I Ditched Church

It took ditching church to find out what I was missing. Let me set up some backstory.

I was sleeping in the guestroom; my wife and I had been fighting for months. My parents were on the verge of separating just as my maternal grandparents had done after 40 years of marriage.

I struggle with the looming question “Why was I miserable?” and “Why was the family I grew up in, that professed to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ falling apart while us the members were not happy but miserable?”

This sent me on a journey of questioning everything I had been taught and believed in.

As a family we read the scriptures every day without fail. We were ritualistic in our worship, Church meetings every Sunday, home teaching every month, Family night every Monday, family council every Sunday; we did everything that we were supposed to do. But I never felt joy in the home. I wasn’t happy.

Before this time I had never expected to be happy. Oh I knew that the Scriptures said, “Men are that they might have joy,” but I assumed that was after I had “endured to the end”. I was taught that enduring meant suffering as Christ did or like the Saints. Was Joseph Smith happy because he seemed to have had a miserable life, getting persecuted, tarred and feathered, and killed and all that? So who was I to expect happiness in this life?

With the disintegration of my family I wondered if the gospel was a pack of lies used to control and manipulate people. So one day I ditched church.

I went to the mall and sat down in the courtyard and people watched. The mall was filled with a ton of people all breaking the Sabbath Day like me. Then I noticed that they weren’t miserable, but seemed to be happy, smiling, as they were spending time with their families. Husbands and happy wives and children were playing, talking loving each other. What had I missed?

mormon-family2I longed to experience what I saw. I wished so badly that my wife and kids were with me and that we were enjoying each others company instead of in the middle of a marathon fight filled with contention and hurt feelings.

My religion called this journey the Plan of Happiness. And that the ultimate prize was living together forever. We claimed to have all the answers. But if I were being honest I never saw so many smiles at church as I did at the mall.

Maybe I had it all wrong. Maybe living my religion was to suffer and be miserable in this life and then receive my reward in the next. Was I suffering and miserable because I was chosen? That is what I’d been taught. But the scriptures say something different.

In the Book of Mormon, 2nd Nephi Chapter 2 verse 25-27 it reads:

25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

I looked back in my life and asked myself if I had ever truly been happy. I felt joy on my mission when I saw the atonement affect people’s lives. I felt joy when my children were born in witnessing the miracle of creation. I felt excitement and happiness when I wrote a song, a poem, or story. I felt some level of happiness when there was peace in my life and harmony and love. So what was I missing now? Harmony and family seem to be complete contradictions in my life.

Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables:

“The supreme happiness of life consists in the conviction that one is loved; loved for one’s own sake–let us say rather, loved in spite of one’s self; this conviction the blind man possesses. To be served in distress is to be caressed. Does he lack anything? No. One does not lose the sight when one has love. And what love! A love wholly constituted of virtue! There is no blindness where there is certainty.

In plainer English, the answer to happiness is loving and being loved.

This answer was confirmed to me again in this latest general conference where Elder Andersen talked about dancing without hearing the music.

If our children learn the dance steps without learning to hear and to feel the beautiful music of the gospel, they will over time become uncomfortable with the dance and will either quit dancing or, almost as bad, keep dancing only because of the pressure they feel from others who are dancing around them.

Even though I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing, checking the boxes of righteous behavior, I wasn’t hearing the music. But why not?

In each of the cases where I felt joy and happiness, there were shadows of God. Each aspect involved God’s children. I felt joy in their service. I felt joy in showing and sharing God’s love for them. I felt happiness because I was about something more than myself. In the times that I was miserable I was selfish. I was worried about my own mansion in heaven. I was judgmental and envying and puffed up. I was proud and unforgiving.

What is the opposite of pride? Is it humility? I had considered myself humble and lonely, heck I was suffering through life remember?

In Moroni Chapter 7 it states:

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Reading the Scriptures, saying our prayers, going to church and doing everything that we are supposed to do is all well and good but without charity are we not like those who professed to having done many things in Christ name to which he replied “I never knew you?”

Since that day that I ditched church I have reaffirmed my testimony in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have found it is true and that in living the Gospel there is joy, not only in the life hereafter but in this one, here, now.

And best of all I have found myself enjoying moments of peace and fun in love with my wife and children. I haven’t stopped dancing but now I can hear the music.


Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. – Albert Einstein

My grandma and mother in law share a birthday. Coincidence? Maybe. They each love to dance, were at one point in their life heavily involved in theater, bake with extreme talent, and suffered from bunions.

Their second oldest daughter played the clarinet when they were younger.

I could fill a page on the similarities, but there are many differences too, the biggest being that Avalon Perkins, my grandmother was born and raised in a small town of Arizona, while my mother-in-law was born and raised in Argentina.

I serve as the bridge between the two families, and maybe I’m the only one that sees the “coincidences.” That was until last week.

On February 12th, 2015 I was informed that my grandma had suffered a stroke ad lay in a coma in the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah. I waited anxiously as the doctors grasped the severity of the situation.

That next morning, Friday, February 13, 2015, my wife awoke me. She said that her twenty-seven-week-pregnant sister’s water broke and so she underwent an emergency c-section at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah. Her sister was doing alright but the baby who did not yet have a name was badly bruised.

Over the next while we learned that the baby received the name of Liam and underwent a couple blood transfusions. There was a procedure where the doctors surgically inserted a heart monitor into the little guy. And my grandmother passed away.

As the days passed, arrangements were made for the remembrance of a kind woman and tests and procedures were made to help a little preemie.

Yesterday at the memorial and interment, there was a table of items from my grandmother that those in attendance were welcome to take.

I don’t know the purpose of the baby blanket we found. There are a lot of my cousins having babies, perhaps it was intended for one of them. Or maybe it was something left at her house when someone visited. Or even more likely, it was a gift she made for someone she wished to serve. My grandma served a lot of people in her lifetime and not just the hundreds of relatives.

We accepted the blanket and it seemed fitting that we offered it as a gift to little Liam, for in some way the two seem connected by coincidence. But now they are connected through service.

I don’t think that God wants to remain anonymous. I think that He wants his children and creations to recognize Him and His guiding hand. And it is through us that He can do that. Coincidence may connect us in this life; will it in the next? Service will.

Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.

What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.

When such a friend from us departs,
We hold forever in our hearts
A sweet and hallowed memory,
Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee.

For worthy friends whose lives proclaim
Devotion to the Savior’s name,
Who bless our days with peace and love,
We praise thy goodness, Lord, above.    Karen Lynn Davidson



Free to Choose?

You could say that I had a choice; I could always choose to do the right thing or choose to do the wrong thing and receive the consequence of being grounded for the rest of my natural life.

movieOnce when I was 18, I went to a movie with some friends, The Net. I sat right behind my stake president and his wife. My mom was furious that I had seen a PG-13 movie. I didn’t let her know that I had seen many others and even a couple Rated-R films that I wasn’t proud of.

She organized a family night lesson where she berated me in front of the family, shaming me and my decision, stating that the Stake President was disappointed in me for seeing me there and that my actions damaged her image because she was on a stake council and she often preached that it was a sin to watch PG-13 movies, so I, her oldest son needed to set an example, especially for my younger siblings, instead of undermining her.

My mom went around the family, pointing one at a time at each of the nine children, asking that we commit to never watching a PG-13 movie. I wouldn’t do it. She continued, threatening a barrage of consequences and finally saying that we would stay in family night session until I committed. “Sure,” I lied.

Until a few years ago, I raised my kids the same way, telling them that they have a choice between this awful thing or this wonderful thing, while shaming them if they chose anything other than what I thought was best. Through personal experience and study I’ve learned that this type of parenting is less effective. It pushes away the child and ultimately reinforces the idea that choosing is a bad thing. As an adult I would find myself creating scenarios where I “had” to do something, believing that I didn’t have a choice in the matter.

I felt that I “had” to go to church and I “had” to pay tithing and I “had” to do family history and I “had” to read the scriptures. I ended up resenting it. What should have brought me peace and joy brought me contempt and anxiety. When I realized that I did have a choice I began to feel the blessings of those choices where before, when I “had” to do it, I don’t think I was fully participating in the blessings that come from doing good.

I have friends that have left the church because they didn’t see the joy in it and now that they are “out” they seem happier and more at peace. I think that this has something to do with what we’ve been discussing. Rather than a culture of rules, restrictions, and limitations, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a series of opportunities to experience joy and love and hope.

I get that young children often need a decision phrased out as a choice between something good and something bad; it helps them learn and be accountable. But when a child is no longer a child they acquire abstract thought. They can comprehend that life really isn’t about a series of right or wrong choices, but a wide array of choice integrated into human dynamics and emotions, fostered by passions and desires. The world I live in, isn’t as simple as a choice between right and wrong.

I seldom wake up in the morning wanting to do something bad. I don’t want to steal or murder or hurt another person. I typically want to be happy and help others. The most difficult decisions that I make aren’t to do something wrong or do something right but are to deciding which right thing to devote my time and energy too—a decision between right and right. (Not even Good, Better, and Best.) I’ve experienced choices that I have felt that whatever I chose, God would sustain.

I believe that God doesn’t only sustain our good choices but that he also celebrates them. I believe that our righteous choices (and I’m not necessarily referring to our righteous actions) are a source of joy and rejoicing of God.

praySeveral years ago my son had such a choice to make. He asked me for advice. Of course I had an opinion on the matter but something caused me pause. I remembered when I left home to serve a mission for my church. I had an extremely difficult time knowing what it was that God wanted me to do. Usually in such a situation I would seek out my mom and ask her opinion. She would give it. I would do what she said whether I wanted to or not because God commanded that we respect our mothers and our fathers, so in a sense, even if her advice was wrong, I couldn’t be held accountable for my inappropriate choice because I honored my mother. (That was some pretty messed up thinking).

So back to my son, I told him that the choice was his to make and that prayer might help.

He returned moments later from praying. I asked him if he got an answer. His reply surprised me and taught me an extremely valuable lesson.

“He said it was my choice.”

Why would God not give direction where direction was requested? My entire life up until that point believed in a myth that there was a right and a wrong to ever question. That is what the hymn says right? No. It states, “There’s the right and the wrong to every question.” Not a right and a wrong. It follows up with, “Be safe thru inspiration’s power.”

I take that to mean that to every question, there is a right side and a wrong side. The wrong side of my son’s question would have been for Heavenly Father to dictate what it was that my son should do rather than reaffirm one of the greatest gifts that God has given to man—choice.

“What are you going to do?” I asked my son. He thought about it and chose the one that he wanted. I encouraged him to return to prayer and let Heavenly Father know what he chose. He did and received the burning confirmation that his choice was accepted.

Since that time, my relationship with God has changed. Most often my conversations go something like this.

Me:      I really like this idea and I’m thinking I’d like to pursue it.

God:    Great.

Me:      Can you help me recognize what I need to do to succeed?

God:    Of course.


Me:      I’m confused here. I’ve got to make a decision, this way or that way.

God:    Okay.

Me:      Do you have an opinion on the matter?

God:    No. What do you want to do?

Me:      I’m leaning toward…

God:    I think that would be great.

About a year ago I had one conversation that went like this. (I say conversation but this happened over about a month).

Me:      I’m thinking of moving to Utah.

God:   …

Me:      I think I might have more opportunity there. It might be easier to do my job.

God:   …

Me:      Maybe I’m just excited for a change. Maybe I’m trying to escape from something.

God:    Your parents divorce?

Me:      Yeah. I’m so sick of the drama. In Utah, I’d be removed from it all.

God:    I see, but is that the best thing for you and your family?

Me:      I don’t know. Is it?

God:    Think through it some more. You have a senior in high school that moved around a lot when he was a kid and finally has been able to experience some stability.

Me:      You’re right. So maybe after he graduates?”

I was then given some very specific information about a series of opportunities that Heavenly Father has been preparing me for, and that by moving to Utah, I would miss out on certain experiences that are divinely designed to help my family and myself.

Me:      I’m going to stay in Arizona.

God:    Good.

The following is my interpretation of a conversation between God (or Christ) and the Brother of Jared:

BoJ:     We’ve got some problems with the boats.

God:    Yes?

BoJ:     We can’t breath, we can’t steer, and we can’t see.

God:    Don’t go punching holes in the boats. You don’t have to steer because I control the waves and the winds and I’ll get you where I want you to go. Have faith and trust me.

As for air, cut a hole in top and a hole in the bottom and make lids for each. If you pull a lid out and water comes in, cover it back up because you’re probably under the ocean.

As for light, what do you want to do?

It’s interesting here that the direction was very specific for something that could be detrimental to the operation. Light, however, wasn’t a matter of life or death.

Brother-of-JaredWhat if the Brother of Jared was explicitly directed to solve the light problem? Would he have grown? I don’t believe that the idea of making glass stones would have been the solution that God would have come up with. I mean, maybe he would have offered a flashlight or the clapper.

Would the Brother of Jared have had the experience of seeing Christ and being shown everything if a solution would have been given to him to solve the light problem? I don’t think so.

I believe that the Brother of Jared’s efforts brought a smile to God’s face. I think He is pleased with his children when they magnify their gift of choice. When we plan things out in the mind and heart that he gave us and when we cease the opportunity to create.

Additionally, I don’t think it mattered how the Brother of Jared solved his problem. I don’t think that if he had asked God to recreate something like the burning bush on Mount Sinai, or whatever else he came up with, that his experience would have been any different.

Lately, I’ve tried not to dictate my children’s lives, instead offer them the opportunity to discover God and develop a relationship with him.

And a mistake isn’t the end of all things. God allowed Adam and Eve to transgress even though it brought them pain. In fact, it was by His design. The greater lesson learned from the Garden is that God’s purposes are the exaltation of man, not his condemnation. Why would God have protected the tree of life? It wasn’t a punishment; it was a blessing.

God has said, “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

If I recall, there was another that wanted to command in all things so that the glory would be his. I think that he is still about this purpose today, striving to relieve man of his ability to choose through the devices of addiction, shame, manipulation, and control.

So let us teach our children correct principles and then really let them govern themselves. Let’s refrain from shaming them into righteousness, denying them of the blessings of a righteous choice, taking the glory unto ourselves. Instead, Let us show them the true way of happiness and joy through embracing one of the greatest gifts of existence—choice.

United We Stand

I consider myself a patriot. I love my country. I’m proud to be an American. I’ve been studying the the first century of our nation. I believe that we continue to become a better, more civilized country and what makes it great is the background and cultures of her citizens.

With what has been going on at the border, I know that we will eventually handle the situation as the leaders in humanity that we are.

As I’ve been studying I’ve reflected on the last few years and it feels that we have stepped backwards. I’m of a generation that seemed apart from racial awareness, though we did have a repertoire of Pollack jokes, we didn’t think less of any culture or race or religion. I was young when Rodney King happened and I think that was the first discussion we had in school of racism as a current event.

Nine-eleven brought with it some high tensions. I’ve wondered if when some US citizens turned on others, like the idiot that shot the sheikh at the convenient store here in Arizona, if that wasn’t one of the hoped outcomes those terrorists had when killing our citizens.

Fear and ignorance has cost our country greatly. My children hear much more about racism and cultural stereotypes than I ever had, though they don’t know any Pollack jokes.

I believe the United States is the greatest country in the world because it can take the best of cultures and religions from around the world and blend them with freedom, tolerance, and love. We are the United States of America.


You said I Do, so that Means, You Do What I Say

Something has been on my mind as of late. The memory is from about 8 years ago. I was on the phone with a client and feeling a little insecure for not having wrapped up an assignment. My wife happened to be in the room, so I motioned to her to retrieve the client’s file from my drawer, as I continued the conversation. My phone beeped letting me know the battery was low. I indicated to my wife to hurry but she didn’t understand my gestures or read my mind. The phone beeped again and I thought it had died for good. I unleashed. I felt like she, being my wife, was an extension to me and as such should be in tune with my needs, my wants, my mind, whether I expressed myself or not. Then I realized the phone was still on and my client heard every word. I tried to recover, but it was too late. Someone from the outside saw behind the curtains.

What had changed in my relationship with her? At one point in time I strived to earn her respect and love, and I returned the sentiments. And if anyone else spoke to her that way, I’d have their hide. So why was I entitled to do so?

I’ve treated my children the same way, like extensions of myself. For some reason, believing that the relation gave me license to treat them in ways I wouldn’t dare treat another that wasn’t related.

I’ve worked a lot with youth and I think I’m pretty good at it.  When teaching a youth a skill, I’m patient; I explain myself, I teach, I’m kind and friendly, and loving. But when teaching my child the same, I use words like, “Cause I told you so” and “Don’t question me” and “Just do as your told.” Why?

A few years ago we were able to adopt a young man, one of those youth I had worked with. I noticed the discrepancy of how I treated him versus my natural born children and I started to question my parenting methods.

I’ve spent the last couple years trying to repent and change. I’ve taken a hard look at all my familiar relationships. Those that I’ve treated the worst are family; those that have treated me the worst are family. The only physical altercations I had growing up were with family. The worst names I’ve been called were by family, a sister in particular. Maybe it’s because my family knows who I really am and the rest is a show? No. I have genuine relationships with many others that know all about me, and I don’t feel the need to disrespect, control, or manipulate them.

I used to think that that’s just how it goes. I can treat someone close to me that way because I care so much.

good samaritanBut what gives a child the right to verbally degrade her father? What gives a husband the right to disrespect his wife? What gives a wife the right to demean and belittle her husband or her children?

Christ taught, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” I interpreted the Good Samaritan parable as loving people of different beliefs, origins, cultures as myself. I’ve done this. But why would that exclude those closest to me?

An hymn written by H. R. Palmer states this beautifully.

Angry words! oh, let them never
From the tongue unbridled slip;
May the heart’s best impulse ever
Check them ere they soil the lip.

Love is much too pure and holy,
Friendship is too sacred far,
For a moment’s reckless folly
Thus to desolate and mar.

Angry words are lightly spoken;
Bitt’rest tho’ts are rashly stirred—
Brightest links of life are broken,
By a single angry word.

I’ve noticed that the times that I’ve degraded or belittled anyone, particularly my family, is when I hate something about myself and I’ve taken it out on them (extensions of me). It’s not right. Just because two people said “I do” doesn’t give free license to disrespect, control, manipulate, degrade, shame, or belittle in any relationship that formed because of those vows.

I’ve realized that those in my family aren’t extensions of me and have no obligation to do my bidding. They, like everyone is entitled to respect, kindness, courteousness, and gentleness. My adopted son helped me see this and I’m a better dad and husband because of it.

Live Deliberately

Last week I had a profound experience listening to famed author and illustrator, James A. Owen give his incredible lecture titled, “Drawing Out the Dragons.”

There were many great lessons shared and some terrific insights into life. One particular seemed to penetrate my being. To me, it was a challenge, a new commitmentan opportunity.

Live Deliberately

Much of my life, I have lived as if without a voice. I was like a stick floating down a stream, subjected to the whims and will of the water flow, victim to whatever happened to me, resenting most everything, because I wanted something else, but felt powerless. In recent years I’ve discovered that I have a voice, and it is my choice whether or not I use it. Rather than letting life and the elements act on me, I have chosen to act.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

I want to live deliberately. I’ve pondered the challenge issued and reflected on the times I have lived. This is what I think it means to live deliberately.

Seize the day. “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” – Henry David Thoreau

Have no fear. “If you really want to do something, no one can stop you. But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.” – James A. Owen

Let go of pride. “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you. – C.S. Lewis

Find your tribe. “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is wiling to trust him.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Learn, always. “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Know thyself. “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” – Lao Tzu

To thine own self be true. “Every once in a while, the Universe opens itself up to you and you alone, and shows you something that no one else is going to understand. And you have to decide in that moment how much you believe in what you have seeneven if everyone else in the world tells you you’re wrong.” – James A. Owen


The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”  Robert Frost

Inheritance, a Poem

Hard to recall, the games of youth,
Not of bat nor ball, but fear, mistruth.

N’er seen nor read, the rulebook exists.
Throughout generations it cries, “Persist!”

Practice makes perfect, repetition the guide
We learned to dance and perform with pride.

But now the coach, I find instead
Angry wounds of fear and dread.

I played them well, as a good son should
Denying all for the greater good.

But now I find I haven’t the voice;
The game did steal my very choice

Perhaps I’ve fallen from mother’s grace
For not completing the started race

But choice. I’ll reclaim the forgotten prize,
The joy, the love, in unspoiled eyes

Bury the whistle, forget the rules
Love instead, unconditional tool!

So when new progenitor, the game recalls,
Will cherish the time of bats and balls.

I Hope You Fail

I remember looking at the red dirt as I walked up a small hill—an oddity in Northern Argentina where everything is flat. I remember the feeling I had for my companion; at the time I might have called it justified disdain, now I realize it was hate.

I remember my companion stopping at the top of that hill and calling me out for my poor attitude. I was embarrassed, because deep down I knew I was out of line. But I was also angry that he dared point that out, so I laid into him verbally, hitting him with everything I could think of.

I’ve felt those same monstrous feelings many times in my life. It’s more than dislike, or intolerance. It’s more than frustration or annoyance. The feeling brings with it the darkness, greater than resentment and disdain. I can call it hate, but that doesn’t quite explain it. Its more than, “I hate you,” it’s more like “I hope you fail.”

Through the Atonement of Christ, I had a change of heart, and by the end of that month we were close friends, and continue to be today. I often reflect on that moment, and have learned many gospel lessons from my weakness.

I spent a lot of my life, treating this existence like a race. The analogy almost fits. There’s a start and a finish, there are lanes (bounds) that we run in, we have coaches and fans cheering us on, and we’ve got to put forth some effort to advance down the track.

But the more I think about it, life is nothing like a race.

In a race, if the guy next to me trips, I have a better shot at winning. His loss is my gain. No, life is nothing like a race.

Christ said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

Our invitation into heaven has nothing to do with the choices of others. We will be held accountable for our own sins, and it is through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind can be saved. Our qualifying for the saving grace is dependent on our obedience to the principles and participation in the ordinances of the gospel, particularly faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the holy spirit.

If the guy next to me trips—struggles in this existence, it doesn’t increase my chances of making it to one of those mansions. In fact, if I don’t stop and help the guy up, I could find myself in need of repentance for any number of transgressions. We are commanded to love one another. As disciples of Christ we have covenanted to bear up one another’s burdens, and mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort.

josephHoping someone fails is more than not helping a neighbor, it’s pushing him down. To root for someone’s failure, exposure, or downfall is obviously unchristian; I think they are similar feelings to those Cain had for Abel, Rueben for Joseph, Saul for David, and so on. Isn’t this feeling the very drive of evil? Doesn’t Satan desire God to fail?

phelpsAnd yet contrast these feelings with those lessons of the righteous like Joseph who after being sold into Egypt, incarcerated, and enslaved, openly forgave his brothers, loved them, and tried to help them out. Joseph Smith had many that hoped for his failure, some of those closest to him, such as W. W. Phelps who he responded in love, “Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, For friends at first, are friends again at last.”

As true Disciples of Christ we ought instead root for the success of others. Rather than push a fellow down, let us pick him up and help him along. Love should be our tool, not envy, charity, not pride, forgiveness, not resentment. I have wronged a good many people in my life. I hope that they are kinder to me than I have been to others.

Dnews 20.CESUchtdorf.0113.chnPresident Uchtdorf stated, “My beloved fellow disciples of the gentle Christ…we must realize that all of God’s children wear the same jersey. Our team is the brotherhood of man. This mortal life is our playing field. Our goal is to learn to love God and to extend that same love toward our fellowman. We are here to live according to His law and establish the kingdom of God. We are here to build, uplift, treat fairly, and encourage all of Heavenly Father’s children.”

If we take a step back and look at God’s plan, we see that at one point in time we were all on the same side. All of us here in this existence that have kept their first estate, waged war against Satan and his followers. In the pre-mortal life we rooted for each other, we helped each other out.

CU040423-006hrI believe that many of us chose to come to this existence, having hope that the Atonement of Christ could save us from physical and spiritual death. Also having faith in Christ that he would fulfill his promise and that through his sacrifice we could be made whole and receive eternal life. And also having charity, love for those around us. Perhaps in that Great War we persuaded those that struggled with the prospect of leaving Father’s presence, dying physically and spiritually, to not worry, because all of us up there would be down here, and we could bind together in families and wards, and communities, and nations, and help one another to keep our second estate.

Life is not a race. We are all on the same team. Please help me to succeed. I hope you succeed.

Covenant Maker, Covenant Keeper

One of the purposes of the Aaronic Preisthood is to prepare to make and keep sacred covenants. I’ve been thinking lately of those covenants I’ve made and have been asking myself the following question.

I am a covenant maker, am I a covenant keeper?

It was with that in mind as I listened to the sessions of General Conference and counted some 84 times that I heard covenants mentioned. Here is a list of the quotes I found most helpful.

Eyring“Whoever you are and wherever you may be, you hold in your hands the happiness of more people than you can now imagine. Every day and every hour you can choose to make or keep a covenant with God.”

– President Henry B. Eyring

“Wherever you are on the path to inherit the gift of eternal life, you have the opportunity to show many people the way to greater happiness. When you choose whether to make or keep a covenant with God, you choose whether you will leave an inheritance of hope to those who might follow your example.”

– President Henry B. Eyring

“You may be the first in your family to lead the way to eternal life along the path of sacred covenants made and kept with diligence and faith. Each covenant brings with it duties and promises. For all of us…those duties are sometimes simple but are often difficult. But remember, the duties must sometimes be difficult because their purpose is to move us along the path to live forever with Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in families.”

 – President Henry B. Eyring

“Keeping our second estate depends on our making covenants with God and faithfully performing the duties they require of us. It takes faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior to keep sacred covenants for a lifetime.”

 – President Henry B. Eyring

“The greatest of all the blessings of God, eternal life, will come to us only as we make covenants offered in the true Church of Jesus Christ by His authorized servants.”

– President Henry B. Eyring

This plan is marked by covenants with God. It is our free choice whether we make and keep those covenants.

– President Henry B. Eyring

By revelation, Eve recognized the way home to God. She knew that the Atonement of Jesus Christ made eternal life possible in families. She was sure, as you can be, that as she kept her covenants with her Heavenly Father, the Redeemer and the Holy Ghost would see her and her family through whatever sorrows and disappointments would come. She knew she could trust in Them.

– President Henry B. Eyring

Wixom“We are covenant-making women of all ages walking the path of mortality back to His presence. Keeping covenants protects us, prepares us, and empowers us.

As we strive to keep our covenants, our feelings of inadequacy and imperfection begin to fade, while the ordinances and the covenants of the temple come alive. Everyone is welcome to walk that path to eternal life.”

– Rosemary M. Wixom



“To rationalize disobedience does not change spiritual law or its consequences but leads to confusion, instability, wandering in strange paths, being lost, and grief. As disciples of Christ, we have a sacred obligation to uphold His laws and commandments and the covenants which we take upon ourselves.”

– Elder Robert D. Hales



Hallstrom“We need to be priesthood men! Whether we are young men holding the Aaronic Priesthood or men bearing the Melchizedek Priesthood, we need to be priesthood men, showing spiritual maturity because we have made covenants.

Receiving the priesthood and its various offices should mean something to us. It should not be a perfunctory “rite of passage” that automatically happens at certain ages but a sacred act of covenant thoughtfully made.”

– Elder Donald L. Hallstrom



“Self-discipline is needed. Daily prayer, scripture study, and church attendance must be the foundation of your training.  A consistent pattern of obeying the commandments, keeping the covenants you have made, and following the Lord’s standard found in For the Strength of Youth is required.”

– Bishop Gary E. Stevenson



Burton“We are to lay aside the things of [the] world, cleave unto our covenants, and come unto Christ and follow Him. That’s what disciples do! As we try our best to move forward along the covenant path, we become more complete and perfect in this life.

The best way to strengthen a home, current or future, is to keep covenants, promises we’ve made to each other and to God.

– Linda K. Burton



“We are members of the Lord’s Church, and regardless of our individual circumstances, we can all enjoy the full blessings of priesthood power through keeping the covenants we have made at baptism and in the temple.”

– Bonnie L. Oscarson


“Making and keeping sacred covenants yokes us to and with the Lord Jesus Christ. Covenants received and honored with integrity and ordinances performed by proper priesthood authority are necessary to receive all of the blessings made available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

– Elder David A. Bednar





“We do not always know how or when blessings will present themselves, but the promise of eternal increase will not be denied any faithful individual who makes and keeps sacred covenants.”

– President Boyd K. Packer






“Marriage and family are not conventions of men until only death do us part. They are intended to be made eternal through covenants we make with God. The family is the pattern of heaven.”

– Elder Lawrence E Corbridge





Victim or Leader? That’s the question.

clear sight, hard workIn 1997, during my missionary service in Argentina, the Mission President, Carlos Monroy taught me a truth that has had a profound effect on who I am today.

He drew on a chalkboard a graph similar to the one below, though I’ve translated the words from Spanish.

The graph is made up by two components, Vision along the y-axis and Work along the x-axis.

  • Vision is measured by one’s ability to plan, prepare, visualize, envision, project, dream, and anticipate possibilities.
  • Work is measured by the amount of effort put forward, dedicated or otherwise spent.

Within the graph, Monroy drew four quadrants with the (translated) titles below.

Vision Work

  1. Victim: Low Vision, Low Work. A Victim is someone who feels that the world is constantly dumping on them. Often they are waiting for their lives to get better though they generally feel that any good or bad that may happen to them is outside their control. For example a victim will blame those around him or her for how he or she feels. Victims aren’t very fun to be around. Friends and family that try and support, encourage positive results often find their advice disregarded or twisted to the point where they are seen as part of the victim’s problems.
  2. Dreamer:High Vision, Low Work. A Dreamer is someone who usually exhibits positive energy (though they may slip into victim mode when their plans fall through). They frequently speak of the possibilities that await them and often have many plans for greatness in the works. Dreamers are full of lofty, grandiose ideas.  However, they tend to lack the ability to finish goals that they have set. They struggle with meeting deadlines or objectives. Many of the lofty goals lack the careful planned-out structure of getting from point A to point B, and when those deadlines pass, the dreamer typically lapses into victim mode, blaming people and events around them for impeding their success. While vision is a crucial element of success, without work, the world will never know of the dreamer’s existence.
  3. Laborer: Low Vision, High Work. The laborer is a great person to have on any team. Generally, they know how to work and they don’t shy away from it. They put forth the effort. Laborers usually burn the candle at both ends, willing to dedicate time and energy to given tasks. Their lack of vision may create situations where efforts are misguided. They might get down the road a ways on a project before they realize that they’ve wasted time producing something different than expected or desired. Workers typically believe that their happiness is within their control and is directly tied to their efforts. They are self-reliant and very dependable.
  4. Leader: High Vision, High Work. When applying as much vision as the dreamer, with the ability and willingness to work as hard as the laborer, great things happen. These are the people that change the world. They know that their destiny isn’t left to chance, but is within their control. Their happiness is not based on anyone else’s actions. Leaders know how to inspire the masses by sharing their vision and then empower the same by actually following through with the goals they’ve set. Through ample vision, Leaders recognize and harvest the talents of those around them and through example, work to accomplish dreams.

Monroy told a story of a man who raced a team of horses pulling a cart.  After winning event after event the man and his horses gained a bit of notoriety. He was asked what he fed his horses to help them perform so well.  The man replied that he fed them grains like everyone else.  He was then asked if the horses had been bred from a special lineage.  He smiled and shook his head. “The secret,” he said, “is to start the team at exactly the same time.”  When the team was in step with one another, they didn’t fight each other’s efforts, the load was shared and they travelled faster.  A leader has the ability to inspire each individual to contribute and function in his or her unique capacity for the betterment of the team, in step with the other members, a concept known as synergy.

The first two quadrants, Victims and Dreamers, are selfish in nature.  The vision of Victims and Dreamers is fogged by their motivation of fear and greed.  They are incapable of seeing anything greater than themselves, primarily because there is much effort required in selfless causes. The effort to succeed is not seen inside them so they fail.

The second two quadrants are opposite.  Leaders and Laborers by nature are not selfish.  They put their heart and soul into greater causes than self but they see that success comes from within them.

JaceThis lesson has leached into every aspect of my life. As I strive to work harder and have more vision, I am successful at whatever I put my energy towards. Occasionally I find myself falling back into old habits of victimhood. Two tells of this are when I find myself trying to be the Hero or the Martyr–a clear indication that my self esteem is being controlled by those around me. When that happens, I look in the mirror, dust myself off and get to work. I’m a leader and that’s what leaders do.