He Knows More Than Your Name…

first visionEver since I was a very young man, I have been impressed with the idea that when God came to visit Joseph Smith in 1820, He didn’t call him “Case #5663243″ or “Hey You” or some other less personable name. He called him “Joseph” because this was no random moment in the history of the world:

When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (JS-H 1:17)

God was coming to one of His sons, and He knew it. And Joseph knew it. And I know it.

But there is more to our relationship with Heavenly Father than name recognition. God knows so much more about us than our names. Neal A. Maxwell taught:

I testify to you that God has known you individually … for a long, long time. He has loved you for a long, long time. He not only knows the names of all the stars; He knows your names and all your heartaches and your joys! (“Remember How Merciful the Lord Hath Been,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2004, 46.)

Our Heavenly Father knows what you are worrying about right now. He knows not only that your heart aches; He knows why. He knows what makes you happy and what is a relief to you right now. He more than hears your prayers, He knows your mind and heart.

He knows your history. He knows your baggage. He knows your family relationships and the influence they have had on you, good and bad.

He knows who has hurt you. He knows who hasn’t been fair as they’ve dealt with you.

He knows who you’ve lost. He knows your heart still quietly weeps for children that never quite made it into the busy part of mortality. He knows about the spouse that left. He knows about the spouse that never materialized, the children that were hoped for but not seen.

He also knows of your intentions. He knows your desires. He knows what you would have done.

He knows more than your name. He knows you and your family. And because he knows you better than even you know yourself, no one can answer prayers more perfectly than Him. No one…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

The New “Happiest Place on Earth”…

homeShort and wonderful experience:

Our youngest daughter and I were driving home from her play practice. She is a “rosebud” in the school play, Alice in Wonderland, so the practices are grueling.

As we neared our house, the local radio station was announcing their most recent contest to give away a week-long vacation to Disneyland. The announcer asked the caller, “Have you ever been to Disneyland?” and the caller replied, “It has been awhile.” Then the announcer said, “Everyone should have a chance to go to the ‘happiest place on earth’!”

I asked my eight-year-old daughter, “Do you know what they mean by ‘the happiest place on earth’?” thinking we’d talk about how much she wants to go to Disneyland.

She answered, “Home?”

I couldn’t be a more content father. With all of the discord, bullying, infidelity, struggle, arguing, and discontent in the world, I sure hope we are doing what is required to create a home where peace is the overruling feeling…that blessing is needed more than ever.

Be Encouraging…

BJM

Why I Don’t Feel Angry With the “Ordain Women” Group…

priesthoodDisclaimer: I have faith in my Savior Jesus Christ and His decision to use prophets and apostles to direct His church here upon the earth. Jesus really is the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. So, there you have it. That is where I stand on that.

Second disclaimer: I’ve purposely decided to stay out of the fray on social media during this conference. I post things on Twitter, Facebook, etc., like normal, but I’m not spending a lot of time on the pages or walls of people who are being combative regarding what is taught by our leaders. It has made for a wonderful conference for me. People can believe what they’d like…I’m busy enjoying the blessings of conference.

So, with all that said, I do have a thought that crossed my mind this morning regarding the “Ordain Women” movement that I’d like to express. But in the interest of keeping my conference weekend happy, if you try to start some big fight on my blog, you’ll be sadly disappointed. I’m a lover, not a fighter…

(Note: Elder Dallin H. Oaks approached this subject better than I ever could. Here is a report, and the talk will be online soon.)

I think it is very important that we humans seem to have an innate desire for things to be “even”. That desire for evenness and fairness (which, I believe, are not the same thing) is what, at least in part, inspires people to be generous. It is part of why people give money to charities, or donate food and clothing, or participate in fundraisers. People seem to be born with this desire to even things up if someone has less than they do. I like that. I’m for that. What a great quality.

When we confuse “evenness” and “fairness” and throw in “sameness”, we do seem to get confused on some related issues. I believe that even though God doesn’t give each gender the exact same opportunities, I’m not sure that fact is related to fairness or evenness. Because of the justice of God, He is perfectly fair to His children. Perfectly. That is one of the central blessings of the Atonement. All things will be made perfectly fair. Perfectly.

Some in the “Ordain Women” movement feel like things aren’t fair or even. With our limited view of life and the eternities, that is understandable. I can’t blame an individual for wanting things to be more even and fair. I don’t stand with them on this topic because I believe that God has made things fair regarding the issue of gender. I have attended enough Relief Society meetings and I’ve watched women display some innate gifts that have made it clear to me that if women move away from their God-given gifts, the entire world will lose a power that would shake the very core of goodness. I do think there are some changes in policy that the church leaders are making that are going to unleash the power of both genders even more. The General Women’s Meeting is an example. The missionary age change for women is another example. The new leadership roles for sister missionaries is again, another example. And there will be more, I’m sure. No doctrine changes, but policies change to unlock and unleash power. God’s hand will continue to be felt and seen regarding both His sons and His daughters. Count on that.  And I believe that these changes come through council and revelation and through the divinely appointed leadership of the church.

I’ll finish with an experience I had that has helped me feel a little of what it is like to not have certain opportunities that I really wanted. That I really felt I needed. And this experience taught me that God is perfectly fair and perfectly merciful.

Now, I’ve never planned on sharing this experience. I’m not sharing every detail, as there are some parts of this story that are more sacred to me. But, here is a minimalist version:

Our family was traveling from California (where we’d spent some vacation time) back home to Utah. We had a motel in Winnemucca, Nevada, where we swam and relaxed and prepared for another half-day drive to arrive home. One of our children was quite sick with severe flu-like symptoms and couldn’t enjoy the pool and pizza. As the hours in Nevada wore on, each of us contracted whatever was plaguing the first child (and “plague” is the exact word I’d use!). Eventually we all had it, and at the same time. I will spare you the gory details, but I will say that we were never close enough to the bathroom, the dehydration was mounting, and all seven of us had “it”. Our family has never, ever, been this severely sick, and especially not at the same time. I couldn’t walk. No one could drive. We didn’t know anyone in town. We didn’t even know where the hospital was. It was terrible.

After a long night, we were challenged with deciding whether to stay one more day and punish that poor small bathroom again or to try and drive home to recuperate. It looked as though were were going to have to stay since no one could even get out of the room, but we also couldn’t really afford another night’s stay and knew we’d get better much quicker in the comfort of our home. Janese asked me if I could use the priesthood to bless our family members. That, I could do.

One by one, they each crawled over to the bed where I was curled up. They would lay by me and I would place my hands on their heads and bless them, through the priesthood. There was a sweet feeling in our little hotel room, though I could barely talk. As the last child made his way to my bed I had a funny little feeling. I was sad. There was no one to bless me. My whole family was receiving a blessing that I couldn’t have. I didn’t know any priesthood holders in Winnemucca and was in no position to search for any. Of all the people in my family, I was missing out on a blessing. It wasn’t fair. And I wished it was different. Can you blame me for wishing things were different?

During that last child’s blessing I had a singular experience. I would have an impression come to my mind during the blessing, and I would bless the child with that thing. Then I would have another impression of a blessing (like, “I bless you that you’ll be well enough to make the car ride home”) and I’d go to pronounce the blessing but the Spirit would restrain me and say, in my mind, “No, Brian, this is for you.” Then I’d receive another impression and would be able to bless the child with that blessing. Then I’d get another impression but would not be allowed to say it because, again, “this one is for you”. Back and forth. One blessing for the child and then one for me, until the priesthood blessing was concluded. It was, simply put, sacred and amazing to me. And I was healed. We all were.

Within an hour we were all well enough to travel, including me.

As we drove through Nevada, I was finally able to share with Janese what had happened during that last priesthood administration. She wept. Then she shared that during that last blessing she had prayed to Heavenly Father that He would bless me since I didn’t have anyone there to lay their hands upon my head and administer to me. Her prayer had been answered. God, in His love and mercy, had made things more fair than I could ever imagine. No doctrine needed changing. No exceptions. Just the faithful prayer of a beautiful daughter of God, for which I’ll always be grateful.

Wanting the priesthood in not a bad desire. But trusting that God is at the head of this work is even better. That, I believe. God is not leaving anyone out…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

How to Magnify a Calling That *Isn’t* Yours…

work togetherMisleading title. I know. Give me just a second…

We spend much time discussing how we can magnify the callings we receive. Often, the callings we have are quite demanding and the efforts we put into magnifying those callings are sacred efforts.

But what do you do when your spouse is called to serve in a leadership role in your ward or stake? What about when your parent is called? What do you do when you aren’t the one who will be busy, or stressed, or gone, etc.?

As years go by we will have both chances to serve in demanding ways and opportunities to serve our loved ones as they serve in demanding capacities. Also, depending on employment and/or public service, there are numerous chances outside of the church effort to support our loved ones in these efforts.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. As the calling starts, have the required conversations. What worries your spouse about this new assignment? What will change in their schedule? What will be your plan going forward, for both of you?
  2. Marriage is often an effort in balance. When I served as bishop, my sweetheart worked even harder in our home because I would be away more than usual. When she served in our young women’s presidency, I tried to find more time to be home and help our family when she was away. Look for ways to fill in and assist your spouse in their responsibilities in the home. We are in marriage to help each other.
  3. Speak positively about the chance your family has to serve. I’m not saying that it is wise to ignore the hard parts of church service, but dwelling on those hardships and verbalizing your feelings about them often and publicly makes it very hard to focus on the wonderful and almost countless blessings that arrive right along side the hardships.
  4. Make it a habit to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Some meetings go late. Some families need your spouse’s attention, and a lot of it, during particular times. Sometimes your spouse will be preoccupied with thoughts regarding their calling. Assume they are doing the best they can.
  5. Be someone your spouse can talk to. Of course, there are times when information can’t be shared in order to save the feelings of those involved, but most of the time your spouse will need someone to talk to, vent to, and bounce ideas off of.
  6. Pray for your spouse. The power of praying for others has been discussed on this blog in this post.
  7. Arrange appropriate “time off”. Sometimes a busy spouse will forget that they need a break here and there. Plan dates. Plan vacations. Plan exercise time. As they feel some pressure to be anxiously engaged in the good cause they have been called to, you can put some effort into helping them have some down time that will rejuvenate them and you.

Well, there’s more, I’m sure. I’ve used the example of a spouse assisting a spouse in callings, but the same basic principles apply to children supporting their parents, roommates supporting roommates in callings, etc. There will be times when we’re really busy with our callings and other times when we have a little extra time because our callings aren’t as demanding. During those times, we can be anxiously engaged in assisting those we love as they strive to bless those around them in their callings and assignments.

Be Encouraging…

BJM

How Fertilizing My Lawn Taught Me About Child Rearing…

lawnIt may not seem exactly like it, but it is Spring around here. We’ve had sun, cold, rain, snow, sleet, high winds and beautiful days. So, I suppose that is exactly what Spring is in Utah.

The warmer temperatures have melted the snow so now you can see the grass in people’s yards. Of course, most of the grass starts pretty brown. Eventually things will “green up” but currently there are patches of brown and tan in parts of almost every yard.

That’s why I was a bit surprised to see my grass looking so green. Obviously I haven’t done anything to my grass this year yet. I haven’t even mowed or fertilized yet, and, because of the moisture, I haven’t watered anything. So what would cause the lawn to be greener than most?

I fertilized in the winter.

Last fall I grabbed a bag of “fall-winter fertilizer” (I don’t know what makes it “fall-winter fertilizer”) and it sat there in the garage for weeks. I’d keep planning to spread it on the lawn but I was pretty busy and then it got cold and windy and I didn’t really want to go out in that. There must have been a break in the weather. I spread the exact amount the bag explains and watered it in and forgot about it. And, as can be expected, nothing really happened. The snows eventually came and covered everything along with my memory of even doing it.

Now, if you ask most home and garden store employees that know anything, they’ll explain the the fall-winter fertilization is the big deal when it comes to lawns. Nothing seems to happen when you apply the fertilizer, but the grass benefits quite a bit later, in the spring, when you are ready to go out and play on it…

For the same reasons, our families have been taught to hold Family Home Evenings each week.

For the same reasons, our families have been taught to study the scriptures together while the children are young.

For the same reasons, our families have been taught to hold family prayers while our children are young.

And the list goes on. It may not always seem like anything is happening right now as a result of living the gospel in our homes, but you’ll see. Time will pass and the lawn will green up as a result of early teaching, loving, and living.

In the Book of Mormon, Alma teachers one of his sons this very truth:

O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God. (Alma 37:35)

One of the reasons why this is so important is the law of the harvest:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galations 6:7-9)

If you’re a little discouraged regarding your family scripture study or prayer or Family Home Evenings, keep going. Keep working. Spring will come and you’ll begin to see some of the blessings of your efforts.

Be Encouraging…

BJM

Why I’m Cutting Joseph Smith Some Slack…

Joseph_Smith,_Jr._portrait_owned_by_Joseph_Smith_IIILet me start with a disclaimer: I believe Joseph Smith was called as a prophet of God. I believe he saw God the Father and Jesus the Christ in a grove of trees when he was a young man. I believe he was the instrument used to restore the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, along with the organized church of Christ, in these days. I believe all of that.

So, with that said, let me also say this: I doubt Joseph was perfect. I bet he lost his temper at times when he probably shouldn’t have. I would imagine he had some lazy days when he didn’t work as hard as he should have. There may have been moments when he answered a question someone asked him and then later in the day, after some thought, realized that he answer wasn’t entirely honest. I also think there were moments when he thought he was following the direction of God and he wasn’t, and times when he didn’t realize that the Lord was trying to guide him but he wasn’t listening. And there were probably moments when he was following God’s will, but not exactly in the best, wisest way possible. There may have been room for improvement in some categories.

The reason I think those things is because he was just a normal human. Yes, his calling on earth was incredible, but God was calling a normal human to do an incredible thing. Some detractors to the Church spend much time discussing, bringing to light, and celebrating the moments in Joseph’s life when it would be easy to question his decisions, actions, or inspiration. I bet there is a precedence for this, too, scripturally.

Can you imagine what was whispered about Moses by some of the Israelites?

In whispered tones: “So, have you heard about Moses killing an Egyptian years ago? He sure doesn’t say much about it now? I mean, what really happened back then? Do you think we’ll ever really know? Why doesn’t he say more about that to us now? What is he afraid of?”

What about this: “Did you hear that Moses’s father in law had to come and show Moses how to run this organization? Jethro thought Moses was doing such a poor job he had to come all the way here and give Moses a ‘Leadership 101′ course. If Moses can’t even be an effective leader, what else is he messing up? Should we really be putting that much stock on what he is teaching us?”

It doesn’t stop with Moses. What would people have said about Paul? Paul certainly had a list of poor choices prior to his call as an Apostle, and I’d bet he made a few poor choices after his call. What about Jonah? What about Peter? What about Nephi. I mean, we have record of him taking someone’s head off early in his life. What do you think people thought of that? Did they buy the idea that he was just following a prompting?

You see, I believe that I am being asked to sustain a prophet who is made out of the same material as I am. And I don’t always know whether it is the Spirit of God prompting me or if it is just my own thoughts. I doubt that I’m alone in that quandary. At some point, after I’m dead, I’m sure a number of things will be explained to me about my life choices and I’ll have a few moments of “Ooooh…Yep, I didn’t get that quite right…” Maybe Joseph Smith will have a few moments like that in the spirit world, too.

I believe God can and does work through imperfect, well-meaning, learning, growing, endlessly flawed humans. Even his prophets. I don’t spend a lot of time focusing on those imperfections and mistakes, and not because I’m burying my head in the sand. I know about those possibilities. It is mostly because I appreciate that people have overlooked my mistakes during the few moments I’ve had to serve as a leader in the church. I and they know I’ve made mistakes, but we don’t spend too much time celebrating them. We’ve too much work to do…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

The Power in the Word “And” in the Scriptures…

changeIf I asked ten people what the most significant word in the scriptures was, surely I’d hear about ten different answers. I couldn’t even guess what you’d share, and the possibilities are endless. But I’d bet that no one answered with the words “if”, “but”, “as”, or “and”. But can I make a case for “and”? Give me a couple paragraphs and see what you think.

Most Mormons have hear of Zeezrom from the Book of Mormon. He’s the one who argued with Alma and Amulek all through Alma 10-14. He’s remembered as the guy who was getting in the way of preaching. As briefly as we can, let’s just walk through a few highlights from Zeezrom’s life, and you’ll see the word “and” rise up as a champion word:

  • Alma 10:31 Zeezrom is the leader of those who were verbally attacking Alma and Amulek. And he was good at it.
  • Alma 11:21 Zeezrom is asking questions of Alma and Amulek, but his purpose is to wreck their efforts.
  • Alma 11:46, 12:1 Zeezrom begins to “tremble” as his guilt settles in. He hasn’t changed, but he has recognized that he’s caught and wrong.
  • Alma 12:7-8 Realizing that he has been on the wrong side of things, Zeezrom begins to “inquire diligently” regarding the kingdom of God. This is a good sign. A very good sign.
  • Alma 14:6 Zeezrom recognizes that his poor actions have had a negative effect on others. This is another really good sign.
  • Alma 14:7 Zeezrom desperately beings to try to fix things. He tries to convince others that Alma and Amulek weren’t wrong after all.
  • Alma 15:3-12 Zeezrom declares faith in Christ, is healed of his sickness, enters the waters of baptism, and begins preaching the gospel

Helaman 5:41 Ok, at this point, Zeezrom isn’t around. He may be deceased. He may be retired. I don’t know. But he is mentioned in Helaman 5. Let me show you how:

And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you. (Helaman 5:41)

Notice the word “and” in this verse? (You should…I underlined it and bolded it) It isn’t “Alma and Amulek versus Zeezrom any more. It is Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom. Zeezrom is grouped with the missionaries. He was on the list of those who taught faith in Christ. the word “and” links Zeezrom with other great, faithful, powerful people–people who are just like him.

Zeezrom had changed.

Anyone can. Your spouse can. Your children can. Your grandchildren can. You can. I can. One of the great gifts we have, and it must be part of being the offspring of Diety, is that we have the infinite capacity to change, grow, repent, and be reborn. Anyone. Everyone.

Don’t lose hope just yet. People can change. Zeezrom’s wife/mother/father/grandparent/children/friends/teachers must have been so thankful…

Be Encouraging…

BJM