Walking into the Future

Forty years ago today, alone and scared, I walked into the front doors of the Salt Lake Mission Home—the old Lafayette School—at 75 North Temple in Salt Lake City. It was terrifying, but it was also one of the best investments I have ever made.

Mothers and fathers were weeping with their departing missionaries. My parents were 800 miles away. I was there against their will, so I was alone. I was rebelling against them by going on a mission.

I had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 14 months earlier. Nobody talked me into going on a mission, and no one could talk me out of it (except myself, but I didn’t). I knew from day one of my conversion that a mission was my destiny, that this is what I should be doing with the end of my second decade and the beginning of my third. And I am so glad I did.

My mission was really hard, but I loved it. I loved the people of northeastern Ohio. I loved my companions. It was so hard it was funny. Not just in retrospect, but while I was in the middle of it, it was funny. Sometimes our trials can be so incessant and ridiculous, we just have to laugh.

Here’s an example. I was in my first area, Alliance, Ohio. My trainer and I were knocking a door. A man came to the door and said “not interested!” in 3.22 seconds. He tried to close the glass storm door, but it was cold and windy. The wind caught the door and blew it open again, and the glass broke on my hand. It started to bleed, a lot. Our erstwhile antagonist softened. He apologized profusely and invited us in so he could get a bandage for my hand. That door approach still makes me laugh!

I’m grateful beyond measure for those trials—and for my current “great fight of afflictions” (see Hebrews 10:32)—because they do three very important things for us: they make us grow up; they prepare us for upcoming trials; and they open the door for us to draw closer to God.

On that cold Saturday morning in January 1977, I had no one and nothing to turn to except the true and living God. He did not let me down that day. He never has. It’s through extremity, when we can feel Him carrying us, that we come to know Him best.

The old Lafayette School was torn down in 1994. Behind it was an office building, built in 1973, that is still there. I have no memory of that other building, but I no doubt noticed it at the time. It’s the building where I now work. Incidentally, I am currently a ward mission leader. I go out with the missionaries almost every week.  Where will I be in 40 years? I don’t know for sure, but I hope missionary work is involved.

14 Powerful Quotes about Goals

“If you’re bored with life, if you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things, you don’t have enough goals.” ―Lou Holtz

“I’ve worked too hard and too long to let anything stand in the way of my goals . . . I will not let myself down.” ―Mia Hamm

“Be unstoppable. Refuse to give up, no matter what. It’s the best skill you can ever learn.” ―Charlotte Eriksson

“It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard . . . is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.” ―Shauna Niequist

“An average person with average talent, ambition and education can outstrip the most brilliant genius in our society, if that person has clear, focused goals.” ―Brian Tracy

“You may be the only person left who believes in you, but it’s enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness.”  ―Richelle Goodrich

“People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest.” ―Zig Ziglar

“While intent is the seed of manifestation, action is the water that nourishes the seed. Your actions must reflect your goals in order to achieve true success. . . . Take action! An inch of movement will bring you closer to your goals than a mile of intention.” ―Steve Maraboli

“If you’re not honest about what you want, you’re never going to get anywhere.” ―Sara Winters

“When reaching for the stars, there does not have to be a ‘how’ if there is a big enough ‘why’.” ―Criss Jami

“Don’t judge your creation. Just create it. Banish doubt and fear and step out of your own way if you have to. . . . Do what you were born to do. Only then will you know a remarkable life.”  ―Toni Sorenson

“The hallmark of great dreams is not their possibility but their impossibility, and the fact that it is the very notion of the ‘impossible’ that inspires us to go and accomplish them anyway.” ―Craig D. Lounsbrough

“Although goals are important, having a plan of action is vital to the success of those goals. Having a goal with no plan of action is like wanting to travel to a new destination without having a map.” —Steve Maraboli

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” ―Rabindranath Tagore

The 7 Christmas Angels

The New Testament tells us that there were at least seven appearances by angels leading up to or surrounding the birth of Christ. The word angel comes from the Greek angelos which means “messenger.”

The angel Gabriel (“God is my strength”—I like that name) is identified in two separate appearances. Gabriel is actually Noah as identified in modern revelation and is also an Elias, or forerunner.

Each appearance seems to have a special purpose. I thought it would be fun to explore the purpose of each visit.

  1. A message fulfilling a long hoped for wish. Gabriel visited Zacharias in Herod’s temple in Jerusalem to announce the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:11–20). Gabriel actually was a forerunner who announced the birth of yet another forerunner, John. I think it’s interesting that Gabriel appeared just outside of the holy of holies in the temple, the place where the high priest annually appeared on the day of atonement in behalf of all Israel. The day is known as Yom Kippur. Gabriel’s announcement was not well received by Zacharias—he doubted. It must have been a pretty serious doubt because he was struck dumb—the “penalty of doubt” according to James E. Talmage—until the day his son was circumcised (see number 4).
  2. A message for the ages. Gabriel visited Mary in Nazareth to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26–38). Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph and was likely still a teenage girl. Imagine her thought processes as she was told she was going to become pregnant, miraculously, before her marriage, with the Son of God. I ask myself why God timed this pregnancy before the actual marriage when no suspicions would arise. The path to obedience and faithfulness can be a steep climb and requires a lot of patience and faith from us, sometimes even persecution.
  3. A message of assurance. An angel visited Joseph in Nazareth in a dream, assuring him that his soon-to-be wife Mary was bearing a holy child (Matthew 1:20–25). Matthew doesn’t name this angel, but it is reasonable to believe that it was Gabriel, the same angel who appeared to his fiancé Mary. Joseph was having a hard time believing Mary’s pregnancy story—like a lot of us men, we can be a little slow in catching on. But after the angel came, he was emboldened and married her soon after. I love how both Mary and Joseph were eager to take their on these divine commitments seriously.
  4. A prophetic message and ordinance. An angel visited John when only eight days old to ordain him to the priesthood (D&C 84:27–28; see also Luke 1:39, 65). This was likely the same day that John was circumcised, the day that Zacharias’s voice was restored. I love the way Zacharias affirms, “His name is John” when some questioned why the baby boy wasn’t named for his father. That non-verbal affirmation was an affirmation of faith after which the penalty of his doubt was lifted and his prophetic Benedictus was uttered. While he was still young, John lived in the desert (see Luke 1:80), perhaps to avoid persecution or even death, for though disputed by scholars, the Protoevangelium of James states that Zacharias was murdered for protecting the whereabouts of John.
  5. A glad message of great joy. Angels visited shepherds near Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:9–14). I love how the angels appeared—first just one angel and then a multitude—to “the most humble in the social order of that time,” according to Dallin H. Oaks, which to me is evidence that “the weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones” (D&C 1:19) and that “the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised” will come forth to “thresh the nations by the power of [his] Spirit” (D&C 35:13).
  6. A message of warning and protection. An angel visited Joseph in Bethlehem to warn him to flee Herod’s barbarous soldiers and escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13). After Jesus was born, the little family must have stayed on in Bethlehem for several years, for according to the wise men, the star heralding Christ’s birth had appeared two years before they arrived in Palestine to seek out and worship the child. The angel warned Joseph to depart quickly to protect Jesus from Herod’s murderous jealousy (man, that guy had issues). I am sure the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, helped to finance their travels.
  7. A message to come home. An angel visited Joseph in Egypt, commanding him to return to the land of Israel (Matthew 2:19–20) which eventually led them back to their native Nazareth. I have often thought about how long they were in Egypt, who they met there, and what they learned. I also think about the little family returning to Nazareth after what might have been a long absence, and maybe with more than one child (Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters [see Matthew 13:55–56]). Perhaps they heard, “Where on earth have you guys been?” How much of their story could they tell? How much did they dare tell?

Finally, it’s inspiring to me that the command to “fear not” is repeated four times by  angels during these visits (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13, 30; Luke 2:10.) I am not sure of the meanings in the original sources, but in the translated versions, that is a command, given repeatedly, in an imperative voice, by divine messengers.

We have a loyal helper, an inspired guide, an invincible protector, a Savior. His name is Jesus Christ—a name you can trust. This is the ultimate message of the angels: We need never be afraid again.

“I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing”

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Darth_Vader_-_cosplay_(white).jpgA coworker once told me about something that happened while visiting the home of a relative who had five active boys. Gathering the clan for family prayer took a little doing. They gathered for prayer with not a little coaxing and jostling. Nearby was a Darth Vader talking head. Battery operated, motion activated.

Just as one of the boys began to pray and a spirit of reverence began to descend, Darth Vader spoke up. “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” he said.

The prayer stopped as the family burst into laughter. Great timing, Darth.

Posted in Fun

The Wexford Carol by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Here is a beautiful arrangement of an English carol that dates from the 16th century. Listen. I promise you’ll feel better when you do.

The Wexford Carol — Lyrics

Good people all, this Christmastime,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending His belovèd Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas Day;
In Bethlehem upon the morn
There was a blest Messiah born.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God’s angels did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
“Prepare and go”, the angels said,
“To Bethlehem, be not afraid;
For there you’ll find, this happy morn,
A princely Babe, sweet Jesus born.”

How to Find Lasting Peace in Troubled Times

Peace comes in a variety of packages. It might come wrapped as a day off from work, a quiet evening at home, the moment you finish a large, complex project, or coming to terms with another person. Perhaps we could call this kind of serenity “situational peace.”

Peace comes and goes for most of us, day to day, possibly several times a day, but there is a peace that lasts. It doesn’t go away unless we choose to go away from it. It’s a peace that “passeth all understanding” (see Philippians 4:7), a peace from God. Because we come from God, it’s not surprising that abiding peace comes from Him too.

My hope is to share a few things that have given me a peace that endures in troubled times.

You’ll probably read or hear these angelic words more than once this Christmas season:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14.)

The sentiment is familiar, but the King James rendition might not have captured the original meaning.

Consider several other translations of Luke 2:14 (emphasis mine). Let’s start with the Wycliffe Bible, translated under the direction of John Wycliffe in the late 1300s:

Glory be in the highest things to God, and in earth peace be to men of good will.

Here’s how the New International Version (1970s) renders it:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

And here’s yet another sense from The Message, Edward Peterson’s translation completed in 2002.

Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

There’s a theme here: Peace will come to those who please God, to men and women of good will, on whom His favor rests.

Just before He entered the garden of Gethsemane, Christ said:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27.)

That’s not situational peace. He was about to suffer more than anyone was capable of suffering (see D&C 19:15–20), but His understanding rested on what would result from that suffering. In spite of betrayal, tribulation, or torture, in spite of what the world was saying or doing, he found a peace that was not of this world:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33.)

The religious establishment of the day could harm His body and inflict on Him unimaginable pain, but they could not take His peace.

He told us in this dispensation where to find that peace:

But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come. (D&C 59:23; emphasis mine).

I love this verse about Enoch. It’s not often cited, but it describes to me one of the greatest sources of peace:

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5; emphasis added).

To walk the path our Heavenly Father intends us walk,  and to remain on that path, can lead us to the testimony that our course pleases Him—a lasting source of peace. If we do our best to follow our heart and conscience, imperfect as we may be, we can have faith and not be troubled about the future.

That’s my wish for you this Christmas season: A testimony of your standing before Him, and peace of mind in this world and real hope in the world to come.

“I’ve Got the Mommy Power”

I heard a story from a fellow quorum member today. He and his wife were visiting his son in another state over the Thanksgiving holiday. He took his grandchildren out for a walk, and they started getting a little worried. They were farther from their home than they had been before, in an unfamiliar area. Then his five-year-old granddaughter spoke up.

Courtesy LDS Media Library
“You know what my dad told me?” she asked.

“What’s that?” asked the grandfather.

“I’ve got the mommy power.”

The grandfather smiled. “What’s the mommy power?” he asked.

“It’s when things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be, but you still know that everything is going to be all right.”

I’ve witnessed the mommy power. I love seeing it in action. I am in awe of it. I am grateful for it, beyond measure. I’ll go so far to say that mommy power—just you wait and see—is one of the things that holds the universe together.