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

Conference talk – The way of the disciple

So continuing on my series of General Conference talks – this week it was by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, called “The way of the Disciple“.

A few quotes.

It is not enough merely to speak of Jesus Christ or proclaim that we are His disciples. It is not enough to surround ourselves with symbols of our religion. Discipleship is not a spectator sport. We cannot expect to experience the blessings of faith by standing inactive on the sidelines any more than we can experience the benefits of health by sitting on a sofa watching sporting events on television and giving advice to the athletes. And yet for some, “spectator discipleship” is a preferred if not a primary way of worshipping.

Love the analogy.

A friend of mine recently wrote to me, confiding that he was having a difficult time keeping his testimony strong and vibrant. He asked for counsel.

I wrote back to him and lovingly suggested a few specific things he could do that would align his life more closely with the teachings of the restored gospel. To my surprise, I heard back from him only a week later. The essence of his letter was this: “I tried what you suggested. It didn’t work. What else have you got?”

Brothers and sisters, we have to stay with it. We don’t acquire eternal life in a sprint—this is a race of endurance. We have to apply and reapply the divine gospel principles. Day after day we need to make them part of our normal life.

Too often we approach the gospel like a farmer who places a seed in the ground in the morning and expects corn on the cob by the afternoon

In contrast, the gospel of Jesus Christ has the answers to all of our problems. The gospel is not a secret. It is not complicated or hidden. It can unlock the door to true happiness. It is not someone’s theory or proposition. It does not come from man at all. It springs from the pure and everlasting waters of the Creator of the universe, who knows truths we cannot even begin to comprehend. And with that knowledge, He has given us the gospel—a divine gift, the ultimate formula for happiness and success.

I remember hearing this when he gave the talk. I think of it as a comparison to fad diets and everyone’s insistence that whatever they do work RIGHT NOW, in contrast to my revolutionary diet “Eat less, exercise more“.

Our beloved friend Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught us this principle with clarity when he said:

“Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us—even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will.

“We [might] see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. . . .

It’s interesting to compare one’s thoughts and hopes for one’s children with how our Heavenly Father feels, but about everyone.

Anyway I hope you enjoyed this.

Increases in children of record

So, in my continuing series on General Conference talks, this week I decided to combine the Sustaining of Church Officers, the Auditing report, and the Statistical report.

I always find the statistical reports interesting (of course I do!)

One thing that was interesting to me was the difference this year in the increase of children of record.

2005 (reported in April 2006): 93,150
2006: 94,006
2007: 93,698
2008 (reported this past conference): 123,502

One of these things is not like the other, one of these things doesn’t belong…

So, for those of you who are unsure what exactly are children of record, I believe they are both births of members and under age 8 children of adults who are baptized.

So I’m not sure what is going on. There must have been some change in the way that this is being calculated. There’s no way this can be accounted for with just more babies. I see that I am not the first to wonder about this, but from my searching I did not find a definitive answer.

Any thoughts?

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!

I demanded a new apostle song, and they delivered!

So, as you may remember, back in December when Joseph B. Wirthlin died, I posted a “demand” for a new apostle song.

I was actually surprised that more Mormon-themed blogs did not at least mention the fact that a new apostle song was needed.

But in any case, this afternoon I got a comment on that old post from the “Sons of Ammon” who were the writers of the song, saying that they had posted a new video up on YouTube.

And sure enough, here it is.

Enjoy! Let me see if I can help spread the song – as of this post, February 10th at 7:40 p.m. the YouTube video had 49 views.

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

General Conference talks

So one of the things I’ve been doing since last General Conference is reading the talks, one at a time. Someone in EQ suggested that if you read one per week you get through them in time to start over for the next conference (in 6 months time). Turns out that there are actually 33 talks but I’ll figure it out.

So with my new handy Franklin planner I have been scheduling in one per week.

As I was reading the talk for this week, I thought it might be interesting / worthwhile to blog about some of my thoughts while reading it. So…. here I am.

Pray Always, by David E Bednar (that would be,at least for now, “Took Ricks to the Y“)

So sometimes I find that my prayers are pretty lame. Recently I’ve been praying for some friends of mine that are having a hard time. And even though I really do WANT to help them I have trouble figuring out how to pray for them.

One thing I thought was interesting was the idea that in our prayers we could:

* Reflect on those occasions when we have spoken harshly or inappropriately to those we love the most.
* Recognize that we know better than this, but we do not always act in accordance with what we know.
* Express remorse for our weaknesses and for not putting off the natural man more earnestly.
* Determine to pattern our life after the Savior more completely.
* Plead for greater strength to do and to become better.

Also found it interesting a story Elder Bednar gave about how when they lived up in Idaho having a General Authority come stay at their house shortly after a friend of theirs died. When they got together for a family prayer, the GA asked Sister Bednar to “express only appreciation for blessings received and ask for nothing.”

After sharing that, Elder Bednar said “The most meaningful and spiritual prayers I have experienced contained many expressions of thanks and few, if any, requests. As I am blessed now to pray with apostles and prophets, I find among these modern-day leaders of the Savior’s Church the same characteristic that describes Captain Moroni in the Book of Mormon: these are men whose hearts swell with thanksgiving to God for the many privileges and blessings which He bestows upon His people (see Alma 48:12). Also, they do not multiply many words, for it is given unto them what they should pray, and they are filled with desire (see 3 Nephi 19:24). The prayers of prophets are childlike in their simplicity and powerful because of their sincerity.”

I thought that was interesting and I will try to incorporate that as I pray this week.

Till next week!