicated they were profoundly disappointed. However, he said to the keeper of the archives, 'We will accept your kind offer.' All of this time, he and his companion were praying fervently and earnestly that somehow something would change this keeper's mind, that he would let them view the records.

"After a lengthy journey through the cemetery and looking at the church building, the keeper of the archives unexpectedly said to them, 'I’m going to do something I have never done before. It may cost me my job, but I’m going to let you borrow this key for fifteen minutes.'

"President Johnson thought, Fifteen minutes! All we can do in fifteen minutes is open the lock!

But the keeper let them take the key. They turned the key in the lock and had made available to their view records which were priceless for their genealogical value. In fifteen minutes the keeper arrived. He looked at them and found they were still in a state of wonder over the find which they had discovered.

"They said, 'Can’t we please stay longer?'

"He said, 'How much longer?' And he looked at his watch.

"They said, 'About three days.'

"He said, 'I’ve never done anything like this before. I don’t know why, but I feel I can trust you. Here is the key. You keep it, and when you are through, you return it to me. I’ll be here every morning at eight o’clock and every evening at five o’clock.'

"For three consecutive days, those two missionaries studied and recorded for our current use information which could have been obtained in no other way. President Johnson, filled with emotion, explained this experience to us. He said, 'The Lord does move in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.' As he made this statement of testimony to me, I realized that his experience had also blessed the lives of Sister Monson and me, for much of the information he and his companion had obtained happened to be on our family lines.

"I thought of the key which the keeper of the archives gave to those two missionaries. While that key opened the lock which revealed and released to their information the names which they needed, there is a much greater key—a key which each one of us earnestly seeks to obtain and which will open the locks to the treasure houses of the knowledge which we desire to acquire. That key is the key of faith. In this work, no lock will open without it.

"I testify that when we do all we can to accomplish the work that is before us, the Lord will make available to us the sacred key needed to unlock the treasure which we so much seek."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Under the Shield of the Storm

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When Elder F. Enzio Busche was called as a General Authority in 1977, he notified his business associates that he would be leaving Busche Printing as CEO and dedicating his life to the Lord. Some responded politely to the news, some responded with silence. One executive, however, responded by inviting Elder Busche to a special, private dinner in his honor.

After dinner, the man seemed like he wanted to tell Elder Busche something, but was reluctant. He was concerned that what he was about to say would be misunderstood. Finally, he found it in him to speak up.

He told of an experience over 30 years earlier, near the end of World War II. He was a German soldier and had been captured by the Russians, a terrible fate in those days. He and many other captured soldiers had been held in a barbed wire enclosure with no food or water. Scores died daily. He knew he had to escape or face certain death. Escaping was risky business, but at least he had a chance. He and five other German soldiers successfully scaled the fence and, under cloak of darkness, headed towards the German front line.

When they arrived at the front, the moon and stars were so bright that they did not dare to cross to the German side that night. Russian soldiers were everywhere, and bright lights shone down on the no-man's land that separated them from safety. They waited several days, hiding in a cave by day, eating roots and rats, but each night the stars and moon remained bright. They could not cross without exposing themselves to mortal danger.

Finally, one night, the man reported, he was near exhaustion, and though he had little or no religious training, he found himself on his knees, gripped by desperate panic, pleading with God with all his heart for his life and for those of his companions.

Suddenly, while he still was praying, a strong wind started to blow, bringing with it clouds and rain and fog. The Russian soldiers scattered in search for cover.

Now was their chance! The ragged soldiers raced on foot under the shield of the storm towards the German side, receiving not so much a scratch. When they arrived on the German side, the soldiers who greeted them were shocked to find them soaking wet because there were no clouds or rain on their side—the moon and stars shone as brightly as ever.

After the executive concluded, he looked at Elder Busche, and asked if he believed the story. Elder Busche of course said, "Yes."

Elder Busche knew from personal experience that when you turn your whole heart over to God, your path will made clear and a way will be opened up for you to pass from danger to safety.

Sometimes our shield is found through the storm, not from it.

(You can find this story in Elder Busche's book, Yearning for the Living God, pages 162-164.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Where Art Thou?

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Early in the book of Genesis, God asks an interesting question. It's in the third chapter, ninth verse.
"And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?"
Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit which the Lord had forbidden them to eat, and their eyes were opened. In their new-found awareness, they were ashamed of their nakedness. They tried to make clothes by sewing fig leaves together to make aprons. But when they heard the voice of the Lord in the garden, in the "cool of the day," they tried to hide themselves.

I say tried because it is impossible to hide from God. We may sometimes imagine that He cannot see us or that He does not care. He seems inattentive, at a distance, to some, at odds. No matter what it seems, He is giving us room to grow by allowing us to choose without constant intervention; He is giving us a chance to correct ourselves. If we do not, He will, in His own due time, correct us. 

When God asked "Where art thou?" do you think He already knew where the man and woman were? Of course He did. What, then, was the purpose of His question? I can't say I know fully what this scripture means, but I think I understand one thing about this question: It was asked for Adam and Eve's benefit. When He posed the question, wasn't He really asking them to be accountable for their actions?

The Lord is not accusing them of anything, not yet, though he certainly could have. The Lord is merely asking a question, one that will be uncomfortable for the man and his wife to answer. Ultimately, they did answer the question, and when their transgression came to light, they were cast out of the garden and never permitted to return.

We have a Garden of Eden experience during childhood. Even if you had to survive a rough childhood, there are often little joys. We start out innocent. We play. We sleep. We eat. We play some more. Eventually, we revolt in someway as teenagers and find ourselves "cast out," often to the relief of our parents.  But most of us get to come back to visit. Adam and Eve never had the chance to go home. Could you imagine that?

Back to the question. "Where art thou?" In the Book of Moses, this question is translated, "Where goest thou?"I like both translations.

Where are you, and where are you going? Two very important questions to ask ourselves.

Many years ago, I lost my temper and stormed out of the house with a self-celebratory flourish. My eight-year-old daughter, still living innocently in her own Garden of Eden, followed me out the door, and in tears said, "Daddy, where are you going?"

I have never been able to shake that moment. It changed me forever, one little question asked by an innocent child.

I have never lost my temper since, and I have never stopped asking myself, "Where are you going?"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And They Were Not Ashamed

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A couple of days ago, we were reading about the creation together as a family. Near the end of our reading, we came across these very frank verses.
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."
—Genesis 3:24,25; Moses 3:24,25; Abraham 5:18,19

For the last few days, I've been thinking about those verses. Yes, they make me blush a little bit. Yes, there was some giggling as we read them with our teenage daughter. But there is a deep meaning behind the surface of those words, and I am going to take a risk sharing what I think it is.

Of course, we know that Adam and Eve were in an innocent state in the Garden of Eden, like small children. They were not aware of their own nakedness. But there is another important dimension between a husband and wife. Not the physical dimension, but the emotional and spiritual.

One of the surprises I had after I got married was how keenly aware my wife was of my funny little habits and tendencies, my hidden quirks. Well, they were hidden to me, but not to her. Nobody had ever pointed out such things to me before. Not my parents. Not my missionary companions.

She pointed them out to me, but she did it gently. Respectfully. So the revelation of these odd human turns was not devastating to me. It was, and continues to be, quite entertaining. And helpful. Sometimes painful, but nevertheless, necessary and helpful.

In a sense, I was (and am) emotionally naked before her, but not ashamed. I am able to expose the deepest parts of myself, some odd parts, some hardly defined, without shame or chagrin.

Now, she hasn't always been gentle. Not 100 percent of the time. And rightfully so, because, like any of us with our spouses, sometimes we can annoy each other. (Like slurping when I was eating my bowl of Rice Chex last night.) But she is kind. And because she is kind, it is easier for me to respond, to stop, to change. If she was critical and negative about these things, it would be more difficult for me to change them. I would be on the defense. But I am not. After 30 years of marriage, I realize I need this help. I welcome it.

And it goes both ways. I have also readily pointed out her darling little quirks as she has mine. I know I have not always been as kind and gentle about it as I could be. But I am now. Most of the time.

This is an important part of human growth.

Then, too, there is the spiritual side. There are the spiritual experiences. There are the tears. The ones I keep hidden—most of the time—from other people, but which I can't hide from her. Tears from the depth of my spirit, from daily sorrows and frustrations, the complete range of human experience, all there for her to see like no other person can see. And I am not ashamed.

It really is one of the small, great joys of life, to be so safe with another person that you can reveal your complete, unedited self, without fear or shame.

That's what those verses mean to me.

P.S. Eating a bowl of cereal at night (or two bowls) is an old habit that I had broken many months ago. Now it's back. It's a sign of stress; it's comfort food. I am working on it.

A Family Preparedness Plan

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Last night, as part of family night, we talked about our personal family preparedness plan. We hear about ward preparedness plans and community plans. Why not have a plan just for our family? Here are some of the things we talked about and did.
  • We decided once again where our meeting place will be if the house is damaged in any way.
  • We decided what we would do if our daughter was at school during an earthquake or other disaster, how we would go get her.
  • We reviewed again how to shut-off the gas meter and the main water valve in case the gas and water lines were damaged. 
  • We collected emergency contact numbers and put them in a computer file, in small print. Next, we'll print and laminate cards with those numbers on them so we can each put one in our wallets. 
  • We also checked our flashlights. Bad shape. Batteries need replacement.
  • Do we have shoes under our beds or our side of the bed? Why do we need that? Well, as my wife reminded us, in case of earthquake, there could be broken glass on the floor, between you and your closet. If you needed to get out of the house in a hurry, well, ouch. 
These are just a few preliminaries of our plan. We can't do it all in one family night. It's best to work at a little at a time, like most things. Just be consistent, and keep after it, a little at a time. That's what works.

Calm. Unpanicked.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Earthquakes

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Earthquakes have been on my mind the last few weeks. Not just because of the earthquake in Haiti, but because they are happening all over, some right here in Utah.

Do you feel prepared for an earthquake? I don't really feel prepared enough, not as a family or as a ward.

But I have found something that will help. It's a handbook called Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country: Your Handbook for Earthquakes in Utah. Just click on the title to download the PDF.

I know what I am going to suggest we do for family night tonight.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Comparison of Creation Accounts

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Here is a document that I prepared a few years ago that compares in parallel columns the creation accounts in the book of Genesis, the Book of Moses, and the Book of Abraham. It goes along with our current Sunday School reading.

Click the Full button (bottom, lower-right) to see a full screen version of the document. You can click here to download the document in PDF.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New LDS Youth Website

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A new website dedicated to the youth of the Church is available at Youth.lds.org. It is specifically for young people ages twelve to eighteen.

Here is a description from Lds.org: "It features prophetic guidance for youth along with media featuring youth around the world following the example of the Savior in serving and strengthening one another. The site is also the online home of A Brand New Year 2010, where youth bear witness of the power of living the standards in For the Strength of Youth."

One of the features I thought was pretty neat was the Testimony Wall.  You can click on a picture of a young man or young woman and then read their testimony. It is so refreshing to read their reverent, genuine testimonies.

I also like the Brand New Year section of the site. There you can download music and videos for free (even the jewel case artwork). And on the Spread the Word page, you can download posters, commitment cards, even T-shirt graphics.

So if you are still in your youth, a leader of youth, or wish you could go back to your youth, check out Youth.lds.org.

A Personal Goal

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In December and earlier this month, we as a bishopric encouraged the ward members—adults and children alike—to set a personal goal for the year 2010 based on a gospel principle. We also suggested that families hold a family home evening to talk about their goals.

A few weeks ago, I said, "I guess we ought to follow the bishop's advice and have a family night about setting goals." Someone was heard to say, "Daddy's talking about himself in third person again." We had that family night on January 4.

I was looking through the new Gospel Principles manual, searching for a topic to base my goal on. It seemed like less than a minute, and I knew what I had to do: I needed to focus on faith this year.

During the last four years, since I was called as bishop, my faith has been tried more than during any other time in my life. Some of those trials are fairly obvious, I know. Most of you have probably noticed that we only have one car. We live in a rental home. Compared to the past, I have never had as much trouble with my employment as I have had since 2006. Nevertheless, these last four years have been the most productive years work-wise of my entire career. But though I keep increasing my efforts, even though I work all hours of the day and night, plying my trade of 26 years, the tide is still out.

Hence my goal.
"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." —Job 13:15

I still believe Malachi 3:18–20 with all my heart. I believe all of God's promises to the faithful, and I strive to be worthy of those blessings. And where I am weak, I plead for His grace. With all the energy of my heart, I strive to do all that God has asked me to do, to repent daily, and to offer Him a broken heart. The tide continues to go out, and parts of me are strewn on the shoals that have been exposed by retreating waters.

Yet, I feel closer to God than I have ever felt (even when I was on my mission), and I have never felt closer to my wife and our children. Am I not blessed in the most important ways? Yes, and I would not trade the riches of my life today for all the wealth the world had to offer.

It has been a very interesting trial, to say the least. Through it, I have discovered that I don't fully understand faith. But I know more about it than I used to know. And I am determined to learn more about it, all that I can. Part of my goal is to read and study every verse in the scriptures that contains the word faith (there are 253 occurrences) and to analyze and categorize all those passages. 

Recently, I asked our wonderful stake president, "Don't you think this ward deserves a bishop who has his own car and his own cell phone?" He replied, "Is that in the handbook? Is it a requirement that a bishop have a car and a cell phone to serve?" I had to say no. He said, "Well, when you find that in the handbook, let me know."

I have not found it. I will continue to serve. I am at the edge of the water, far from the shore I once knew, but I can see the lighthouse in the distance. The lamp is burning bright and strong.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"The Bridge Builder" by W. A. Dromgoole

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An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim—
That sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned, when he reached the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near,
"You are wasting strength in building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way.
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?"

The builder lifted his old gray head.
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him."

Updated Gospel Principles Manual

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Like the Old Testament Class Member Study Guide, you can find the new Gospel Principles manual, updated for 2010–2011 priesthood and Relief Society instruction, online as well. Just click the link here.

Here are some of the great features of the new online version.
  • You can view the manual online (in HMTL) and click on the links to scripture references for easy look up. Click here for a sample page.
  • You can also download the whole book here or individual chapters in PDF format. 
  • You can listen to the individual chapters as MP3s and even download the whole book in MP3 via a zip file. Click here to get all the MP3s at once.
  • You can also access the manual in many different languages—36 so far. Click here to see the language options.
While this manual explains doctrine very simply, it is a profound and life-changing book. I love it. I hope you enjoy reading it this year, both online and off-line.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"My Wage" by J.B. Rittenhouse

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I found this poem today in the Utah Ogden Mission newsletter dated January 12, 2010. It struck me when I read it that I have set my wages too low. Somebody's got to do something about that. And who would that somebody be but me? Enjoy the poem.

I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening when
I counted my scanty store.

For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial's hire,
Only to learn dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Old Testament Class Member Study Guide

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Many of you in the ward received a copy of the Old Testament Class Member Study Guide at the beginning of the year. This study guide is also available online (HTML). One of the features I like about the online version is that you can look up and read the scriptural passages with a single click.

Here below is an image of the page of the online guide for this week's reading. If you click on any of those scriptural references, it will open a small window and show you the highlighted verses from that reference.

If you are pressed for time, this is a great way to look up verses quickly.


Once again, you can find the online version (HTML) of the study guide here. You can also get it in PDF here. Happy (and speedy) reading!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Real Problem

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I got a kick out of this video. Not just because I like dogs.

The poor pooch—"Dogter Jekll and Mr. Hide"—seems trapped by his own selfishness, and is confused about the actual source of the problem. Many of us snap and growl at the people around us, thinking that the real problem is somewhere outside ourselves. But the truth is, we are the problem most of the time. We have no worse enemy than ourselves. I know this from a lot of personal experience.
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." —Pogo

Friday, January 8, 2010

Look to the Light

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So many of our ward members have suffered severe trials in the past year. You are not alone. Elder Jeffrey Holland shares with us a message of hope in this video. I needed to see this. I hope it will bless you like it did me.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I'll Give You Four Weeks

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Shortly after Elder F. Enzio Busche was baptized in 1958, he came to his branch meeting place in Dortmund, Germany, the town where he lived. A member of the branch looked the new member up and down, walked over to him, and lifted his tie with one finger. He said to young Elder Busche, "I'll give you four weeks."

How would you have felt, as new convert, if a member of the Church said such a thing to you? Many of us would be devastated. A few among us would have turned around, walked out the door, and never come back. But not Elder Busche.

He writes of that experience, "I realize now that I could have been offended, but, instead of being irritated, the Holy Ghost blessed me with a powerful feeling of calm, satisfaction, and gratitude, and I was not offended at all. I smiled at him and even surprised myself with my answer. I heard myself saying, 'Brother, I am so glad that men such as you will be there to help me and prevent such a thing from happening.'"

Many years later, while serving as a Regional Representative, Elder Busche came across this man and greeted him warmly. The man was "overcome with strong, but humble, emotions." We don't know all the words they exchanged, but he hugged Elder Busche, squeezed his hands, and said, "Thank you. I love you."

Imagine how Elder Busche felt once again seeing the man who had given him "four weeks." Imagine how the man himself felt. It was Elder Busche's faith that carried him to safety, beyond the reach of disappointment in others. If we follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, as Elder Busche did, we will find the higher road, the happier road that leads, not to unresolved bitterness, but to peace of mind and a glowing heart of satisfaction. (This story comes from pages 98 to 99 of Yearning for the Living God.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In Our Kitchen

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We have a small kitchen, but it is still one of my favorite places in the house. It's small, but it has heart.

I like to cook, but to be honest, I am not very good at it. I try. There are a few things I do well, but that usually involves a slow cooker. It is difficult to fail with a slow cooker (but I have done it). I don't know what it is—it's like most of what I do in the kitchen I have to relearn, over and over again.

For example, I am constantly asking my wife questions like, "What temperature would you cook this at?" "How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon." "Where is the nutmeg?" It would not be difficult for my wife to put me down in the kitchen, but she doesn't. She is kind and patient with me. Even when we have dissues (rhymes with issues).

What's a dissue? A dissue arises in a marriage when your husband unloads only part of the dishwasher, gets distracted, and then you start loading the part-empty dishwasher with dirty dishes. Even though I have mixed up my wife over the dishes no less than twice in the last two days, she is patient with me. I want to do better.

My father was an excellent cook. He learned to cook for large groups during World War II when he worked in the galleys of troop and merchant ships. He left for the service the month he graduated from high school in 1944. He was 17. That's the way they did it back then. I miss him, and his cooking. We still have a number of his Gerber knives and use them regularly.

We still have lots of things in our kitchen that we got for wedding or shower gifts. Tupperware measuring cups. An electric knife that looks almost new, and cuts like it, too. (New except for the earthtones—brown and beige. Remember the late 70s and early 80s?)


We still have our Hamilton Beach Mixette, also clad in earthtones. It is 30 years old and only showing a little wear. I noticed yesterday some copper wire showing through the cord just where it comes out.


We're not replacing it. I'll figure out how to fix it.


There is one special dish we have in our cupboard. It is an old-fashioned serving dish. We found it in Rexburg, Idaho. While we were at Ricks College in the first few years of our marriage, we owned a little house. Little is an understatement. It had one bedroom and a tiny cellar. The kitchen, however, was larger than the one we have now, I think.

One day, in the summer of 1980, I was digging in the yard and I found this dish. I realized the moment I found it that it could only have gotten to where it was because it got washed out of someone's house during the Teton Dam flood in 1976. It was still in one piece. It's one tough little piece of work.

It isn't a particularly attractive dish, but we have always kept it in a kitchen cupboard and still use it regularly. It reminds us that we can endure trials without shattering, that there is always hope, that, even if we get lost for a while, we can still keep on serving.

Our kitchen is full of memories. It's an archeology of our married lives. It's full of heart.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Deepest Yearnings of the Human Soul

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From "Happiness, Your Heritage" by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

"The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

"Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

"Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty...

"You might say, 'I’m not the creative type. When I sing, I’m always half a tone above or below the note. I cannot draw a line without a ruler. And the only practical use for my homemade bread is as a paperweight or as a doorstop.'

"If that is how you feel, think again, and remember that [women]  are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe. Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.

"But to what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy. Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things.

"If you are a mother, you participate with God in His work of creation—not only by providing physical bodies for your children but also by teaching and nurturing them. If you are not a mother now, the creative talents you develop will prepare you for that day, in this life or the next.

"You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.

"What you create doesn’t have to be perfect...Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.

"If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Let Us Be a Temple-Attending People

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In his first talk to members of the Church as prophet and president, President Howard W. Hunter said the following, which I shared in my talk about temple attendance last month:

"I invite the Latter-day Saints to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership. It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple. It would please the Lord if every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families.

"Let us be a temple-attending people. Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing.

"In the ordinances of the temple, the foundations of the eternal family are sealed in place. The Church has the responsibility—and the authority—to preserve and protect the family as the foundation of society."

I want to live President Hunter's counsel. I know I can, and I know you can, too. I pray that my temple attendance will be more meaningful this year. The only thing that has to change is me.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

We Can Be So Hard on Ourselves

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After being hard on myself for the last several days, I read this from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland tonight after I got home from Church. It helped me, to be sure.

"There is something in many of us that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life—either our mistakes or the mistakes of others. It is not good. It is not Christian. It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ. To be tied to earlier mistakes is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist.

"Perhaps at this beginning of a new year there is no greater requirement for us than to do as the Lord Himself said He does: “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).

"The proviso, of course, is that repentance has to be sincere, but when it is and when honest effort is being made to progress, we are guilty of the greater sin if we keep remembering and recalling and rebashing someone with his or her earlier mistakes—and that someone might be ourselves. We can be so hard on ourselves—often much more so than on others!

"This is an important matter to consider at the start of a new year—and every day ought to be the start of a new year and a new life. Such is the wonder of faith, repentance, and the miracle of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ward Goals for 2010

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Once again, here are our ward goals for 2010:

1. Become a more devoted and reliable home or visiting teacher.
2. Set a personal goal for the year based on a principle of the gospel.
3. Have more meaningful and regular temple attendance.

While we call them ward goals, they are actually better termed our leadership emphasis for 2010. We leave it to individuals to set your own personal goals, but we encourage you to do so.

The first goal is a repeat from 2009. Many in the ward reported that they made improvements in their home and visiting teaching, and I am grateful for that. But we need to continue to emphasize this and make improvements.

The second goal is for both parents and children. We encourage you to dedicate a family home evening to discussing and setting personal goals based on a gospel principle. A great resource for this is the new Gospel Principles book that will be our priesthood and Relief Society instruction manual for 2010 and 2011.

When Brother Nuttall spoke on the topic of goals last month, he quoted from a talk given by Elder Quentin L. Cook. I repeat that entertaining quote here. You'll get a kick out of it.

"When our children were small, my wife, Mary, and I decided to follow a tradition which my father taught when I was a child. He would meet with us individually to help us set goals in various aspects of our lives and then teach us how Church, school, and extracurricular activities would help us achieve those goals...Having been the beneficiary of this tradition, I had the desire to engage in this practice with my children. When our son, Larry, was five years old, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said he wanted to be a doctor like his Uncle Joe. Larry had experienced a serious operation and had acquired great respect for doctors, especially his Uncle Joe. I proceeded to tell Larry how all the worthwhile things he was doing would help prepare him to be a doctor.

"Several months later, I asked him again what he would like to be. This time he said he wanted to be an airline pilot...Almost as an afterthought I said, 'Larry, last time we talked you wanted to be a doctor. What has changed your mind?' He answered, 'I still like the idea of being a doctor, but I have noticed that Uncle Joe works on Saturday mornings, and I wouldn’t want to miss Saturday Morning Cartoons.'

"Since that time our family has labeled a distraction from a worthwhile goal as a Saturday Morning Cartoon.

What are some of the Saturday Morning Cartoons that distract us from attaining the joy that we desire? Some want to be married in the temple but only date those who do not qualify for a recommend. Others want to be a good home teacher or visiting teacher but are distracted by the constant parade of TV programs, catalogs, and other material maintenance and don’t find time to minister to those they are assigned to teach. Still others want to have family prayer but allow little matters to build into discord that make it harder for the family to kneel together. If we examine the reasons we don’t do what we ought to do, we find that the list of Saturday Morning Cartoons is almost endless.'"

Finally, we hope you will plan to attend the temple more often, and that when you go, you will make your experience there more meaningful. The temple is a house of revelation. Many of our troubles could be resolved if we took them before the Lord in His temple and sought His guidance more diligently. There is no better place to seek the Lord's help than in His House.

When I received my own endowments in the Idaho Falls Temple the month before I left on my mission, I remember reading these words at the entrance. "The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him." (Hab. 2:20.) Those words are still in my heart. I have never forgotten the moment I read those words for the first time.

May we have the faith to know that the Lord's presence abides in the temple and that by attending the temple more often, we will experience that presence first hand—and that presence will move, and bless, and save you.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Small Miracle and a Changed Heart

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For Christmas, I received a book that I have wanted for some time: Yearning for the Living God by F. Enzio Busche. A native of Germany, Elder Busche served as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy from 1977 until 2000. I'd like to share a story from his book that deeply touched me. (See pages 181–185.)

In 1980, Elder Busche assisted Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in dividing a stake and creating a new one. A man who was called as a new stake president had been a bishop, and a new bishop had been called in his place.

In selecting counselors, the new bishop could not stop thinking about a man who had been inactive in the Church for years. He did not know how he could justify calling the man, but he could not get him off his mind.

The inactive man had actually attended the stake conference the day the new bishop was called. He had been touched by the talks, and felt a strong prompting to repent. He committed to turn his life around if he received a small miracle from the Lord.

He prayed that if the closing song was changed to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (another song was on the program), he would repent and change his life. Unknown to him, Elder Richards, who was legendary for being in tune with the Spirit, had earlier requested that closing hymn be changed to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." The man went home astonished and deeply humbled.

The next day, the less active man went on a business trip. On his way home, he stopped in a forested area where he knelt and prayed for forgiveness with all of his heart.

Later that evening, the man sat at his desk,  weeping as he wrote out his tithing check for the entire year. A knock came to the door. It was the ward executive secretary. The new bishop, unable to shake his prompting to call the less active man as his counselor, had sent his executive secretary to check on him.

The man was called to serve in the bishopric, served faithfully, and was a great strength to the ward.

The Lord knows who you are, and every call from Him is a call to repentance. May we all be as humble and as willing as this man was when we receive a call from the Lord.