Sunday, October 3, 2010

General Conference - one of my favorite things!

The following is a refreshing of a post from a couple of years ago . . .

I am a HUGE lover of Conference. In fact, I am very particular about making sure not to miss any part of this twice-a-year event.

Each General Conference consists of five two-hour sessions: Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon, and a special Saturday evening session for the Priesthood holders of the Church. (There is also a special session for the women of the Church the week prior.)

Ten hours of church in one weekend? Yep, and I truly relish every minute of it.

Twice a year, I get the opportunity to listen to the prophets of the Lord present amazing, powerful, important, loving messages to the Church. This is a chance to hear from Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ; to hear what is needed for the church membership to know for the next six months. And there is always such beautiful, uplifting music provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Since I joined the church I have always held these Conferences sacred, and so appreciate the opportunity to be able to watch and listen to them. And I have even been so blessed as to have been able to attend General Conference in person a couple of times over the years.

The month following General Conference, the Church magazine, Ensign, collates all the talks from Conference into one convenient resource. This is great, since it is always edifying to read and re-read the Conference talks, refresh one's memory, or fill in blanks where you may have been distracted or sleepy. It's also a great resource for developing lessons and talks that you give in church during the following few months (or any time thereafter). Of course, all these resources are also available online these days, which is another great blessing.

I love hearing from the living Prophet. I love knowing what the Lord wants me to know in a contemporary setting. Not only can I look to the ancient scriptures for guidance, but I know that the Lord loves me and wants what is best for me here and now, and will not leave me alone without ongoing guidance. General Conference provides that ongoing guidance, and if we listen to the wonderful lessons taught, we can become better people, learning to serve others, make good choices, and prepare ourselves for what is ahead.

As was quoted twice so far in talks this weekend, President Ezra Taft Benson stated in a 1980 talk the following two points (from a list of 14 points) that I think are highly relevant to the importance of paying close attention to General Conference:

1) The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
2) The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

That is an unequivocal, powerful admonition to "Come Listen to a Prophet's Voice" - if ever there was one.

General Conference has truly been a blessing in my life, and I encourage all to spend time reading, listening to, or watching the excellent talks - now, and over the next six months.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Hug on the Street

The following is something I wrote in 2006.
It's about charity.
I hope it touches your heart.

When I first started my new job in downtown Salt Lake City, along my walk to the bus stop I found myself frequently approached by homeless people asking for money. At first, I would just continue on my hurried way to the bus stop, rationalizing to myself that I could not stop and give cash to every person on the street who asked me. I’d given to folks on the street in the past, but now that I was working downtown, I decided to walk on every time or I’d always be giving out money.

After a couple of weeks of these solicitations, a scripture came to my mind as I was on my way to catch my homebound bus. The words of Alma pointedly struck my mind and heart:
“… if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.” (Alma 34:28)
The thought of my prayers being in vain, due to my selfishness on the city streets, gave me pause. As I continued walking, I thought of another scripture on the same subject, which says:

“And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish…
And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.” (Mosiah 4:16, 22)
Certainly I had judged these individuals in my heart, as part of my rationalization process. If they want to get out of this situation, they’ll get a job. If I give them money, they’ll probably just spend it on drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. I don’t want to enable their addictions. In my desire to remain in my comfort zone, and do only what was convenient for me, I was judging and condemning them. They had put up their petition to me in vain—and I would be held accountable for that.

As my heart began to change, my next thought was: How much do I give? To how many do I give? I have a family to support—how much of my income do I reserve for supporting these strangers? The answer came as I discussed the issue with my wife. We decided that a dollar or two to each person who asks was not going to break us. We acknowledged that we waste money on impulsive, unnecessary purchases often enough. To give a small portion of our abundance to those who have so little would not be an imposition on our family. And my wife reminded me that it has been said that we will be blessed for giving to the poor, regardless of how the recipient uses his agency with the money we give.

From that point on, instead of making sure I had no cash in my wallet (a ploy I’d been using so that I could honestly tell beseechers I had nothing to give them), I decided that if I did have some cash, I’d keep it with me, in the form of a few single dollar bills. Whenever asked by someone on the street, I would give a couple of dollars.

A few months went by and it had been a while since I’d been asked for money. One day, as I left my office building and headed toward my bus stop, I looked around at all the people, living their lives, busily going to their own destinations, each with a unique life experience and with their own personal agenda. Each was a stranger to all others, living in his own little world. It struck me that each one is known to our Heavenly Father. He knows every one of his children intimately and perfectly—their hopes, their dreams, their thoughts, their feelings, their trials, their successes, and their failures. As they hurry on their way, our Father knows—better than even they do—where exactly they are headed. The thought suddenly entered my mind that it would be nice if there could be a way that I could help one of these people in some meaningful way. I silently prayed for such an opportunity, for a chance to make a difference in the life of one of these many strangers.

I walked on, and not twenty feet from the point at which my prayer concluded, a man sat on a low cement planter by the edge of the street. He saw me coming, and muttered something to me. I moved toward him, and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.” The man repeated his request, a little louder this time, “Do you have a penny, a nickel, or a dime—anything, please?” His petition was so humble. Not a dollar, not “some spare change,” but only the smallest denomination. His quiet voice barely escaped the long, overgrown beard that hid his weatherworn face. The hair of his head was long and shaggy, and he wore a tattered baseball cap. Once I understood what he had said, I responded by pulling out my wallet, and saying to him, “Well, I’ve got a couple of bucks, how about I give you one of them?” As I dug out the dollar bill, the man said, “Yes, please. Jesus loves you.”

I handed him the dollar, and something unusual happened. He slowly rose to his feet, saying, “Can I give you a hug?” Caught off guard, I awkwardly embraced him there on the street for a few moments, and patted him on the back as we separated. As he was shorter than me, his baseball cap hit my shoulder, causing it to fall from his head, but I caught it and replaced it. As this poor soul withdrew from me, he brought his hand to the bridge of his nose to cover his face. He was sobbing.

Feeling a little taken aback by the whole incident, I told him to have a good day, and hurried on my way. As I continued up the hill toward my bus stop, the feelings started to hit me and tears formed in my eyes. I had prayed for an opportunity to help someone, and I was immediately given one. I believe that if our hearts are willing, and we pray for the chance to help someone, and keep our eyes open, the chance will soon arrive.

When I reached my bus stop, I looked due west to a beautiful view of the Salt Lake Temple, the house of the Lord in which I had been sealed to my beautiful bride four years earlier. I wondered to myself: Who is preaching the gospel to the homeless? How can they have a hope to go to the temple when they don’t even have an address? How can their temple work be done when we don’t even know their names?

I considered how blessed I am, with my wife and son, and home and job, and testimony. I got on the bus, and headed back down the street toward where I’d come from. The bus stopped at a light, and I looked out the window to see the homeless man sitting on the street eating some fast food. As the bus moved on, I fought back the tears as I thought of the words to the song, “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” Another scripture came to mind: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25: 40). The scriptures are rife with admonitions to give freely to those in need, and the Savior set the perfect example of charity. “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” (Matt. 5:42.)
“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? …
“And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, … O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.” (Mosiah 4:19, 21.)
Sure, it makes you feel uncomfortable to be asked for money - it feels like a violation of your space. And ignoring people just feels wrong. Who wants to be made to feel guilty?
A change of attitude is in order.

Ours is the opportunity to relieve a little human suffering here and there. Be sure to do so with love in your heart, not a grudging sense of obligation. It could change your life.

I will never forget my “homeless hug.” I have pondered on how lonely that man must have been, and wondered when the last time he’d been hugged by anyone was. I wondered how many people, content in their lives, had passed by and ignored him that day - that week - that year. That afternoon, he gave me the only thing he felt he had to offer, and it was far more than the dollar I had given him.

I only wish I had asked the man his name, and told him that Jesus loves him, too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I just want to say "THANKS" to whoever it was who nominated this blog for an award (see badge, right).

Info on the award and judging process can be found here.

This makes me want to bring this baby back out of dormancy and start posting again! :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scouting - the Missing Piece of My Testimony

. . . And how I FOUND IT.

For about 15 years, I thought I had a complete testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and all of its doctrines and programs.

I was wrong.

I actually knew I didn't have a testimony of scouting, but I was kind of in denial about it. I figured it just wasn't that big of a deal - which was part of maintaining the state of denial.

I've been working with the Young Men for about three years now. And the whole time, I had really not been "into" scouting. I had my excuses: I was never involved in scouting before (my parents never got me into it), it wasn't really a program of the Church, I would eventually be released from Young Men and not have to worry about it any more, it was too much work, etc.

I used to work with the Teachers where we used to live. Shortly before we moved, I was released. Then we moved in September and in our new ward I was called to work with the Deacons. I am Second Counselor in the Young Men Presidency, Deacons Quorum Adviser, and Assistant Scout Master. Still, I had no testimony of scouting, and it was starting to concern me a little.

Then, the Scout Master told me about an upcoming scouting training meeting. It was called "Little Philmont" and it was going to be on a Saturday morning from 7AM to NOON. I was reluctant to go, but knew that I should.

So, the night before, and the morning of, I prayed sincerely that I would get something important out of Little Philmont - I prayed that I would gain a testimony of scouting.

I arrived at the meeting hopeful. There was an opening session of talks and presentations, then a couple of breakout sessions, and a closing session with talks, including one from Larry M. Gibson from the Young Men General Presidency.

I was really touched several times - I felt the Spirit testify to me, and I had tears fill my eyes.

It was spoken to my mind, via facts, figures, statistics and logical presentations. It was spoken to my heart by sweet personal stories and by the testimonies of others. By the end of that five hours, I WAS CONVERTED.

The Church endorses the Boy Scouts of America. The prophet is fully behind scouting. The program is inspired, and it goes hand-in-hand with the Aaronic Priesthood in preparing boys and young men to obtain their Duty to God Award, attend and graduate from Seminary, serve a mission, marry in the temple, and endure to the end.

I want my son to be an Eagle Scout and earn and receive all the above-mentioned blessings. That will not happen if his dad is not fully on board with the program.

And now I am.

I have gained a testimony of scouting. It's an amazing feeling. It made me feel what I felt so long ago when I gained a testimony of all the rest of the Church. That feeling that you can't imagine how you could have ever not believed. I feel invigorated!

Next, I will be getting a scout uniform shirt (what President Monson calls "the working clothes of the Aaronic Priesthood") and a scout book. It feels good to know that I will now be fully magnifying my calling, and giving those boys who I love the full measure of my devotion that they need and deserve.

And my sweet son will also benefit from it one day, when he is older and becomes a scout.

The next weekend, we went on the Klondike Derby winter campout in the snow. It was lots of fun. I am certain that I would not have enjoyed it (that I would've done it grudgingly) had I not gained my testimony of scouting beforehand.

It's hard to admit that I was lacking in my testimony. It is humbling that I had to repent. But I have, and I am now reaping the great blessings of doing so. And I know that I must continue to nurture that testimony to maintain it and make it grow (just like with any aspect of your testimony - you can never be complacent).

I testify that the scouting program in the Church is critical to the success of our young men. Only three out of ten boys in primary will go on a mission. Nine out of ten Eagle Scouts go on a mission. Most return missionaries marry in the temple. Scouting prepares boys for their role as righteous family men, and helps them to learn important real-world skills and principles.

It's hard to understand why I didn't see it clearly before, but I do now.

And I hope that every parent of a boy who is of scouting age will be supportive of the program and encourage their young men to get involved and help them as they work toward earning their Eagle.

One larger point I would like to make: if you ever want to gain a testimony about any aspect of the Church, if you need any help in strengthening your belief in something, if you need any help at all - ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE.

Actually, you should:
1) Ask humbly and sincerely, praying with faith that you will receive
2) Go and DO something about it so Heavenly Father can help you
He will help you. He will be there for you and assist you as you make the effort to improve.

This experience has been a wonderful confirmation of the words of Jesus Christ, quoted by Moroni and found in Ether 12:27:
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."
And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

My Family

My Family
THIS is what it's all about. (July 2013)

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