Thursday, October 30, 2008

South Carolina Here I Come!

I'm getting excited! A week from tomorrow I will be in South Carolina to speak at a Women's Conference. I can't wait to see all of you who get on here from SC. I hope you will all introduce yourselves so that I can put a face with the names!
See you soon!
(Besides the down home cooking, I can't wait to get some boiled peanuts. I love them, and I can't find them out West!)

Monday, October 27, 2008


I often tell people that I have learned more about the gospel of Jesus Christ from a dictionary than any other source. They usually look at me like I’m crazy, but I’m not. (Don’t ask my family to verify that!) At any rate, let me show you what I mean. There are many words that we think we know and so we don’t ever look them up in a dictionary. For example let’s look at the word temple. My dictionary says that a temple is “a place set aside by a prophet for observation.” A second definition (my favorite) is “a place where one gets one’s bearings on the universe.” That expanded my feeling for what a temple is.

Elder John A. Widtsoe taught that “The endowment and the temple work as revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith fall clearly into four distinct parts: The preparatory ordinances; the giving of instruction by lectures and representations; covenants; and finally, tests of knowledge.” (“Temple Worship” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 12[April 1921]:58.)

Let’s look at one of those words. Our word endowment means (1) To provide with property, income, or a source of income. (2) To equip or supply with a talent or quality. It is composed of the prefix en which means “to put into” and the root word dower which means “a natural gift; a dowry.” This definition is much more meaningful when we remember that throughout the scriptures the Lord is depicted at the bridegroom and the people of the church as the bride. Therefore, the endowment is the dowry given to the bride. It is a gift of power, priesthood power and those who are obedient to the covenants made in the temple will be empowered.

I hope I’ve got you curious. Next time you go to the temple, a church meeting, or study the scriptures remember just one word and then look it up and see how it enhances your understanding. A word doesn’t have to be sesquipedalian before you head for a dictionary! Words you’ve known for years can contain subtle nuances that have escaped your understanding. This means that looking up even the simplest of words can enlighten you. Try it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Love Languages

Years ago I read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In this book Dr. Chapman discusses the ways we show our love to others and how we feel loved by them. He has determined that there are five ways we express love. (1) Words of Affirmation (2) Quality Time (3) Gift Giving (4) Acts of Service and (5) Physical Touch. He explains that if we feel loved when people affirm us verbally we usually affirm others verbally in order to show our love for them. But this can misfire if the other person’s love language is one of the other four. While we may think we are abundantly expressing love, the other person may feel totally unloved.

On Dr. Chapman’s web site there is a 30 second Test to discover your primary love language so you can better understand yourself, but more than that by watching how those you love express love to you, you can learn their love language and better love them.

But loving others isn’t what this post is about. After I’d read the book and observed the love languages at work, I discovered something amazing. God knows my love language and daily He communicates His love to me in that language. In 1 Nephi 31:3, Nephi tells us that God, “speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.” That doesn’t only mean that if I speak Spanish or English he communicates to me in that language. He knows what makes me feel loved and he loves me in that way.

My major love language is gift giving. I always feel loved when someone gives me gifts and I love to give gifts. As I realized this, I began to notice that daily God sends me gifts. Just today I was working when I suddenly looked up and in the beveled edge of my mirror a rainbow of bright blue, green, red and yellow reflected into the room. For several minutes I savored the stunning color—more distinct and bright than anything I’ve seen before. It was a gift just for me and as I pondered that thought the gift spread love into every cell of my being.

I don’t know what your love language is, but I do know that God is speaking to you in that language. Just listen!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Positive Power

Shortly before Lehi dies he teaches his son Jacob a beautiful lesson on justice and agency. (see 2 Nephi 2) One of the important things Lehi tells Jacob is that "It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass" (2 Nephi 2:11). We often hear the first part about opposition in everything being necessary and focus on the fact that this world contains many negative elements. But the next phrase is important and we don't often hear it or stop to contemplate its meaning—that if there were no opposition there could be no righteousness.

There are several things implied here, but one is the fact that it is through opposites that we have the power to dispel evil. And what do I mean by that? Well, too often in life when trying to overcome a bad habit or repent of a sin we focus on what we don't want to happen. For example, when trying to lose weight we say to ourselves, "Don't eat." But that only puts the mental picture of eating in our heads. The mind can't imagine don't. The mind can only imagine do. A friend once told me never to say to a new teenage driver as she backs out of the driveway, "Don't hit the mailbox" because as soon as you say it, the picture of hitting the mailbox is in her head and the next thing you know a dented car hovers over a fallen mailbox while you try to console the hysterical child.

These opposities, the negatives and the positives of life, are powerful. But the most important thing to realize is that the positives have power over the negatives. When we learn to think in positives, act in positives, and deal with others in positives we bring about righteousness and avoid much pain and suffering in life. "Drive straight out the driveway!" is a positive that avoids the mental picture of hitting the mailbox. "I eat healthy," helps a dieter stay on track. Affirmative thinking is powerful.

But there is more. The only way to overcome negatives is to replace them with positives. The only way to make darkness go away is to replace it with light. It does no good to fight the dark or even say, "Go away dark." Instead you simply let in the light. Opposition can bring about righteousness if instead of fighting against the negatives of life, we ignore them, identify their opposite, and fill our lives with the positives.

The statement that there is opposition in all things means that for every bad thing there is something good. Look for it! Dwell on it! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee" (Isaiah 41:13).

My students often complain that Isaiah is too difficult to understand. I agree that in some places it takes a lot of study and prayer to comprehend his meaning. But I encourage them not to let the difficult passages keep them from the love, comfort, and joy that are very clear in Isaiah.

We've had a very difficult week here. My daughter who went through in-vitro for the third time, was told the process had worked and that she was pregnant with twins, but this week she miscarried. She was devastated. As I called to tell her sisters and brother what had happened, I found out that one who had been training for a marathon had a stress fracture in her tibia and that several others were facing difficult problems. By the end of that day, I could barely function physically because the emotion had sapped my strength.

But as the week wore on, I felt the Lord's hand take mine and comfort me. But there is something more than just the offer of help in this verse. The right hand is symbolically the covenant hand. So besides a promise of comfort this verse is a statement that there is an extra promise for those of the covenant. The covenants have power and force. They are sure. They bind us to God in such a way that if we hold fast to them, they lift us from the pain and suffering of life. They bind us to God in such a way that nothing but sin can alter or break them.

I have watched as my daughters suffered the initial, inevitable pains that mortal adversity causes. But I have also watched as they have turned to God, taken His outstretched hand, and held on tight. They are children of the covenant. His promises are sure.

My heart is full. This week I've seen the power of God working in the lives of my children. This week I've felt the power of God seep into my sorrowing heart and ease my pain with the healing words, "I'm here to help you."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Is Your Marriage Fireproof?

I've always loved a good movie, but nowadays a good movie without a lot of unsavory elements is very difficult to come by. Today Mariah and I saw a great movie with not a single unsavory moment and with an incredible message. I can't recommend this to you enough. It was a powerful, well done, emotionally impactful movie about the importance of marriage. This is a must see. Not only will you love it, but it is the kind of movie we need to support so that someone will get the message that this is the kind of movie we want to see more of. The movie is called Fireproof and stars Kirk Cameron. Go see it and let me know how you like it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Lesson From My Students

This semester is the beginning of my tenth year teaching religion at BYU. I have loved every minute of it. I love working with the students. I love getting to know them. I love their enthusiasm and their zest for life. I love studying the gospel deeply on a daily basis and then walking into the classroom and discussing gospel topics with my students. They teach me so much!

I have also learned a great deal from some of the more subtle things that occur in teaching. For example, I require my students to read from the scriptures ½ hour a day and to then write a journal entry about the thoughts, feelings, and insights they had while reading. In addition, I end class a few minutes early and have them write a journal entry about the things we discussed in class that day. The intent is that they capture the things the Spirit is teaching them. Over the years I've watched how some students do exactly what I ask and when they do amazing things happen. I know I am limited as a teacher. I know that the true teacher is the Spirit and those who allow time for the Spirit to teach them receive many insights and epiphanies and learn so much.

But there are other students who see the journal as a task to get done. They write their classroom journal entry while we are discussing and then sit during the journal writing time with their book bags in their lap waiting for the bell to ring so they can bolt from the classroom. Their daily reading entries are mundane and short. "Nephi is a good guy," or "I don't really understand this Isaiah dude." They write a journal entry, but there is no learning taking place. It is very frustrating as a teacher to see the difference in those who do what I ask them to do and receive such incredible blessings and those who go through the motions but don't quite do it right and therefore receive nothing. Sometimes I want to shake them and say, "You are missing out on so much!!! You don't realize what could be yours!"

Well, as I listened to conference this weekend, I found myself wondering how much I have missed out on by not always following the instructions given me in conference exactly. I heard about dressing properly for Sacrament Meeting, about being reverent before the meeting, about praying more about what I am grateful for and less about what I think I need, about being more positive about my life experiences. As I heard these things, I wondered how often in the past I have rationalized my behavior and because of that missed out on the blessings like some of my students do.

My resolve this conference is to do better at doing what I am asked to do—not just doing part of it, but all of it. I've seen the difference sincere obedience makes in my students' lives; it is like night and day. So I am making a list of the things I need to do and committing myself to do them to the very best of my ability because I want more of that glorious light in my life!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Nephi’s Psalm

When I'm feeling discouraged or depressed there is one place I can go that always lifts me. That place is 2 Nephi 4. Thirty years after leaving Jerusalem, Nephi is writing a history of his experiences. He writes about the persecution from his brothers and the death of his beloved father. Recalling these many trials is painful and Nephi begins to feel discouraged and sorrowful over some of things that have occurred. In this state of mind he pours out his heart beginning with, "O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities." (4:17). He goes on lamenting but suddenly stops himself short saying, "Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted" ( 4:19).

You just know that the adversary is jabbing at Nephi from every angle with such thoughts as, "Nephi, you preach all these things about love and patience and faith, but look at the times you blew it!" Nephi seems to sense that this line of thinking is going to cause him more problems and so after acknowledging that he has trusted in God, he begins to list all the blessing God has given him. God has heard his prayers and sent angels to minister to him. He has been shown mighty visions and great things. As you read the list, you can feel Nephi's soul soar! Gratitude does that. It lifts us out of the dark and into the light. But the adversary doesn't want that to happen. Just as Nephi seems to have stepped into the light, the adversary comes in with a left hook to the gut, "But Nephi, if the Lord has given you so much, why do you yield to sin like you do? Why do you give in to temptations? Why do you get angry with your brothers? Let's face it Nephi, you are a pretty bad guy."

And how does Nephi dispel this punch? He commands himself to think differently. "Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul!"

Reading this psalm and listening to Nephi conquer the darkness always lifts my own soul. But in addition, the BYU Singers have recorded a version of Nephi's Psalm that is absolutely magnificent. The album is called Songs of the Soul and this incredible piece of music is the first track on the album: entitled "I Love the Lord." There is absolutely no way you can listen to this and remain downhearted. It infuses with love, joy, and peace. Listen and tell me what you think.