Thursday, October 31, 2019

You Are Powerful

There is a meme that floats around occasionally on Facebook that contains a very happy thought, and I saw it again recently in my feed.

Here it is:

 powerful quote

There are quite a few variants of this, but the overall message has both a good and bad part.

The good part is its implication that we are spiritual lightyears away from being anywhere near as powerful as God; therefore, He can do wonders for our good, regardless of our weaknesses. The evidence of this is so staggering and obvious that I feel no need to explain it any further here. However, there is one part of the meme that may cause us to forget how valuable and powerful we are with our gift of agency.

In the six month anniversary episode of my podcast, I mentioned the following: Of all the things that Satan failed to acknowledge in the pre-existence — and this is why his warping of the Father’s plan wouldn’t have worked — there is one thing that is perhaps the most important. It is the fact that even if we were to actually be perfect in every thought, word, intent, and action, if it isn’t accomplished by our own choosing, that internal change that happens when we do choose the right by our own will and choice wouldn’t happen. Even if we had lived a life as perfect as Christ’s, it still wouldn’t have produced the change in us necessary to make us like God — and this is key — if that life is lived by force. Righteous acts absolutely have to be done by our own will and choice, or their eternal efficacy is diluted.

We can each choose our eternal path.

With this in mind, what is the Father’s plan for His children? “To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man[kind]” (Moses 1:39). Eternal life as defined in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to live in exaltation with the Lord forever in family units. That was His plan from the beginning, and we know from the scriptures that many of His children will not choose exaltation.

I’m not suggesting that we are more powerful than God, but that, as I talked about in “Fruits, Not Roots,” God is bound by the laws of justice and mercy, so He cannot violate justice by granting exaltation to those who choose not to repent and therefore do not qualify for the blessings Christ made available to them.

That’s how powerful and valuable agency is. Jesus knew that agency would be a fatal gift for some, but He also knew that any possibility of our being saved from the our weakened mortal condition or becoming like Him could only be brought about if we were able to choose on our own. We of ourselves are certainly not more powerful than God, but because justice prevents Him from exalting those of His children who do not change through repentance, our choices can result in His original plan for us not coming to pass on an individual basis.

Now the interesting irony to this is twofold: You are powerful enough, because of your ability to choose, to distance yourself from God forever, but you are also powerful enough to ensure your own exaltation and therefore “bring to pass… [your] eternal life” alongside Jesus Christ. 

I love Marianne Williamson’s poem where she starts out:

“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.”

There is a good reason it should both frighten us AND give us immeasurable hope! We are, as has been rightfully parroted for millennia, our own worst enemy, but we can also be one of own greatest allies (Christ being our single greatest ally).

The wonderful part about agency is that it is a powerful gift — and because of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, repentance is one of the ways we are allowed to use that power. It is in that sense that we really do become our own best friend when we side with our Savior by choosing to realign ourselves with Him, utilizing the very power that comes through Christ to draw us back to Him when we’ve messed up.

You really are that powerful! Don’t be afraid of it; be thankful for it! Allow it to be the gift that enables eternal joy with your Heavenly Parents and family. You certainly are not powerful enough to disrupt God’s plan as a whole, but you are powerful enough to either go permanently off course or do things that only bring you everlasting joy because of our Savior. That much is completely within your control.

Friday, October 4, 2019


This article on manliness begins with a few well-researched statistics.

There was a study done a few years back that showed the #1 most common factor in poverty in the United States is a fatherless home. In fact, in the same study, results were gathered for homes with single mothers and single fathers, and in each category, the single-mother homes showed a rate of poverty that was more than 10% higher than in single-father homes and almost double in the ‘never-married’ category.

According to “The $100 Billion Dollar Man,” a study done by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s study, “The most recent data available show that 55.2 percent of WIC [the government’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program] live in father-absent households.” This same study also revealed that “The most recent survey [2003] of family composition of Head Start households … found that 53.6 percent of Head Start households have a father absent” (emphasis added). For those who don’t know, Head Start is a program run by the Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.

This study also found that 48.2% of the entire budget for the Head Start program has gone to single-mother homes.

A third study, “Drugs, Guns, and Disadvantaged Youths: Co-Occurring Behavior and the Code of the Street” reads, “Analysis of the inmate sample shows absent father to be the only individual-level disadvantage variable significantly explaining drug trafficking, gun carrying, and co-occurring behavior both before and after code-based beliefs variable is entered in the model. Before the inclusion of code-based beliefs, having an absent father made an inmate 279% more likely than inmates living with their fathers to simultaneously deal drugs and carry guns. Including beliefs in the model generated some mediation of absent father’s effects on co-occurring behavior, but after such inclusion, even inmates with absent fathers were 267% likelier than inmates who did live with their fathers to have trafficked drugs and carried guns simultaneously” (emphasis added).

Why do I mentioned these statistics? Firstly, as disclaimer. It’s not to compare men to women or fathers to mothers. Neither role can possibly be more important than the other, according to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Aside from that, I include those statistics for two reasons. One is echoed in this article: that there is a war on men which is diminishing their self-esteem and their sense of inherent value as sons of God. The more important reason, which I want to make the focus of this article, is why we need more righteous fathers who are good examples of what manliness means so more of God’s children are not a part of those statistics.

I read a Facebook post, if I’m remembering correctly, probably a year or two ago where a single mother wrote about what it was like caring for her son without his father there. To paraphrase what she said, “I can teach my son or my daughter, what it means to be honest, kind, strong, patient, or any other number of virtues that all people, men and women, should have. What I can’t teach him is what it truly means to be a good man, simply because I am not a man. It’s that simple. I can’t teach him how a man should treat a woman, at least not by example, because I am not a man. Do I wish his father would have stuck around for that and been the example he should have been? Of course, but my point here is to emphasize the real value of a man in his child’s life.” 

It went something like that, although the wording is probably different from mine. But the point is the same. In my recent podcast episode with David Warwick, he talked about a situation when people in his immediate family were hurt badly by a neighbor who was physically bigger than him. When he got the call about what happened, his proper fatherly example (something he had prayed to attain) ended up providing an excellent example of what it means to be a peacemaker to his children.

I believe it is completely accurate to say that the value of a righteous father is as incalculable as a righteous mother in their respective different responsibilities.

On one of our family trips up to Piney River Ranch (an amazing place, by the way), I remember spending one Sunday visiting a local ward. At that time, I was an Aaronic priesthood holder. The young men’s organization in that ward was small, so they had to have all the deacons, teachers, and priests meet together in one room. I was somewhat shocked by the cavalier attitude of many of the young men toward their Aaronic priesthood duties, but even more surprised at the Young Men leaders’ lack of example. They ought to have encouraged these young men to know their priesthood duties so well that they could talk about it at a moment’s notice. At that point, the priests quorum in my home ward was reciting the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood.

Let’s see if I can remember them off the top of my head all these years later. (This could be a little embarrassing, but here I go!)

1. Become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live by its teachings.
2. Serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices.
3. Give meaningful service.
4. Prepare and live worthily to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances.
6. Prepare and live worthily to serve an honorable, full-time mission.
7. Obtain as much education as possible.
8. Give proper respect to women, girls, and children. 

Okay, now I’m going to look them up and see if I got them all right…

It’s a little embarrassing, considering the purpose of this article, that I forgot the one that says “Prepare to become a worthy husband and father.” Hey, it’s been 15 years since I’ve recited those purposes even once, so that’s still not too bad, I guess! (Keep in mind that I’m sure the ward I visited has probably grown and improved over the last 15 years, but the experience is noted to illustrate the good things I was taught about manliness growing up.)

The main point I want to make with this article is this: How on earth can we possibly — and justifiably — expect men to become and be viewed as the good sons, husbands, and fathers we need them to be if we keep pitting women against men (and vice versa)? It ain’t gonna happen unless we learn the view men the way Elder Christofferson taught in his talk, “Fathers“:

David Blankenhorn, the author of Fatherless America, has observed: ‘Today, American society is fundamentally divided and ambivalent about the fatherhood idea. Some people do not even remember it. Others are offended by it. Others, including more than a few family scholars, neglect it or disdain it. Many others are not especially opposed to it, nor are they especially committed to it. Many people wish we could act on it, but believe that our society simply no longer can or will.’

Elder Christofferson continues by teaching ways that fathers can dispel this myth by teaching that fathers are meant to “lead out in making [teaching the gospel in the home] a high priority,” “demonstrate what fidelity to God looks like in day-to-day living,” and “lay down their lives day by day, laboring in the service and support of their families.”

I firmly believe that real manliness and true godhood are epitomes of one another and that if we want to see more men become honest, virtuous, holy, masculine, loving sons of God, we need to believe that that is exactly what they can be and encourage them kindly to measure up to that standard. Of course, the term “masculinity” is often biologically indicative of great physical strength and such, but the real measure of manliness is more about wisdom and the ability to know when and how to use that strength — physical, mental or spiritual — to bless the lives of others.

That is true manliness and it will only manifest itself fully in the men we value in our lives when we expect it from them and encourage them to acquire it. Phrases like “Oh, just let them do their dumb guy thing” and “Women are so much stronger than men” are not only untrue, they are some of the most dangerous and corrosive ideas tossed around today by society as whole.

You want to see true manliness in your son, brother, or father? Believe that he can be like that and let it reflect in your actions.