Friday, December 11, 2009

What does it mean to love God and man?

The scriptures speak of charity, or pure love, as the supreme virtue, the ultimate spiritual gift. Where faith in Jesus Christ is the beginning of our relationship with Him, charity is its culmination. Without charity, we are nothing (Moro. 7:46, 1 Cor. 13:1).

I believe that the entire purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to make us like He is, to fashion us in His likeness. This means that we have ultimate faith in Him and in the Father, hope in His promises, trust in the Spirit, and love unlike any other. This love is the greatest healing power in the universe. Anne Pingree said, "We long to be close to the Lord, for we know that He loves each of us and desires to encircle us “eternally in the arms of his love.”1 His touch can heal ailments spiritual, emotional, or physical. He is our Advocate, Exemplar, Good Shepherd, and Redeemer. Where else would we look, where else would we reach, where else would we come but to Jesus Christ, “the author and finisher of our faith”?2" (Anne C. Pingree, “To Look, Reach, and Come unto Christ,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 113–15)

Nothing gives me greater joy than the love of God. I feel it on temple grounds. I feel it when I repent. I feel it when I recognize my weaknesses with humility and hope. I feel it whenever my wife and I show our love to each other in righteousness. I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that He is the greatest power in the universe, and that His love for every one of us, and for our Father, is His greatest defining trait.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


For a perfectionist and literalist, the commandment, "Ask, and ye shall receive" is a simple one. You ask God to make you perfect, and he moves you closer according to your limited faith. Keep it up, and someday you'll be a worthwhile, perfect person. Obviously, this is a messed-up view.

The obvious reason this view is messed up is because you can be a worthwhile person without being perfect. Your worth is independent of your goodness or weaknesses.

However, there as a deeper problem with this view. Even a perfectionist who recognizes their inherent worth will wonder why the commandment to ask is repeated so often. They might conclude that there is just a lot of asking and praying to be done on the road to eternal life.

They miss the real reason: God wants us to have wants, needs, desires, and passions. We are to control our desires and bridle our passions (Alma 38:12), in favor of our greater goals and greater desires. However, we cannot succeed without wanting things. We cannot succeed unless we decide what we want and go for it. As John Bytheway likes to say regarding how he pursued his wife, "I will go and do, not sit and stew. I will move unless I feel it is wrong." That is the fire, the passion, with which a celestial person pursues heaven with all its glory. Let's each find the portion of celestial desire in our own heart and then magnify it by asking God.

One of the greatest things to ask God for "with all the energy of heart" is charity (Moroni 7:48). But sometimes charity isn't developed by praying for charity with all the energy of heart. More often, it comes from praying for other people with all the energy of heart. That is, after all, how both Lehi and Nephi received their calls to the ministry (see 1 Ne 1 and 2).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Spirit of the Mission Schedule

On my mission, I realized I was often overliteral and had difficulty seeing the spirit as well as the letter of the law. (Sometimes the phrase "the spirit of the law" is used to rationalize wrongdoing, but the introduction to my missionary handbook said to learn and live the higher law as taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.)

I just now realized the spirit of the missionary schedule--why there are strict rules to maximize proselyting time. It is to meet the missionaries' physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs as efficiently as possible so that missionaries may serve as many people as possible.

Inasmuch as we want to live the law of Consecration, we should learn to manage our time so that we can meet our needs, in every area, wisely and efficiently. For example, a married couple need time together; children need time with their parents; everyone needs sleep and food, with money to pay for necessities and modest wants; everyone needs time to grow both mentally (developing talents) and spiritually (becoming more like God). If we neglect our needs, we won't feel as happy or energetic.

The better we are at filling our needs efficiently, the more we can serve. For instance, eight hours of sleep at night leaves me just as rested as seven hours of sleep at night with a two-hour nap in the afternoon. That's an hour that I can put into relationships or work. Or I could go to the Temple and do some of the shorter ordinances in that time. And all the while, I feel just as rested and peaceful.

Addictions are the opposite extreme--trying endlessly to fill a need in a way that will never satisfy it. Some wounds can only be filled with the love of Christ or through true emotional principles taught by the Holy Ghost, through friends or therapists. But we try endlessly to fill the gap by binge eating, smoking, or immorality--usually by using something good excessively or in the wrong way, or at the wrong time. If you skip dinner and binge later, you won't feel good. If you're hungry and eat a box full of treats, you may not feel good, either. If you are lonely or depressed and use sexual feelings to fill the gap, the temporary pleasure will only cover your loneliness for a moment, and then you will feel worse than before.

For me, reading books is a good balance, but it isn't perfect. It is wholesome and lets me feel the Spirit, but sometimes I could get the same emotional and spiritual strength faster by doing something else, leaving me more time to serve.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ki, Chi, Qi, Energy, or Light

When Joseph the Prophet wrote of his First Vision, he struggled to find the ideal word to describe the glory of God. He used the word fire in some accounts and said he was surprised that the trees did not ignite in God's presence. He also used the word glory. The word he finally settled on, and used most often, was light.

The light of God is said in D&C 88, verses 1 to about 12, to fill the immensity of space, quicken our minds, and give law and order to all things. We usually assume that this light is what gives us our conscience and holds the universe together. Perhaps this is what God meant when he said "Let there be light" to begin creation. His light began to shine--and that had to happen first. Likewise, in our personal development, we must start with the light of Christ, and built on that with positive habits and characteristics we want to have.

Anyway, I have often marveled at how similar Eastern ideas of Ki or Chi are to the scriptural idea of light from God. Eastern philosophies, and prominently in Western culture the martial arts, often teach that there is a universal energy that must be channeled through one's body for maximum effect. For instance, the Ki'ai, the shout during martial arts, is intended to channel Ki, or energy.

I believe that there is some truth to these nonscriptural practices--that Ki really can be channeled, and that it really does have a dramatic impact on your body. The first experience I ever had with Ki was with a meditation technique (I think it was called Qui Jong... maybe), in which you imagine light coursing through your body like a waterfall, from above your head through your feet. You imagine your feet holding it in your body for a while and then releasing it.

The next spiritual blessing I had from a father's hands was a special experience.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Following the Spirit

The Spirit of God speaks to each of us in a different way. I have recently learned that the way I understand the Spirit best is through word and action. In other words, I simply feel that if I follow the Spirit, I am going to do or say something, and that it is right. The first time I remember feeling this way was when I was a teenager and woke up early on a summer morning and simply felt like cleaning the kitchen. So I did. Then my mother came downstairs, exhausted, saying she'd had hardly any sleep and was so glad I'd cleaned the kitchen.

Another time, a woman came in to Walgreens to buy cigarettes. I felt prompted to ask for her ID. She was flattered! It made her day that she looked young enough to be asked for her ID for tobacco.

More recently, I have learned that, usually when I have a calling in a certain area but also with friends, I will simply feel certain words come to me. I often don't know what I'm supposed to say until I say it. Sometimes I struggle with how best to word it.

A word of caution to anyone with my same gift, which is given by God so that we may bless others: just because you feel prompted to say something doesn't mean everyone will listen. They may be prompted to take a different course; your prompting may have been to give them insight, not direction. This happens most often to me when I am giving friends advice. I feel prompted to give them my point of view, which is helpful but not definitive to them.

Remember also that all who do good work by faith, by the power and gifts of God, through His Spirit. These gifts include faith, hope, and charity. They include power unrivaled by any other organization or standpoint. They are powerful and useful in their place. We should "covet to prophesy" (or to speak by inspiration) and "seek after spiritual gifts." The greatest gift we can receive in this life is charity, because it motivates us to be all that we can be, to progress from glory to glory until we are perfect. In the name of Jesus Christ, I bear that testimony, that these spiritual gifts are available unto all who diligently seek them, and they cannot be perfectly imitated by Satan, by tricks, or by psychological wisdom. God alone can grant them. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Proper Time and Place

Well, I'm planning to propose to my girlfriend tomorrow, less than three months after our first date. So, I wanted to ramble for a bit about decision-making and time. Making choices too quickly can lead to all sorts of problems. There may be unforeseen consequences. There are more likely to be mistakes. Making choices too slowly also leads to all sorts of problems. It hurts those who are waiting for you to decide. If you delay too long, the choice usually defaults to the worse of the two options.

So, like in all things, decision making requires a balanced amount of time. It requires that one do their best to consider all the implications. It requires that one enjoy life and not worry too much. Faith in God helps tremendously, knowing that He is anxious and willing to make up for our weaknesses, especially in the long run. He will make everything right in the end. However, he is also ready to bless us in the short run, if we ask for it and are believing. We must believe that God is completely capable of giving us the blessing now, and we must desire to put His will first. If we are truly humble and believing--not letting doubts drown out the possibility of divine intervention, but also preparing for all possibilities--then we will be at peace with ourselves and with God.

Another aspect of decision making is listening to advice. Obviously, asking for advice from friends and family will almost always produce a large variety of responses. In my case, for instance, you ask your friends when you should marry, and they think short-term happiness. Why wait? That just produces more stress, they say. You ask your family, and they remind you of the financial implications. Having seen marriages struggle and fall, they urge you to give it more time, to be sure it is what you want. Then you ask your Bishop, and he tells you to get married as soon as possible to more easily keep yourselves clean. You read the words of the prophets, and they say to be wise and have faith that God will provide what you need if you do your best, and even recommend, in general, not delaying marriage or children for financial reasons, since in struggling together you can choose to grow together. That too can be a great blessing.

My decision was to get married sooner rather than later. A great comfort is that in most situations, there is more than one good option. Either way will bring a lot of happiness. Which job? Pray about it. But the Lord may remain silent because both are good or because you already know enough to make the decision on your own. Good luck to my readers. Especially my unmarried ones. ;)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Never Give Up

Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us – even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will.

– Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Civil Unions

A friend and I were talking, and I came to a new conclusion about the government definition of marriage. I've always felt that it wasn't really the government's place to define marriage, but that it seems to have to define it out of necessity.

Here's a potential problem: If homosexual marriage is officially recognized, then ministers--who act as agents of both religion and government when they officially marry two people--will be forced to recognize homosexual marriage. This violates their freedom of religion. It also means that public school teachers will be forced to recognize homosexual marriage and heterosexual marriage equally. This essentially means that a certain religious view will be being taught in schools that children are legally required to attend unless they can afford a private school. Again, this violates their freedom of religion.

So, here's a possible solution: Take away all official government recognition of marriage. Set up a civil union system designed for people who are living together and uniting their finances on a long-term basis. The government will completely ignore marriage as a social and religious institution, and only pay attention to the legal contract of a civil union. Then, churches, institutions, and individuals will be free to call marriage whatever they like. Churches won't be required to recognize a homosexual couple as married, and homosexual couples won't be required to consider themselves unmarried. Everyone has the freedom to believe as they choose.

Based on what I know so far, I think that this is the best possible legal system.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


And if your eye be asingle to my bglory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light ccomprehendeth all things.
D&C 88:67

If I understand this right, it says that if our priorities and desires are truly perfectly refined, we will be ready to know all things and we will not be capable of sin.

So, let's continue to grow in the Spirit, line upon line.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mawwaige. And wuv. Twue wuv!

Well, I want to briefly write my thought on marriage.

Firstly, I have had ample opportunity to prepare for marriage in a variety of ways. First, I've developed my living-with-people skills by being kind and learning to work with my family, especially my mother. I believe that the way a young man treats his mother will largely transfer into how he treats his wife. The same skills of respect for womanhood, love, and service are essential. He can learn these skills later on, but it's so much easier to learn them now. Whenever now happens to be. Choices are always made in the present. There is no use procrastinating. Change comes gradually, but it can begin immediately.

Second, I notice that no man or woman alive, including myself, comprehends the potential glory of the marriage relationship. As we begin to look forward and see what a tremendous blessing that central family relationship can be, nurturing that relationship becomes natural and instinctive. Elder L. Tom Perry of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, "I believe that if we could create in our minds a clear and true picture of eternal life, we would start behaving differently. We would not need to be prodded to do the many things involved with enduring to the end, like doing our home teaching or visiting teaching, attending our meetings, going to the temple, living moral lives, saying our prayers, or reading the scriptures. We would want to do all these things and more because we realize they will prepare us to go somewhere we yearn to go" (“The Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 2008, 44–46). The choices that have the most importance are the ones with the most long-lasting consequences. Marriage has eternal consequences of unfathomable depth.

Third, I love my wife. It is possible to love someone even before you know who they are. How? Because we can know something about them before we meet them. After I received my patriarchal blessing, I had an actual crush on my future wife for several days. Why? Because my patriarchal blessing contains information about her--enough to create a picture in my mind of who and what she is. She is a noble woman indeed, and I love her and want to prepare myself for her love.

Let us be grateful for God's mercy in making marriage such an ennobling, eternal, and glorious relationship.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Separation of Church and State (Family Values and Israel)

I want to state my current views on the separation of church and state.

First, I believe that the separation of political and religious views is impossible. A person's outlook on life is largely determined by their religion. Their religious views will, unavoidably, affect their political outlook.

The separation of church and state simply means that the government cannot ever promote any one religious belief over any other. This means that government-funded schools cannot legally teach anything that promotes or demeans any specific religion or religious belief. Likewise, they cannot discriminate against any race, gender, socioeconomic group, or any other group, as long as that group respects the rights of others.

Now, in most areas, the separation of church and state is fairly easy. Economics? Foreign policy? It is fairly easy to separate religious views from these principles.

At this time, only two issues provide me with any difficulty in separating church and state. These are our interactions with the state of Israel and issues surrounding sex and family.

Issues involving sex and the nature of the family are difficult. Pornography is considered indecent by most people. Even those who view it themselves generally want to prevent children from viewing it. And yet, is it the government's place to restrict our freedom of speech in this way? My answer to pornography is simple: because it is incredibly addictive and emotionally destructive, people have a right to not see pornography against their will or in public places. Especially children. Violent porn leads to violent behavior. Therefore, I am in favor of making illegal any porn that includes violence, child pornography, and anything in a public place that arouses sexual feelings in most people (or, at least, most men, if it's an image of a woman).

Now, homosexual rights are also difficult. I do believe that it's reasonable to allow anyone who are living together for long periods of time to get similar legal benefits to what married couples get--to unite their finances and be covered on each other's insurance, etc. Therefore, I am in favor of civil unions.

However, it is not the government's place to define marriage. Marriage is an entirely religious and societal matter. Dictionary definitions are determined by practical usage; if the day comes when large numbers of people use the word "marriage" to refer to homosexual couples, then that is its definition. As long as the definition remain constant, teachers paid with taxpayers' money must use the taxpayers' definition of marriage.

I can see logic in making any sex outside of marriage illegal, since children have a right to be born to married parents and a married couple has a right to expect the faithfulness of each other. However, enforcing these laws is very awkward.

Those are my legal views regarding sex. However, my spiritual views are very different. My religious views are that sex is sacred and that God has commanded that it be reserved for marriage. I believe that any sexual activity that is not between a man and a woman who are married to each other is spiritually and emotionally unhealthy. I believe that sex is a choice. I believe that its purposes are to create physical bodies for children and to express love between husband and wife. Sex is special, even holy, and I cringe to think of people misusing it.

It is painful to me to admit it, but we cannot enforce chastity--keeping sex within marriage as it has always been defined--by the law of the land. We must leave it to God.

Some people have homosexual desires. These can be overcome. Sometimes homosexual desires are just emotional desires for companionship with the same gender. I believe that our society often confuses emotional desire with sexual and/or romantic desire.

I don't like talking about these topics so openly. It doesn't feel proper. But it must be done.

The final family value I want to bring up is abortion. In this, my religious and political views mesh perfectly. Why? Because sex is a choice! Anyone who wants an abortion and uses the "freedom of choice" argument, unless they were raped, is using a flawed argument. They do have a choice! Again, unless a person is raped, they have complete control over whether or not they get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. Therefore, my view is that abortion is morally wrong, except in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother's life is in danger or the baby is so deformed that, according to honest medical authority, they cannot survive beyond birth.

I once heard an analogy in a philosophy class. Let's say you woke up in a hospital bed one day with a famous unconscious violinist attached to you. Without your medical support, laying there attached to him, he will die. Would it be murder for you to detach the cables and walk away? The argument is no, because it's your life. You didn't choose to be hooked up to the poor comatose violinist.

Of course, this argument applies only to instances of rape, because that is the only instance where the person did not choose to be hooked up to their child. Here is a better analogy: let's say that you enter a drawing. In exchange for one thousand dollars (representing the pleasure of sex), you put your name in a hat. If your name is drawn, you will be hooked up to a helpless person for nine months to give them life support. One day, your name is drawn. You are surprised, perhaps shocked. You persuaded yourself that it wouldn't happen. Perhaps you thought you had the draw rigged (birth control). However, if you were to pull the cords and let the helpless violinist die, you would be a murderer. Why? Because you already had your choice. You made your choice the moment you put your name in that hat. The moment someone chooses to put themselves in situations that encourage their sexual desires, they choose the consequences of that choice.

I believe in freedom of choice as much as anyone. I do not believe in freedom from the natural consequences of your actions by harming others. Even if that other person isn't born yet. I'm sure he or she will thank you after their birth for letting them have the same gift your mother gave you. Life. What could be more glorious? I love my mother and am grateful to her. Even my adopted siblings feel gratitude to their birth mothers for life. That is your legacy, Mother.

Every mother carries that legacy to the grave, where she will meet those of her family who passed on before her. What will they say?

Many mothers who get abortions have nightmares afterward. I wish, at least, the law would require mothers to be educated before having an abortion--know their options, know about adoption, etc. Know how much it hurts forever to know that one less person came into the world because of you. It hurts. The Atonement of Christ can heal people, but the Lord will not bring back the dead for many years yet. Let them live! Let them live.

That is my plea to any of you are considering this decision or wondering what God thinks about abortion. He sent the child to you. Send them to their parents for life. Don't send them back to God. Not yet. Let them live the life He wants them to live first. Let them live. You are free to choose, but your choice will affect others, including your child's adoptive parents. They need him. They're waiting for her. Let the Spirit of God work on you and give you courage. It will. I promise you that, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

I know that He lives.

I am very passionate about my religious beliefs. And there is one belief I have yet to reconcile with political intelligence: our nation's relationship with Israel.

Israel is a Jewish state. They have freedom to practice your religion, but not to proselytize--just the same as most Muslim countries. They oppress Palestine. Politically, I do not see them as a beacon of democratic protection of the rights of all people.

Yet, the Bible prophesies the return of the Jewish people to that land. We cannot make them leave. God will keep them there until the Messiah comes to teach them more. But politically, it does not make sense to support them so much. Politically, we ought to cut all military support to Israel and force them to work out a compromise with Palestine as equals. But my religion, if I understand it right, suggests that we want to keep giving Israel aid, as they are the Lord's ancient covenant people.

I hope I can resolve this conflict someday. If not, I may have to step down from any political office that requires me to choose between my country and my religion. That way I can serve the one that means the most to me--my God--without betraying the trust of my country.

I hope I never have to make that choice.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Godly sorrow is a form of guilt that recognizes that we have distanced ourselves from God and are pained by that. However, other forms of guilt are sometimes excessive and skewed.

My favorite way to deal with any form of guilt is to analyze how valid it is and then say a short prayer, recognizing my dependence on and faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He died to compensate for our errors and sins. I love him.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Michael's Steps to Addiction Recovery

Since all sin is addictive, and I've had plenty to overcome, here are my steps to addiction recovery and repentance (order isn't important):

1. Make it difficult to access the sinful activity
2. Keep yourself busy with a balanced lifestyle of meaningful activities, including exercise, mental stimulation, and spiritual time.
3. Pray for help.
4. Make yourself accountable: to a priesthood leader, friend, or family member.
5. Get all the help you can. All sorts of tools can help. I like replacing the question, "What do I feel like doing?" with, "How will this make me feel?"
6. Don't obsess over the sin; fear and self-hatred only make it harder to overcome. Forgive yourself and forget the sin; remember the lessons learned, especially your dependence on the Savior. That won't change..
7. This is my favorite step: find something you care about more than the sin, even in the heat of temptation. This is a challenge. The best way is to further your relationship with God until it forces out all sin, but relationships with others can also be helpful. The same way you develop relationships with others, develop a relationship with God: talk with Him, talk about Him, and spend time with Him in His house.

Republicans for Congress, Democrats for President

So, a good way to sum up my federal voting feeling is Republicans for congress and Democrats for president. Why?

Republicans espouse almost everything that I believe in domestic affairs: family values, economic freedom, etc. On the other hand, Democrats generally espouse the anti-war and humility in foreign affairs that I think America needs to adopt. Since Congress has more control over domestic affairs, and the President has more control over foreign affairs, it makes sense that I would want Republicans in Congress and Democrats for presidents.

However, I do try to vote for individuals, not parties. There are good and not-so-good leaders in both parties.

And, for Utah politics, I usually vote Constitution party for everything--or almost everything. They're my favorite party. But they're not a major player in federal politics at the moment.

Friday, January 30, 2009


For years, I have defined self discipline as "doing what's right regardless of what you want to do," and felt very frustrated because I had no emotional or psychological way to do that. But I have come up with a new and improved definition!

Self-discipline is doing, thinking, saying, and being what you truly want to do and be, without regard to what you happen to feel like doing at the moment.

This sprung from the insight I gained from James Allen's As a Man Thinketh and David Burn's Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, that our feelings are determined entirely by our thoughts and actions, and our actions are determined entirely by our thoughts. Therefore, it is illogical to base our thoughts and actions on how we feel. If we feel sad, we ought to do something that makes us feel happy. The thought "what do I feel like doing" does not result in happiness.

Rest and pleasure have their time and place. But basing our lives and actions off of what we feel like doing is illogical. So, here is what I have done. Whenever I catch myself thinking "do I feel like doing _____" or checking to see what I feel like doing, I replace that thought with, "do I truly want to do _____? What will the consequences be? How will this activity make me feel?" This change in mindset has helped me make an immediate and noticeable improvement in my productivity. Needs, wants, and "feel likes" are three separate things. The last is, so far as I can tell, totally useless and irrelevant.

Of course, I may be wrong about that. :) But I was definitely focusing on what I feel like doing far, far too much. This principle has helped me.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Constant Need of the Atonement

I've discovered in myself a tendency to say, "I need the Atonement to get to this spiritual point, and then I will be content." The problem with that is that it doesn't work. The moment I let myself be content and stop feeling the need for the Atonement, I quickly regress.

Repentance is an act, but it is also a lifestyle. I do not have the intelligence to be completely pure and good instantly, and if I did, I would be under enormous condemnation for not living up to that intelligence. Therefore, I constantly need the Atonement so that I can continue to grow. There are stepping stones for each of us--starting with temple worthiness, and moving forward through individual weaknesses and gaining specific gifts until we are perfect. But stepping stones are always taken one at a time.

I think the most accusatory way to describe perfectionism is a form of pride--a desire to be rid of the Atonement as soon as possible. Even the best of us need the Atonement to keep moving forward.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Do the Works of Abraham

So far as I know, two peoples in the world claim the ancestry of Abraham and the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant: the Jewish people and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Mormons claim the blessings of that ancestry, mostly through Ephraim and Joseph, but occasionally through others of the twelve tribes, as told to them by a Patriarch of the Church. The scriptures promise great blessings to "Ephraim and his fellows," including the Priesthood and the power to gather the nations unto Christ. The Abrahamic covenant is also a major part of the basis for the Jewish state of Israel. Now, Christ told the Jews to do the works of Abraham. What does that mean?

For Latter-day Saints, it means to ask and recieve knowledge from God. The LDS Book of Abraham is a great blessing, and it says that Abraham received many revelations. We can inherit this blessing. We can receive all of the blessings of the Priesthood through temple ordinances and covenants that are necessary for us in this life to lead to exaltation and eternal families.

For the Jewish people, it means to do their best to make peace with their neighbors. In the book of Genesis, Abraham made sacrifices in order to guarantee peace with those around him, even when they were the offenders. In Genesis chapter 13, Abraham gives part of the land promised to him to his nephew Lot when both of them became too prosperous to share the same herding and grazing grounds. He shared his blessing generously. He had every right to ask Abraham to leave, but he did not. Isaac did the works of Abraham his father in Genesis 26, when he kept digging wells until there were enough that everyone was happy.

I hope that all the people of the world will do the works of Abraham and receive the promised blessing. It is a tremendous blessing indeed. No greater promises are made in the scriptures to those who are faithful.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


So, as we watch the economy go up and down, the worst thing we can possibly do is get into unnecessary or excessive debt. Why? Because if we lose our jobs, we may be unable to pay back the debts. Then we can lose our cars, our homes, and so forth.

I remember watching The Grapes of Wrath in high school. The story is about some farmers who are unable to pay their debts and lose their farms--something that happened to many, many farmers at the beginning of the Great Depression. I'm not saying that all their debts were excessive, only that no person who has any debt is truly financially self-sufficient. The moment they can't pay, they are at the mercy of their creditors.

So, my personal ideal is to have a moderate-sized house bought and paid for after, say, ten years of marriage. We'll see if that's feasible with my family size and my career, but that's my goal for now. Let's all follow the modern prophets' counsel and get out of debt.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sharing Love and Testimony

When we truly feel the love of God and have a sure knowledge that God lives, we want to share that with others.

Understanding of God's love comes in stages. First, we understand it theoretically. Then, we understand that God loves us, values us, and wishes us well--we understand that we need God. We understand His love as a child understands a parent's love. Finally, we begin to understand that love means sacrifice. As we slowly begin to understand Christ's infinite Atonement, the unbounded sacrifice He made for us and the daily sacrifices He still makes in serving us, we simultaneously begin to serve and bless those around us as well. (The reverse is just as true--the more we serve, the more we can understand Christ.) The love of service and sacrifice has potentially infinite power.

Testimony works similarly. At first, we believe because others tell us it is true, and it seems to make sense. Later, we receive our own spiritual experiences that confirm it. Finally, we may receive the grand spiritual gift of a burning knowledge and desire to share the gospel. Before my mission, I had a strong testimony, but it did not begin to burn within me until I specifically asked for that blessing. I find that it slowly wanes unless I continue to thank the Lord for it and ask for it to continue.

Ask, and ye shall receive. This is specifically applied both to charity (Moroni 7:48) and to testimony (Moroni 10:3-5) in the Book of Mormon.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Love Can Last Forever

When I was in AP Psychology, I was taught that being "in love" lasts only for about a year, or two at the most. To my delight, a team of scientists recently found out otherwise.

"Using brain scans, researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have discovered a small number of couples respond with as much passion after 20 years together as most people only do during the early throes of romance, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reported." This was based on brain scans of courting couples and more mature couples.

Anyway, it made me happy. I speculate that keeping romance alive depends on two things: first, a solid foundation of friendship, honesty, and trust, and second, keeping romance alive by flirting, dating, and enjoying being affectionate. Learn to express love in a way that your spouse understands.

Good, Better, Best

One of the major emotional problems of the world is perfectionism. So many people are excessively worried and stressed about their own weaknesses. According to the psychological book I've been reading (Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David D. Burns, one of the leading psychologists in cognitive psychology, which is my favorite school of psychological thought), perfectionism is mostly caused by two types of illogical thoughts: all-or-nothing thinking and should statements.

One day, on my mission, I was having a really rough day. I felt angry at myself for not being perfect in certain areas, angry at the Lord for not making me perfect, and generally frustrated and discouraged. With a prayer in my heart for help, I pulled out the most recent General Conference Ensign. There I read Elder Oaks' talk, "Good, Better, Best" (Ensign, Nov 2007, 104–8). As I read, I suddenly realized that goodness is not an all-or-nothing thing. It comes by degrees! I wasn't a perfect missionary, but I was a good missionary, and I was sincerely striving to be better. Perfection does not--indeed, it cannot--come all at once. Sometimes we think that we are either perfect or the scum of the earth. Obviously, there's a lot of room for growth in between.

We use the word "should" all the time. We all have our own ideas about how the world "should" be. However, it is helpful to think carefully about exactly what we mean. One strategy is to use the word "if." For example, if I just say, "I should be doing better than this," I feel guilty, discouraged, and angry at myself. On the other hand, if I say, "if I work a little harder to serve, then I will be happier and have the Spirit more," then I will likely feel encouraged and want to try. It works the same way when you use the word on others--when you think, "He shouldn't have cut in front of me," you usually feel angry. So instead, think, "It would be nice if he hadn't cut in front of me." I've found by experience that talking back to your own illogical thoughts can be very helpful.

The credit for these ideas goes to Dr. David Burns from his book, and, more importantly, the credit belongs to that God who helped me understand these ideas and whose Spirit of truth taught them to Dr. Burns in the first place.