Saturday, June 16, 2018

June Week 3: Scripture Study

When I was a kid, around maybe age 10 or 11, on a Christmas Eve, my family watched a movie called Empire of the Sun, which was about a boy (played by Christian Bale - Batman) living in China and how he was separated from his parents in a panic while they were trying to flee the country ahead of the Imperial Japanese army.  This boy grew up in a prisoner camp without parents.  One of his fascinations was airplanes and in particular, the "Cadillac of the Sky" P-51 Mustang.  Toward the end of the movie, he is ecstatic about seeing a group of P-51's bomb the Japanese airfield next to the prisoner camp.  I still keep goosebumps watching that scene.  Ever since then, I've loved WWII airplanes.

Then a few years ago, the church produced a really neat video about a WWII P-51 pilot who was LDS and from Blackfoot, Idaho.  In that video he talked about how pilots will experience vertigo and how they have to rely on either a better pilot or their instrumentation to gauge where the sky and ground are; otherwise they would end up crashing in clouds or fog.  Life and scripture study are similar.  We need to have a proper sense of direction or we will find ourselves being misguided.

Scripture study is like our compass and flying gauges in life.  They tell us what to do and how to steer.  Therefore, it's important to equip yourself with the best process and tools in this important endeavor.

2 Nephi 2:32 - "feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do."

How do you rate your scripture reading / study today?

What can you do to improve your scripture study?

Why do you want to improve your scripture study?

What are you trying to get out of the scriptures?

Ideas and Tips for Improving Scripture Study

Learn to read mindfully
so many times, we treat reading like a check box; read 30 minutes, done.  Try to find a time to be awake when you read.  Approach reading with real intent.

Be diligent
set aside time to regularly study; make a habit out of it.  Turn it into a project.  And when one project is done, start a new one.

Find a quiet place where you won't be distracted.

Rephrase what you read
pretend you had to explain what you are reading, to another person or if you were asked to explain a passage to a class.  Would you be able to?  Could you "explain it to me like I was five?"

Use a dictionary / define words
if you don't know a word, don't assume a definition; look it up.

Use scripture study tools:
- Topical Guide
- Bible Dictionary
- Maps
- Scripture commentary
- For the Bible, use an NIV version

Ask yourself questions before studying 
when you have a desire to search, you are more likely to learn

Make it personal
answers to your questions will make scripture study personal.  Also, substituting your name in the place of people in the scriptures helps make it more real.

Reality check
read with critical reasoning.  Lots of stuff from the OT and BoM and D&C should be viewed with a reality check (Nephi and Laban, section 132, etc).  Use the bulletin board or news headline test (if God told me to cut off some dude's head and I did, would that be OK?)  Therefore, use and apply the good, discard the crazy.

Use a journal / take note
very useful, especially when you are preparing a talk or trying to answer a question.  Journals and notes help you remember more easily and if you organize it well, they are very useful when you are in a hurry or need to prepare a talk or lesson.  Journals and notes help you "cover ground once" rather than trying to re-learn and re-hash the same content over and over again.

Look for lists.  Look for patterns.
Look for commands and the blessings from obeying those commands.

Use the audio version of the scriptures.

Read what others have studied
share what you have studied (blogs, social media, books, etc).  Use on-line resources.


Give students time to look at their scripture study habits and form a plan to improve.

Show students ways I've studied.

Walk students through an example of how they could study (pick a topic, or question and go down the rabbit hole)

Saturday, June 09, 2018

June Week 2: Principles for Proper Leadership (Commentary on D&C 121:34-46)

34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

we are all 'called' in some capacity or another.  we are called to be leaders or examples or other areas of service.  what does 'chosen' mean in this context?  to me, it is synonymous with "effective" or "ideal" or "good" or "proper".  therefore, to rephrase it, we all have work to do, but few are really good or effective at accomplishing the task at hand.

from here, we dig into why some people are good and effective at callings or leadership while others are not.

35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

reason number one why some people aren't so effective: their hearts are not in the right place; their intentions are not good.  they want to lead in order to be popular or prestigious or to perhaps become wealthy from the position.

36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

in a priesthood leadership context, some people want to be priesthood leaders to be popular; but they fail to understand that they must always be righteous and wise and just in order to be an effective and good leader.

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

leadership keys and priesthood authority may be granted us, but we lose that authority when we are prideful, vain or when we exercise control over people because of our position of authority.  many are aware of the catholic church priest scandals; but even the LDS church has its own issues and history.  as recent as this year, the news was filled with reports about a man named Joseph Bishop, who assaulted a sister missionary in the MTC of all places.  there are many other cases of heinous behavior of leaders abusing their position of authority (see wikipedia entry on mormon abuse case).

there are two key lessons here:
1. don't assume a bishop or stake president or mission president or general authority are good people.  reserve judgement and be mindful of never letting down your guard.  speak up for yourself; tell a trusted adult if you've been the victim of such heinous behavior.  DO NOT be silent about such matters; whether you've been the victim or if a friend or someone you know has suffered abuse.

2. if you are in a leadership position, you must set a higher standard for yourself.  don't ever let your actions betray the trust of others.

as youth, you should be aware of on-going efforts by a bishop who lives in houston, who has made it his mission to make bishop interviews less sexually explicit.  also, some people think it is a great idea to ensure there is more than one adult in the room when a leader interviews a child or young adult.  for more information about this effort, see:

38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.

do you know what the term "kick against the pricks" means?

a prick or an ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered.

maybe a more modern-day application would be "tire spikes."  maybe you've seen these in a parking lot, where you pay where you enter, but where you exit the parking lot, to prevent non-payers from entering, the lot has theses tire spikes.  if you roll over the spikes while exiting the lot, the spikes fold down.  but if you back up or go the wrong way over the spikes, it will pop your tires - a very costly mistake.

39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

according to D&C 121, most people are power hungry - in that when they get power and authority, the begin to abuse it.  this is a very stern warning for all of us - that we should be aware of our bias toward power.

40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

power hunger is the reason why so few are effective.

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

no one can or should tell you what to do for the reason of: "because i said so; or i command you to ..."  this really only works in the military.  in normal day-to-day interactions, for anyone to be an effective leader, they must actually be good people.

up to this point in D&C 121, we've been talking about the traps of leadership.  now it gets into how to actually be a good and effective leader.

you can't just boss people around.

use persuasion, reason, logic.

long-suffering simply means being patient with people.

anger never really works; the other end of the spectrum from anger is gentleness.  how effective have your parents or leaders been when they get angry or upset?  are you more willing to do what someone tells you when they are freaking out or when they are gentle?

love unfeigned - what does 'feign' mean?  it means 'fake or false or to pretend'.  do you like it when people pretend to love you or when they actually love you?  it's an obvious answer.  so the lesson here is: don't be fake.  be genuine.

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

similar to gentleness is kindness.  again, think of when leaders have been kind to you.  are they more effective or less effective?

pure knowledge - is it better when a leader gives you good reasons for doing something?  or is it better when they just give opinions?  we are all biased in some way or another.  we assume we know, when in reality, we really don't know.  many of us don't admit we don't know.  it is always better to let data and sound knowledge guide us.  this is what pure knowledge is.

being lead by good information and knowledge will prevent leaders from being hypocrites and it will give them confidence in their decisions (confidence = enlarging the soul).

guile is simply deception.

43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

followers will sometimes disobey a leader.  in those cases, the leader needs to provide feedback.  the old-school style would typically involve yelling and foaming at the mouth - which is, less effective.

a better way to provide feedback (which really is the essence of "reproving someone") is to ensure the feedback is given in a timely manner.  this is why your teachers assign homework and give quizzes in between tests.  if a lesson has been given, but the teacher doesn't know you've learned the lesson until the final exam, that is not very timely feedback.  even at work, all the employees are ranked once a year; but once a year feedback is not enough, therefore, we are coached frequently.  failure is bound to happen, but we lose opportunities to teach and learn if we don't actually think about and learn from our failures.

after you provide feedback, be sure to give encouragement and try to make the feedback experience positive.

this whole concept is easily apparent in dog-training.  you train your dog with positive reinforcement; not negative.

44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

better to enjoy the kindness and confidence of a leader than the fear of hellfire damnation!

45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

charity is the greatest of all.  see Moroni 7:45-48.

virtue (self-discipline, courage, justice, wisdom and the related virtues) should guide you in all your do as a person and as a leader.  at one point in time "garnish" actually meant , in part, "to warn or defend" (link).  If we apply this meaning in this context, we should let virtue guard our thoughts unceasingly or all the time - we should never let our guard down.  in today's terms, i often hear that we need to "be mindful."

if we can guard our thoughts with virtue all the time, then we will be confident relative to our position with God and with others.  we won't have anything to hide or feel guilt for.

pure doctrine - sound reason - real knowledge will seep (distil) into our minds like dew on grass.  have you ever notice your grass or a field at night - does it have dew on it?  no.  but in the morning, it does.  it's almost magic.  that process of distillation happens over hours.  if we practice virtue and learn right doctrine, then that knowledge will seep into our souls and minds.

46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

wisdom will be our constant companion.  what else is the holy ghost but a means for teaching us what is right and wise and just?  we want to have those virtues to be with us all the time.

a scepter is a symbol of true power and authority.  kings and queens have scepters.  when you are an effective leader, your symbolic scepter will be righteousness and truth.

your domain or sphere of influence, will grow.  people will begin to seek you out; looking for your wisdom - all because you have take the time and effort to learn how to be an effective leader.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

May Week 4: Memorial Day

What is Memorial Day?

Why do we celebrate it?

Some of my favorite stories to remind us why we should pause and think on Memorial Day.

Apology to the Dead

Memorial Day 1945 was a somber time for most Americans, and 70 years later it still carries with it a special poignancy. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been dead just over a month, and while the war in Europe had concluded, it was too early to begin celebrating victory over the Axis powers. The fighting in the Pacific, where the battle for Okinawa had begun in April and would last through most of June, was still taking a heavy toll.

President Harry Truman, who was working on a speech for the final session of the United Nations conference in San Francisco, marked the day by sending a wreath to Hyde Park for the grave of President Roosevelt and another to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

At Normandy, following a brief military ceremony, work continued on the cemetery above the beaches where Allied troops had landed on D-Day. The paths between the blocks of graves were still uncompleted, and much of the labor on the new cemetery was now being done by German prisoners of war.

Lucian Truscott Jr.
At the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno, Italy, Memorial Day was also an elegiac occasion. Lt. Gen. Lucian Truscott Jr., who had led the U. S. Sixth Corps through some of the heaviest fighting in Italy and now commanded the Fifth Army, gave a speech that is particularly relevant for today when the trauma of our long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to haunt so many vets.

No recording or transcript of Truscott's Memorial Day speech exists, even among his papers at the George C. Marshall Research Library in Virginia.

In Stars and Stripes, the military's newspaper, we have only excerpts of Truscott's remarks. "All over the world our soldiers sleep beneath the crosses," Stars and Stripes reported Truscott observing. "It is a challenge to us -- all allied nations-- to ensure that they do not and have not died in vain."
Missing from the Stars and Stripes story is what Truscott did in delivering his speech. For that account we are indebted to Bill Mauldin, best known for his World War II cartoons featuring the unshaven infantrymen, Willie and Joe. Mauldin was in the audience when Truscott spoke at Nettuno, and he never forgot the day.

"There were about twenty thousand American graves. Families hadn't started digging up the bodies and bringing them home," Mauldin recalled years later in his 1971 memoir, "The Brass Ring."
"Before the stand were spectator benches, with a number of camp chairs down front for VIPs, including several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"When Truscott spoke he turned away from the visitors and addressed himself to the corpses he had commanded here. It was the most moving gesture I ever saw. It came from a hard-boiled old man who was incapable of planned dramatics," Mauldin wrote.

"The general's remarks were brief and extemporaneous. He apologized to the dead men for their presence here. He said everybody tells leaders it is not their fault that men get killed in war, but that every leader knows in his heart this is not altogether true.

"He said he hoped anybody here through any mistake of his would forgive him, but he realized that was asking a hell of a lot under the circumstances. . . . he would not speak about the glorious dead because he didn't see much glory in getting killed if you were in your late teens or early twenties. He promised that if in the future he ran into anybody, especially old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out. He said he thought that was the least he could do."
Truscott's words echoed the reaction to the bitter fighting in Italy of others who had experienced it close up. "I had been feeling pretty much like a clay pigeon in a shooting gallery," Ernie Pyle, America's most widely read World War II correspondent, wrote after landing with American troops at Anzio.

But making Truscott different from Pyle and Mauldin, as well as everyone in attendance at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, was his belief that as a commander he bore a special responsibility for the dead lying before him in their fresh graves. He was unsure if apologizing to them was enough, but he could, he knew, guarantee that he would not romanticize their passing.

Memorial Day: A Time for Heroes

I leaned against an oak at the side of the road, wishing I were invisible, keeping my distance from my parents on their lawn chairs and my younger siblings scampering about.

I hoped none of my friends saw me there. God forbid they caught me waving one of the small American flags Mom bought at Ben Franklin for a dime. At 16, I was too old and definitely too cool for our small town's Memorial Day parade.

I ought to be at the lake, I brooded. But, no, the all-day festivities were mandatory in my family.
A high school band marched by, the girl in sequins missing her baton as it tumbled from the sky. Firemen blasted sirens in their polished red trucks. The uniforms on the troop of World War II veterans looked too snug on more than one member.

"Here comes Mema," my father shouted.

Five black convertibles lumbered down the boulevard. The mayor was in the first, handing out programs. I didn't need to look at one. I knew my uncle Bud's name was printed on it, as it had been every year since he was killed in Italy. Our family's war hero.

And I knew that perched on the backseat of one of the cars, waving and smiling, was Mema, my grandmother. She had a corsage on her lapel and a sign in gold embossed letters on the car door: "Gold Star Mother."

I hid behind the tree so I wouldn't have to meet her gaze. It wasn't because I didn't love her or appreciate her. She'd taught me how to sew, to call a strike in baseball. She made great cinnamon rolls, which we always ate after the parade.

What embarrassed me was all the attention she got for a son who had died 20 years earlier. With four other children and a dozen grandchildren, why linger over this one long-ago loss?

I peeked out from behind the oak just in time to see Mema wave and blow my family a kiss as the motorcade moved on. The purple ribbon on her hat fluttered in the breeze.

The rest of our Memorial Day ritual was equally scripted. No use trying to get out of it. I followed my family back to Mema's house, where there was the usual baseball game in the backyard and the same old reminiscing about Uncle Bud in the kitchen.

Helping myself to a cinnamon roll, I retreated to the living room and plopped down on an armchair.
There I found myself staring at the Army photo of Bud on the bookcase. The uncle I'd never known. I must have looked at him a thousand times—so proud in his crested cap and knotted tie. His uniform was decorated with military emblems that I could never decode.

Funny, he was starting to look younger to me as I got older. Who were you, Uncle Bud? I nearly asked aloud.

I picked up the photo and turned it over. Yellowing tape held a prayer card that read: "Lloyd 'Bud' Heitzman, 1925-1944. A Great Hero." Nineteen years old when he died, not much older than I was. But a great hero? How could you be a hero at 19?

The floorboards creaked behind me. I turned to see Mema coming in from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.

I almost hid the photo because I didn't want to listen to the same stories I'd heard year after year: "Your uncle Bud had this little rat-terrier named Jiggs. Good old Jiggs. How he loved that mutt! He wouldn't go anywhere without Jiggs. He used to put him in the rumble seat of his Chevy coupe and drive all over town.

"Remember how hard Bud worked after we lost the farm? At haying season he worked all day, sunrise to sunset, baling for other farmers. Then he brought me all his wages. He'd say, 'Mama, someday I'm going to buy you a brand-new farm. I promise.' There wasn't a better boy in the world!"
Sometimes I wondered about that boy dying alone in a muddy ditch in a foreign country he'd only read about. I thought of the scared kid who jumped out of a foxhole in front of an advancing enemy, only to be downed by a sniper. I couldn't reconcile the image of the boy and his dog with that of the stalwart soldier.

Mema stood beside me for a while, looking at the photo. From outside came the sharp snap of an American flag flapping in the breeze and the voices of my cousins cheering my brother at bat.
"Mema," I asked, "what's a hero?" Without a word she turned and walked down the hall to the back bedroom. I followed.

She opened a bureau drawer and took out a small metal box, then sank down onto the bed.
"These are Bud's things," she said. "They sent them to us after he died." She opened the lid and handed me a telegram dated October 13, 1944. "The Secretary of State regrets to inform you that your son, Lloyd Heitzman, was killed in Italy."

Your son! I imagined Mema reading that sentence for the first time. I didn't know what I would have done if I'd gotten a telegram like that.

"Here's Bud's wallet," she continued. Even after all those years, it was caked with dried mud. Inside was Bud's driver's license with the date of his sixteenth birthday. I compared it with the driver's license I had just received.

A photo of Bud holding a little spotted dog fell out of the wallet. Jiggs. Bud looked so pleased with his mutt.

There were other photos in the wallet: a laughing Bud standing arm in arm with two buddies, photos of my mom and aunt and uncle, another of Mema waving. This was the home Uncle Bud took with him, I thought.

I could see him in a foxhole, taking out these snapshots to remind himself of how much he was loved and missed.

"Who's this?" I asked, pointing to a shot of a pretty dark-haired girl.

"Marie. Bud dated her in high school. He wanted to marry her when he came home." A girlfriend? Marriage? How heartbreaking to have a life, plans and hopes for the future, so brutally snuffed out.
Sitting on the bed, Mema and I sifted through the treasures in the box: a gold watch that had never been wound again. A sympathy letter from President Roosevelt, and one from Bud's commander. A medal shaped like a heart, trimmed with a purple ribbon. And at the very bottom, the deed to Mema's house.

"Why's this here?" I asked.

"Because Bud bought this house for me." She explained how after his death, the U.S. government gave her 10 thousand dollars, and with it she built the house she was still living in.

"He kept his promise all right," Mema said in a quiet voice I'd never heard before.

For a long while the two of us sat there on the bed. Then we put the wallet, the medal, the letters, the watch, the photos and the deed back into the metal box. I finally understood why it was so important for Mema—and me—to remember Uncle Bud on this day.

If he'd lived longer he might have built that house for Mema or married his high-school girlfriend. There might have been children and grandchildren to remember him by.

As it was, there was only that box, the name in the program and the reminiscing around the kitchen table.

"I guess he was a hero because he gave everything for what he believed," I said carefully.

"Yes, child," Mema replied, wiping a tear with the back of her hand. "Don't ever forget that."
I haven't. Even today with Mema gone, my husband and I take our lawn chairs to the tree-shaded boulevard on Memorial Day and give our three daughters small American flags that I buy for a quarter at Ben Franklin.

I want them to remember that life isn't just about getting what you want. Sometimes it involves giving up the things you love for what you love even more. That many men and women did the same for their country—that's what I think when I see the parade pass by now.

And if I close my eyes and imagine, I can still see Mema in her regal purple hat, honoring her son, a true American hero.

The Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863)

Lincoln at Gettysburg the day he gave the speech
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Six videos to watch Memorial Day weekend (30 minute run-time)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

May Week 3 - Discerning Truth from Error and the Pure Doctrine of Christ

Truth vs Error ... Pure Water vs Fake Water
Prepare 5-6 cups of water (1 with chlorine in it, 1 with salt, 1 with sugar, 1 from the tap, 1 from a purified water bottle)

Bring the class in the kitchen, explain the situation and then ask for a volunteer to see if they can find the pure water.

Talk about what the person did to test the water before they tried it.

How is this like trying to discern truth from error and the pure doctrine of Christ?

N. Eldon Tanner once said, "Freedom is based on truth, and no man is completely free as long as any part of his belief is based on error, for the chains of error bind his mind. This is why it is so important for us to learn all the truth we can from all the sources we can." (source)

The Woman at the Well - Living Water
Next, take the class down the hallway to the Woman at the Well painting.

Ask them if they know what this picture is.

Tell the story (John 4); the purpose of this is to state that Christ could give her living water - water that never ends; that keeps on providing forever.

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

14 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.

What is this synonymous with?

If you were given a pill that gave you the capacity to discern truth from error forever, would you take it?  I think the answer is yes!  This is essentially what Christ told the woman - that endless truth could be found by listening to his teachings.  And what were his two greatest teachings?

1. Love God
2. Love neighbor

Some Absolute Truths vs Nots (Plus some Indifferents)
If you agree with the statement, thumps up; if not, thumbs down.  If it doesn't matter, make a flat hand.

Having self-discipline is good.
Being courageous is good.
Black kittens are good.
Having lots of money is good.
Volcanoes are bad.
Lying is good.
Helping others is bad.
Love is good.
Money is good.
Integrity is good.
Being famous is good.
Humility is good.
Perfect health is good.

What matters in this life is accepting what God sends our way - be it disease, poverty, a flood, wealth, health, certain people (i.e. choosing to accept our fate and be in harmony with it) AND

Helping others with a focus on developing virtue within us and instilling it within others.

That is 'living water' - water that will bring you contentment and peace.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

May Week 2 - Mothers Day

 My grandmother, on my Mom's side was the only grandma I knew.  Her name was Velda.  It may be an odd sounding name at first, but I love her name!  I can still hear her voice, "Hello Don!" as I walked through her back door and up the 5 or 6 steps and into the kitchen.  The carpet was a 70's yellow and the pattern looked like slices of bread.  Grandma's house was so cool and chic.  She was a chic woman.  Her smile was the best!  And she laughed so much and so often!

I was lucky to have my grandma live just two blocks away.  There were very, very few Sundays when we did not go over to her house.  Her cooking was simply the best.  She used real butter.  She taught me how to eat and love grits, pickled beets and rhubarb.  She tried to teach me how to drink buttermilk, but I could never develop a taste for it.  Her roast beef was delectable!

She worked so hard.  In my teenage years, I would help them mow the lawn and care for the bushes and rose garden.  While my grandpa and I did the lawn, she washed the sheets and hung them outside to dry.  I don't know of anyone today who hangs their sheets to dry.  But in Oregon, you could and the smell of air-dried sheets is unforgettable.

She loved to talk and was always interested in hearing how things were going at school and play.  She never pretended to listen - she was always interested and listened so lovingly.

It was such a sad day for me, when I received the call from my sister and mom and my grandma died.  It was over Labor Day weekend in 2004.  What a lovely woman!

My mother inherited all the wonderful qualities of my grandmother.  Mom was a fantastic cook, worker, talker and listener.  My absolute fondest memories of my Mom are when she and I would talk for hours.  We'd talk politics, religion, world events, scriptures and things around the town.  She was a seminary teacher and so she knew how to get discussion going.  I learned so much and got so much deep insight from my Mom.

She sacrificed a lot for me.  It was she who had to get up at 2:00am to pick me up at school after arriving home from a very long and late bus drive for basketball.  And it was bitter cold at 2am in the winters in Oregon.  Being the last child, and with the school so close to home, I would drive home for lunch often.  She always had a sandwich and some chips and some Oreo's ready for me!  My cousin would sometimes ask if we had Cheetos and if we did, he would want to come along too.  So when we turned the corner at the top of the street, Mom would see if there were one or two heads in my truck and then quickly make sandwiches!

She was primary president when I was an 11-year "Blazer".  I remember this one primary event she organized for Halloween.  It was this type of carnival, with lots of games and treats in the gym.  The carnival was in the afternoon on a Saturday.  She bought bottles of Orange Crush for all the primary kids - it was such a treat!  She had a few extra leftover and I remember getting to drink another bottle that night, while we sat by the fire and watched an NBA game on TBS.

We still talk quite often these days.  I usually call her and my dad on a Thursday afternoon while driving home from work.  She is always so happy to hear from me; I'm sure its the same way with the rest of siblings too!  She is a wonderful Mom!

Saturday, May 05, 2018

May Week 1 - Gaining a Testimony

The Context of Religion

Write the world's population number at the top of the board.  Next have them find the number of members in each of the major world religions.  Next, break down the Christian religions and then break down the Mormon religions by the numbers (list off a few off-shoots both from the 1800's as well as the 1900's).

The moneyball stat is that Mormonism represents about 0.2% of the world's current population and about 0.7% of the world's Christian population.

Write on the board the word TESTIMONY.

Let the numbers sink in a bit to let them see the odds of finding the one true religion on earth as well as what it means in terms of converting the world to Mormonism.

99.78% of the world doesn't not believe in Mormonism!  Truly astronomical odds!

As of  May 2017, the number are roughly as follows:
2.2B Christianity
1.6B Islam
1.1B Agnostic, Atheist, Secular
1.0B Hindu
1.0B Chinese Folk
0.5B Buddhism

1.2B Catholic
0.8B Protestant
0.3B Eastern Orthodox
0.05B Restorationism (0.016B Mormonism)

When we say "Testimony" what do we really mean?  Also, what do we do with people who have "come to know" their religion is the one true religion?  (see this video)  In a sense, when we say testimony, we may mean broad, widely acceptable principles and we may mean something unique about our own religion.

Maybe show a venn diagram of some 'common' commandments and beliefs along with unique commandments and beliefs to certain religions.

Gaining a Testimony

Matthew 4 - Christ fasts in the wilderness for 40 days and nights and is tempted of the devil.

Matthew 14:22-33 - Peter testifies of Jesus, sees Christ walk on water, Peter himself walks on water, doubts and Jesus saves him (O ye of little faith) and Peter reaffirms his testimony of Christ.

Matthew 26:33-35, 69-75 - Peter says he'll never deny Christ, Jesus says Peter will deny him three times before the morning.  Peter denies him three times and weeps bitterly.

Despite seeing and knowing and feeling the savior, Peter struggled mightily to gain a testimony of the Gospel.  And with all that in mind, after the savior was resurrected, Peter went back to fishing.  And along comes Jesus and the well known interchange of Jesus asking Peter if he (Peter) loves fish more than Jesus.  To which Peter responds he loves the Lord, then Christ says 'feed my sheep' ... this repeats three times.  Finally, Peter turns away from fishing and bares his testimony by showing it.

This is a good video that helps drive home the moment Peter finally grasps what Jesus has been trying to teach him all along: Elder Holland: Peter, Do You Love Me? The First and Great Commandment

And one other point - if Peter struggled so much to gain a testimony, how much harder is it for us!  Nevertheless, the challenge is worth it.

It's all about the Two Great Commandments

In summary, we gain a testimony in serving and loving others.

A testimony is not found at the pulpit on Sunday, rather it is found in serving, lifting the hands that hang low, weeping with those who weep, going the extra mile, and turning the other cheek.

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but life and judgement day and gaining a testimony and religion and all that is simply about the Two Great Commandments and nothing else truly matters.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

April Week 4 - Recognizing Truth

The Importance of Compasses and Reliable Instruments

Play a couple of guessing games with a "standard" and then the right "standard":
1. How much does it weigh?
2. How long is it?

Is it important to have reliable instruments when building a house? cooking?  flying?

Then what about living your life and people telling you how to live it?

You are ultimately responsible for how you live your life

While you may receive guidance from your parents, your teachers, your friends, the prophets and any number of people and voices in the world today, at the end of it all, it is up to you to decide.

My goal today, is drive this single point home: You (each of us) wholly own our thoughts and actions.  As such, each of us has to take that responsibility seriously.  At the end of the day (or this life) we can't say, "my parents made me do it" or "I was just trying to follow my leaders."

Nuremburg Trials
After WWII, the Allies put many of the Nazi leaders and industrialists on trial for their war crimes.  Many tried to use the defense, "I was only following orders."  But in many cases, that defense was not successful, because the crimes they committed were so egregious - essentially the Allies were saying "you should have known better as a human being."  The Wikipedia page on "Superior orders" does a good job explaining this.

Mark Hofmann, the Prophet and Forgeries
Everyone can be deceived; which is why it is so important for each of us to really check our assumptions and underlying philosophy.  We simply cannot outsource our personal philosophy or religion.

As primary kids, we sang the song "Follow The Prophet"; the chorus goes:
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; don’t go astray.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; he knows the way.

Each of the verses talks about how people regretted not following the prophet.  Unfortunately, "the knife cuts both ways."  There have been times when people did follow the prophet and regretted it.

It is wise to remember we all, including prophets, are fallible and subject to deception.  Again, this underscores the fact that we need to be responsible for our own beliefs and philosophy - we can't just delegate this responsibility to others.

Case in point is a man by the name of Mark Hofmann and how he deceived many of the leaders of the LDS church.  It all started, if you recall, when Joseph Smith and Martin Harris attempted to get a professor to vouch for the reformed Egyptian characters.  The professor's name was Charles Anthon.  Martin Harris took a paper with some of the Egyptian characters on it and asked Anthon if they were legitimate.  Supposedly Anthon said they were, and he signed a document stating as such.  But upon further inquiry, Harris told him all about how Joseph found and translated the Gold Plates, at which point, Anthon asked back for the paper and ripped it up.  What became of the paper that had the Egyptian characters is up for debate.  No one really knows if it still exists today or not; it is called the Anthon Transcript.  Under this cover, Mark Hofmann created a forgery and claimed it was the real transcript.  He took it to Church leaders, who evaluated it, were deceived by the excellent forgery, and then proceeded to purchase the forgery for $20,000.  Thus began Mark Hoffman's career in forging Church History artifacts.

He continued to create forgeries and the Church continued to collaborate with him and purchase them.  Hofmann was secretly trying to make the leaders look bad.  He created what was called the Salamander Letter, which basically tried to make it sound like the angel Moroni did not visit Joseph Smith, but instead a spirit in the form of a white salamander, appeared to Joseph at the time of him obtaining the gold plates.  The Church bought this letter, which caused many members to stop believing in Joseph as a prophet.  Many top Church leaders, including President Oaks, defended the forgery.  What is even more fascinating is that two avid critics of the Church (Jerald and Sandra Tanner) readily criticized the forged letter, saying it was fake, despite the Church saying it was real.  At this point in the story, you may begin to feel a bit of vertigo yourself.  Who can you trust?  Who is right?  Who is telling the truth?  And you'd be right and justified in asking those questions.

Eventually Hofmann was caught in his lies and, sadly, killed people who were catching on to his lies.  To this day, he sits in a Utah prison.

Who can you trust?  What measuring stick or instrument can you rely on?  What is constant and unchangeable and undeviating?  That is the real question we must all try to find.

What is the 'measuring stick' for life?

Again, each of you will need to decide what your moral compass is.  You may find that what you think is right, is actually not.  You may find that after going down a path - a way of life - you conclude it was not right for you.  Many claim to know what the correct philosophy is, but it is interesting that on some points they agree and on some points they disagree.

For me, personally, I think it all boils down to the two great commandments:
1. Love God with your whole heart
2. Love others

If we do well in those two commandments, we can comfortably stand before God at judgement day, and honestly say we've lived those two commandments, then that is the best we can do.

Focus on finding contentment and happiness in things you can control.  Accept the things that are not in your control.  After repeated practice, you will begin to find that virtues such as self-discipline, courage, justice and wisdom are indeed in your control and are also the attributes, which if you develop, will bring you contentment in your life.  Other things that may worry you, such as pursuing money or lucrative career, seeking a life of ease and pleasure, indulging in excess, selfishness, dishonesty, fear, anxiety or general worry - these things are not important and are generally out of your control - so why set your heart on them?

Heart Failure

Why would our hearts fail us?  Read this post to find out.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

April Week 3 - Apostasy & Restoration

How can I liken the events of the apostasy and restoration to my life?

What does the word Apostasy mean?

It is almost always used in a religious context

It means, "the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief"

But isn't it really just a fancy way of saying someone got new information or their convictions changed and they decided to do something different?

As a missionary, I asked many Catholics and Evangelicals to apostatize from their religious beliefs and convictions

What does the word Dogma mean?

"a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true"

Then read a Dr. Seuss book to the class: The Sneetches and The Zax

What were the convictions or beliefs of the Sneetches and Zax?
Did some change their mind?  Some Sneetches did, but the Zax did not.
Did any of it matter? (not really, in fact the whole thing is laughable and sad.  The one dude made a ton of money off of the ridiculousness of the Sneetches wanting to be "right", while the Zax - that is just sad.)

What is the relationship between Apostasy and Dr. Seuss?
What beliefs and dogmas did the Sneetches and Zax have?
Did the Sneetches apostatize?  Did the Zax?

At some point, you have to ask yourself if your beliefs and dogmas (or what you're being told to believe), really matters or not.  Then you have to decide: what really matters in this life?

Let's look at a few examples:

What are core beliefs of Islam?
- Belief in Allah as the one and only God
- Belief in angels
- Belief in holy books
- Belief in the prophets (Adam, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus)
- Belief in Judgement Day
- Belief in Predestination

What are core beliefs of Judaism?
- God exists; is one and unique; and is incorporeal (no body); is eternal
- Pray to God and no other
- Belief in the Prophets
- The Written Torah (first five books of Bible) - there is or will not be any other Torah
- God knows the thoughts and deeds of men
- God will reward the good and punish the wicked
- The Messiah will come
- The dead will be resurrected

What are the core beliefs of Christianity?
- Belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of Go and the Holy Spirit
- The death, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension of Christ
- The holiness of the Church and the communion of saints
- Christ's second coming, the Day of Judgement and salvation of the faithful

Even within Christianity; there is a fundamental dispute about the nature of God, along with other topics.

So you have to ask yourself a few questions:
1. Does belief in a dogma matter?
a. Some people think it is all spaghetti (see CotFSM)
b. Some become agnostic or atheist
c. For others, it is important to belief in a dogma
2. If so, then you are faced with a decision about which one?
3. Are they all correct?  Are they all incorrect?  Is there just one that is endorsed by God?  Or are there two, three?

What does Apostasy mean in the Mormon context?
After Christianity was established, Mormons believe the power, beliefs and traditions of the Apostles were lost.  Catholics believe it was never lost - power went to Peter and down through the Popes.

All through the time of the Apostles and down through the many hundreds and thousands of years, it was just the Catholic church with a few deviations.

Watch this 26 minute video, which I think, does a pretty good job explaining how we got here: … focus on the explanation.  Towards the end, he reveals his opinion and you can decide to agree or disagree.

Then a guy by the name of Martin Luther came along and protested against the Catholic church - thus started the Reformation as well as Protestant Religions.

As a side note, check out this mind-blowing podcast about Martin Luther and the Muster Rebellion ( /

The bigger new churches / denominations are:
Lutheran (i.e. Martin Luther)

Among this time with all the "new" churches established, a new wave spiritualism / revivalism began in upstate New York.  There was so much preaching and debating among the churches there, it was referred to as the Burned Over District (see the Wikipedia entry on this:

It was during this time that Joseph Smith had his own reckoning with religion and would soon introduce the Mormon version of the Restoration of the gospel via the translation of the Book of Mormon, the visitation from John the Baptist for the Aaronic Priesthood and Peter, James and John for the Melchizedek Priesthood.  And then temples, Masonic rituals and polygamy were introduced followed by multiple iterations of Mormon beliefs from the 1850s to the present day based on "continuing revelation."

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March Week 4 - Fasting

Isaiah 58 is one of the best passages on Fasting
Isaiah 58 (NIV Isaiah 58)
my commentary on Isaiah 58

What fasting does for us
Fasting is about breaking bondage.  Bondage from sin, bondage from oppression and injustice, bondage from hunger, bondage from homelessness, bondage from nakedness (see verses 6-7).

How does this apply to you?  Fasting can help with:
- trials
- school
- sports
- addictions
- self-discipline
- health

All of these are examples of a type of bondage we may suffer.

Besides the benefits of breaking bondages, we also receive blessings and benefits from fasting.  Light (knowledge) will enter your life, you will be physically healed, you will have greater righteousness (justice with others and wisdom for yourself), greater power and concern from God (better responses and response times from God) (see verses 8-9).

What blessing will you receive from fasting?
- greater knowledge (smarter)
- health and healing
- greater love for others
- wisdom
- power from God

What others have said of fasting
“When a person starts a fast, biochemical adjustments begin in the bloodstream to compensate for the lack of food. A carbohydrate substance known as glycogen is released from storage areas in the liver and the muscles. The body uses glycogen as food to keep cells supplied with energy. After 24 hours this food source is used up, and another source of energy is needed.

“Dr. Siegfried Heyden of Duke University’s Department of Community and Family Medicine says when this happens, the body starts looking for other energy sources. ‘The first thing happening after a 24-hour fast is the breakdown of fat cells. And these fat cells, when they break down, produce ketone bodies, as they are called. And these ketone bodies seem to have an effect on our psyche in that they make us no longer hungry.’” (source)

The human body spends a lot of energy digesting food.  When it does not have to spend time digesting food, it can dedicate energy to body repairs.  The body will search for dead cells, damaged tissues and other areas including fatty deposits and tumors and basically eat these 'bad' cells.

The mind becomes more self-aware and elevated.  For those who suffer depression or anxiety, fasting may help.  Time that would have been spent on preparing food, can now be spent in meditation or rest.  The Greek philosopher Plato said he fasted for greater physical and mental efficiency.

Mental power and focus increase during fasting.  Think of what happens to you after a large meal or Thanksgiving dinner.  You literally become dumb and sleepy, because your body is using all that energy to digesting all that extra food.  The opposite is true; your mind becomes more focused and sharper because all your energy is available since the body does not have to digest food.

Summary of benefits of fasting (source)
  • improved mental clarity; no more brain fog  
  • rapid, safe weight loss
  • balanced nervous system
  • increased energy
  • need less sleep
  • revitalized organs
  • improved skin
  • improved movement, agility
  • fuller, freer and deeper breathing
  • rejuvenated digestive system
  • restored acute sensitivity (taste) to food
  • increased confidence in our ability to have self-control
  • restored normal metabolic and cell oxygenation
  • detoxification of  things that cause disease (fat cells, plaques, mucus, tumors, stored up worries and emotions)

Friday, March 16, 2018

March Week 3 - Special Witnesses

What is an Apostle?
from the Bible Dictionary - "one sent forth"

D&C 27:12 - "especial witnesses of my name"
D&C 107:23 - "special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world"

President Hinckley said, "They must do all that they can to give comfort to those who mourn, to give strength to those who are weak, to give encouragement to those who falter, to befriend the friendless, to nurture the destitute, to bless the sick, to bear witness, not out of belief but out of a certain knowledge of the Son of God, their Friend and Master, whose servants they are" (Special Witnesses for Christ, April 1984)

Examples of Modern Day Apostles' Testimonies of Christ
give students 5-7 minutes to find examples of modern-day apostles' testimony of Christ.

Joseph Smith D&C 76:22-24
Bruce R. McConkie April 1984
David B. Haight October 1989
The Living Christ

Other Information about being Witnesses of Christ
In June 2015, Elder Oaks and church historian Richard Turley held a fireside for members in a Boise, Idaho area stake.  The topic of receiving a personal visit from Jesus Christ came up in the fireside.

"[Turley] Another claim we sometimes hear is that current apostles have no right to run the affairs of the church, since they do not meet the New Testament standard of apostles because they do not testify of having seen Christ."

"[Oaks] The first answer to this claim is that modern apostles are called to be witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world (D&C 107:23). This is not to witness of a personal manifestation. To witness of the name is to witness of the plan, the work, or mission, such as the atonement, and the authority or priesthood of the lord Jesus Christ, which an apostle who holds the keys is uniquely responsible to do.

"Of course apostles are also witnesses of Christ, just like all members of the church, who have the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is because the mission of the Holy Ghost is to witness of the Father and the Son.

"In addition, while some early apostles and other members of the church have had the sublime spiritual experience of seeing the Savior, and some have made a public record of this, in the circumstances of today we are counseled not to speak of our most sacred spiritual experiences. Otherwise, with modern technology that can broadcast something all over the world, a remark made in a sacred and private setting can be sent abroad in violation of our Savior's commandment not to cast our pearls before swine." (source link)

Saturday, March 03, 2018

March Week 1 - The Atonement of Christ

we are trying to get back ...
3rd AoF: We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel

Why do we need the Atonement?
  • Genesis 3 (God made Adam and Eve - innocent; ate the fruit and separated themselves from God; this created the rupture between humanity and God; the at-one-ment seeks to bring humanity and God together again)
  • Exodus 33:12-23 (We cannot see the face of God and live)
  • D&C 84:20-22 (Ordinances prepare us to see the face of God and live)
  • D&C 19:16-17 (if it weren't for the atonement, we would suffer as Christ did, for our sins)
  • 1 Nephi 10:20-21 (no unclean thing can dwell with God)
  • 3 Nephi 27:19 (no unclean thing can enter his kingdom)
How can sin be overcome?
  • Mosiah 3:7-11 (Christ atones (covers) our sins)
  • Genesis 3:21 ('innocent' animals sacrificed, for coats of skin; covered nakedness)
  • Leviticus 1:4-5 ('innocent' animal sacrifice to atone / cover our sins)
  • Isaiah 53 / Mosiah 14 (Christ is the perfect, innocent human sacrifice; 'with his stripes, we are healed')
  • Alma 34:15 (Mercy overpowers Justice)
What is the Law of Justice? (the Gap; the Divide)
What is the Law of Mercy? (the Bridge; the Connector)
What other scripture references can you find on the Atonement, that are not up here?

Other scriptures that teach of the Atonement
There are other scriptures that are symbolic of the Atonement
Abraham and Isaac - a similitude of God's sacrifice for us
Bible Dictionary
  • Atonement
  • Blood
  • Calvary
  • Crucifixion
  • Gethsemane
  • Golgotha
  • Redemption
  • Scapegoat

Next week we will discuss parables of the Atonement
Share story of the purchase of our first car; had the old Taurus, just started working, needed a reliable car to get to work. Bought the Galant, had a high interest rate (weeping when I got home); after a year of paying car payment, Jeff heard of interest rate, stepped in, paid it off and I paid him, saving lots of money.

After finding, discussing scriptures, read part of President Faust's talk: Focus on the story of the back-woods school / teacher

Assignment for next week "How can I use comparisons to teach others about the Atonement?"

Find 'parables' about the Atonement; from GC talks, from this lesson, books, etc

Gospel Essays
The Atonement
Peace and Violence among 19th-century Latter-day Saints (blood atonement)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

February Week 4 - Doctrine of Christ

Ask students what the Doctrine of Christ is.
Some might give answers that are 'close', but keep prodding them to get the correct answer

Hint: the answer in the scriptures is near the parable of the good Samaritan
- Love God
- Love neighbor
- Write these on the board

Read passage from
Joseph Smith confirmed the Savior’s central role in our doctrine in one definitive sentence:
“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it."
  • What is an appendage? Draw a stick figure body on the board; what can you lose and still live? That is an appendage
  • That means, if we love God and our neighbor, that is all that truly matters; everything else is an appendage
Give the students 10 minutes to look up the commandments of Christ.

Each student then shares the reference, reads it; answers how it is related to the two great commandments; and how they are applying that commandment in their life

Give them hints of where to look: 3 Ne, Matt, Mark, Luke, John, Mosiah 13, Exodus 22?

I. The Universal Moral Law

A. The Law Of Love
"First, love God your Creator more than anything else. Then, love all other people the same as you love yourself."

B. The Ten Commandments
1. "Do not put anything ahead of God your Creator."
2. "Do not make or worship idols."
3. "Do not take the name of God in vain."
4. "Take one day of complete rest each week, in honor of God."
5. "Honor your father and your mother."
6. "Do not commit murder."
7. "Do not commit adultery."
8. "Do not steal."
9. "Do not tell lies against anyone."
10. "Do not covet other people's possessions."

C. The Golden Rule "Treat Others As You Would Like To Be Treated."

II. The Other Commandments Of Jesus
  4. "LET PEOPLE SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS." (Do not hide your light under a basket.)
  8. "DO NOT RETURN OFFENSE FOR OFFENSE." (Turn the other cheek.)
  19. "DO NOT JUDGE OTHER PEOPLE." (Judge not, lest ye be judged.)
  21. "ASK GOD FOR WHATEVER YOU WANT TO HAVE." (Seek, and ye shall find.)
  23. "FOLLOW THE NARROW PATH TO LIFE." (Enter by the narrow gate.)
  31. "BE LIKE THE GOOD SAMARITAN." (Go, and do likewise.)
  35. "BE MERCIFUL."
This lesson is very similar to the Commandments of Christ lesson.

Consider ending the lesson by watching Jean Valjean video(s) (see this post)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

February Week 2 - Learning continued

books are gateway to knowledge
Opening: The Joy of Learning
Write on board "TIL"
- what does that mean?
- talk about some fascinating things from /r/TIL

Learning isn't all boring.  Granted, there are things you have to learn, but in many other cases, learning is a joy; learning gives you knowledge, power, insight, the ability to make wise decisions.

That One Class
We've all had that one class where we say, "how is this going to help me?"  For some, it is English; for others it is Math.  For me, it was Physical Science 101 at BYU.  Probably my worst grade at BYU, one of only 2 C's I got.  Sometimes, you just have to take it and do your best to get something out of it.

The Joy of Learning
For me, joy in learning comes from reading really interesting books
- Scriptures
- Meditations
- Inner Citadel
- Culture and Carnage
- Rough Stone Rolling

Ask students for examples of times when they've had to take "that one class".  How did they cope?  What did they do to make the best of it?

Ask students examples of times when they've experienced the joy of learning.  Why was it joyful?  What make it enjoyable?  How did it make them a better person?

fiber optic cables (how data moves)
The Process of Learning
Have students read "Seek Learning by Faith" (September 2007 Ensign) by Bednar.
- Students share 3 things they learn from the article

The Cycle of Learning by Faith
Assurance (hope) leads to action, which leads to evidence

As you look back on your life, what things have you now learned, but at the time you began to learn them, you had doubts?  For example, anyone who has learned to play an instrument - how did you feel the first time you played compared to how you feel now?

Assurance: you believe, you trust in the future - that there will be a way

Action: based on assurance and evidence, you act

Evidence: after you have acted, the outcome may or may not be what was expected.  But you are wiser and much closer to achieving what you have faith in.

Lectures on Faith
You can access the Lectures on Faith at

Read verses 10-11 in the 1st Lecture

10 If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thoughts and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action, in them; that without it, both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.

11 Were this class to go back and reflect upon the history of their lives, from the period of their first recollection, and ask themselves, what principle excited them to action, or what gave them energy and activity, in all their lawful avocations, callings and pursuits, what would be the answer? Would it not be that it was the assurance which we had of the existence of things which we had not seen, as yet?—Was it not the hope which you had, in consequence of your belief in the existence of unseen things, which stimulated you to action and exertion, in order to obtain them? Are you not dependent on your faith, or belief, for the acquisition of all knowledge, wisdom and intelligence? Would you exert yourselves to obtain wisdom and intelligence, unless you did believe that you could obtain them? Would you have ever sown if you had not believed that you would reap? Would you have ever planted if you had not believed that you would gather? Would you have ever asked unless you had believed that you would receive? Would you have ever sought unless you had believed that you would have found? Or would you have ever knocked unless you had believed that it would have been opened unto you? In a word, is there any thing that you would have done, either physical or mental, if you had not previously believed? Are not all your exertions, of every kind, dependent on your faith? Or may we not ask, what have you, or what do you possess, which you have not obtained by reason of your faith? Your food, your raiment, your lodgings, are they not all by reason of your faith? Reflect, and ask yourselves, if these things are not so. Turn your thoughts on your own minds, and see if faith is not the moving cause of all action in yourselves; and if the moving cause in you, is it not in all other intelligent beings?

To Act and not be Acted Upon
Read 2 Nephi 2:13-14

Learning by faith and from experience are two of the central features of the Father’s plan of happiness. The Savior preserved moral agency through the Atonement and made it possible for us to act and to learn by faith. Lucifer’s rebellion against the plan sought to destroy the agency of man, and his intent was that we as learners would only be acted upon.  In a sense, Lucifer wanted to do all the thinking for us.

Thoughts on Lucifers plan?

We are to be DOERS of the word, not simply HEARERS of the word

In everything you learn, you should ask yourself, "what will I do with this experience, lesson, knowledge?"

Story of Joseph Smith; verses 10 and 18
Joseph wasn't satisfied with just knowing, he wanted to DO; to ACT

Truly, one of the great challenges of mortality is to seek learning by faith. The Prophet Joseph Smith best summarizes the learning process and outcomes I am attempting to describe. In response to a request by the Twelve Apostles for instruction, Joseph taught, “The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.”

And on another occasion, the Prophet Joseph explained that “reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God.

The desire to learn
Bring in big stack of books; scriptures, etc.
Now, you have the information of the world at your finger tips; and what do we do? Play games?  or become agents?

Saturday, February 03, 2018

February Week 1 - Learning

A personal story about how I chose my career
In the Fall semester of 1994, I was talking to some friends in the Deseret Towers commons area and during the course of the conversation, I learned one of our friends was on a computer "emailing" her father.  I had to have someone explain it to me - what email was.  But once I knew what it was, I was fascinated with the idea.

In 1994, email was something rich kids had access to.  It was never anything I (an ordinary student) could use; let alone would my parents know what it was or how to use it.

I went on my mission in 1995, returned in 1997 and found the world had changed.  The Internet was all the rage and everyone had email!

I continued down my education track - I was going to be a high school math teacher and coach.  Then, when I started my semester-long teaching course, on my first day in a 9th grade high school class, I had this really fore-boding feeling and I felt trapped.  I immediately dropped the class and decided Business Management was the way to go.  I enrolled in the courses I needed to get into the Marriott School of Management and by the skin of my teeth I got into the school.

One of the first courses I had to take was Information Systems 201.  One of my assignments was to watch a documentary called "Triumph of the Nerds" (on YouTube).  It motivated me more than anything else to go into "computers" as a career.  And the rest is history - I graduated with a degree in Information Systems in 2000, landed a job in 2001 and have been in the IT world ever since.

Problem Solving and Learning
Lots of different examples here as part of an object lesson
- chess puzzle
- cross-word puzzle
- sudoku
- Samorost
- escape room
- tallest tower with spaghetti noodles, and marshmallows

Have students try to solve some puzzles, individually as well as in small groups.

The problem of life
Assume you are now on your own.  What do you do?
- will you serve a mission?
- who will you marry?
- what will my career be?

Elder and Sister Oaks have said, "Our quest for truth should be as broad as our life’s activities and as deep as our circumstances permit. A learned Latter-day Saint should seek to understand the important religious, physical, social, and political problems of the day. The more knowledge we have of heavenly laws and earthly things, the greater influence we can exert for good on those around us and the safer we will be from scurrilous and evil influences that may confuse and destroy us." (Learning and Latter-day Saints)

Adult life, in my opinion, is like leading a symphony.  You can't just lead the clarinets or just the brass section or any one group.  You must manage the entire orchestra.  If one area falters, it can and may impact other areas of your life.  You have to learn to manage all aspects of your life.

What do you need to learn in order to manage your whole life?
- list out aspects / responses from students
(financial management, raising kids, being loving and kind to others, being a good leader at work, school, family, church, how to cook and manage the household and yard)
- draw a spider web map to show imbalance and balance

Students share
what is your career going to be?
how is learning important in your life?
what do you plan to study in college?
if you don't know, how are you going to find out?

The job description (link)
POSITION: Mother, Mom, Mama

JOB DESCRIPTION: Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work, in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required -- including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties are also required; frequently, on very short notice.

RESPONSIBILITIES: The rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5. Must be willing to bite your tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat -- in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices. Must always hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final complete accountability for the quality of the end product. Responsibilities also include, floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT AND PROMOTION: Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: None required, unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION: Get this! You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18, because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it, and wish you could only do more.

BENEFITS: No health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered -- however, this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life, if you play your cards right.