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.

Will You Light the World?

Here’s a video I can’t resist sharing. Every day starting December 1 and leading up to Christmas is an opportunity to remember the things our Savior did and to follow His example. Here you’ll find daily inspiration on 25 ways to follow the example of Jesus Christ in your daily life—and make this season unforgettable.

Because He is the light of the world (John 8:12), we can light the world (Matthew 5:14).

So What Is Teenage Rebellion?

We hear about rebellious teenagers but what do we mean by rebel? I have some thoughts about this. Our younger generation may not really be rebelling though society might label them so.

Courtesy LDS Media LibraryThe dictionary defines rebellion as an “open opposition toward a person or group in authority” or “refusal to obey rules or accept normal standards of behavior.” Not my idea of fun.

Here’s one example of true rebellion from the Book of Mormon. Laman and Lemuel and their unnamed followers were murmur-o-maniacs. They just could not get over their inclination to rebel against their parents and brothers and to regularly deride what was holy and good. They had their okay moments, such as when they helped Nephi build a ship (see 1 Nephi 17 and 18), but those moments did not occur until after Nephi used some supernatural persuasion (see 1 Nephi 17:52–55). Nevertheless, because they were “past feeling” (see 1 Nephi 17:45), they persisted in their stubbornness, and more than once threatened to murder their father and siblings. Family factions were eventually forced to separate. Permanently.

Those who persistently rebel cannot be redeemed. Abinadi in the Book of Mormon told a belligerent king and his false-hearted priests that they “ought to tremble; for the Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and die in their sins; yea, even all those that have perished in their sins ever since the world began, that have wilfully rebelled against God, that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them; these are they that have no part in the first resurrection” (see Mosiah 15:26). If we wilfully rebel against God and His commandments and don’t repent, it looks like we won’t join the faithful in the first resurrection. And if we are not part of the first resurrection, we will not be part of the celestial kingdom. We’ll have to camp out in another kingdom. For a very long time. Not a happy prospect.

On the other hand, things are often not that bad. There is usually a lot of reasons to hope. For example, in their younger years, Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah rebelled against God (see Mosiah 27:11), but they fully repented—fully. Any who are acquainted with their depth of repentance and their lives of absolute devotion shouldn’t have any doubt about how well things turned out for them. So it’s not so much the rebellion that does us in: it’s sticking to rebellion, and coming back to rebellion over and over, that keeps us mired in trouble.

Consider this. It’s not easy for us to tell, but when our children rebel against us, it might not be rebellion against God and our faith and culture as much as it might be rebellion against coercive, fear-based parenting.

God entrusts us with our children’s agency, at least until they are able to exercise it on their own. As infants and toddlers, they need to be fiercely protected from the elements, from passing cars, from hot stoves. As young children, the leash gets longer and they get more freedom. They go to school, make friends, and we leave them in the care of others. As tweens and teens, they venture into romantic longings, the virtual world of smart phones, relationship experimentation, and long trips away from home. We all but unsnap the leash. And sometimes they suffer from hormone poisoning. Sometimes they rebel—and we cling.

We don’t want our children whom we love more than life itself wandering off on “forbidden paths” (see 1 Nephi 8:28) and so we restrict and grasp and and yank and yell. And what happens? Instead of drawing them back, we push them away, sometimes far away.

Any parent knows that every child is different. Each has different needs, different ways of looking at the world, different talents. Some create their own boundaries and stay within them; others cannot be contained by any boundary. We can’t blame ourselves solely when our children, in spite of our very best though imperfect efforts, go another way. They have the right to choose.

The point I want to make here is that we sometimes encourage rebellion by asking too much of our kids, by expecting perfection, or by forcing them to do the right thing. It’s counterproductive. God doesn’t compel us; why should we compel our children? We cannot be saved or damned without our permission. We may urge, maybe even plead, but if we coerce or force, we’ve gone too far. By so doing, we create resentment and in resentment lies the seeds of rebellion.

Alma the Younger, later in life, offered these words to his way-off-track son Corianton:

Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds. (Alma 42:27; emphasis added.)

Alma the Younger knew. He put his parents through the wringer himself.

If we abduct our children’s agency, we compel them and according to the Book of Mormon, we shouldn’t do that. We should teach them, reach out to them, persuade and encourage, love, and turn to heaven for help, but not force. Remember that force or the systematic denial of agency, along with its chief proponent, were voted down by a majority in premortal life. The conflict continues.

Let’s not switch sides. Don’t collar your kids out of fear. Guide more and chide less. It’s just a thought.

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When Doubt Crawls into Your Sleeping Bag

More and more I am finding doubt among friends and family. I believe doubt is a normal thing, like the common cold. Just about everyone comes down with it from time to time. But we all must, at one time or another, face the dark side of our consciousness and decide what we are going to do about it. It’s not easy, but this life was not meant to be easy. It was meant to be educational.

I had to face the dark before I ever joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ll call it my pre-faith crisis. As some of you know, my parents were violently opposed to me joining the Church. At 17, the bright light of the gospel showed up in my life. I was so excited about it I could hardly contain myself, but my parents, especially my father, went apoplectic. They piled books and pamphlets in my lap that were, well, less than complimentary of the Prophet Joseph, Brigham Young, the Book of Mormon, polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre . . . you get the idea.

I read that material with an open mind. I wasn’t afraid of it or particularly shocked. Why would I be? I literally knew nothing about Mormonism before that time. As I sorted through the criticism and negativity, the accusations, the logic and the illogic that shouted from those pages, I was also reading the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, feeling the presence of the Spirit, hearing the voice of the Lord come to my heart, and experiencing miracles daily.

Even at that young age, I could discern the dissonant voices who spoke against the truth and the light that shined from scripture and from the lives and examples of my Latter-Day Saint friends. The contrast was crisp and beautiful. It brought everything into focus for me. I knew I had to choose the path of light or the path of darkness.

I also knew that God was not in the dark and that I wouldn’t find Him there for “that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:23). I also came to know that He will reach into the dark to pull you out, if you turn to Him with all your heart.

And what do I mean by dark? I mean criticism, mockery, sarcasm, blame, belittling, bitterness, disrespect, and contention. If any of these attributes are present, darkness is also present.

I made a simple commitment that unforgettable autumn, before I was baptized, to look to God and follow the light, to take my questions and fears to Him and patiently wait for His answers. That was 41 years ago. I have stayed true to that commitment my entire adult life.

That choice was the best choice I’ve ever made. It hasn’t always been easy, to be sure. I’ve certainly had my dark days—even dark weeks and months—but I’ve stuck it out. And I’m so glad I have.

And I have always received clear answers on whatever question I’ve asked. The promise “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7) really works.

I do not rely on the “arm of flesh” for my answers (see 2 Nephi 4:34). We’ve been counseled to “ask of God” who promises to give answers “to all men liberally.” He won’t upbraid us in the process; He won’t rebuke us or treat us condescendingly. He will simply give answers to us, if we ask sincerely and patiently (see James 1:5).

I’ve had a 100 percent success rate using that formula. I’ll probably keep using it for the next 40 years, though I don’t think I’ll last that long—not as a mortal, anyway.

I want to share a verse that is very powerful to me. It’s short and I memorized it during the first few months I was a member of the Church. It’s one of my favorites:

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36.)

Let’s talk about these ten words for a moment. This is the voice of Jesus Christ, pleading with you and me to look to Him in every thought; He is also commanding us—yes, commanding, in an imperative voice—to not doubt or fear.

Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart. . . . (Mormon 9:27.)

Yes, we will all struggle with doubt at one time or another, but it doesn’t have to be our constant companion. We can do something about it.

Look at it this way. If a rattlesnake crawls into your sleeping bag, are you going to let it stay there? Are you going to stay in there? I hope not. I would put as much energy into getting away from doubt that you would put into getting away from a rattlesnake.

I’m not talking about getting away from the truth. I am talking about getting away from darkness and poison.

You are not obligated to doubt. You are not forced to doubt either. It is ultimately your choice. It, like an addiction, might be a hard habit to break. If you trust the wisdom of men and your own wisdom above God’s, your doubts will proliferate. Unchecked, they’ll eventually infest every thought. You might wake up one morning doubting everything. Your heart will be troubled, if not embittered, and your outlook will be dark and contentious. These are signs that the rattlesnake is near or has already bitten you. But you don’t have to stay loyal to your doubts. You can turn from them at any time.

I remember years ago hearing a friend quote the wise advice of his grandmother. “Don’t let the devil get into the car with you because pretty soon, he’s going to want to drive.” You don’t have to let doubt take the wheel; you don’t even have to let it get into your car.

Turn your back on doubt and turn your whole heart to God. Turn your whole heart to His light. Trust that light and follow it. Don’t wait for complete and perfect answers before you choose to follow the light. Those answers will come after you choose the light. As you walk toward the light, the shadows always fall behind you.

And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy. (Doctrine and Covenants 11:12–13.)

You’re here to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). If you turn toward the light, “thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21). You’ll know what to do. You’ll have peace in your heart. You’ll get your answers. You don’t have to cling to your misunderstanding. Light won’t treat you with disrespect.

Have not I [the Lord] commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9.)

You have not been asked to cross the plains of the American West. You’ve been asked to cross the plains of doubt. You can do it. Of course you can. I know you can. Make doubt your servant; don’t let doubt be your master. Let doubt be your acquaintance, but don’t invite it over for Christmas dinner.

Let me close with these words about the fruits of the Spirit and righteous living. I love the way Galatians 5:22–23 reads in The Message:

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Who has the light? You’ll know them by their fruits (see Matthew 7:15–20)—that is, in the long run, they’ll produce joy instead of bitterness, unity, not separation, love, not hatred. Let His light lead you to the good fruit. He will not fail you if you put your trust in Him (see Mosiah 7:33).

And you’ll get that rattlesnake out of your sleeping bag.

So You Think You Had a Bad Day?

By Frenkieb from Netherlands - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2324541

I went to a meeting last night where a man told of how his day went. Let’s call him Bob.

Mind, I raised my hand part way through the narrative and asked Bob, “So this really all happened to you today?” He assured everyone in the room that it did.

If you think you had a bad day, listen up: this might make you feel like it wasn’t so bad.

Bob was in his car and had just bought himself a diet soda in a big plastic cup. It was on a console (or something) next to the driver seat when it began to tip. Bob tried to grab it, but he accidentally squished the plastic cup, popped the lid off, and poured the entire drink on the floor, soaking his feet in the process.

Bob felt a little upset, so he slammed his fist against the steering wheel, and as he did, the window on the passenger side fell off its tracks and into the door.

It was little cold. Bob tried to crank up the heat, but the heat would not come on. He flipped the knob back and forth several times—hard enough that the knob broke off. 

He drove off, enjoyed a few miles of natural air conditioning, and a short while later got a flat tire on a busy thoroughfare.

All this happened within a half hour.

If you think you had a bad day, consider Bob’s yesterday. Now does yours seem so bad? I didn’t think so.