Category Archives: family life

When You List Your Personal Strengths, Are You Remembering This One?

unspecifiedWe really, really look forward to Mondays. That’s “Email Day” around here. Each week I update our missionary-son, Landon, on our lives and share a short gospel principle that’s, hopefully, encouraging. I also ask him three to five questions about himself and his mission experience.

Last week one of my questions invited him to list some of the strengths, gifts, or talents he’s noticing he is developing. I thought I’d hear him talk about some newfound courage or ability to love others or a developed work-ethic. His answer (and what follows is all he wrote about it) caught me a little off guard:

“I think I’ve just realized my weak spots right now. I have noticed that now when things get rough the first thing I do is turn to the Lord. Which if you count Him as my strength, I guess there’s one.” (Elder Mickelson, January 2017)

Each of us possess talents and talents-in-embryo. We each have strengths and gifts. But when we’re in a covenant relationship with the Savior, He becomes our greatest Gift. Many of us take courage when approaching a challenge when we’re reminded of some gift that will give us an advantage in the sticky situation. But, doesn’t having the Savior as our Advocate, Redeemer, and Savior give us the ultimate advantage in mortality.

The next time you are facing a problem, remember to list all of your gifts, especially the ultimate Gift. He is our greatest source of strength…

Be Encouraging…



A Letter to Our Missionary Son…

mickelson-and-coronadoOur oldest son has spent 6 weeks in the Missionary Training Center in Mexico City and recently flew to Guadalajara where he will spend the next 22 months or so. We email him each week and I try to write a letter to him each week as well…Here is a recent letter I sent, hoping he’d receive it close to when he arrived in his new area:

December 20, 2016 (Pouch)

Dear Landon…

This is my first letter through the Pouch system and I’ll be interested to see how it works. I’m writing this on Tuesday, December 20 and will mail it today so keep track and let me know how long it takes for this to get into your hands. My guess is that it will go from here (Logan) to Salt Lake, to your mission office and then must be hand-delivered by an office elder to you, right? So that may take some time. I know that I can email you each week and I will always do that, but I like writing these so that you have a physical copy of some of the things I would like to share with you and teach you that I think will bless you. I would imagine you will not be able to print the emails so you don’t have access to them throughout the week. Anyway, let me know how this goes and how often do these pouch letters are delivered to you.

I can’t believe you are in Guadalajara!!! You’ve met President and Sister Clayton, been interviewed, met the APs, and met your trainer! You’ve also been assigned you first area and are meeting ward or branch members and a few of the people in your teaching pool I would imagine. So awesome. You may also feel a little overwhelmed with it all and a little frustrated with the language, even though I think it has been coming along pretty well according to your reports from the MTC. So, you have a few decisions to make. In case you’ve not already made them, here are some ideas:

  1. Decide right now that obedience is the first law of heaven
  2. Decide right now that loving your companion doesn’t depend on what he’s like as much as on you choosing to love and serve him
  3. Decide that the Book of Mormon isn’t only central to your investigators’ conversions, but to yours
  4. Decide to follow the council of the Mission President no matter what
  5. Decide to trust in the Lord

You’ve already learned how to overcome frustration or discouragement or homesickness while in the MTC, or at least part of how to do that. And to be honest, you’ve learned things that most parents only dream of their son learning as an 18-year-old. Where else can this kind of growth happen? I love where you are and what you’re doing! You have already learned how to lean on the Lord for help and I promise you, Heavenly Father knows exactly where you are and what worries and excites you! I promise that is true.

We are so excited to hear the details of Guadalajara and the Claytons and your trainer and district and zone. This is it. You’re the real deal now. It is high adventure from here on out. Elder Neal A. Maxwell shared this: “Now we are entering times wherein there will be for all of us as Church members, in my judgment, some special challenges which will require of us that we follow the Brethren. All the easy things that the Church has had to do have been done. From now on, it’s high adventure, and followership is going to be tested in some interesting ways” (“The Old Testament: Relevancy within Antiquity,” in A Symposium on the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979], p. 12) There will be boring moments in the missionary field and slow times for sure, but you out there, in the middle of the Lord’s work!!! You have a family that loves you and thinks about you all of the time and misses you and prays for you multiple times a day. You have a companion who loves you. You have a mission president who loves you. You have friends who love you. You have people from the other side of the veil who will help you and whisper to you and encourage you through the Spirit (2 Nephi 32:2). And, you are blessed with talents and gift more than most. Use them.

I love you more than you can know!



To Our Graduating Son: You’ve Made This Much, Much Harder Than it Needed to Be…

MIC_3069a copyDear Oldest Son…You graduate tomorrow! It is so hard for me to wrap my head around this. You were our “little guy” for a long time, then our “big guy” for awhile, and all of the sudden you are a man. It happened that fast. Probably happened faster for us than you.

So graduation will be celebrated tomorrow and with it will come a whirlwind of other milestones that involve our faith, college, marriage, employment, parenting, and a whole host of other things. You’re hitting the most exciting and adventurous time of your life. High school has been wonderful, but you haven’t seen anything yet. It gets better. So much better. So much deeper and more meaningful. You’re going to love it.

MIC_3059 copyYou think I’d be more excited. Honestly, I am. But you’ve actually made this much harder than it should be. Let me explain…

From what I hear, many parents are relieved to get this far without major incident. Secretly, many parents are excited for this day because their child starts out on his or her own. That is something to celebrate. No more late nights, waiting up and worrying about their child. No more lectures. No more school fees. The stress level eases up a bit.

But we never had that with you.

We haven’t been waiting for you to leave. We’ve been enjoying having you in our family more than you can imagine.

  • You’re a wonderful “big brother” and have done things with your siblings that Mom and I couldn’t have done.
  • You are so enjoyable to talk with. Your opinions and views are interesting and respectable and admirable and genuine.
  • You are kind to others. You are more kind than I was at your age.
  • You’ve made it look easy, but it hasn’t always been easy for you. You’ve battled. I look up to you. 
  • You have always taken into account our feelings when you’ve made decisions. That isn’t easy for any teenager and maybe wasn’t for you either. But you’ve done it.
  • You are so good at taking counsel. I know I’ve gone on a bit too long in my “teaching moments” and you’ve been pretty patient with me. Very patient, actually.
  • You express gratitude and notice when Mom and I have tried to make life enjoyable for you and your brothers and sisters.
  • You have lived in a way that has allowed us to hear so many good things about you from other adults. I’ve walked away from many conversations with others about you and have smiled.
  • Your dating life has been a joy to witness and hear about.
  • You are the type of son who I like to share parts of my day with. You get excited about other people’s success.
  • You have grown closer to God in a way that gives me and Mom a lot of peace in our hearts. Your spiritual life is genuine.

You’ve made mistakes. We’ve made mistakes. We’ve had to run quite the experiment on you. We hadn’t done this parenting thing before you came along. It hasn’t been perfect and we’ve been far-from-perfect parents. But son, you have made it very hard to let you go because it has been a privilege and blessing to be your parents.

Let me confess something here that is a little embarrassing for me: A few days ago when no one was home, I went down into your room for something and while I was down there I caught a whiff of your bedding and pillowcase. It brought me to tears. In a weird way, you smell the same as when you were a little boy. I know that smell and I love it. I sat there on your bed, in tears, and mourned. You know, I’ve never wanted these days to end. Playing catch, kicking the soccer ball around, wrestling, joking. Eventually coaching your teams, taking you to try-outs, touring the middle school and high school. Helping you remember your locker combination. Late night school projects. Getting excited for your first date and dance, ordaining you to offices of the priesthood, talking about your first kiss, teaching you to drive. Applying for college, filling out your church missionary application. Designing your high school graduation announcement…Now those doors and chapters are closing. And it is hard. At least, it is hard for me. I can’t tell you how hard this is for me.

But here’s what won’t change: Mom and I will pray for and about you everyday until we pass away. You need to know that. We’ll eventually pray for your sweetheart and children. You’ll always have a home, and eventually it will be a home away from the home you and your wife will build. We will always love you, and that love is not dependent upon your success or failure. You can count on it. We will always want to hear about your day. Your struggles. Your questions. Your triumphs. And whatever boring things happen in your life won’t feel boring to us. We’ll want to hear about them. We’ve had confidence in you since the start, and that will only grow. 

So, go ahead and graduate tomorrow. It’s time and you’re ready. And we’re excited and ready to celebrate. We love you more than you can understand. But please know that deep down in my heart, this is hard. And you’ve made it that way, because you’ve been an answer to our prayers…

MIC_3046a copy

An Open Letter to My Wife on Our 20th Anniversary….

Today, in about an hour actually, is the twentieth anniversary of the day Janese and I were married…

Dearest Janese,

1467268_10151843926474121_877224198_nHere we are on our 20th anniversary. We have no big plans today. No grand gestures. We’re pretty busy and will probably have to save most of the celebrating for this summer when there is a little more time, or at least fewer directions we’re going. Today will be fairly normal, except that I’ll be thinking a little more about you, and us, and twenty years of happy marriage.

To say we’ve been happy is an understatement at best. But we discuss that all the time. I do want to express a few things to you today that we don’t always talk about, but I want to avoid some of the overused sentiments that I see on cards and in movies. I hope you’ll understand…

1525036_10151924757484121_1943377886_n“I can’t believe it has been twenty years!” — Of course I believe it. I knew from the get-go that we were going the distance. I suppose that everyone thinks they are going to “make it” when they start out in marriage. But there is something about starting a marriage in the temple that causes, even forces, you to think about not only this life but the next. In my mind, an “eternal marriage” isn’t a marriage defined by time so much as a marriage unbound by time or space or any outside influence. The reality of it is this: you and I will always be central to one another in every conceivable way, whether in this life or the next. I have an assurance of that. Twenty years? We’re just getting going…

374162_10151128109404121_265952278_n“We were meant to be!” — This is a tough one. I’m not sure I’m convinced that there is a “one and only” out there for everyone. There are roughly 7 billion humans on the earth. Finding “the one” seems like a pretty tall order. Though I can’t imagine being anywhere near as happy being married to someone else, I’d bet that you could have found someone else and been very happy. I’m pretty average and you adapt well, so you would have been fine. But, with all of that said, I do believe that now, and starting twenty years ago, you and I were meant to be. You are my one and only. I act on that knowledge every second of everyday. Our relationship is inspired and “on purpose”. I don’t wonder about life with anyone else. I just spend my time wondering about what I can do to make ours better.

376744_10150387542004121_719077499_n“I can’t imagine life without you!” — This overused phrase might actually work here. You were gone this last weekend. I hated it. It isn’t that I mind time away from you. And it isn’t that I don’t want you to have time away from me. Jeesh, I would want time away from me. But there were a million times in the day when I wanted to tell you something or ask you something or get help from you or offer help to you. I had funny things to say and I’d laugh and say them to myself and imagine you rolling your eyes and trying not to laugh so as to not encourage me. But really, I can’t remember life without you. I can remember life events from before I knew you, of course. But I can’t remember what it feels like not to be yours. Every memory I have contains at least hints of you in the periphery, even though I didn’t know you way back then. There were a lot of choices I made when I was young that were intended to benefit you, even though you didn’t exist then. But you did. You were always there.

“We’ve been through so much together!” — True, but this sentence never actually does justice to what a couple has actually lived through. What does “so much” mean? We’ve endured four babies quickly come and go before we were able to hold them. We’ve happily been blessed with 577541_10151403021084121_1336311542_nfive babies that have come and stayed. We’ve heard that dreaded news of “breast cancer” and endured some very sleepless nights while counting on doctors and nurses and clinics and relying on the Lord to allow us the experience that would best bless us. We’ve lived through night-shifts, finals weeks, lost engagement rings, sleepless nights of sick children, demanding callings in the church, financial strain and financial ease, differing opinions. “So much” doesn’t begin to describe it. And the “so much” that we’ve lived through doesn’t begin to describe what it coming. We’ll be sick. We’ll have more financial worries. We’ll have flooded basements. We’ll have fires. We’ll worry about our children and their children and their children. Death will make an entry at some point. We’ll lose parents, posterity, and at some point, one of us will step across the veil and leave the other behind for a while. I really hope that we leave this life relatively close to one another, but I hope you go first. I can’t stand the thought of you being alone here. Yes, we’ve been though some things and we’ll go through some things. But we’ll always have each other.

“I love you more than you can know!” — This one may be accurate. In fact, I think I love you more than I can know.

Janese, thank you for saying “yes”. Thank you for going “ralking” with me (not a misspelling, just an inside piece of information). Thank you for the card and the peach pie. Thank you for holding my hand on the basketball court at our apartment building (actually, thank you for not letting go. I tricked you a little on that one). Thank you for accepting an invitation to kiss goodnight (I can remember that exact square of the sidewalk we were on). Thank you for saying “yes” on the couch in the Logan Temple. Thank you for following through six months later in that same temple (I suppose you could have changed your mind). Our wedding day will always be one of my favorite days to exist. Thank you for being willing to have children. That has been the source of deep heartache and complete happiness for us. Thank you for coming home last weekend…

There is more. Of course there is more. We’ve been married twenty years. But thank you for being who you are. The twenty years ago you, the current you, the future you, and the eternal you. The eternal us. I love you…



Be Encouraging…


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…


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…


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…