More Diligent and Concerned at Home

Continuing my general conference series, this week I was reading David A Bednar’s talk, More Diligent and Concerned at Home.

Here are a few quotes and thoughts

We can begin to become more diligent and concerned at home by telling the people we love that we love them. Such expressions do not need to be flowery or lengthy. We simply should sincerely and frequently express love.

Brethren and sisters, when was the last time you took your eternal companion in your arms and said, “I love you”? Parents, when was the last time you sincerely expressed love to your children? Children, when was the last time you told your parents that you love them?

Each of us already knows we should tell the people we love that we love them. But what we know is not always reflected in what we do. We may feel unsure, awkward, or even perhaps a bit embarrassed.

As disciples of the Savior, we are not merely striving to know more; rather, we need to consistently do more of what we know is right and become better.

We should remember that saying “I love you” is only a beginning. We need to say it, we need to mean it, and most importantly we need consistently to show it. We need to both express and demonstrate love.

President Thomas S. Monson recently counseled: “Often we assume that [the people around us] must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. . . . We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us”

This is something I have done off and on. In some senses, I feel that I do an okay job at love word expressing. I’m sure my wife (and mom?) will be amused reading about feelings talking :-) I did like the talk about how saying “I love you” is not enough – it needs to be shown in words. Extreme, anyone? Also the quote from Pres. Monson about how you’ll never regret kind words or affection but only regret the lack of them.

As our sons were growing up, our family did what you have done and what you now do. We had regular family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening. Now, I am sure what I am about to describe has never occurred in your home, but it did in ours.

Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile. Now and then verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as “He’s touching me!” “Make him stop looking at me!” “Mom, he’s breathing my air!” Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking. And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification. At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected.

Nope, never happened in my family growing up and never happens now. We have done pretty well in FHE and Family prayers. Scripture reading has been off and on. I do think it’s very true talking about how it’s important not necessarily what comes out of it but just that it gets done. Here’s a metaphor that someone once shared with me when I was complaining about the pointlessness of church meeting attendance with little kids. She compared it to trying to get water with a hole in your bucket. So you go to the well, fill up the bucket, but by the time you get back to the house, all the water has leaked out. Every time you fill it up, the water leaks out. Very frustrating for sure, but her point was at least you cleaned the bucket. Now, I don’t know if I exactly like the metaphor as it pertains to church attendance but it did provoke some interesting thoughts.

Elder Bednar also compared it to a big painting. If you stand real close, you can see the individual brushstrokes which are nothing special and even appear random. But when you step back it becomes a big painting. Similar is doing Conceptis‘ Pic-a-pix or we have a painting downstairs at work from a guy named Denny Dent who basically just throws paint at canvas and it looks totally random till he gets all done and you’re like woah that’s Albert Einstein.

Being consistent in our homes is important for another reason. Many of the Savior’s harshest rebukes were directed to hypocrites. Jesus warned His disciples concerning the scribes and Pharisees: “Do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not” (Matthew 23:3). This strong admonition is sobering given the counsel to “express love—and show it,” to “bear testimony—and live it,” and to “be consistent.”

The hypocrisy in our lives is most readily discerned and causes the greatest destruction within our own homes. And children often are the most alert and sensitive when it comes to recognizing hypocrisy.

Conference talk – To Acquire Spiritual Guidance

So, I’m back in the saddle of reading conference talks. Today was my first one reading the new conference that just happened earlier this month. But since I missed Priesthood session, I have the whole list to do, which is 34 talks, so I will have to double up to get them done by April.

Starting off on my doubling, I did President Monson’s introduction as well as the first talk by Richard G. Scott (made submarines go).

I enjoyed it, and here are a few quotes and my comments.

Throughout the ages, many have obtained guidance helpful to resolve challenges in their lives by following the example of respected individuals who resolved similar problems. Today, world conditions change so rapidly that such a course of action is often not available to us.

Personally, I rejoice in that reality because it creates a condition where we, of necessity, are more dependent upon the Spirit to guide us through the vicissitudes of life. Therefore, we are led to seek personal inspiration in life’s important decisions.

Two things I found interesting there: one – the concept of using God as a “someone who has resolved similar problems” and two – as a parent thinking about the challenges my children will go through and that I may not have the experience to deal with them. Not that they’ll listen to me anyways because “Dad is so out of it – he’d never understand” :-)

The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit.

An interesting simile there but the real thing that I thought while reading that was that this sure sounds like “the Force!” I can hear Yoda saying “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” It is true though that it’s pretty hard to be calm and relaxed when you have those kinds of feelings.

He then shared a story about 2 regular Sunday lesson teachers that he had sometime. One was a humble guy who “struggled to communicate the truths of the gospel in his lesson material”. Then there was a teacher who “had purposely chosen obscure references and unusual examples to illustrate the principles of the lesson”, and who “was using the teaching opportunity to impress the class with his vast store of knowledge.”

In both cases, Elder Scott had prepared and received several promptings that helped him with the tasks that were important to him in his life. He also shared how when he wrote down the ones he had received, he then received even FURTHER promptings.

What I have described is not an isolated experience. It embodies several true principles regarding communication from the Lord to His children here on earth. I believe that you can leave the most precious, personal direction of the Spirit unheard because you do not respond to, record, and apply the first promptings that come to you.

I remember a guy that used to be in our ward. We were at a meeting (stake conference?) and afterward he talked about this same phenomenon having happened to him – that as the speaker was talking he (the guy) had just received all these revelations / thoughts about particular things that were important to him and going on his life and he was just gushing about it. I remember not having felt much personally, something which I attribute to poor preparation probably. Or kids! yeah kids! they’re the problem! :-D

What may appear initially to be a daunting task will be much easier to manage over time as you consistently strive to recognize and follow feelings prompted by the Spirit. Your confidence in the direction you receive from the Holy Ghost will also become stronger. I witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear.

Have patience as you are perfecting your ability to be led by the Spirit. By careful practice, through the application of correct principles, and by being sensitive to the feelings that come, you will gain spiritual guidance. I bear witness that the Lord, through the Holy Ghost, can speak to your mind and heart. Sometimes the impressions are just general feelings. Sometimes the direction comes so clearly and so unmistakably that it can be written down like spiritual dictation.

So something that I (and I’m sure most people) deal with is just recognizing what’s the Spirit and what’s just “me”. While I think that there can be some blending of that, the above quote from Elder Scott provides some insight that I found enjoyable and worthwhile.

So, to record the thoughts / revelation that I had while reading this talk, I am going to work with my children on Sundays – to try and spend one on one time with them on Sundays and when appropriate, give “father’s interviews”. It is scary how old they are getting!

father’s interviews / sunday time

An interesting perspective on parenting

So, I had an interesting thought on a different perspective on parenting while sitting in Priesthood class last week at church.

Within the past few weeks, Carolyn and I were talking about our kids (of course). And Carolyn was mentioning how you can’t treat kids as “little adults”. Meaning, that you think that you can just reason with them like you would reason with any regular person. Things like “If you continue teasing your sister, you will go to your room and not get a snack” or “If you won’t wear your shoes outside, then it will hurt when you walk across the gravel driveway” or “If you run into me with that shopping cart one more time, then I will take it away from you”. But they just don’t get it, and often do things that are not in their (rational) best interests. And as Carolyn pointed out, it’s because they are in fact NOT little adults, and their minds just aren’t mature enough to grasp that.

So while sitting in class on Sunday, we were tangentially talking about something like this, and I got the insight that this is probably EXACTLY how our Heavenly Father thinks about us, as HIS children.

He’s probably sitting up there thinking “Man these kids are SO stupid. I have told them over and over what they need to do to be happy, but they still do all this stupid stuff! Grr……….: :-)

Conference talk – Respect and Reverence

This week’s talk is called “Respect and Reverence“, by Margaret Lifferth, who is in the Primary General Presidency.

Just as a note, I don’t put a blog post each week when I read talks (though maybe I should!) But sometimes I don’t feel like anything jumped out at me. It’s not like the talk was bad or anything, just nothing jumped out at me that I wanted to share. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood or frame of reference that week? But I still do read one every week (at least for the past few months). Next week’s talk is “Revealed Quorum Principles” and you can find all the talks here (along with links to audio and video)

Anyway – a few things I found interesting about Sis. Lifferth’s talk:

She talked about respect and reverence (duh!) and specifically how to instill them in our children.

May I suggest that our ability and our credibility to exemplify reverence for God is strengthened as we show respect for each other. In today’s society, the standards of decorum, dignity, and courtesy are assailed on every side and in every form of media. As parents and leaders, our examples of respect for each other are critical for our youth and children because they are watching not only the media—they are watching us! Are we the examples we need to be?

I really found it interesting doing a bit of pondering about the media today, be it tv, radio, Internet, Facebook, blogs, whatever, and just the general slide towards accepting indecency and just a lack of “common courtesy” to borrow a phrase we like to throw around in our home. I am often torn between the libertarian-ish side of me that wants to just let people do whatever(-ish) they want, as long as it does not infringe on me or mine, and the part of me that feels like when as a society, we do not stand up against things that are “wrong”, that it just becomes acceptable. Then the envelope continues to be pushed further and further out. What is that quote – something like “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”?

Ask yourself these questions: Am I an example of respect in my home by the way I treat those I love the most? What is my demeanor during a sports event? If my child has a disagreement with a teacher, coach, or peer, do I listen to both sides of the issue? Do I show respect for the property of others as well as take care of my own? How do I respond to others with whom I disagree in matters of religion, lifestyle, or politics?

Loved this too – I am really a big fan of not arguing. People (for the most part) are never going to be convinced that they are wrong, and if they are, it’s not going to be by arguing about it. I think most people have this idea that they are some sort of master orator and THEY are the ones that can convince me (or whoever) of the error of my ways.

We are a friendly people and we love each other, but reverence will increase if our socializing is done in the foyer and if sacrament meeting begins with the prelude music, not the opening prayer. We encourage reverence when we take a crying child out of the chapel and find another room where we continue to listen to the meeting until the baby is calmed or a disruptive toddler is soothed. Reverence includes turning off our cell phones and BlackBerry devices. Texting or reading e-mails in a Church meeting is not only irreverent, it is distracting and signals a lack of respect for those around us. So we exemplify reverence by participating in the meeting, listening to the speakers, and singing the hymns of Zion together.

Ah – the good ol’ sacrament meeting reverence!!!! :-) . It has been interesting over the past few months as I have been talking with a friend at work about churches. He belongs to a different church and I was commenting the other day about how I find it very interesting comparing different churches – not only theologically as in what they believe, but just logistically in how they operate. There are many differences, of course, but I think this is a big one. Most churches that I’ve seen have just a 1-hour meeting, and it’s mostly for adults and bigger kids, while all the younger kids are off doing their version of what we call Primary. So (I would imagine) it is much quieter. I would imagine that someone that is used to that level of quietness would be somewhat shocked by the noise levels in our sacrament meetings. We have talked in our ward about creating a special visitor’s insert for our Sunday meeting programs to give to visitors / investigators just explaining what is going on and giving contact numbers and such, and in thinking about it, talking about the noise levels is one of the things that I thought would be helpful.

But I don’t want to harp on this. I think this is a subject that many people feel strongly about – I have some opinions on this issue, but I understand that it is a fine line as a parent walking between taking your child out at the first peep and teaching your kid that all he has to do to escape boring Sacrament meeting and go play in the foyer is make a peep. I will also say that the angriest I have ever been at church and the closest I have ever felt to never wanting to come back was after some people forcefully expressed their opinions on this subject. I will also say that it is my opinion that my kids (and for the most part the other kids in our congregation) are more age-appropriately reverent than most of the adults (see: texting / cell phones / Blackberries / reading above). And that is all I will say (see: arguing, also above :) )

See you next week!

Conference talk – living providently

So it’s conference talk time yet again! I find it interesting that, if you don’t count the auditing and statistical reports, and not counting the Sat. evening Priesthood session which I attended in person (well “in person”), there are exactly 26 talks! Just enough to read one every week till next conference.

This week’s talk was from Robert D. Hales (plays the piano) – called Becoming Provident Providers: Temporally and Spiritually. A subject near and dear to my heart. I found it very interesting, especially the examples that he gave about buying gifts for people (his wife in his examples).

The first lesson was learned when we were newly married and had very little money. I was in the air force, and we had missed Christmas together. I was on assignment overseas. When I got home, I saw a beautiful dress in a store window and suggested to my wife that if she liked it, we would buy it. Mary went into the dressing room of the store. After a moment the salesclerk came out, brushed by me, and returned the dress to its place in the store window. As we left the store, I asked, “What happened?” She replied, “It was a beautiful dress, but we can’t afford it!” Those words went straight to my heart. I have learned that the three most loving words are “I love you,” and the four most caring words for those we love are “We can’t afford it.”

Then she taught me an unforgettable lesson. She looked me in the eyes and sweetly asked, “Are you buying this for me or for you?” In other words, she was asking, “Is the purpose of this gift to show your love for me or to show me that you are a good provider or to prove something to the world?” I pondered her question and realized I was thinking less about her and our family and more about me.

It amazes me the insane amount of gifts and expensive birthday parties that people give for their kids. I mean, as I have stated before, I have a “unique” relationship with money, but I think that my son was very excited and happy with the $1 “Coin Grabber” that I got him for his birthday. Last night, he was very excited when I brought him home a map of Ohio and one of Cincinnati that I got for free from AAA and spent some time pointing out the various roads and our house, and the counties (start ‘em young! :) ). Kids, for the most part, do not want expensive toys. They want you to spend time with them

Some more quotes from the article:

Our world is fraught with feelings of entitlement. Some of us feel embarrassed, ashamed, less worthwhile if our family does not have everything the neighbors have. As a result, we go into debt to buy things we can’t afford—and things we do not really need. Whenever we do this, we become poor temporally and spiritually. We give away some of our precious, priceless agency and put ourselves in self-imposed servitude.

When faced with the choice to buy, consume, or engage in worldly things and activities, we all need to learn to say to one another, “We can’t afford it, even though we want it!” or “We can afford it, but we don’t need it—and we really don’t even want it!”

Whenever we want to experience or possess something that will impact us and our resources, we may want to ask ourselves, “Is the benefit temporary, or will it have eternal value and significance?” Truthfully answering these questions may help us avoid excessive debt and other addictive behavior.

Elder Hales made some interesting comments about how buying things we don’t need or can’t afford really goes against the commandment of “Thou shall not covet” and how it robs us spiritually as well as temporally.

All in all a very good read, especially in the crazy economic times we’re in!

Sunday Sacrament meeting

So as I mentioned in my last post, we’ve been dealing with some kid sickness. Because I have meetings and such that I have to go to church anyways, I went by myself last week. Church is definitely interesting with the no-kid factor in there.

So while I was sitting there in sacrament meeting, actually PAYING ATTENTION AND HEARING THE SPEAKERS, I had some thoughts. The big one was wondering if people that are in this (no-kid) situation appreciate it. And figuring that no, they probably don’t. So whereas I was there, really enjoying the speakers and such, I’m sure there were plenty of people who were just going through the motions or such. When you don’t get to experience certain things, I think it always makes it sweeter when you do. I know that has been my experience in life.

Anyway, one of the talks was from Tracey Blackwelder and she used a metaphor that I really enjoyed (but am just now getting around to posting about). She talked about how they (until recently I guess) had a big 15 passenger van and how she found it interesting that she as a “soccer mom” could just whip this thing around, and talked about the joys of power steering. And comparing that to God and how with His help you can make kind of “course corrections” in life. And (here’s where I’m getting hazy between the lines of what she actually said and what I just thought about as she was talking about the general concept) I found it interesting thinking about that not only in terms of like course corrections as far as sin / repentance / forgiveness goes, but also just general life changes.

Especially in this January time of goal setting, how much easier it is to change your life when you have God around to be the “power steering”. Though I guess you could abstract this out even a little more and talk about the usefulness of any kind of support group (whether it’s family and friends or Weight Watchers)

So yeah I couldn’t decide if the talks were just really good last Sunday or if I just THOUGHT they were really good because I could actually HEAR them. And I also heard how loud everyone else’s kids were and thought “Are my kids that loud” before deciding “Yeah, they probably are”. Though in our ward’s defense, when my mother-in-law (also Mormon) came to visit a few months ago she said that it was the quietest meeting she’d been to in months.

Return to Virtue

In my ongoing posts about General conference talks, this week was from Elaine S. Dalton (General Young Women President), called “Return to Virtue”

I liked how she talked about how you get desensitized to things, whether it be sex, violence, or whatever.  She also referenced Lehonti and Amalickiah up on the  mountain (which I talked about last time). Her quote was

Could it be that first we tolerate, then accept, and eventually embrace the vice that surrounds us?

She also talked about her “training” program from the scriptures

General Conference talk – Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship

So in my continuing series of reading GC talks, I read one from Robert D. Hales (from Idaho!) – Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship

One of the things I liked about this talk was his talking about the perils in leaving “the high ground”. A lot of his talk focused on how to react when people attack you or the Church or your beliefs. One of his suggestions was

As the Savior demonstrated with Herod, sometimes true disciples must show Christian courage by saying nothing at all.

He compared it to Alma 47 and Nehemiah 6:2-3, where both times enemies tempt someone into leaving the high ground and meeting “in the valley”. In Alma, Lehonti is then killed by Amalickiah, whereas the prophet Nehemiah refuses, saying

“I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”

Anyways, just thought that it was interesting