Today is my birthday. Here's what I think about that!

Today is my birthday. And my birthday has always had a fun little twist to it. My dad and I share the same birthday! (Now I have 7 children and could never quite make it work out to have one of them born on 8/12 to keep the tradition alive! 😊). It was always fun to share birthday parties and activities with my dad.

As I’ve grown older, I find I share more with my dad than just a birthday. I seem to share some of the personality traits that made him fun and enjoyable to be around. A dad that loved to play and do things as a family.

I find that I share some of the less desirable traits, too. Things that I would change about myself tomorrow. Things I’ve been working on changing for decades. Those “weaknesses” that I keep striving to turn into “strengths.”

More concerning is that I see my traits passed on to my children. In good ways and bad I “see” myself in my kids. And on a day where I reflect on my life, that causes me to worry a bit…and smile as I see my kids do great things and think, “I think they might get that from me.” 😊

What about our Heavenly Parents?

Do we get anything from Them? Do we carry with us heavenly traits that are buried in the core of our spiritual DNA?

Paul thought we did. Romans 8

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

We are the children of God. The Spirit can talk to our spirit and remind us of our eternal, spiritual parents.

Moroni reminded us that “the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil;” (Moroni 7:16). We have a little bit of God in us. We have a little bit of His goodness. We have a spark of his love, compassion, joy, charity, and perfection in us.

We share lineage with God.

And I wonder if every once in a while our Heavenly Parents look down on us. They see us doing good. Clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, administering relief to the sick and the afflicted, and I wonder if they smile and say, “She gets that from us.” Or “He gets that from us.”

It’s unlikely it’s your birthday tomorrow, but every Sunday we celebrate our spiritual rebirth. That time we decided we were going to do all we could to live up to our Eternal Parents. So celebrate today! Eat a little cake! Think about your parents, your Eternal ones. Think about the things you got from them. The gifts they’ve given you. The Spiritual presents they’ve poured out on you, and do something this week to show your gratitude.

Happy Rebirth Birthday to you!

The scriptures of Self Confidence

Young [people] of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, remember who you are! You are elect. You are [children] of God. You cannot be a generation of [youth] who are content to fit in. You must have the courage to stand out, to “arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.”

(Elaine S. Dalton, “Remember Who You Are!” April 2010)


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I have had an interesting experience happen many times I receive a calling. Maybe you have too. When I have been called to things like being the Cubmaster or the Young Men’s President or a Deacon’s Quorum Advisor, I immediately think of the Cubmasters and Young Men’s leaders of my youth. My immediate reaction is that I don’t quite measure up. Maybe I just had amazing leaders, or maybe the years have shadowed my memories, but I never feel like I can do as good a job as others.

Are you like that too? We’re in good company.

One of the challenges that we call face is believing in our own abilities to accomplish the tasks we’ve each been given. We are fairly certain that what we’ve been asked to do is bigger than we are.

So did many prophets. Let’s look at some examples.

Here is the response of Moses when he was called to go to Pharaoh and deliver the Israelites.

And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11)

Enoch had a similar response when he was called.

And when Enoch had heard these words, he bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant? (Moses 6:31)

So did Jeremiah

Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. (Jeremiah 1:6)

All three of them expressed the same doubt. Not about God. Not about the plan of God. Just that they were capable of playing their part in God’s plan. And God responded the same way to each of them.

To Jeremiah, “I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:8). To Enoch, “Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, for all flesh is in my hands, and I will do as seemeth me good.” (Moses 6:32). And to Moses, “Certainly I will be with thee.” (Exodus 3:12)

Notice where the power came from. God knew that they could do the work they were asked to do because He knew that He would help them. He knew they were good enough because He knew them long before He called them. He knew they would be successful and capable of the tasks they were given because God knows that His purposes will be fulfilled.

The same is true for you in your life, in your family, and in your callings.

The self confidence and assurance we need to move forward is tied to the knowledge of our heritage. Knowing that we are children of God. Believing that God has called us to our own work. Believing that our understanding of our own capabilities is often less than God’s image of us. We are usually more than what we see in ourselves. We often feel we aren’t up to the challenge because God sees us as more capable than we see ourselves and gives us challenges that can take us to the level He knows we can get.

When I am being honest, in my life right now, I’m not so sure I can succeed in the tasks I’ve been given. We have 7 kids in our cute little step family. We have 3 teenagers and a 12-year-old. We have custody and switching weeks and step parenting and just trying to build faith. I frequently feel overwhelmed.

And it’s possible you are reading this and have an equally long list of your challenges that I couldn’t possibly comprehend. We are probably in the same boat.

I (and possibly you) don’t know why I’ve been given this specific set of challenges and I often don’t feel that I am up to the challenge.

And that is where God comes in with His reminder that “certainly I will be with thee.”

First steps:

The first step in this process is that we realize that some of the stress we face and battles we fight is because of this internal dialogue we have with our selves, not only because of what is going on around us.

Next, we deepen our connection with God to get His love, compassion, power, and help in our lives.

Finally, we start to replace negative thoughts of self-doubt with the reassurances from God. I’ve given you a few that you can focus on today. Here are my two favorites:

“Certainly I will be with thee”

And

“You must have the courage to stand out.”

In the coming weeks I will share some more tips on building your self-confidence, for now, every time you feel that negativity creeping in, repeat one of the scripture messages you’ve read today, or another message that brings you back to God’s love and His confidence in you.

Making General Conference Better In 3 Steps

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As we continue Conference today, I wanted to share 3 ideas about Conference that can make watching Conference more impactful, and especially make the next week better as you consider ways to apply the teachings of the weekend to your life over the next 6 months.

Taking Notes During Conference:

When I take notes at conference, I do not always write down exactly what the speaker is saying; I note the personalized direction the Spirit is giving me.

What is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel. That is why we make an effort to experience conference in a setting where the still, small voice of the Spirit can be clearly heard, felt, and understood.

Oh, how we need general conference! Through conferences our faith is fortified and our testimonies deepened. And when we are converted, we strengthen each other to stand strong amid the fiery darts of these last days.

(Robert D Hales, “General Conference: Strengthening Faith and Testimony”)

I have tried this and it works very well! We will all get Conference on our phones and online very soon. Rather than trying to write down exact quotes of what is said (you’ll have it on your phone anyway!), focus on writing down how you feel, what the Spirit says to you. You will never get that back, so keeping notes on that is the most important writing you can do.

Listen for Hope

If in the days ahead you not only see limitations in those around you but also find elements in your own life that don’t yet measure up to the messages you have heard this weekend, please don’t be cast down in spirit and don’t give up. The gospel, the Church, and these wonderful semiannual gatherings are intended to give hope and inspiration. They are not intended to discourage you. Only the adversary, the enemy of us all, would try to convince us that the ideals outlined in general conference are depressing and unrealistic, that people don’t really improve, that no one really progresses. And why does Lucifer give that speech? Because he knows he can’t improve, he can’t progress, that worlds without end he will never have a bright tomorrow. He is a miserable man bound by eternal limitations, and he wants you to be miserable too. Well, don’t fall for that. With the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed.

(Jeffrey R. Holland, “Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You”)

The messages of General Conference are specially designed to help you get through the next 6 months. They are messages of hope and encouragement.

When we listen to Conference hoping to find the spiritual strength we need, we will hear the things God wants to give you. Try not just to listen passively. Try to find the exact messages of hope for you.

Then go back to idea #1 and write down what the Spirit tells you. These personal messages of hope will give you the strength you need tomorrow, next week, and over the next 6 months.

What You Do Next, Matters Most

There is a treasure chest of heavenly direction awaiting your discovery in the messages of general conference. The test for each of us is how we respond to what we hear, what we read, and what we feel.

I promise that as you hear the voice of the Lord to you in the teachings of this general conference, and then act on those promptings, you will feel heaven’s hand upon you, and your life and the lives of those around you will be blessed.

Neil L. Anderson “The Voice of the Lord”

After today, we are all now being tested. Whatever you hear today, what the Spirit speaks to you today, is now the test. Listening to Conference is great, but the test is not if we will listen.

The test is if we will act. Listen today with the intention to take action.

Conference is going to be great, let’s all make the most of it by listening for hope, writing down what the Spirit speaks to us, and then taking action!

 

It takes time to find joy

“In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalms 16:11


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Last summer I had the amazing experience of teaching at EFY. I was an amazing experience! The theme last year was Choose Joy. (here is a link to the theme song, I think you’ll love it!) Since then, I have been doing some consistent study on the idea of finding joy. My life has it’s ups and downs and not every day is filled with joy. There is pain, sadness, and set back. The quest for joy fills much of my time as I try to overcome some of the challenges God has put in my life.

If you want more joy in your life, this will help.

I recently found a talk from Elder Richard G. Scott with some powerful insights into finding joy. I’ve included some quotes from him and some of my thoughts.

Take Time to Find Joy

“Do you take time to discover each day how beautiful your life can be? How long has it been since you watched the sun set? The departing rays kissing the clouds, trees, hills, and lowlands good night, sometimes tranquilly, sometimes with exuberant bursts of color and form. What of the wonder of a cloudless night when the Lord unveils the marvels of His heavens—the twinkling stars, the moonlight rays—to ignite our imagination with His greatness and glory? How captivating to watch a seed planted in fertile soil germinate, gather strength, and send forth a tiny, seemingly insignificant sprout. Patiently it begins to grow and develop its own character led by the genetic code the Lord has provided to guide its development. With care it surely will become what it is destined to be: a lily, crowned with grace and beauty; a fragrant spearmint plant; a peach; an avocado; or a beautiful blossom with unique delicacy, hue, and fragrance. When last did you observe a tiny rosebud form? Each day it develops new and impressive character, more promise of beauty until it becomes a majestic rose. You are one of the noblest of God’s creations. His intent is that your life be gloriously beautiful regardless of your circumstances. As you are grateful and obedient, you can become all that God intends you to be.” (Richard G. Scott, “Finding Joy in Life”)

Wow, if you are like me, I read that quote and thought…nope. I’ve basically never done any of those things. Maybe looked at a few sunsets, but probably not in the way he is describing!

The key to what Elder Scott is saying is that finding joy takes time. In the world of today, slowing down is crucial to finding joy. When we are moving, moving, moving, and never take time to stop, ponder, and feel God in our lives it is hard to feel joy.

I am convinced that Satan is working to get us moving at such a speed in life that we lose connection with God. The way to overcome that is to slow down. Whether that is looking at sunsets and seeds like Elder Scott or simply resting and meditating, slowing down is an important activity you can take this week to find joy.

But what about pain?

Sadness, disappointment, and severe challenge are events in life, not life itself. I do not minimize how hard some of these events are. They can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining center of everything you do. The Lord inspired Lehi to declare the fundamental truth, “Men are, that they might have joy.” That is a conditional statement: “they might have joy.” It is not conditional for the Lord. His intent is that each of us finds joy. It will not be conditional for you as you obey the commandments, have faith in the Master, and do the things that are necessary to have joy here on earth.

God knows that we will experience sadness, difficulty, and pain. But somehow it is not conditional for God that we have joy. I love the line from Elder Scott that, “His intent is that each of us finds joy.” That is what your Father, the Creator of the Universe, wants for you. To find joy. The pain of our life should not be the center of everything, but rather the joy.

How do we get there?

Your joy in life depends upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His holy Son, your conviction that their plan of happiness truly can bring you joy. Pondering their doctrine will let you enjoy the beauties of this earth and enrich your relationships with others. It will lead you to the comforting, strengthening experiences that flow from prayer to Father in Heaven and the answers He gives in return.

A pebble held close to the eye appears to be a gigantic obstacle. Cast on the ground, it is seen in perspective. Likewise, problems or trials in our lives need to be viewed in the perspective of scriptural doctrine. Otherwise they can easily overtake our vision, absorb our energy, and deprive us of the joy and beauty the Lord intends us to receive here on earth. Some people are like rocks thrown into a sea of problems. They are drowned by them. Be a cork. When submerged in a problem, fight to be free to bob up to serve again with happiness.

The proper perspective is an important part of our joy. Things that are consuming our thoughts and bringing us down now will soon be gone. As I look back on my life I can’t remember many of the stresses and unhappiness of my teen years. They were so important then and are now lost to time.

For others, the impact of pain lasts much longer, but even pain that lasts decades can be overcome. We can find joy and happiness no matter our circumstances.

You can start today.

Elder Scott gave us an assignment.

Make a list of things you can do for happiness, such as:

·         Ponder the scriptures to understand the plan of happiness.

·         Pray with faith in Jesus Christ.

·         Love and serve others.

·         Receive the temple ordinances. Return to bless others.

·         Listen to the prophet and obey his counsel.

·         Be grateful for what you have.

·         Smile more.

Your list will provide keys to contentment and joy.

You can use his list and add more ideas to your own.

This week there are three things I learned about joy.

1.       Slow down to experience more joy.

2.       Put things in perspective.

3.       Make a list of things that bring joy and do them.

Let me know how it goes for you!

A Come Follow Me Pattern

“In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become”)


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Do you often drive to work the same way? Are there restaurants you usually eat at or do you follow a similar pattern around the grocery store? It’s because we usually like patterns. They establish our understanding of “the way things are.” The scriptures are full of patterns. God and His prophets teach us the “patterns” we can follow to happiness, peace, and eternal life.

I’ve noticed an early pattern in my study of Come Follow Me.

The pattern started in John 1:12.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

But wait, aren’t we already children of God? Why does this verse talk about becoming the “sons of God”?

This is the pattern. In the early teaching of the Savior he is trying to lift our thinking from earthly and temporal things to spiritual and eternal ideas. Yes, we are all children of God in the sense that we are spirit children of Heavenly Father and Mother. We can sing “I am a child of God” with power and confidence.

We are also spiritual beings and as spirits we have to choose where how we want to grow and develop. Look at the first part of verse 12, “as many as received him.” Only those that choose to receive the Savior receive the “power to become.” That is a choice we made at baptism to follow the Savior and that is repeated every time we choose to keep God’s commandments.

John wasn’t talking just about the here and now. The physical existence of God and our relationship to Him as children of God. He was talking spiritually and eternally. Lifting our thinking to a higher level.

A pattern is more than one thing.

To be a pattern, this teaching (lifting our thinking to a higher level) should be repeated. And, John repeats it frequently in his early teaching.

John 3 starts with Nicodemus coming to the Savior and being taught this same pattern.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

The Savior teaches a clear principle about our need to change spiritually and uses being born as the analogy. But Nicodemus doesn’t quite get it. His thinking is still here and now. Physical and temporal. How can we possibly be born again when we are old and fully grown?

Verse 5 is the pattern. Instead of thinking here and now, physical and temporal, Jesus wants us to think spiritual and eternal. Think big. Think the length of eternity. He isn’t talking about physically being reborn, he’s talking about being born of the Spirit. A spiritual transformation that has to happen for all of us.

The pattern continues.

We aren’t don’t yet! Look at a few verses from there in John 3:14-15

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Moses was physical and temporal. He had a snake that would heal people of their physical ailments. But the Savior is more than that. He is being lifted up not to heal our physical ailments but to save us in our spiritual and eternal challenge of sin. Eternal life is the promise of verse 15. Moses gave them temporal. Jesus gives us eternal.

More of the pattern.

John 3:16 is possibly the most famous verse in all of scripture.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The final promise of this verse is the same. Everlasting life. The mission and teaching of the Savior are not just for the here and now, they are designed to save us eternally and give us everlasting life.

One more time with this pattern thing

John gives us one more example of the pattern in John 4:10-15. After asking the Samaritan woman for water, He begins to teach her—yep, you guessed it—about lifting her thinking from here and now, temporal and temporary to spiritual and eternal.

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (Jesus is talking about spiritual and eternal things here).

The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? (She is focused on physical. How can he physically draw the water?)

Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (Spiritual water, eternal life.)

 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. (She is still focused on physical things. How can she get this water so she doesn’t need to come to well anymore?!)

In multiple one on one conversations with people Jesus is working to lift their thinking to a higher level. Don’t just think about here and now. Don’t just think about temporal and physical things. Focus on the eternal. Focus on the spiritual.

Eternal growth. Spiritual growth.

I wonder if the Savior came and talked to me today. Would He remind me to stop focusing so much on the here and now? The temporal and temporary? Would He show me the same pattern of lifting my thinking to a higher, spiritual way of thinking?

Is that what He might do with you?

What repentance means

Too often we think of repentance as something miserable and depressing. But God’s plan is the plan of happiness, not the plan of misery! Repentance is uplifting and ennobling. (Stephen W. Owen, “Repentance is Always Positive”)


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As a young Boy Scout our troop was going to go on a week-long backpacking trip as part of an Eagle Scout project. It was my first time packing for a campout where you had to pack all your things in. I had the idea that I needed to pack less than I would normally take on a campout, but I did a really poor job of actually cutting anything out! By the time I was done my pack was WAY too heavy for my little 12-year-old body!

The weight of it was a real problem. There was one leader that was convinced I would not survive the 3.5-mile hike with that pack on my back. We tried to take some things out that I wouldn’t need and, in the end, he decided that the only way it was going to work was for him to carry my pack for me. (He wasn’t staying, just walking up the path, helping us get set up and leaving, so he didn’t have his own pack.)

I’ve thought about that a lot since then. Someone lifting the weight off of my shoulders that I couldn’t carry myself. I needed it then. I need that more now. Now I need the weight of sin and grief lifted off by the Savior.

God lifts off the weight

David knew about the strength that came from feeling that weight come off His shoulders. He said in Psalms 32:

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2 Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.

There is a peace and “blessed”-ness in giving up our sins to God. In choosing to open up to Him, let Him in our lives and allow Him to take our sins away from us. David had learned about trying to hide his sins. He had tried to cover up things himself…and it got a lot worse! (Study the story of Bathsheba and Uriah)

In verse 5 he was taking a different path! In verse 5 he had learned that repentance is the best way to get to blessed! He decided to not hide from God but to confess and receive the blessed forgiveness God is anxious to give us.

God wants to forgive you.

John reminded us that God is anxiously waiting to forgive us in 1 John 1:

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Isaiah taught the same principle in Isaiah 1:

18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

And in our modern day the Lord promised us in D&C 58:

42 Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.

There is no reason to keep walking up the path of your life with the pack on your back that is too heavy. There is no need to keep struggling when there is eternal love, grace, kindness, and compassion waiting to help you lift the pack you are carrying.

There is so much hope in the words of Elder Own in October 2017 conference that I quoted at the beginning. Here is more of what he said,

“We can try to change our behavior on our own, but only the Savior can remove our stains and lift our burdens, enabling us to pursue the path of obedience with confidence and strength. The joy of repentance is more than the joy of living a decent life. It’s the joy of forgiveness, of being clean again, and of drawing closer to God. Once you’ve experienced that joy, no lesser substitute will do.” (Stephen W. Owen, “Repentance is Always Positive”)

This week, take off the pack and hand it to Jesus. Let him carry the pain and the hurt. He’s already paid the price and is anxious to take that pack off your back and carry it for you.

Feel that happiness and relief today.

God wants to be in your circle

Maybe you’ve heard the quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” (Jim Rohn) So, who are these people in your life?

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As you know, cell phone plans haven’t always been as wonderful as they are now. I had a plan at one time where I got unlimited calling to 5 people. I had to select my “circle” of 5 people and I could call them with unlimited minutes. You had to be very smart in who you put in those 5 slots because all the other calls cost you the few minutes that you had on your calling program.

The marketing slogan for this plan was, “Who is in your circle?” We have to answer the same thing today.

The Savior taught how close He wants His relationship with us to be in John 17.

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

God wants to be in your circle!

The plan for God is to be very close to you. Part of why he wants this close relationship is taught in the next verse in John 17

23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Jesus points out two reasons He wants to be close to you. The first is that this is the process by which we are made perfect. Moroni taught us in Moroni 10,

Come unto Christ and be perfected in him…by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ… ye become holy, without spot.

It is only through coming closer to Christ that we can become perfect.

The second reason Christ wants to be in your life is so that we can know that God “hast loved [us], as [God] hast loved [Christ].”

I find that so amazing! God wants to be in your life so that you know you are loved. The God of the whole universe wants you to know that you are loved. If you aren’t feeling that today, remember that God is waiting anxiously to get into your life and help you feel that you are loved.

In addition to loving and helping us grow to perfection God taught us another aspect of Him being in our lives in D&C 68:6

Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.

Those are key words: will stand by you. God wants to be with you, to be in your circle because He knows that He can be there to support you like no one else can. He can help you through whatever you are facing. He is our Rock and our Support.

As the Lord reminded Joseph Smith,

Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. (D&C 122:9)

God wants to be with you so you feel His love. He wants to be with you so you can be supported as God stands by you. And don’t worry, He’s not going anywhere. God will be with you forever and ever.

Spend this week making sure that God is in your circle. Make sure you are as close to Him as you can get. Live your life to be one with the Savior, feel His forever love and support.

How pride hurts progress

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“Our responsibility is to rise from mediocrity to competence, from failure to achievement. Our task is to become our best selves. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.” (Thomas S. Monson, “The Will Within”)

 Looking back, I am quite embarrassed to admit that as a 19-year-old just about to go on my mission I thought I had pretty much conquered all the trials and challenges God could throw at me. I remember thinking that when I left on my mission I was in the best spiritual condition of my life and I was certain that there wasn’t anything that could possibly come in my life that I couldn’t handle—nearly perfectly.

I had no idea! I could never have imagined the stretching and growing I would need to still experience. My fear now is that 20 years from now I will look back at this time and shake my head in wonder at all the stretching and growing I still have to go through!

The key is that growth can never stop. As soon as it does, pride sets in and then we are in real spiritual trouble.

There is an interesting set of verses in Alma that show the difference between those that grow and those that get stopped in pride.

Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.

Now this was a great cause for lamentations among the people, while others were abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy;

Looking forward to that day, thus retaining a remission of their sins; being filled with great joy because of the resurrection of the dead, according to the will and power and deliverance of Jesus Christ from the bands of death. (Alma 4:12-14)

When you look at the end of these verses you see that the second group was “filled with great joy.” I want that! A deeper study of these verses tells us how to get it.

Those that had this joy continued to serve others and grow in service no matter how small. The scriptures don’t say that they did some big, earthshattering act of service and then stopped. Rather they did small things consistently over time.

Can we learn from that pattern?

Are we hoping that some big act from our past will keep us emotionally satisfied and happy well into the future? Are we waiting for some big event before we start to serve or reach out to someone? If so, we are missing the lesson on how we find true joy.

The excitement of a single big event wears off. Even the joy that came from something as significant as a mission can’t sustain us for the rest of our lives if we don’t continue to feed our souls with more experiences that bring similar joy.

On the other hand, those that were lifted up in pride seemed to think that maybe they had done enough. They turned their backs on the poor and wouldn’t give anything to those in need. They seemed to have lost sight of the fact that service we have done yesterday won’t sustain us long into the future. To continue to experience joy, we must keep feeding our souls with the actions that bring us spiritual fulfillment.

Nothing big, just small acts of service, done consistently over time.

Paul taught the same thing when he wrote late in his life to the Philippians. He said:

This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded. (Philippians 3:13-15)

No matter if we have great things in our past or terrible, the way to perfection (according to Paul) and joy (according to Alma) is to look forward.

Looking forward in faith. Looking forward in hope and service to others. Small acts of service done consistently over time move us forward to perfection and joy.

Let’s all look forward this week. Press forward as Saints of God in our love and service to others.

I know about Abraham Lincoln. I want to KNOW God.

Jesus Christ taught many truths that explain Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness and your place in it. I’ll focus on [one] of these to help you understand your identity as a child of God and know your purpose in life. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) (C. Scott Grow, “And This Is Life Eternal” April 2017)

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As a little bit of a history buff I was thrilled when my son said he was doing his 4th grade biography report on Abraham Lincoln—the greatest American president ever! Oh, the things we could talk about! Gettysburg Address, the Civil War, his assassination, his political failures before becoming president, the emancipation proclamation, and on and on. (Maybe you even sense from my writing how excited I became about this project!). Yes, it is true, I’ve read multiple books on Abraham Lincoln. I know a lot about him.

But it would be ridiculous for anyone to say I know Abraham Lincoln.

And this poses a bit of an interesting question. I know so much about President Lincoln because I have studied about him. And I’ve read a lot about the Savior too…but do I know the Savior, or do I just know about the Savior?

Why this matters

This differentiation is important. When offering the Intercessory Prayer the Savior taught,

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) Note the words the Savior used. He said, “know thee.” That implies a more personal interaction with God than just knowing facts about where the Savior was born, where he died, and stories he taught. It means to actually know Him the same way we would say we know our friends and family.

How do we do that?

While there are many ways to come to know the Savior I will only focus on one idea.

King Benjamin taught us one of the most impactful ways we can come to know the Savior:

13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

15 Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen. (Mosiah 5:13,15)

King Benjamin was reminding his people that to move from knowing about the Savior to knowing the Savior they needed to find ways to serve. Earlier he had already taught them that, “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17).

Reading our scriptures and praying are important steps in coming to know the Savior. And it is when we get out and serve others that we come to know the Savior by trying to act the way he acted. This opens our hearts to feel a closeness with the Savior that can’t come in any other way.

I’ll never really know Abraham Lincoln or any of the historical figures that I study, but through service to others I can come to know the Savior and feel Him close to me.

That path is open to me this week as I see those around me that are in need.

Happiness Depends on What You Focus On

“The ultimate Latter-day Saint priorities are twofold: First, we seek to understand our relationship to God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Second, we seek to understand our relationship to our family members and to secure those relationships by the ordinances of the temple and by keeping the covenants we make in that holy place.” Dallin H. Oaks


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There is no more repeated instruction in sports than to keep our eye on the ball! From t-ball to high school baseball I have heard it. From golf to tennis to soccer I have heard the same instruction from coaches. It seems like this instruction is so important and consistent because if we lose sight of the ball nothing else that we do after that seems to have any impact. Running fast doesn’t matter if you don’t hit or catch the ball. It is the #1 priority in all of sports.

Could there be such a simple priority for us in our lives?

Philippians 3:7-8 has a unique perspective on this. Paul wrote, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” The things that used to be important to Paul (gain) lost significance (counted loss) compared to his service to Christ.

Paul goes on to say, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” Nothing was as important to Paul as the “knowledge of Christ Jesus.” He compared everything else in his life to dung.

I don’t think I’m there yet. I don’t think I have quite prioritized service to the Savior and coming to know Christ that importantly in my life. There are times I think I prioritize other things.

We all grow in this.

In Section 93:41-48 of the Doctrine and Covenants all 3 members of the 1st Presidency were given almost identical council. Starting with Frederick G. Williams,

“And now a commandment I give unto you—if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house.”

Then it was Sydney Rigdon,

“I say unto my servant Sidney Rigdon, that in some things he hath not kept the commandments concerning his children; therefore, first set in order thy house.”

And even Joseph Smith,

“And now, verily I say unto Joseph Smith, Jun.—You have not kept the commandments, and must needs stand rebuked before the Lord; Your family must needs repent and forsake some things, and give more earnest heed unto your sayings, or be removed out of their place.”

Here was the Prophet and 1st Presidency working hard in Kirtland to get the Church up and running and the instruction they received from the Lord as to keep their eyes on the ball.

Their families were most important. Not even the establishment of the Church was more important. Running the Church didn’t matter if they lost their families.

The President Oaks quote that I started with outlines both the teachings of Paul and the lesson from the D&C. Our first priority is our relationship with God (Paul called everything else dung) and second are the relationships in our families.

In simple terms the Lord taught us in Matthew 6:33

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Stripping down our lives to these two important pursuits is the beginning of happiness. When we place the proper emphasis on the right things, things that are less important fade away and we can find the peace, joy and happiness that come from close relationships with God and family.

The things don’t matter. The things that won’t be there 10 years from now don’t matter. They won’t make you happy. The small irritations and distractions will fade away. Think of the things you were possibly distracted or focused on 10 years ago. Are they still critical and important now?

In the end, prioritizing God and our families is the path to peace because it reduces stress over unimportant things. Then we have our eye on the ball and can confidently move toward God together with our families.