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

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…

BJM

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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

She Wasn’t the Only One Who Touched the Savior’s Robe…

Notice how narrow the streets of Jerusalem are in the older parts of the city. And since many of the streets in the ancient parts of town haven’t shrunk, it makes sense that the streets in the Savior’s time would’ve been quite narrow as well. My guess is, walking up and down these streets would’ve been a pretty intimate experience.

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Had you lived in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, you would’ve bumped into others often as you travelled through the winding streets of town. Your shoulders would have jostled people’s carts or you would’ve mistakenly stepped on someone’s sandals. Surely you side-stepped people or brushed up against them and their belongings regularly.

And that idea begs a question: Was the woman with an “issue of blood twelve years” and who reached out to touch the Savior’s clothes as he passed by the only person to touch his clothes that day? If so, why weren’t more people healed that day?

Short answer: Of course she wasn’t the only person to touch Jesus that day. Many people brushed up against the Savior and His clothing before and after she did. Most didn’t even realize that had touched Him. He may not have known that He had been touched by the others. But He knew that she had touched Him.

So, if touching his clothes healed the woman, why weren’t others healed that day as well? Short answer, again: Intention. Faith. Purpose. The woman who was healed touched the Savior as an act of faith. She intentionally reached for Him. She acted in faith and with purpose.

Thousands of people read the scriptures each day, but only a small percentage are “healed”. Countless people will pray this evening, but only a small percentage will be “healed” as a result. Many members of the LDS Church will partake of the sacrament on the upcoming Sabbath but only a small number will feel the cleansing power of the Atonement as part of that sacred ordinance. Many will look like they follow the Savior today, but only a handful of them will reap the blessings of obedience and love. Why? Because only a few will do these things on purpose and with intention.

Principle: When we act in faith with purpose and intention God can bless us in healing, powerful ways. When we go about our day with little intention or purpose, going through the motions, as it were, we miss connecting with Heaven. There is a difference between brushing up against the Savior because the streets are narrow and reaching out to Him with purpose, faith, and intention to obtain needed blessings.

So, today, look up and reach out in faith.

As always, be encouraging…

BJM

 

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. (Fox13now.com)

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.

MyPlan.lds.org, and a Pattern for Transitions…

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 7.32.34 AMMy friend and colleague recently posted a link to MyPlan.lds.org, 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…

BJM

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