Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas is a Greater Show

It’s the Christmas season, and once again both Hollywood and politically correct supporters want to steal the show. It is disturbing how far we have sunk in the name of political correctness. It is unbearable to think of the sacrifices that our Founding Fathers made for this Country to supply us with the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and so forth. So much of the founding was based on Judeo-Christian principles and patterns that have worked well in past democracies and republics. But the name of Jesus Christ is no longer politically correct. In this world of sophistry reigning supreme, it is still the meek that shall inherit the earth (See Matt 5:5). Why? Because our Lord and Savior said so.

As I have studied the scriptures from childhood through my 53rd year here on this earth, one thing has been made clear to me. The Lord has always done the will of the Father (See John 5:30), putting His own needs and interests on the altar of sacrifice, and supplying for our constant welfare and support, in both offering us peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come, if we will but accept Him as our Savior and determine to follow Him (See Matthew 16:24). Following His example means that we must also put our needs and interests on the altar of sacrifice by giving to Him a broken heart and a contrite spirit. What does that mean? It means that we keep His commandments…all of them…to the very best of our ability; and, it means that we accept His laws, recognizing that they are never obsolete, no matter how many people scoff and scorn and shake their fists. Hopefully, those who have chosen to do so will find their way to repentance before that is all that they are able to do.

Another thing that I have learned is that Lucifer or Satan is very capable in his abilities of persuasion (See Revelation 12:3-9), but somehow he seems to have remained underdeveloped, like an everlasting self-centered teenager. Truly part of our real growth into maturity comes from our submitting ourselves to the will of the Father. Have you noticed that those who put their own wants, needs, and desires before the common good of their own families or humanity as a whole, care very little for the wants, needs, and desires of their fellowmen? They possess underdeveloped souls, every searching for pleasure and reassurance that their ways are just as truthful and good as the Lord’s ways, because they serve their purposes, and their personal freedoms are paramount in their own eyes. But they do not foresee how their self-centeredness affects everyone else around them and society as a whole. So instead of accepting that they indeed might be in the wrong, they proclaim that there is no right or wrong, that there is no God and no devil. The devil has perpetuated this common lie since the very beginning of time. Interesting, isn’t it, how he puts evil thoughts and desires into men’s hearts and then he tells them, “I am no devil, for there is none (See 2 Nephi 28:21-22)?” He must feel jolly good about himself to fool so many.

And that brings us back to Heavenly Father’s true plan for us. Since Adam and Eve, our Heavenly Father has supplied His spirit sons and daughters a correct family model to bring forth all the families of the earth. And God gave Adam and Eve this commandment in the Garden of Eden, “To multiply and replenish the earth (See Genesis 1:28).” He further explained this commandment, stating that “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24).” This is God’s pattern for the family. There is no other. But Hollywood and television media have been carefully working out new family patterns since the 50s and 60s to gear people up for Satan’s eventually well-accepted lie that all relationships are equal and that there is no set pattern for the family. And as family life has been misplaced by government programs, the erosion of society has been underway. And for those who think that it is all okay, No, it is not. This has happened before in other societies, and they were destroyed (See Genesis 19). Vanity of vanities, there is nothing new under the sun (See Ecclesiastes 1).

Why is the family unit important (See The Family: A Proclamation to the World)? Being placed in families gives us the greatest potential for growth in our lives and in our development to become more like our Heavenly Father. Husband and wife work together to supply the best environment that they can for their children. If they have entered their relationship responsibly, with maturity, covenanting with each other and with God, they sacrifice many of their own needs and desires for one another and for their children. They put the welfare of the entire family at the forefront of everything they do, not just exalting one person’s interests at the disparity of all others. They seek to follow the Father's will. Doesn't that sound familiar? It is the pattern that the Lord set for us in putting the common welfare of all people above his own comfort and welfare. The family allows us to establish an environment that is in keeping with God’s law and that helps us develop into mature selfless beings that are becoming more like our Heavenly Father.

Now I am not a perfect family member, but I do try to do what is right. There are many things that I have chosen not to do because I knew that those things would bring dishonor to both my earthly parents and my Heavenly Father. As a parent, many of my decisions have been based upon what is good for my husband in his professional endeavors; what is good for our children in their growth, learning, and progression into adulthood; and what is the Lord's will. As a result, I have not been diminished in any way; but, if anything, have become more accomplished as a result. Also, there are many things that I have chosen to do, because I was taught by good Christian parents who established a healthy environment for learning and growth, and because I have personally studied the scriptures, tried to be of Christian service, and gained a firm faith, hope, and testimony of my Lord Jesus Christ. This pattern we have sought to perpetuate in our own home.

And for the things I have done wrong, I have felt appropriately guilty, acknowledged my errors to God and to those He deemed necessary, and recommitted myself to His plan for me. As children of the Highest, we are never promoting ourselves well by leaving His path and going on our own merry way, thinking that we are now free. Cain made that mistake in the beginning (See Moses 5:30-33). And so it has continued; we bring personal and perpetual destruction when we deviate from God’s course. In contrast, the best way to promote ourselves is to follow God’s plan. He has so much more to offer us (See Luke 14:11, Moses 1:39).

So much of what happens in the media today seems to draw our attention away from what is most important. If we would all receive direction to focus on the Savior of mankind, we would begin to heal as a nation (See 2 Chronicles 7:14). Because of the easiness of such a choice, to just turn and look to the Savior, many turn themselves about and seek disparaging counsel and continue to struggle in darkness (See John 3:14-15; 1 Nephi 17:41). There is no peace and salvation offered that can reach to every struggling mortal soul than that which has been offered by God in the gift of His Son Jesus Christ (See John 3:16-17). He is the way, the truth, and the life (See John 14:6). There is no other way that is acceptable than the Lord’s way. And the Lord’s way cannot be changed or eradicated. Like the Lord, His ways are eternal. And the established pattern of families to include a husband and a wife, who may become a father and mother, who may be blessed with children that Heavenly Father sends to that union is not just a pattern, but it is eternal law. No matter what man does to obliterate God’s laws, they will still stand. Those who worship the Father in spirit and in truth, those who trust in the words of the prophet and the atoning sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son, these are the ones who will be blessed for adherence to the laws despite the ridicule and condemnation of the world. These are those whom Jesus prayed for, and these are those whom He will claim (See John 17:9-26).

So back to the Christmas Season. May the Spirit of Christ reign in our hearts throughout this season and throughout all the years ahead! May we decide that Jesus will be our focus and that the distractions of the world will only serve to make us more determined to both follow Him and pray for our fellowmen to have the opportunity for a change of heart, a chance for repentance, and the gift of following Him in their own lives. Christmas is a reality. This season is not just a holiday. It is a celebration of a Holy Day: the day that our Lord and Savior was born, fulfilling the prophecies of all the holy prophets, and bringing us hope of his glorious sacrifice and our impending rebirth and salvation through Him. And Christmas grows in ever deeper importance because Easter is a reality. Jesus Christ lives. To Him be all praise and glory both now and forevermore. The captive shall go free. All shall live again. And the righteous shall be exalted through His perfect grace and holiness. Let us turn our hearts and thoughts back to the Savior. He will not forsake us, and He will offer us His perfect peace in the midst of unsettling times (See John 14:27).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

We Lost More Troops in Afghanistan, and This is a Reason for our Country to Be Even More Divided?

We Lost More Troops in Afghanistan, and This is a Reason for our Country to Be Even More Divided?

We lost more troops in Afghanistan, and this is a reason for our Country to be even more divided? Facebook responses show that we are not one nation, but several with differing opinions. There are the humble who are saddened and turn to God in faith, praying for the welfare and peace of the soldiers’ families, especially during this Christmas season. There are those who condemn people of belief, saying that God is their make-believe friend. There are those who either blame God or question a God who would allow this to happen. There are those who readily blame Obama, because he promised that he would hurriedly bring our soldiers home. This was during his campaigning periods; but, while in office, he’s been faced with the complexities of the situation. There are those who defend Obama, because they view him as beyond scrutiny, and they always have, and they always will. In turn, they call all those who do not favor Obama conservative sheep who just follow a conservative news media. There are others who claim that there is no such thing as a conservative news media. There are those who are still blaming Bush because he’s the one who first took our troops into Iraq and Afghanistan. They claim that the war was all about oil, not about atrocities committed against our nation, other nations, and even the people of the nations with which we went to war (in hopes of establishing a degree of freedom for those people). Most everybody supported Bush in his decision; but, then most readily dismissed that they did so. It must be remembered that Obama did not start this war; neither did Bush start this war. There was a terrorist attack on our nation! The saddest thing of all is that there are those who think that the soldiers received their just and due reward. To be so blind that you cannot see the great love of country and people that these men and women have, that they sacrifice their daily lives, putting personal and family pursuits on hold; that they even offer the ultimate sacrifice of life and breath, is ingratitude in its deepest depths. Why do the people of this country choose to be divided?

There is a great sifting process happening now in the world. People have been richly blessed in this generation, and most in the United States have really seen nothing of war, except what the media chooses to show. But there are those who have valiantly served our Country, and they have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not all is bad, but news ratings thrive on sensationalism. There are people in the world who have looked to God for understanding and direction in their lives, and they have felt a measure of peace, even while living in the great confusion that surrounds them. They are often condemned as ignorant and blind by those who exercise their right to claim personal superiority, because they see no need for a God in their lives. They constantly tell those who have faith that they lack reasoning and that they make no sense. Just remember, faith never makes sense to the faithless. But for those of faith, we do have hope for the better world of promise that is not out of reach to those who believe and put their trust in God.

Most United States citizens have not seen much of war since World War II. I believe that because the people of the United States united in a common purpose during that war, it became a time of great growth for the country. We became stronger as a people and stronger as a country and a world power. But that strength was founded in a common purpose and a united faith. Today, many feel too superior to work towards unity in any degree. The backlash in Facebook posts and responses show the extreme lack of unity and the justifications for remaining in disharmony.

When you write on Facebook, you are exercising your freedom of speech. When others respond, they are doing the same thing. You can't expect to just write and not have responses. All are entitled to their opinions. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't agree. I just wish that people didn't think that they are displaying intelligence by stating that others are stupid. We are so lacking in common courtesy and diplomacy as an entire nation, and then we wonder why we are at war. It’s not Bush’s fault or Obama’s fault; it goes much deeper than that. If we cannot learn to be civil in our communications with each other, why would we expect civility among differing nations and peoples. It's all right for someone to have an opinion without others attacking his or her intelligence and/or integrity. So strange. You would think that when troops are lost, we could all agree that it is sad the troops have been lost. If we had less hate in our own country, we might begin to have less hate in the world.

I am no politician or political scholar, so I have no proposals for change, other than this: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” If each of us were to develop a love of God and a love of fellowmen in our own hearts, not only would we transform ourselves into children of the Highest, but we would transform the world. I cannot do much, but I can have influence in my own life, in the life of my family and my neighbors to some degree; I can have influence in my church congregation and in my community. So can you. If individuals (and families) would decide now as Joshua did of old (when he said that as from him and his house, they would serve the Lord), we would have a promised change, and it would begin with a change of heart, and it would be the change that would unite us as a people and as a world; and it would prepare us for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As we sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” this season, let us also pray that we will have the strength to rise up and prepare for a peaceful world so that we may take part in His return. Our Country’s unity, and world unity, depends upon each of us developing a unified relationship with our Maker. To become one nation under God, we must begin to live the motto, “In God is our trust.”

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Does Jesus Fit into your Christmas?

Does Jesus fit into your Christmas? Christians the world over have been taught about the prophecies leading to Christ’s birth: that the promised Messiah was born in a stable and cradled in a manger, that His birth was the greatest gift ever given to the world by God, the Father of us all; but, do Christians remember Jesus on Christmas day? Does Jesus fit into your holiday plans? Does He fit into your life all through the year?

My mother-in-law made each person in our family a Christmas stocking. When I was pregnant with our first baby, she made a stocking that just said “Baby” on it, and it had both pink and white yarn with white as well. This particular stocking evolved into our stocking for Jesus. This stocking became a place where we could deliver messages meant for the Christ-child; we deposited our gifts for Him there. It became a lovely family tradition. It is a way for us to fit Jesus into our celebration. What are some ways your family remembers Jesus at Christmastime?

Our current Bishop has challenged Ward members during the last quarter of the year to reread the Book of Mormon before Christmas. Reading the scriptures is another way that we can bring Jesus into Christmas, or to remember why we celebrate Christmas to begin with. In past years, our family has read the four Gospels during the months leading up to Christmas. And always, on Christmas Eve, the father in our home reads us the Christmas Story as found in the Gospel of Luke. What books of scripture or other inspiring books or magazines do you read to help you remember and to prepare you for Christmas?

Christ’s mission was all about service, giving, sharing, and saving. Every year we have enjoyed holiday baking and sharing our treats with neighbors and friends. One year our family acted as Santa Claus and took little presents to another family each day for twelve days leading up to Christmas. Our children felt the joy and excitement of giving anonymously and the anticipation of doing so without being caught. Other years we have chosen names from giving trees, so that we could help individuals or families receive a nice present for Christmas. My husband and I have been involved in missionary work, and there really is no greater pleasure than teaching people about Jesus and our Heavenly Father’s great love for all of us and watching them accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. What are some activities that you engage in that bring joy to others and the Spirit of Christmas into your heart?

We all have our own holiday traditions, and that is as it should be. We are blessed and entitled to believe and to celebrate as well choose. But Christmastime, for me, is a reminder that Christ does live! He is my Savior. He was born as an infant to Mary, His mother; and, God is His Father. Jesus is God’s Literal and Only Begotten Son. Joseph was a righteous man who acted as a mortal father to our Mortal Messiah, teaching Him about his earthly trade of carpentry and guiding Him in His spiritual development. Christmastime is a time for me to contemplate the great love that our Father in Heaven has for all of us in sending His Son to teach us by precept and example, to show us the way back to Heaven, and to pay the price of our admittance there with His own suffering, death, and resurrection. Christmastime is a time for me to remember that the focus of my life, not just the Christmas season, should always be centered in Jesus Christ. As I focus on Jesus Christ, my vision is not limited, but magnified, as I begin to see His great love for me and to feel my love begin to expand for others.

Today I am recommitting to fit Jesus into my Christmas and into my daily life throughout the year. I will need to make this a daily commitment in prayer each morning, and report back each night to my Heavenly Father. I know that some days I’ll do better than others, but Christmastime reminds me of God’ great Plan of Redemption. Each day I can repent and begin on my journey again. I’m thankful for this powerful gift. So my gift in return is to not give up, but to keep on trying, no matter how poorly or how well I think I am doing. Christmastime for many of us becomes a time to review our year and determine to do a little bit better. My gift for 2014 will be to review how I am doing much more often and to be concerned about charting my course more carefully from day to day. I desire for Jesus to fit into my Christmas now and to my daily routines, and spiritually guided deviations from my plans, each day of the year and coming years. Will I be successful at fitting Jesus into my life? If I do as He did and seek to do my Heavenly Father’s will and not merely my own, I know I will be.

Does Jesus fit into your Christmas? Will Jesus fit into your life in 2014?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Does Santa Fit into Your Christmas?

Does Santa Fit into Your Christmas?

Santa Claus has become a controversial subject in the scheme of Christmas giving. Some have entirely abolished him from their families’ traditions, which is their right. The main emphasis for Christmas has always been and should always be that the prophets’ words were recognized and fulfilled: Jesus Christ came into the world to save the world from death and sin. Many explanations have been invented to explain how Santa fits into the Christmas Story; and, in many way, he really does not. We should keep our focus on the Savior, the humble birth of the Son of God, and the richness of His story of giving and forgiving; the King of all becoming the servant of all, to show all the road back to His Kingdom.

The main thing to note is that every family is free to create its own traditions. When a son leaves his family and a daughter leaves her family, and the two of them create a new family, they then need to decide what is the proper path for them to take; this applies to all holidays and all parenting choices. There will be a blending of traditions and the creation of new traditions. It’s a beautiful thing, because a new family is created and they set the environment for love and growth, for understanding and discipline. They have the opportunity to set the stage and the rules for their own holidays. In doing so, they can create an environment that is conducive to true discipleship of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of reaching out to others in gift giving and charity, or they can create an environment that perpetuates self-centeredness.

We have done the Santa thing in my family of origin and in the family I created with my husband; but, we never carried it into a perpetual lie. I remember asking my mom, "Santa isn't real, is he?" when I was in Kindergarten or something. She told me that he is just a fun story. (She really had been saying that all along.) We all knew it was just a fun make-believe story. Some parents go overboard to prove he's real; I think that's wrong. Our emphasis should be on teaching that Jesus Christ is real; that the gospel--the good news of Heavenly Father's gift for us is real. In doing so, we emphasize the importance of Jesus Christ in our lives. Christmas has always had its center in Jesus Christ for me.

That being said, I think that the biggest mistake in having all the presents delivered by Santa is that children do not learn to give thanks to those who are actually making sacrifices to give them the presents. They should have the opportunity to thank their parents and family members and to always return thanks to God, who really is the One who gives us everything. We always just had our children's stockings and one or two gifts from Santa. If they woke up earlier, on Christmas day, than the rest of the family, that was all they were allowed to open. Mainly our Christmas giving was from members of the family to each other, and we took turns opening one gift at a time, from the youngest to the oldest. All of our children realized Santa was make-believe because we taught them that was so, but it still was fun to set things out on Christmas Eve and wake up to presents under the tree. It was fun to have older children help set things up for younger ones, too. And it was still fun to set out a plate of cookies for Santa.

(One more thing that was important in our family. We did not ever want to bring commercialism into the Sabbath day, so if Christmas happened to fall on Sunday, the Santa presents arrived a day early. We also did not like to have Easter bunny baskets on Sunday. That was just something we decided would work best for our own family.)

So I don't think Santa is entirely wrong. But I do think that he should be taught to just be a fun story from the very beginning. I think that he should be taught to be one representation of the spirit of giving. One year our family had an especially fun time playing Sub for Santa and delivering surprises to a more needy family than our own for the 12 days leading up to Christmas. That truly brought the Spirit of Christmas into our hearts more than ever. Children need to learn the magic of giving and find joy and glory in that. We shouldn’t allow the Santa that our family perpetuates to teach our children to carry an attitude of indulgence and entitlement which merely focuses on the getting.

If we want to teach our children to have a truly joyous Christmas, we should help them focus on what they can give to one another and to what they can give to others—and these gifts need not, and indeed should not always be, things that can be bought with money. If we focus on the gifts from our Heavenly Father in the Gift of His Son; and if we focus on the many gifts that Jesus has given us as we read about and study His life, we will find that the best gifts that we receive are not monetary, but they are gifts of the heart. Children are great at giving gifts of the heart, and we need to recognize when they give those gifts and encourage them to keep giving gifts of purity.

Giving too much time to the question of yea or nay to Santa also draws attention away from the Savior. So, for me, Christmastime doesn’t really present the question of whether or not to abolish Santa Claus entirely from our family traditions; for me, the questions are, “How can I show my thanks to Heavenly Father for the priceless and endless gift of His Son? How can I live my life to show my appreciation? How can I transform my attitude and my daily life so as to make my life a gift to Them, and so as to be a better example to my children and to others? How can I serve others in meaningful ways to help them feel the Savior’s love in their lives? What is the most important thing that I can do this season to give a gift to Jesus Christ, my Savior? In asking these types of questions, I believe that we can turn our focus to the Savior and have a Christ-centered Christmas that extends beyond our family and that can fill our hearts with the peace of the Savior throughout the New Year.

Merry Christmas to all! (...and to all a good night)!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving, Family, and the Great Plan of Happiness

Thanksgiving, Family, and the Great Plan of Happiness

I feel honored to be speaking on Thanksgiving week; plus, it is a privilege to be able to speak about families. In a way, I feel like I am giving my own eulogy. This talk will definitely be about my family and about the great Plan of Happiness. You may learn more about me than you wanted to know; but, I hope that what you really leave this meeting with is a greater appreciation for your own family and for our Heavenly Father’s love for us.

Bob and I were privileged to be born into Latter-day Saint homes. By this, I am not just saying that we belonged to Mormon families, but that we belonged to families who were truly trying to live the gospel. Our parents loved the Lord, and they did everything they could to serve Him and to serve their families. I know that my own parents made many sacrifices on behalf of their children, so that we could have the wonderful opportunities that they were not afforded themselves.

I believe that this love from parents to the Lord and from parents to their children extended way back in our family history. Those grandparents, close and further removed, who did not hear the restored gospel in this life or before they reared their families, still wanted to do their very best, and they still felt accountable to God. This is true for most of us here today. From our own current families back to Ephraim (or the Patriarch whose line you tie into), then to his fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; back to Noah, and on back to Adam, parents have cared for their children and wanted the best for them, and they have felt an accountability to God for their actions towards their families.

And so it is with our earthly family. We are all linked together, with Adam and Eve as our first parents. They were overjoyed when they heard the great Plan of Happiness, and they covenanted to be obedient and faithful so that the Atonement would be affective in their lives. But like Adam and Eve, all of their children have had agency. Some have followed the pattern that leads to happiness, and others have not. Satan would have us all believe that all is lost when we stray from the path, but Heavenly Father offered His Son so that nothing is lost. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

It is important that God sent us to live in families here on earth. That is His design. We lived with Him in Heaven during our premortal life, and there He taught us our first great lessons while we lived with Him as His Spirit children. Families are central to God’s plan for our happiness, and He intends for us to seek to live happily together as families now, so that we can be worthy to live as families eternally. His grand mission statement reads as follows, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Eternal life is not only life with God, but it is life like God’s. We will be blessed to have eternal increase, if we enter into the obligations, ordinances, and covenants that are necessary, and if we live up to those covenants, especially in how we treat one another.

I grew up in a family with seven children. My parents were not born in the United States. They were from far different European backgrounds from one another; but, they did have the gospel in common. They were blessed with strong-willed children, and they were strong-willed as well. But they always did their best to provide a loving and happy home. That does not mean that things were perfect. I have the perspective of the middle child. Those who are middle children will know what I mean.

My sister Kathy, who was nearly three years older than me, enjoyed annoying me. I mean it; she really did. One day when I was vacuuming the family room, she kept unplugging the vacuum. To begin with, I was singing while vacuuming. But after she unplugged the vacuum a few times, I lost my temper. Her response was something like, “My, you must be having a bad day.” She never held grudges though.

My brother Ed, who was two years younger than me, had some health issues as a baby and then developed rheumatic fever when he was young. As he grew older, he was just as healthy, if not healthier than the rest of us; but, he was often babied; and I was often asked to do things for him that he should have done for himself. I resented that.

As a youngster, I can remember thinking, I’m not sure that I want our family to be together forever. I was in a hurry to grow up and get out. But as we all continued to grow, we became good friends. These two siblings have returned to heaven, and I can tell you now that I am thankful for the knowledge that I have of the Plan of Salvation. I am grateful for the Lord’s love for me that He would atone for all of us and make it so that our family is a forever family.

When you believe in the gospel plan, you must take the decision of whom to marry very seriously. You will want to marry someone who shares your values, who is equally yoked with you in your understanding of the gospel, and who will be willing to commit all that they have and are to the Lord and to you and your children. And that is why I married my dear Bobby. I knew that he loved the Lord and I knew that he loved his family and he loved me. Also, it helped that his family members were active in the church and supportive of us and our goals. These are important things to consider, since eternity is weighed in the balance.

We have been blessed with six wonderful children. They are bright and capable, and they all have a desire to do what’s right. Like their parents, they aren't perfect; but they are on the right path. Bob and I have also tried to make sacrifices for our family so that each member could progress and excel and be happy. Also, we taught our children the importance of cheering for each other and being proud of each other’s accomplishments. In a family, we should not be contestants to outdo and oust each other, but we should eagerly help and persuade each other to be his or her best.

We have had great joy in watching our children progress from stage to stage. Life is a miracle. And for God to entrust us with his precious spirits, and to give us the time and the lessons to both teach them and to learn with them is the most incredible gift. It’s beyond comprehension. We've made our mistakes, but we've also made our apologies. Isn't it a great thing that our generation as parents has been allowed to apologize to their children and not lose face, but gain more faith and trust in doing so? And since God is so quick to forgive, we should also all be quick to forgive one another.

There are trials in rearing a family. No one can escape them. While some of them are similar for all of us, some are quite different; and all of them give us opportunities for growth. Some families experience health problems; others infertility; some women miscarry many children; some children have real physical or mental or emotional or social problems. But in our own unique families, it is important for us to realize that our combination is right, and God is at the helm.

Our first daughter was born with diastrophic dysplasia. While her dwarfism may have limited some of her life’s choices, it by no means has limited her capacity to grow and excel and be happy. From her early days, she was loved and treated as a capable individual. It was hard to recognize that Cathy was ever really a baby. She has such a mature adult spirit and nature. Bob and I know that we were extra privileged to have her come to our home.

I could brag about my children one by one. But I’ll spare you that today. The main thing about seeking happiness in family life is to remember to have a good attitude. Do all the important things together, especially praying together. The church provides so much good material and direction. Don’t ignore the established program of Family Home Evening. If your little boys are throwing punches, that’s okay; at least you are all together. And they will all learn to value that time. Reread The Family: A Proclamation to the World. It truly is an amazing document of scripture, written by prophets, and inspired by God.

Our family learned in a deeply personal way that families are forever when our fifth child Robert Jr. passed away. Everyone was looking forward to the birth of this dear baby boy, but it was followed closely by his death; and his siblings did not even get to see him alive. But they felt his spirit, and they all had experiences through the power of the Holy Ghost that let them know that Robby was their brother and would be forever. How sweet to hear Eliza, so young and small herself, comforting her little brother Tommy, “You’re still a big brother, Tommy. You’ll always be a big brother.”

Now I have children all over the country. Cathy still live is SLC, Utah. John and his wife are in Florida. Eliza and her husband are in Texas. Tom is in American Fork, Utah. And Christine, are special daughter that completed our family is with us for a short time yet. We can’t all be together for every holiday anymore. But we stay close through praying for one another and talking to each other by phone, by Facebook, and by letter. It is wonderful to see our children making temple covenants and beginning forever families of their own.

When Tom and Whitney got married, Jacob was just one-year-old. Tom loved Jacob from the time he started dating Whitney. And Jacob has always loved his Daddy. It was a wonderful blessing that Jacob’s birth father allowed for Jacob to be sealed to Tom and Whitney on their wedding day. I know that the Spirit was involved in this process, and I will ever be thankful to the birth father for allowing that blessing to take place. After Tom and Whitney were married, the temple sister brought Jacob into the very full sealing room. Little Jacob had the biggest smile on his face as he looked around the entire room from one person to the next. Yes, I believe he felt the significance of that event that day. The Spirit was strong. And Jacob is our first grandchild. Currently, Tom is in the process of adopting him. We are blessed and thankful. And Jacob’s little sister Amanda will be one year’s old in a few days. What a beautiful, loving granddaughter. The titles of “Mom” and “Grandma” or “Hamma” as Jacob says, are the most important titles to me. “Wife” is right up there, too.

I am thankful for family—past, present, and future. I am thankful that God would send us to families and entrust us to have families. May we value each other and live together in love, so that we will ever be privileged to do so.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, October 28, 2013

High Definition: To Have or Not to Have ADHD, and Does It Matter?

"I have ADHD HD. I've got it in High Definition" (Matt Walsh).

The following is a response to this blogpost written by Matt Walsh.

Here is his POST.

First off: I need to acknowledge that I think ADD and ADHD are real and that many people have benefited by being able to have modern day medication to help them function more normally and live happier, more meaningful, and productive lives. This goes for both children an adults. I also think that it was a catch-all 20 years ago, and has been over-diagnosed. I hope that you can read my response with a grain of salt, because I do not want to belittle your own situation. We all need to follow our hearts and our heads and do what we consider to be the best for our children. Then we need to evaluate and reevaluate over and over again as we put their best interests at the forefront of our lives.

Following is my response to Matt's post:

I like it. While I think that ADHD and ADD exist, I think they are over-diagnosed, and over-treated with drugs. I’ve read many good books on this subject, and exercise and diet are actually the best things that both children and adults should use to help them concentrate better. Many who have to sit at desks, walk or run on their lunch breaks.

I really liked the book The Edison Trait. Because if you think you have ADD or ADHD, but you are still capable of getting A’s and B’s, even if your teacher gets upset because of your exuberance, you don’t have it, and you don’t need medication. When something becomes debilitating, then parents should be concerned about finding out how to best help their child.

Also, parents need to be teaching their children responsibility and accountability, and not letting them think that they don’t need to learn these things, because somehow they are different or exempt; and they also need to let their children know that not having medication is no excuse for bad behavior. Parents should also help teachers know that they support their children being children.

We have had exceptionally bright children. And public school is not always the best place for bright children. "No one left behind" also means, "no one moves ahead." (Even though three of our children skipped grades, this really isn't the same as moving ahead according to one's real talents and interests. Plus, it really isn't dealing with their needs, just passing the challenge on to somebody else.) Yes, smart children will get bored. Finally, we decided to homeschool our last one. Best move ever. She could enjoy learning in a comfortable environment that suited her, and I was blessed to be involved in her education and see her flourish.

We actually did medicate our two sons for a time. Again, in most cases there is no way of knowing if it helps or not, unless you have a child that will chart how they feel from day to day to tell you. It might subdue them to make a teacher’s life more comfortable. But a child should only be medicated if its for his best good, not for his teacher, not for his parents. Exercise, diet, dealing with allergies, and allowing each child to be his unique self is by far more important. In some cases, it is apparent right away that medication is helpful. But it needs to be monitored, the child needs to have medication holidays, and the situation needs to be reassessed again and again.

If medication is even considered, the child should have part in the choice. Our oldest son was very angry about being medicated. And you know what, he had a right to be. It's his body. And he is smart, and creative, and delightful. And he didn't appreciate being told something was wrong with him. So if you choose to medicate, be educated about it, and also help your children be educated. Don't just do so because a teacher thinks your child needs it and passes that information on to your child's doctor.

Thanks, Matt Walsh, for your creative style in High Definition. I am one of those people who could be classified as ADD (probably not ADHD), but I’d rather keep my creativity than always have perfect order. Some days I am on top of it all, and other days, I have to let things go and get in touch with me again. I think the thing that makes us as people least like God is that we are not consistent yet. And maybe we don’t need to be quite yet. Maybe developing our own talents and our own style is what will bring us to our own consistency in due time. And shouldn't parents be supportive of each child becoming his or her best self?

Strong Will is Better than a Pill

Strong Will is Better than a Pill

I am overweight. There are times in my life that I have been the correct weight, but I have had to be diligent about getting a couple hours exercise every day and eating between 1200-1500 calories every day. To lose weight I've had to eat between 750-1200, plus really boost the exercise. I've felt great when I've done this, but I haven't always been diligent about taking the time to plan healthy eating or extra exercise.

Each of us metabolizes food differently. Fad diets and pills, supported by doctors and clinicians, will keep appearing. Ultimately, anything can work if you lower your calorie intake and increase your activity. It's important to get to know your own body and what foods might hold you back. Many today find that they feel better if they cut out fatty and sugary food and if they limit or cut out gluten altogether.

I think that this life was given to us partly so that we learn how to manage ourselves, including bridling our passions. Americans, generally, want a quick fix today. Consider how many months, or years, it took for you to get to the weight you are. If you desire to lose 20-80 lbs, you can't expect to do that in a week or a couple of months. Another part of this life is to learn to be patient with ourselves, forgive ourselves, and not to give up on ourselves. So if you want to lose weight, you should develop a realistic plan, chart a course, and stick to it. As you do so, you will find that your extra weight will not continue sticking to you.

I have just recently committed myself to try again. Some of the challenges that we have in life are ongoing. That does not mean that we are losers; it just means that we haven’t mastered them yet, and that there are many things that we can learn along the way, if we have the right attitude and if we are humble and seek appropriate help.

What do I consider appropriate help? First off, you need to be able to count on yourself; so you need to be honest with yourself. I have found that paperwork is important. President Spencer W. Kimball said that a goal is not a goal, but only a wish, until it is written down. Well, if you want to lose weight, you might have a specific target in mind, but break that up into smaller increments, so that you can readily reach smaller goals that will lead you to your ultimate goal. (Losing 1-3 pounds per week can be a healthy and doable choice provided that you are increasing your vegetable and fruit intake and getting plenty of exercise. If you lose 5 pounds the first week, do not expect to continue that way, but keep it realistic. If you can a little the first week, you might actually be improving muscle tone, so do not get discouraged.)I have found that to be honest with myself, I must write everything down. This time around, I am writing on a paper tablet that I can carry with me, and then I am transferring the information to three different Excel documents. One is titled, Food Intake, and I need to let you know that I plan on having at least 5 fruit or vegetable servings each day and a minimum of 8 glasses of water (which usually becomes 10); other than that, I am NOT cutting out sweets or junk food altogether this time around, but they are being truly limited so that I can eat the 5 necessary servings, plus other healthy meals and still keep my calorie count below 1400. (I realize that this is higher than what I said earlier in this post; but I am much more overweight than at earlier times in my life. After I have met a target weight, I may have to adjust calorie count to continue to lose, but I am hopeful that I’ll be more energetic and can boost my activity instead.)

The second chart is entitled Measurements. So I took key measurements when I began my “diet” or “change in life-style.” I measured my neck, bust, under bust, waist, belly, hips; then I measured upper arms, lower arms, wrists, thighs, calves, ankles. I am planning on measuring 4 times each month. I really haven’t done this before, but I feel like it will help me in seeing results that the scale might not always show. I’ll measure again on Friday, so we’ll see what that information holds.

The third chart is entitled Daily Activity. Right now I am using a glider (while I listen to the Book of Mormon), a Ab Lounge, and a stationary bike (while I watch Dr. Who). I also count minutes walking, either outside or while shopping. (Disneyland days will be great walking days.) As I lose some, so that my legs will not have to be supporting so much weight, I will start my outdoor walking on a regular basis again. A year or so ago, I was walking 2-8 miles a day, about 4 days a week. (Not everyone that is overweight is incapable, like so many believe. But I know that I can be capable of so much more.)

What else is appropriate help? Look to your Heavenly Father. Pray to Him morning, all through the day, and again at night. He knows your desires, and he can help you obtain your goals better, more quickly, and more long-lastingly than anybody or anything else. I think as you prioritize your day and your life to meet your food and exercise needs, you will find that the Lord will help you prioritize other things in your life that will help you feel more in control and more successful. After all, He glories in your happiness and success.

If it is possible also find a mentor or an inspiration. If you have a spouse, child, parent, of friend that you can trust with your goals, tell them. Those people can kindly help keep you on track. They can encourage you and even exercise with you. They can be your personal cheer team. Maybe you can find a walking or a running partner or group. Make sure that whether or not you have someone to report back to that you always report back to God.

Now, I need to give my son credit for being so inspiring. In his young adult life, he had gotten really overweight. Before his mission, he was overweight, but he was still pretty fit. On his mission, he lost a lot of weight, and returned home looking fantastic. He was involved in BYU’s swing dance team and he played a lot of soccer just for fun. Then he hurt his knee, and he gained a lot of weight again. (Family genes.)

Well, this determined young man decided that this was not going to define him. Upon graduating BYU, he came home, took the CBEST and began student teaching. Then he enrolled at LaVerne and earned his Master’s in Education degree and his teaching credential in English. While being a student and either substitute teaching or student teaching, he developed a plan. And he saw it through.

Since he had hurt his knee, he began with weightless exercise. He used our exercise bike, cranked up to the fullest tension, and would pump hard for two hours while watching a movie. To kick off his diet he was only eating between 600-800 calories a day (which I would not suggest to any 6 foot man). He had determination, and he got results. Then he started playing basketball at the ward on Tuesday nights, first with the older group, then with the younger. So he was playing 5 hours straight from 5 to 10 p.m. Yeah, he was losing the weight quickly. Then with his busy schedule, he also started doing Dance, Dance Revolution on the Wii to get a quick workout when he didn’t have time for longer ones.

He got in shape and he looked buff. People were awed. But then he went on to even bigger goals, He started running. And he is fast. While working on his master’s, he was running about 30 miles a week. Usually, this was broken up into 4 days: two 5 miles, one 8, and one 13. He has participated in many ½ marathons.

When our ward ride bikes to the beach, he decided to run. But he just decided the night before, so he hadn’t stored up on carbs. I’m glad that he had the sense to stop when he knew he should, but he almost made a marathon that day. (He would have made it if there were people handing him drinks along the way.) I think he ran about 20 or 21 miles, then he walked of the trail for another to find a convenience store. He bought a Gatorade and a large fountain soda. When he paid for them, he asked the clerk if he could pay for a refill on the drink right then. She looked confused, and he said, “’Cause this one will be gone in a couple of minutes.”

I know this wasn’t supposed to be a post about my son, but I am pretty proud of him. He is now an officer in the Air Force and he is currently in flight school. He is training as a CSO (Combat Systems Officer). The CSO is way more than the navigator; he needs to know everything about the system, the weapons, and the crew, and, essentially, oversee it all.

Anyhow, this post was in response to the many fad diets and pills that circulate and show wide controversy on the Internet. I don’t believe in them. But I believe in myself; and I believe in God, and I know that He will be my help as I put my trust in him. I admire many people who are meeting the challenge of living healthy lives in unhealthful environments and against odds stacked against them. I’m thankful for the challenges that God has given me that of necessity help me to be humble, and also give me understanding into the lives and hearts of others who have weaknesses and sadness. “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27) The Lord’s promise is that He can help our weaknesses become our strengths. No pill can promise that.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I am Passionate About Education

I am passionate about education. My greatest joy in life has been watching my children learn and sharing in that experience, and learning right along with them. Watching a child’s eyes light up when he learns something new, especially when he is sharing with you what he learned, is an incredible experience. Parents who think that they are not smart enough to teach their own children are WRONG. Parents, of necessity and by right, are their children’s first teachers; and, you are their most important teachers, along with the Holy Ghost. You must teach your children to recognize the Spirit so that they can learn truth for themselves.

Living in today’s world is a huge plus for education. There is so much light and truth and goodness, and there are so many resources available for teaching and learning. Never, at any time, have we been blessed with so much light and learning available. Also, never, at any time, have we been bombarded with so much darkness and potentially corruptive material. In most places in the world today, parents have the choice on how and where to educate their children. Ultimately, parents are responsible for the teaching and training of their children, and they should be supportive and involved in the educational path of their choosing. If they aren't, it is time to make a new choice and then be involved.

In ages past, many communities had families, churches, and schools all working together to help children become moral and productive members of society. Today the schools blame parents for all societal ills, and parents blame schools; and, most leave religion and God out of the equation. Without our children being taught about God, His love for them, and what He expects of them being first and central in their training and education, they are NOT receiving the education that they need most--the path and plan that can lead us all back to our Heavenly Father’s presence. Parents cannot rely on schools to teach their children to live godly lives; neither, can they be dependent upon churches to do so. In the same breath, I must say that parents cannot rely on outside sources to solely educate their children in the three R's and beyond. It is ultimately the parents' responsibility to follow through and make certain that their children are learning. Sometimes this requires extra help from outside sources; all the time, there should be parental support and involvement.

You cannot know what is happening in your child’s education, if you are not present. Your young child lacks the necessary skills to impart to you what is going on at school. Also, he has most likely been taught at home and at school to have respect for adult authority; and, therefore, if he is belittled or reprimanded at school inappropriately, he most likely will not tell you about it, because he is confused and fearful. I can personally attest to many incidences where my own children were treated inappropriately at school; and, as a result, they were confused as to what exactly is appropriate. In saying this, I am no way claiming that nothing inappropriate ever happens in the home; but, in the home, there is usually constant love, and acceptance, forgiveness, redirection, and respect for a child’s age, learning style, and learning capacity. I also am not saying that all educators lack respect and the desire for our children’s best good. You, as parents, just need to be involved; be alert, be watchful, and know what is going on in your child’s school. If you are present and seek to establish rapport with the teachers and school staff, you can become a necessary link as a mediator in your child’s educational experience. If you don’t think you have time to do so, you better rearrange your priorities and make time.

If you are not passionate about education, change your mind and your heart, and become passionate. Assess the pros and cons of each educational choice. Why do you want your children to attend public school? Why do you want them to go to a private school? Why have you chosen to school at home? Are you are sending your children to public school merely because you think that this is the best environment for socialization? Think it through again. You should be aware with whom your children socialize and how they are being socialized. Are you sending your child to private school because you think there are fewer problems there than in public school? Think it through again. Have you thoroughly checked out the school your student attends, with your presence, and assessed its strengths and weaknesses? Have you checked out the private school to see if it has anything better to offer? Sometimes parents move children with extra disciplinary needs to private schools. Are you schooling at home? What is your motivation to do so? I believe that if you are going to teach your children at home, you should be doing so for some extremely good reasons. Do you want your children to have a cutting edge in the world? Do you want your children to be taught correct Christian principles all throughout the day? Do you want your children to be able to do extracurricular activities that do not extend their workday into many additional hours beyond the regular 6 ½ hour school day? Do you want more productive and bonding family time? Are you listening to what your child wants, plus teaching him to make his choices through prayer and the power of the Holy Ghost? Are you also seeking the Holy Ghost’s guidance in relation to your family’s educational choices? Most importantly, you must realize that you can make your own choices about education and you should rely on the Holy Ghost to direct you in doing so. You do not have to send your child to a brick-and-mortar school just because it’s a tradition. Follow what is best for your child and your family.

My children all learned how to read at home and how to enjoy learning. I guess I'm selfish that way. Why would I want someone else to hear my child read his first words? That would be like having someone else watch him take his first steps. If you must send your children to public school, you needn't let them take away the bonding moments of joy that rightfully belong in the home. Read everything with them: scriptures, fairy tales, library books, etc. Sing with them; talk with them; discuss everything; listen, love, learn together. One of my adult daughters gave Bob and me the greatest compliment. She said that we had a humanitarian house, because it has been filled with good books and music and parents and children that shared these things together on a regular basis. In other words, realize that you must become home-schooling parents even if you send your children away to school for 6 ½ hours every day.

While I am passionate about education, I am also passionate about agency—the right to choose. This right to choose properly belongs with the parents and the families. We should all respect each other’s rights in choosing our educational paths, and we should realize that most parents love their children and want what’s best for them.

My four oldest children attended public school, but that does not mean that they were not schooled at home. We always had magazines and workbooks that interested them. We took advantage of the year-round-school schedule and had many fieldtrip days filled with fun and learning. The month periods where they were off-track always helped to put our family back on track. Overall, these four had a great educational experience at home and in the public school. They were all honor students, and two of them were Valedictorians. Even so, there were some tragic happenings along the way that were not consistent with our beliefs or methods. And many times, our children were not afforded due process that should have been their right as U.S. citizens.

Our youngest attended public school for Kindergarten and 2nd grade; she skipped first. Since she was the youngest, I was extremely involved at her school. Here I observed “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” She had two really fine teachers. But, when she began 3rd grade, and because of the year-round-schedule, she hadn’t turned 7 yet, it became apparent that this was not the educational environment that she needed or that was best suited to her learning style. Her 3rd grade teacher is a wonderful lady, but we decided to school our daughter at home. It was the best decision. (By the way, her principal and many teachers also told us that they thought it was a great decision.)

My daughter just graduated high school this past June. She graduated as a Valedictorian from California Virtual Academy’s 2013 Class. Since 7th grade (and maybe earlier), I have asked her what she wanted to do at the end of every school year concerning the upcoming year. She chose to continue schooling at home, and she was happy doing so. This afforded her the opportunity of volunteering two mornings a week at the environmental learning center in a library close by. She wouldn't have been able to do that had she been in regular public school. She was also in a church youth group. So she had plenty of socialization. Do I regret that she didn't have some of the positive experiences I had, or my other children had, in public school? Of course, I do. But she may not have had any of them anyhow. Am I glad for the extra family time and bonding and moral teaching that were available to her in our home? Yes. That counters any negative.

My children all attended an early morning religion class throughout high school as well. I am thankful that they had the opportunity for spiritual instruction and were empowered thereby to deal with the battles that they faced in high school. I believe that if you choose to send your children to public school, you must be diligent in supplying them with the tools that they need to fight the battles of the day. You must also develop great communication skills so that your children will be able to tell you what is happening in their lives. You might find it necessary to take time to try to undo the things that shouldn't be taught or happening at your children’s school. In other words, know what is going on in your child's life. You must be intimately involved in his or her education, whether that takes place at home or in a building we call school.

I think that too often we think that we can change the system while we are molding ourselves to the system. It doesn't work well. So you need to know your values, stand up for your values, teach your children your values, and teach them to stand up for their values. More than anything, whether you send your child to school or school at home, realize that you must be a home-schooling parent! You MUST. Also, realize that you must take a lead in the proper socialization of your children. Pay attention to the friends they choose from the time they are small, and help them make good choices. Build your own co-op of support with your adult friends and their families. Take your children to church and help to strengthen your own family and other families. Wherever your child attends school, wherever your child goes, be involved. Be a teacher. Be a parent.

Post Note, prompted by discussions during the day:

I have a whole lot of respect for those who have attained college degrees, and professional degrees in education. So many wonderful teachers, counselors, and school personnel have influenced my life, the life of my husband, and the lives of our children. Two of my children actually have degrees in education. Cathy is one of them; John is the other. John's wife is also a teacher. I believe that we can all be passionate about education without thinking it's my way or the highway. We should all make educated choices about our educational paths and those of our children. When we study out what is best and seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we will know how to best meet the needs of our own children. And we should not feel inclined to patronize those who choose differently than we do, nor diminish the positive educational experiences we have received, because of a few bad encounters. Like I said in the above post, I am passionate about both education and agency.

Yet in my own experience, I often said when my four oldest were small, if things got worse, I would homeschool. Well, things got worse, so I did. It was the right choice for our family.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I Was Taught Judgment

As I child, I was taught judgment. I was taught my colors: black and white and the full spectrum of the rainbow. I was taught that the ABC’s progressed in a certain order; and that when placed in certain situations, the ABC’s made words; words, whose combinations did not change, always remained the same words. I was taught my numbers and how to manipulate numbers in many ways, so that I could add them, subtract, multiple, divide, and later on integrate and differentiate. I learned that I had to follow certain rules to arrive at the correct answer. My world had order, because I was taught judgment.

I was taught not to run into the street, or I might get hit by a car. First, I should look both ways; and, when I was really young, I should hold an adult’s hand while crossing the street. I was taught not to touch a hot stove, or I’d get burned. Some experiences I had in life confirmed the lessons taught. For instance, when I rode my bicycle down the street with no hands on the handle bars, and a softball hit my front wheel, my bicycle stopped, but I kept going. Good lessons on inertia and cause and effect. I also learned that there were consequences, both because of my action riding the bike and my sister’s action throwing the ball, which caused me to end up with a broken collar bone. But I also learned that broken bones heal.

Because of the guidance of great parents and good teachers, I was guided, scolded, disciplined, loved, encouraged, and taught judgment. Along the way, I was able to put together the teachings and the life lessons in such a way as to apply critical thinking skills and develop better judgment, internalized judgment. I was taught to make inferences and draw conclusions based on sound principles and my own experience and the experience of others who had proven themselves trustworthy. Yes, I even was taught to judge whom I deemed trustworthy, and of whom I should remain skeptical. I was taught to listen to and respect adults IF they were asking me to do correct things or teaching correct principles. If NOT, it was important for me to NOT do what they asked me to do, to seek help, and to tell my parents. I’m glad that my parents taught me judgment. Judgment has protected me time and time again.

I was also taught empathy. I was taught that I am a child of God, and I am important. Along with that, I was taught that every human being every having lived, living on earth, or yet to live on earth is also a child of God, and each is important. I was taught that not everyone has the same privileges that I have and that not everyone has the same beliefs or understanding that I have. I was taught that we all will make mistakes, some small, some great, and that these mistakes are part of our learning process. I was taught to feel sorrow and guilt and a desire to change and do better when I did things wrong. Sometimes I felt shamed; but mostly I was taught love. I was taught that we have a loving Father in Heaven who sent His Son Jesus Christ to be the Savior of us all. I was taught to read God’s words and to internalize them and to pattern my life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. In God’s words, I was further taught judgment, and the necessity of not calling evil good or good evil. I was taught that I should abhor sin, but forgive the sinner. Often that means that I should forgive myself as I ask for forgiveness from God and feel His Spirit changing me, leading and guiding me. I have learned that the Lord has truly suffered for me and for all of us, so He is eager for us to repent, so that He can forgive us. I was also taught that we are held responsible and accountable according to the light and knowledge that we have received. The scriptures have taught me great judgment. They, along with the words of modern-day prophets, are the yardstick by which I measure what is right and wrong and the map by which I chart my course.

Now I am an adult, and I am amazed that my conclusions about the necessity of making good judgments are not shared by many of my fellow adults. I hope that the lessons on making good judgments have not stopped with my generation because judgment is needed for our success and for the success of our posterity. I believe that in Satan’s lies, which are dispersed throughout society, one of the greatest is that all variances to true Christian patterns are acceptable, or at least that we should accept the inappropriate actions of others as an expression of their individuality and that we have no right to discriminate. Many think that because we were given agency, that we are not bound by laws, cannot make judgments, and must not make anyone feel uncomfortable with any wrong that they do. In essence, the new teaching is to accept the sin as good and as a valuable choice for the sinner, because God gave him, or her, the right to choose. In refusing to acknowledge that some behavior is correct and some behavior is incorrect, some think that they are merely being non-judgmental; when, in essence, they are being very poor judges and not exercising the powers of reason that God gave to them and expects them to use.

It seems that many have misinterpreted the scripture, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” There are multiple other scriptures that can be found, which talk of the necessity of making judgments. I don’t think that it’s appropriate for us to judge anyone in a hateful, condemning, or damning way, because Christ atoned for all of us; and, therefore, He will rightfully be the final judge. But we can, and we must, make judgments about what is appropriate behavior; and, then, be able to distinguish that a person’s value doesn’t decrease because he has or does engage in inappropriate behavior, or because he made a mistake unwittingly or willfully. We are not condemning a person because we acknowledge that something he did is wrong. We are acknowledging that the action is wrong. That judgment just shows that we have understanding of what is right and what is wrong. As far as discipline or punishment, we can leave those judgments to the appropriate channels in the land or in the churches. And, once again, Jesus will be the final judge.

I suppose Jesus’s warning when He says, “For with the same judgment that ye judge, ye shall also be judged,” can even be seen at work with those who have misinterpreted His scripture and counsel. Because in their own self-righteousness about not judging others who have done wrongfully, they are quick to judge those who have strong opinions over what God has declared as right and wrong. I have been the recipient of such kind of backlash many times as I have tried to express my beliefs, because society says that Christianity is unkind, outdated, and shows discrimination. Yes, discipleship is appropriately discriminatory, and it also shows good judgment.

I could show personal example upon example, but I refuse to display poor judgment here and reap the judgment of others, who would be quick to judge me as a person, even though my examples would be scenarios and not overall judgments on a person’s entire character. We can learn from scenarios and even poor examples as we judge and decipher what is wrong and what is right and what actions we will take in order to improve our own lives and become better examples in our sphere of influence. Practicing good judgment means learning from our own mistakes and learning vicariously from the mistakes of others. Good judgment also acknowledges that, while behavior can be chosen, consequences cannot; and while we can exercise good judgment, it is usually not up to us to deal out any consequences; but allow natural laws, the laws of the land, the churches, and, ultimately, God to impose disciplinary action or punishment. But as parents or leaders, or in our own sphere of authority, sometimes it is necessary for us to both make judgments and issue appropriate consequences.

So today I am not going to give examples of right and wrong. If you are a person who has not extinguished the Light of Christ which is inside of you, with which all of us were born, you are entitled to develop the ability to be able to judge what is right and what is wrong. This is a gift from God, whose laws are always just and right, and He has given us everlasting laws covering what is right and what is wrong, which man cannot annul. My witness and my testimony is a judgment that I have arrived at through the power of the Holy Ghost. I know that we were all born with the Light of Christ, and I know that the Holy Ghost can testify to us of all that is true, and I know that whatsoever is good cometh from God. I have arrived at this knowledge, this conclusion, this judgment, not on my own, but aided by the Holy Spirit. Whenever another bears testimony or adds his own witness, you can be assured that a judgment has been made. I am thankful that God has made us just a little lower than the angels in giving all of us the power to reason and to improve upon our reasoning abilities, so that we can all engage in good judgment.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Benefit of the Doubt

I believe that it is important to learn to give the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes we are so quick to judge others, even those closest to us, as a means to elevate ourselves by thinking belittling thoughts about them. How can such destructive behavior ever amount to anything constructive? It can't.

It is so much more profitable to show patience, not only in others (and what they do and say), but in our reacting to them. Pausing, to give ourselves processing time is a wise choice. We do not need to allow first impressions of anyone or any event mar our overall ability to perceive clearly. Often if we seek clarification, we are pleasantly surprised that we are all nearly on the same page after all. And it's important to not hastily spread any early doubts to another's detriment or even to our own.

Communication takes effort, but it is well worth it, in avoiding misunderstandings and judgments that leave hurts and scars that can take days or even years to heal. Pride has a way of making us hold unto our hurts in justification of our own rightness and in seeking to prove how much we have been wronged. And often this destructive cycle begins with a small infraction, a miscommunication, or a breach in understanding. Instead of being quick to take offense, we should extend to each other the benefit of the doubt.

How has giving others the benefit of the doubt changed your perspective or blessed your life? How has doing so preserved a friendship?

How has someone extending to you the benefit of the doubt affected you?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Do You Hug With Respect?

Do You Hug With Respect?

I have been flabbergasted at how many times I have read lately that everybody wants and needs hugs, and that hugs are necessary for our daily maintenance. Some of these posts include how many hugs one must receive in order to be healthy and that the length of a hug should last for 20 seconds, so that you’re body can produce oxytocin and, as a result, blossom in rich abundance of good feelings. What?

To say that everyone needs a prescribed amount of hugs for a specific amount of time is pretty much like saying, “I will buy everyone a plastic, long-stem, pink rose for Christmas because I liked it when someone gave me a plastic pink rose, or I have read on many posts that everyone likes plastic pink roses.” I think of a hug as a more precious gift; perhaps, even as an extension of my soul. Hugs themselves lose their meaning when we attach such a silly prescription of one size fits all, to be engaged in 8 times per day.

I, therefore, would like to submit that everybody desires and needs respect. If you know someone values hugs and that hugs help to recharge their inner being, go ahead and give that person a hug. If you know that someone is not a touchy-feely person and would rather receive a handshake or even a smile and a nod, do not hug that person. You are not their personal doctor or therapist, and who gave you the right to decide that everyone wants the huggy-type of attention, just because someone said it’s what everybody needs or because you like it yourself.

I personally feel like my space is being invaded if I receive unprecedented or unwelcome physical contact. I don’t think that I necessarily hate hugs, but I think hugs mean more than, “Oh, you’re here and so am I, so let’s hug.” For me to freely receive or give hugs, certain conditions must be met. Namely, I need to feel a spiritual connection with the person I am hugging; and, if it’s a person outside of my family, I usually have not seen that person for an extended period of time; or, I see a person who is in great spiritual need, and I feel drawn to offer help to them; and a hug becomes, in part, a gift from my soul; in which case, it is like an assurance that I am available to help. In much the same way as a handshake can convey the meaning of a contract or a social bond, a hug can relay the message of commitment to extend caring and friendship.

Respect is so lacking in society. In my own home, our family rules revolved around the need to be respectful. I soon found that whenever there was misbehavior of any kind, the real offense came from a lack of respect. That certainly would often be because the children were young, and the parents were also young, and there was both lack of understanding and some selfishness involved. It is no wonder that the two greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord” and to “Love your Neighbor as Yourself.” As we learn to remember the Lord first off, and develop a love for Him, because of all the love He’s given us and the great and many blessings we receive from Him every day; it helps us to learn, in turn, to love ourselves as His children and to love our fellowmen, who are also His children and our brothers and sisters.

Our family rules consisted of having respect for God, having respect for parents, having respect for others, having respect for self, and having respect for property. Knowing that one of the greatest ways to show love is by being vigilant in showing respect, these rules seemed like the best way to teach our children. They certainly worked better than punishment for behaviors we didn’t like; these rules taught expectations for appropriate behavior. More than anything, these rules taught our children that everyone is valuable and worthy of respect and that their efforts in work and production were worthy of respect, and that rights of ownership also deserved respect. These rules should have been developed sooner and adhered to more fully, but I know that they were valuable for our family.

I am thankful that I had really great interactive, loving, lively children. But, even so, each one was different and had different needs. To think of parenting each child exactly the same would not have been respectful. To demand that each child have the same exact social behavior, meaning that each would have to value togetherness time and down time to the same degree would be unfair. I’m certain that there are things that we could have done better in some situations. But children, like the rest of the population come with a variety of characteristics on an every changing continuum. To demand an autistic child, for example, to interact in a noisy, highly active and unorganized social setting would not only be disrespectful; it would be harmful. I think for the most part parents try to learn about their children’s natures and nurture them according to what they deem is best for them.

We really should extend that same courtesy to each other. It’s pretty easy to read body language if we pay attention and if we desire to know the wants and needs of others so that we can treat them with respect. Hugging without respect is really a self-fulfilling activity at best; at worst, it is a weapon. Human contact should mean more than imposing ourselves on one another. Truly, a genuine hug, where the giver is also a recipient, and the recipient is also a giver, can produce oxytocin and endorphins that stimulate well-being; but an unwanted hug can have the opposite effect, causing a rise in anxiety, the production of cortisol, and a breach in trust that can take a long time to regain. I know that from personal experience.

At the same time, I try to not have the common reactions, which I am wont to have, when I know that others are not meaning to be disrespectful, but are just acting according to their own make-up, personality, and cultural and social upbringing. Even though I grew up in a home with two parents both reared in Europe, who were not extremely demonstrative in hugging and physical contact, I have a sister who has always been extremely huggy. In part, we are a product of our social and cultural upbringing; but, when it comes to physical contact, some of us just like it, or need it, more than others of us do. It doesn’t mean that some of us are flawed and some of us our healthy. It just means that we are diverse in our wants and our needs, and in order to be respectful of that, we need to learn a bit about each other before we start hugging everyone. So I hope that next time you or I hug someone else, we are not only thinking of showing affection, but of extending respect. I think that all of us want, need, and deserve more respect.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Where Does our Country Go From Here?


Where does the Country go from here?

We see news; we see protests; we see ideas. But now what? Just seeing glimpses of what the government is doing, or not doing, and then glimpses of those who are acting in their own good faith to preserve, or to regain, the freedoms outlined and promised in the Constitution does little more than make us all a tad more aware of our own discontent or sleepy acceptance. What can those who have patriotic stirrings in their souls actually do? Where do we go from here?

I've followed the bikers' march and the truckers' march and their efforts are exemplary. They have shown our veterans respect and devotion. But we know that the mainstream media is ignoring them or undermining their efforts by saying that they are tea party lunatics or such. So are we going to let the liberal media and the liberal educators continue to write our history? In 20 years from now, what will the school buddy history books say about today? I'm afraid that if we all don't get involved in some logical, unified way, these efforts will be buried or be perversely documented as lunacy. So how do we help focus these efforts into true directives? How can patriots gain a unified voice and a united vote in order to change the direction we are heading? What are we willing to do as a people to preserve those things which we claim to be precious?

These marches have to be the beginning of bigger things. Who else values our service men and women? Who else values our veterans? Who else values our Constitution and the legacy of the founding of the greatest country ever? For those who think that the last statement is prideful nationalism--No, it is humble gratitude to God for helping to establish a country devoted to freedom and progress of individuals and families, who could pursue their dreams and seek happiness in their fulfillment. It is acknowledging the wisdom of our forefathers in trying to keep the federal government’s power to a minimum in order to preserve personal freedoms and state freedoms. And, it is showing gratitude to those who developed and gave us a good America and a good childhood, and having the desire to pass that America on to our children and our posterity, instead of the parallel universe that has been erupting alongside it. One has to die and the other remain. Which one are we seeking to preserve?

I can’t think about patriotism, defense of country, and preservation of country and Constitution without turning my thoughts to God. We have to be disciples of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Without His aid, we are doomed to fail. The Lord Jesus Christ is both our spiritual and our temporal salvation. We need to acknowledge Him, and we need to acknowledge that we need Him now. To become strong again as a nation, we need to become strong again individually; and that strength needs to begin with our spiritual selves.

Today, the speaker in church noted some things that we should be doing to become better disciples. These are the very things that we must also do to become better citizens, so that we can ask God the Father in the name of His Son Jesus Christ to aid us in our quest for freedom from both spiritual and physical bondage. To say that we are not in bondage currently in our nation is either a lie, or else we are too spiritually dead to notice. We are indeed in bondage to our national debt and to a government that is not representing the people who voted them in office.

Steps outlined by Bishop Johnson:

1) Have daily prayer and scripture study.
To this, I would add, study the Constitution and the history of the rise of this great nation.
2) Take time to ponder. Think about your prayers and listen to the Spirit for insights and promptings. Think deeply about the things that you read and incorporate the things that you learn into your life.
3) Don’t raise your voice. Practice diplomacy and patience. You can’t enforce your will, but you can use gentleness, persuasion, and love unfeigned.
4) Be in control of your appetites and passions. Make the necessary day-to-day choices that will help you gain self-mastery.
5) Be active in church and in the gospel. Remember that your church should help you live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Attend your meetings.
6) Be humble. Accept righteous counsel.
7) Serve others and forgive. Especially, remember the two great commandments: to love the Lord with all your might, mind, heart, and strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself.

In reviewing the above seven points, I can’t help but think that Benjamin Franklin would endorse these himself. He practiced these principles of self-discipline in his life, and his wisdom helped guide and bring about the birth of this nation.

Back to the beginning question: Where does the Country go from here? We do not have any extra time to dally and play with sin and destruction. We don’t. Individually, we need to devote ourselves to God and to Country. I know that I am going to do better. We need to seek righteous leaders and we need to constantly seek to redress wrongs. And if called upon by the Spirit of God and by the wisdom of righteous men and women, we need to be prepared to defend our Country and its Constitution. The question still remains. I don’t have the answers. But I know that our safety and our preservation lies in the righteousness of each individual citizen.

No trust for current media or government

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Few Thoughts on the Atonement

I most likely will not understand the Atonement during my mortal life. I don’t understand it, but I accept it. While it is difficult to comprehend anyone suffering to an infinite degree for me and for all humanity, I can comprehend His love for me, because I can feel it. I have felt the Savior’s love for me many times; I have felt His forgiveness and His acceptance. His promise of sending His Spirit and giving His peace is a reality for anyone who seeks after Him.

I Feel My Savior's Love

I feel my Savior's love
In all the world around me.
His Spirit warms my soul
Through ev'rything I see.


He knows I will follow him,
Give all my life to him.
I feel my Savior's love,
The love he freely gives me.

I feel my Savior's love;
Its gentleness enfolds me,
And when I kneel to pray,
My heart is filled with peace.

I feel my Savior's love
And know that he will bless me.
I offer him my heart;
My shepherd he will be.

I'll share my Savior's love
By serving others freely.
In serving I am blessed.
In giving I receive.

Words: Ralph Rodgers Jr., Newell Dayley, and Laurie Huffman
Music: K. Newell Dayley, b. 1939

I even have difficulty contemplating His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. No wonder His disciples fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus suffered for all of us. It was too much to witness; it was too much to take in. So while I know that the sacrament is a time to remember Him and honor His gift to me, often I fall short in my re-dedication and let my mind wander. But He is ever understanding, and He still accepts my meager attempts to covenant with Him, to keep His commandments, and to always remember Him.

The greatest testimony to me of the goodness of Jesus Christ is that I am happiest when I am trying to be like Him, when I am serving others. When I am guided by His love to extend that love to others, it is manifest in my own heart to an even greater degree. This is healing; this is light; this is the love of Jesus.

In my moments of greatest sorrow, I have not been cast off. I have been embraced in the warm of His love. As I look at pictures of Him that express sorrow, I am reminded that He is the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief; and to become like him, I must also experience sorrow, but I am not left to do so alone. So even amidst the greatest sorrow, I have felt peace, and I have felt joy.

One of my favorite hymns expresses so clearly my thoughts concerning the Savior’s love for me in extending to me the gift of His Atonement:

I Stand All Amazed

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.


Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.


I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.


Text and music: Charles H. Gabriel, 1856-1932

I love the Lord. I can see this, because I have felt a connection with Him and acceptance from Him. This is because He first loved me. While I do not fully comprehend the Atonement, I do understand and accept that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and I can return to my Heavenly Father because of Him. Truly, I stand amazed.