Giving

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As a father at Christmas time there are two things that particularly fill me with joy – 1) Giving gifts to my children and seeing their joy over those gifts and 2) seeing my children give gifts to each other and express gratitude for those gifts.

Perhaps all parents love giving gifts to their children, especially when they are young. There is little in life more rewarding than seeing expressions of joy and wonder on the faces of children when receiving gifts. There is little more rewarding than spending time figuring out what gifts children will like. Christmas time in particular gives me a glimpse into how our Heavenly Father feels towards us. All the joy I receive in giving gifts to my children is a reflection of the joy He must feel as He gives us gifts. Do we recognize those gifts and express gratitude for them? How must He feel when we abuse or do not acknowledge the gifts we receive from Him?

Last night, so as not to have them lost in the shuffle of opening other presents, my wife and I had our children open the gifts they had for and from each other. My oldest daughter spent many hours making gifts for her siblings. She sewed by hand stuffed animals for her sister and brother, making their favorite animals. That was touching enough to see how much time she spent on the gifts (they turned out quite well and cute). Even better was seeing the reaction of my other daughter upon opening the present; she pulled it out, looked at it, gave it a hug and said, “I love it!” Seeing the joy and the gratitude on my younger daughter’s face for the gift that had been made with a lot of love and time and a little stuffing brought tears to my eyes. I thought about how much Heavenly Father must love seeing His children do kind things for each other and be touched when gratitude and joy are shown in response.

I thought of the Sermon on the Mount when Christ taught, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt. 7:7-11).

Our Father wants to give us gifts and He does! He blesses us many times and in many ways we will never know in this life. This is one reason we are commanded to be grateful in all things. This Christmas season is a particular time of giving. May we we experience the joy and wonder that comes as give freely with love to those around us! May we express gratitude to those who give so much to us – parents, family, friends, strangers, and God.

Selected October 2009 General Conference Quotes and Thoughts – Priesthood Session

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The following notes are only from talks by the Apostles.
 
Elder M. Russell Ballard – Communication Between Fathers and Sons

Priesthood and family are two of the most powerful things in the gospel.

Fathers and sons – how to talk to each other. We are all on a journey of becoming who we will become someday. No one has arrived yet. Fathers are the primary model of manhood for their sons.

Sons – how to take full advantage of your relationship with your father.

  1. Trust your father. He is not perfect but can help you. Talk to him, let him know your thoughts and dreams. You dad wants you to be happy and successful.
  2. Take an interest in your father’s life and his job and who he is. Find out what you don’t know about him.
  3. Ask your father for his advice on friends, dating, school, church, and so forth. This can also motivate him to give better advice and be a better person.

Fathers

  1. Listen to your sons. Ask the right kind of questions. Need to know what is going on in his life. Don’t assume you know how he feels or is thinking. Find a best way to connect. Have a one on one relationship. At least one really good conversation per month. Ask about feelings as often as you can without overdoing it. Listen more than you talk.
  2. Pray with and for your sons. Give them blessings. Share your testimony. Never give up even when fervent prayer in behalf of any who wander is all you can do.
  3. Have the big talks with your sons – drugs, girls, gospel, sex, pornography. Have open and frequent conversations on these topics. Talk about wholesome sexual relationships within marriage.

The most important decision for returned missionaries is to marry the right girl in the temple. Court and date and do not just “hang out”. Do not go the way of the world.

Honor your priesthood and love one another by making relationships with each other.

Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf – Adversity and Work

The brethren pray always for us. Winter will always give way to Spring. Remain steadfast in hope.

Shared story when he was 11 and living in the loft/attic of a barn. He was a refuge for the 2nd time in a few years. Boys made fun of him because of his East German accent. Now he can look back and see the great personal growth he made in the midst of that adversity.

Two important principles that sustain through adversity.

1. Work. Keep working, regardless of what you do. His parents worked various jobs to survive – truck driving, mining, laundry. Work kept their minds off their difficult circumstances. As they kept working, things got better. Those who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and work are a benefit to all. Don’t compare your efforts to others. Just do the best we can. Work is an ointment for anxiety.

If stuck in the mud, the Lord will be more willing to him who gets out and pushes instead of just praying. The righteous work we do in our homes cannot be delegated. Do not devote ourselves solely to worldly things.

Retirement is not part of the Lord’s plan of happiness. We need to consecrate everything to the Lord’s word. Endure joyfully to the end. Whether you are the youngest Deacon or the oldest High Priest, there is work to do.

2. Learn. Education is not the filling of a bucket, it is the lighting of a fire. Learning is not merely a good idea, it is a commandment. You do not progress faster than you gain knowledge. Knowledge does away with darkness, anxiety, and doubt.

Books can become your university. Seek knowledge by study and faith. Apply faith to your study. It will amplify your intellectual capacity. Do not neglect the fountain of revelation. Seek out the knowledge that leads to peace and truth.

It is often in the trial of adversity that we learn the most important things.

Pres. Henry B. Eyring – Spiritual Preparation

His containers of consecrated olive oil. Be prepared for any emergencies. When the call comes be ready. Preparation begins long before the crises that we might face.

Make choices to rise to your destiny as children of God. We don’t know what will come but know what you need to be ready.

1. Have faith. Priesthood is power to act in the name of God. You have to have faith that God lives and has confidence in you. Faith dies not come on a moment, it comes from courageous and sustained labor in the Lord’s Kingdom.

Deacons and Teachers an Priests can give as inspired and powerful talks as you hear in General Conference.

Some do not prepare as they should. We will be held accountable if we can help and do not.

2. Confidence to live up to the promises and blessings. Courage to stand firm in the face of temptations and adversities. We can be examples for the youth. D&C; 121 – pattern of righteous priesthood action.

Be unwearying in the Lord’s work. No lights out method of shepherding the youth.

Don’t tell your kids to do something or make a sacrifice you are not willing to do yourself. Have a feeling of wanting to do more to rise to the occasion and he prepared.

Pres. Thomas S. Monson – Anger

Anger is the root of many of the tragic stories in the news. Cease from anger and forsake wrath.

Story of husband and wife arguing in the car, thrown toy that was aimed at wife but hit the 18 month old son and damaged his brain.

Anger doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t build anything and can destroy everything.

There are many causes for anger. We can get upset for perceived wrongs or insult. A man is a fool who takes an insult where none is intended.

Can you be angry and not sin? Can you feel the Spirit when you are angry? No. The spirit of contention is of the Devil. God’s doctrine is to do away with anger.

No one can make us angry – it is a choice. Becoming angry is following the influence of the devil.

Shared story of Elder Marsh’s wife saving the strippings of the milk. Thomas B. Marsh became angrier and angrier and swore before a magistrate that the Mormons were dangerous. This was a factor in Bogg’s extermination order. 19 years later Marsh came back, saying he had lost much because of his choices.

Don’t given in to the feelings that lead to anger – irritation and so forth. Think of the consequence of anger. Leave unsaid the harmful and hurtful things you might say. School thy feelings.

The Oath & Covenant of the priesthood applies to all of us priesthood holders. Great promises await us if we are true to the Oath & Covenant of the priesthood. Harbor no animosity but be peacemakers.

A House of Prayer Podcast Episode 9 – Families and Fathers

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In this episode I present an essay about families and fathers. Part of this essay was given as a talk I gave on Father’s Day shortly after I returned home from my mission. The text of that part is not online. However, the last part of the podcast comes from my Father’s Day tribute to my father.

If you’ve subscribed to my feed, you should receive the audio file automatically. If you have not subscribed to my feed, it’s never too late! You can also click on the following link to download the podcast directly (right-click {or option-click on a Mac} to save the file): A House of Prayer 9 – Families and Fathers.

You can also subscribe directly from the iTunes Store by clicking on this link: A House of Prayer podcast (notice: requires and opens iTunes).

Let me know what you think!

Credit: The short music clip I use as an entrance and exit to the show is an arrangement of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing from the album Reflections of Christ. Visit that link to find out how you can purchase the music (I’m not associated with the artists; I just enjoy the music).

The podcast album art is an image by Irwin-Scott. Check out his photo stream on Flickr. I thought his photo of the Salt Lake Temple would be a fitting image as a house of prayer. His night-time photo of the illuminated temple surrounded by darkness has a lovely symbolic meaning of the temple as a light on a hill, an ensign to the nations, a lighthouse shining forth in the darkness.

Puritanism Parallels with Mormonism: Preparation for the Restoration – Part 3

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The Puritans also often referred to themselves as “saints.” Members of the LDS Church call themselves saints, not because we believe our behavior is particularly saintly (although it should be!) but saints was a term used Biblically to refer to members of the church Christ established. We also use the term in reference to the name of Christ’s church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Puritans came over to the New World almost exclusively in order to have religious freedom, just as Mormons fled westward seeking religious freedom; it was ironic that Mormons eventually had to leave the United States in order to find the religious freedoms promised in the Bill of Rights. The Puritans settled in the cold Massachusetts area (it was going through a mini Ice Age at the time), which helped them develop into hearty people and protected them from many of the contagious diseases so prevalent in the south. The men and women were strong and did physical labor. Utah, with its altitude and dry air, similarly provided protections against many transmittable diseases. Diseases still ravaged but they were relatively mild compared to pandemics further south.

While Puritan society was patriarchal, there was no tolerance for abuse of women (or men, for that matter). Their patriarchal society was founded on Biblical principles. Women and men were punished equally for adultery or other sins or crimes. Women, while principally domestic in their roles, were often encouraged to be intellectual, courageous, have strong characters, and have integrity. Puritan women in New England were not “just mothers” – they were fulfilling important roles as the “head of the family” (Fischer, p.85). The LDS church has a patriarchal priesthood. The extent of our patriarchal organization outside the priesthood organization is explained in The Family: A Proclamation to the World: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”

While the Puritans differed significantly in their religious doctrine from the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which would not be restored to the earth for 200 years), there were some similarities. Puritans were Calvinists; they believed that some were predestined by God to go to Heaven. One sign of God’s grace was old age; the aged were venerated and respected. The elderly often were in political and religious positions of power. Many of the general LDS Church leaders (especially the Apostles) today are older – in their 60s through their 90s. However, as members of the LDS Church we do not believe that old age is a sign of God’s grace and mercy but we often do respect the wisdom of our elders. While we do not believe in predestination like Calvinists do, we believe in fore-ordination. We believe that many people were pre-ordained to certain responsibilities or missions or callings; this fore-ordination does not, however, determine those responsibilities or missions or callings.

Link to Part 2 of this essay.

Reference

Fischer, D. H. (1989). Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

A Father’s Day Tribute

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A number of years ago before the invention of electricity but after the invention of outdoor plumbing, my father was born. He was born when he was quite young to goodly parents. They taught him the gospel and helped him start along the path of life. When young, he lived for a time in Boston as my grandfather attended law school. However, he grew up mainly in Phoenix, Arizona with time spent in St. John’s, Arizona. He loved and still loves spending time outdoors. I think there are relatively few people who have seen as much of the wilderness of Arizona (and Utah) as my father.

Even though my father spends a lot of time outdoors, he also spends a lot of time reading and learning (not that being outdoors and learning are mutually exclusive categories). While he used to read many novels when younger, he rarely reads novels now (“now” goes back many years). Almost every week as we – my siblings and I – were growing up we went to our public library and checked out books. My father would check out many books – all non-fiction – on topics ranging from geology to physics to linguistics (which is what he has a Master’s degree in) to art. He would then either read or skim (if the books were not that great) all of the books before they were due; he always had a stack of books checked out from the library. I do not expect to meet anyone who has the breadth and depth of knowledge that my father has. Even as a teenager I always respected my father’s opinion, even if I did not always follow it or agree with it. I never thought he did not know anything because he always seemed to know everything.

My father has exhibited similarly broad interests in his work over the years. He spent a couple years as an intelligence officer for the Army during the Vietnam War. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a Master’s degree in linguistics. He then attended law school and worked for a number of years as an attorney, which he currently does. He owned and operated an Apple Computer store. He owned and ran a digital design and printing business. He taught classes at a local college. He has always worked hard – his idea of taking a break is working in the garden or repairing something or hiking up a mountain (although he does more leisurely things from time to time). For the church, he served as an LDS missionary in Argentina. He also served in various church callings at the ward and stake level.

My father has been many things in his life but greatest of all, he is a husband and father. My father taught all of us children to love the gospel. He always placed the most important things first – whether it was the gospel or family. He has a testimony of the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he never shied from sharing that testimony with us. He always read his scriptures, reading the complete standard works regularly. He taught our family during family home evening, although we all would take turns teaching. He always went to church and did his home teaching. He is like those of whom the Savior said these words: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15; emphasis added).

My sister wrote of an experience with our grandfather that is similar in many ways to countless experiences I had with my father. Even though it is about my grandfather, I share it not only for the beauty of the experience but also because it is representative of things my father taught me.

“Almost every year, as is common in late July, a storm builds up. One year the lightning was so fierce that I was terrified. Dad patiently took me by the hand, and we walked over to his father. ‘Ask Grandpa to tell you about thunder and lightning.’

“Grandpa stood in the middle of the circle, holding on to his cap and shielding his eyes from the blowing dirt, and began to teach me about storms. He talked about the movement of storms and what caused them. He talked of larger weather patterns in northern Arizona and electrical phenomena, including how to calculate the distance from you to the lightning.

“But more than teaching me the scientific explanations, Grandpa quietly taught me through his example not to be afraid. He taught me that storms are to be appreciated and admired, surveyed and studied, but not feared. So from thunderstorms and Grandpa, I learned how knowledge and courage can dispel the darkness of fear.” (Source).

My father taught me the beauty of the desert as we hiked in the Superstition Mountains. He taught me the importance of preparation as we hiked the dusty trails of the Grand Canyon. He taught me perseverance as we plodded our way through the Pariah Canyon. He taught me safety as we rappelled down mountainsides. He taught me love as he brushed away my tears. He taught me how to be a husband by how he treated my mother. He taught me creativity as he wove or drew or sang. He taught me service as he helped those around us in need. He taught me lifelong learning by his voracious appetite for knowledge. He taught me a love of family through his family history work. He taught me the gospel through countless Family Home Evenings. He taught me integrity by always keeping his word. He taught me by his word but most strongly by his deed. He lives as he teaches and teaches as he lives. Above all, he taught me that there is no more important thing in life than building my foundation upon Christ. There is no one whose opinions I value more than my father’s. He truly is my hero.

A Father’s Job

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I’ve been reading the book Bonds that make us free by C. Terry Warner. It’s life-changing. It’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Even though the book is not scripture, I thought this short quote would be quite appropriate for this blog.

First, a little context. A man became upset at his children. He responded to them angrily and they started to cry. Realizing his error, he went to their room and asked for forgiveness. They quickly jumped into his arms and kissed him, forgiving him for any wrong. Now for the quote:

“Well, I leaned a lot of lessons from that. But the one that sticks with me the most, because I’m a father, is that it’s a father’s job to repent first. That’s what is means to me to be a father – to be the first one to repent and heal the relationship. My children were anxious and willing to forgive and be friends with me. But I had to start it. It seems to me that that’s the way relationships are healed. It’s no more complicated than that. It may take longer in some cases, but there isn’t much more to it than simply yielding your heart to what you know is the truth and saying, ‘I’m sorry.'” (p. 261).

Even though I’ve only been a parent for just over four years, I’ve made my share of mistakes. Parenting is very hard work; it takes a lot of effort and patience. But it also take more than that; it takes love and selflessness. I find that pride and selfishness usually cause the most friction in relationships. As a parent, as a father, it is especially important to be the first one to repent and ask for forgiveness.