My Experience With an Update in Church Policy…

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 9.14.40 AMI’ll try to keep it brief.

I felt some surprise last night when I opened up my browser to find an update in Church policy regarding married gay couples and their children. My gift of being prone to anxiety (with her soul sister, “over-reaction”) caused some immediate feelings of either dread, panic, anxiety, or worry (I never can tell which I’m feeling at the outset) at the headline “LDS Church to exclude children of same-sex couples from membership” (thanks to KUTV for adding click-bait drama to an already controversial subject). Of course I had an immediate response. I was confused. I don’t like “exclusion” and I love people and don’t like people feeling hurt.

But, following is what happened to me last night. I wouldn’t use me as an example, for sure, but I think there is a divine pattern in what I experienced.

  1. Right off the bat, I decided not to go to Facebook and see what everyone thought. And, I decided not to go share a response immediately, since I knew I only had part of the story. Social media is not where I find answers to deep things.
  2. I reached out to people with understanding. I made some phone calls, and received a perfectly timed call from one of my favorite former students. She and I talked through our thoughts and feelings as she reached out to say, “Help me find some understanding here”. We acknowledged our feelings and limited understanding and talked about the possible and probable reasons for the policy. We decided we needed more info, but that this was still a hard one. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be some (or a lot) pain and hurt involved here, and that breaks my heart. I decided not to ignore those feelings either.
  3. I looked for an official Church response. There wasn’t one. I expect there may be one shortly.
  4. I started asking myself some questions, prayerfully: 1. Why would the leaders of the Church make this policy change? What reasoning could be behind it? Obviously this wasn’t meant as a way to attack gay families, since the hasn’t been the overall pattern of Church leadership. They’ve tried to teach true principles and practice kindness in a world that won’t allow those two options to exist in the same room at the same time.
  5. I had a moment where the thought came into my mind: Who does this policy protect? And as I pondered that thought for some hours, I had an awakening regarding the matter: This policy protects families with gay parents and children/youth who want to join the Church while living in a family with gay parents (see below for explanation).
  6. I felt some relief and peace, and that peace felt very familiar. It is the same feeling I feel when I have a good scripture study evening, or serve someone, or worship in the temple, or teach the gospel. Peace is a good answer.
  7. I then happened upon a clarifying quote from a comment the Church made about the policy:

The LDS Church says the concern is that the expectations of church attendance, baptism, priesthood ordination and other ordinances would put the child in a very difficult position, considering the parents could not be church members. (

In the night, in my personal scripture study, I happened upon D&C 6:14, which reminded me that inquiring of the Lord on these matters will be more helpful than inquiring at the knee of Facebook, Twitter, or the mainstream news media outlets. Joseph Smith “lacked wisdom”, he “stud[ied] it out in his mind”, he “ask[ed] of God” and received a “pillar of light” as part of the answer. I can testify of that pattern. I went to the Lord for help and received some good instruction. I was happy to see the quote from the news that complimented and confirmed what I felt, but I’m not sure I needed it. I am grateful for personal revelation. I hope more information will be forthcoming. But I am at peace.

Be Encouraging…BJM

(Now, here is my explanation regarding how this new policy is a protective policy, rather than a restrictive policy. If you don’t care about my explanation, and I’d agree with that choice, then you’ve already hit the end of this post for all intents and purposes)

I had a young man come to me some time ago, wanting to sign up for seminary. He isn’t a member of our faith, but he has a lot of Mormon friends. His parents are practicing members of another faith, and they’re a great family.

He asked me about signing up for seminary even though his parents probably wouldn’t like the idea. He was hoping I would support him in his decision to attend anyway. There was a minor feeling of shock when I told him not to attend, at least not without a very long and patient visit with his parents. I don’t know if he was hurt or not by my non-support, but I just couldn’t let him make a decision that would make his family life harder. I really do want him to take seminary, but right now, that wouldn’t bless his life. It might complicate it. So I invited him not to take seminary unless he had the full support of his family.

The policy disallowing children of same-sex couples to be baptized protects that child. It protects that same-sex couple and family. To require a young person to sustain the prophet, attend church regularly, and work toward the temple while living with two same-sex parents (who are most likely wonderful, understanding, and loving parents and providers) is requiring that child to draw a line in the sand in their home that isn’t fair to the child or parents, especially at a young age. By allowing baptism, the Church would be putting the child in an almost-impossible situation where keeping covenants might be out of reach or may cause increased tension and contention in the home. The child would eventually have to hurt and offend his/her parents, or back away from important covenants made in the waters of baptism. It would be more wise to wait until the child was more mature and out of the home before making that momentous, covenant-related decision to join the Church through baptism.

Rather than banning or barring children of same-gender couples, I believe the Church is protecting them from a covenant that, in this case, would negatively affect their spiritual progress. I am thankful for thoughtful Church leaders and a loving Heavenly Father who is making it more likely that His children will return to Him.

No One Can Make Me Believe, and No One Can Make Me Choose Otherwise…

D&C 5:16

D&C 5:16

I had a moment of clarity some time ago regarding belief, faith, testimony, and knowledge. Things are a little more simple for me now, and more peaceful. And, in fact, I feel like I can put my drive and effort and heart into what I think are the most important things in life now…I thought I was before, and I was trying, but things feel even more peaceful now. Best explanation I have, I guess…so here we go.

No one can make a person believe in God, Jesus, or Joseph’s divine calling as a prophet in the latter days. And, no one can make a person not believe or stop believing. More clearly, you are responsible for your choice to believe or not to believe, and you can’t “blame” anyone for your choice. Evidence either way can’t be blamed, and arguments or the choices and examples of others can’t act upon you in a way that takes your agency away. Personal moral agency is too central to God’s plan to have Him force one of His children to be a believer in Him or to allow another person to force their will upon a son or daughter of our Heavenly Parents. Think about what is taught in Moses 4:3 regarding how protective God is of our ability to choose. Can you imagine God saying, “Here is some evidence that I won’t allow you to choose to ignore. I just made you a believer and you’ll get the consequences whether you like it or not…”? Also, can you image God saying, “Here is evidence that will make you a non-believer. You might want to be one, but I’m using this evidence to stop that, and to stop blessings you would otherwise be qualified to receive…”?

Once a person makes a choice–a purposeful agency-backed choice–there are possible and probable outcomes. If you choose to believe, you are now capable of receiving a confirmation from a source outside yourself. In other words, your choice to be a believer (and acting on that choice) qualifies you for a heavenly witness. For instance:

“…whosoever believeth on my words, them will I visit with the manifestation of my Spirit…” (D&C 5:16)

I have made the conscious decision to believe in God and prophets, and that decision, made over and over, day in and day out, has been confirmed by quiet manifestations of God’s Spirit. The promise in D&C 5 has come to pass in my life. There’s been very few remarkable or outstanding spiritual moments…just quiet manifestations that the choice to believe is the right one for me, and that I don’t believe in something that isn’t true. In other words, God is real.

With all of the evidence that proves that Heavenly Father exists, and all of the evidence that He does not, none have caused me, or anyone else, to have to believe or not to. I have chosen to believe, and have had His Spirit allow me to know things I couldn’t know based on evidence. We have Heavenly Parents, and God has called prophets in the last days.

An Increased Likelihood of Personal Revelation…


Everyone knows that Lehi “dwelt in a tent” (1 Nephi 2:15). Common knowledge if you’re a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You probably also know that Lehi was on the wealthy side of life during his life in Jerusalem because he left his riches when he left Jerusalem, listing gold and silver, etc., on the list of things that were abandoned (1 Nephi 2:4). If you use the little search box at and look for the word “tent” in the Book of Mormon and stick to just the start (where Lehi is mentioned) you’ll see that Nephi made mention of Lehi’s tent a number of times. One of these instances stood out to me recently.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 8.45.10 PMIn 1 Nephi 9:1, Nephi shares that Lehi saw and heard and spoke “these things” as he lived in a tent in the valley of Lemuel, and that there were more things experienced as well. “These things” refers to Lehi’s famous “Tree of Life” vision; easily one of the most important visions in Lehi’s experience or in the Book of Mormon. For some reason it struck me that Nephi seemed to go out of his way to mention that Lehi was living in a tent when this great revelation was received. Why? Why point that out?

Lehi wasn’t living his ideal life at this point. I mean, who in Jerusalem would imagine wealthy, successful Lehi living in a tent in some random valley, far from friends, family, business associates, and trade routes? I can’t image that Lehi ever pictured this life for himself. But there he was, in very humble circumstances. Or, better said, in very humbling circumstances. And that is where the revelation was received.

Two possible principles:

  1. Maybe Nephi is subtly teaching that we don’t have to been in the best of circumstances to receive revelation. Maybe having life go smoothly isn’t a prerequisite for spiritual experiences. So, if you are dwelling in a tent, so to speak, as opposed to where you’d like or where you pictured yourself, you aren’t out of luck when it comes to the blessings of heaven.
  2. Which brings me to possible principle number two. And that is, maybe Lehi’s humbling circumstances are the very reason he was qualified to receive this important heavenly message. And if that is the case, thank the heavens for those times in our lives when we find ourselves in humbling circumstances, where personal revelation is more likely to settle on and in our hearts and minds.

I don’t know for sure, of course. But, I am more thankful for the moments I find myself out in the tent as opposed to in the castle. I need all the heavenly help I can get.

Be Encouraging…

BJM, and a Pattern for Transitions…

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 7.32.34 AMMy friend and colleague recently posted a link to, where returning missionaries will put together and follow through on plans that will make their transition from full-time missionary to returned-missionary a little easier and more effective. Interestingly, their first “learning experience” relating to returning home successfully will take place before they enter the MTC. Another learning experience will take place when they’ve been out in the missionary field for about half of their service time. Then, various learning experiences will occur each week of their last six weeks in the field. These plans will be shared with their mission president and home-stake president so that they have built-in support for working on goals and someone to visit with about their efforts. Of course, their parents are encouraged to play a significant role in their transition home.

That’s where we often see the struggle: the transition home. And in fact, that is where we see a lot of problems, generally: transitions between one life event/situation to another. Here are a few examples:

  • From married to divorced, or separated, or widowed/widowerhood
  • From single to married
  • From a couple to parents will a child or children
  • From parenthood to empty nest-hood
  • From one school to another (elementary to middle school, etc.)
  • From one department at a job to another
  • From one neighborhood to another
  • From prison or jail to home life
  • From one level on income to another
  • From one group of friends to another

Regardless of the life change, people feel a little off-balance and little less-assured when they’re moving from one part of life to another, regardless of how seemingly small the transition is.

And that is where “we” come in. By “we”, I mean everyone who is around and can offer assistance, support, guidance, help, etc. We can help make sure a person’s transitional moment doesn’t go so negatively that they make choices that will ruin future chances of happiness and success, spiritually or otherwise. We can make a transition a positive experience that opens up new opportunities. For instance:

  • When a person or family walks into church for the first time, greet them. Ask about them. Be friendly and find a way to offer support in a non-awkward way.
  • When children are preparing for a new year in school, talk to them about what they’re nervous about.
  • When a person is newly-singled (for any reason) their friends need to be supportive and look for ways to help them in this transitional period.
  • When a person is newly hired in the office, it is kind and helpful if their new colleagues go out of their way to be friendly, offer info on the “lay of the land” and office culture, etc. It is nice to have someone to go to lunch with.

The pattern set by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is to help a returning missionary have a successful transition from the mission field to home life, but that pattern should be a lesson to all of us in the need to assist everyone in what could be the toughest moments in life. We can keep an eye out for those in transitions, both small and overwhelming, and be part of the supportive solutions others need.

Be Encouraging…


Why I’m Not So Ready to Give Up My Anxiety Quite Yet…

anxietyLet me start by saying that I don’t think my anxiety is like anyone else’s. Therefore, my experience isn’t meant to be a pattern for anyone. If the following is helpful, wonderful… But it may not be.

I remember thinking that I’d give almost anything to get rid of the anxiety. I would see people who seemed unaffected by turbulent events and I’d just wonder what in the world that felt like. I was pretty envious. No. I was really envious. And sometimes desperate.

But I feel a little different now. If I could magically get rid of my anxiety, maybe I would and maybe I wouldn’t. I think I see a few benefits wrapped in the pounding heart and pitted stomach. Let me explain.

First of all, here’s been my experience (the best I can describe it):

  1. I’d be laying there in bed, sometime after 11:00 PM
  2. I’d start a little “what-if” game about a situation that was unpleasant
  3. It wouldn’t take long before my mind would go to the “worst case scenario”
  4. I’d begin to kind of obsess this worst case and replay it in my mind over and over
  5. The worst case became the probable-scenario
  6. My heart would beat and my mind would race as I tried to figure out how I’d solve this nearly-unsolvable situation and the worry and dread would seep in
  7. I’d look at the clock and think, “Oh great. It’s 3:00 AM and I haven’t slept which means tomorrow is going to be terrible…and also, I have cancer or I’m going to get ax-murdered or my children are going to get abducted” or whatever the worst case scenario was
  8. Knowing that what just happened was irrational and that the thing I was anxious about was not, actually, probably going to happen, my mind would not let go and my heart would continue to race and, therefore, I couldn’t sleep
  9. It would happen again the next night…

And take that list and change it a little and add feelings of being overwhelmed, no desire to be around others, stomach and digestion issues, loss of confidence, etc.

Now, truthfully, much of that has relaxed a bit. I made one visit to a therapist and he was very, very helpful. I changed a few things, physically. Things have definitely eased up in this department, for which I’m very grateful. And I also know that my experience is just mine and how things have eased wouldn’t work for someone else, I suppose. But I still have little episodes here and there. I think I’m just a little better equipped to deal with them than I was five years ago.

With all that said, I can trace a list of blessings back to anxiety. And I don’t think I really want to give these blessings up:

  1. I’m almost never late. In fact, if I have a speaking engagement, I show up 30 minutes early or more (I like to see everything and solve any problems before they become problems, and pace around a little, nervously)
  2. I’m almost always fully prepared for whatever I’m doing. If there is a chance of something going wrong, I prep for it. And my imagination can think up plenty of things that can go wrong so I get really prepared.
  3. I think, a lot, about how others feel. Empathy comes much easier than it did a decade or two ago. I assume others are bothered or stressed or nervous or in some kind of emotional distress. I think maybe I’m a little more kind than I used to be (maybe others would say otherwise)
  4. I’ve learned to listen to my brain and body a little more carefully. I can feel stress and anxiety rising and am better at addressing it. I am better and going to sleep and working out and eating differently.
  5. Being in a good mood is a very “on purpose” thing for me. I choose it more directly now than ever. I know what helps me feel happy and I go do those things. It is kind of a pre-emptive strike against unneeded negativity. That has become like second-nature at this point. I feel genuinely happy almost all of the time.
  6. I’ve established a habit of not worrying about past things. I spend almost no time regretting things, no matter what they are. Learn a lesson and keep moving.
  7. I’ve had just enough experience in life to now see that things generally work out and turn out or get figured out. I’m seeing a pattern. If you address problems, get appropriate help from others, and trust the Lord, the worst case scenario is almost never what happens.
  8. Maybe the most important blessing is that I have practiced relying on the Lord more fully and trusting Him. That seems to help ease anxiety when it is coming.

Honestly, I slept on the couch a few nights ago because my tossing and turning would surely keep my sweetheart awake. I was worried that our basement would flood. I checked the sump pump numerous times, tested it, checked the weather (on three different apps), prayed for a dry basement, and spent a little time imagining what our flooded basement would look like. I talked myself out of it, then worried myself back into it. But then I realized that, due to my anxiety, we had built our home a little higher in the ground than I would have otherwise and we had a sump pump that was working properly. I also decided that a flooded basement would be miserable and maybe expensive, but that there were worse things. And I went to sleep. It was about 1:30 AM, so not too bad…

The anxiety isn’t gone completely. But things are better. I wish I knew how to help someone else, but I’m not sure my list applies to everyone. I do know that there have been blessings that have come because my anxiety hasn’t been taken, removed, healed or any of the other things I used to pray for. In fact, the best description may be this:

And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. (Mosiah 24:14-15)

The anxiety isn’t gone, but I feel better about shouldering it. And for that I’m grateful.

Be Encouraging…

What I Mean When I Say that “I Know the Gospel is True”…

Holland book of mormonThe phrase “I know” seems pretty definite and makes people a little nervous, if not dubious and doubtful. I totally get it. Hearing other people express the idea that another can’t know for sure that the gospel or the church or obedience is true–and that they know it–has given me reason to dig into what I’ve meant when I’ve expressed that idea…the idea that I know the gospel is true.

Here is what I mean, and it comes in parts, and I may not be expressing this as clearly as another person could:

I’ve tried to spend much of the last 30 years studying out multiple sides of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve studied the scriptures, the words of those who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the ideas of those who question the gospel or church or leaders, the words of those who have fought against the Church, the talks and addresses of the general authorities of the Church, and a lot of what would be considered in between “believers” and “nonbelievers”. So, I’ve tried to do good research. I still have more to go in this category.

I’ve tried to live the tenets of this gospel. Admittedly, that hasn’t gone as well as I wish. Meaning, I mess a lot of stuff up. I can’t seem to keep the commandments in my life the way I picture myself doing it in my mind. I’d like to say that I’m improving there, but that may or may not be true. Hopefully I am. The verdict is still out, but either way, I still have some work to do in this category.

Third, I’ve asked God for help in understanding what is going on when it comes to truth, church, spirituality, and life. I’ve asked, seeked, and knocked, as directed by the scriptures.

In the spirit of transparency I need to share these two things: First, I hope the gospel is true. I hope there is a God and a Jesus and prophets and apostles and priesthood keys. I hope the Book of Mormon really is an additional witness, working with the Bible, that Jesus is the Christ. I hope repentance is a real thing and I hope that there is a literal resurrection and I hope Joseph Smith really was visited by God in 1820. I do want these things to be true. Secondly, I am choosing to believe. By choice, I am a believer, because there is no other way to be a believer but to be it, to choose it. And, yes, I would totally understand if you were thinking the phrase “confirmation bias” over and over in your head. Totally get it.

My honest experience is that as I’ve studied the church and gospel, tried to live the gospel and serve well in the church, and asked for direction from God, my choice to believe has been confirmed by spiritual witnesses, the source of which is outside of me. I have received many, many quiet, simple, spiritual confirmations that what I’ve been studying and living is true. Do I know that every single little part of the church and gospel is true? I don’t know how to answer that. I’m not there yet with the above steps. But what I’ve chosen to believe about what I’ve studied and lived has been confirmed, repeatedly.

I have nothing to say about other people’s experiences, but I know what I’ve experienced.

When I say “I know the gospel is true”, I mean that my belief in the gospel (and the study and actions behind it) has been confirmed by God through His Spirit. And those confirmations have brought peace, motivation, continued hope, and optimism beyond any other source I’ve experienced…

Be Encouraging….


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…


*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