Monday, August 31, 2009

Musings on "Good"

It is difficult to think of the creation account without the words “and it was good” popping into your mind. Just four verses into Genesis, we encounter the word good for the first time in the Bible. In addition, in that first chapter God declares things to be good six more times. Since good is one of those words we’ve known the meaning of since we began to speak English, we don’t stop to think much more about it. Good is good. Right? Well not quite.

The Random House Webster’s College Dictionary 1996 lists 49 definitions for the word good and tells us good can be used as an adjective, adverb, or noun. The adjective good means “of a favorable character or tendency” and intensifies the word it modifies as does the adverb good. When used as a noun good has more insightful definitions that include “something conforming to the moral order of the universe,” “something useful or beneficial,” or “advancement of prosperity or well-being.”

I’m not sure it is possible to understand the meaning of the concept good by isolating any one of these definitions. Instead the meaning becomes clearer as we explore them all. Certainly when our Father in Heaven acknowledged the world as good it was because it was pleasant and benign, but it was much more than that–it was all that is good. It conformed to the moral order of the universe and was not only useful but necessary for us to achieve prosperity, happiness, and well being.
When thought of in these ways, the pronouncement “it is good” takes on whole new meaning. When created, the earth was benign. It didn’t heave its waters onto the land to flood and destroy. It didn’t rumble and quake its sure foundation so that cities fell in ruin and valleys pushed to unattainable heights. In the beginning, the earth was benign. All it produced and did was to benefit mankind. It protected and promoted the welfare of all that God created and thus it was good.

While the Genesis account underscores the fact that all God made is good. Mormon turns it around to explain that “All things which are good cometh of God” (Moroni 7:12). Just as there are many definitions of the word good, there are endless good things in this world. The choices we have for participating in good are limitless. No matter what a person likes to do, there is plenty of good to choose from. As a matter of fact, there is so much good that every person on earth can find something to satisfy his or her own interests within the realm of good. All that matters is that we are part of that vast array of the good God has created–that we contribute to the prosperity, happiness, and well being of God’s children. If we do this, one day God will say to us, “Well done thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Just Checking In

It has been a very busy day of meetings, responsibilities, and family gatherings. I am physically tired, but happy. I'm too tired to write anything tonight, but I promise to post something tomorrow.

Thanks for your encouragement and support. I've received some great stories on the Truth Tools and Living in Truth. Keep them coming! It really helps me.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My New Baby!

After a grueling week of reading the typeset copy of my book Gospel Insights for Everyday Living on my computer, I feel like my brain is fried. But I am excited! I’ll read it one more time tomorrow looking for typos we haven’t caught before and then it should go to press on Monday.

Writing a book is a lot like having a baby. The gestation period is long and lonely. But I get attached to it even before it is “born,” and can’t wait to see what it will look like once it is finished. I struggle with the changes editors want to make, and when things are cut, I feel the labor pains intensely! But once the book is done and on the shelves of book stores, I know I’ll forget the pain and only be excited. Soon!

I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be in stores. If you like the book, by all means tell me. If you don’t, please keep it a secret. Remember it is my baby you’re talking about!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Using the Key

A key is "a means of gaining entrance, possession, or control." We all have keys to our homes and cars. But the most important keys aren't always metal--they're mental. The key to living in Truth is to be constantly aware of how the thoughts we are thinking are affecting us. Are those thoughts taking us closer to God or further away? Are they positive and full of hope or negative and discouraging? Do they express a reliance on Jesus Christ, or reflect the idea that we’ve got to do it all ourselves?

Actions flow from our thoughts. Therefore if we control our thoughts, our actions will always be appropriate. But if we let any thought that happens to land there wander around in our head and then try controlling the actions that come from those thoughts, we will constantly be making mistakes and having problems.

But the worst part of not controlling our thoughts is that bad thoughts cause us pain—usually unnecessary pain. “Fret not thyself” (Psalm 37:1) is good advice. Keeping our thoughts full of hope and trust in Jesus Christ allows us to avoid the pit of Illusion and live in Truth.

What a blessing this key can be in our lives, if we just remember to use it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Today my husband and I are celebrating our 42nd wedding anniversary. How well I remember that day. He picked me up at 6:00 in the morning and we drove the three hours to the Manti Temple where we were married in the Blue Room. My parents, his mother, and a few other people attended. It was simple and yet oh so beautiful. Heaven was with us and has been ever since. And I don't mean that everything since then has been wonderful and glorious. We've argued, worried, cried, struggled, and hurt together, but heaven was our goal and so somehow we worked it all out.

But we've also dreamed, rejoiced, danced, celebrated, and prayed together. Then heaven was with us. It's been a lot of work, but it has been worth it. I've come to realize through it all that love isn't something you fall in or out of. Love is something you make happen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Writing Truth

I learned a lot last week while teaching my two classes, especially the Truth Shall Make You Free class. I’ve been studying these things for several years now and working hard to incorporate them into my life. But when I learn things, it is seldom in words. Feelings come to me that teach me and then I struggle to put the feelings into the right words. Teaching forces me to articulate what I have learned, but it always brings me face to face with the things I’m not articulating well or have failed to articulate at all.

With Education Week behind me, I will be going back through the book and adding what I learned by teaching, and stripping out the extraneous things that don’t need to be there, and then I’ll submit it. If you’ve had experiences with the Truth Tools, Truth Test, storytelling, necessary and/or unnecessary pain, or with moving from the Pit of Illusion to the Realm of Truth or any of the other principles we’ve talked about in the past on this blog or in my classes, now is the time to share them. I’d love more real-life experiences to use in the book. I can change names and circumstances so that no one will recognize you—if you want. But the stories of how the Truth Tools and Living in Truth work are so much more powerful than me just describing it. So if you care to share, and don’t want to go public by leaving your stories here as a comment, then email me your story: smillsjo at gmail dot com.

I hope to hear from you all soon!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Charity and Fear

Mormon says something very interesting in one of his letters to his son Moroni. He says, “Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16).

Mormon is at war and has watched his people being slaughtered by the hundreds. He knows the torture, the cruelty, the horrors that wicked men can inflict on others. And yet he says he is not afraid because perfect love casts out fear. I pondered on this a long time trying to understand. Does he mean that because he loves those inflicting the cruelty with a perfect love, he isn’t afraid of what they will do? Or does he mean that loving God with a perfect love, which we call charity, casts away fear so much that no matter what they do to us, we aren’t afraid?

I think the meaning lies within the latter. Having perfect love isn’t about forcing ourselves to love our enemies. It is about loving God and receiving the gift of charity from Him so that love fills us and expels all negative feelings and thoughts. It is so contrary to the natural man that it is difficult to image. But to a man like Mormon, it comes naturally. Perfect love fills him so that he cannot feel fear.

Perfect love or charity is God’s love—a love he shares with us when we seek it with all our heart, might, mind, and soul. And because it is His, it never fails us even in the face of grave danger.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Be Still and Know"

As long as you are in mortality, our Father in Heaven has a work for you to do. And as long as you are in mortality, He is working on you. He is changing you, prodding you on to more good, guiding you to perform the things you were born to do in your life. That's the promise of God for everyone who believes!

Watching for how God does all this is exciting. This week slow down and notice how He guides you. There is no such thing as coincidence; pay attention to the small details of your life and see how God is arranging things to happen for you. Little “gifts” show up in the form of tender mercies. Stop and be still every once in awhile and just listen for His voice or the feeling of His nearness.

If you are watching for Him, God will become evident in all facets of your life. The secret is in slowing down and paying attention so that the business of life doesn’t keep you from knowing God is near and is in charge.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What Can I Share?

The Savior taught us to follow Him and to do what He does. Most of the things He did are very apparent. We should be obedient to God. We should teach and help others. And we should love one another just like Jesus did. But other things He did are much more subtle.

One of the subtle things I have been thinking about is the fact that Jesus was always concerned with what He could give to others—never with what He could get from others. In today’s world everywhere you look people are crying out, “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” They want rights and privileges. They want status and money. They want pleasure and easiness. And they cry out for these things to be given to them with the least amount of effort on their part. Young people choose for their heroes some of the loudest of these selfish people.

But Jesus was all about sharing. Of the 45 miracles he performed 19 were requested by the person or friends or family, and in two the unclean spirit within the person actually asks Him not to perform the miracle and in the remaining 24, Jesus simply sees a need and works His power to heal and help.

This is an important thing to realize if we want to be like Him. But it is also important because when we are always crying out “Gimme!” the universe seems to pull away from us and withhold all that is good. But when we cry out, “How can I share?” the universe seems to open up and share all it has to offer. We get back what we give out.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Help When I Needed It

I definitely had help this week. I’ve often taught two, three, or even four hours in a row with no problems, but this is the first time since the surgery and radiation that I have done it and I didn’t realize how much physical strength teaching takes. This morning as I left, I wondered how I would make it through my classes. But I made it, and I know it was because I was blessed to be able to do so.

That reminds me of one of the miracles we talked about in the Messages in the Miracles of Jesus class this week. It is a miracle described in one simple verse in John 8:59—a mob seeks to kill Jesus, but he escapes through the multitude without being seen. It is such a simple miracle we tend to overlook it, but to me it sends a clear message that while we can’t always see or even know that Jesus is working in our lives, He is there helping us.

Today, I did know. But there are other days when I haven’t recognized His hand in my life. I realize now that many times when I’ve felt abandoned, He was there and I was unreceptive. I’m learning to recognize His help and to be grateful for it. I’m especially grateful today!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Coming to an End

One more day to go! Tomorrow I teach The Truth About Joy and The Miracles in the Book of John and then it will be over for another year. It has been fun, but I am exhausted. In addition to being physically tired, I got a call tonight saying my daughter in TN is in the hospital. She is in a lot of pain but they don't know what is causing it. I should have known that while talking about Living in Truth, the Lord would allow me to practice what I preach! All is well. All I can do from here is pray for her and I'm doing that. Good night! I'll check in tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Day at BYU

I’m very tired, but am having a fantastic experience at BYU Education Week. I’ve seen old friends that I haven’t seen for years. I’ve met some wonderful new friends from all over the United States. But the most amazing thing to me is the feeling on campus. People—total strangers—passing by you smile and say hello not in a cursory way but with feeling, emotion, and enthusiasm. Yesterday on the short walk from my office to the building I spoke in every single person I passed (about 20 people) either smiled at me or said hello, and one woman I don’t know from Eve even said, “You look so beautiful.” Wow!

What would life be like if every place were like that?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Peter and the Temple Tax

Matthew tells us of a time when the people who collected the tribute money for the temple asked Peter if Jesus paid tribute. This wasn’t a question concerning money. It concerned authority. You see, all the Jewish males over the age of 20 (see Ex. 30:13) were required to pay an annual temple tax of ½ shekel. This was used for upkeep of the temple and was considered an atonement offering for a person’s sin. But in the Savior’s day the Rabbis and priests claimed they were already holy and had no sin so they didn’t need to pay the tax.

Peter told the tax collectors that Jesus paid the tax, but when Peter and Jesus went into a house, Jesus rebuked Peter and asked him who the kings of the earth got their tribute money from—their children or strangers (Matthew 17:25). Peter answered that they received it from strangers. The Savior explained that the children were then free from taxes.

The lesson Jesus was teaching is that He was free from paying the tax on His Father’s house both because He was the Son and because He was free from sin. However, he told Peter that in order to not offend he should go fishing and that he would catch a fish with money in its mouth which he should use to pay the tax for both himself and Jesus.

This is an interesting miracle. Jesus has just proclaimed himself to Peter as the Son of God. Now as Peter obeys the given instructions, he learns that when obeying the Son of God his needs are met. Likewise when we follow the Son of God our needs are often met miraculously just as they were for Peter. There is absolutely no logic or reason to how it happens. We pay our tithing first and somehow there is enough left to pay our bills. We serve the Lord first and somehow the time stretches out to allow us to do the other necessary things of life. When we put the Lord first, we have sufficient for our needs.

But there is something else that is interesting here. Jesus could have provided the money in any number of ways. But Peter is a fisherman and so Jesus tells him to go fish. Jesus tells him to go work at what he does. It is ordinary, and yet not. Jesus didn’t provide the tax by having Peter win the Readers Digest Sweepstakes. There is no get rich quick scheme involved. Instead Peter just goes about doing what he does, and his needs are met.

This account says to me that when we try our best within the realms of our own power—we do what we do whether it is to be a carpenter, fisherman, accountant, nurse, or teacher—miraculously our needs will be provided if we keep the commandments and follow the Heavenly King.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Things Are Improving!

I just got home from the doctor and things are improving. Grizelda has stabilized and is no longer growing. She may have even shrunk a little. So I don't have to have another MRI for 6 months. Thanks again for all your love and support. It really helps!

This is the Big Week!

With all that’s been going on around here, I got behind on answering your comments. So I’ll say right here to all of you, “Thanks you so much for your love and support!” You don’t know how it has helped me. My appointment with the doctor is this afternoon at 3:00 and I am counting on good news, but no matter what the news I know that my Father in Heaven will help me through it and that I have many, many friends (YOU!) who are there to support and cheer me on. I’ll try to post a quick note later this afternoon after I get back from the doctor with a report of what I find out.

It’s also a big week in that tomorrow I begin teaching at BYU Education Week. I am looking forward to that. People come from all over the world for Education week, and I meet so many wonderful people and learn so much. It is one of my favorite things to do.

So today I am knee deep in studying one of my favorite things to study—Truth. Remember that Truth is knowledge of what is, what was, and what will be (D&C 93:24). Truth is not what should be or should have been. Understanding that basic principle has changed my life. When I let myself wander into the realm of Illusion by thinking things shouldn’t be the way they are, I create unnecessary pain and misery for myself. When I stay in the realm of Truth and deal with what is, the Spirit is always there to comfort and guide me. Life becomes so much simpler!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Reflecting on Life!

I was awakened this morning by a phone call from my five-year old grandson who lives in Africa. I answered rather groggily and heard, “Hi, Nana, this is Nick. I just want to say three words to you.”

“What words?” I asked.

“I miss you.”

That will get me through the rest of the day!

I kept asking him questions because they just arrived in Africa last week and he kept answering, “I’ll tell you that later. I only had three words to tell you today.” Finally, however, he did answer the question, “What is most different about Africa?” He said, “It isn’t in the United States.”

I guess I’ll have to wait for the rest of my answers, because he’d said his three words worth! But oh, what wonderful three words. I miss him, too.

If you had asked me twenty years ago to predict the rest of my life, I would have told you that I’d be living near my nine children and their families doing grandma things. But seven of the nine children live far, far away and only two are here in Utah. Of the 29 grandchildren only two are in Utah. I enjoy them a lot, but it just isn’t what I expected. I keep busy so I can’t think about it. But it has made me wonder if anyone’s life turns out exactly the way they expect?

Instead of spending my younger years planning life, I should have spent more time learning how to hang on for the ride!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gifts For A Bad Day

Last night just over Cascade Mountain I saw the most beautiful rainbow I’ve ever seen. It made a full 180 degree arch and in front of it was a paler replica—a double rainbow! Besides being a full rainbow that arched from earth up and around and back down to touch the earth again, this rainbow had a full spectrum of bright colors blending from one to the other—seven of them! It was amazing.

It was also an incredible gift before a day when everything has gone wrong. You’ve all had those days—a $600 unexpected car repair job, my computer wouldn’t work and I spent all day talking with computer support people trying to get it fixed when I should have been working on the seven lectures I need to have ready for Education Week next week. I have a houseful of company coming Monday to stay for education week, and my husband’s office party is here tomorrow night.

BUT. . .all day long as I’d start to feel stressed, I’d think about that beautiful rainbow and be grateful I’d seen it. I’d close my eyes and see it again. The computer still isn’t fixed. The house isn’t ready for the party or guests, but I’ve got a rainbow in my head and I’m feeling good. I wish I'd learned not to stress about things like this years ago. It never did any good.And besides that my stressing caused me to miss something important. It absolutely amazes me how the Lord takes care of us—even before we know there is something that needs to be taken care of!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grizelda Be Gone!

Today is the day! At 1:30 p.m. They will do the MRI to see if Grizelda has been eradicated. I won’t get the results until Monday at 1:00 when I meet with the doctor. It is a strange feeling to know that there has been a tumor—an intruder—in my head that I hope is gone, but I don’t know for sure. And it’s even stranger to think that if Grizelda is still there she could affect the entire rest of my life, and yet I can’t see her or know what she is doing. That probably sounds weird to you, but I have been blessed with an incredible peace, so I’m not worried or stressed by Grizelda; I’m only curious. (As you know, I have an overactive imagination and things like this do send me to wondering.)

I am grateful for the peace. It has been an extraordinary blessing that has given me the beautiful assurance that whatever they find today, God is in charge and He will take care of me. I don’t need to worry. So I’m going to enjoy the music of the MRI machine and have myself an adventure today! I’ll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Drop At A Time

When we live in Truth, we understand that what other people do, say, think, and are doesn’t have to influence us unless we let it. That means we don’t have to compare ourselves with others. Being true to yourself never involves competition with others or any form of comparison. When you live in Truth, you know you aren’t supposed to be like others. You also know that each of us has a distinct path that is all our own. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing or how far along their path they are. Being true to yourself means you learn what you can from others without comparing or competing.

Fulfilling your destiny is not about being better than anyone else. Fulfilling your destiny is about being better today than you were yesterday. And it doesn’t have to be a lot better. Life is a process. One drop of water at a time fills a bucket, and being one drop better today than you were yesterday brings you one drop closer to your goal! Rejoice at every drop instead of sulking about not having a fire hose!

Life isn’t a race. It’s a journey. It isn’t about how fast you reach the finish line. It’s about how much you learn and grow along the way. Look around to see what there is to see. Learn what you are supposed to learn from your situation. And enjoy every little drop of growth.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'm Learning to Wait for Life

There’s a lesson in life that has been very difficult for me to learn. That is to slow down and take life as it comes. All my life I’ve tried to make life happen and it doesn’t work that way. As I’ve realized how silly I’ve been, I’ve pictured myself out in the garden tugging at a corn stalk trying to make it grow faster and taller. It doesn’t work. As a matter of fact, if I tug too hard, instead of helping the corn grow, I pull it out of the ground and destroy it.

Life unrolls like a plant growing and there is nothing I can do to hurry it up or slow it down. Instead I need to trust that my life is “unrolling” at the pace the Lord intends and in the direction He wants it to go. Then I can spend my energies on things that really do matter and things that can make a difference.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Joy, Joy, Joy!

The word joy means “a state of happiness or felicity.” We usually think of that state as being caused by some outside source. When we succeed at what we are doing, we feel joy. When we love and are loved back, we feel joy. When we receive good news, we feel joy. But joy is out there waiting for us at any time, because while joy can be a consequence it is also a choice.

Even if we are doing the most mundane of tasks (washing dishes, weeding, or cleaning bathrooms) we can feel joy if we want it. Even when in miserable circumstances (stuck in traffic, waiting in a long line, or sitting through a class we don’t like) we can feel joy. The secret is to be aware of the present moment and all that it holds.

Instead of letting your mind fill with the worries and problems of life, feel the warmth of the water on your hands while doing dishes, smell the dish detergent, watch how the bubbles float and pop, swish your hands around and feel the water stroke and caress you. When weeding, smell the sweet, wet soil. Compare the many shades of green. Listen to the insects. While waiting in a long line of people, listen to the music of many human voices blending into one sound. Watch the kaleidoscope of colors from everyone’s clothing. Seek to discover something good about each person.

Lehi told his son that “Men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). That doesn’t mean good things are always supposed to happen to us. It means that we are to learn how to find joy in any situation we are in.

Picture by Rebecca Waring

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Love Begets Love

Church was especially good today. As always the speakers and lessons were good. But today for some reason the Lord blessed me with the gift of observation. For example, while sitting in Sacrament Meeting I happened to glance up and see a grandmother as she lovingly lifted her grandson onto her lap. Her face literally radiated her love for and joy in this young boy. And that radiated joy and love sunk deep into my heart to warm and delight me.

Then during Sunday SchooI a few minutes into the class the door opened and a man sitting in front of me turned to see who was coming into the room. When he saw it was his wife, the same joy and love radiated—again literally—from his face. This couple has been married for over 25 years, and they have a large family that taxes and drains parents emotionally and in many other ways. But if I hadn’t known how long they had been married, I would have thought by the way he looked at her that they were newlyweds.

I could go on with several more stories, but you get the idea. It has been a tender day for me and I appreciate it. None of these people know what they shared with me and yet my heart is lighter and my day brighter because of them. I learned so much from watching them.

It has reminded me that those who love God, love each other. It has also reminded me that pure love is a gift from God and the closer we draw to Him, the better able we are to love others. But the most important thing I was reminded of is the fact that love begets love. As we share it with those we love, often others are also touched and lifted by its power.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Way Is Easy

I love the advice Alma gives to his son Helaman before he dies. First he compares the words of Christ to the Liahona explaining that the words of Christ “will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss” just like the Liahona pointed Nephi and his family to the promised land. Then he tells Helaman that if we will follow the words of Christ they will “carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise” (Alma 37:45). I like the contrast between the eternal bliss and this vale of sorrow.

But the thing I like best is what Alma says next. He warns Helaman not to be deceived by the “easiness of the way!” One of the adversary’s greatest lies is convincing us that living the gospel of Jesus Christ is difficult. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to simplify life not complicate it! As Alma explains “The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever” (Alma 37:46). All we need to do is look to the commandments and follow them. they are very clearly mapped out. We don’t need to worry about the past. We don’t need to fret about the future. All we need to do is do the right thing right now. The way is simple. It is simply a choice!

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Lesson in Trust

I have an appointment for my next MRI to see if Grizelda is gone for good. This waiting to know what is happening inside me is a very interesting thing. Both times the tumor has been discovered, I’ve felt fine. There were no symptoms, no reason for me to be concerned. And yet growing inside me was a dangerous tumor.

It has made me wonder how many other dangerous things are lurking or have been lurking in my life without me knowing it. Sometimes, as with Grizelda, I eventually find out. But how many things have happened that I never have discovered? Perhaps an automobile accident that I was spared because the Spirit prompted me to go a different direction, or a child prevented me from getting out of the house on time so that I wasn’t at the place the accident would have happened when it would have happened. Perhaps what I’ve thought was a terrible nuisance was really a blessing.

It will be interesting to someday look back on our lives and see the many times the Lord intervened to help us and we didn’t have a clue that He was there or that He was helping. What Grizelda has taught me is to be more vigilant in looking for these things and to trust that even when I can’t see the reasoning for something, the Lord has a reason for everything.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Being the Prince or Princess

When I was a girl I spent many hours in the cherry orchard behind our house daydreaming. I had a favorite tree where I could nestle into the branches, (I called it my nest) and I’d watch the robins eat cherries and pretend I was Heidi in the Alps, or one of the Mickey Mouse Mousketeers. But most often I imagined myself to be a princess that ruled over the robins. The orchard was my kingdom, and having a very vivid imagination, I could spend hours feeling elegant while watching the affairs of my kingdom from the high tower of my beautiful castle.

I miss the magic of those days. But I’ve come to understand that my make-believe wasn’t all that far off. Building and watching over a kingdom—the kingdom of God—is what life is all about. And building that kingdom begins in the mind by the way we think.

The Savior instructed, “Seek ye to bring forth the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Luke 12:31). Later in the book of Luke we are told that “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). While the kingdom of God is not brought about by imagining elaborate clothing and carriages like I used to imagine, it is brought about by visualizing ourselves as the princes and princesses of the kingdom. As we think of ourselves as the children of the King, and act accordingly—with love, kindness, joy, gratitude and all the other virtues that belong to our Heavenly King—the kingdom of God within us begins to grow. We change. We act differently. And as the kingdom within us grows, we discover hidden treasures of knowledge and gifts and talents with which we can serve others.

This isn’t make-believe. It is real. And the first step to bringing forth the kingdom of God within us is to use our minds to visualize who we really are.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I am so thankful you can’t see me right now. I’ve been sitting in this exact spot since 9:00 this morning. (It is now 3:30 pm!) My sitter-downer is sore. I look like a used dish rag. My eyes are bloodshot. My mind feels more fried than when it was radiated. I have the energy left in me of a peanut. I haven’t even combed my hair today, but then (I forgot!) that doesn’t matter anymore. It looks the same combed or uncombed.

The good news is that tired as I am, I just submitted the book! I finished making the changes, adding what I wanted to add, and doing everything else that was needed. The manuscript is now in the editor’s hands. Oh, happy day! Now to get ready for BYU Education Week. Another happy adventure!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spiritual House Cleaning

There is an interesting parable in the New Testament that I love. It goes like this: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith,I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation” (Matt 12:43-45).

What this parable is teaching us is that when we cast away a bad habit or repent of a sin, it is like “cleaning out the house.” But there is a danger here that we need to beware of. The old habit or sin is comfortable in the old place and will want to return. If it comes back and finds the place empty, swept out, it will move right back in to the empty spot.

What this means it that It isn’t enough to cast away the bad. We also need to fill the “house” with something good so that when the castaway sin or habit desires to return there is no room for it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

My Book Has A Title!

We finally arrived at a title for my new book. It will be called, Gospel Insights for Everyday Living. Do ou like that? The book is similar to this blog only a little more detailed. It consists of little essays on gospel topics—things I teach in my religion classes at BYU.

I am working frantically to put some finishing touches on it, and then it is due at the publisher by the end of the week. I’m happy with the way things are moving along, and I’ll keep you informed on when it will be out.

Thanks for all your kind words. Writing a book is a lot of work and your encouragement here on this blog has cheered me on—even though most of you didn’t know I was writing a book! Thanks, my blog friends!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bread on the Waters

There is a passage in Ecclesiastes that I love. It says, “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth” (Eccl 11:1-2). What we are taught here is to share. Give what you have and it will come back to you. Give to seven (the symbol for completion or perfectness) or even to eight (eight is completion or perfection plus one and thus represent beginning again or regeneration and resurrection). I’ll let you ponder on how the numbers add significance here, but I want to talk about what happens when we “cast our bread.”

The logic of the world tells us that we will have more if we hoard and save. But the gospel teaches the opposite—to share and to give. The Savior taught us that if we would give alms in secret, God would then reward us. (Matthew 6:1-4). And His rewards are always more than what we give away!

The other day I read something that illustrates what happens when we follow the logical ways of the world and hoard. It seems that in the beginning of video recording and play back equipment Sony developed Beta technology and kept its invention top secret in order to “corner” the market. Across the ocean the Japanese company JVC developed the VHS format, but instead of keeping their technology secret, they shared with many other companies. As a result everyone began using the shared information to manufacture goods that uses the VHS format. The first year of VHS, Sony lost 40% of the video market and eventually dropped to a 10% share in the market. Eventually the Beta format died altogether and to survive Sony was forced to manufacture VHS products.

This concept of sharing is true for companies, families, and individuals. When we share, give and help in any way we can, we find that all we need comes to us. When we hoard or are stingy with our talents, resources, or time, we find ourselves in dire need.

As it says in Ecclesiastes, we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We don't know what we will need. But if we are selfless and generous today we can be assured that the Lord will send our way whatever is needed for us to thrive tomorrow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Place of Restoration

I’m going to the Manti temple today and I’m excited. It was the place where forty-two years ago this month we were married. My grandfather was also president of the Manti temple for eleven years and so between those two things, going to the Manti temple feels like going home.

I have two favorite definitions of a temple. The first is that it is a place set aside by a prophet for observation. What a blessing to be able to step out of the busy, hectic, chaotic world and have a quiet, reverent place to think about heavenly things. But even better than thinking about them a temple is a place where I feel heavenly things.

The second definition of a temple that I love is that a temple is a place where one gets one’s bearings on the universe. It is so easy in this age of bombarding information to get your head so full of negative things that your thinking is warped and your attitudes poisoned. And since actions proceed from attitudes, that can tarnish a life. Going to the temple helps me keep an eternal perspective and to remember that God is in charge. He created this world. He will lead and guide me through it.

I always come out of the temple feeling the Savior’s words in every fiber of my being: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). What a gift temples are!