Wednesday, September 30, 2009


There is an interesting verse in the Doctrine and Covenants that’s meaning has escaped me until recently when I finally stopped to look up a word in it. The verse is D&C 60:4, “For I, the Lord, rule in the heavens above, and among the armies of the earth; and in the day when I shall make up my jewels, all men shall know what it is that bespeaketh the power of God.” Always before I had assumed that the word bespeaketh meant speaks, but this time I realized that “what it is that speaks the power of God” didn’t make much sense. So as I instruct my students to do, I went to my dictionary and looked up bespeaketh. A definition about speak (to speak to with formality) is the second definition of the word, but the first definition is “to hire, engage, or claim beforehand.” The third definition is “to request” and the last definition is “to indicate; signify.”

The two definitions that fit best here are the first and last. So the phrase can be read as “what it is that engages the power of God” or “what it is that signifies the power of God.” Both of these make sense and give us beautiful insights as to what is to come. When the Lord gathers His righteous people—His jewels—all people will know that righteousness engages the power of God and all people will know that righteousness signifies the power of God. There will be such an obvious connection that no one will be left wondering how one obtains the power of God.

This is a beautiful promise. Right now so many people deny the power of God, but some day not only will no one deny the power of God, but they will all know what it is that brings the power of God into a person’s life. I can’t wait for the day!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Living Dexterously

Nearly 2,000 years ago Epictetus, a former slave turned philosopher, said, “It is my business to manage carefully and dexterously whatever happens.” Now that is a philosopher worth listening to. On a practical level, what that means is that when the milk spills instead of falling into the dark Pit of Illusion, simply ask, “How can I dexterously deal with this spilled milk?” Of course, to do that we first need to know what dexterous means. A close synonym is the word clever, and it means “showing skill, cleverness, or resourcefulness.”

The beauty of this approach is that as you approach the spill you find yourself excited about the challenge rather than whining from deep in the Pit something like, “Poor me! I’m a scullery maid who has to clean up everyone’s messes!”
With the mentally dexterous mind-set that Epictetus advises, you approach the spill in your most sophisticated Sherlock Holmes manner. “Let’s see,” you say to yourself. “How can I have the most fun with what has happened?” And then you look for possibilities like Sherlock looked for clues. You could bring in a few cats to lick it up. You and the children would have fun watching. You could make a game out of it—set a stop watch and see how fast you can clean it up, or give everyone a rag and a bowl and see who can mop up the most milk and squeeze it into their bowl. You could play in the milk for awhile—take off your shoes and squish the milk between your toes. You could float a rubber ducky on the puddle. You could splash in it. You could sing as you mop it up letting the sound of swish and drip be percussion to your song.

Remember Living in Truth is all about dealing with what is. While pouring the milk, it is fine to admonish yourself, “I should be careful and not spill the milk.” But if a mistake happens and the milk spills, the simple Truth is that it is spilled. That’s what you now have to deal with. No amount of “I should have been more careful,” or “What a waste” or “I am so stupid” or “Why did I do that?” or any other negative thought is going to undo what has been done. All you do with those thoughts is make yourself miserable; you create unnecessary pain. But if you manage the situation dexterously, you can have a lot of fun. You create joy in the present moment and that joy feeds your soul with sheer delight.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Staying Out of the Pit

We’ve talked a lot about Shoulds and Should-Nots on this blog. These are the thoughts that lead us away from Living in Truth and cause us to wallow in the Pit of Illusion. There is always pain in the Pit of Illusion and there is always peace when Living in Truth. One of the great places to see this exemplified in the scriptures is the beautiful Psalm of Nephi (2 Nephi 4:17-35).

Nephi is recounting the death of his beloved father and the anger and resentment of his brothers. As he records these things you can tell they have pierced his heart and he begins to think about all the things he should or shouldn’t have done and falls into the painful Pit of Illusion. He says of this, “my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities . . . my heart groaneth because of my sins.” While Nephi doesn’t use the words should or shouldn’t, he is obviously thinking them. He shouldn’t have been weak, he shouldn’t have iniquities and sins. But the truth is we all do, and while it is good to feel the pain and hurt for those things until we repent, after repenting we need to trust in the Atonement and move on. And that’s exactly what Nephi does. At this point he reminds himself that he has trusted in God (4:19), which means that despite his sins and mistakes Jesus Christ will heal and help him.

But as he reminds himself of all the Savior has done for him, he again begins to think about his failings and this time he says, “Why should I yield to sin . . . why should I give way to temptations . . . why am I angry?” (4:27). Again Nephi realizes that this type of thinking is sin itself and immediately commands himself, “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin.” Then to counter this negative thinking, he commands himself, “Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul” (4:28).

Most of us realize we shouldn’t criticize others. But once we have done something wrong, we need to repent and move on and not criticize ourselves. Like Nephi when we are tempted with negative thinking concerning our own behavior that we have repented of, we need to turn our thoughts to Jesus Christ and rejoice that there is someone who can erase our sins. If we instead constantly wallow in the fact that we are sinners, we add more sin, cause ourselves unnecessary pain, and deny the Atonement of Jesus Christ. So rejoice! The Savior lives and we need to shout out with joy, “Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God” (4:35).

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Friday I spent most of the day wandering the mountains enjoying the autumn leaves. For part of the day, I took two of my grandsons to Cascade Springs. The drive there was magnificent. The rich colors were so vibrant they seemed unreal. No words can begin to describe the valley just before Cascade Springs. From the lookout you can see for hundreds of miles and all you can see are gorgeous patches of brilliant red, orange, mauve, peach, yellow and every shade of green.

As I looked out over the beautiful world God has created, it made me think a lot about the fact that the beauty I was seeing was created by Him with no help from me or any other human being. I think that my own life would be a lot more beautiful and happier if I didn’t try to interfere with what God is doing. Instead I should relax, accept, and move forward knowing that He knows what is best for me. He does good work and if I try to fight it, I only mess things up. I want my life to be like that valley. But in saying that, I have to remember that a few years ago a massive fire destroyed a great deal of that valley. We went up to see it later and instead of the beautiful scenery, there were gigantic black patches. There are still small traced of dead and blackened trees, but overall it is healed and the destruction fertilized and made way for beautiful new growth. It is now more beautiful that it has ever been. Life is like that.

(I'll post the picture of it later.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Leaving the Ball

The music had ended, but the heart of the young princess still danced with delight as the memories of the beautiful ball swirled within her. The music, her dress, the flattering compliments, the food, the company, the laughter, everything had been perfect. Not wanting the evening to end, she lingered in the ballroom watching the servants clean away the last morsels of tasty delights and carefully put the silver back into the cloth pouches. Humming and watching, she didn’t notice the King approach until He stood beside her.

“You had a good evening,” He said.

“Oh, yes! The best possible evening!” she answered.

“Now it is time to go. You must move on.”

“But why? Isn't this everything you promised! It is so beautiful here. The music may have stopped, but I can still hear it. Listen!”

He smiled down at her. “That is good. Then you can take it with you, But if you are someday to be a queen, you must know all the rooms of the palace. Come. It is time to go.”

Reluctantly she followed, but as he opened the large iron door, she gasped. All that presented itself was darkness—a thick, uninviting blackness so heavy it even smelled of darkness. “But you promised me a kingdom!” the princess exclaimed.

“I did. But you must trust me. You must pass through the Dark Hall to get there.”

“But that can’t be so! You told me that there would be a prince and children and joy and laughter. You told me that peace and happiness were to be my lot. That’s what was here in the ballroom tonight! All I want is right here. But that hall holds none of those things. It holds nothing but terror and fear.”

“This room is not the kingdom. This is only the ballroom. All I can do is tell you the way to the Kingdom and help you to get there. You must decide if you are going to trust my advice or not. Will you enter? Or do you want to stay and relive the memories as you watch the servants continue to clear away the decorations from the ball?”

It was a difficult decision, but slowly the princess forced one foot forward and entered the dark unknown.

The moral of the story? If we want to be Queens or Kings, we must remember that “The goodness of God endureth continually” (Ps. 52:1), even while we are traversing the dark halls that seem to be void of all He has promised. God knows where He is taking us and He knows which halls will lead us there.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Flint and Steel

Once long ago I watched my Boy Scout brother in the back yard attempting to make sparks with flint and steel. He had gathered a small pile of dead leaves and twigs and was determined to burn them. I watched as he laboriously struck the flint against the steel. At first he’d strike and nothing would happen. But after a great deal of effort he began to get the hang of it and small, fleeting sparks appeared. The next challenge was to get the elusive sparks to catch the leaves and twigs on fire. That too, took awhile, but finally the little pile of refuse burst into flame then immediately died out leaving nothing but a drizzle of smoke.

I think of that incident every time I read Isaiah 50:11. In that verse the Lord warns, “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” If you’ve ever been without electricity on a stormy, dark night and tried to navigate by the light of a single candle, this verse will mean more to you. A single candle doesn’t give off much light and a spark gives off even less. Going through the dark, stormy circumstances of life with only the sparks I can kindle seems terrifying. On the other hand, the Savior promised, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). The choice is mine; Walk by the light of my own puny sparks or walk in the noon-bright light of Jesus Christ.

But it isn’t just the amount of light that this verse is talking about. Trying to generate my own sparks takes an enormous amount of effort. I learned that from watching my brother. But to walk in the light of Jesus Christ only requires my submission to Him which means more light with less effort!

On a practical level, what Isaiah has taught me in this verse is that if I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed or over-anxious, I stop and examine what I am doing and invariably I find I am trying to make my own light. On those occasions, I drop the flint and steel, take a deep breath, and let in The Light. When I let God take over, things work out. Walking in His Light is so much easier than trying to produce my own light.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bask In Love

As mortals we crave love. All of us want to feel accepted and loved and cherished. The strange thing is that the very thing we crave—love—is being offered to us moment by moment by Jesus Christ. He loves us and wants us to feel accepted, loved and cherished, but while He offers the very thing we are craving, we often turn our backs on Him and instead try to appease our longing with self-love or love from others. It is like thirsting and at the same time refusing the pure, clear water being offered us because we don’t like the cup it is in.

As the Savior once said, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love” (John 15:9). Notice he admonishes US to continue in His love. He never withdraws it. To lose it, we must turn away from it.

So how do we continue in His love? Stop right now and feel it. Soak it in. If you can’t feel it, ask to feel it. Stay quiet and observant until you feel it. Then bask in it for a moment so that you can remember the feeling. Memorize it. Pay attention so that you can return to this state any time you want and in any place you want. Come back any time you are tempted by feelings that you are unloved. The more you practice this, the easier it is to feel it. This is the safest place in the world, and the invitation from Jesus Christ Himself is to continue there. He loves you!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Turn On The Good!

One of the most amazing things about this beautiful world is how much good there is in it. Any where you look you can find beauty and goodness and wonder. I know if you listen to the political talk shows or read the newspaper it sometimes convinces you otherwise, but there is so much good in life that no one is talking about or noticing and that is a shame.

There is an old story of a young girl who is afraid of the dark. Knowing this her grandmother always tucked her in bed and turned on a nightlight to keep her company while she slept. But one day the grandmother died and the young girl went to bed early crying over the loss of her grandmother. As she laid in her bed crying the dark came and added to her sorrow. Her sorrow turned into fright and she sobbed violently. “Go away dark!” she pleaded through her tears. “I don’t like you. Go away and never come back. I hate you!” But the dark just got darker and darker.

“Go away!” the girl cried again, and suddenly a deep, dark voice bellowed through the room, “You can’t fight the dark! Dark is dark and will always be dark.”

“No!” the girl cried louder and sobbed harder. “No, go away!” But as she spoke a soft, quiet voice that sounded a lot like her grandmother's whispered, “Just turn on the light.” Taking courage, the girl climbed from her bed, switched on the light,and the dark disappeared. “It is true; you can’t fight the dark,” the quiet voice whispered. “But dark can’t exist where there is light.”

Likewise when we dwell on and fight the negative things of life, we often create more negative. But when we dwell on the good and positive in life, we fill our lives with good so there is no room for the negative. So turn on the good!

The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. (Eph. 5:9).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Lavender Fence

I was driving down the street one day with a woman who suddenly and very vehemently declared, “I can’t stand that woman’s lavender fence. If she doesn’t paint it, I’m going to get some white paint and come do it myself.” The remark and the intensity of the remark startled me. Her blood pressure must have risen ten points! And why? Because she thought someone else’s fence should be a different color than it was.

I’ve thought about that experience a lot since that day. The fence was an unusual color, but the yard was very tidy and well cared for with lots of flowers in many different colors and varieties. It was obvious the owner liked whimsical decorations and lots of color and would have been very unhappy in an earth-tone, Pottery Barn home like she had. So why was this woman causing herself so much distress? Why did it matter what color this fence was? It was blocks from her own home. She didn’t even have to look at it very often. As a matter of fact, if she looked the other way when she went down the street, she wouldn’t see it at all.

I don’t know what caused the extreme negative emotion. It could have been that she felt her standard of decorating was the only acceptable one—that’s called pride. Or maybe she just didn’t like lavender—that’s called intolerance. Or maybe she felt like everyone should be and like what she was and liked—that’s called selfishness. But the net result of any of this is that it causes pain—unnecessary pain. Instead of stressing over what other people should or should not be doing, life is so much easier if we just enjoy. While I’ll probably never paint a fence around my own home lavender, I can delight in the splash of color and obvious enjoyment the owner of the lavender fence takes in making her yard colorful.

While we are free to choose our own style and surround ourselves with what we like best, I think one of our tasks in life is to learn to enjoy, at least in the moment we behold it, what others enjoy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Driven to the Promised Land

Throughout scripture there are stories of people seeking a land promised them by God. Abraham, Moses, Jared and his brother, and Lehi and Nephi are some of those people. Each of these stories has powerful symbolism that teaches us about finding our way to our promised land—the celestial kingdom of God. In one of those stories, the story of Nephi, God instructs Nephi to build a ship to take him across the waters to his promised land. Nephi has seen ships, but the Lord instructs him to build something different. As he obeys the Lord, he tells us that “we did work timbers of curios workmanship” (1 Nephi 17:1) and that from time to time the Lord instructed him what to do next to build his ship. Finally Nephi says, “I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 17:2).

There is beautiful symbolism going on here. The ship or vessel is what carries Nephi and his family to the Promised Land, and our physical bodies are what carry us to our Promised Land. So from Nephi’s story we learn that we are to develop ourselves by going to the Lord for instruction as to what we need to do rather than to follow the ways of the world and develop ourselves “after the manner of men.”

To build his ship Nephi went to the mount often and prayed often, therefore the “Lord showed unto me great things” (1 Nephi 17:3). Likewise if we go to the temple often and pray often we can receive revelation as to what we should do to obtain our Promised Land. There are many more symbolic elements to this story, but one of the most fascinating to me is that Nephi tells us that “we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 17:8).

While winds can “drive” a ship in the right direction while at sea, winds and storms can also be a symbol for adversity. We know that not all the winds Nephi encountered were gentle. There were many violent storms. But we learn that even the winds (read adversity) of our life can “drive” us closer to the Promised Land if we stay close to the Lord and trust in Him.

Picture by Jim Warren:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Experience Now

Those of you with young children still at home have a blessing in your life that I know I didn’t recognize when my children were young. Having Eli here and watching him live life has taught me something. Children live in the present. They are always present! They live every moment of their lives unlike us adults who project into the future or recreate the past. We spend so much time worrying or stressing that things aren’t the way they should be instead of enjoying the way they are. Children, on the other hand, embrace each moment and experience whatever it has to offer. They soak in the joy of each moment and enjoy the peace and happiness each moment offers them.

When I was raising my children, I thought of myself as the teacher expounding my great knowledge to shape my children’s lives. With Eli here, I’ve realized what I missed. By letting go of that idea and watching him, I am learning so much about how to live a happy life. Eli knows that each moment holds a gift and he is aware enough to accept the gifts offered. He eagerly anticipates them! I’m learning from him to be present—to take it all in.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's a Choice--Truth or Illusion?

I’m tending my five-year-old grandson, Eli, for a week. Bright and early this morning he had a soccer game. On the way there he was telling me all about the other players. “Mike’s job is to run fast,” he said. “Luke’s job is to kick the ball. Tyler’s job is to score goals. And my job is to make the team laugh.” And he does that. I laughed the entire game. I also witnessed a great example of living in truth.

One of the blue players, Jared, refused to play soccer and instead sat in the middle of the field while the game went on around him. His mother yelled encouragement from the sidelines, but Jared didn’t move. At the end of the first quarter, the mother, agitated at her son’s behavior, retrieved him from the field and sat him down hard on the sidelines. “Are you going to play or not?” the mother asked. Jared didn’t answer, nor did he respond in any way. It was as if he were deaf. Growing angry now, the mother demanded, “Get out there and play. If you’re not going to play I’m going to take you home.”

The simple truth of the matter was Jared didn’t want to play soccer. Why I don’t know. He could have been too tired, or not feeling well, or uninterested in soccer, or shy about participating. But instead of accepting the truth of the matter—that Jared didn’t want to play, the mother entered the pit of Illusion with the thought, “Jared should play soccer.” Remember Truth is what is—not what should be. She, too, had her reasons for wanting Jared to play. Maybe she was thinking about the cost to let him play, or maybe the embarrassment. Every other kid was out there having a good time and hers was sitting in the middle of the field sulking. Everyone would think she was a terrible mother. Or maybe she was thinking about how early in the morning it was and she could have been sleeping in on a Saturday morning. Whatever her thoughts, they were all about what should or could be happening and not the verity of the situation—not the truth. As the minutes rolled on, her anger and stress increased. You could see she was unhappy and distressed. She was causing herself pain—unnecessary pain.

Finally she jerked the boy to his feet, pulled him to the car, and left. Her negative emotions did nothing but make her miserable. They never helped the situation they only caused her pain. But if she had dealt with the truth, Jared didn’t want to play soccer this morning, accepted the truth and acted on that truth, she would have escaped the pain and misery. She even might have noticed Eli's antics on the field and gone home laughing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Don't Fret--Live in Truth!

When we live in Truth, we live with what is and what was and what will be (D&C 93:24). Consciously being aware of what that means in our lives can make all the difference in a happy life and a miserable one. Those of us raised with Christian values believe in virtues such as honesty, love, modesty, temperance, and patience. We grow up thinking these and other virtues are what should be. But right now, in this telestial world, what is doesn’t always coincide with what should be. Confusing the two is a mistake we make that causes us unnecessary pain. Living in Truth isn’t about living with what should be. (How can you even do that?) Living in Truth is about living with what is.

When we live in Truth we accept that what is, is—war, pain, abuse, death, sickness, terrorism, robbery are part of a telestial reality. When we stress about them by fearing or thinking they shouldn’t be, we only create unnecessary pain for ourselves. Yes, we should do all we can to stop evil and bring about good, but we shouldn’t stress or fret about negative things we encounter in life. That only causes us pain—unnecessary pain. Instead we cling to hope by doing the best we can with what is all the while realizing that what will be in the future is going to be much better.

When we find ourselves thinking, “She shouldn’t have said that” or “This shouldn’t have happened” or “He should have done this” we know we are not Living in Truth and there will be pain. Living in Truth means accepting the verity of a situation and living within that verity—living in peace. When you fight against truth, you always lose!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Music In My Soul

Fall always amazes me. It is the season of approaching death when leaves turn dry and brittle and drop to the ground, and yet there is such majesty in fall. The air takes on a musical quality that makes you want to sing. Unlike spring’s soprano quality, fall has a contralto voice—warm, resilient tones that send hope seeping into the very marrow of the bones. Fall knows that the death of winter is approaching, but fall also knows that the resurrection of spring will certainly follow.

I learn so many things as I contemplate the seasons. But most of all I love their music. If you stop to listen carefully, you will hear it. Music is powerful in what it can do to our hearts. In our home when the children were growing up we had a rule that you could fight and argue all you wanted, but you had to sing it. In the mornings I’d suddenly hear one of the girls break out in off-key-opera best, “You wore my shirt and you didn’t wash it. I wanted to wear it today!” But about half-way through this musical outburst she’d be laughing so hard she couldn’t stay mad. And the rest of us would laugh along.

I find it works for me also. When I’m upset, worried, or frightened about something I start singing my thoughts instead of ranting, raving, or complaining and it is absolutely impossible to stay upset. In this case, music really is medicine for the soul, and it has the same affect as the music of the season fall. It instills hope deep into the soul.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Heart, Might, Mind and Enthusiasm!

I’ve always thought it strange that the word enthusiasm never appears in the scriptures. I know, some of you worry about my fixation with words. “Why should that bother anyone?” you ask. But it does bother me because the word enthusiasm comes from the Greek and originally meant a “state of being inspired by a god.” It is formed from the prefix en- which means “to put into or onto” and the root word theos which means “god.” So the word means “to put God into.” For awhile it was synonymous with the words revelation and inspiration. During the Puritan era it took on a derogatory meaning of “excessive religious emotion.” However, the word for quite awhile now has meant eagerness with no negative connotations attached to it.

But there is hope! The word may not be in the scriptures, but the concept is. The other day as I was reading along I encountered the phrase, “Turn to the Lord with all your mind, might, and strength” (Alma 39:13), and realized that is enthusiasm at its best. D&C 4:2 says that all who embark in the service of God should “serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.” Certainly if we serve God with all our heart, might, mind and strength, we are serving with enthusiasm—we are inspired by God. And when we are inspired by God, we are enthused because God is with us. What a great way to live! Enthusiastically!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We Can Do It!

We all love Nephi for his fortitude and conviction. We believe him when he says, “If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them” (1 Nephi 17:50). But for some reason we don’t always translate that into our own lives. We think, “Sure Nephi can do all he is commanded to do, but that doesn’t work for me!” We are told to repent, but we think it will be too hard or too embarrassing. We are told to do our very best to fulfill our Church callings, but we get distracted and don’t spend as much time as we should at our calling. In short, we don’t trust that God will help us do all that is required of us.

Nephi goes on to say, “If [God] should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done.” We read this and think it is hyperbole, but it is not. Whatever God commands, is achievable not because we are so capable or strong or wonderful, but because Jesus Christ is an He will help us.

Whatever challenge, problem, or worry we are facing, there is a solution. Whatever we need to repent of, we can do it. Whatever we are called to do, we can do it. Like Nephi we just need to trust in the Lord and then tell ourselves, “I can do it.”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Making Good Happen

Yesterday we talked about Elisha and the army of angels that attended him. But that isn’t the entire story. After Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened so he could see the angels surrounding them, he prayed that the eyes of the bands of Syria would be made blind. And his prayers were answered. When the Syrian soldiers asked if he was the prophet they sought, Elisha told them they were in the wrong place, but if they would follow him he would take them to the man they sought. He then led them for twelve miles until they reached the capital city of Israel, Samaria. Samaria sits on a high hill top so that the Israelite armies would have seen the approaching Syrian army and been ready with swords and shields to give battle.

So Elisha marched the Syrian army up the Samarian hillside, walked into the middle of the waiting Israelite army and prayed that the Lord would open the eyes of the Syrian soldiers. Imagine their surprise to find that they were surrounded by armed Israelite soldiers! What fear must have wrenched within them as the king of Israel stepped forward and asked Elisha if he should kill them all. But Elisha told the king to not kill them, but to feed them. The king obeyed by preparing a banquet for the enemy army and then let them go. The story ends with the writer declaring that after that the marauding bands of soldiers did not come again against Israel.

There is a powerful lesson in this about forgiveness and how to treat those who mistreat us. There is also great wisdom here. Good comes from doing good. When we fight evil with evil, we only create more evil. But when we fight evil with good, we create the possibility for more good.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fear Not!

One of my favorite Old Testament prophets is Elisha. The name Elisha means “God shall save,” and Elisha’s entire life exemplifies how God will save us. One of my favorite stories is when Elisha confronts the Syrian army. The Syrians are fighting against Israel and Elisha sends a message to the king of Israel telling him where the Syrians will be and how to outsmart them. Baffled by how Israel knows what he is going to do, the king of Syria calls his men together and asks who the traitor is that is telling Israel his plans. One Syrian soldier speaks up and tells the king that no one is betraying him. Instead a prophet in Israel, Elisha, knows the secrets of the king’s heart and tells Israel what he is going to do. Outraged, the king of Syria takes his armies, horses, and chariots by night and surrounds the city of Dothan where Elisha is staying.

The next morning Elisha’s servant awakes and finds the city surrounded by the armies of Syria. Filled with panic he asks Elisha, “What shall we do?”

Calmly Elisha comforts him, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16).

You can imagine what the servant thought. Hundreds of troops around the entire city and Elisa says not to fear that the two of them are more than this army! But Elisha prays and asks the Lord to open the eyes of the servant, and suddenly the servant sees that the entire mountain is covered with horses and chariots of fire ready to defend the prophet.

Like Elisha and his servant, we are never alone if we are following the path of righteousness. Even though we can’t see them, chariots of fire are there whenever we need them. Angels attend us daily. We just need to learn to trust that they are there.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I'm Learning Not To Be Afraid To Fail

One of the reasons I am so excited about my new book is because during the last seven years everything I’ve tried to do has failed. I worked so hard to get my PhD and then tried three times to be hired as a full time professor only to be passed over every time. I wrote three other books that were rejected. A Christmas cantata that a friend and I wrote has been repeatedly rejected. I wrote the lyrics and narration, and my friend wrote the music which is absolutely beautiful, but we can’t get anyone (even our wards) to use even one of the songs. I can understand why they wouldn’t want to do the whole cantata, but one song? And then there have been lots of other little things that have constantly been very disappointing.

I don’t bring this up so you’ll feel sorry for me. Please no! I bring this up because there have been some very important things I have learned from this experience. I can honestly say I don’t regret one moment of trying. Sometimes in the past I’ve talked myself out of pursuing a dream or a goal because I felt like it was too hard or could never happen. But what I’ve learned these last seven years is that even if you try and fail, you still come out ahead. I’ve learned things I never would have learned any other way. I’ve met new friends. I’ve felt myself stretch and be strengthened and that strength is still mine even though the goals were never reached. It's been like training for a weight lifting contest. I didn't win the contest, but my muscles are much stronger now because of the training.

Learning what I am capable of doing has surprised me. But most of all I have the personal satisfaction of knowing that I gave things my best shot. I did all I could. I don’t have a nagging feeling inside me that I was a quitter or that I might have succeeded if I’d just tried. I did it, learned, and moved on.

So if I seem over exuberant, please don’t think I’m bragging or being too prideful. I’m just happy that at last something has succeeded. But at the same time I wouldn’t change the past. For some reason, it was what I needed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thinking About Good News

There are 239 chapters in the Book of Mormon and of those 239, Christ is mentioned in 233. There are only 6 chapters that do not mention Christ! That is why the Book of Mormon is called Another Testament of Jesus Christ: it testifies of Jesus. But even in the chapters and verses that don’t mention the Savior by name, we find examples and teachings that testify that His ways bring us peace and happiness and disobeying his ways bring us chaos and misery.

It is so simple and yet we forget and we complicate things. All we need to do to live the gospel of Jesus Christ is to do the right thing, right now. Jesus will then heal our past and guide our future. The only moment we need to concern ourselves with is the present moment.

If that isn't good news, I don't know what is!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Potato, Egg, and Rice

A young wife went to visit her mother. Things hadn’t been going well and she complained about the fact that they had too little money, the children were having health problems and other issues, her husband was having trouble at work, and she and her husband couldn’t agree on how to handle things. “I’m so tired of it,” the daughter said. “It seems like we just get one trial behind us and another is lurking in the shadows. I can’t take it anymore.”

Without saying anything, her mother went to the kitchen, got out three pans, filled them with water and put them on the stove. When the water started to boil she added a potato to one pot, an egg, to the second, and a hand full of rice to the third.

After awhile, the mother took all three pots off the stove and placed the potato, egg, and the rice with its water in bowls in front of her daughter.

Curious, the daughter asked what she was doing. “Look at these,” her mother instructed. “They’ve all been subjected to the boiling water. The potato went in strong and firm, but now it’s soft and mushy. The egg went in fragile and soft, but crack that shell and see how solid and firm it’s become. And the rice? Do you remember when you were small and had an upset stomach? I’d make you rice water to soothe your stomach, and in oriental cooking, rice water is used in many delicious recipes. What this means is that after encountering the hot water, the rice has not only become edible, it has made the water it boiled in better.”

Without further explanation the daughter understood. Life is full of adversity that can ruin us or make us stronger. But adversity also gives us opportunities to make the world around us better.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Have you ever come home, walked in the door, put down your keys and the next time you needed them you had no idea where they were? Afterward, you blame the loss on memory, but the real problem is you didn’t pay enough attention to what you were doing to remember it.

We’ve all done similar things. Without thinking about the fact that we are putting down our keys, we put them down. There is nothing to remember because we were never aware enough of what we were doing to make it a memory. But when our minds are alert in the present—when we pay attention to what we are doing—our memories are surprisingly functional and reliable.

This principle is important in other areas of our lives also. I read an interesting definition of spiritual and non-spiritual this morning. The author wrote that spiritual beings are those who have an awareness of physical existence and non-physical existence while non-spiritual beings only have an awareness of physical existence. As scientists have discovered, we hear what we are listening for, and when we are listening for something our hearing is actually more acute.

Just like the principle of making our memories more useful, and listening for a particular sound, if we are watching, waiting, expecting spiritual things we will be aware of them; we will notice when they occur in our lives. But if our minds get so busy with only the physical part of our existence, we often miss the spiritual things of life. The answer to both the memory problem and the spiritual problem is the same—awareness. God has instructed us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Being still isn’t always possible, but paying attention to the present and being aware of what is going on around us does the same thing—it helps us recognize God working in our lives.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Words for Important Thoughts

Sometimes we hear things so often that we don’t really hear them at all. This often happens with definitions of gospel principles. For example, we’ve heard Paul’s definition of faith (Hebrews 11:1) so often that we don’t even stop to think about what the words mean. So when we hear “the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” we think “Oh, that’s faith,” and it doesn’t mean anything to us.

But let’s word the first part of that sentence differently. “Assurance of things hope for” could be worded, “Knowing that God will provide what is necessary for you at exactly the right moment.” When thought of in this way it triggers new insights and feelings.

One practice that will fuel your faith and gospel learning is to take the scriptural phrases you’ve heard all your life and restate them in your own words. It is a good way to meditate on the gospel because it keeps the thoughts and feelings alive within us rather than dulled because they are so familiar. It also keeps us from taking the marvelous principles of the gospel for granted. But the greatest blessing of doing this is that as we make an effort to renew the teachings of the gospel in our lives, the gospel will renew us.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


This weekend I had a delightful time at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. I listened to many of the 12 professional storytellers work their magic to transport me to Gettysburg or Half Dollar, West Virginia. Some stories made me laugh and some made me cry. Some were so funny they squeezed tears right out of my eyes and caused my sides to ache for hours afterward. I love it.

My time at the Storytelling Festival has caused me to think about the power of stories in our lives. Jesus taught in stories—we call them parables. We warn and admonish each other by relating our own experiences in the form of stories. And we read the stories of people we admire and learn from them. Stories are powerful. Stories our parents told us about their lives, shape our lives.

But the most powerful stories of all are the stories we tell ourselves. Why? Because we believe them. Whenever something happens to us we begin to shape the meaning of the event by telling ourselves a story. The emotions we experience and the attitudes we carry into the future about that event are determined by our story—a story we write. We trip and fall and we can explain it with a funny story about how clumsy we are or we can make it dire with tales of someone else’s incompetence that caused the accident or even make ourselves out to be the victim of someone’s malicious actions. The positive story allows us to move on. The negative story holds us captive in the Pit of Illusion and makes us miserable for as long as we tell the story to ourselves and others.

We are all storytellers and the stories we tell can empower us or they can exhaust us. Realizing we have a choice in this matter helps us to choose stories that will facilitate goodness in our lives instead of letting negative stories ruin our lives.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sneak Peek of My New Book!

My new book, Gospel Insights for Everyday Living will be out within the next two weeks. I am excited. This is the cover. I love the way it turned out. A few very minor changes are being made to it, but this is how it will look. I hope you like it.

I'll let you know exactly when it will be in stores!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Finding Light

Hundreds of years ago God had Isaiah write, “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (Isaiah 51:1). Here we are taught that those who desire to be righteous should look to the rock and to the pit. So what is the rock and the pit?

The rock from which we were hewn is God. As the spirit children of God we are hewn from the same divine “rock” as our Father. We have a modern day saying that expresses the same thing. When we encounter a child who is very much like a parent we say he or she is a “chip off the old block.” Therefore, we should look to our Father with the idea in mind that we are "genetically" like Him.

The pit refers to the Fall. Because of the Fall of Adam you and I are in a dangerous pit that we have no way of climbing out of, but Jesus Christ has rescued us--He has digged us from the deep pit. Thus what Isaiah is telling us to hearken to is our divine origins—the part of us that is good and is of God, and to the Atonement of Jesus Christ that makes it possible for us to overcome all the factors in life that could keep us from our divine heritage. The Lord wants us to focus on the good not the bad. He wants us to focus on Him and His Son and our relationship to Them.

Focusing our attention and thoughts on these two things centers us in Truth. Think about it. You’ll never discover light by studying darkness; you’ll never discover your brilliance by dwelling on what you can’t do; and you’ll never discover your divine connection by constantly thinking thoughts of what you don’t like about yourself.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Joy and Truth

I have been amazed at how people who haven’t seen me since the surgery, and don’t know I’ve had a craniotomy, react when they see my new hairdo. I’ve heard everything from, “You’ve had a make-over!” to “I like how brave you are to cut your hair so short.” But most of all I have been surprised at the remark, “You look so good, but there is no way I could wear my hair that short.” About 70% of the people who see me say that. But how do they know unless they’ve tried it? I didn’t know until the surgery forced me to shave my head.

The interesting thing is that most of the people who say this have the same hairdo they had in high school, and they have never tried anything else. Why is it that so many of us are so afraid of trying something new—afraid of change? If a person absolutely loves the hairdo she has, that is a different story. By all means keep it. But if a person doesn’t change because they are afraid to try something different then that is a problem. Life is meant to be explored and discovered. That is part of the joy—discovering all there is to find. Trying, tasting, experiencing all the good life has to offer.

Exploring life means being brave. It means opening yourself up which sometimes makes you vulnerable. It means taking risks and chances—and that also means being willing to make a mistake. The opposite is being stagnant and full of fear. It means living in a shell of timidity.

Living in Truth allows a person to break out of the shell. It allows a person to embrace life and all the joy it offers. It allows people to rejoice in each new day. Living in Truth is living in joy, and fear is never the pathway to joy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What a Blessing?

I’ve been having problems with Unga today. As you may have learned by now, I name everything and Unga is my computer. Actually there is Unga I and Unga II and I’m having problems with both of them. Unga I is my desktop and she is having virus problems. Unga II is my laptop and she is suffering from software disconnect. I won’t bore you with details, but trying to fix everything has given me ample opportunity to use the Truth Tools.

I may look like it, but I am not stressed. Instead I am filling my mind with Gratitude for computer geeks. They are amazing. I am also employing the great tool of Humor as I observe the strange looks I get from the computer geeks when I ask them a question. You would think I was speaking a foreign language to them—but then maybe I am. Not one to let a golden opportunity pass by, I’m memorizing the looks they give me so that I can recall them in the future when I need to make myself laugh.

I’ve Anchored myself so many times today that my rear-end (please pardon the French!) has turned to iron and I’m not sure I’ll be able to lift myself up off this chair. But I am still thinking Affirmatively, “I love this cheeky Unga. Unga works well. Unga loves me. We are going to solve poor Unga’s problems—soon.” About the only thing left is to turn on some good music and enjoy. After all, the Truth is Unga I and II are as stubborn as their master.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I'm Back to Work!

After nine months I’m teaching again at Brigham Young University. I have missed it so much and can’t even being to put into words what it means to be in the classroom again. I only have one class this semester, which seems strange, but it will be good to have a light schedule for awhile. And I can already tell that my one class is a good class. I could barely make myself leave my office today, it felt so good. Have I told you how good it is?!!!!

I am really feeling the meaning of the Book of Mormon words so often repeated, “And it came to pass.” Time does pass on and things do work out the way they are supposed to. The most important thing is that the Lord helps us no matter what the outcome. I’m just glad that this time the outcome was to return to teaching.