Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"It Was Good"


There are a lot of lessons to learn from the creation account we find in Genesis. But one of the most important is how God teaches us the concept of process. Life is meant to be a process-not an incident.
In the beginning God organized the world by doing one thing at a time. When He was finished separating the water from the land, He didn’t get discouraged because He didn’t have plants or animals or a finished world yet. He stepped back, enjoyed the work of the day, and said, “It is good.” He rejoiced in what He had accomplished.
There is a lot we have to learn from this. Instead of going to bed each night frustrated over what didn’t get accomplished or upset at ourselves for things we said or did wrong, or feeling like there is still so much growth we need to make that we will never be the person we want to be, we need to make it a practice to each night look at what went right that day, what we accomplished, what we learned and rejoice in the growth. Sometimes the very days that we did or said things wrong are our best learning days. Instead of fretting over what went wrong, we should concentrate on the lessons and rejoice in them, but then move on to what we did right. The best way to grow is to take what is right and build on it. When we wallow in the Pit of Illusion because we are concentrating on all we did wrong, we don’t grow.

Like God, we need to see the progress in each day, then step back and rejoice because, “It was good."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Living in Truth at Home Evening

I sometimes get email that I love to share with the rest of you. And I received one of those emails last week that I just have to share. Kristen wrote to tell me how she had taught Living in Truth (specifically the Pit of Illusion) to her children during Family Home Evening.

She wrote, “My family home evening last night went really well. I actually put a couple of Barbies in a decorative birdcage with the door open in the back and we talked about the Pit of Illusion. Then I shared with them the story of Nephi staying out of the pit on the boat. We also did some role playing with situations in our family about staying out of the pit. My children are 10, 7, and 4, but I think they really got it!”

She went on to say that she explained to her children that she struggles with staying out of the Pit just like they do, and I think that may have been the most powerful part of the lesson for her children.

Learning that the struggle to Live in Truth is a life long struggle and that we all encounter the Pit from time to time, is not only freeing, but it helps us understand others. It also helps us be more loving. Instead of thinking thoughts like, “That jerk!” we think, “That poor person is struggling in the Pit. I know how that feels. Maybe I can help love them out of the Pit.”

The beauty is that the more we help others stay out of the Pit, the easier it gets for us to stay out of the Pit.

Thanks, Kristen!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sabbath Scripture -- Living in Truth

Wait on the Lord:
be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart:
wait, I say, on the Lord.
Psalm 27:14

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Power Under Control

Marianne Williamson in her book Return to Love, says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.” I love this quote and what it teaches me.

For one thing, it is about humility. Too often we have a false notion that humility is putting ourselves down—being small. Jesus Christ is the perfection of all good traits and he never put himself down. Instead He proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). What this teaches us is that an essential ingredient in humility is honesty.

One of my favorite definitions of humility is “Power under control.” What that means to me is that we acknowledge the power we have but we don’t misuse or abuse that power. If we have the power to play beautiful music we acknowledge that gift and use it whenever appropriate to bless the lives of others and to make ourselves happy, but we never flaunt it or put others down because they can’t make the same music we can make. Especially we don’t go around saying we don’t make beautiful music just because we think that is being humble.

If we are going to become heavenly beings, we need to recognize the powers that are ours and use them, share them, and thank God for them, but never diminish or deny them.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Poor Advice

Yesterday was the 45th anniversary of mine and Mr. J’s first date. It was a blind date that I didn’t want to go on and so I got unready thinking I was being spiteful to the friend who was making me go. Needless to say, the friend didn’t suffer in the least. But I came home that night and cried because I was sure he’d never ask me out again. However, miracles happen (that’s a whole different story!) and he asked me out the next day and the next and the next and before I knew it I was engaged and everyone was giving me marital advice.

The advice I got the most often sounded profound at the time: “Don’t ever go to bed on an argument.” So when we got married, and had disagreements we remembered the advice and tried to work out our problems before we went to bed. What a MISTAKE! Both Mr. J and I get grumpy and ornery when we are tired and trying to solve problems late at night when we were grumpy and ornery and tired was disastrous. We’d be up half the night and never come to anything close to resolution.

After several years we got wise, (I know I’m a slow learner!) disregarded the terrible advice, and just went to bed when we were upset. Miraculously 90% of the time the next morning we found the problem had somehow disappeared while we slept. The other 10% of the time we were able to solve the problem quickly because our minds were clear and alert.

The amazing thing to me is that a few years later I found this very principle taught by Nephi. After Nephi has the beautiful vision of the Tree of Life, he returns to the family camp and finds his brothers fighting. He knows he needs to help solve the problem, but he is exhausted from the experience he has just had. So instead of trying to jump in and solve the problem in his tired state, he tells us “after I had received strength I spake unto my brethren” (1 Nephi 15:6).

Now that’s the advice I should have been given. Trying to solve problems with children or spouses or anyone when you are tired or hungry or out of sorts doesn’t work. Like Nephi we need to wait until we have the strength to deal with the problem. That isn’t always possible, but when it is—do it!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gaining Wisdom


At the BYU Forum address on Tuesday Mark DeMoss, an evangelical who founded the DeMoss group which is a public relations firm serving Christian organizations, gave a wonderful talk on how incivility and Christianity are not compatible. That’s a basic feature of Living in Truth. When you are uncivil to anyone you immediately cast yourself into the Pit. As I said it is a wonderful talk and if you’d like to read it or hear it for yourself, go here.

In the course of the talk, Mr. DeMoss spoke about wisdom and said something that I really liked. He said that every day he reads a chapter from the book of Proverbs—one of the books of wisdom literature found in the Old Testament. There are 31 books in Proverbs and so if it is the sixth day of the month he reads the sixth chapter or on the tenth day the tenth chapter of Proverbs. By doing this he has read the words of wisdom found in Proverbs every month since he began the reading.

So I decided to try it. I won’t do it all my life, but for a month or two at least I’m going to read Proverbs as he does. I know the value of repetition. I’ve experienced that before when I studied King Benjamin’s great sermon found in Mosiah 2-5 every day for four months. That’s what led to the writing of my book Spiritually Centered Motherhood. It was surprising how much I learned from that experience, and so I am excited to read Proverbs the next few months.

But it also made me think about how valuable it would be to define 31 of the great sermons in the scriptures, the sermons that really speak to my own heart and then read those sermons one a day each day of the month. It would be another great way to learn and study. Maybe I’ll try that next!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Journey of Faith

You can find the movie here
Last night I showed my students the documentary, Journey of Faith. I watch it every semester with my students so I’ve seen it over twenty times and I still am amazed by it. We all know the deprivations and adversity the modern pioneers encountered as they traveled from Nauvoo to what is now Utah. But we aren’t as familiar with what Lehi and Sariah and their family endured as they traveled eight years in the wilderness until they finally reached the land of Bountiful. Even then the journey wasn’t over. Nephi was told to build a ship and then sail it across an ocean. What a test of faith. I'm not sure I'd get in a boat built by anyone I know much less sail across the ocean in it.

Watching the movie makes me appreciate the Book of Mormon so much more. Seeing the places the Arabian Desert they traveled through boggles my mind. How could anyone survive? That would tax even modern survivalist adventurers, and yet they were bearing children and caring for young families in that environment.

The most amazing part of the movie is seeing how the Lord directed them to the one very small fertile place where they could stop to build a ship in order to continue on their way to the Promised Land. It makes me think about the desert periods in my life and the oases the Lord has provided for me along my way. It seems that just when I know I can’t take any more desert, an oasis appears.

If you haven’t seen the movie, you need to. It will make you think and appreciate the Book of Mormon more, and help you see the workings of the Lord in your own life.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Words Grow Faith


In the Book of Mormon the great prophet, Alma, compares a seed to the word of God (Alma 32:28). For some reason most people read that and think Alma is comparing the seed to faith, but you lose the whole meaning if you do that. He explains that if you plant the seed (the word) it will grow into faith so faith is the fruit not the seed.

A seed is a source of something, but it is something specific. The source of a carrot is not a radish seed. A seed is potential for something else; something bigger and better than the seed itself. For the seed to grow it needs to be nourished and cared for. If that happens, it achieves its potential and brings forth fruit. With that in mind let your imagination soar to make associations. 

A word is a source of something specific. A word is potential for something else. But for the word to grow into faith it needs to be nourished and cared for.

And how do you know if that word is growing into faith? Alma explains that you will feel it swell within you, enlarge your soul, enlighten your mind, and be delicious. (See Alma 32:28).

Take the first letter of those descriptive words to make an acronym and see what you get. Swell. Enlarge. Enlighten. Delicious. Then in verses 34 and 35 Alma explains that the word will Sprout, Enlighten, Expand and be Discernible. Alma uses words in very clever ways to teach us about words and how they become faith. I love it!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Learning From Jazz

Duke Ellington
I love change and variety. As a matter of fact, I NEED change and variety. If life becomes too stagnant I don’t do well. So (as I explained a couple of weeks ago) this semester I decided to take a class in something I love, but don’t know a whole lot about—jazz. I’m enjoying it very much and learning a lot which I expected. What I didn’t expect was how much it would teach me about Living in Truth.

Jazz grew out of the Blues and the Blues was music invented by Afro-Americans to help them cope with the degrading lives segregation had forced upon them. The words of Blues music are depressing and express all the unfair and terrible things that were going on. But the music is happy and encouraging. It is as if they were juxtaposing the worst of the world with the best of the world in order to instill and maintain hope. Music was a Truth Tool for them.

But there is more. This week I came across a quote from the great Duke Ellington, one of the finest jazz pianists of all time. An interviewer asked how he felt about the fact that the hotels his band played in wouldn’t let him rent a room to stay for the night. He answered, “I take the energy it would take to pout and use it to write Blues music.”

That sums up what Living in Truth is all about. Instead of pouting or vexing about all that is bad in our lives, we can spend our energy and center our thoughts on the positive and good. That’s happiness! That’s Living in Truth!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Retaining Warmth

I love winter because it is cuddly. I love wrapping up in a blanket in front of a fire and watching the flames lap at the bricks, or snuggling into bed with a good book learning from someone else’s life, or snuggling up with Mr. J to watch a good movie. None of that is appealing in summer, but in winter it is magic.

I’ve always loved this cuddly part of winter, but this week I learned something from it. After I slipped out of the cold bedroom air and into the cool sheets of my bed I waited for the warm to seep out of the down comforter and wrap me in its deliciousness. But as I waited it dawned on me that the comforter wasn’t what warmed me. As a matter of fact, the comforter was cold. It didn’t give me warmth; instead it captured and then reflected my own body heat.

This made me think about other things in life. For example, too often we subconsciously think that other people are there to love us or meet our needs or feed our self-esteem. But other people are like blankets; they reflect back the love we give to them. Therefore, if we are feeling unloved, or unwanted, or unappreciated, the answer is to love, want, and appreciate those around us more and then it will come back to us. Love rebounds and reflects to warm just like my comforter.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nephi Avoids the Pit

It’s interesting to examine the lives of the people in the scriptures from the view point of Living in Truth. Nephi especially illustrates the value of Living in Truth. In 1 Nephi 7:16 Laman and Lemuel are so mad at Nephi they tie him up. Nephi prays and the bands are loosed from his hands and his feet.

Later the brothers again tie Nephi up while they are on the ship traveling to the Promised Land. This time, however, the Lord does not intervene on Nephi’s behalf. He has to endure being tied up while the ship is being tossed and tumbled in a terrible storm at sea. If anyone had an opportunity to fall into the pit thinking of what should be, Nephi did at that point. He could have been thinking that God should have broken the cords like he did before. Or that his brothers shouldn’t be so abusive. Or that the storm shouldn’t be happening to him. But instead he says, “I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions” (1 Nephi 18:16).

Finally the brothers become so frightened because of the storm, they untie Nephi. Most people at that point would come out fighting, seeking revenge, but Nephi has no ill will in his heart. How do we know? Because he takes the compass into his hands, the Liahona that we are told only works by faith and righteousness, and it works. Nephi prays and the winds cease so there is great calm. I love that last phrase because even though Nephi is talking about the sea, he is describing himself. In the midst of this abuse he experiences great calm.

Nephi Lived in Truth and although he experienced a great deal of Necessary Pain, he knows how to avoid the Unnecessary Pain.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Prosperity

When I was growing up it seemed to me that nothing went right. It seemed that trials and tribulations were all my family encountered at every turn. My mother had undulant fever. My father contracted encephalitis from a mosquito bite and almost died. Our house burned down. Dad started several businesses and serious problems plagued every one of them. Dad had blood clots in his lungs. Financial problems hung over us like a storm that wouldn't abate. I could go on, but this is enough to give you a feel for the things that plagued us.

Despite all of this, my parents were always faithful in the Church. They paid a full tithe. They studied the scriptures. They attended the temple often. They taught us. They served in the Church and were always very active. The problem with all of this is that I kept hearing and reading verses of scriptures such as that found in 2 Nephi 1:20; "Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land." I saw that my parents were diligently trying to keep the commandments, but they weren't prospering. This bothered me a lot and challenged my testimony.

It took years of study and gospel scrutiny for me to finally realize what the Lord means when he says "prosper in the land." I should have caught on from the very verse I just quoted. The rest of that verse says, "But inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence." I was always so caught up in the "prosper" part that I didn't see that the opposite of prospering has nothing to do with wealth. The opposite is to be cut off from the Lord. This led me to the realization that this earth is one day going to be the celestial kingdom. So to prosper in the land means to stay here—to be part of the celestial kingdom. This is explained in Proverbs 2:21-22, "For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it."

While it is true that righteous people often acquire more earthly prosperity, it doesn't always happen. There are many righteous people who struggle financially and many wicked people who don't. But righteous people will always acquire faith and will "prosper in the land" in that they will receive a celestial inheritance in this land.

Now when I think back on my growing up years I realize that everything went exactly as it was supposed to. My parents had faith. What more could I ask for?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Postive Side To Vexation

We’ve talked about vexation as the negative feelings that confront us when we leave the Realm of Truth and fall into the Pit of Illusion. Vexation always occurs then and we’ve discussed how when we feel that vexation we need to identify what is causing the vexation and then ask, “Can I fix it or do I need to live with it?” From there we’ve mainly talked about learning to live with it, but there are also cases when it can be fixed and even situations when those vexing feelings seem to be a call to do something to fix a situation.


When we see injustice in the world around us or experience life changing situations, it can be a call to do something. I have a friend whose grand daughter was killed by a drunk driver. She felt the necessary pain of the situation, and began to experience unnecessary pain. When she asked the question, “Can I fix it?”, the answer as to the death was no, but she could do something to try and make it so others didn’t have to go through what her family had gone through. She got very involved in Mother Against Drunk Driving and has done much good.

The answer to “Can I fix it?” may surprise us sometimes. To Live in Truth means you are open to those surprises.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Informal Church

Ben got himself ready for church.
We made it home! There's more snow in Everette, Washington, than there is in Utah! Even though we were snowed in and didn't get to do the things we'd planned, we had a wonderful time. Especially touching for me was having our own church service. We sang, we prayed, and each one of us gave a short talk. It was wonderful to hear my young grandchildren bear testimony of Jesus Christ and of the restoration of the gospel. It was exiting to learn from them. And that reminded me of something I'd read from Elder Henry B. Eyring many years before that I looked up again this morning.

In his book To Draw Closer to God, Elder Eyring tells about how we can learn from anyone in any situation and then he relates the story of a time when he was young and found himself bored during a Sacrament meeting. But as he looked at his father, a highly intelligent academic and a master of the scriptures, he was amazed to see him deeply engrossed in the talk.

When walking home from church with his father, Elder Eyring took the opportunity to ask his father what he thought about the meeting and his father said it was wonderful. Puzzled, Elder Eyring tried to summon the courage to ask how it was wonderful when his father, as if reading his mind, started to laugh. "Hal, let me tell you something. Since I was a very young man, I have taught myself to do something in a church meeting. When the speaker begins, I listen carefully and ask myself what it is he is trying to say. Then, once I think I know what he is trying to accomplish, I give myself a sermon on that subject."  They walked on in silence for a moment and then his father said, "Hal, since then I have never been to a bad meeting."

Since I read that, I've come to realize that I have a responsibility to learn and that no matter who is teaching I can learn if I have the spirit with me. Sunday, in a very informal meeting, I learned from a five year old and a nine year old more about what it means to be a child of God.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Making the Most of It

This has been an interesting vacation. Everything we've planned has need cancelled because of the weather--even church yesterday! A hugh storm dropped about a foot of snow Sunday morning and it knocked out power to the church house. So we had church at home, All we have done is relax and cook and eat. I'm taking home five extra pounds and I don't mean in my luggage! But it has been fun to visit and play with the grand kids! We just hope we can fly out today!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sabbath Scripture

My grace is sufficient for thee:for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lessons in Seattle

Seattle is beautiful. Trees, rolling hills, beautiful architecture. But the people here must have to learn to live with the knowledge that the sun is out there someplace rather than actually seeing it. That makes for strong people. Being here has made me think about how much the way we react to our environment shapes us. We can wake up each day and tell ourselves a story such as,"Oh no, another dreary day!" or we can tell ourselves a story such as "I know sun is up there someplace because it is light and I am excited to see when it will peek through." It reminds me of a woman who was a little older than I am who had never married. She told me that she wakes up every morning excited because she is one day closer to meeting her eternal companion! Hope is an essential ingredient for a joyous life!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Improvisation and Truth

I'm in Seattle visiting D8 and her family! They are treating us like royalty. I may never go home! Just a short thought today. While I've been pondering and writing about the relationship between Living in Truth and creativity, I've realized that Living in Truth is like improvisation in acting classes or performance. When improvising you just have to take what comes, take what the other actors give you, and then make the most of it all the while working and contributing to make the outcome something delightful. Have a great improvisational day!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Daily Ceativity


I’ve been concerned for two days that when I wrote aboutcreativity the thought would come into your mind of painting pictures, or writing music, or creating books. That may be part of the creativity that ensues, but the creativity I’ve discovered from Living in Truth is much, much more extensive than that.

When we Live in Truth the blessing of creativity is something that exists in every moment. It is part of everything you do. Children are bickering and you suddenly have a creative idea as to how to stop them in a way that teaches instead of reprimanding.  You encounter a very grouch clerk at a store and you suddenly have a creative stroke of genius as to how to interact with him in a pleasant way that you can see influences him for good. You encounter a situation that is usually very boring like waiting in a long security line at the airport and instead of stewing and fretting impatiently you suddenly have a creative idea as to how to use that time in a pleasant and profitable way. 

As I said before, creativity is the ability to take two things and make something new out of them. In the last example, you take time and the long line and instead of enduring a nuisance you create moments of learning or making new friends or spreading goodwill to those around you. You create something new in that moment that didn’t exist the moment before. That’s the blessing of creativity that comes from Living in Truth. The poem, story, picture, music you may also create is icing on the cake, but not the cake!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jazz and Truth

As I talked about yesterday, when we Live in Truth one of the benefits is that we experience more creativity. Often this happens because we are more spontaneous. When we live in the Pit of Illusion we don’t see or recognize the opportunities or even the wonderful things that are happening around us and therefore it is impossible to take advantage of them or to build upon them. We can’t dance with life because we don’t hear the music life is making for us.

But when we are Living in Truth we are fully in the present and therefore we hear the music and sense the tempo and are able to waltz or rumba or tango to whatever music presents itself. That’s the spontaneity part, and the creativity follows as you make the dance into your own—something new.

This semester I discovered that before one of my classes someone is teaching the History of Jazz. I love music but know very little about jazz. So I decided to sit in on the class. Today we talked about Country Blues and I had a delightful hour on a Mississippi levee listening to extraordinary people discuss the blues in their lives and listening and learning from them. It was delightful!

One more benefit of Living in Truth! Life is so much more fun and exciting when you Live in Truth.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Creativity


The last few days I’ve been reminded of the many benefits that come from Living in Truth. I’ve talked about a lot of those benefits here, but there is one I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that is one of the most surprising and exciting. Benefits like happiness and peace and love, I expected to find when I began Living in Truth, but this one amazed me. It is the gift of creativity.

As Elder Uchtdorf said at the Relief Society Conference in October 2008, “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.” He goes on to say that everyone can create, and I know that is true. However, when we Live in Illusion and because of the life experiences all of us pass through, we tend to forget that we can create and therefore we don’t. But creating, taking two separate things and making something new out of them, is deeply satisfying. It is what God does. He is a creator and as His children we are meant to be creators.

This brings me back to Living in Truth. When I Live in Truth, I reside in the same realm God resides in—the Realm of Truth—and in that realm creativity abounds in everyone who resides there. It just happens naturally. Whatever people do they find themselves creating as they do it and that creativity brings them great joy. Instead of going through a day weighed down by burdensome tasks, a person Living in Truth is constantly creating new ways to do things, gaining new insights, and creating their lives with exciting new possibilities.

There are many benefits of Living in Truth, but this gift of creativity is one of my favorites. Watch how it works in your life when you are Living in Truth.