Monthly Archives: August 2012

“…the shaping sounds of lullabies…”

A couple of weeks ago I filled in again as a teacher in the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Sunday School class. I taught lesson 32 which covered Alma 53-63. This is the part of Alma where we read about the “army of Helaman”, those 2,000+ young men who fought in the war. There was obviously a lot of great material to cover, but I figured I’d share one quote inparticular that I love. When talking about how their mothers had taught them, I shared this quote from Elder Maxwell:

“Women… rock a sobbing child without wondering if today’s world is passing them by, because they know they hold tomorrow tightly in their arms. . . .

“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire — or the shaping sounds of lullabies?”

Neal A Maxwell, Woman [1979], 96

This reminded me of an experience from 10+ years ago. My parents family has been renting a cottage for years and years for a week in the summer. When my first child was born, we went up to the cottage with our baby boy who was only a coule of weeks old. One night my wife got up to feed our son, and was singing quietly to him. My father was awake and heard it, and to this day he talks about how special that was. He said it was like the voice of an angel. It’s not that my wife is a professional singer (she sings fine), it’s that here was a mother, all alone with her child, singing to her feeding baby. “The shaping sounds of lullabies” indeed!

“Not a fan of Jesus?” billboard

(I took the picture with my cell phone and used a digital zoom, so the picture is a little blurry)

This billboard is up in my town. In case you can’t read it, it says:

Not a fan of Jesus?
Neither are we. Join the conversation September 8-9

I haven’t checked out the website, so I know nothing about what this about, but I’m not impressed by that sort of attention-grabbing billboard. It is a church. How can they not be a fan of Jesus? He is the only way we can be saved!

Sacrament Meeting Talk – Making the right choices at the right moments

I spoke on Sunday for the first time since I was released as bishop. It was a little weird, as I was used to speaking with some authority, and now I’m just another guy. However, when sharing a message about the gospel, I guess you still have the authority of the Holy Ghost.

It seemed to go well, and I had some positive feedback.

Below you will find the text of my talk. A couple of notes:

  • I generally kept to my prepared remarks, but did go off the cuff in a couple of spots. That is not reflected below
  • You will certainly get a sense for what my message was, but of course you miss out on the emphasis that was put on certain words and phrases.
  • I didn’t have enough time to read the words to Improve the Shining moments at the end
  • My endnotes are probably not proper, but since I’m not being marked, they are good enough 🙂

Let me start with a story I heard recently…In 1914, a boy named Jerry (Siegel) was born in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. In the same year, a boy named Joe (Shuster) was born in Toronto, before moving to Jerry’s neighbourhood when he was around 10 years old. Jerry was always a small boy, and he was often teased. Sometimes, this wasn’t his fault. At one point in the first grade, he asked for a hall pass from his teacher so he could go to the bathroom. The teacher wouldn’t let him, and he had an embarrassing accident. There were other humiliating experiences during his school years. Since he spent a lot of time alone, he started to write stories about a bad man trying to control the world. He called him The Super-Man.

Jerry was the youngest of 6 kids and his dad ran a used clothing store in the city.

“One day three guys came into that store. They tried on a suit and walked out without paying for it. As his dad, Michael, tried to stop them, he had a heart attack and Jerry’s dad dropped dead. He didn’t even make it to the hospital. Suddenly this little boy’s hero and mentor, his dad, was gone. This sort of gave him clarity. The character that had a hyphen and was a bad guy, suddenly dropped the hyphen and dropped the bad guy routine and in the first drawing that we have of that initial rendition of Superman as hero [that Jerry had asked Joe to draw], we have a Superman who is coming in trying to save a guy who looks suspiciously like Jerry’s dad who was being attacked by robbers. This hero of Jerry’s did what Jerry couldn’t do; he saved his dad.”[1]

What a horrible thing to happen to anyone. What I find interesting about the story is the way that Jerry Siegel reacted. He’d had a difficult childhood, and his original stories were about a man trying to control the world (apparently it was a bald man with telepathic powers). It was something that I’m sure was on his mind as he was being bullied. When he faced this traumatic event in his family, there are those who would have thought he was justified if his character had gone darker and violent. But at that moment in time, Jerry went the other way. His character became a hero. Instead of being a bad guy, The Super-Man became Superman, a hero for all, someone who could protect people who had been bullied like him, as opposed to someone who contributed to it. The rest is history. The first comic with Superman appeared in 1938, and for the last 74 years there have been countless people who have been entertained and inspired by the adventures of Superman.

I want to talk about moments these sorts of moments, where we need to decide which path we take. What are we doing to make sure that when we have those moments, we are making the right decisions? Are there moments in our lives which, if we had made a different decision, would have made a drastic difference? I’m sure that there are. Families that have fallen apart because of infidelity certainly could be on a different track if it weren’t for specific moments. People who lose their jobs because of dishonesty or other such things definitely would have a different path if it weren’t for the wrong decisions they made at that moment.

I think for most of us, when we do make wrong decisions, we don’t feel the impact to such a degree. It reminds me of the talk that President Uchtdorf gave a few years ago. He told a story about a plane that had left New Zealand for a sight-seeing trip to Antarctica. The flight coordinates were off by just 2 degrees. Over the course of the trip, this led them to be 45 km off course. The plane tragically crashed into the side of a volcano. President Uchtdorf said:

It was a terrible tragedy brought on by a minor error—a matter of only a few degrees.

Through years of serving the Lord and in countless interviews, I have learned that the difference between happiness and misery in individuals, in marriages, and families often comes down to an error of only a few degrees.[2]

President Uchtdorf went on to explain how, like a pilot, we need to make regular course corrections so we can get back on track.

Small errors and minor drifts away from the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring sorrowful consequences into our lives. It is therefore of critical importance that we become self-disciplined enough to make early and decisive corrections to get back on the right track and not wait or hope that errors will somehow correct themselves.

The longer we delay corrective action, the larger the needed changes become, and the longer it takes to get back on the correct course—even to the point where a disaster might be looming.

We are constantly making decisions. The freedom to choose is a vital part of our mortal existence. We make decisions about how we treat someone, what activity we’re going to participate in, and what we will say. When we find that it wasn’t the right decision or there was a better decision that could have been made, we’ll have another moment to choose. We can continue on the path we were on, or we can make the necessary correction and start down the right path.

I guess the question for me is how many of those moments are we going to have? How many chances are we going to have to make the right decisions? How many times can we repent and correct our course?

The scriptures teach us clearly that if we repent, we will be forgiven. In the book of Mosiah, the Lord makes this promise to Alma:

Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.[3]

This scripture is pretty clear. If we sin, and repent, we’ll be forgiven. If we sin ten times and repent, we’ll be forgiven. I guess this goes even to the extent that if we sin a hundred times or a thousand times and repent a hundred times or a thousand times, we’ll be forgiven. But we know that at some point we have to stop. The decisions that we make at those moments need to get us back on the right path so that we aren’t committing those same sins again. The gift of repentance and forgiveness gives us all hope for a better world[4].

However, there are other scriptures that help us understand the time constraints that we have.  Alma taught the following to Zeezrom:

And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead.[5]

Amulek also warned later about delaying our repentance.

And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.[6]

Now is the time to prepare to meet God. We are not to procrastinate. Now is the time. It isn’t tomorrow; it wasn’t yesterday; it is now!

One last scripture… This makes me think of what Samuel the Lamanite said to the wicked Nephites. The people had focused on their possessions and their riches for far too long. They were not remembering God and how he had blessed them and their fathers. He warned the people about waiting until the “days of their poverty” before calling on God. In fact, it was already too late.

But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.[7]

The people had been sinning for so long, that their time left was too short for them to repent in this life. So, how is it possible that one scripture says that if we repent we’ll be forgiven, and another scripture says that these people couldn’t repent and be forgiven? Well, it isn’t that God wouldn’t forgive them. With the decisions that they made, those were the consequences. They didn’t leave themselves enough time to have meaningful repentance. As Samule said, “it is everlastingly too late.” They didn’t have enough time to make restitution and to allow their hearts to change fully. These people had the records of the prophets from the beginning. They had been warned by the prophets in their midst that they need to change their ways. But in those moments, they made the wrong decisions.

Every day, we are in a similar situation. We are faced with living in this fallen world and fitting in, but thankfully we hear the voices of parents, leaders, and prophets warning us. There is a moment where you are standing with someone at work, and they say something unflattering about someone else. Perhaps you are standing in the hallway at school and someone comes along and invites you to go someplace you probably shouldn’t go. You spend time at home, but you are spending too much time on the computer or on your phone and the kids want to go do something. In any of these situations, what do you do?

A while ago Elder Bednar spoke to the YSA about seeing things as they really are[8]. He said that the one of the main roles of the Holy Ghost is to help us see truth. The Church put together a beautiful Mormon Message based on this thought[9]. The video shows a man in front of a computer screen, the lights are dim and the glow of the screen is lighting up his face. There are 2 different parts of the video. One shows where in that moment that he is called upon to be with his family, he is kind of hiding in a room and his reaction implies that he made the decision to indulge his physical appetites. The other example shows him closing his screen and returning to be with his family.

The other day I was speaking to someone about this topic. I shared that I had wondered if there were definitive moments in our lives that make us who we are. This person said that they definitely believed that and went on to share their experience. With permission, let me share just a bit. This person was married but the spouse had gotten into drugs. One day the spouse was snorting cocaine and had left some on the coffee table. The spouse handed the other spouse a rolled up bill and said, “Here, I have something for you.” The implication was that she could have the drugs. She indicated she was going to throw it out, and he asked why. She said that since it was given to her, it was hers, and she didn’t want it, so she was going to throw it out. Ultimately he used it, and she didn’t. This person I was speaking to still had troubles and challenges throughout her life, but she looks at that moment as a defining one. She feels that if she had tried it just once, she’d have been caught, and might very well have ended up on the street. As it was, eventually decisions were made that led her to St Catharines where she joined the Church.  In sharing this story with me, the person said that it was good to talk about these things, so we can remember those moments. Hopefully our remembering will shape the decisions we make in the future moments.

Along with the moments that we have in life where we are consciously making decisions, I think there are also moments that God lets us experience. These could be for our benefit or for the benefit of others. I have wondered about moments that affect a member’s activity. Was there a moment that would have kept someone active in the Church? Perhaps more importantly, was there a moment that depended on someone else that would have kept them in the Church, but that person wasn’t there for them? I can picture a person struggling silently. They are waiting, hoping for someone to come and talk with them. Sure, it’d be great if they could reach out and find someone to talk to themselves, but in their state of mind, they just can’t do it. Unfortunately the visiting teachers and home teachers don’t visit. Perhaps the person came to Church and no one said hi to them. We’ve lost them. Always remember, that when we make decisions, they don’t just affect us, but everyone around us. I remember for a period of time I would pray that despite my failings, my family wouldn’t suffer because of them. This made sense to me. I was being unselfish, and praying for them. Then one day it hit me hard. How can I pray that my failings won’t affect them, when obviously my failings affect me? If I want my family to be happy, and loving, then I need to be happy and loving. I need to make the right decisions myself and then create an environment where my family can learn to make the right decisions.

Another aspect of these moments that God lets us experience is that you have to be involved. I’m sure you’ve been to meetings or conferences, maybe even gone home and visiting teaching, where you felt clearly, “I’m glad I was here”. Well, you were there. What would you have missed out on if you hadn’t been there? I think so much of the gospel is like this. You’ve probably heard me say before that I know we can’t do everything, but we have to do something. Is every RS activity exciting? Is every Mutual activity fun? Is the food at every ward picnic or Christmas dinner awesome? Is every talent show showcasing world-class talent? Of course not, but that’s all part of being in this Church community. We are brothers and sisters. We are a community of latter-day saints, and we need to be there for one another.

So we need to be involved, and at the same time we also need to be alert. We need to be conscious of the opportunities for good that are around us. We need to see God’s hand in all that is around us. It is far too easy for us to just float along. If that happens, we risk missing some of the moments that God wants us to experience. I think that Terryl Givens, a professor of literature and religion at Richmond University in Virginia said it best this way:

For me, a paradigm that I keep going back to is Isaiah chapter 9. Here’s Isaiah who [has] one of the most boring [sections]. [What] you have to wade through to get past the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon! Here’s Isaiah and he’s talking about “the Midianites” this and “in Egypt” this, and “grinding the faces”. Then suddenly if you’re not paying attention, you miss it. We get this anthem to the Christ. The Wonderful Counselor. The Prince of Peace. If you blinked, you missed it. That’s how the gospel works. We’re mired in banality and there are these eruptions of the divine into our lives that occur from moment to moment.[10]

What a great analogy. Sometimes we do go through the motions, and we might ignore what is going on around us because it always seems the same. But those moments are there for us to feel the spirit if we are paying attention. I think those “eruptions of the divine” can happen frequently if we are looking for them. These are not earth-shattering events, but they reveal the tender mercies of the Lord.

Elder Neal A Maxwell once said “Moments are the molecules that make up eternity!” He then went on to share something that President Hinckley had said decades earlier

President Hinckley counseled: “It is not so much the major events as the small day-to-day decisions that map the course of our living. … Our lives are, in reality, the sum total of our seemingly unimportant decisions and of our capacity to live by those decisions” (Caesar, Circus, or Christ? Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [26 Oct. 1965], 3).[11]

Brothers and Sisters, we are here for a reason. We are to have joy. We need to make the right decisions at the right moments to bring to pass that joy. Sometimes the tough decisions are the right decisions. They are very hard to make. But if that is what is needed to get us back on track, that is what we need to do.

In conclusion, I want to read to you the words to Hymn 226 Improve the Shining Moments[12]. It is a hymn full of optimism and guidance for how to be happy.

1. Improve the shining moments;
Don’t let them pass you by.
Work while the sun is radiant;
Work, for the night draws nigh.
We cannot bid the sunbeams
To lengthen out their stay,
Nor can we ask the shadow
To ever stay away.

2. Time flies on wings of lightning;
We cannot call it back.
It comes, then passes forward
Along its onward track.
And if we are not mindful,
The chance will fade away,
For life is quick in passing.
’Tis as a single day.

3. As wintertime doth follow
The pleasant summer days,
So may our joys all vanish
And pass far from our gaze.
Then should we not endeavor
Each day some point to gain,
That we may here be useful
And ev’ry wrong disdain?

4. Improve each shining moment.
In this you are secure,
For promptness bringeth safety
And blessings rich and pure.
Let prudence guide your actions;
Be honest in your heart;
And God will love and bless you
And help to you impart.

I’m grateful for the moments that God has given me. I’m grateful that He has let me experience the sorrows and the joys of life. I’m grateful that He trusts me enough to let me make my own decisions.

I pray that we will all have the strength to make the right decisions at the right moments. I know that as we do so, that we will be on the right course, and we will have the capacity to help others stay on the right course.

I know that as we follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we will see the truth before us and we will be able to experience the “eruptions of the divine” in our lives.

I testify of this, in the name of Jesus Christ…


[1] Tye, Larry. Gross, Terry. “It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s A New Superman Bio!” 18 June 2012. Fresh Air. 25 August 2012

http://www.npr.org/2012/06/18/155278330/its-a-bird-its-a-plane-its-a-new-superman-bio

[2] Uchtdorf, Dieter F. “A Matter of a Few Degrees.” N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2012. <https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/a-matter-of-a-few-degrees>.

[3] Mosiah 26: 30

[4] Ether 12:4

[5] Alma 12: 24

[6] Alma 34: 33

[7] Helaman 13: 38

[8] Bednar, David A. “Things as They Really Are.” N.p., n.d. Web. 26-Aug 2012.

<http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,538-1-4830-1,00.html>

[9] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CstRqAlAZf0

[10] Givens, Terryl. Dehlin, John. “289-293: Terryl Givens — An Approach to Thoughtful, Honest and Faithful Mormonism.” 28 Sep 2011 Mormon Stories. 25 August 2012

http://mormonstories.org/terryl-givens-an-approach-to-thoughtful-honest-and-faithful-mormonism/

[11] Maxwell, Neal A. “The Tugs and Pulls of the World .” N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2012. <https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2000/10/the-tugs-and-pulls-of-the-world>.

[12] “226: Improve the Shining Moments,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no. 226

The fun of scripture reading

Every morning at about 7 am, we sit down as a family and read the scriptures and then pray together. We don’t read a lot (I have a 4, 8, and 10-year-old), but we think it is important to have that habit.

We usually finish without any problems. Sometimes it is hard to get the kids to focus, but they generally follow along.

This morning, my 4-year-old daughter was sitting on my wife’s lap. We had finished reading the scriptures, and just before my oldest son offered the morning prayer, my daughter blurted out, “Food becomes snot.” She said it in a super cheerful voice, just like she was saying “today is sunny” or “I like toys”. We finished reading Mosiah 28 this morning, so we have no idea what made her think/say that, but it was hilarious!

‘Shocking spike’ in TV nudity

The Globe and Mail has a story about some information that the Parents Television Council has released involving the increase in nudity and bleeped words on TV. Nudity has jumped 400% in just a year. Bleeped words have jumped 2,400% in 5 years.

I’m sure there are people who will think this is no big deal, but I agree with the PTC… it is a “shocking” increase. It gets harder and harder to keep the filth out of our homes 🙁

Scripture, Song and Six Grandchildren: Romneys Open Church Doors to Press

It’s always kind of funny to read descriptions of our services. This past Sunday Mitt Romney allowed reports to come with him to Church. There is a good description of it in the New York Times.

 

Marking my scriptures

Entitled to Revelation had a posting earlier this week about colour-coding your scriptures. That has prompted me to share how I’ve marked my scriptures in the past.

I attended Seminary when I was in high school. I had a set of scriptures that I used. They were the less expensive kind, so the quality of the binding wasn’t great. After 4 years of study, they were falling apart. Around when I turned 18 I got a new set of scriptures. They were beautiful! Unfortunately, they didn’t have any of my markings in them. That was less beautiful 🙁

I spent the next year copying over my markings, and then starting new ones. At the time, I decided on a colour coding system. I can’t remember all of them, but this is generally how it worked:

  • Blue – rightesouness
  • Orange – wickedness
  • Burgundy – prophecy
  • Green – general
  • Yellow – commandments

There may have been more, but that is what I can remember off the top of my head. Here is a page showing some of the colours.

Here I am 18 years later, and I am so grateful I marked them that way. At a glance I can see what the page is about. It also helps me look things up as I generally know where things are, and I know the type of scripture it is, so I can focus on a colour when I’m searching.

I don’t mark with colour any more. I generally underline in pen and/or make notes in the margins. But I love my work from before my mission. It has served me well!

The urgency of the work

I don’t have any cool quotes to share with this, but here are a few thoughts…

During my time in leadership positions in the Church, I have found that some people seem to take their time. This may seem like an appropriate thing. We need to ponder/study things out in our hearts and minds and then wait for the Spirit to direct us. The problem I have with this is that I feel that God wants us to act for ourselves in most situations. We are to act in faith. We have experience; we know what is right; we know what we want to accomplish. We should act!

We are at war in a battle for the souls of men and women everywhere. We don’t have the luxury of delaying our actions. Could you imagine a “real” battlefield, with people falling to their death everywhere, and a military leader sitting by while he/she ponders what should be done? In the midst of battle, you have to make quick choices. That is why you are a leader.

I’ve always felt a great urgency for this work. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always show in my actions. Like I posted yesterday, I don’t want to be a nominal member. I want to get out there and fight that battle, but sometimes the circumstances in our lives stop us from being as involved as we want to be. I need to do better.

Nominal membership in the Church

I taught Chapter 15 from the George Albert Smith manual during our HP Group lesson time yesterday. The lesson was titled “Advancing the Work of the Lord.” As I prepared for the lesson, it reminded me a lot of the way President Hinckley used to speak (we are in good hands; this is the work of the Lord; the rock cut out of the mountain will fill the earth, etc). President Smith spoke in the same way.

The manual had several great quotes, but the one that really stuck out to me was on page 161:

…then there are those who accept nominal membership in the Church but who seem to feel themselves exempt from rendering any kind of service. But sooner or later they find themselves uneasy in their hearts, and doubtful in their thoughts, as we all do when we fail to do what we know to be our full duty. A man who is living in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ is never in doubt about its success; but the man who neglects his duty, who fails to keep his covenants, loses the Spirit of the Lord, and then he begins to wonder what will become of Zion. …

I guess we all need to be asking ourselves if we are nominal members, or are we doing our full duty. It definitely gives me something to think about.

Slow posting this week

Sorry for the slow posting this week. The time that I would normally spend on the blog has been spent listening to the Terryl Givens podcast from Mormon Stories. I don’t listen to many of the Mormon Stories podcasts, but this one is definitely worth your time. There are 5 sections, so it takes about 5 hours to get through, but they are fantastic!