Friday, June 26, 2015

A Call To Arms

"And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole."

This is what Captain Moroni did when people from his home land became traitors to their country, to their God and the liberty whereby they had been made free.

Unfortunately, the same things that were happening then are happening today.  We have people in more than just the U.S. becoming traitors to their country, traitors to their God and the plan for which they fought before they were born, traitors to the very gifts of the Atonement and Agency they defended prior to this life and, as modern prophets have been warning for a long time now, it's time we step it up and stop being afraid to defend truth.  Political correctness needs to go out the window.  Sensitivity to people's feelings and beliefs does not have to and should never mean that we should be apologizing for our own.  As Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, "Even as we seek to be meek and to avoid contention, we must not compromise or dilute our commitment to the truths we understand. We must not surrender our positions or our values. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the covenants we have made inevitably cast us as combatants in the eternal contest between truth and error. There is no middle ground in that contest."

This entry is a call to action, to it's readers and to the world.

Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world, our Advocate with the Father, our Atoning Mediator and loving Friend, is coming VERY soon.  I can't pretend to know how soon, but consider this.  Why do you think our prophet lowered the missionary age limit, allowing more missionaries to be called to hasten the work?  Why do you think Elder Bednar issued a challenge to all members of the Lord's church as follows? "My beloved brothers and sisters, what has been accomplished thus far in this dispensation communicating gospel messages through social media channels is a good beginning—but only a small trickle. I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood.  Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy—and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood."  Why do you think leaders of the Lord's church have, a few years ago, sent out the clarion call to hasten the work of salvation?  Why do you think we don't hear about getting out of debt, emergency preparation, food storage, etc. in General Conference anymore?  Why do you think General Authorities have repeatedly declared the churches position on marriage every time the judicial government makes a decision that violates the Lord's standards for marriage?  Why do you think there is more emphasis from our leaders, pleading with the world, to defend the Lord's standard for families, marriage, and a change of heart, and clinging to truth over all other things as frequently as they are?

The answer is simple.  Our Lord is coming much sooner than most people, even many Latter-Day Saints, seem to be even willing to believe.  The glorious day of His power will be here in the near future, the "disintegration of the family [is bringing] upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets"* and only those who are ready, willing to follow Christ's gospel and aware of what they should be looking for will not be deceived when He comes.

So here is my plea to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints reading this article as well as to myself:

1.  Please show a greater commitment to sharing our Savior's gospel, the power of His Atonement and the  reality of His restored church by being a greater example to those around you.  Please show greater reverence and dedicated, sacred observance of the Sabbath day and make repentance and a change of heart and mind (I mean the hard changes) a daily practice.  The blessings of doing so will be immeasurably wonderful to you, it will be noticed by others and they will want what you have.
2.  Please show a greater commitment to sustaining the Lord's servants, the leaders of His church.  Please do not seek to interpret their words in a way that simply fits your lifestyle, but rather in a way that brings you closer to exact, unapologetic, faith filled obedience to Christ's restored gospel.
3.  Please learn to recognize the Holy Ghost more effectively and become more willing to follow His promptings.  Recognize that He will never give you an impression that contradicts or even isn't in exact alignment with what God's prophets have declared.

Here is my plea to all others.

1.  Please seek for understanding of the role of Jesus Christ in your life, to understand why He is so vital for your eternal happiness.
2.  Please remember that as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we are not out to convert you**, only the Holy Ghost can do that. We are simply and desperately trying to share with you the unmatched love and joy that comes with faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ, His Atonement and His resultant restored gospel.  You are, of course, free to reject that invitation, but many of us will keep trying when we feel the time is right because we just care so darn much about you!
3.  Please remember that taking offense is a one way choice.  We live the way we believe and outwardly defend our beliefs when they are challenged, insulted or under attack the same way you would defend yours in the same situations.  We respect your right to believe, choose and live as you will so long as you are not taking away other's right to do the same, so we ask in kindness that you give us same respect.

And last but not least, a challenge to all from any walk of life.

Whether you take me seriously with what I am about to say or not, I say it because I don't like seeing anyone suffer.  A great change is coming to the world.  For some it will be a time of great rejoicing, a signal of the proximity of the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  For others it will be a time of great sorrow because they are not prepared - spiritually, temporally, or both - and therefore cannot be guaranteed the same protection and safety as those to whom the blessings of faith and obedience have been granted by God, on which promise He has remained so invariably constant and will forever.  Please prepare yourselves, spiritually and temporally, so your suffering is as minimal as possible.  Follow the Lord's prophets so you can be as spared as possible from the grief that is to come and find joy in the protection of your Savior.

I say this with all the concern and love I can muster, echoing an ancient american prophet "...come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ;..."  This call to arms is a request to accept his invitation, before it's too late.

*[The Family: A Proclamation To The World]
**[We are not trying to convert you]

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father: The Greatest Kind of Leadership

Before you read anything past this sentence, please watch this video.  Please.  I'm serious.  If you are still reading, stop and watch the video.  It's not very long.

In the movie Cheaper By The Dozen 2, towards the end, they say something like "There's no perfect way to be a [father], but there's a lot of ways to be a really good one."  For us mortals, this is true.  We don't have the slightest clue of what it means to be a perfect father like our God is to us, but my dad knows a way to be a really good one.

Part of the role of a father, as designed by God, is to provide and put his wife and his family before himself.  There are millions of families, I'm sure, where the home is broken and where relationships are severed by selfishness in the home.  While it doesn't require a perfect father to establish good relationships in families, it does require a man focused on self improvement and doing his to provide the best love and support he knows how to give to his wife and children.  It requires a high level of dedication, selflessness, a deep sense of gratitude and joy in seeing others, especially those in his family, succeed.  It also requires letting some of his expectations be unmet or even changed from time to time when something doesn't go according to planned, allowing people to make mistakes and always doing his best to encourage his family to make Christ centered  decisions and respond with love if they mess up.  It requires righteous, humble use of priesthood power to bless his family and most importantly, charity, the pure love of Christ.

Here is how my dad meets this standard.

My dad works with some pretty good people and deals with some pretty nasty people as well.  Working in the medical field, from what I have observed, is no walk in the park.  You can't please everyone, but yet everyone expects to be pleased when they seek health care.  It's obviously not abnormal to seek high quality health care, but it is also no mystery to me that his response to his pager going off before he called in, from what I observed, was never one of excitement.  His drive to love us and the Lord and provide the best he possibly could for us, I'm sure, was the only reason, some days and nights, why he kept going.  I remember a number of times where I wouldn't see him come home at night because he came home so late, making sure that his patients were all looked after properly so that we could have the best lives possible.  Growing up, I never saw a greater example, up close and personal, of consistent dedication to our well being in a man than my dad.  So on that one he passes with flying colors.

On one of my previous entries I said that as much as we focus on doing good, being kind and seeking humbly to be a force for good, the more opportunities we will have to do good and the more positive attention and gratitude we will receive from and feel for others.  Watching my dad in his efforts to serve my mom, give us the absolute best he circumstances he could provide and encourage us to make proper use of and respond properly to those circumstances, I do not recall a single thing in his demeanor, words or actions that sent a message of "I'm doing this because I want to look like a hero" or "You'd better be grateful to me because of all this stuff I've provided for you." Rather, I remember feeling like what he really wanted was just to do good for the sake of doing good, serve for the sake of improving our lives and offering advice for the sake of helping us cope with hard times and become better people.  I recall my mom telling me that, while she was grateful for the many hours he put into landscaping the yard in their current home, she did suggest a number of times for him to get some professional landscapers to finish the job and give himself a break.  He was so adamant about doing everything he could to give her what he wanted himself and it took a few times before he agreed to give himself that break and let someone else finish.  He was that focused on serving ALL THE TIME growing up.  For selflessness, he nailed it.

Whether it was a graduation, a great result of a science fair project (with which he always helped), earning a merit badge, or even just overcoming a great personal difficulty, if I were to pick a phrase my dad loved to use during times like that it was a plain and simple but yet emphatic "Well done, [insert personal pronoun here]!"  He was always the first to offer our hard work ethic and abilities to help others - even when we didn't want him to, haha - because he had confidence in our ability to do good.  He also expressed abundant gratitude and gave loads of praise to my mom for her efforts in instilling in us a good sense of what it really means to put in a good hard days work and be legitimately impressed with the results.

I remember when he took away driving privileges when I came home with a poor mark on my report card to teach me the value of studying hard.  It was found that the poor grade was because of an error on the teachers part and driving privileges were immediately reinstated upon this discovery.  He was always very careful to give out both punishments and rewards in ways that taught us a valuable lesson, expressed exuberant satisfaction with our efforts for good and always encouraged us to aim for the next step in the learning process.  Did he find pure, selfless joy and gratitude in our efforts and successes?  Absolutely!

There was one time when he drove me out to pick up some large stone slabs for some kind of outdoor job - I don't remember exactly what - and after we had loaded a bunch of them on the truck he couldn't get back up the dirt hill to bring it home.  After several attempts, he suggested we pray for help so we could get back home on the next try, but to no avail.  I remember him being so set on bringing them home to make the project look better and he concluded after failing that one last attempt, that we would just have to empty out the truck if we wanted to get home.  We may have put a few back in the truck a taken a more flat route back to the road, but I do remember him changing his expectation and humbly submitting to the Lord's answer, "I'm sorry, but this just isn't going to work, you'll have to try something different" (something to that effect).  My dad didn't get upset, but, if I remember right, just said something like "well, darn, I guess we'll just have to change our plan here" and we went home with a different outcome than we expected.

This is just one example of many but it is also one of many evidences of his submission to the Lord's will when the Lord basically told him "This just isn't going to work the way you want it to" or "This person isn't going to respond well to this so you'll have to change your approach if you want a positive outcome."  Regardless of how much time it took him to see those answers, when he did, he accepted them and moved on with life, optimistic of better days ahead.

He bought me a 2005 Grand Prix after I got back from the mission.  Pretty awesome, right?  I thought he was the greatest dad ever to just buy something like that flat out (and still do).  Well, I went on a date that took me on a four hour drive to the northwestern corner of Colorado a while later.  On the way back I was very tired, but was also afraid to be late to work the next day so I decided to try driving through the very risky and windy road that is highway 139 back to Grand Junction.  Bad idea.  I feel asleep at the wheel maybe 5-10 miles outside the city and totaled the car by slamming in the back end of a big pickup truck.  $5000 dollars down the drain.  How my dad responded was fantastic.  He had called the insurance agent and requested the car be added to his plan on the way to buy it but, I guess, never finalized it.  So when I was fined and told I would have to face jail time for driving without insurance, he agreed to pay the legal fees to liberate me from such a burden and because of such, the courts decided to waive the jail time. I may have a few details of this wrong, but I know for certain that his response, both by action and word, to my mistake was a sign to me that he cared more about me than money, a car or anything else temporal for that matter.

Priesthood blessings.  Some of the most reassuring and profound revelations and experiences in my life have been as a result of father's blessings.  Each school year, for example, my dad would give each of us kids a father's blessing before school, addressing any concerns we had and giving us encouragement, counsel and warnings to help us stay safe, happy and successful.  Before I started at Mesa Colorado University, the blessing I had from my dad told me that as much as I didn't study things of the world on the Sabbath that I would have successful grades as a result.  I graduated high school with a 3.14 GPA.  Three of my other siblings were 4.0 students, the hard workers who didn't seem to struggle much to keep their grades high.  Well, that year at school, I did end up studying for my Algebra final for a few hours on the last Sunday of the semester.  Everyone of my classes (even chemistry!!) were mid to high A's except Algebra, which ended up being a mid B.  I know, to this day, that it was because I studied on the Sabbath for those few hours.  A 3.84 blew me away and I am grateful for the inspiration my dad was worthy to receive in my behalf in times of need.  Righteous exercise of priesthood in the service of his family and his God, check.

Above all, I know that my dad would not have the reputation he has today as one of the best doctors in western Colorado, a fantastic force for good, a man dedicated to his family and, most importantly to his God, if he hadn't proved it.  He's not perfect.  He has his flaws, but he doesn't need to be free of weakness or fault to be a fabulous example of a leader.  The most important thing I ever took away from anything he ever did or said was as follows.

No matter what anyone else does or says, I need to be aware of God's love for me, demonstrated through Jesus Christ.  I need to show that to and share it with others and to "come unto Christ, and be perfected in [H]im, and deny [myself] of all ungodliness".

Dad, I love you. You are awesome and I can never thank you enough for setting the right foundation for me growing up and continuing to encourage us to rise above the world and know of the love of God in our lives.  You really do prove that fatherhood is the greatest kind of leadership.

Happy Father's Day Dad.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Why You Should Work More With The Missionaries

To those who know my wife and I well or speak or work with us on a regular basis, it's no mystery that we ABSOLUTELY LOVE being around missionaries.  The mantle a dedicated missionary carries in their calling can't usually be matched anywhere aside from ordained judges in Israel and General Authorities - and obviously Christ Himself.  Elder Kikuchi did a mission conference with us when I was serving here in the then Canada Toronto West Mission.  He talked about the need for missionaries to have daily contact with their investigators and made the following visual:

He compared the peaks to visits from the missionaries in investigators homes and represents the strength of the Spirit there.  When the missionaries leave that Spirit often leaves with them and that wonderful feeling slowly diminishes and even leaves over time.  The object of our missionary work, he taught, is to make it so that they can learn to keep the proverbial line of the graph at the top and continually getting even higher by building their own testimonies of truth and relationship with the Savior independent of missionaries.

We both have been members of the church for many years and have experience with how to both keep the Holy Ghost in our home and how to drive it out.  I'd say we are at least able to keep that line decently high in our home more often than not, but for the last several years we have been seeking to make that line not just stay high consistently, but continually raise the boundary of how high we can go.

This is where missionaries come in.  Their purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ as the Spirit directs.
Every member of the Lord's church should work more with missionaries because the more we are around them the more we are encouraged to raise our standard of being.  Missionaries invite us to strengthen our relationship with God as our Father, to study the scriptures instead of just read them, to get way outside of our comfort zone and invite everyone to join us in our journey to become Christlike.  They invite us to push the boundaries of our comfort zone with spiritual things and make our desires more in alignment with the Father's.

Stagnancy and apathy are two of the biggest killers of faith and I can say from personal experience that it's actually quite liberating when we invite changes in our perspective and motives instead of being afraid of such.  I remember the part in the movie Ratatouille where Remy's dad shows him the shop window with all of the rat traps and poisons and he tells Remy that that's nature.  That's just way it is and it won't change.  Remy replies with "change IS nature, dad".  When I finally realized that, not because of the movie, it was like a huge wall in front of me, speaking of spiritual progression, was knocked down and I didn't even know it was there until it came down.  I still have many challenges to overcome, but I know that working with missionaries and zealously being engaged in missionary work on a regular basis helps me to change in ways I never would have thought possible.  It has increased my love and awareness of the reality of the power of Christ's Atonement, the love of God, manifest through it, and the Plan of Happiness He has given us.  It has provided me with an amazing understanding of my own eternal, individual identity as a son of God.

Why else should we all be working more with the missionaries?

The missionaries are on full time service mode.  Do you need your home painted? Ask the missionaries to help.  Feeling depressed? Talk to the missionaries.  Too nervous to share the gospel with that one friend? Ask the missionaries to talk to them or give you ideas.  Would you like someone else to join you in a special fast for someone?  Missionaries LOVE fasting for special blessings for others.  Having a hard time understanding the scriptures?  Ask the missionaries for help.  They study them in depth for two hours a day.  Would you like someone to sing you a song?  Missionaries know the power of good music and would love to help you.  Does your yard need help but you just don't have the time or energy to do it?  Fill up the missionaries day with a service project.  Do you want to get out there and serve more yourself but are not sure where to start?  Let the missionaries know and I guarantee you they always have something you can do to help them.  Do you love just hearing good news about something?  Good things are happening all the time to missionaries.  Go ask them what is going well in their work or in the lives of those they teach.  Do you need consoling?  Missionaries teach about comfort and peace through Jesus Christ all the time.  Ask them to help you feel better.

President Monson has said "Unless we lose ourselves in the service of others, there is little purpose to our own lives." Giving the missionaries more ways to serve and minister or serving and ministering with them can be the ultimate Balm of Gilead in time of need or the ultimate source of power to help keep spiritual highs from dissipating or diluting over time.

There is still one more reason why I believe we should be working more with the missionaries.

I believe in the spiritual power from God we get for Jesus sake by making and keeping covenants.  Linda K. Burton's comments in October 2013 talk about the protection we get from our Savior by keeping covenants  we have made with Him.  One of those covenants is to be a witness of Him and His love to all the world, meaning, as least to me, to everyone - EVERYONE. The blessings He has promised us in return for doing this, the blessings He has given my wife and I are, without a doubt, worth the effort; worth the struggle; worth going way out of our comfort zone; worth being seen by others as fanatic, weird, deluded and more.  It's worth it because feeling His love and the power of His Atonement at work in our lives and seeing it in the lives of others gives us a level of joy we can't possibly describe with mortal language.

The fruits of keeping covenants are divine protection, power, healing, identity and change through Jesus Christ.  I have personally found that keeping this covenant has and will forever bring the deepest, truest peace, love and happiness available to the human spirit in all eternity because it magnifies the Spirit of the Lord in our hearts and the hearts of others.

If you want to come to know the Savior better and feel His love more, do more missionary work and when in doubt, work with the missionaries.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Greatness: Does It Run in Your Family?

"THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."

The rest of that statement, read by President Gordon B. Hinckley on September 23, 1995, outlines the best possible way to have an great family.  Why? There are a few reasons I want to outline that explain, both from scientific and scriptural standpoints.

1. Numerous studies, including this one, have shown that heterosexual marriage is healthier for both partners.  This is not, however, always due to social tensions in general society regarding this issue.  Relationship stability is less likely as well, as shown by this study.  Children are also prone to have a better relationship with their parents and a more stable life in a family with a mother and father, as noted by this study.  This author mentions how children also get more respect and have more of a voice with heterosexual parents.

Now from a religious standpoint.  If you look at biblical history, the only societies of which we have sure record who openly celebrated same sex intimacy and marriages and worse was Soddom and Gomorrah.  Look what happened to them.  Completely consumed.  Now lets look at the other side of this.  The city of Enoch was taken straight to heaven without tasting death.  They were so focused on their God given roles as husband and wife, mother and father, they were so steadfast and unwavering in their commitment to the Father's design for their families that they ended up being too good to stay in the world or even to leave the world via death.

Greatness runs more in families with a mother and a father.

2. Kind conversation without one person interrupting another for any reason is another way to have greatness in your family.  Yelling, violence and aggression don't make anything better.  They will only make both parties feel worse off.  Improving Your Relationship for Dummies mentions how taking turns, avoiding accusations, focusing on feelings and not just events or beliefs, and choosing to maintain a calm demeanor creates an atmosphere of kindness, civility and happiness. Elder Lynn G. Robbins said 'A cunning part of [satan's] strategy is to dissociate anger from agency, making us believe that we are victims of an emotion that we cannot control. We hear, “I lost my temper.” Losing one’s temper is an interesting choice of words that has become a widely used idiom. To “lose something” implies “not meaning to,” “accidental,” “involuntary,” “not responsible”—careless perhaps but “not responsible.” []“He made me mad.” This is another phrase we hear, also implying lack of control or agency. This is a myth that must be debunked. No one makes us mad. Others don’t make us angry. There is no force involved. Becoming angry is a conscious choice, a decision; therefore, we can make the choice not to become angry. We choose!
To those who say, “But I can’t help myself,” author William Wilbanks responds: “Nonsense.”'

Greatness runs in families where everyone remembers "kindness begins with me".

3. Being selfless, in action and intent is the most sure way to influence others to be selfless toward you.  From a secular perspective this study illustrates how, "in a paradoxical way, giving gets you more...".  Also, according to this test mentioned in TIME Magazine, "Being a good friend, and being compassionate toward others, may be one of the best ways to improve your own health."  

The Savior has counselled us as well to treat others the way you want to be treated.  Would you like to have your wife speak your love language more?  Speak hers more often and you'll get just that!  How about a better position at work?  Speak well and intentionally of others abilities and contribute your own selflessly. If you give the right recommendations for others, perhaps the boss will notice and think "This person seems to know a lot about who fits which position best.  They need to be in a position of leadership."  The more positive attention you give others, the more of it you will receive.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell emphasized this when he said "there is more individuality in those who are more holy."

Greatness runs in families where everyone serves others without thought of reward.

4. There are several reasons why religion in the home provides a better environment for success, peace and joy for families.  According to, not only does religion make for more well behaved kids, when parents agree on religious beliefs it helps keep the home more happy than otherwise.  The man who conducted the study mentioned in this article, John Bartkowski, mentioned that "The conflict that arises when parents regularly argue over their faith at home... has the opposite effect."  The author of the article, Melinda Wenner, points out, as well, that "The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services - especially when both parents did so frequently - and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents."

According to the Son of God, the creator of mankind, "For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another."  Regarding religion, or at least moral values, peaceful agreement and enforcement of the same values from both parents regarding these issues is far more likely to produce happiness in the home than the other way around.  This doesn't mean families agree on every opinion of every individual, but at least on the core values of behavior, attitude, and belief.

Greatness runs in families where high moral values are agreed upon, taught and enforced.

All things considered, all of us are children of God.  All of us have divine, Godly, royal parentage.  When it comes to God's posterity, meaning all of us, greatness runs in the human family because of Him.  All of us have divine potential.  All of us have been bought by the perfect blood of our Savior and given a chance to grow into the person and responsibility He has given us a change to be and have.

So, in reality, anyone, when asked the question "Does greatness run in your family?", can and should answer YES!  The only thing that remains to be determined is who will live up to it.