How Did That Happen?

Throughout last year, there was a small blue number in the upper-left corner of the white board in the bishop’s office. The number was 67. It represented a goal for the year: 67 percent sacrament meeting attendance.

I was sitting at the computer in the clerk’s office last Sunday, at the end of the day. Without really thinking much about it, I decided to print the quarterly membership report. I looked down at the sacrament meeting attendance for the fourth quarter, 2009. I think I had to blink twice and look again. The number was 67.1 percent.

I could hardly believe my eyes. It had been a high goal. I thought when we set it, that it would take some reaching. If you were to ask me the specific measures we took to achieve this number, I wouldn’t know what to tell you.

There are so many factors that go into this, and it wasn’t just ward members attending who made this number rise.  And no, this does not represent attendance for the whole year. But it represents a significant jump when compared to some quarters earlier in the year, and year on year.

All I know is, I am astounded and grateful to my Heavenly Father.

Respect, Trust and Love Part 2

Last time, I wrote about the importance of respect and trust in the marriage relationship. Respect and trust are the foundation of love. Without them, love withers and dies. With them, love flourishes and grows forever.

I also said that I believe it starts with the husband. He has the divine role to preside, provide and protect. We often think that the word provide refers to providing for financial necessities. That is true. But I also believe it involves providing for emotional and spiritual needs as well. And the word protect: does that refer only to physical protection? Or does it include emotional and spiritual protection as well? I have no doubt that the roles of providing and protecting include physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions.

Among people of faith, a man who worthily fulfills these roles has no trouble presiding and leading because his wife and children will respect, trust and follow him. He will lead in righteousness. But if he is self-centered and surly, the divine plan breaks down and “Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” (D&C 121:37.)

I spoke to a friend in the ward last night. He reminded me that when the husband is fully connected to his Heavenly Father, he will naturally lead his wife and family righteously; but if he is not close to his Father in Heaven, the wife-husband connection cannot be strong or fulfilling. Yes, this responsibility rests firmly on the man’s shoulders, right where God placed it.

He can’t do it alone, though. It is impossible for him to do it without the support, cooperation and love of his wife. Impossible. How could he do it or why would he even want to do it without her?

Respect and trust are the glue that holds marriages together. And that glue holds the world together. It heals the world.

So where does respect and trust first break down? It usually happens early in marriage. It happens to most couples in one form or another. This is how it goes most of the time.

Courtship often is wonderful, a dream within a dream. The husband-to-be is usually very attentive to his fiancée. There are midday phone calls, humorous cards, multiple emails daily, silly texts, surprise gifts, and lots of flowers. There is gallantry and thoughtfulness. There is a listening, attentive ear. The fiancée is entranced and reciprocates her love with the same. All is blissful anticipation.

After the wedding, life is exciting and fun. There are a few bumps in the road, but for the most part, the couple gets along swimmingly. They are enamored and in love. It is an intense and wonderful time.

As time passes, though, there are those small disagreements and irritations, disappointments and unpleasant surprises. Then comes the day when a small insult is hurled, unintentionally or intentionally. Feelings are hurt and there is silence, sometimes tears. Apologies are easier in those days, and feelings soon are healed.

But this is where the erosion of respect begins, either in finding fault or receiving insult. We become defensive and raw feelings, often hidden, fester. Doubts enter our minds and troubled thoughts spiral downwards. Respect is tarnished and trust, damaged even slightly, begins to tilt sideways.

If the pattern of insult or accusation continues, respect and trust slowly recedes, and contention, anguish, and feelings of anger and loss ensue.

What is to be done? I”ll write again soon.

Respect, Trust and Love Part 1

I’ve often heard my daughters and other girls express exasperation for teenage boys. “They just don’t get it,” they say. And they are right. They get a lot of things—like football or skate board stunts or computer games—but they don’t get girls. A few of them do, but most don’t.

I certainly didn’t understand girls when I was a young teenager. I liked them, but I did not understand them. I personally know that my lack of “getting it” hurt several girl’s feelings deeply. I feel terrible about it now.

As teenagers, boys are often not fully ready to treat girls the way they want and deserve to be treated. I think it’s probably a good thing because it acts as a sort of girl repellent. It saves girls a lot of heartache to not invest too much too early.

In my late teens, I started to get it. And now that I am much further down the road, I think I am really starting to get it, though I still have a lot to learn.

It’s all about respect. Respect is the first step and foundation of love.

It’s the place where love starts. And it’s the place love ends when it disappears. When you know how to show it, love thrives. When you don’t know how to show it, or refuse to show it, love dies.

According to the dictionary, respect is an act of giving particular attention or consideration.” It is shown by a “high or special regard or esteem and “expressions of…deference.”

Think about it. You husbands, when you first became interested in your wife, did you attract her attention by showing her disrespect? Of course not. Why? Because disrespect is one of the biggest turn offs a girl can stomach.

In boy culture, we often play the disrespect game with each other. It’s a sort of sport we play. We challenge each other. We play slap down. We chip away at each other endlessly. It’s a way boys find out if the other guy has any moxie. It’s the competition thing.

Girls do not like this game. I repeat, girls DO NOT like this game. (Well, some girls like this game, and some are entertained by watching boys play it, but most girls won’t play it with a boy.)

Fortunately, most boys and men get it figured out over time.

They learn to show their genuine interest in you. They ask you important questions and listen intently to your answers. They express sincere gratitude for the little things. They watch their language. They conquer bad habits. They open doors. They wait. They notice you. They ask you what they can do to help you. They make phone calls for no other reason than to see how you are. They honor your opinions, even if they disagree with you. They never put you down in any way. They seek your comfort, and help you feel safe and protected. They ask you out on dates often, even if you have been married for many years. They recognize their personal faults and admit to them. They apologize to you. They defend and shelter you. They show their emotions to you, but keep the unsavory ones under control. They honor all of your sacred boundaries, and refuse to violate them, before and after marriage.  They keep trying and trying. All of these things show respect.

Girls like this a lot. I repeat, girls REALLY LIKE this.

Your respect is how she knows she can trust you. If you show the least amount of disrespect to her, her trust sinks, sometimes rapidly. If you are constant and vigilant in your respect for her, even if you disagree with something she says or does, even when she makes mistakes or is overly conscious of her weight and appearance or can’t keep up with all she has to do, it is still by respect that you seal her love to you forever.

Husbands, you may have been sealed to your wife by a holy ordinance in a temple, but unless you show her complete respect, you dishonor that covenant. Yes, this is a probationary time, and God and your wife may grant you the space to repent, but if you don’t show her your honor and respect, you will lose her heart, and without her heart, what do you have?

It is my opinion that men must lead out in this. We must take the lead in respect, even if she says or does something you think is unworthy of your respect. She will trust her heart first above any other consideration—it is her greatest ally. If her heart says you are not determined to show her respect, you cannot expect to hold her in time or eternity.

Next time I pick up this topic, I’ll talk about where respect starts to break down, and what we can do about it.

A Phone Call Changes Everything

Today I received a phone call from one of my closest friends. It was not the kind of call you ever want to get.

He called from Oregon to tell me that his youngest son, who had just returned from his mission four months ago, had died unexpectedly.

Tony and I met when I was a sophomore in high school. He lived several miles north of our ranch, on Fishback Mountain. It was closer to get back and forth by horseback than by driving a pickup truck on gravel roads. We were team roping partners. We became very good friends. When I joined the Church during my senior year in high school, Tony thought the cheese had slipped off my cracker. But just a few weeks before I left on my mission, Tony was baptized, too. And he left on his mission about one year after that.

Tony and his wife Edna had been away on a trip. When they got home, they saw Tyler asleep on the couch downstairs. But he was not asleep. Imagine trying to wake your child and finding him lifeless. I just can’t hold the picture in my mind.

So far there is no cause of death. The coroner told Tony, “Sometimes people just die, and we don’t know why.”

Tyler served a great mission. His mission president and the many missionaries he worked with are reeling from the news.

Near the end of our very painful conversation, Tony told me something that I’ll never forget. He thanked me for introducing the gospel to him and baptizing him. “The Church means everything to us,” he said. “I know I’ll be with my son again.”

Thanks in part to faithful friends like Tony, the gospel means everything to me as well.

One last thing he said. “Never take your children for granted…When you hug your kids, don’t let go…” I don’t know if a word of advice has ever sunk deeper into my heart.

Tony and Edna, I’ll be with you in a few days.

New Temple in Payson Announced Today

© 2010 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

President Thomas S. Monson announced today (January 25, 2010) that a temple will be built in Payson, Utah. The temple will be built near 800 South, the Wal-mart exit off I-15 (see the photo on the left).

It will serve 22 stakes from Spanish Fork to Nephi, and the nearly 80,000 members of the Church living in those communities. This will be the Church’s 152nd temple. It appears that Mapleton will remain part of the Provo Temple district.

If you are not familiar with temples or Latter-day Saints, see this background information on temples if you would like to learn more. For a chronological list of temples, starting with the first temple dedicated by Latter-day Saints in 1836, see this list.

For the full-story, see this link.

Church Publications in PDF

I just found this link this morning: If you’d like to access a lot of Church publications in PDF format, click here.

You’ll find magazines, such as the Ensign and Friend,  Sunday School (for example, Old Testament Times at a Glance) and youth materials (such as the Young Women Camp Manual), all nine volumes of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church (here is the David O. McKay manual, for instance) even the Bible and the Triple Combination.

Have fun with these links.

The Sacred Key

I quote I heard yesterday at our stake’s Family History Fair inspired a search on the Internet that led me to this story. Some years ago, President Thomas S. Monson and his wife Frances visited Sweden. He tells the following:

“The mission president in Sweden at the time of our visit was Reid H. Johnson, a cousin to my wife. As he and our group were journeying throughout that area, we went to a large Lutheran church. As we walked into the building, President Johnson said, ‘I think you would be interested in an experience my companion, Richard Timpson, and I had in this city at the termination of our missions back in 1948.'”

President Johnson said, “We came to this town because we knew that our family history was recorded here and had been lived here. As we entered this large church, we were met by a most hostile keeper of the archives. Upon hearing that we had completed our missions and had a few precious days in which we would like to seek out the records which he maintained in his church building, he said that no one had ever been given the opportunity to peruse those valuable records, far less a Mormon. He declared they were under lock and key, and he held up to view the large key to the vault in which the records were stored. He said, ‘My job and my future, and the sustenance of my family, depend upon how well I safeguard this key. No, I am afraid it would be impossible for you to peruse these records. But if you would like to see the church, I’ll be happy to show you through. I’ll be glad to show you the architecture and the cemetery which surrounds the church—but not the records, for they are sacred.'”

“President Johnson indicated they were profoundly disappointed. However, he said to the keeper of the archives, ‘We will accept your kind offer.’ All of this time, he and his companion were praying fervently and earnestly that somehow something would change this keeper’s mind, that he would let them view the records.

“After a lengthy journey through the cemetery and looking at the church building, the keeper of the archives unexpectedly said to them, ‘I’m going to do something I have never done before. It may cost me my job, but I’m going to let you borrow this key for fifteen minutes.’

“President Johnson thought, Fifteen minutes! All we can do in fifteen minutes is open the lock!

But the keeper let them take the key. They turned the key in the lock and had made available to their view records which were priceless for their genealogical value. In fifteen minutes the keeper arrived. He looked at them and found they were still in a state of wonder over the find which they had discovered.

“They said, ‘Can’t we please stay longer?’

“He said, ‘How much longer?’ And he looked at his watch.

“They said, ‘About three days.’

“He said, ‘I’ve never done anything like this before. I don’t know why, but I feel I can trust you. Here is the key. You keep it, and when you are through, you return it to me. I’ll be here every morning at eight o’clock and every evening at five o’clock.’

“For three consecutive days, those two missionaries studied and recorded for our current use information which could have been obtained in no other way. President Johnson, filled with emotion, explained this experience to us. He said, ‘The Lord does move in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.’ As he made this statement of testimony to me, I realized that his experience had also blessed the lives of Sister Monson and me, for much of the information he and his companion had obtained happened to be on our family lines.

“I thought of the key which the keeper of the archives gave to those two missionaries. While that key opened the lock which revealed and released to their information the names which they needed, there is a much greater key—a key which each one of us earnestly seeks to obtain and which will open the locks to the treasure houses of the knowledge which we desire to acquire. That key is the key of faith. In this work, no lock will open without it.

“I testify that when we do all we can to accomplish the work that is before us, the Lord will make available to us the sacred key needed to unlock the treasure which we so much seek.”