Tag Archives: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

I Usually Don’t Know it’s Revelation…

jesus-at-the-door-39617-galleryPersonal revelation is a tricky thing. Too much of it and our agency may be infringed upon. Too little of it and we’re literally on our own, rudderless in a sense. Receiving direction from the heavens when needed in quite a blessing–a miracle in any sense of the word. The problem is, I’m not expert, even after decades of trying to become one. I’m not sure I’m better at recognizing promptings and direction now compared to a year ago or even a decade ago. Maybe I am. I really just don’t know.

Sometimes when we’re sharing an experience with someone (in a class or a personal conversation or a post) we say something like, “The spirit told me to…” or “I felt prompted to…” and we go on with the story. I’ve done that, I’m sure of it. And there are worse things in the world. The funny thing is this: I rarely know the Lord is prompting me when He is. On a few occasions I’ve felt sure the Holy Ghost was whispering to me, but those occasions are actually pretty rare.

More often, I think that maybe there is a chance I’ve been prompted. Not totally sure, but maybe.

I’m just not always sure. So I will have this thought or feeling or nudge (probably my favorite description of a prompting from God) and I’ll wonder about it a little. But it is a nudge toward something good or helpful or charitable, so I’ll move forward not knowing for sure if God’s hand is in this moment or not. Often, good things will come of it. Periodically, amazing or miraculous things will come of it. And as I look back over the situation and story it will become obvious that I had received a prompting or guidance and that the Lord was working in our lives. But I typically don’t know for sure until after the whole story is over.

Interestingly, we find this idea in the Book of Mormon, in the report of Nephi:

12 For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not;

13 And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.

14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.

15 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence. (1 Nephi 17:12-15)

The Lord seems to be saying to Nephi, “You’ll be led, but you won’t really know it for sure until after you’ve arrived in the promised land and avoided the destruction in Jerusalem.” They would hopefully trust the Lord and sense that there was a divine hand in their lives, but they wouldn’t know for sure until after they had arrived in the promised land (v. 14). Nephi determined to strive to keep the commandments so that he could eventually received that assurance (v. 15).

We can trust the Lord. We can act on promptings. We may not be totally sure that we’re being prompted, but as we act in faith, the assurances will come as we look back.

Sometimes our lives are like neo-impressionistic art. The dots of color that make up the moments and events of our days can appear unconnected and chaotic at times. We can’t see any order to them. We can’t imagine that they have a purpose at all.

However, when we step back and take an eternal perspective, when we look at our lives in the frame of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can begin to see how the various dots in our lives interconnect. We may not be able to see the entire picture just yet, but we’ll see enough to trust that there is a beautiful, grand design. And as we strive to trust God and follow His Son, Jesus Christ, one day we will see the finished product, and we will know that the very hand of God was directing and guiding our steps.

We will know that the Master Artist had a plan for those random dots all along. We will see that He has amplified our talents, prepared opportunities, and introduced us to possibilities far more glorious than we ever could have imagined or accomplished on our own.

I have certainly seen this in my own life.

An Evening with Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults • January 14, 2018

Maybe the “trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6) that has to come before you receive a witness is, at least sometimes, just not knowing for sure but moving forward anyway…

Be Encouraging,

BJM

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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!

Love,

Dad

27 Principles I Learned While Serving in the LDS Church…

imagesIt has been nine years since I was called to be a bishop and about three since I was released. Those were busy, happy, sometimes lonely, often fun, and long days and times. I remember that season of our lives very, very positively. Some time in the middle of all of that I started making a list of leadership principles I was noticing and learning. As the months went on I continued adding to the list. A few items have been added since I was released. But I’m sharing a list of principles I learned that have blessed me as a father and as a member of the Church. I don’t have these down yet, as far as living them all consistently, but I continue to work on them and ponder them. I think I’ll share them with you with no explanation and let you do what you will with them…

  • Expect a lot out of people, relative to their gifts, abilities, and talents, and sincerely and specifically praise any degree of progress. Communicate these things kindly and clearly.

  • Think, act, and speak calmly, regardless of the situation. Assist others in acting in the same when appropriate.

  • Determine what really constitutes an emergency for yourself and/or others. An emergency for someone else does not automatically constitute an emergency for you.

  • Service in the Kingdom of God is enjoyable. Act like it.

  • Teach, teach, teach. Look for appropriate opportunities to teach and remember that timing and other people’s dispositions matter when it comes to effective teaching and learning moments.

  • Take time to think through issues and principles before taking decisions to the Lord. Show the Lord that you have been and are willing to do most of the work.

  • Use the scriptures. Know and love the scriptures deeply enough to be able to do this. The scriptures can teach more clearly than I can.

  • Become an expert by studying, studying, studying. Be an expert it peripheral things as well as central things so that you can be helpful in many situations.

  • Temporal problems cause spiritual problems. There are no temporal problems that aren’t spiritual problems.

  • Increase faith in others and self. Actions, words, and challenges help accomplish this.

  • Sharpen the saw. Make sure the oxygen mask is on. Continually upgrade, train, exercise, and participate in the little things that will make you more effective.

  • What have the Brethren consistently taught? Be willing to search that out. Most of the time we don’t need a new revelation.

  • Out of small and simple things, great things are brought to pass. Counsel others to focus on inspired, small and simple changes.

  • Self-discipline precedes focused personal power for good.

  • Most actions need time and consistency to have a deep, powerful, broad effect on a family or individual.

  • Allow for the fact that people have an infinite ability to change, especially when driven and influenced by the Spirit.

  • Purposely manage time and resources. Act, don’t be acted upon. You were not sent to earth as one of Heavenly Father’s children to be acted upon.

  • Focus on doing things for others that they cannot do for themselves; not on doing things for others that they should be doing for themselves. Teach them to act and not to be acted upon.

  • Ask inspired (and inspiring) questions and listen quietly.

  • Act in a simple, dignified manner.

  • Bless when it is time to bless, counsel when it is time to counsel.

  • Be willing to change your mind.

  • Take into account people’s spiritual gifts and talents. Those are always part of the equation and/or solution.

  • Simplification and clarity lead to power while complexity leads to confusion and loss of momentum.

  • Take time to ponder problems, situations, and opportunities. Record insights that come.

  • When you teach, teach clearly, plainly and simply.

  • Remember that the Savior should be at the center of your reason and purpose when you act. If He is not, make the changes necessary to place Him back in the center of your heart and intent.

Again, these will mean different things to different people. And some of these will mean nothing to anyone but me…

Be Encouraging,

BJM

Our Responsibility With the Messages of Church Leaders…

CallisterThe word “responsibility” means

the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone. (Google)

I want to share a few thoughts regarding the responsibility we all have when it comes to “messages”. Yes, I’m driving at something here, but I want to be delicate and yet clear.

When it comes to a message, there are two responsibilities: The responsibility of the sender of the message, and the responsibility of the receiver. So, no message is complete until both parties have fulfilled their responsibility. For example, if an artist paints an image on a canvas, he or she puts effort into the message with the details, colors, lighting, depth, and many other aspects of the piece of art. Then the connoisseur of art wanders into the gallery and receives the message. They are then responsible for some personal interpretation. They can see beauty or offensiveness in their interpretation. They are welcome to see what the artist has not tried to convey if they’d like. When it comes to the message of this art, both parties, the artist and the connoisseur have a responsibility when it comes to the message of the art.

There is a similar responsibility when it comes to prophets and apostles, both living and deceased. I can only imagine the pressure that Paul felt as he worded his writings to the saints in Corinth, Rome, etc. My guess is that he had some inkling of the fact that his eventual audience would include those he would never know. We know that Moroni understood that his writings would reach a large and wide audience (Mormon 8:35) and he seemed to plead to that audience to take appropriate responsibility when it came to the words he wrote (Mormon 8:16-17).

Elder Tad Callister recently gave an address that has resulted in quite a stir online. According to this news report, some people are claiming that Elder Callister’s address on morality and modesty is contributing to the “rape mentality” of our culture. According to the online news report two therapists shared the following:

The women believe, “it [the address by Elder Callister] lowers men down to not much more than an animal, just walking around with these lustful thoughts and breaking out like the Incredible Hulk and attack a woman if she is dressed in not the right way.” (KUTV)

There are a number of other issues taken with the address by these therapists which I’m not going to analyze in this article. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are well-intentioned, which I’m sure they are. What I’m not comfortable with is that they don’t seem to be giving Elder Callister the same benefit of the doubt. Referring to the quote above, I couldn’t find anything in Elder Callister’s address that would lead me to believe that he thinks men are animals and are attacking women if they dress immodestly. When it comes to the other concerns shared in the news article and other places online where Elder Callister is being attacked/corrected, there seems to be a similar drive to take what he actually said and blow it up into something much more controversial.

Here’s my point. Elder Callister has a responsibility to word what he is trying to teach in the most effective way possible and to stay true to the inspiration received through the Holy Ghost. Knowing that he is mortal, there certainly may be room for improvement in the way he expressed things. But we, as readers/listeners have a responsibility to interpret the message appropriately with an effort to tap into the same spirit that formed the message in his heart originally. We also should seek to give him the benefit of the doubt and seek to discern his intent.

If one person dresses immodestly that doesn’t give the person sitting next to them the right to interpret that “message” as an invitation to think or act inappropriately. Sure, the person dressed immodestly needs to take responsibility for their choice in dress, but that doesn’t remove the responsibility of the neighbor for an appropriate interpretation. The therapists referred to in the article would agree with this. Why doesn’t the same standard apply to messages sent by word of mouth from church leaders? We have the responsibility to receive the message with an appropriate interpretation, seeking to give the sender of the message the benefit of the doubt and to discern the intent of the message instead of seeking to pick holes in the message by nitpicking the details of how it was delivered. Does anyone really think Elder Callister would sit here and say, “Yes, if a woman is dressed immodestly, she is, alone, responsible for the thoughts of everyone around her. A man just can’t help himself when it comes to his thoughts…”?

One of the plights of these days we’re in is the propensity to seek to find fault with each message that comes from religious leaders:

For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:

That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought. (Isaiah 29:20-21)

As always, be encouraging…

BJM

So You’re Attending a Mormon Worship Service? (Mormonism 101)…

sacrament meetingThis post is for you. Well, what I mean is, this post is intended for a person who was recently invited to attend a Mormon worship service. Attending church with the Mormons is a lot like other church’s services, but also different. Hopefully this post will help make your first trip more enjoyable.

First of all, there is a webpage that will give you an “official” explanation of what will happen at church. You really should check it out. You’ll find it here. Maybe don’t read any thing else until you read that.

Ok. Now, a couple other things:

  1. No one in the local congregation gets paid to preach or give sermons. In fact, no one is really trained to give sermons. I mean, there are some good speakers who you’ll really enjoy, but I think you’ll notice that who ever is speaking to the congregation is pretty nervous and is only doing it because they’ve been invited to share some thoughts on whatever gospel topic is assigned. Though you won’t always hear a “polished” talk or sermon, you will hear people speaking from the heart, from the scriptures, and from personal experience.
  2. Usually the first Sunday of the month is for anyone to go to the microphone and share their testimony. Each month we have the opportunity to share some of the simple truths that are in our hearts. Again, these aren’t professional clergy but are your neighbors who might be school teachers, stay-at-home parents, plumbers, physicians or just about any other profession. I think you’ll find it interesting to hear people just speak, unprepared, on the very basics of the gospel. Because anyone can get up, you might hear some people share some things you’re not used to hearing in church, but most of what you hear will feel very familiar. Sometimes people get so nervous they don’t say exactly what they had planned on saying. But most of these micro-talks are about the central basics of our beliefs.
  3. Mormons are taught to be welcoming to visitors and I think you’ll find that a lot of people will shake your hand, ask your name, and generally welcome you. Now, there is a chance that not everyone will. Some people will keep to themselves. You know, as much as we enjoy church, sometimes people in church are struggling with a tough week or day and they may keep to themselves. Don’t take it personally. They are happy you’re here, they just need a Sunday to feel close to Heavenly Father and to feel some peace. They’ll warm up next week.
  4. If you are attending church in your neighborhood, there is the chance you’ll recognize some of the congregants. You work with Mormons. You’re neighbors with Mormons. Heck, one ran for President of the United States recently (technically, two did). You may also recognize a person or two that hasn’t quite lived up to what the Mormons profess to believe. Again, that’s ok. That’s why they’re there. Cut them a little break and get to know them a little better. They’re probably trying.
  5. You’ve already read about this, but Mormons do have “communion”. We call it “sacrament” and we eat a piece of bread and drink a small cup of water to remind us of the Savior’s sacrifice and our baptism. I just read on some site that people who aren’t Mormons aren’t allowed to take the sacrament. Of course you are allowed to take the sacrament if you’d like to! If you choose to join the LDS church and are baptized, the sacrament will become even more significant to you.
  6. Give it a few weeks. Part of Mormonism is the feeling of community and family. There’s more to it than that, but if you’ll attend for at least a few weeks and maybe come to a mid-week activity with a friend, you’ll feel more comfortable. 
  7. Lastly, pay attention to how you feel while attending church. Even if the sermons aren’t professionally prepared; even if not everyone flocks to you and hugs you; even if you see a few (or a lot) Mormons who don’t set the perfect example; I think you’ll feel the Spirit of God during the meetings. Stick with it. We’re happy you’re here!

Well, there’s more, but go give it a shot. If you have questions, lean over and ask someone around you. Or, come back here and shoot me an email. I’d be happy to help!

Be Encouraging…

BJM

These views are personal, and are not the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...

“Practicing” Living the Gospel…

baseballI was searching for a few verses regarding the law of chastity (for a lesson) a few days ago and came across a very, very hopeful verse.

In March of 1831, the Lord admonished Joseph with these words:

“And ye must practice virtue and holiness before me continually. Even so. Amen.” (D&C 46:33)

The obviously important word might be “continually”. But the word that stood out to me was “practice”. Surely, there is a chance that the word practice can be understood like “practicing medicine” and that makes sense to me. But I love the idea of practicing, as in “I’m going to go out and practicing hitting a baseball.”

If I played baseball this weekend and only hit the ball once in four at-bats, I would feel a bit discouraged (which is normal), but I think I would spend this next week practicing my hitting. I’d analyze what wasn’t working for me. I’d determine what adjustments could be made. I’d set some goals and I would go into next week’s game with some realistic expectations about my hitting. After hitting the ball twice in four at-bats, I’d celebrate my improvement and would adjust my next week’s practice. Luckily, since most baseball seasons consist of 162 games, I have some time to practice. I have the whole season to “practice batting…continually”.

Years ago, while serving as bishop in our ward, a ward member and I talked about some failures he had experienced with a certain aspect of the law of chastity. He had struggled for years — over a decade — with this problem. After our first meeting, he went roughly two weeks living a virtuous life. Then he fell back into the old pattern. He came right in a visited with me, sharing his struggles. He was surprised when I congratulated him on his success. I explained that after more than a decade of struggling, almost daily, with keeping this commandment, he had gone two entire weeks with success. That was a new triumph. And, he had time to improve. I wasn’t suggesting that he go too easy on himself for breaking a commandment. But I was suggesting that he allow himself some time for improvement. After all, for him, we were only halfway through the season. 80 games to go.

You and I have a little time. We have time to practice being who we want to be and who God wants us to be. We may be batting .147 today, but we can practice, train, learn, grow, and bat .300 by next month. And .350 in a year. And we can bat .400 soon enough.

I’m not advocating turning a blind eye to our sins or poor choices. I am thinking that life is, in part, about practicing.

Practice forgiving. Practice being patient. Practice being a good spouse or parent or child or sibling or neighbor. Practice keeping your thoughts clean. Practice. You’re not going to be perfect. You’re not going to hit every pitch today. But you and I can practice…

Be encouraging…

BJM

These views are personal, and are not the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...

No More Guilt Over Personal Scripture Study…

scripturesThough meant to be inspiring, there is a verse of scripture in the Book of Mormon that has probably led to more guilt than one would think. It is a favorite, and at the same time kind of a little painful to contemplate:

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:3, emphasis added)

It seems to be the word “feast” that is causing the pressure. I was recently with a class of youth and we discussed the difference between a snack, a meal and a feast. We analyzed what made certain foods snacks as opposed to meals as opposed to feasts. Here is what they came up with, right or wrong:

  1. A snack is usually short, involves only one food, and isn’t particularly healthy, especially if repeated for weeks.
  2. A meal usually involved a variety of foods and takes a little bit of time and planning to prepare and consume. It is usually healthy.
  3. A feast usually involves what amounts to several meals. There is a lot of time spent planning and preparing, and you can’t consume the entire feast in one sitting.

Analysis over, I asked them which word best described their daily scripture study…

They’re snacking.

No one in the group felt great about that. So we analyzed what a “scripture study snack” looked like, what a “scripture study meal” looked like, and what a “scripture study feast” looked like. In this analysis was the “ah-ha!” moment for us, and it is something I wish I would’ve noticed years ago. Here’s what we determined, for better or worse:

  • Scripture Study Snack: Usually just consists of reading some verses. Not bad. Maybe a chapter. Nothing more.
  • Scripture Study Meal: Usually consists of reading some verses, and adding one or two components of what is found on the list for “scripture study feast” (which follows)…
  • Scripture Study Feast: Here’s where it gets overwhelming. When you’re in “feast-mode”, you are not only reading scriptures but you’re adding the following components: Study journal, General Conference talks, cross-referencing, pondering, Ensign articles, personal prayer regarding what is being studied, sharing with a friend or family member or social media, an extended amount of time, a Patriarchal Blessing, a related Mormon Message, and the list goes on.

The problem lies in the fact that no one can include everything on the “feast” list each day. Or almost on any day. That kind of scripture study would last well over an hour, and I don’t have that kind of time on a regular basis. Not many people do. The result? No one can “feast upon the words of Christ”…how discouraging.

Then it hit me. No one can actually have a physical feast everyday. Maybe Thanksgiving or Christmas, but not normally. What normally happens in our home is that we have good, healthy meals everyday. The key is that if you take all of the daily meals into account at the end of the week, our family has had a feast over the course of the week.

The same may be true for scripture study. Rather than trying to feast every single day, I’m going to focus on limiting the amount of times I “snack” on the scriptures and put my effort into having a good, healthy scripture study “meal” each day. At the end of the week I should be able to look back and see that I have, over the course of the week, “feasted upon the words of Christ”.

Here’s how it might work (this is made-up…there are a variety of ways this could look):

  • Sunday: I study a chapter in the New Testament as well as my Patriarchal Blessing. Because I have a little more time, I also read a conference talk. I write a few ideas in the journal. I may spend some time in Preach My Gospel as well.
  • Monday: Along with the New Testament, I cross-referenced some verses to the Book of Mormon and thought about those connections. I record a few thoughts in the journal.
  • Tuesday: I spend some time in the scriptures, but find one particular verse I love. I look up some definitions of  word in there that interests me and I share what I find on Twitter.
  • Wednesday: I watch a Mormon Message that contains references to a number of scriptures. I look those up, mark them, and ponder the connection between what I’ve learned in the Mormon Message (and the accompanying scriptures) and my life and actions. I record a thought or two in the journal.
  • Thursday: I study a number of conference talks because I have a little extra time. I also study one chapter in the Book of Mormon.
  • Friday: Friday is busier than normal and I find myself only reading a few verses that evening before bed. That is probably a “snack”, but I’m allowed a few snacks here and there.
  • Saturday: I have time for a couple chapters in the Book of Mormon and I follow a number of cross-references into other books of scripture. I also study the First Presidency Message in the Ensign and mark a number of the scriptures that are cited in the article.

Now it is Sunday again. I look back over my week and realize I have really experienced a good week of scripture study meals as opposed to just snacking throughout the week. I think I’ve “feasted” upon the word over the course of the week. I will hopefully have a similar week next week, while changing up some of the study methods I use.

Rather than feel frustrated or discouraged at our efforts to “feast upon the words of Christ” everyday, we should look for ways to have effect scripture study each day and then look at the entire week to see how we’ve done. There really is a way to “feast upon the words of Christ” and allow Him to prompt, inspire, and direct me through His Spirit.

Be encouraging…

BJM

These views are personal, and are not the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...