Tag Archives: Mormon

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

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The 25th Anniversary of Starting My Mormon Mission…

It has been 25 years, today.

mtcprovoJuly 3, 1991…I was 19 years old and my parents and brothers and I were at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, saying our goodbyes. They were going to drive off and leave me there…

I had never lived away from home up to that point since my first year of college was spent at a local college. I don’t think I had been east of Utah in my life. Being the oldest, our family had never sent a missionary off. I was nervous. I’d imagine my parents were nervous. This was new territory. After a short presentation by the staff and leadership of the MTC, I hugged everyone, cried, and walked into a hallway with hundreds of new missionaries while my family walked back to the car with hundreds of families in similar situations.

First thing I learned as a missionary: I loved my family.

Then I hauled my bags to my room. Then I met Elder Evans who I would grow to love like a brother. Then I met the other missionaries going to my mission, and a few others going to other missions. I spent about three weeks in the MTC, learning, studying, playing basketball, eating (and immediately using the restroom), praying, praying…And eventually traveling to Texas where I served as a representative of my family, my church, and my Savior in bringing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who would listen.

It has been 25 years since I embarked on that adventure. I served for two years. I’ve had 23 years to think about it. Here are some of the things I learned:

I learned that I could get along with anyone. I didn’t have to just stick with my friends like I thought I needed to do in high school. The mission president could stick me with any missionary companion and it wouldn’t be long before we were laughing and joking and working together. I even had one companion who didn’t speak any english (and I didn’t speak his language). We got along great!

I learned that I could work hard. I didn’t grow up on a farm or as an olympic athlete. It is doubtful that I would be remembered in high school as any other than an average worker. But very quickly I learned that I could go all day, so to speak. We were up at 6:30 AM, out the door by 9:00 AM, and gone all day until 9:00 PM that evening. And I liked it. I really enjoyed it. It was tiring, and could be discouraging, but we found ways to enjoy just working.

I learned that my intestines didn’t like 32-Bean-Soup.

I learned that my Samoan companion punched a lot harder than I did.

I learned that when you sense that a dog is going to try to bite you, it is because it really is going to try to bite you.

I learned that not everyone likes Mormons.

I learned that there was beauty and truth and great people in every religion.

I learned that there were incredible people who weren’t religious at all.

I learned to enjoy the friendship that developed with other religious leaders.

I learned that I enjoyed attended the Jewish Synagogue, Catholic Mass, and Baptist worship meetings.

I learned to let rejection, disappointment, and frustration bounce right off of me.

I learned that I could choose to be happy regardless of my circumstances.

I learned to get off of my bike, get out of my car, and get out of my routine to help strangers with no expectation of repayment. A person didn’t need to listen to our message to receive our help.

I learned to follow those quiet promptings, impressions, and feelings that come from a loving Heavenly Father.

I learned that obedience isn’t limiting or oppressive. Following the council of leaders doesn’t require that I become un-thinking or un-feeling. Just the opposite. And blessings and protection seem to follow.

I learned that Joseph Smith did, in fact, see God the Father and Jesus Christ. And that there was a lot to learn about that experience and from that experience.

I learned of the power of the word of God and the special relationship between the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

I learned that Jesus Christ really did live and die for all of us. He was resurrected and lives today.

I learned that God knew me very personally, and knows me today.

There’s certainly a lot more. Lessons were learned everyday. Over the last 23 years, since returning home and moving on with life, I’ve also learned that those two years as a missionary were not the best two years of my life. They set the stage. The mission ended up teaching me the patterns I would need to understand to make the next 23 years wonderful.

I will forever be grateful for parents and church leaders who encouraged me, but didn’t force me to serve as a missionary. I could have not served in that way and everyone would’ve loved me just fine. I had friends who didn’t go as full time missionaries and they were loved as much as me. So I learned that being a missionary didn’t make me any more special or loved by others or God.

But I’m grateful I went. I would go again. We’re encouraging our children to serve as missionaries because of the blessings and lessons that come. Those two years were critical in becoming who I am today.

Be encouraging…

BJM

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

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.

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…
BJM

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….

BJM

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