The Old Fashioned Date – an opportunity for practice and for service

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This post is to my dear young friends that I  have been so privileged to teach. And though my primary audience is my students at BYU-Idaho, I hope some of these thoughts might be helpful to others. For those who do not share my faith, some background on why families are important, guidelines for dating, and commitments to the laws of chastity and fidelity will help you understand this piece.

Because our world has become so sexually charged, and because personal devices have made social situations awkward, and because getting married is so important in our culture (that it causes extreme anxiety in some of my students), I want to speak in favor of the old-fashioned date.

By this, I mean an inexpensive social outing in which you get to know a member of the opposite sex for a period of a few hours and one in which there is no expectation of physical intimacy nor is there expectation of life-long commitment. The point of the old-fashioned date is to get acquainted with others so that you can know for certain which personality traits work with yours and which don’t.

Another part of the date is the expectation that it is paired off (see note # 1). It should be just your date and you. Don’t invite a bunch of your closest friends along while you text them a play-by-play, or update all of your social media sites. There will be plenty of time for updates afterwards. Be present. Enjoy the moment. Give your date the gift of your company for a few hours. Practicing this rule will bless  your life for years to come!

If you date a variety of individuals (without the expectation of physical intimacy) you will be able to see the characters of the people you date. You will see which personalities you get along with and the attributes that you don’t care for. If you only date people that you are physically attracted to, and push physical intimacy too quickly, that dependence on physical gratification might mask some character flaws that would not work well with your personality. And as wonderful as sexual intimacy is in marriage, it is only a small part of marriage, and life (contrary to what the world’s fascination with sexuality teaches). It is important that the foundation of friendship, spirituality, humor, service,  hard work, etc, etc. is a major part of your choice to ultimately marry.

To my dear young brothers, yes, the expectation of dating is on your shoulders, by culture and by revelation. I once had a young seminary student who said, “Why would I want to waste money on someone elses’ wife?” My answer to him, and to you is that you may not get a wife unless you have practiced the simple social skill of dating!

Please understand, young men, that by dating, you are practicing caring for a woman. You are showing that you are able to provide and protect her for the time that you are in her company. You are responsible for her safety and well-being: spiritually, mentally, socially and emotionally. The more you practice, the more you will be able to care for your future wife and children.

I also encourage you to look at dating as a service that you are performing for these young women. You’re giving them the chance to practice their social skills and responsibilities in turn. You are allowing these young women to feel that they are acceptable enough for someone to want to be with them (please see # 2) and, by practicing, you are also serving your future wives and daughters. Not all dating will lead to marriage. But healthy and wholesome dating will lead to treasured memories and friendships and the ability to have normal and natural platonic (i.e. love or friendship that is intimate and affectionate but not sexual) social connections that will serve you well into the future. You must learn to have these platonic relationships so that you can work with, and live in communities with, and serve in wards with members of the opposite sex now and in the future.

To my dear young sisters, please allow these young men to serve you. Saying yes to a date or to a dance that lasts for three or four minutes doesn’t mean an eternal commitment! I just talked to a young man the other day (an amazing, brilliant, spiritual brother) who confided in me that the last three or four times he has asked a woman out, she has said “no”. I was totally flabbergasted, completely gobsmaked!!!! (A British phrase meaning – surprised and utterly astonished.)

Yes, sisters, we live in a bright age in which we are able to do many wonderful and amazing things for which I am truly thankful. However, just because we can open a door for ourselves doesn’t mean that we should. If you are training men not to serve you, then in the future, you will do everything yourself (which, though you have the ability, can be quite difficult when you juggle in babies, work, school and all the other wonderful demands that the world tells you that you can do perfectly.  Just a note. As amazing and brilliant as women are, the reality is that it is quite impossible to do it all perfectly! )

When you allow others to serve you, you are also serving them. Remember that the Savior, the greatest of all, served others, and it was for those others to allow Him serve them (see John 13). So, serve the future girls they date and their future wives by allowing them to practice social skills on you. And serve your future husbands by learning how to communicate, serve, and socialize with men. Of course, follow promptings if your gut tells you that something is wrong! However, if you must say no, please make it the exception rather than the rule. As I stated before, one or two dates doesn’t mean an intense or eternal commitment.

For those sisters who are not being dated. You are wonderful and brilliant! Please continue to make time in your schedule for social activities to continue to practice making and developing friendships. Also, if the men aren’t asking you out, it’s okay to  take the initiative and invite them to be with you on occasion. Here’s an idea, something that my friends and I did in our ward at BYU to invite the men out and to encourage reciprocal (i.e.- done in return) dates, we created, “The Date of The Month”. Each month we would plan out a fun group dating activity, for example, in December, we went to the Christmas Choir Concert on campus and then we went back to our apartment and had a gingerbread house making contest in which each couple would work together to decorate a pre-made graham cracker house.  Monthly, we would create a series of activities that would allow us to work with and talk with the person that we invited, but the dates were also simple, and comfortable because they included other couples.

To both my dear sisters and brothers who are so focused on your studies or your career that you don’t make time to practice these important skills (dating, socializing, serving, and caring for others) then you may not have the skills necessary to be able to have the blessing of family. Please consecrate (i.e. to set something aside for a sacred purpose) time in your busy schedules to date and socialize. Serve your future families now by making the effort to practice. Please learn the skill of making time for your family right now.

I know that it can be scary to put yourselves out there. But remember that creating families is a faith-based work! Ask the Lord to help you in your dating. If you sacrifice time and means for this important work, He can help and bless you. Ask the Lord to inspire you with ideas about whom to ask and what to do. Pray for the Holy Spirit to be part of your dates. Be brave like a student of mine who just asked a girl on a casual date. I loved that he invited her out and communicated that phrase (a casual date) to help take the pressure off. I know you can do this! Father in Heaven didn’t send you down on earth at this important time to fail in the sacred work of building families. Start today. Ask someone that you feel comfortable with on an old-fashioned date and begin now to practice and to serve!

 


NOTES:

  1. About being paired off – remember that I am talking to single adults, not teenagers. Teenagers, please see the guidelines in For the Strength of Youth on Dating.
  2. In this statement, I mean this – women are very hard on themselves and a date goes a long way to help with that! Often, when I was single, I would pray in loneliness and Father would raise up a kind young man who (I believe) would feel prompted to take me out. I have such genuine gratitude for the men that dated me, and for such happy memories of our times together on dates (fun and spiritual conversations, laughter, and good activities) before I met and married my husband.

Don’t Take My Word For It …

learned for myself

So, my last two posts have been very intense. It is the side of me that is reserved for the disciplinarian at home, the professor that has to give grades to students who haven’t been working, and the teacher that has to establish rules and protocols to have an orderly and just classroom. Though it is a side that is intense, the truth of the matter is that I’d do almost anything to help my students succeed and that goes a million times more for my own children!

The most wonderful thing about the gospel is that, though there are rules and standards, a loving Father in Heaven and his equally loving Son want to help us succeed as well. Take a look:

For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;

And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours. (Doctrine and Covenants 78: 7, 17-18)

A while ago, I watched a video about a group of young women leaders who were trying to teach their youth why they should be modest. (I wish I could find the video, but after searching for half a day and coming up unsuccessfully, I couldn’t find it, so I will sum up.) Instead of doing a lecture, they sent the girls to the scriptures. Instead of spending an hour on it,  they spent several weeks allowing the girls plenty of time for thinking, searching, pondering, and praying. At the end of the time, each girl who had participated received direct revelation from Father in Heaven about the reasons that He wanted her (his own precious daughter) to be modest. I can’t think of anything better!

So, though I will teach revealed doctrine on this blog, the best thing that each of us can do is spend some real time asking Father directly about His teachings. The Savior himself said that the doctrine that He preached was not His own and then gave a special promise –

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17). 

I would highly recommend that anyone who is facing difficult doctrinal issues (or as I like to call them, Doctrinal Abrahamic Trails) should spend some time with the Lord, taking His word at face value. Trying out His doctrine in all possible ways, or if we are not able to try it (let’s say the doctrine is about children and we don’t have any) we should carefully ponder with an eye on the eternities why the Lord would command that doctrine. I read in a blog once –  that we need to “approach the issue with an eye to what the Lord would have us learn from the law.” One of the sweetest things that a young boy of 14 said after he went seeking answers from God was, “I have learned for myself.”

Answers will come. All of these issues, questions, and problems are directly provided to help us turn to the Savior. And, just as I would do almost anything to help my students and my children survive and thrive, He would do, and has done, infinitely more for you and for me.

Putting our “Exception” on the Altar

Exceptions to the Rule. They crop up everywhere, don’t they? Nature, Math, English grammar. Always there … lurking. Just when we think we understand something, an exception pops up and we have to re-examine our thinking.  But do the exceptions make the rule “untrue”? Do we throw out the rule because there are exceptions to it?

Personally, I don’t think so.  When we begin to say that rules don’t exist, or shouldn’t be followed because of exceptions, then we delve into a space of chaos.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

Everyone who ever  has lived on earth has sinned, so everyone needs to repent.

That’s a pretty inclusive rule!

Oh, wait. There is (at least) one exception.

Jesus Christ never sinned.

I think that the most interesting thing to go along with our discussion then, is that, though He  clearly was THE great exception to the rule, (like 0 in mathematics) He got baptized anyway.

So what does this teach us?

Before we go into that, I’m going to share a couple of stories.

Story # 1 –

When I was at Basic Training, I broke my leg, a stress fracture just under the right knee. I was in excruciating pain for several weeks. No one believed me and I tried to continue to “run through the pain”.  When we took our final PT test, I hobble-ran around the track and began to be lapped by all of the other soldiers.  The drill sergeants then realized that there was something real and horribly wrong and sent me to the Army hospital where an x-ray proved the break.  We still had several weeks of training left, and I began a strange routine of doing the best I could.

During PT one morning, my Drill sergeant yelled at me for doing the exercises and made me sit and watch.  A few days later, when we were at a special camping training (bivouacking in the woods) I was chosen as one of the night guards because of my injury. Guard at night, sleep during the day.  Although, on one of those days, I went out for training with my platoon, at my drill sergeant’s behest. We were supposed to run through an open field (practicing the art of covering ourselves and our buddies). Each group went out and I lingered at the back (as running with a broken leg had proven not to be my thing.)  Then my Drill Sergeant told me it was my turn.

“But, Drill Sergeant Jones, remember? My Leg?”

“GO! I DON’T CARE! GO, MOVE, MOVE MOVE!!!!”

He could be quite persuasive, so out I ran, hobbling through the exercise, hoping that an enemy soldier wouldn’t “pick me off” as I went.  Hobble, hobble, hobble,  hide behind a tree, cover my buddy, hobble, hobble, hobble, run behind a rock, watch for enemy snipers – you get the idea.

The funny thing was that, as silly as I looked, I actually enjoyed being out in the field that day – injury and all.  It was such a relief to participate in something after being “held back”. The air was fresh. Movement was welcome to my body.  I felt unified and reconnected with my platoon again, and I never got hit by the pretend enemy! 😉

Story # 2 –

When I was in my twenties, I became the Laurel adviser in my ward (that means that I was the teacher for all girls aged 16-18 in my area). I began to teach them, that though they wanted to get married – which every Mormon girl wants of course, [note that’s the general rule, not the exception] 😉 sometimes marriage didn’t come as fast as we planned, and that they should have a something else in mind for life without nuptials.

As it turns out, all of the girls in my class got married before I did.

I thought that “marriage doesn’t come right away” was the “new rule”, because it was so in my case (and, after all,  it is the teaching of mainstream American society).  It turned out that I was the exception, and that in that class, the original rule (that most Mormon girls get married young) was in full force.

So now, let’s get back to our discussion above, about the Savior and His baptism and introduce a BIG, GIANT, sticky problem.

What do we do in gospel living when we are the exception to the rule?   Does it make the rule “untrue”? Do we throw out the rule for everyone in the whole church simply because I am an exception to it (or because exceptions exist)?

The scriptures teach us that we are to follow the example of the Savior. (See this link for a plethora of scriptures about this teaching.)  Here is one of my favorites –

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (1 Peter 2:21)

 WHAAAAT?

Are you saying, Laryssa, that if we are the exception to the rule, we are still supposed to follow the rule?

Yes, I am. Or at least, I am saying that if you can’t follow the rule, because of your exception, you should live as close to the rule as possible. Yes, I am Drill Sergeant Jones, pushing you out onto the field with a broken leg.

"'To fulfill the law,' said Jesus, when the baptist questioned why."

“‘To fulfill the law,’ said Jesus, when the baptist questioned why.”

Why?

For two reasons.

Reason #1.  Because of this great promise –

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17).

That by doing, we will know and understand the reasons that God gave us the doctrine to begin with.  Then we can testify from our own experience about  A.) the truthfulness of the teaching, B.) why it is the doctrine of God, and C.) of the miracles that helped us live the doctrines even while in our exceptions.

Reason # 2.  Because, if we follow the example of the Savior, (especially in our exceptions) we will have the power to bless the human family in ways so powerful it is incomprehensible.

Just look at what the Savior wrought, by taking on sin as a sinless being.  He was the exception. His was an adult life devoid of sin. He had every right to enter into the Kingdom of God because He lived perfectly (see 1 Nephi 15:34,  3 Nephi 27:19, and Revelation 21:27) and yet, He gave up His “exception to the rule status” and took upon Himself our sins, and through that great and glorious Atonement, gave every single human being the ability to enter into the Kingdom of God, should they chose to accept it.

Now, that is phenomenal.

Each exception to the rule of life carries with it a huge burden and a huge opportunity.

So, how do you live as close to the rule as you can with such difficult problems? What are you expected to do? I don’t know, because your case (quite probably) is so very different from mine. But there is Someone who does know.  If you ask Him, He will show you with baby steps, and then sometimes, with grander steps, what is right for your unique and personal situation.

I will give a simple example from my life.

When I was a single sister in the church that teaches that Marriage is the ultimate design of both earth life, and of ALL ETERNITY, I found myself getting older and older without the opportunity (and I found that the rule was that most Mormon young adults were getting married and having those babies that I so desperately wanted – see story # 2 above).

I went through a period of anger and rebellion.  But then, because I loved God, I decided to try to live life in the gospel, even though my circumstances were not ideal according to the general rule.

Then, I went through a time when I demanded that every one, every religious talk and teaching about marriage (in conference or any other church function) bring up and recognize my own personal exception to the rule (and coincidentally, offer praise and comfort for my “amazing faithfulness”).

Finally, I came to a point in which, I began to realize the necessity of giving up my demands, and doing what the Spirit was prompting me to do – to testify of the importance of the family, without regard to my own personal exception.

I focused my thoughts and prayers on my relationship with God. When the pain, anger, or injustice came up, I prayed or sang a hymn, treating those thoughts as I would an immoral or upsetting thought – forcing them to leave my mind, rather than spending time dwelling on it,  “licking old wounds”.

In so doing, over time,  it took away the pain and anger.  It drew me closer to the Savior. It made me an effective Seminary teacher because I could teach without angry energy seething out of me. It put me in a position to be taught deeper truths about the doctrine.

And, OF course, not getting married young brought me these exceptional military stories that I am now able share with you. 😉

The years have passed. Eleven, to be exact, since I got married and started my own family. Now, I am asked to live with different set of exceptions to the rule.  Exceptions that I do not have the courage or the permission to talk about yet.  However, the Spirit whispers the same solution to those problems — follow the Savior.  Live the rule, or as close to the rule as I can.

We hobble, hobble, hobble, and hide behind a bush, hobble hobble, hobble, cover each other as battle buddies, hobble, hobble, hobble and watch for enemy snipers. It’s not pretty to watch. My husband and I don’t move as gracefully in the battlefield as other families that live without our exceptions to the rule. But, we are participating in the activity.

Yes, I am petty and wish for things to be ideal, but, I see miracles on a regular basis. Miracles that help us live as close to the rule as possible. I am learning the doctrines and finding that they bring joy. I can witness that following God’s ways and rules give me peace and great opportunities that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t live this way. And finally, hopefully, as you and I try to be more like the Savior, by placing our own “exceptions to the rule” on the altar, that sacrifice will bless lives, just as His did.

 

Scripture Study: Steadfast and Immovable or How Do I Study Scriptures with Children?

daily scripture study

Our scripture reading as a family is slow. Very slow.  Most nights we get through two verses.  Why so few? Because I really want my school-age children (presently aged 9 and 6) to get something out of them.  (We just finished watching the children scripture videos – but, more on that later) and so, now that they can both read, we began at 1 Nephi.  Tonight, we read 1 Nephi 2: 9-10 (Yes, I know, we’ve come so far! 😉 )

We began with one child reading, and dramatically yelling out – “I don’t understand ONE word of that!”

To which I calmly replied, “Do you understand the word, river?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, let’s start there.”

We discussed what Lehi wanted Laman to be like –

And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!

(A river.)

What does a river do?  (It runs constantly.) 

Into what?

She didn’t know, so we talked about who the Fountain of Righteousness could symbolize  (The Savior).

How can we constantly run to the Savior?

She was mildly interested. 😉

Then the other child read.

And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!

What does Lehi want Laman to be like? (A valley.)

What three things is a valley like? (firm, steadfast, and immovable).

What does that mean?

At this point, I had my former football playing husband stand up and asked my 6-year-old to try and push him over. Well, that was fun! We tried having each girl, and then the two together try to push Daddy over and when he was in his stance, there was nothing that they could do.

Then I asked what did we need to be immovable in? (Keeping the commandments.)

Now, being immovable in keeping the commandments –  that’s hard! We discussed the fact that everyone had commandments that they were steadfast in and other commandments that they were movable in.

My six-year-old wanted to know what commandments are (yikes! but at least she asked! 😉 )  We said that they are the things that God has asked us to do (like keeping the Sabbath Day Holy, paying tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, not telling lies, etc).

We each shared something that we needed to work on being more immovable in and then committed as a family to work on it this week.

I bring this up because I had a dear friend ask me how to study the scriptures.  I started writing some posts, but then I had a baby, and it’s been hectic since. So, as a start, I will say this – it can become easier to do scripture study if you are consistent and engage everyone in the event.

If you only need to get through a couple of verses, doing it nightly is more manageable, and if you look for things in the scriptures to talk about and ways to “liken” it to yourself and your circumstances (1 Nephi 19:23) it will involve the family in the process.

Here are some thoughts that might help.

  • What are the concrete words and ideas in the verse? Maybe to get to the concrete idea you need to read over a few more verses than two, but move to the next one that you can find and begin the discussion there.  With little kids do ONE idea and then stop for the night.  Older kids can probably do more, unless you’re just getting started (then maybe all they can do is one idea as well.)  By ALL means start with that!  Don’t mourn the past.  Just begin today.
  • What questions can I ask that will make my children look into the verse to find the answer? Make them read the words and find the answers (they’ll shout out “pray, read scriptures, go to church, etc.” and act like they know everything already.  You need to say, “no, look in the verse!” Directing them back to the specific phrase or idea.)  They need to learn the foreign language of the scriptures, so, by directing them back into the verse they have to engage with the phrases.  Also, be excited – for example, Who do you think is coming down in the sky? Who could the twelve be that are coming with Him? see 1 Nephi 1: 9-10 .
  • What is going on (i.e. who is speaking and why)? Keep the thread of the story – for example, “Remember that Lehi and his family have just left from Jerusalem.”
  • Talk about how those verses can apply to you.  For example, on the verses about Lehi’s vision (see above 1 Nephi 1:9-10) we discussed dreams.  Have you ever had a dream from the Lord? What was it like? How did you know that it was a dream from God and not a regular dream (what’s the difference?) Does everybody have dreams from God (Joel 2:28-29)? Are there other ways that the Lord communicates with us, not only in dreams? etc. That was a REALLY good discussion.
  • Remember this should be simple.  No handouts, no bells and whistles. I’m serious ladies – no treats, no elaborate displays.  Save those for FHE!

Say a simple prayer for help and then trust that the Lord will help you by giving you ideas in the moment (Luke 12:12) of what questions to ask and what ideas to talk about (the idea to have my hubby be steadfast was pure inspiration in the moment!).  Trust that what you’re talking about (though simple, and maybe not what you think they need) in the hands of the Lord and the Holy Spirit will be effective in the lives of your children (see James 5:16).

 

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.  I’d love to hear about you and your experiences.  What do you do when you read as a family? Which strategies work, and which don’t? What is frustrating to you? Have you had a “high five” moment that you want to share? How do you need to modify for young children, older kids, youth, a mixed family with children of all ages?

 

Thou Shalt … Judge?

Judgement

The other day, my daughter came to me and told me about a YouTube video that she was shown at school.  She didn’t know what to think about it, whether it was a good video or a bad video. Whether to like it because everyone else seemed to, or to shun it.  We watched it together and immediately I made up my mind about it, but I wanted to have a teaching moment about the importance of judgement.

As an aside, society seems to know one phrase only from the bible, and that is, “don’t judge” (though they don’t seem to know any of the myriad of other verses about judgment from the scriptures).   It seems to be the way to crush a conversation, or walk defiantly away from guilt with a quick “don’t you judge me”. It’s what the critical social police throw at you when you comment on strange behaviors and consequences of those actions, though their criticism for judging you is never thought about as they walk off feeling the moral victor. (I’m sure I sound petty right now, and I freely admit that it is a pet peeve of mine).

Yet in all of our conversations about not judging (which, despite all of our lofty “judge not” talk, we do all the time) there should be conversations about how to judge and what to judge  – because we are supposed to judge, but we are to judge righteous judgement (John 7:24).  How do we do that in a society which calls evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20)?  Let’s look into that.

Let’s begin by getting back to my daughter.  We watched the video together and then I shared these scriptures with her (Moroni 7: 15-17 emphasis added) –

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

Good – For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

Bad – But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

So we took the video and discussed it.

Was there a good message? (Yes, it was trying to get the kids to be safe). 

Was the information leading up to the message good? (No, it was creepy, about a bunch of ways to die).

How did it make you feel? (Scared, disgusted, creeped out, felt strange inside).

How did the song make you feel? (The same as above). 

So, we have one “good” and a bunch of “bads”.  Should we judge the video to be good for kids or bad for kids? (Bad).

Even though the message was a good one? (Yes, because there was too much bad to get through to get to the main message). 

Now she knows perfectly that she doesn’t need to pretend to like it just because everyone else did.  It took away her peace and made her feel creeped out inside.  Then we talked about strategies of what to do if it were ever shown again (which thankfully, it wasn’t).

Notice that we didn’t judge whether the people were going to heaven or hell.  We judged situations, the media, and consequences.  People make mistakes and people can have bad judgement.  I can allow her teachers and friends to have an “off” moment. We made decisions about how this child could effectively judge and use her agency to decide what to listen to and what to watch in the future so that she could continue to have peace in her heart (Jeremiah 6:16).

Now are there times when I can judge a person’s actions? Yes.  Should those actions have a detrimental effect on me or my loved ones, I can again determine whether I want to be around that behavior (as can my children). Do I forgive, do I hope that they will be better, do I show forth love? Yes. But the scriptures are full of examples in which the good moral people left bad circumstances (Joseph fleeing from Potiphar’s wife [Genesis 39:9-12] for example).

Am I allowed to talk about the consequences of actions?  Is that judging?  In Joshua 8:33, the prophet was told to separate the people into two groups, one standing on Mount Gerizim and the other group on Mount Ebal.  There they read to the people the blessings and cursings that come from the obedience or disobedience of following the law (see Deuteronomy 28).  The scriptures are FULL of laws and their fixed blessings and cursings.  Which is why it is important to study them, because if we want to be possessors of righteous judgement, we need to understand what the Lord deems as righteous and what He deems as wicked.

We do our children a disservice when we cut off communication and shroud the discussion of consequences with the pacifying doctrine of “don’t judge”, or worse, the insidious teaching of “that will never happen”.  If the costs of actions are not discoursed, our children will be spiritually crippled by the heavy burdens brought on by uneducated desires and uniformed choices.

Yes, we do and must judge – actions, circumstances, media, choices.  We must teach our children to value actions which lead to blessings and be wary of actions which lead to consequences that would be detrimental to their futures. Even if that means, at times, that we may preach doctrine that is full of “hard things, more than [some] are able to bear” (1 Nephi 16:1-2).

 

For further study, see this amazing talk by Elder Neal A. Maxwell – Lessons from Laman and Lemuel. (Laman and Lemuel became rebels instead of leaders, resentful instead of righteous—all because of their failure to understand either the character or the purposes of God.)

Ask Your Questions!

 

General Conference invite

When I was a Seminary teacher, one day right before General Conference, I felt prompted  to tell my students to write down a question (or two) before conference and then ask Father in prayer to answer it during the meetings.  I thought as I said it, “Oh, dear, am I allowed to say this to them?”  Then an impression hit me.  It basically said that it was not me asking them to do it, it was the Lord. And, anyway, He would be the only one that could answer the question for them, not me.  I told them to write down the question, ask and then really listen and promise that if they did, they would receive the answers that they were seeking.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7)

Remember, that just as there is a Scientific Method that (when employed correctly) can help the scientific seeker acquire knowledge with measurable and repeatable results, there is a Spiritual Method, that (when employed correctly) can help the religious seeker acquire truth with measurable and repeatable results. See Alma 32:21-43 for the Great Experiment on Faith.

Personally, I have never had a question that has not been answered when I have followed this pattern, even if the answer is, “I’ll tell you when you’re older” 😉 , it has come in a way that lets me know that I am really being listened to.

Conference is this Saturday and Sunday.   Ask your Questions!

Follow this link to find ways to watch – How to View Live

Follow this link for a wonderful talk – Seek and Ye Shall Find. by Elder Craig C. Christensen

 

The Principle of Equal Time

When we were children, my parents kept us on a very strict diet of classical music.  That was the only music that we listened to as a family.  Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Bach, Puccini, as well as movie soundtracks from John Williams and other movie soundtrack composers.  As I got older, and drove in my friends’ cars, I was introduced to a whole new world of sound.  Whitney Houston’s,  The Greatest Love and I Wanna Dance with Somebody.  REO Speedwagon, and Chicago, and Howard Jones, and Phil Collins, and a myriad of songs that pumped me up and made me want to MOVE!  I began a secret rebellion of listening to the “other music” whenever I could.

My parents, on finding out, weren’t upset.  I suppose they knew that the time would come when we would listen to other types of music, and wisely, they didn’t make it an issue.  They simply introduced the principle of equal time.  They asked that we would still listen to classical music in equal amounts to other music.  I agreed and began catching up on all the music I had missed, and in truth, I wasn’t very good with equal time, leaning heavily on the radio as any teenager would do.  But, when I needed peace.  When I studied for school.  When things got too loud and overwhelming, I would come back home to the music of my childhood.  As a parent, I visit classical music and religious music a lot.  There is peace there that can’t be found in modern music.  My parents were very wise.

So, my brother and I were discussing this principle last week.  He began to talk to me about a time when he felt a pull toward atheism, and if not that extreme, certainly inactivity.  The thing that pulled him back was the principle of equal time.  He realized that he should be spending at least the same amount of time in the scriptures as he had been spending on literature that was anti-religious.

I love this quote about the power of learning about the gospel.

“No one knows anything about Christ’s work simply by being born a member of the Church, and often he knows little about it after years of unmotivated exposure in meetings or classes. He must learn. And learning involves self-investment and effort. The gospel should be studied ‘as carefully as any science.’ The ‘literature of the Church’ must be ‘acquired and read.’ Our learning should be increased in our spare time ‘day by day.’ Then as we put the gospel truth to work in daily life, we will never find it wanting. We will be literate in the most important field of knowledge in the universe, knowledge for lack of which men and nations perish, in the light of which men and nations may be saved”
—Elder Marion D. Hanks, First Council of the Seventy, “Theological Illiterates”, Improvement Era (September 1969): 42

There is something about the words of the scriptures that have a power beyond anything else.  They calm, comfort, influence, steady, guide, fill with power, strength, and courage.  I love that when you “treasure up the words of life” the Holy Ghost will “bring … [them] to your remembrance” in the moment that you need it.

Note that I am not talking about someone’s interpretation of scripture.  Or someone taking a scripture or quote out of context. Or adding an interpretation that doesn’t hold up, or is based on mis-information or spurious quotes.  Remember that you can choose to drink the cool water from the source, or you can drink it down stream after all of the cows, and muck and garbage have had a chance to roll around in it.

Learning and living the principle of equal time with gospel study – making sure that you spend at least as much time in the Scriptures themselves as anything else will bring a power into your life that will be refreshing and life-giving in the moments when you need to return home.

Psalm 12-3

Earthly Inoculation

inoculationI was wondering today about inoculations. We are injected with a small bit of the disease so that we can process the antibodies necessary to ward off the disease.

So, is mortal life an inoculation? In which we are subjected to evil (temptation, weakness, etc.) so that we can gain the ability to be inoculated from evil through the eternities.

That doesn’t mean that we seek out evil to experience it (remember the injection of the disease is a weakened strain – otherwise, we would be overcome by the illness and quite possibly die.) I simply mean that here, there are experiences, choices, etc. that we could never learn in all of our eternal existence, except by coming here.

Also, the antibodies that will fight and overcome the disease can only be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ and through His magnificent Atonement.

See Also  – 2 Nephi 2:15-16 (and all 2 Nephi 15) and this talk by C. Robert Line from the UofU Institute about Bitter and Sweet.

“I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit!”

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“I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit!” was the line that Han Solo said in Star Wars when Luke was trying to get him to help save Princess Leia on the Death Star. Luke Skywalker said, something to the effect of, if you help save this princess, “the reward would be … well, more wealth than you can imagine.”

We are told to dream big, to imagine, to reach for the stars, to wish upon a star.  All of these ideas are remarkable, and help a person begin to do the work.  The problem is that most of these motivational slogans don’t come with the tagline –  “Dream big: and follow that dream with more work than you can even imagine, and once there, it may not be the dream that you were hoping for.”   That is one of the paradoxes of life.

I once asked some friends, why did they think that God make this world to be such that we must continue in mundane, never-ending tasks?  For an example, you can work all day in cleaning or yard work, and it is totally satisfying to do the work.  But then, within what seems like a blink of an eye, everything that you have worked at is destroyed and you have to do it over again.  One friend gave an amazing answer – she said, “well, God had to give us something to keep us busy while we’re down here.” 🙂

Gordon B. Hinkley once said,

Anyone who imagines that bliss [in marriage] is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. [The fact is] most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. … Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.  The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride” (“Big Rock Candy Mountains,” Deseret News, 12 June 1973, A4).

Because I am a major idealist, the first time that I read that quote I wanted to cry.  I think that in my Han Solo moments, I have imagined that all things would be perfect.  Then, I find that President Hinckley was right.  It’s enough to make the idealist in me give up … if only I didn’t have so many ideas and dreams floating around!

But I’ve noticed something in my twenty something years as an adult … I’m getting better at the process of dream + work + problems = more work = dreams fulfilled, but not what I expected.

Working through the disappointment, toward the dream has made me better able to deal – both with the disappointment, and with the problems that tend to crop up along the way.  Something (say a glitch or mistake) that would have destroyed me a few years ago, seems to not have the same power over me that it did then.  I seem to be able to rub the smoke and dust out of my eyes or shrug off the delays and sidetracks better than I did when I was younger.

My daughter (age 8) is an idealist as well.  If she can’t have it her way, exactly as she wants it, she shuts down.  I keep telling her that things are not going to be perfect (in a watered-down President Hinckley-type speech).  I remind her that the only thing that she can do is choose how she is going to deal with the reality of her situation.  For example, I went out with her on a girl’s night on Friday (and we left my younger daughter on a Daddy-daughter date).  The next morning, we went to my nephew’s baptism.  Her sister got sick right before we left, and so her Dad opted to stay home with the younger and let us go to the event.

So, for two events in a row, I went with the older daughter and left the younger and Dad.  That afternoon, there was a neighborhood block party at a local Christian church that we had wanted to attend.  Obviously, little sister (sick with the flu) couldn’t go, but since I had left her for two other events, she desperately needed some mommy love and comfort.

Older daughter was incensed! Why couldn’t I take her to the party? (After all there would be games and treats and fun).  I said that she could go with Dad (who really didn’t want to go, but would have, if pressed).  She was furious.  She wanted to go with Mom!!!!  But circumstances would not warrant her desires, not matter how much she pushed.

Her choices were then –

  1. Continue to be miserable and make everyone else annoyed.
  2. Accept the circumstances, though disappointing, and try to make the best of it at home with family.
  3. Go with Dad, be miserable and make him annoyed.
  4. Go with Dad and try to make the best of it.

In essence, it could not be what she wanted, but there were plenty of other options available to her.

I say this, not to disparage my daughter, but to discuss our own moments when we are not gaining our imaginings from God.  How often do we rant and rave, or worse – give up, when we don’t have desired results?  Perhaps, it would be His good will to grant us our requests –  but not right now.  Perhaps there is another sibling on this earth who is desperately in need of the blessings that we are asking for and it is their turn to go first.

Meekness then, is the only attribute that will help when the imagination’s desires are not met.  Meekness to go to the Lord and ask why. Meekness to still move forward when the “why” is not readily given.  Meekness to accept others.  Meekness to accept counsel.  Meekness to follow promptings.

Consider this quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

Perhaps, brothers and sisters, what we brought with us as intelligences into our creation as spirit children constitutes a “given” within which even God must work. Add to that possibility the clear reality of God’s deep commitment to our free agency—and we begin to see how essential meekness is! We need to learn so much, and yet we are free to choose (see 2 Nephi 2:27)! How crucial it is to be teachable! There “is no other way” in which God could do what He has declared it is His intent to do. No wonder He and His prophets emphasize meekness time and time again!

Since God desired to have us become like Himself, He first had to make us free, to learn, to choose, and to experience; hence our humility and teachability are premiere determinants of our progress and our happiness. Agency is essential to perfectibility, and meekness is essential to the wise use of agency—and to our recovery when we have misused our agency. (Meekly Drenched in Destiny, BYU Address, September 5, 1982, for the full address, go here.)

Dream + Work + Meekness in Trial = more like the Lord … whose life here on earth surely was not of Princely Palace or Worldly Wealth.  It simply wasn’t Han Solo material.  But then, our prize in not for this life, is it?  Hopefully, when we end this life we can say, as Paul did:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

But for now, I’ll try to keep dreaming, and working … and maybe some of the experiences, work, and trials will allow me to see beautiful vistas and feel thrilling bursts of speed during the journey!