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In Elder Holland’s most recent General Conference talk, he said

elder holland

In keeping with the Savior’s own experience, there has been a long history of rejection and a painfully high price paid by prophets and apostles, missionaries and members in every generation—all those who have tried to honor God’s call to lift the human family to “a more excellent way.

Sometimes that “painfully high price” and “rejection” can hit very close to home.

Recently, the missionaries informed me that one of the people we have been teaching the gospel to, who is ready to join the Church and be baptized, is facing a situation that falls into the category of a “painfully high price”. She is a young lady, 20 years old, who doesn’t live at home. However, she has a great respect and love for her parents. Throughout her life, her parents have told her they would support her with whatever she chooses regarding choosing a religion. However, when she approached them about joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e. Mormon Church), her parents came unglued and told her they would disown her if she joined, based on some things they have read and heard about Mormons. She is shocked and heart-broken. On one hand, she has felt a peace, love and experienced God in a way that she can’t deny and her soul yearns for this relationship and she has a desire to strengthen that relationship and “formalize” it by making a covenant to serve God by being baptized. On the other hand, if she does this without her parents blessing, she fears her family will leave her.

I can relate to her dilemma. When I was a very young man, a very close and dear family member made me promise them that I would never join the “Mormon Church”. At the time, that was the furthest thing from my mind. However, when I read the Book of Mormon and felt the overwhelming sense of peace that comes only from God, I knew that I wanted to join with the Church of Jesus Christ and that it was God telling me to do so. I had a clear vision given to me from God that if I stayed on the path I was on, it would lead to bad things later in life. On the flip side, my mind was opened up to the possibilities if I were to join the Church and follow Jesus Christ. When I shared my decision with my family member, they became very frustrated and when I heard them tell me they didn’t want to talk with me again, it hurt. We didn’t really talk for about 7 years and it was a very hard thing for me as this was and is a very close family member. Years later, after we had made amends and reconciled, my family member told me they hadn’t told me they wouldn’t talk to me, but that I had misunderstood them. Also, as an adult looking back, this family member had read and experienced some very negative things relating to the Church of Jesus Christ (i.e. Mormons), so they were trying to protect me from what they thought was harmful.

Time heals wounds though, as they say, and over the course of years we were able to forgive each other. Looking back, I’m glad that I chose to follow what I felt was right and what God was telling me to do rather than make the easier decision to not join the Church in order to salvage the relationship in the immediate term at the time. We now have a good relationship and have made amends and it is by the love and grace of God that we were able to come back together and re-kindle our relationship.

Having said all of this, based on personal experience, my suggestion for people such as our young friend is to follow what they feel God is telling them to do. If they feel that God is telling them to be baptized, do it. If they feel God is telling them to hold off on baptism for the time being, then do that. Don’t get baptized because it’s what your friends or missionaries want you to do and don’t hold off on baptism if you feel that is what God is telling you to do in order to save your relationship with your family member. Choosing to follow God will always lead to greater long-term happiness.

costs to follow more not to It may hurt in the immediate term, but long-term you will always be glad you followed your heart and what you feel God is telling you to do. I really liked this poster that a pastor put together stating “it costs to follow Jesus, but it costs more not to…”This is all a part of faith and trust in the Lord as it says in the scriptures. Easier said than done, but when we choose to follow God, “all things work together for good to them who love God” (Romans 8:28).

What advice would you give to this young lady or anyone else faced with this situation?

***Update 4/29/14***

For those interested about what the young lady’s decision was, after prayer, pondering and listening to peoples’ advice, she decided to be baptized.

I read a recent study called “Why Marriage Matters” that listed 30 key findings supporting the institution of marriage.  Since my parents were divorced when I was young, I can personally relate to many of the key findings.  In fact, I noticed that many of the findings outlined in this study such as mental and psychological distress, delinquent behavior, etc. were ones I experienced personally and wrote about in a recently published book: “Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication“.

I’ll outline 10 of the findings that I was either surprised about, or personally experienced.

Ten Findings Supporting the Institution of Marriage

  1. Parental marriage is associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality
  2. Marriage is associated with reduced rates of alcohol and substance abuse for both adults and teens.
  3. Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological distress and mental illness.
  4. Cohabitation is associated with higher levels of psychological problems among children
  5. Family breakdown appears to increase significantly the risk of suicide.
  6. Boys raised in non-intact families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior
  7. Marriage is a virtually universal human institution.
  8. Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase poverty for both children and mothers, and cohabitation is less likely to alleviate poverty than is marriage.
  9. Married men earn more money than do single men with similar education and job histories.
  10. Married people, especially married men, have longer life expectancies than do otherwise similar singles.

While I’m not saying everyone needs to go running out there and get married to solve the world’s problems, I do believe that if a man and a women have a loving relationship that it is most beneficial for society if they get married rather than live with each other, which we see very often today.

What are your thoughts on these findings?

A few years ago (well….more like 20 years ago!) I was a freshman at what was then called Ricks College in Rexburg, ID.  At the time, my passion was ballroom dancing.  I had danced through high school and Ricks had the best dance program in the state at the time and was a good preparation for the best dance program (BYU) in the country.

My first year, I was on a team called “Style”, which went around the western united states putting on shows and also teaching kids how to dance appropriately and have clean fun.

Everyone on the team was very down to earth and friendly and full of energy.  One young man stood out though.  He was always full of optimism and positive energy.  Nothing seemed to get him down and we all had great fun as we toured the western U.S.

He went on a mission and I lost track of him…until about 7 years ago when I bumped into him.  He was good friends with friends of mine and it was great to see he had a beautiful little family.  We’ve kept in touch off and on throughout the years since then.

Some of you may remember, about 4 years ago, I wrote a post on this blog about his new little daughter who had been featured in the local news in Seattle.  She was dying at the time from a rare heart condition and at that time they were asking for prayers and donations to pay for a heart transplant.

Imagine their excitement, joy and gratitude they felt when the heart transplant was successful and they had raised money to do the surgery!  I along with others received a note of thanks from my friend, who is her father.

Fast forward 4 years from now.  The sweet little girl’s body rejected the heart and she is on life support without a chance of survival off life support.  Here is a note I received from him today:

Heaven will soon be sweeter. Our precious daughter Mia will be reunited with her donor tomorrow after she is taken off life support. We are devastated and wish this was not happening. It all seems like a terrible nightmare. We will be sad for a very long time, and will miss her everyday. She was the happiest, sweetest little girl, and there will be a hole in all of our hearts. The children are very sad and just want her to wake up. We are in agony and are trying to hold it together for sake of our other children. We are so thankful for all of your love and support and have truly felt it. The pain is too much for my soul, but your prayers are being felt. I am not sure if I will update again until we are back in Utah. I just needed you all to know that we are thankful for your love. so thankful. Tomorrow we will be doing the impossible task of letting our sweet little angel go back to live with her Father in Heaven. We will miss her everyday.

Please join me in praying for the McDonald family to give them comfort and faith in this trying period.  I can’t imagine how they feel and I pray God’s love and peace over them.

Recently I attended another Mormon temple wedding.  This one was my other brother’s wedding.

I wrote a more detailed account of what happens inside a Mormon temple during the wedding ceremony last month, so I won’t get into specific details in this article.

For now, I will highlight the advice the temple sealer said to the young couple.

Four Cornerstones for a Successful Marriage

1. Family Prayer

2. Scripture Study

3. Having a weekly Family Night

4. Regular Temple Attendance

 

We’ve all heard the catchy phrase, the “family that prays together stays together“.  According to some research, prayer coupled with church attendance helped reduce divorce rates for couples.

The other similar phrase I’ve heard over the years is that the “family that plays together stays together“.  There is also research that substantiates this comment.  Holding a weekly family night is an excellent way to have an organized and set time to play with the family.  I know that it is hard sometimes to find time to play with my kids, but family night is a great time to play with the kids.  I’ve had some very memorable moments and am grateful for the family nights we’ve had doing projects, singing songs, playing games, and making treats.

Although this research supports families specifically, I would say that couples who hold regular date nights and take time to pray together experience greater satisfaction as well.

I’d be interested in hearing your experience and ideas to make a successful marriage work.  Feel free to leave comments.

This Father’s Day I thought I would share my feelings of being a father with young children.  We have a little girl, 3 1/2 years old, who is beautiful, smart, funny, and can have an attitude when she’s tired or hungry (takes after her dad!).  We also have a little 9 month old boy.  He has such a great personality that lights up the room and is full of energy.  He also can get a bit feisty when not well fed (again, like his Dad).

Some highlights this year were obviously my son being born.  At first, I wasn’t sure if I could love another child like I loved my daughter.  In fact, I felt guilty after he was born because I didn’t cry and wasn’t as emotional as I was when she was born.  However, as the year has gone on, I love “Buddy” just as much as I love “Babes”.  He is now crawling all over the place and he loves to have me get a little rough with him by wrestling and throwing him around.  His eyes light up and he giggles a cute little baby giggle.  He also has learned how to wave.  It’s cute watching him wave and smile and crawl over to me when I see him.

Dad and “Buddy”

“Babes” and I did a lot of fun things throughout the year.  Being 3 years old, she is full of energy and it is sometimes hard for me to keep up with her.

One of the major highlights for both of us was the Daddy/Daughter date we went on earlier this year.  She and I had tons of fun dressing up like it was prom and going to the dance.  We were having so much fun, we even got our pictures in the paper!

Babes and Dad at Daddy/Daughter dance

Needless to say, I am a very blessed person to have two healthy and beautiful children who call me Dad.  I hope I live up to that title throughout my life because I personally feel it is one of the most sacred callings a man can have.

That being said, I thought it would be fun to share my top 20 list of things I like to do with my kids….so (drum roll please) here it is:

20 Things I love to do as a Father with my Young Children

  1. Carry kids on my shoulders
  2. Wrestle with them
  3. Put them in a blanket and throw them around onto the bed
  4. Color pictures and receive pictures from them they’ve drawn or colored
  5. Tell them stories from the farm when I was growing up
  6. Watch them play and get along with each other
  7. See their smiles when I enter the room
  8. Watch them learn and grow
  9. Witness their innocence
  10. Do “tricks” with them by flipping them around
  11. Read books before bedtime
  12. Watch them splash and play in the bathtub
  13. Dance with them
  14. Brush my daughter’s hair and give her manicures
  15. Tickle them
  16. Play my guitar and watch them sing and dance (my 9 month old son has a killer voice!)
  17. Sing with them
  18. Cuddle with them until they fall asleep
  19. Watch them sleep
  20. Pray for them while they are sleeping

Today in church an older father, who happens to be a grandfather got up and shared a great experience that helped me as a young father.  Since this month we celebrate our fathers, I thought it was appropriate to share this.

The grandfather explained that he was working on building a deck out by his shed in his backyard when his 3 young grand daughters came over.  They are all grade school age and full of energy.  He said he completely enjoyed his experience with them as they wanted to “help” him build.  He didn’t get 1/3 of the project done because the kids were playing in the dirt, save the worms from getting chopped by the shovel, nails were scattered on many occasions.  In spite of all this, he didn’t get angry or annoyed.  Rather, he enjoyed the fact that his grandkids were with him.

I thought of myself as a young father.  It is easy for me to get so focused on a project that sometimes when my kids interrupt me, I am easily annoyed.  I know I can personally learn from this experienced father to focus on what is important.  What is important are the relationships we have with others, not the relationships we have with our things.

Jesus taught that if we are His disciples, we’ll have love for others.  Surely this example is one of how we can love others as a father.

***Authors Note: I have had people ask if this is a true story.  It is my personal story and yes, it is a true story***
I could barely hear her words as her quivering hands lifted up towards my young face and pulled me close to her mouth. She hadn’t spoken for a long time and it was apparent that she wasn’t going to live much longer.
I was just a young man. A boy really. 13 years old.
This woman had been a pillar in my turbulent childhood life up until this point and it hurt me to see her this way. Tears streamed down my face as she whispered some of the last words she ever spoke before she died.
“You’re my oldest grandchild.” she struggled to say the words, but I understood her as I tried not to sob uncontrollably. “Remember to set a good example for all the younger grandchildren. Live a good life so I can see you in Heaven. I love you.”
These words were the last words I heard my grandmother speak. Hours later her tormented body lay lifeless.
She was a victim of Diabetes. The disease had tormented her for a number of years, severely debilitating her to the point that her kidneys shut down. Although she was only 65 years old, she had the appearance of a 95 year old at the end of her life and death was a boon for her. She lived life the best she could, given the circumstances. However, I feel that she could have had a better life if she had received better treatment or if there had been better research on how to cure Diabetes.
While this is a very personal and moving story for me, I still have family members and friends who suffer from and struggle with Diabetes.
It is for this reason that I ask you for some help. I am going to ride in the Tour de Cure, which is a bike tour in support of researching a cure for Diabetes. I’m not asking for much. Just a $10 donation will be sufficient and the proceeds will go towards Diabetes research.
Please visit this site: http://main.diabetes.org/site/TR/Events/General?px=7458671&pg=personal&fr_id=8084 and click on the link on the lower right that says “sponsor me”. Donate as much as you are comfortable with.
Thank you for your support.

In the New Testament, James defines pure religion as visiting people in their afflictions, and also keeping oneself unspotted from the world.

With that thought in mind, I contacted one of my aging grandparents, whose health is steadily declining.  I received a phone call from my grandparent a few weeks ago, but the excuses I used for not getting back in touch included work, church service, raising kids, spending time with my wife, not being able to reach out because when I finally do get time it’s about 9:00 p.m. and my grandparent is in bed.

So the days turned into weeks and I would say almost daily to my wife “I should call my Grandpa” and finally she told me to quit saying that and just schedule it on my calendar, which I did.

When I called, there was a different voice on the phone than what I was used to hearing and I was confused.  I asked if I had the right number and he told me I did, but my Grandpa was too sick to talk.  However, when my Grandpa heard it was me on the phone, he motioned to the caregiver and he passed the phone over, warning me that there were sores all over my grandpa’s mouth and it was hard to understand him.

The voice I heard on the other end was frail and muffled.  I was humbled that despite his very poor circumstances, he wanted to make time for a conversation with me.  I reflected on all the good things my father taught me, which he had learned from my grandfather.  I was lucky enough to also live in the same town as my grandparents, so I got to know them very well as a young kid and teenager.  They sacrificed a lot for all of us.

The conversation was pretty short as he needed to get some rest, but I reflected on the call.  Why did it take me so long to call?  If I were living in the same town as him, would I be too busy to stop by regularly? 

I then reflected on the scripture on pure religion.

James does NOT say that pure religion is going to church, holding a high calling or position of authority, paying tithing, and a whole list of other things that one could name in association with being “religious”.  Rather, James says a key part of pure religion is visiting those who are afflicted.

It takes extra effort to go above and beyond and schedule time to visit those who are sick and afflicted.  It takes another step to go and visit with a heart filled with pure love as Jesus would have us do.  Many times the elderly seem helpless and have certain quarks or things that are annoying.  It takes the love of Jesus to look past those things and remember that at one point in our lives, whether we were teenagers, young kids, or helpless babies that our parents and/or grandparents took time to selflessly give us love and care.

It’s easy to get caught up in many things in life, but I hope that we all can remember to schedule time to regularly visit, talk with, or serve our aging parents and/or grandparents or other elderly people we may know who are suffering before it’s too late and we have regrets.  This time, I was fortunate enough to have reached out in time, but it took me way to long to do so.  My plan is to schedule time regularly on my calendar so I make it a regular habit.

What are some suggestions and ways that you go about caring for the elderly?

Recently in Elder’s Quorom (Men’s Group) we had a very good discussion based on the current LDS prophet, Thomas Monson’s, recent talks he had given.  The quote that stood out to our instructor today, as well as myself, was

Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.

The discussion then turned to raising our children and focusing more on “problems” rather than loving the child.  As the discussion continued, I thought of an incident I had with my young daughter that morning where she wasn’t listening and she was ignoring me.  My reaction was definitely not Christ-like and I lost my patience with her, unfortunately.  Although I came to her later and apologized, I still felt bad and had been praying about how I can better approach the situation when it arose again.

Another elder in our class talked about a situation where his daughter had totalled his car when she was in high school and lied to him about the circumstances surrounding the accident.  He found out at the scene from the police and fire-fighters that what she had told him was not true and he said he completely lost his temper with her and focused on the “problem” more than on loving the person.

It’s a difficult situation, because as a man, my tendancy is to act like a military officer and order the child to behave “because I said so”.  However, that approach is pretty ineffective, I’ve learned.  Yet, the child still needs to learn respect, etc.

What are some good strategies you as fathers use to discipline your children yet still show them that you love them?

Thank you so much everyone for your prayers for my wife and baby!  I received plenty of emails and a few comments on the blog from those of you who were praying over the past few days.

August 18th at 10:10 p.m. baby Barett was born at 8 lbs. 3 oz. 21 inches.  The delivery went very well and both baby and mom are very healthy and well.

Here’s a picture of him a few hours after he was born:

Thank you again and God bless all of you for your prayers and support.

P.S. Cal, I’ll have to smoke a virtual cigar with you since I don’t smoke! : )

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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