Saturday, February 18, 2017

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 lecturesonfaith.com

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.

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 04, 2017

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, 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.



Saturday, January 28, 2017

January Week 5 - Becoming a Disciple of Christ

The Yoke of Christ
- read Matthew 11:28-30
- what is a yoke?
- designed to carry burdens
- weight distributed between two animals
- more work done; efficiency
- can be custom fitted
- "you don't have to face life's burdens alone"

who would you rather be yoked with?  a big strong, battle-tested person or someone who lacks experience and who may flee at the thought of difficulties?

read and discuss the following:

D&C 76:107 - trod the wine press along, faced fierceness of God
Alma 7:11-12 - faced and overcame pain, afflictions and temptations of every kind

All that Jesus asks is that we learn of him; take upon us His name; keep his commandments.

This is ultimately the process we must pursue to become "perfected in him" (Moroni 10:32) and become his disciple.

Becoming a Disciple of Christ = Expanding our Capacity
- what is the definition of capacity?
(1) 'the maximum amount that something can contain'
(2) 'the ability or power to do, experience, or understand something'
(3) 'a specified role or position'

When Christ laid down his law - his commandments - for us to follow and then asked us to follow him, he did so with a love and charity that seeks to truly make us better than what we currently are.



C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

every week we learn; but are we translating that into action?
the true path of discipleship is in the doing.

Neal Maxwell said, "One mistake we can make during this mortal experience is to value knowledge apart from the other qualities to be developed in submissive discipleship. Knowledge—discovery, its preservation, its perpetuation—is very important. Yet, being knowledgeable while leaving undeveloped the virtues of love, mercy, meekness, and patience is not enough for full discipleship. Mere intellectual assent to a truth deprives us of the relevant, personal experiences that come from applying what we profess to believe. There were probably orientation briefings in the premortal world about how this mortal life would unfold for us, but the real experience is another thing!

Thus, while knowledge is clearly very important, standing alone it cannot save us. I worry sometimes that we get so busy discussing the doctrines in various Church classes that talking about them almost becomes a substitute for applying them. One cannot improve upon the sobering words of King Benjamin, who said, “Now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4:10). Such is still the test. Deeds, not words—and becoming, not describing—are dominant in true discipleship." (Becoming a Disciple Ensign June 1996)

Discipleship is a daily battle
... requiring us to pick up the cross daily, and carrying it all day, at all times in all places.  It is no easy task.

At all sides, we have temptations and the tugs and pulls of friends and family and school and fame and ease and rest and pleasure.

Often we see people praise Jesus on Sunday, but will not worship him with their actions.  These too, we must forgive and have no ill-will toward.

Discipleship requires daily introspection.  Have I done any good in the world today?  Have I helped others?  Have I raised the hands that hang low?  Have I encouraged others?  Have I been temperate?  Have I been courageous?  Have I been just in my dealings with others?  Have I been wise in my actions?

Discipleship requires mindfulness; awareness; openness to correction; humility, understanding, charity, work, pain.

Discipleship requires the development of all the virtues, ensuring we are not swayed to either side (see Virtue Continuum).  I like this perspective because it fits so well with the "straight and narrow" path.  As Maxwell states, "The ravines on both sides of that narrow path are deep and dangerous. Moreover, until put off, the shifting, heavy, unsettling burden of the natural man tilts us and sways us. It is dangerous."

Suggestions and Conclusions
- do you know the commandments of Christ?
- when you know them, do you follow them?
- do you have a list of virtues to follow?
Integrity, Discernment, Love, Respect, Humility, Diligence, Temperance, Courage
- do you set aside time each day to review your progress?
- do you welcome feedback from others?

use a journal to track your progress.  my daily journal consists of writing about something for which i'm grateful, describing how my day would be great; an affirmation to help me focus on a virtue.  and then at the end of the day, i review my attitude and recognize what things I did well and where I could have done better.  I don't "criticize" myself, rather I provide counsel and advice for improvement.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January Week 4 - Commandments of Christ


Introduction
Write question on board: "what is it you value in life?
Answers might be:
- family
- $$$
- food
- atonement
- car
- education
- friends
- nature
- art
- sports
- scriptures
- books
- star wars battlefront (xbox)
- love
- happiness
- animals

Give students 10 minutes or so to look up the commandments of Christ.  Limit search to the New Testament.  Guide them to look in NT, or 3 Nephi 11/12, Exodus 20:1-17, etc.

Fill in on board, the commandments, starting with the two great commandments, the 10 and all others.  Note that through personal study, I found about 45 commandments.

Next, have a discussion about what do these commandments tell us what we should value in life?

They tell us we should value our relationship with God (fate, universe) and our neighbors.  Note, that neighbors are everyone.

Then revisit list the students made.  Ask what of those things on there, fall into the categories of things that last forever.  The things that last forever tend to align with the two great commandments, the rest of them will be indifferent and will be consumed by time and fire.

Discuss the notion that "now" is "eternity"

The one-takeaway I want them to learn is that they should love others - serve others - be kind to others - forgive others.  That is the sole purpose of the commandments of Christ.

The Two Great Commandments
Matthew 22:36-40
1. Love God with all your heart, soul and mind
2. Love they neighbor as thyself

All other commandments fall under these two great commandments.

The Ten Commandments
Exodus 20:1-17
1. Do not worship or put anything ahead of God
2. Do not make or worship idols
3. Do not take the name of God in vain
4. Keep the Sabbath day holy
5. Honor your father and 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 others' possessions

Other Commandments of Christ
1. Forgive others (Matt 6:12, Mark 11:25-26)
2. Be born again (John 3:7)
3. Abide in Christ and let him abide in you (John 15:4)
4. Let people see your good works (Matt 5:16)
5. End disputes quickly (Matt 5:25)
6. Repent, stop sinning (Matt 5:29-30)
7. Do not swear oaths at all (Matt 5:34-37)
8. Turn the other cheek (Matt 5:38-39)
9. Give what others ask of you, give more than is required (Matt 5:40-42)
10. Love your enemies (Matt 5:43-45)
11. Give to the poor to please God, not others (Matt 6:1)
12. Pray privately, simply - not to impress others (Matt 6:5-7)
13. Fast secretly, not for show (Matt 6:16)
14. Do all that you do to impress God (Matt 6:19-21)
15. Do not worry about material things (Matt 6:25-26)
16. Do not worry about the future (Matt 6:34)
17. Make God your highest priority (Matt 6:33)
18. Do not judge other people (Matt 7:1-2)
19. Do not give/share holy/sacred things to the dogs/swine (Matt 7:-6)
20. Ask God (Matt 7:7)
21. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless (Matt 25:34-36)
22. Follow the narrow path (Matt 7:13-14)
23. Beware of false prophets (Matt 7:15)
24. Love little children (Matt 18:10)
25. Resolve disputes in an orderly way (Matt 18:15-17)
26. Do not oppose other believers in Christ who are not in your group (Mark 9:38-40)
27. Have faith in God for everything (Mark 11:22-24)
28. Be like the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35)
29. Love others as I have loved you (John 15:12)
30. Partake of the sacrament (Luke 22: 19-20)
31. Care for each others' needs (John 13:14)
32. Be merciful (Luke 6:36)
33. Keep my commandments (John 14:15)


Sunday, January 15, 2017

January Week 3 - The Holy Ghost Helps You Learn

Definition & Mission of the Holy Ghost
Have class search scriptures (Topical Guide, Gospel Topics, Bible Dictionary) for a definition and mission of the Holy Ghost.

Some key scriptures:
John 14:15-27
John 16:5-15
- v. 7 "it is expedient for you that I [Jesus Christ] go away"  (prescribed)
Romans 8:1-17
- especially v. 13-17
Galatians 5:16-26
- fruits / feelings of vice & virtue

"counselor" - John 16:8
guides us, tells us to do the things of God; helps us pray - Romans 8

The Holy Ghost won't tell us to do anything contrary to the commandments or will of God.  We know when we are feeling the Holy Ghost by the good fruits (see Galatians).

Case Studies
Spend some time discussing various examples.
- Nephi & Laban
- President Monson and other promptings to visit people
- Mission experience to establish area in Belize (Kekchi speaking people)

Elder Scott
"Once I had an experience that caused me immense anxiety. It had nothing to do with disobedience or transgression but with a vitally important human relationship. For some time I poured my heart out in urgent prayer. Yet try as I might, I could find no solution, no settling of the powerful stirring within me. I pled for help from that Eternal Father I have come to know and trust completely. I could see no path that would provide the calm that is my blessing generally to enjoy. Sleep overcame me. When I awoke, I was totally at peace. Again I knelt in solemn prayer and asked, “Lord, how is it done?” In my heart, I knew the answer was His love and His concern for me. Such is the power of sincere prayer to a compassionate Father." https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/04/using-the-supernal-gift-of-prayer?lang=eng

From the same talk:
"This guidance about prayer given to Oliver Cowdery can also aid you: “Behold, … you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

“… You must study it out in your mind; then … ask me if it be right, and if it is right … your bosom shall burn … ; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”8

Then the answer comes as a feeling with an accompanying conviction. The Savior defines two separate ways: “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost.”9

Answers to the mind and heart are messages from the Holy Ghost to our spirits. For me, response to the mind is very specific, like dictated words, while response to the heart is generalized, like a feeling to pray more.10

Then the Lord clarifies, “But if [what you propose] be not right you … shall have a stupor of thought.”11 That, for me, is an unsettling, discomforting feeling.

Oliver Cowdery was taught another way in which positive answers come: “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?”12 The feeling of peace is the most common confirming witness that I personally experience. When I have been very concerned about an important matter, struggling to resolve it without success, I continued those efforts in faith. Later, an all-pervading peace has come, settling my concerns, as He has promised.

Some misunderstandings about prayer can be clarified by realizing that the scriptures define principles for effective prayer, but they do not assure when a response will be given. Actually, He will reply in one of three ways. First, you can feel the peace, comfort, and assurance that confirm that your decision is right. Or second, you can sense that unsettled feeling, the stupor of thought, indicating that your choice is wrong. Or third—and this is the difficult one—you can feel no response.

What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of His trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. As you are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, one of two things will certainly occur at the appropriate time: either the stupor of thought will come, indicating an improper choice, or the peace or the burning in the bosom will be felt, confirming that your choice was correct. When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision."

Other Links
Liquid Luck

Sunday, January 08, 2017

January Week 2 - The Hand of God in All Things

A Personal Story About Journals
Start by telling experience I had with Erick this week. On Tuesday morning, he was feeling a little blue and didn't want to go back to school. I sat down with him and talked about how life has it's ups and downs. We know the downs won't last long and they help us appreciate the ups and the good times. I got him to tell me his worries and then we talked a bit about how to deal with those worries (we developed a plan). He felt better. Then we decided to spend some time each night writing in our Stoic journals.

Our main focus is determining a few things.
1) What is it that I'm worried about?
2) Is it in my control or out of my control?
3) If it is in my control, I develop a plan to address it
4) If it is out of my control, then the one thing I still have control over is my attitude
5) I need to develop a plan to have a good attitude about the thing out of my control

Tell kids about our journals and how they are useful.

The Two Great Commandments
What are the two great commandments? (love God, love neighbor). Matthew 22:35-40

Relate how the love of God is extremely similar to the Stoic concept of the Discipline of Desire or loving your fate. We should love whatever God sends our way. We should observe blessings and trails and do our best to learn from them.

When we are grateful, we are observing the blessings God sends us.

When we truly love God and trust his will for us, we love the trails and challenges he sends us.

Trust in the will of God 1 John 5:14

Share how the hardest part for me to comprehend is how people can be so mean to other people … concentration camps. But remember how Viktor Frankl reacted.  It was out of his control, he loved the fate sent his way and he changed the attitude he had - even in that awful, horrible situation.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.

I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.

Challenges and trials can be seen as God "prescribing" something for us.  Much like a doctor might unmask an illness in us and she prescribes something for us to get better.  Sometimes, that "prescription" is not something enjoyable, but if we take it, we will be better and stronger.

"What does not kill you, makes you stronger."

Remembering is being mindful
Have them read the talk and then share what they learned from "O Remember, Remember"

Did God send you a message this week?
Did you see God's hand in your life this week?
How will be find ways to recognize and remember God's kindness?

Activity - have class write on chalkboard what they are thankful for.
Or give them time to write some thoughts down in a journal.

Related Gospel Topic Essays
Gratitude
Adversity

Stoic Links
Discipline of Desire (Epictetus)
Discipline of Desire (Path of Prokopton)
Amor Fati (Full Scream)

Sunday, January 01, 2017

January Week 1 - The God You Worship

Who God is and How do we come to know Him?
Joseph Smith said. “There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God. The great majority of mankind do not comprehend anything, either that which is past, or that which is to come, as it respects their relationship to God. They do not know, neither do they understand the nature of that relationship; and consequently they know but little above the brute beast, or more than to eat, drink and sleep. This is all man knows about God or His existence, unless it is given by the inspiration of the Almighty.

“If a man learns nothing more than to eat, drink and sleep, and does not comprehend any of the designs of God, the beast comprehends the same things. It eats, drinks, sleeps, and knows nothing more about God; yet it knows as much as we, unless we are able to comprehend by the inspiration of Almighty God. If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. I want to go back to the beginning, and so lift your minds into more lofty spheres and a more exalted understanding than what the human mind generally aspires to.

“… The scriptures inform us that ‘This is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ [John 17:3.]

“If any man does not know God, and inquires what kind of a being He is,—if he will search diligently his own heart—if the declaration of Jesus and the apostles be true, he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle.

“My first object is to find out the character of the only wise and true God, and what kind of a being He is. …

“God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make Himself visible,—I say, if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another. …

“… Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, He begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to Him, He is ready to come to us." (“Chapter 2: God the Eternal Father,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007), 36–44)

An account of two men who came to know God
Read two accounts of how Moses and Korihor came to know there is a God
○ (Moses 1:1-11)
○ (Alma 30:37-52)
○ How do you know God exists?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U
○ Do you have any experiences to share?

Give class 10 minutes to come up with a list of attributes of God
○ List these on the board (tick marks for multiples)
○ They can use the Gospel Library or the Topical Guide or Bible Dictionary

Related Gospel Topic Essays
Becoming Like God
Mother in Heaven

Sunday, July 17, 2016

how to maximize your meaning of the sacrament

Giampietrinio - The Last Supper (from wikimedia)
preparing for and participating in the sacrament is one of the best ways to find balance and harmony in our lives.

here are some ideas to maximize your meaning of the sacrament.

"examine yourself" - spend time reviewing the prior week; and how to improve in the coming week (see 1 corinthians 11:28)
find a quiet spot, either saturday evening or sunday morning; and spend a good thirty minutes to an hour in meditation.  review your actions and thoughts from the prior week.  do not be critical of yourself.  rather, simply note how you could have done better in your attitude about your circumstance in life, your interactions with others, and how you used your free will.  did you act with reason?  did you serve others?  how did you practice virtue?

next, coach yourself.  envision any circumstances that you will encounter in the coming week and how you can react to them.  think of ways to serve others, from small acts of kindness to truly going out of your way to help others.

consider journaling your meditations and review them each week.

think of the savior's sacrifice during the sacrament
pay attention to the words of the hymn.

listen to the words of the prayers.

while in silence, waiting for the bread and water to be passed, read or recite in your mind a chosen scripture or passage.  you can even work on memorizing a passage that has meaning for you.

over the years, i've focused on mosiah 14.

study the meaning of a 'broken heart and contrite spirit'
learn what a broken heart and contrite spirit are.  you can even start here.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

men's hearts failing them for fear

this last week, a phrase from my patriarchal blessing has been rattling around in my head and i've been thinking about it a lot.

the phrase says, "you will also see wickedness run rampant and hearts that will fail."  the concept of failing hearts is what i've been so focused on this week.

i've tried to deconstruct it and wrap my head around this concept.

the concept of failing hearts stems from a verse in the new testament.  christ tells his disciples of the signs of his second coming.  luke 21:26 reads, "men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."

there is also a video entitled "men's hearts shall fail them", in which russell nelson describes a harrowing flight he was on, where the plane briefly caught fire.  some passengers were in total panic, while he was perfectly calm and he was ready to "meet his maker."  he then reads luke 21:26 and discusses how many today live in fear "because they forget their identity and their purpose."  when he says "identity", i believe he is referring to our relationship with god - that we are his children. he then lists several life-challenging circumstances which causes fear or anxiety in people's hearts.

thinking a bit more about both luke 21:26 and the nelson video, i asked myself, "why do people's hearts fail them in those difficult circumstances?"  two answers came to my mind, because they put their trust and happiness in something that is out of their control; and, because, for guidance in this life, they relied on their heart rather than reason.

how many people have taken for granted their life's situation - and have thought that they are the author of their privileged circumstances.  in reality, we fail to truly appreciate how many things in life are out of our control.  and when something unwanted happens (i.e. it is out of our control), we feel fear and anxiety - and our hearts fail us.

examples of these types of circumstances out of our control would be:
- loss of a loved one (to death)
- financial ruin
- degrading health
- natural events
- accidents

truly, we cannot control these types of events.  so why do we let our fear and anxiety grip us?  why do we let our hearts fail us?

how do we combat this?  how can we prevent our hearts from failing us?

the answer lies in not allowing our lives to be lead by our hearts.  rather we should should use reason to constantly ask the question whether something is in our control or not.  if it is not in our control, then we need to accept our fate, as it were, and try to learn from what life has dealt us.

if we do this, our hearts will not fail us.  they will keep on beating.  and our minds will be content with what we can do and accomplish.  if anything is out of our control, we will accept and even love our fate and exercise our control to understand what it is we must learn from it.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

ponderize selling the good news

on sunday september 27, a new domain was registered at godaddy.com.

the name of the domain: www.ponderize.us

a week later, on sunday october 4, 2015, david g. durrant, 1st counselor of the sunday school general presidency of the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints gave a talk and discussed a curious term: ponderize.

shortly after the talk, people began to shop (at the aforementioned website) for t-shirts and wristbands with "ponderize" written on them as well as "what's your verse?"  originally, shirts were selling for $19.99 and wristbands were going for $2.99.  later in the day, prices were dropped to $17.99 and $1.99 and a caveat was added: "all profits will be going to the Missionary Fund of the Church."

i sincerely hope this (profitizing general conference talks) does not become a major trend.  i have a hunch that this was originally an idea for making money and then when the durrant family received some negative press, they quickly changed strategy from for-profit to all profits going to the missionary fund of the church.

what would jesus say of all this?

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (matthew 6:24)

OCTOBER 5 UPDATE
The site has been taken down.  More info at this news article.

and linked is an official apology from david g. durrant.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

reasons to serve; reasons to keep commandments

taking a cue from elder oaks' talk "why do we serve?" i wanted to apply the same reasons for service to reasons to obey god's commandments.

the main principal behind this talk is found in proverbs 23:7; which states, as a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he."  god wants our actions and thoughts to be in harmony.  when we are duplicitous, in a sense, our souls are split and harmed.  other scriptures to consider are: d&c 64:34, d&c 16:6, mosiah 24:12, alma 18:32, moroni 7:6-7, alma 12:14.

therefore, one of the main challenges in life is to tune our hearts and actions to god's will and commandments.

with that concept in mind, we now can observe the many reasons why people serve and / or keep the commandments.

reason 1: earthly reward
some people will serve or keep the commandments if by so serving or obeying, it will enable them greater wealth in their business or social interactions.  a common example of this might be offering to help someone with the intention that that person will return a favor to them (i.e. buy a product or be a patron of the business).

reason 2: personal companionship
this example is often seen in missions.  people may join the church or come to church because of the missionaries.  but as soon as the missionaries leave, people may stop associating with the church.  people may be selective of when to serve or obey based on who their home teachers are or who is in the ward.  if the ward members are acceptable, they will serve and attend.  but if not, they will not engage.  take note, that if all members strive to be kind and loving to everyone, then people may expand their friendships and desire to worship with all members.  also note, that christ served with, associated with and loved all people.

reason 3: fear of punishment
the scriptures are full of examples of what happens to those who do not obey or serve.  fear certainly motivates, but it does not motivate for the right reasons.  fear should never be used to motivate others to do what is right.  when fear is used to move others to serve and obey, the person instilling the fear is simply using "unrighteous dominion".

reason 4: sense of duty or loyalty
elder oaks calls people who serve and obey out of a sense of duty or loyalty "good soldiers."  without question, they serve and obey.  they are all around us.  their commitment to their fellow-men is unwavering.  there are still higher reasons to serve and obey.

reason 5: eternal reward
those who are 'in it for the long-haul' are those who are keen on achieving eternal life.  they will ensure hardships and persecution.  they are not easily swayed by temptations or peer pressure.  they are committed to god and their fellow-men with the expectation that they will live with god forever.

reason 6: true charity
those who have developed a sense of a true love of god and all men have also developed true charity.  these people have developed a love for all; and have developed the ability to see people as god sees them.  truly charitable people have become fully committed to god's plan for his children, and they actively participate in helping that plan be realized.  as 1 cor 13:1-3 states, we can give our all to the poor, but if we don't do it for the right reasons (charity), "it profiteh ... nothing."


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Silent Night in Kekchi

Lok'-laj k'oj - yin; re cha-bi-lal.
Jun li yaj aj isk quichal
Xco sa' jun tu-la-nil o-choch-nal
Qui-yo'-la jun lix ch'i-na c'u-lahal.
Yo chi-cuarc li Je-sus
Yo chi-cuarc li Je-sus

Lok'-laj k'oj - yin; re cha-bi-lal.
Que'-ra-bi laj il-ol xul
Nak qui-chal lix cuan-quil li Ka-cua'
Xa-bi-man li bi-chanc sa' cho-xa
Qui-yo'-la li Je-sus,
Qui-yo'-la li Je-sus.

Lok'-laj k'oj - yin; re cha-bi-lal.
Xtau xk'e-hil ka-col-bal
Nak li Dios quix-tak-la li ra-lal
Re tox-tzol ut tox-ra ch tz'a-kal.
A'an li Ka-cua' Je-sus,
A'an li Ka-cua' Je-sus.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

El Valor

On December 14, I gave a talk to the Spanish branch.

Buenos dias hermanos y hermanas.  Estoy muy agradecido de estar aqui con ustedes esta manana.

Me llamo hermano Putnam.  Tengo una esposa que se llama Jill.  Nosotros tenemos cuartro hijos.  La major tiene 14 anos y se llama Emma.  El segundo tiene 12 anos y se llama Benjamin.  El tercero tiene 10 anos y se llama Erick and la menor tiene 8 anos y se llama Camille.

Hemos vivido in tejas casi 14 anos.  Vivimos en Dallas por 8 anos.  Nos movimos a houston en dos mil nueve.  Y nos gusta mucho vivir aqui en el area de kingwood y atascocita.

Hay que disculparme por no hablar muy bien el espanol.  Ha pasado casi 18 anos que he hablado el espanol diariamente.  Espero que el espiritu es lo que les ensene esta manana.

Quiero compartir algunas cosas de mi.  Hize una mision en guatemala en mil nove cientos noventa y cinco hasta noventa y siete.  Estuve en la capital, baja verapaz, alta verpaz y el peten.  Tambien estuve doce meses en un area que se llama polochic.  Alli, no hay muchos que hablan el espanol.  Muchos hablan kekchi; que es un dialecto maya.  Entonces, cuando vivia en polochic, tenia que aprender el idioma kekchi.

No solo tenia que aprender el kekchi, pero tambien tenia que aprender comer todos tipos de comida como cabeza de pavo or chompipe (turkey), lengua de vaca, y pie de pato!  Aunque pudo comer estas cosa, la unica comida que no pudo aguantar fue queso duro.  Hasta hoy mismo, no puedo comer queso duro.

Amo mucho la gente de guatemala.

En este tiempo del ano, me acuderdo de las navidades que pase en guatemala.   En navidad, la gente hacen tamales de elote y chocolate caliente; y el chocolate fue recogido del arbol el mismo dia.  Todos los miembros se juntaron pata una fiesta.  Cantaron y jugaron.  Me da mucho feliz penser  en estos recuerdos.

Hoy, quiero hablar sobre la tema de "el valor o coraje".  El presidente monson ha hablado mucho sobre esta tema.  In fact (de hecho?), el ha hablado de esta tema muchas vezes en conferencia general desde el ano mil novecientos ochenta y seis.

Presidente monson nos ensena de cuentos en las escrituras de personas que tenian el valor.

Hoy, quiero hablar de el valor de un hombre de el libro de mormon.  Este hombre tenia mucho valor.  Las decisiones y acciones de este hombre determino el destino de los nefitas por mas de dos cientos anos.

Este hombre fue el profeta Abinadi.

Como ya saben, abinadi fue llamado de dios para profetizar al pueblo de Noe, quien fue el rey de la tierra.  Abinadi mando que la gente se arrepientiera.  En Mosiah capitulo 11, dice "Y acontecio que habia entre ellos un hombre que se llamaba Abinadi; y salio entre ellos y empezo a profetizar, diciendo: he aqui, asi dice el senor, y asi me ha mandado, diciendo; ve y di a esta gente: asi dice el senor: ay de los de este pueblo!  Porque he visto sus abominaciones and sus iniquidades, y sus fornicaciones, y a menos que se arrepientan, los visitare con mi ira.  Y a menos que se arrepientan y se vuelvan al senor su dios, he aqui, los entregare en manos de sus enimigos; si seran reducidos al cautiverio y seran afligidos por mano de sus enimigos"

Abinadi ensenso y mando la gente a arrepentirse por un tiempo.  Pero cuando el rey noe mando que Abinadi sea matado; en este momento, Abinadi se escondio del rey Noe por dos anos.

No sabemos lo que paso con Abinadi por esos dos anos, pero quizas el se esforsaba a obtener mas coraje para profetizar al pueblo.  En el capitulo 12 de mosiah, dice "y acontecio que despues de dos anos, abinadi vino entre ellos disfrazado, de modo que no lo conocieron."  aunque el sabia que el rey queria que se lo matara, abinadi empezo a profetizar y declalar el arrepentimiento a la gente.

Ya sabemos lo que paso con abinadi.  Este cuento no termino con alegria.  Daniel, en la biblia, fue salvado cuando el senor cerro las bocas de los leones.  Sadrac, mesac y abed-nego fueron salvados cuando trataron quemarlos en el fuego.  Pero a abinadi, no fue salvado.  Aunque hizo todo lo que el senor le mando, todavia le quitaron la vida.  Por eso, abinadi tuvo mucho valor.  El sabia que iria matado, y todovia hizo lo que el senor le mando.

Hacemos, nosotros, lo que debemos hacer, aunque sabemos las consequencias?

Cuando tenemos una decision antes de nosotros, debemos recordar las palabras en capitulo 31 de Deu-ter-ron-omio: "Esforzaros y cobrad animo; no temais ni tengais miedo de ellos, porque jehova tu dios es el que va contigo."

Mietras estaba preparando este discurso, encontre un cuento de un misionero que hizo una mision en guatemala hace cuarenta anos.  Este misionero tuvo mucha fe and valor.  Este misionero se llama elder Ellsworth.  Y cuando el estaba en guatemala, habia un terremoto.

[Él] permaneció aplastado por una viga por doce horas, tras lo cual se le halló totalmente paralizado de la cintura para abajo. Los riñones no le funcionaban y no había esperanzas de que volviera a caminar…

“Se le trasladó de inmediato a los estados unidos, donde fue entrevistado en el hospital por un reportero de televisión. Éste le dijo:

“—Los doctores dicen que no podrá volver a caminar. ¿Qué opina usted, élder Ellsworth?

“El élder respondió:

“—No solamente volveré a caminar, sino que tengo un llamamiento de un profeta para servir como misionero en Guatemala, y volveré a Guatemala para finalizar esa misión…

“El élder Ellsworth hacía el doble de los ejercicios que los médicos le habían prescrito. Ejerció su fe, recibió una bendición del sacerdocio, y su recuperación fue milagrosa. Dejó asombrados a los médicos y a los especialistas. Comenzó a ponerse de pie; más tarde logró caminar con muletas, y luego los doctores le dijeron: ‘Puede volver al campo misional si la Iglesia así lo permite’. Así regreso nuevamente a Guatemala. Regresó a la tierra a la cual había sido llamado, al pueblo al que amaba profundamente.

“Al llegar, caminó, cumpliendo con sus actividades a la par de cualquier otro misionero, con un bastón en cada mano. El presidente de la misión le dijo un día:

“—Élder Ellsworth, con la fe que usted tiene, ¿por qué no tira esos bastones y camina solo?

“Y el élder le respondió: “—Si usted tiene esa clase de fe en mí, así lo haré.

“Y así fue que soltó los dos bastones, y nunca tuvo que volver a utilizarlos”

Elder Ellsworth tuvo mucha fe y valor

Cuando nosotros tenemos una decision  que hacer, y es una decision muy deficil, debemos recordar el valor de abinadi y al valor de daniel y el valor de sadrac, mesac y abed-nego y tambien el valor de elder ellsworth.

Yo se que jesu cristo vive y nos ama.  Se que si guardamos los mandamientos de jesu cristo, el valor dentro de nosotros crecera.


En el nombre de jesu cristo, amen.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Life of Gratitude

A Midsummer's Night Lecture
Let me begin by telling a very bizarre story; I call it "A Midsummer's Night Lecture."  I was a teenager; maybe about 14 years old.  It was summer.  We often went water skiing with our cousins or on a church activity.  One night, after returning from one of these trips, my sister and I were dropped off by one of the adult leaders.  We walked into our home, my sister then changed clothes and left to go to a friend's home.  I stayed home.  My dad was sitting in his chair - he called me over proceeded to give me one of the most forceful lectures I've ever received in my life.

He appeared upset that I was not grateful.  At the time, and still to this day, I honestly do not know what provoked the lecture.  My only theory is that I did not thank the adult leader who dropped us off after the trip and that my sister mentioned this to my dad before she left to go to her friend's home.  I didn't argue with my dad; rather, I was utterly surprised and caught off guard.

The point of this bizarre story is this: in my dad's eyes, gratitude was extremely important.  So important, that a supposed lack of expressing some gratitude for a car ride prompted him to sternly lecture me that summer night long ago.

The Utility of Gratitude
I'm a big believer in utility.  If something in life isn't very useful; then why use it?  This life is so full of things and stuff and ideas and philosophies.  And since life is so short, I believe we don't have time to deal with things that don't have utility.  And so, on the subject of gratitude, I have come to the conclusion that is has significant utility in our lives.  I believe gratitude is a type of glue or bond that holds our marriages, families, wards, communities and even holds the world together.  Gratitude changes our attitude towards ourselves and others.  There have been several studies that have confirmed this.  Let me share a few of them.

One study randomly assigned people to three different groups.  Each of the three groups would write in a journal once a week for ten weeks.  The first group would describe 5 things they were grateful for in the previous week.  The second group would record 5 things that displeased them during the previous week and the third group was told to simply write 5 things that affected them and they were not told to focus on either positive or negative things.

I'm sure you won't be surprised, but the group that focused on gratitude for those 10 weeks were 25% happier; had fewer health complaints and even exercised 1.5 hours more than the other groups.

Another study focused on people who wrote about things for which they were grateful every day.  In this study, the results were those people offered more emotional support and help for other people with problems.  Their goodwill increased.

Other studies have found that those who focus on gratitude have had happier spouses and had less bouts of depression.

One doctor, who has studied marriages for over twenty years, claims that he can can predict, often after only 3 minutes of observation, which marriages will flourish and which will flounder.  His success rate is 90% and his secret is this:  he counts the ratio of positive expressions (including expressions of gratitude) to negative expressions between the husband and wife.  Those who have a 5:1 ratio will flourish.

(source: The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier)

Being Grateful vs. A Life of Gratitude
Perhaps last week or evening during this next week, you or your children have participated or will participate in some activity which asked you to list all your blessings.  Perhaps you have made, as my family has done in the past, a Thankful Turkey, where you write about something for which you are grateful on a colorful feather and then glue it on turkey.  Perhaps after singing the hymn Count Your Many Blessings, you have sat down and pondered all that you have in this life.

Certainly, we have all been grateful for things at one point in our life.  However, the key question is: are we living a life of gratitude?  Is there a difference between being grateful and living a life of gratitude? I think activities such as counting our blessings absolutely puts us on the path of living a life of gratitude, but that is only the beginning.

Consider this hypothetical situation.  It's Thanksgiving Day in Jerusalem around 601 or 602 BC.  Lehi's family sits around the table to have a Thanksgiving feast.  Before they begin to eat, Lehi asks everyone around the table to say something for which they are grateful.  Lehi and Sariah express gratitude for their family, their home and a loving God.  Laman is next; he's grateful for a new goblet and plate.  Lemuel is grateful for a new coat.  Nephi expresses gratitude for his parents and Sam was grateful for a warm bed to sleep in.  Certainly they were all grateful that last Thanksgiving before leaving Jerusalem.  Now we'll see who was being grateful and who was living a life of gratitude.

You know this part of the story.  They leave their home and flee to the wilderness.  Laman and Lemuel complain, whine and demand that they stay in Jerusalem.  Once they are sufficiently away from Jerusalem, what is the first thing Lehi does?  1 Nephi 2:7 "And it came to pass the he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks."  Lehi then names a river and a valley after Laman and Lemuel, but there is no record of them giving thanks.  In fact, they continued to complain.  They whined about how Lehi was seeing things and that they had to leave home and all their gold and silver.  And they feared they would die in the wilderness.  I think it is safe to say Laman and Lemuel felt entitled.  They deserved to stay home.  They deserved to keep their possessions.  They probably gave proof that some of their friends didn't have to leave town.  Before storming off, they might have said, "this life is so unfair!".

Then the boys are sent back to retrieve the brass plates.  After hearing their father explain why they needed to go back, Laman and Lemuel must have rolled their eyes and said, "Are you kidding me?  We just got here and now you want us to go back?!"  You know, we laugh at this amusing take on 1st Nephi, but how many of us have said or thought something similar?  What is our ratio of expressions of gratitude to complaints?

I could go on with this story of Laman and Lemuel and Nephi.  But I'll leave that to you.  Maybe sometime this week, sit down, pull up and read 1 Nephi and then think about the different reactions of these brothers.  How did they react when they were about to starve to death in the wilderness?  How did they react when they found the Liahona?  How did they act when they got to Bountiful?  And how did they act on the ship?  In those chapters are ample evidence of what a life of entitlement looks like contrasted with what a life of gratitude looks like.

How to Live a Life of Gratitude
I hope I've given you some things to think about today.  This last part of my talk will focus on what you can do to begin living a life of gratitude.

Ralph Waldo Emmerson said, "cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously."

Robert Emmons, who has done extensive research on gratitude said, "life is a series of problems that have to be solved - and a lot of times those problems cause stress.  Gratitude can be that stress buster."

WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU ARE THANKFUL FOR IN A JOURNAL (blog, twitter, facebook, instagram).  Make it a habit; write five to ten minutes a day, about what you are grateful for.

DON'T AVOID THE NEGATIVE.  Embrace setbacks as part of the overall journey.  Sometimes, you can even recall a hard time you've experienced and compare it with your current state.  You will feel grateful and it may help you accept and deal with current and future challenges in life.

SPEND TIME WITH YOUR LOVED ONES.  Gratitude helps us connect with other people.  It strengthens relationships

MINDFULLY USE SOCIAL MEDIA  Connected to the journal, I suggest leveraging social media to jot down things you are grateful for.  Positive thoughts shared on social media spread faster than negative thoughts.

KNOW THE VALUE OF THE LITTLE THINGS  A kind word, opening the door for someone, a hug, spending time to listen.  All these are little things we can do.  And as we do the little things, we are more prone to pay it forward.

VOLUNTEER OR SERVE Acting on those feelings of gratitude will prompt us to serve.  Whether we help with a big service project or a small project, our gratitude increases when we serve.

(Source: 7 Habits of Grateful People)

Conclusion
Let me begin to close with this quote you may have heard or read before.  It is by Victor Frankl.  He survived the Nazi concentration camps.  Those prisoners were stripped of everything physically and psychologically.  Yet there were some who kept their true freedom.

He said, "We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.  They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given circumstance, to choose one's own way."

And so it is with us; we must choose to either live of life of entitlement or a life of complaint; or we can choose to live a life full of gratitude to our Heavenly Father and to all around us.

Gratitude, when you truly think about it, is a means to connect with people; as I said earlier, it is a type of social glue or bond.  Serving and gratitude go hand in hand.  And when we serve and give thanks and when we are served and receive thanks, we are making a connection with others.  And as we make those connections in our family and with our friends and in our ward and community, we strengthen the bonds of love.  And when we strengthen the bonds of love, we make the world a better place.

I am grateful for my wife Jill.  This year has been a huge struggle for me.  She has listened to me; she has prayed for me; she has served me.  Up until August this year, Jill and I would get up at 4:45 in the morning and go on a 4 mile walk - it took us about an hour to walk that.  And we would talk.  I loved our walks and talks.  She listened to me; I listened to her.  We gave each other advice and we sought to understand each other.  We have grown so close because of those walks and I can't wait until school gets out next summer so we can continue that tradition every morning.  But for now, we find time in the morning before work or at night when the kids are in bed or we go a date and we talk and listen.  I have never felt more grateful for anyone than her.  I love her and am truly grateful for her.

Brother and sisters - please have gratitude in your hearts.  Strive to live a life of gratitude.  I know you will he happier and healthier if you do.

In the name of Jesus Christ - amen.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

"Like" Stats on Apostles' Talks October 2014

10,000 bednar: come and see
9,700 holland: are we not all beggars?
8,100 uchtdorf: "lord, is it i?" (priesthood)
5,100 oaks: loving others and living with differences
4,700 uchtdorf: receiving a testimony of light and truth
4,100 ballard: stay in the boat and hold on!
4,000 christofferson: free forever, to act for themselves
3,800 uchtdorf: living the gospel joyful (women's meeting)
3,700 scott: make the exercise of faith your first priority
3,500 monson: ponder the path of thy feed
3,400 anderson: joseph smith
2,900 cook: choose wisely (priesthood)
2,800 perry: finding lasting peace and building eternal families
2,700 eyring: continuing revelation
2,400 packer: the reason of our hope
1,900 monson: guided safely home
1,600 nelson: sustaining the prophets
1,600 monson: until we meet again
1,100 eyring: the preparatory priesthood (priesthood)
1,000 monson: welcome to conference

i do this little stat check about a month after general conference.  in may, when i reviewed april data, there was no one talk over 8K likes.  for the october 2014 conference, there were 3 talks over 8K likes with bednar coming in at 10K likes.  last october, both uchtdorf and holland had 12K likes, but they were no where near that this year.

still, holland came in at #2 and all three of uchtdorf's talks were highly liked.

bednar's talk at 10K was surprising.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Love

Jesus taught, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love they neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-44)

Concerning the two greatest commandments, he taught, "That shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself."  (Matthew 22:37-39)

And lastly he taught, "This is my commandment, That ye love one another; as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12-13)

To summarize, we are to love our enemies like we love our neighbors.  We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  We are to love ourselves and our neighbors as Jesus loved his disciples and us.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Like" Stats on Apostles' Talks April 2014

7,900+ uchtdorf: grateful in any circumstances
4,400+ holland: the cost and blessings of discipleship
2,900+ oaks: the keys and authority of the priesthood (priesthood)
2,400+ bednar: bear up their burdens with ease
1,700+ anderson: spiritual whirlwinds
1,600+ uchtdorf: are you sleeping through the restoration? (priesthood)
1,600+ monson: be strong and of a good courage (priesthood)
1,600+ monson: love - the essence of the gospel
1,400+ monson: welcome to conference
1,400+ christofferson: the resurrection of jesus christ
996 hales: if ye love me, keep my commandments
952 nelson: let your faith show
899 eyring: the priesthood man (priesthood)
893 packer: the witness
875 cook: roots and branches
847 scott: i have given you an example
790 ballard: following up
531 eyring: a priceless heritage of hope
489 perry: obedience through our faithfulness
90 monson: until we meet again

no surprise again - as uchtdorf and holland took #1 and #2 respectively.

there were no talks that surpassed the 10,000 like mark this time.  both october and april 2013 had at least one talk with more than 10K likes.

the other noteworthy item is oaks' talk which came in 3rd.  typically priesthood session talks do not crack the top 5, but given this was such a hot, hot topic, it registered pretty high.

Monday, April 28, 2014

a day of rest

in the history of the earth, there is one commandment that is older than all other commandments: that of keeping the sabbath day holy.  in fact, the sabbath as a rest day, is a concept that spans many, different religions.

i think back on my own life and have considered my parents' teachings and practices regarding sabbath rest.  i recall a time, when i was young, seeing the mall parking lot completely empty on sunday.  our church was located just across the street from the mall and so we could easily observe how quiet the mall was on sundays.  generally speaking, the whole town was quiet and peaceful on sunday.

as i grew older, sunday little league baseball games began to spring up.  i never played baseball due to this fact: that little league was played on sunday.

by the time i was in high school, sunday was nearly indistinguishable from saturday.  the mall was just as busy as saturday; the town was just as busy as weekdays; people were on the roads and going places.

but my family's traditions stayed the same.  we'd attend church on sunday.  after church, we either ate dinner or dessert at my grandparent's home or at my aunt's home.  my dad, sister and i would go on peaceful walks on the local community college campus.  if we weren't visiting friends, family or neighbors, we were sitting in the living room reading the newspaper or scriptures.  usually, we'd listen to quiet classical music all day long.  then at night, mom would make a small snack and my dad and i would settle into a nice game of chess.

i recall these times with fondness.  sunday truly was different than the other six days.  and when sunday was over, i was really ready for monday and the rest of the week.  my reserves were replenished and i felt motivated and eager.

however, i lament today's sundays.  two or three sundays each month are filled with meetings and busyness.  saturdays are so crammed, that we don't have time to prepare for the sabbath and therefore we are sleepy on sunday.  the kids expect to be entertained and if they aren't entertained, they expect to be able to bounce around and be loud.  if you lay down to take a nap, you are filled with excessive guilt for not doing something.  and when the evening finally comes, you still fill drained and you wish there were one more day between sunday and monday so that you could prepare for the work week.

where has the quiet gone?
where is the soft music?
where is the reverence?
where are the sacred sundays?
where are the gentle conversations?

it is a sad commentary, but sometimes i have mondays where there are no meetings and nothing on my calendar.  the quiet office is a refuge from the busy sunday and i look forward to getting through sunday to get to that monday.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The First Vision Series - Conclusions and Links

I've reviewed the major accounts of the First Vision.  There are other accounts, but for the most part, they repeat the accounts I reviewed.

What have I learned from all this?  I learned these things are certain.

I learned Joseph thought a lot about the eternities.

I learned there had to be a catalyst that drove him to seek God in prayer.

I learned Joseph experienced something profound in his teenage years.  He saw (either physically or in a vision), Jesus or God the Father or an angel or numerous angels or a combination of all of them.

I learned he was forgiven of his sins.

I learned Joseph took his spiritual salvation seriously - he did not leave it to chance or to any other man.

As a reference, I'll include some other summaries of the various accounts of the First Vision.  These do a great job listing the different accounts and how they differ.

Comparison of 9 First Vision Accounts
Primary Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision of Deity
Comparing Early Accounts of the First Vision

Friday, January 03, 2014

The First Vision Series - Orson Pratt, 1840

I've copied below the text from the Orson Pratt 1840 account.

When somewhere about fourteen or fifteen years old, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence: but how, or in what way, to prepare himself, was a question, as yet, undetermined in his own mind: he perceived that it was a question of infinite importance, and that the salvation of his soul depended upon a correct understanding of the same. He saw, that if he understood not the way, it would be impossible to walk in it, except by chance; and the thought of resting his hopes of eternal life upon chance, or uncertainties, was more than he could endure. If he went to the religious denominations to seek information, each one pointed to its particular tenets, saying— “This is the way, walk ye in it;” (Isaiah 30:21) while, at the same time, the doctrines of each were, in many respects, in direct opposition to one another. It, also, occurred to his mind, that God was not the author of but one doctrine, and therefore could not acknowledge but one denomination as his church; and that such denomination must be a people, who believe, and teach, that one doctrine, (what ever it may be,) and build upon the same. He then reflected upon the immense number of doctrines, now, in the world, which had given rise to many hundreds of different denominations. The great question to be decided in his mind, was—if any one of these denominations be the Church of Christ, which one is it? Until he could become satisfied, in relation to this question, he could not rest contented. To trust to the decisions of fallible man, and build his hopes upon the same, without any certainty, and knowledge, of his own, would not satisfy the anxious desires that pervaded his breast. To decide, without any positive and definite evidence, on which he could rely, upon a subject involving the future welfare of his soul, was revolting to his feelings. The only alternative, that seemed to be left him, was to read the Scriptures, and endeavour to follow their directions. He, accordingly, commenced perusing the sacred pages of the Bible, with sincerity, believing the things that he read. His mind soon caught hold of the following passage:—“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”—James i. 5. From this promise he learned, that it was the privilege of all men to ask God for wisdom, with the sure and certain expectation of receiving, liberally; without being upbraided for so doing. This was cheering information to him: tidings that gave him great joy. It was like a light shining forth in a dark place, to guide him to the path in which he should walk. He, now, saw that if he inquired of God, there was, not only, a possibility, but a probability; yea, more, a certainty, that he should obtain a knowledge, which, of all the doctrines, was the doctrine of Christ; and, which, of all the churches, was the church of Christ. He, therefore, retired to a secret place, in a grove, but a short distance from his father’s house, and knelt down, and began to call upon the Lord. At first, he was severely tempted by the powers of darkness, which endeavoured to overcome him; but he continued to seek for deliverance, until darkness gave way from his mind; and he was enabled to pray, in fervency of the spirit, and in faith. And, while thus pouring out his soul, anxiously desiring an answer from God, he, at length, saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above; which, at first, seemed to be at a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him; and, as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness, and magnitude, so that, by the time that it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness, for some distance around, was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner. He expected to have seen the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed, as soon as the light came in contact with them; but, perceiving that it did not produce that effect, he was encouraged with the hopes of being able to endure its presence. It continued descending, slowly, until it rested upon the earth, and he was enveloped in the midst of it. When it first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system; and, immediately, his mind was caught away, from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness. He was informed, that his sins were forgiven. He was also informed upon the subjects, which had for some time previously agitated his mind, viz.—that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines; and, consequently, that none of them was acknowledged of God, as his church and kingdom. And he was expressly commanded, to go not after them; and he received a promise that the true doctrine— the fulness of the gospel, should, at some future time, be made known to him; after which, the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace, indescribable.

Commentary
This Orson Pratt account from 1840 is actually quite moving and flows very well.  It blends all the other versions so well.  This account flows so naturally too.  All the gaps and missing pieces from the other accounts seem to be filled by this account.

I underlined four sections above, which, to me, stand out significantly when the whole subject of the First Vision is considered.

The first section hits upon the notion of whether we put our trust in fallible men with regard to religion.  We learn from Orson Pratt's account that Joseph had tremendous anxiety about trusting in fallible men when his eternal salvation was at stake.  He wanted certainty in this regard.  As Pratt describes, Joseph wanted "positive and definitive evidence" regarding the welfare of his soul.  Without such evidence, he was "revolted."  Going back to what I tried to saw in a previous post - generally speaking, people don't have this anxiety any more.  And even if they do, that are almost always told to "have faith" and that their testimony does not depend on "definitive evidence."

The second section is a variation of this same thought.  Joseph felt confident in James 1:5.  He did not leave his testimony up for chance.  He went directly to The Source with a "sure and certain expectation" of getting knowledge.

The third section paints a very different picture than I had ever envisioned.  Pratt describes how the light appeared far off and as Joseph kept praying, the light got nearer.  In the other accounts, I always got the impression that the appearance was sudden.  But this account describes how it was gradual.  This description reminds me of how the Savior descended to the Nephites (3 Nephi 11:8).

Lastly, the fourth section describes the how the vision went from physical to spiritual.  This was very similar to Joseph's 1842 account where he said his "mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision."  Pratt fills in one small gap and notes how when the light came upon Joseph, it "produced peculiar sensation" before he was en-wrapped in a vision.