Thomas S. Monson, Maddox Restaurant, and Dinner….

Thomas_S_MonsonSince my grandmother passed away a few weeks ago I’ve been stopping in to see my grandfather each week on my way home from work. I love the visits. I ask him a bunch of questions and he tells stories to answer. I’m learning a lot… For example:

Years ago Grandma and Grandpa were enjoying a meal at Maddox (if you live anywhere near Northern Utah and don’t know Maddox, stop reading, get up from your chair, and drive to Brigham City right now…get this problem solved). I don’t know what Grandpa was eating, but Grandma had ordered seafood. Apparently she wasn’t super experienced with cracking crab legs* open, etc., and was having a little trouble. Grandpa was busy with his meal so he didn’t really realize that Grandma was struggling.

All of a sudden they hear an older gentleman’s voice from behind them. The man said, “I’m sorry and I don’t want to interfere, but I noticed that your wife was having a little trouble opening that crab of hers. Can I help?” With Grandma and Grandpa’s permission, the kind old man gets Grandma’s meal all cracked and ready to eat. My grandparents introduce themselves and thank him and he introduces himself…

“I’m Tom Monson. I was in Logan speaking to a group of young people and I’m heading back to Salt Lake, but I always like to stop and eat at Maddox. Again, hope I’m not interfering…”

An Apostle of the Lord had cracked open my grandmother’s crab legs so she could eat it more easily.

It wasn’t a big deal, but I’m afraid that if I noticed someone struggling to crack their crab legs open, I wouldn’t think to go and “interfere”…and I’d miss a chance to serve.

I’m thankful for President Monson’s example and willingness to help others, even in small ways.

Be Encouraging…

BJM

*There was some question about whether Maddox has ever served crab. Great question. So I contacted Maddox and inquired. Here was their reply: “Brian, Crab legs are not a regular menu item for us but we have ‘specialed’ them in the past.  We usually run crab legs or lobster specials on holidays (valentine’s day, mother’s day, etc) so it is a possibility.”Thomas_S_Monson

Parents: Explain, Share, and Testify…

head-shoulders-portrait-jesus-christ_1160198_inlThis will be short…

As a religious educator, I have some ways of measuring my efforts in the classroom. One of them to ponder and measure how well I “explain, share, and testify of gospel doctrines and principles”, and also to invite the students to do the same: explain, share, and testify.

In the Gospel Teaching and Learning manual, you’ll find the following:

Explaining doctrines and principles, sharing insights and relevant experiences, and testifying of divine truth clarifies a person’s understanding of gospel doctrines and principles and improves their ability to teach the gospel to others. As students explain, share, and testify, they are often led by the Holy Ghost to a deeper testimony of the very things they are expressing. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, their words and expressions can also have a significant impact on the hearts and minds of their peers or others who are listening. (2.6)

Think on those three words and their meanings: Explain, Share, Testify. So here’s my question for LDS parents, and any parents who are trying to teach their children to love the Savior and His gospel: Are you giving your children opportunities to explain, share, and testify, and are you taking opportunities to explain, share, and testify of gospel truths yourself?

Sometimes our Family Home Evenings are boring, not productive, confusing….lame. Other times we have pretty effective FHE moments. And in fact, we have a lot of other opportunities to teach the gospel outside of FHE. During our best moments, our children have chances to explain their understanding of different aspects of the gospel, share experiences they’ve had with those principles or thoughts and feelings they’ve had about the principles, and testify of what they feel and believe. My sweetheart and I do the same.

Those are our best moments of gospel learning…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

From the Other Side of the Veil: “Please Try and Help Us…”

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 8.27.29 PMI had an interesting, though not-as-dramatic-as-it-is-going-to-sound, experience on Saturday…

I had spent a week and a half planning to do family history work. But projects got in the way, and nothing came of it. Finally, on Saturday, I determined to sit down and just do something. Anything, really.

So I spent about three hours browsing around my family tree, trying to recall who I was last working on. With some good luck and searching, I found an individual who hadn’t really been attached to our tree. Then I found part of his family. They weren’t direct-line ancestors, but more like direct-line and over one branch and back down a limb ancestors. As I researched this little family, I happened upon an obscure-ish book about their family’s ancestry (on Google Books). It seemed like such good fortune until I realized that there was really a lot of tedious and kind of boring work ahead of me, recording names and dates and places, which took the wind out of my sails a little.

I had already been at the computer for three hours. My back was stiff, as were my legs. I had other more relaxing things I wanted to do. So I decided to push back from the computer and take a break…a break that might not end for days…

As I was wandering away from the computer, I had a thought. It wasn’t a voice, really. It was barely an impression. But the thought quietly came into my mind that seemed to share this:

I know this is boring work, but please try to endure it and find us. Please be ok with working hard to find us. Please don’t stop just because this is hard…

I didn’t know where the thought came from, and in fact, I didn’t really pause and ponder and wonder much. I just walked back over to the computer and kept working. I wasn’t really trying to be obedient because I didn’t think the thought came from anywhere special. I thought that I had just thought it, and maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. I still don’t know for sure.

But over the next hour I found a number of previously unknown individuals who fit in our family and who had not had the opportunity to accept (or reject) the ordinances of the templeActually, it was one of the most genealogically productive hours that I’ve had in recent years. I’m really glad I stayed at the computer…

Here’s a small summary of what I’ve learned:

  1. Bringing people to Christ is hard work, whether on this side of the veil or the other.
  2. Bringing people to Christ requires patience on our part, whether on this side of the veil or the other.
  3. When someone says, “I’m not really interested in or good at genealogy or missionary work or helping the poor” they don’t realize that most people probably aren’t, but if we leave helping people up to only those that are gifted at it, not much will get done.
  4. Being worried about other people and really putting forth a lot of effort to help them is part of making your way back to Heavenly Father, and it is ok if it is a little hard sometimes. That is the only way that our experience will line up, even in some small degree, with the Savior’s experience helping us.

You and I can do hard/tedious/boring/frustrating/discouraging things…especially when it will bless someone else…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

The Meme That May Be Wrecking Your Day…

attitude aI keep seeing this meme posted on social media (see above). It’s been going around for months and maybe longer. And I’m not a huge fan. A little analysis will help us understand why this idea can rob us of happiness, success, and responsibility…

The basic idea here is this: My attitude (which, defined, is “way of thinking or feeling about someone or something” and typically has an effect on how I act and behave) seems to depend not on my choices, but on other people’s choices. If other people are having a bad day and treat my unkindly, I won’t have much choice. I’ll see this day as bad and will act accordingly. And best of all? You can’t really blame me, not for my thoughts, feelings, or behavior. I’m not in charge of how I feel and act…you are. And everyone else is. Everyone but me.attitude

And at that point, you are at the cruel mercy of the unfeeling, impatient, tired, angry, selfish crowd. A prisoner.

James E. Faust (1920-2007), once taught that we are here on earth to act, not to be acted upon by others. We are responsible for our choices:

“That brings me to an important point that I wish to make this evening…. Each of us must take the responsibility for the moral decisions we make in life…. Lehi states: “And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.” Being acted upon means somebody else is pulling the strings.” (General Conference, October, 1995)

attitude 2His next line in the address is: “We live in a time when many want to avoid the responsibility for their acts”. That is quite telling. An easy way for you or I to act foolishly or unkindly and not have to take responsibility for the actions is to look around the room and scream But look at how all of you are treating me! What choice do I have? I have to have a bad attitude! This isn’t my fault! It’s everyone else’s!

Back in 1974, Marvin J. Ashton shared: “Proper attitude in this crisis-dominated world is a priceless possession.” (General Conference, October, 1974) Wouldn’t it be hopeless if this “priceless possession” was something you couldn’t control within yourself? If you could only have this “priceless possession” if other people were in the mood to allow it?

Some basic truths to end:

  1. You and I are on earth with the ability and power to act and choose. We are not here to be acted upon.
  2. You and I can choose how we are going to feel and act, independent of the actions of those around us.
  3. Heavenly Father will help us change our attitude if we seek Him and His help (2 Nephi 2:16).
  4. Since it is true that we can have our attitudes affected by others, we can have a positive affect on the attitudes of others. But, ultimately, their attitude is up to them.
  5. We are responsible for our attitudes and actions.

attitude 3The meme is wrong. It teaches a false doctrine. And Pinterest is full of that meme, so I’m supposing that many people have “liked”, “favorited”, or “pinned” the idea at one point or another. Too bad. My guess is that in the next few hours you’ll head into work, or home from work, or into class, or to a party or get-together….Choose now how you want to feel and see things, and go forward. You really can do it. It really is your responsibility.

Be Encouraging…

BJM

Why “Tithing” isn’t So Boring After all…

tithingTithing is a boring topic. I know. I get it. But there are two not-so-boring principles associated with tithing that have had an effect on my attitude about giving it…

In the last few months of study, I’ve come across numerous people who have quite a problem with tithing in the LDS Church. That seems natural. No one wants to give money away, at least not at a rate of 10% of their increase. I’ve also read of a few people who don’t like the modern day church of Jesus Christ’s interpretation of “tithing”. So be it. That’s fine. But I want to take a second a discuss two blessings that come from faithful paying tithes. These blessings are either under-discussed, under-analyzed, or under-appreciated. Just so we’re on the same page, take a moment and re-read Malachi 3:10.

Ok, here we go…

First of all, faithfully giving an honest tithe opens the “windows of heaven”.

What can Heavenly Father send through a window? Anything He wants. But it seems as though windows are associated with light coming into a home or an expended view of the bigger picture. Analyzed, I think the most important blessing to come through the windows of heaven is revelation (or “impressions” or “insight” or “spiritual nudges”, etc.). When we faithfully offer a tithe to the Lord, our ability to receive personal revelation–in many forms–increases.

Secondly, faithfully giving an honest tithe puts you in a position where you can receive a blessing that you don’t have room to receive, and therefore you are in a position to bless the lives of others more effectively and efficiently.

Here’s what I love. Almost all of us would like to be considered an instrument in the hands of the Lord more than we are. We would like to be utilized. Faithfully offering a tithe puts us in a position to receive blessings at a rate that overfills our cups, so to speak, and those extra blessings have to go somewhere. They have to spill over the sides of our cups and go somewhere. My guess is that they would flow to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers if we allow it.

Please notice that money has not been mentioned in this post. When we focus on associating a measurable financial blessing with being a tithe-payer, we put ourselves in a position to easily miss the more important and available blessings. Looking for the money may block our view of the blessings we have access to. Money may be part of the blessings sent through the windows of heaven at a rate that causes overflow, but looking for that blessing first could be detrimental to us being able to “count our many blessings”…

When all is said and done, our family feels like we’ve received heavenly assistance as we’ve tried to cheerfully, faithfully, consistently pay an honest and full tithe.

Be Encouraging…

BJM

What I’m Reading (and How I’m Getting it) When I’m Not Reading the Scriptures…

pocketIt is going to sound more impressive than it is (especially once I’ve explained the caveats) but I haven’t missed a day of scripture study since at least July 1991. Probably a bit earlier than that. I’m not that smart, nor am I known for being overly committed to anything. And there have been numerous nights where I just read one or two verses to keep my streak alive. This record isn’t much, but it’s mine.

I suppose people joke that an institute/seminary teacher spends all day reading the scriptures and listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Not so. And I don’t just supplement my scriptures study with the Ensign, either (though, I do like the Ensign)…

Just in case it ends up being interesting, here’s what I’m reading and how I’m getting it.

Currently I’m spending more of my non-scripture-reading time on the iPad as opposed to hardbound books. I still have a book by my bedside (The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson) and I will probably always be in the middle of something. But I’m finding a lot of great articles (some long and some short) online following the pattern described here:

1. I find great articles from all over the place on Twitter, especially @PocketHits. @PocketHits keeps track of what have been the #mostsaved articles to the Pocket app.

2. I don’t read the articles I find right then (most of the time). I send them to the Pocket app, which I have an account for and have downloaded on the iPad.

3. When I have time (between projects or before bed or after church or waiting for a sporting event to start) I relax and read the articles.

4. Anything worth keeping, whether they be quotes or entire articles, gets saved to Evernote.

evernoteWhat I’m liking about this method is that I get to read widely and often. I have articles that take a few minutes to read, but I also have article that are considered long-reads that may take a considerable amount of time to get through.

It looks like I currently have articles from the New York Times, The Atlantic, TED blog, GQ, Priceonomics, Art of Manliness, Vogue, PewResearch.org and a few others. The list changes weekly. Some of the subjects? Krakatoa, Jon Ivy, Meditation, social media and the news, physical fitness history, a lightbulb that has been burning for 113 years, apps that TED staffers use, self control, aging to 100, Bill Gates, walking and thinking, stress, a being a hermit, among others…

I do also download talks from BYU Speeches and other LDS sites and blogs, but I think I have a good balance of reading ahead of me at any given time…

Be Encouraging…

BJM