“If there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal. And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.” (Abraham 3:18-19).

Intelligence is an interesting concept. We have tests that measure what we call intelligence but such tests are limited and culture-centric (not that that is necessarily a negative thing). However, for the sake of discussion I will operationally define aptitude (i.e., intelligence) as Intelligence Quotient so as to have a standard metric as foundation for this post.

I spend time assessing people’s memory and thinking abilities. I almost always try to get some measure of baseline aptitude either by estimating it (e.g., years of education, vocabulary knowledge, word reading ability) or by formally measuring via an intelligence test. Granted, this has limitations but it allows me to estimate how well an individual’s brain should function across multiple domains of thinking (e.g., problem-solving, reasoning, memory, language, and so forth). In other words, the higher a person’s general aptitude (abilities), the better he generally will do across most cognitive domains barring brain insult. This is certainly not a rule codified in stone and in triplicate but it serves as a rubric to follow.

Intelligence as measured by IQ is generally quite stable across the lifespan but can improve modestly with  diligence in informal or formal education. Intelligence as denoted by IQ can also decrease modestly if people are intellectually inactive, although such declines are slight. What can happen though is as brains age or if damaged by a pathological process or an injury, components of IQ can decrease. My primary clinical and research focus is in understanding how brains and cognition change in old age – both naturally and in the presence of neurological (brain) insult. Remarkably, the measures we use for intelligence tend to be rather insensitive to aging and even neurological insult, at least some of the components of intelligence are generally insensitive to brain insult. However, this leads to one area where our conceptualization of intelligence as IQ starts to break down.

As they age, the brains of people almost universally slow down. Wear and tear on the brain over decades of life affects how well and quickly we can think. Blood, which is essential for life and for the functioning of the brain, happens to be toxic to brain cells. Sometimes the protections in the brain that keep blood far enough from brain cells (neurons) to protect them but near enough to feed and maintain brain cells start to break down over time. This can injure the brain and start to reduce how well the brain works, even lowering IQ. Now, does that mean that a person’s intelligence decreases? If IQ = intelligence, then yes, it does. Contrary to how I operationalized intelligence earlier, intelligence is not synonymous with IQ. IQ can be a useful concept but it is far from perfect, particularly if by using it one argues that someone is less intelligent simply because his head was injured in an accident or because she developed dementia or suffered a stroke.

One of the beauties of the gospel is that aptitude does not matter – performance matters. We are blessed not for what we are given but for what we do with what we have. Jesus taught a parable demonstrating this principle:

“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 25:14-30).

Five, two, and one talents were given. He who had five gained five. He who had two gained two. Both were blessed. He who had one hid it away, giving it to the Lord. Instead of being pleased, the Lord was angry because instead of hiding the talent the servant could at least gained interest on it. He could have done something with it instead of nothing. It was because he did nothing that he was punished. Blessings come to those who use their talents wisely; punishment comes to those who do not try to improve their potential.

Clinically, I work with people of myriad levels of intelligence, as measured by IQ tests. All of us are surrounded by individuals of varying levels of intelligence. 50% of individuals have average intelligence by definition. About 15% have below average intelligence and 15% above average. 10% have borderline impaired or impaired intelligence and 10% have superior intelligence. Again, this is intelligence as understood by psychologists and cognitive scientists and not as understood by God. What we know though is it does not matter what our aptitude is, what matters is what our performance is.

What I find is a beautiful doctrine is that whatever limitations someone might have in intelligence in this life can be removed in the next life. So someone with impaired intelligence in this life can be free of those limitations and understand everything as God understands them. In this life, both limited aptitude and superior aptitude can present challenges to overcome. I believe that those who have been given more are expected to do more to serve others and increase their talents. If they do not, they will find themselves limited in ways that those who had more mortal intellectual limitations will not be.

I’ve worked with, been friends with, and been acquainted with people who have developmental (intellectual) delays. They have all been child-like and beautiful people. All will be blessed because of their challenges. All will be freed from limitations of mortality.

The LDS Church recently produced a video sharing a message from a girl about her older brother Hyrum, who has autism. I was touched by the love portrayed in the video. We do not always know why things happen or why people are the way they are but with faith in Christ all can be freed from shackles that occur in mortality.

Keeping Our Brothers


John Greenwood was a fifer in the Continental Army who was called to carry a musket during the assault on Trenton, NJ. On Christmas night the American army crossed over the Delaware in what would prove to be a defining moment during the Revolutionary War and American history. Crossing over the Delaware was an all-night matter. It was an adversity of great proportions. There was severe winter weather that night and into the morning. It made the crossing more treacherous but it also masked the movements of the Americans. After the troops made it across, it was so cold that there are reports of at least two soldiers freezing to death during a break. John Greenwood, during one such break wanted to just go to sleep. The numbing cold whispered to all to rest and succumb to its frozen embrace. To John, the seductive voice of the cold was enticing. He was resting and wanted nothing more than to sleep; he did not even care if it was an eternal sleep. John was saved only when a sergeant roused him and got him going. This act saved his life. Had the sergeant not noticed the lowly fifer, had the sergeant not gone after the lost sheep, John’s life would most likely have been lost.

This story exemplifies the stewardship in the gospel. All members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have responsibilities to other people. All are ideally called as visiting teachers or home teachers. In other ways all have stewardship over others. Cain asked a simple question of the Lord, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Even though Cain’s reason for asking was not honest nor was it out of concern for his brother, who he had just killed, it is a question we would do well to ask in honesty. Are we our brothers’ keepers? The Savior answered a similar question with a parable. When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus said:

“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

“And he [the man] said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” Luke 10:30-37.

How we treat others is important. The Samaritan could have walked by the beaten man but he didn’t. He took care of him who was injured and saved his life, just as that sergeant had done for John Greenwood in Washington’s army. We need to love others and watch over our brothers, sisters, and neighbors. We might just save their lives, physically or spiritually.

Selected October 2009 General Conference Quotes and Thoughts – Sunday Afternoon Session


Elder Jeffrey R. Holland – Witness of the Book of Mormon

Elder Holland’s talk was one of the most powerful testimonies of the Book of Mormon you will likely hear in your life!

Prophecies regarding the last days often reveal calamities – political and economic.

The Savior warned that even the very elect could be deceived in the last days. Think of the heart as the poetic location of our loyalties and values. Heavenly Father knows all of our troubles of the heart and soul. The Book of Mormon begins with a great parable of life – hope vs. fear, salvation vs. destruction, etc. Mists of darkness arose to make the hard way even harder. There was a rod of iron that led the way – it was a manifestation of God’s love – it was His word.

The power of Christ [will counter] all troubles in all times, including the end of times. That is the safe harbor God wants for us in public or personal despair. As we are faithful, we can be made strong.

Elder Holland told of the martyrdom of Hyrum and Joseph. Many testify of the truth of the Book of Mormon and of the truthfulness of Joseph’s calling as a prophet of God. Joseph and Hyrum were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon has been denied and attacked since its publication and no attack has ever held.

“No wicked man could write a book like this [the Book of Mormon] and no good man would write it, unless it were truth and he had been commanded of God.”

The Book of Mormon is a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to the unbeliever.

“My testimony is as binding and unequivocal as [Joseph’s]…I give my witness to the world [that the Book of Mormon is true…I lie not.”

God always provides safety for the soul and with the Book of Mormon He has again done that.

Elder Quentin L. Cook – Stewardship

We have the freedom to choose our course in this life…but we will be accountable for our choices.

We are stewards over our minds, bodies…

Stewardship for ourselves and family.

“We live in a time when virtue and chastity are not safeguarded.” The wellsprings of life are to be kept pure. This is one of the reasons why virtue and chastity are so important in our Father’s Plan. When our thoughts or actions are impure, we violate His standard.

Those who rationalize, remind us of little children who cover their eyes convinced that they can’t see us and we can’t see them.

All can repent and return to a state of cleanliness. “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is repented and I remember them no more.” We have a duty to secure the physical and spiritual well-being of our children. Having religious observance in our home is as important as having food, shelter, and clothing.

Stewardship for the poor and needy.

We are accountable as stewards over earthly blessings.

Story of 80 year old Sarah who was one of first to give service or donations. He also spoke of the Church’s humanitarian efforts, including fast offerings.

We should be diligent. Because of contributions, the church can respond quickly without fanfare to needs/disasters around the world. In all our stewardship actions, we try to follow the Savior.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson – The Principle of Discipline

We all possess the God-given gift of moral agency. For positive outcomes, moral agency must be coupled with moral discipline.

The root of the word discipline is shared with the word “disciple.” Our moral discipline is rooted in loyalty and devotion to the Father and Son. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that provides the foundation of moral discipline.

The world sees moral as relative. This leads to lack of internal control, which requires external coercion by governments. We rely on external laws to regulate behavior, which shows how uncivilized we have become.

We need an internal moral compass within each individual that can deal with the root causes of personal and societal ills. Moral discipline is learned at home. We can’t dictate what others will do [but we can what we do]. There must be constant teaching, mostly by example [of the gospel]. The intelligent use of agency requires knowledge of truth to see things how they are.

Satan and his followers are not promoting objectivity. We should not have to learn by sad experience that wickedness never was happiness. Early discipline [of children] can bring an abrupt end to crime [or prevent it outright].

“While therapy can support a person’s will, it cannot substitute for it.”

Pres. Thomas S. Monson – Closing Remarks

We live in a time when many in the world have slipped from the moorings of safety. Many are routinely disregarding the laws of God.

May we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. “I love you my brothers and sisters. I pray for you. I ask that you would remember me and all the general authorities [in your prayers].” Jesus guides and directs His church here upon the earth.

The Divine Role of Motherhood – Part 2


Woman’s role as mother is under attack. Satan wages a war on families, on motherhood, by trying to paint and portray it in such dreary colors that women feel drawn elsewhere. There is much that is gaudy and flashy in the great and spacious building, which can appear so appealing and even uplifting; however, by lusting after Satan’s showy society, we devalue raising children and thus devalue the family. This leads to the destruction of the one potentially eternal component of society. Civilizations rise and fall and societies crumble but the family can be eternal. Women need to escape the “tugs and pulls of the world” (Maxwell, Ensign, Nov. 2000, p.35) by realizing, to paraphrase Pres. Harold B. Lee, that “the greatest of the Lord’s work…brethren [and sisters] will ever do as fathers [and mothers] will be within the walls of [their] own home[s]” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, p. 130).

While there are many worthwhile things for women to do outside the home, none of those can take the place of being a successful parent. Pres. David O. McKay said, “She who can paint a masterpiece or write a book that will influence millions deserves the admiration…of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family…deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God” (Improvement Era, 1953, pp. 453-54). On a similar note Elder Maxwell so eloquently states, “Some mothers in today’s world feel ‘cumbered’ by home duties and are thus attracted by other more ‘romantic’ challenges. Such women could make the same error of perspective that Martha made. The woman, for instance, who deserts the cradle in order to help defend civilization against the barbarians may well later meet, among the barbarians, her own neglected child” (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, p. 219). The titillation of the great and spacious building does not compare with the tranquility of a humble home.

When mothers are there for their children, fulfilling their stewardships, they have great impact on the lives of their children and consequently on future generations. As a result of this, mothers have played some of the most important roles in history. There is Mother Eve, who fearlessly stood by her husband’s side, facing a desolate world, and who was both the mother of the human race and the “mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). It was she who reminded Adam of the necessity of the Fall, of becoming mortal in order to have children and fulfill the Lord’s first commandment to “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth” (JST Gen 1:28). Eve knew her role as a mother.