Saturday, May 7, 2016

Dear Mom

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.  Well, for at least some people.  Ever since I served a mission in Mexico I've been trying to promote the concept of Mother's Day on May 10th every year instead of the second Sunday, but so far no luck.  So, for now, we'll celebrate tomorrow.

I've always found the phrase "words cannot describe" to be a little odd.  When you think about it, words are all we really have to describe something.  But in writing about my Mom and what she means to me, I can appreciate the sentiment.  Words alone do not seem adequate, but since they're all I've got I'll try to use some.

First, I'll borrow some words from Joseph Smith:

"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

When Joseph Smith gave what are now called the Articles of Faith he was speaking not just as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  His use of the pronoun "we" incorporates all who believe in and follow the Savior, but I believe it applies particularly toward women and mothers.

There has been no better example of someone who hopes all things and hopes to be able to endure all things than my mother.  Her quiet perseverance through many, many trials has been a great example to me.  

 A week or two ago in our Sunday School class, we were talking about why we're given weaknesses and trials.  The apostle Paul said this:

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong"

My calling as a counselor in the Bishopric over the last 2 years has given a unique perspective on this subject.  I have the opportunity to observe the members of the ward during Sacrament meeting, and I often see young mothers in distress.  I see them struggling to gain control of small children with their own agendas and, much like Paul, it makes me smile.

It's not that I take pleasure in seeing their difficulties.  Part of me smiles because I know that, at least this time, it's not my own child causing the chaos.  The rest of me smiles because it reveals to me that mother's faith and testimony.  Mother's know their children better than anyone.  Most mother's know full well the challenge they will be facing each time they bring their kids to church, but they come anyway.  They know there will be fighting and loud talking.  There will be plenty of wiggling and shushing, but still they come.

I'll never forget the time as a child sitting with my family quietly waiting for the deacon to reach our row so I could take the sacrament when all of the sudden my younger brother became so fed up with whatever my older sister was doing to him that he shouted out "Why don't you fight me like a man!"  Like most children my siblings and I were a liability.  With five of us, it was a near certainty that one of us would misbehave, break something, or just be a general nuisance.  But my mom worked all morning every Sunday to get us ready and took us to church.

So, thanks, Mom, for having the faith and courage to follow what you knew to be right.  Thank you for enduring all things.  I know I'm not alone when I say that as I seek for virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy things I don't have to look any farther than you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What if there were no rhetorical questions?

Take a second and think about the following question.  What if there were no rhetorical questions?  This would then mean that the question itself merits an answer.  It would mean our brains would need to engage in an activity to which most of our brains are not accustomed.  We would need to answer all questions, regardless of how inane or pointless they may seem.  It would certainly challenge the popular belief that there are no stupid questions.  We only say that because we don't believe that all questions deserve an answer, so we can dismiss some of them without any further thought.

So what would happen if every question was meant to be answered?  What would happen if we had to pause and think and come up with an answer?  Play along with me as we go through some of the most famous rhetorical questions to see what would change if we dispensed with the rhetorical.

Q:  What was he thinking?
A:  This is one of my favorite questions that I have always believed is in no way rhetorical.  This question is usually sprinkled (or doused) with a measure of disbelief.  We ask this question when someone does something and we cannot understand their motives.  So we ask the universe what that person was thinking, don't wait for the real answer, and make up our own narrative.  Meanwhile, our disbelief in that person and their actions lingers and whether you realize it or not you trust that person a little less.  You sowed the seed of doubt by asking the question but by not seeking an answer you do nothing to dispel the growing myth that this person doesn't have a clue what they're doing.

I'm not suggesting you stop asking the question; quite the opposite.  What I'm suggesting is that you follow up with an answer.  One of my favorite sayings is that everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes the reason is that you make bad choices.  Sometimes the answer to the what-was-he-thinking question is-nothing.  Sometimes we do things without thinking.  Sometimes we just make bad decisions.  But that's not always the case.  Imagine you're driving on the freeway at a mostly-legal speed when out of the blue some idiot cuts you off and causes you to engage in evasive maneuvers to stop from spinning off the road.  This is a common time to emphatically and angrily scream the WWHT!?!? question at the other driver.  You probably understand that they can't hear you, much less answer you, but what you don't realize is the question still needs to be answered, and that the answer will almost certainly change your perception of the situation.  If the answer were because they don't like you, or someone dared them to do it you'd be understandably upset.  But what if the answer was they were rushing to the hospital to be with a child who was involved in a life-threatening accident.  Would you still be so angry?

So sometimes you ask a rhetorical question because the person to whom we would like to ask the question in its non-rhetorical form is not available to answer.  In those cases, when your mind automatically formulates a possible answer, try to assume a noble, worthy answer.  Don't assume the worst.

Q:  How can he live with himself?
A:  This is a question that we would never ask if we truly understood what it really means.  It gets asked when someone has done something horribly wrong or has been the victim of some awful tragedy.  The person asking the question falls into one of two camps.  They are either sympathetic and wish to convey the feeling that they themselves would not know what to do were the situations reversed or they are expressing shame and disbelief that another person could commit such an act.

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi teaches us that there must be opposition in all things.  We need contrast to sharpen our understanding of things and situations.  We need to know how bad it can be before we truly appreciate how good it can be.  So, with that in mind, let's ask the opposite question.  Instead of asking "How can he live with himself" let's ask "Why doesn't he kill himself?"  If we are truly interested in discovering how an individual is able to live we need to understand also why they won't die.  I'm dead certain that no one reading this would advocate suicide but by asking how someone can live what you are really asking is why suicide isn't an option.  It's a horrible thing when you frame it that way, but the point of this exercise is to make you uncomfortable asking rhetorical questions.  I want to help you understand that not all questions are rhetorical even though you ask them without expecting an answer.

If you feel compelled to ask to ask this question, you should feel an even stronger desire to answer it.  There is some force that is driving this person to go on in the face of extreme opposition.  There is something giving them hope that things can be better and that they can be better.  Rhetorical questions have a nasty way of objectifying the target of the question, but by expecting and seeking an answer you allow yourself to connect with people and that principle is at the heart of a Christ-centered life.  The Savior himself distilled every commandment and law down to two simple principles:  Love God and love your neighbor.  Rhetorical questions disconnect us and stifle the bond of love.  So ask questions, but make sure to seek answers.

On a side note, when the Savior taught the parable of the good Samaritan he asked a question at the end. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? (Luke 10:33).  Whether or not you think this is a rhetorical question says a lot about where you are spiritually in your life.

Q: What I wouldn't give to have (fill in the blank).
A:  This is deceptive because when we say it, it comes out as a statement and you don't hear the tell-tale raised inflection at the end to indicate that it is a question.  So let's rephrase it.  What would I give up so that I can have the thing I desire?  Some of the most successful and happy people in the world are people who understand the answer to this question.  This most definitely should not be a rhetorical question.  We should spend our whole lives in search of the answer to this question.

In order to properly answer the question, however, you need to fill in the blank.  If you desire a Big Mac, then the answer is simple.  You would have to give up approximately one dollar.  The smaller the prize, the easier the answer.  The key is to allow this question to motivate and drive you to bigger and better things.  To get that result you need to up the ante.  What would you give up to have a two-week vacation in Hawaii?  Once you know the goal it's not hard to then find out what you would need to do to get there.  And once you know what's on the line it becomes a question of commitment.  Can you give up what's necessary to get there?

But why stop at Hawaii?  The Lord told Moses many years ago that his purpose was to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  Shouldn't that be our goal as well?  Shouldn't we have our eyes fixed on the ultimate prize?  To live with God and know him again is an awe-inspiring goal.  A great Lamanite king proclaimed that he was willing to give away all that he had and all his sins to know God.

Our salvation depends on our faith and testimonies and our faith and testimonies depend on seeking and receiving answers to questions.  Don't get caught in a rhetorical trap.  Every question deserves an answer because every answer brings knowledge.  Knowledge is power but knowledge is not found in the question.  Again I encourage you to ask questions but ask with the intent to receive and answer.

Only when you have asked all the questions will you have all he answers.  Wouldn't that be nice?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

When it's okay to have no goals

It's a new year.  I guess that means it's time to set some goals and resolutions for my life.  Or at least for the next couple of weeks, which is how long most of us remember said goals.  Either way it seemed appropriate to share some things that have been on my mind when it comes to goals.

I've never been incredibly skilled at setting goals.  I tend to either set them impossibly high, which defeats the purpose, or unnecessarily low, which also defeats the purpose.  I realize the potential of goals to help us stretch ourselves to grow and improve, I'm just really bad at finding the right balance between shooting for the moon and hitting the cowpie right in front of me.  So I've done some pondering thinking about what it means to have goals.

I think in it's simplest form a goal is something we want; a desired outcome that carries with it an set of actions necessary to be acheived.  Most of us are really good at defining the outcome but really bad at figuring out the correct set of actions.  And really, that is the hardest part.   It's difficult to break it down into smaller steps.  It's easy to want, hard to act.  As the famous Jack Handy once said "It's easy to sit there and say you'd like to have more money. And Iguess that's what I like about it. It's easy. Just sitting there, rocking back and forth, wanting that money."  Pretty deep, right?  But it's also true.  We as human beings are inherenly lazy and tend to do the easiest thing possible.  I have noticed this is a trait especially prevalent in my line of work as a software programmer.  Easy is almost always the first choice and we really have to be careful not to confuse easy with right.

So the first nugget of wisdom that came from pondering goals is that I have to find a way to pair the desire with some actions.  It's not a large nugget, but it's a place to start.

With that new tool added to my arsenal, I went looking for more inspiration, so I naturally turned to the scriptures.  This is where things got interesting for me.  I used my scripture app on my phone to search for the word "Goal".  I was expecting some scripture references that I could read and ponder, maybe cross-reference, and learn what the Lord has taught about goals.  Guess what I found?  Well, you probably know by now because I'll bet you stopped reading for a second and did your own search.  Spoiler alert.......the word goal does not appear any any of the Standard Works (that would include the Bilble-Old and New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price).  Not one single scripture.  For those using the LDS scripture set I will say that it does show up twice in the Bible Dictionary, both times with references to Jesus Christ being "the goal of all creation", and once in the Topical Guide where it says "See Objectives, Perfection".

So the scriptures don't teach us anything about setting goals.  We're taught in school, at our places of employment, and by almost every motivational speaker to ever live that setting goals is important, even critical if we want to achieve our dreams and become better.  We're conditioned from an early age to understand that you won't accidentally acheive a goal but that you have to work for it.  So why, of all things we do learn about in the scriptures, do we not learn about setting goals?

Follow me if you will through a series of thoughts that I hope will help you understand.  First, our journey in life to become our best self is marked by degrees.  Dalin H Oaks referrs to these degrees as "good, better, best".  Some of the things we do are good, some are better, and our ultimate goal is to do best.  Think of it like the stars, the moon, and the sun.  Each one provides light, but in varying degrees.  The stars are good, the moon is better, and the sun is best.  Now, let's revisit the part where I searched for the word "goal" in the scriptures and found it used in the Bible Dictionary twice.  There it referred to the Savior as the "goal of all creation".  So if we're sticking with the sun, moon, and stars theme, the Savior is the sun.  We're more around the stars level, and we probably know a few moons.

We know the scriptures teach us how to be more like the Savior.  They teach us His gospel and His commandments.  The scriptures teach us how to become suns, and this is why they don't teach about goals.  The Lord doesn't have goals.  He has purpose and a plan.  To me, the word goal suggests the possibility that it might not be acheived.  It's something to be aspired to, but may be out of reach.  That is not how the Lord operates.  With Him, nothing is impossible.  He tells us that 'though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled."  I don't know how many of us can say that of our words, but Lord certainly can.  As we increase in knowledge and faith, as we grow from stars to moons and eventually to suns we reach points where our words, or maybe better said our commitments, will be upheld and accomplished, but we're not there yet.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't set goals now.  Stars need to learn to become moons.  Moons need to learn to become suns.  Part of that learning process is setting a goal and working to accomplish it.  We may not get there every time, but we will get better every time we try.  Don't give up.  To quote an LDS hymn, "there is hope shining brightly before us".  And to quote Proverbs 4:18, "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day".

When we reach that perfect day, it will be just fine to have no goals.  When we reach the goal of all creation our own goals will be replaced by purposes.  For now, it's good enough to be a star but remember that brighter days are in your future.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dear Meghan Trainor

On my way home from work today the song "Dear Future Husband" by Meghan Trainor came on the radio.  As a nearly 40-year-old man I'm not normally one to like teenage pop music.  In fact, I only happened to catch it because I was channel surfing during the commercial break on the sports talk radio show I normally listen to, but I  stopped to listen because I liked the sound.  It reminded me a lot of the Mavelette's classic "Please Mr. Postman".  But then I heard the lyrics.

My first thought was that the song should really have been called "Dear Future Ex-husband".  As I listened to the demands she was making of any man wishing to earn her love I was convinced that anyone brave/foolish enough to try and have a meaningful relationship that was so obviously one-sided would eventually (likely fairly quickly) buckle under the pressure and run for the hills.

     Don't forget the flowers every anniversary

     After every fight just apologize.....even if I was wrong

     Even when I'm acting crazy, tell me everything's alright

I guess it's good that she's telling any future suitor what the poor sap is in for, but the way she goes about it is a sad commentary on where we are as a society.  The blame does not lie with one single group or person, but the decline of good old-fashioned family values is summed up very neatly in this one song.  We've reached a point where women feel like they need to make demands of men in order to be treated with respect, but the problem is that what they are really after is a warped definition of respect.

On its surface this song seems like a simple set of instructions on how men should treat women, but it's much, much worse than that.  What the woman in this story is after is not love and mutual respect.  She's after control and domination.  When the instruction is given to the man to simply apologize after every fight, the man's promised reward is not love and respect, but something else entirely.  What she offers the man who can correctly complete this assignment is that he will be allowed to "rock [her] body right".  If you need that explained you'll have to ask you mother or your 5th grade teacher.

In a similar manner she instructs the man to tell her she is beautiful every night.  Not so that she will feel loved and valued, but again for a different reason altogether.  Completing this assignment will earn the man her "special lovin'" (again, no explanation will be provided for that euphemism either).

And in the ultimate irony, another set of instructions is given.

     Don't have a dirty mind, just be a classy guy.

So there you have it.  She is looking for a man willing to submit to her every whim so she can reward him with sex, but he still needs to be classy and have a clean mind.  Am I missing something?  It seems like society in general is missing something pretty important.

In 1995 The First Presidency of the LDS Church release a statement called "The Family:  A Proclamation to the World".  This statement outlined our Heavenly Father's designs for a family unit.  It reaffirmed that the family is the central part of the lives of everyone on earth and outlined each family member's responsibility to the family.  Husbands and wives are to treat each other with love and respect and work together as equals.  The power to create life was confirmed to be a sacred power to be used only under the guidelines set forth by the Lord.

Twenty years ago the leaders of the LDS Church were inspired to caution the world against the destruction of the family.  I was a teenager then.  I didn't think much of it at the time.  It was a nice message, but it was stuff I already knew.  Twenty years later, with a family of my own I now have come to respect it and it's wisdom.

Meghan is not wrong to demand that she be treated a certain way by the man who wishes to be her husband, but she misses the mark.  She should demand to be treated with respect and dignity.  She should demand to be loved and cared for.  She should demand to be his number one priority, but rather than promising him carnal rewards for offering his soul to her she needs to offer her soul to him in return.  She must treat him with the same respect, dignity, and love that she demands from him.  Marriage is an equal partnership where two lives become one and two souls unite in one purpose.

She should also be patient.  He should also be patient.  In any relationship mistakes will be made.  He'll forget your anniversary.  She'll spend the day on Pintrest instead of cleaning the house.  He'll go golfing on more Saturday's than you'd like.  She'll drag you to more than one clothing store looking for the perfect outfit.  And none of it means they love you less, or don't care about your feelings.  It just means you both had lives before you met each other and it's not always a smooth transition trying to blend two lives into one.

When you engage in any romantic relationship, especially the one that eventually will lead to marriage keep at the forefront of your mind the simple fact that your partner is a Son or Daughter of God.  That thought should guide your actions and mold your behavior toward them.  Respect, love, admiration, adoration are all by-products of our undertanding of the other person's true worth and value.

Dear Future Spouse:  If you want to be someone's one and only the rest of their life you need to at the very least be nice to them.  If you want to be their one and only for eternity you have to do much more.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tunnels - The light at the end and the darkness within

Even as I sit down to write I'm not sure what I want to say.  I've gone back and forth about how I want to describe my life over the past few weeks and what angle I want to show.  This blog is about living your life every day and finding the connections to the gospel and spiritual things but I've really struggled putting my thoughts together on this one.  In part it's because I'm still in the middle of the things I'll describe later and I don't have a happy ending a wrapped up in a neat little moral-of-the-story, but it's also because I'm not sure how much of what's happened I'm ready to share with the Internet.  So I'm just going to start writing and we'll see where this thing goes.

Let's rewind the tape to a couple of weeks ago.  It was a day like most others, only this one somehow turned out different.  It started like most other days-wake up, eat breakfast with my daughter, watch cartoons while getting ready for work/school.  Actually, scratch that last one.  We usually watch Animal Cops: Houston in the morning.  Anyways, I dropped her off at school and headed in to work.  Work started out like most other days at work, except that day I couldn't get anything done.  I was constantly getting interrupted, my boss kept tossing high-priority-have-to-be-done-right-now assignments at me throughout the day.  I was drowning and people were lining up to throw buckets of water on me.

We're all had days like that.  I had even had other days like that and had survived them with my sanity intact, but this time it was different.  Cartoonist Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert cartoon, describes it by saying that it all starts when one project becomes overdue.  You then start having to give status reports about why you missed that deadline and one by one all of your other projects fall behind until you're reach the point where every task you have becomes such a high priority that your brain can't figure out which one to work on and it snaps.

I think something similar happened to me.  What started out as a typical busier-than-usual day snowballed and never stopped rolling.  It wrecked me.  I started to panic and worry about everything.  I felt like there was a 500 pound gorilla sitting on my chest.  I had severe anxiety that just wouldn't go away.  Somebody was strangling my happiness and I was powerless to stop it.  No matter what I was doing, all I could think about was everything else that was not getting done and the weight of all the unsolved problems was crushing me.

The scary part is that it wouldn't go away.  I'm a fairly easy-going, easily-amused person, so when stuff like this happens it's not too difficult for me to hit the reset button and start things over.  I don't tend to get overwhelmed by things because I've been fairly good at understanding what I can and can't control and how to work from there.  But for some reason I was stuck.  In quicksand.  It was hard to get out of bed in the mornings.  It was hard to get dressed and go to work.  It was hard to be a father and husband.  I stopped smiling.  I started being short and irritated whenever anyone asked me anything.  I started to act like kind of a jerk, and it scared me.  I spent a couple of nights hiding in my bedroom trying to figure out what was going on.  I'm still not sure I know.

Here's what I do know.  I know that my Dad suffered from depression.  I know that various members of my family have struggled with addictions of all shapes and sizes.  What I don't know is if I was depressed.  At this point it's the only thing that makes sense but how does one go about diagnosing something like that?  Do I need someone else to tell me, or am I allowed to self-diagnose.  And even if there is an official reason for feeling sad and overwhelmed for an extended period of time, what do you do about it?  Do I take Prozac or some other drug?  Do I take up yoga?

So why am I sharing all of this?  As I mentioned before this blog is about sharing my journey with you.  It's about discovering how to stop drawing boxes around work, family, church, and all the other roles we take on and starting seeing God's hand in every aspect of our life.  It's about living the gospel on days that end in "Y".  And sometimes it's not easy.  I'm sharing this because somebody else out there is going through the same thing.  Somebody reading this wakes up in the morning wondering if it's even worth getting out of bed.  Someone is ready to throw in the towel and give up on a marriage, family, a job, or any other responsibility they feel is too much for them to handle.

To that someone, the only thing I can tell you is keep going.  You can't always see the end from the middle.  You won't always see the light at the end of the tunnel because sometimes the tunnel is really long, or has a lot of twists and turns.  It's only when you take an eternal perspective that you understand the tunnel does end and there is a bright, shining light at the end.  But don't get so caught up waiting to see the light at the end that you miss the light that is in  the tunnel.  In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord taught Joseph Smith about that light (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24):

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day
You don't have to wait till you're out of the tunnel to find light.  God is light and if we seek him earnestly we obtain His light which can overcome all darkness.  I love the description of light growing brighter and brighter until the perfect day.  I haven't had that perfect day yet, and there are days when the light seems dimmer than usual, but I know it is always there to guide our path and to brighten our souls.

I'm still learning how to allow that light in to my life, but I understand now that it's not the light that was withdrawn from me, it was I who blocked out the light.  It was there the whole time, I just couldn't see it.  I wouldn't see it.

Hopefully some day soon I'll let enough light in to see things perfectly.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mike Pargeter, My Hero

I hope Mike is okay with me using his name in my blog.  I don't really have a way to confirm because I've never actually met Mike.  I don't know what he looks like, where he lives, or his favorite color.  I don't know really anything about him other than the fact that he saved my life, in a very figurative sense.  Mike, just like me was a guy with a problem.  The particulars of the problem are not important.  What matters is that Mike was somehow able to solve his problem and what makes Mike my hero is that he posted his solution in his blog on the Internet.  (Those interested in the gory details of my issue can visit Mike's blog.  Don't say I didn't warn you though).

This is not an uncommon situation for computer nerds.  Often when we run into a problem the first place we turn is Google.  I've often told people who ask me what I do for work that I'm a professional Googler.  The amount of information at our fingertips is amazing and between Google and YouTube, a solution can be found for nearly any technical challenge.  So as I sat at work and the clock sped right past 5:00 with me still glued to my chair, unable to leave until I'd solved this problem, I turned to the Interwebs for help and I found Mike.  When I needed help and answers to problems that were preventing me from moving forward I found someone else who had overcome the same problem.  When I need guidance and direction, I found a hero.

If this pattern sounds familiar to any of you, it's because the gospel operates the same way.  What are the scriptures after all, if not a collection of the writings of people who had problems and were able to solve those problems.  When you have challenges and problems that are holding you back you can turn to the scriptures for help and guidance.  Nephi reminds us that the scriptures were not written for the benefit of the authors but rather so that their "children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." (2 Nephi 25:26).  The scriptures are a spiritual Google, with answers waiting for all our deep, eternal questions.

The issue is that society is evolving and with this evolution we are losing the ability to glean what we need from the scriptures.  Social media has trained up-and-coming generations to digest information in much smaller chunks.  It's getting to the point where if you can't say something in less than 140 characters, you might as well not bother because nobody is going to read that far.  We're far to busy to pause on one topic for longer than 6 seconds because there is so much out there that we have to move on quickly to the next thing so we're not left in the dust.

Pop culture is evolving at an ever increasing pace.  All of you "cool" parents who just barely figured out LOL and BFF, I've got bad news.  You're still behind.  Trying to stay caught up with today's youth is a nearly impossible task because you stop and take breaks to digest all of the new information you get.  Your kids don't.  They consume and move one.  They're like the aliens from Independence Day that invade a planet just to consume it's resources and then move on to the next planet.  They don't think about how to create sustainable resources.  They are only concerned with keeping their appetite for new information fed.

So, reading the scriptures is hard for them, not only because it's written in a language they barely understand (you can call it English all you want, but when was the last time you heard someone actually say "Behold"), it's really long.  I mean, way more than 140 characters.  I often wonder if youth today wouldn't get more out of it if it were a compilation of tweets instead of volumes of scripture.

@nephi man my bros are jerks #goanddo #gettheplates #oldworldproblems #bornofgoodlyparents

@samthelamanite u can't touch this

@judas hey @petertherock at least I got paid #deniedhimonce #30pieces

We have to help our youth see that the scriptures are not just some boring, hard to read set of books that their parents and leaders make them read.  The scriptures are answers to our problems and our prayers, written by others who went through the same things.  They say that wisdom is what you get when you read between the lines and experience is what you get when you don't.  Learn from the mistakes of others.  Learn from Peter how to maintain your convictions regardless of the circumstances.  Learn from Laman and Lemeul how to listen to the Spirit and put aside your own pride.  Learn from Moses how to say yes to a calling, even when you feel wholly inadequate.  Find your heroes in the scriptures and follow their example.

If it weren't for Mike, I'd still be in my chair in my office tearing my hair out trying to learn what he already learned.  If it weren't for the scriptures I'd be somewhere else entirely. #iknowthischurchistrue

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why speaking in absolutes is ALWAYS a bad idea

You don't have to be a computer programmer to appreciate the value of words within a language, but it sure does help.  Your entire career and the success of the programs you build depend on your ability to choose the right words in the right combination, which the provide the proper instructions to the computer to run your program.  Choose the wrong words, or put them in the wrong order and it doesn't work.  The computer can't guess what you meant to say.  It only knows what you actually said.  And while you may not realize it, people behave in much the same way.  We can't rely on the other person guessing what we really meant to say.  It helps to say the thing you really mean in the first place.

Now, when you dive a bit deeper it's turns a bit into a chicken/egg type of dilemma.  While it's true that your choice of words and commands instructs the computer what to do, it's also true that you choose your commands based on what you want the computer to do.  It's much the same with human communication and spoken language.  It can be hard to decide whether you choose words based on the effect you want or if the words you choose create the effect, but what is clear is that words have an effect.  Not only on the person hearing them, but on the person speaking them.

The words we speak have a great impact in shaping our lives because they give life to our imagination.  They turn our thoughts and fears, our hopes and dreams, into reality.  Once a word escapes our mind it becomes a life form, capable of impacting the lives of others, capable of lifting the soul of another out of the depths, or cutting the heart of another in two.  The apostle James teaches us that the "tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity...and setteth on fire the course of nature."  Words shape the course of EVERYTHING we do, so we need to pay close attention to our words.

I have noticed a pattern in the words my children use.  They will ask me for a favor, or a treat, or some kind of reward, and, as any good parent should, I occasionally tell them no.  No, you can't paint the dog's nails.  No, you can't have an entire bag of Skittles 10 minutes before dinner (which is ALWAYS the moment they decide they are officially starving and can't wait any longer.  It doesn't matter when their last meal was.  10 minutes before dinner, they're hungry).  No, I'm not buying EVERY single thing ever advertised on EVERY single commercial on the Disney Channel.  And without fail my children respond "Dad!  You NEVER buy me anything!"  "Dad!  You NEVER let me have candy!" "Dad!  You NEVER let me paint the dog's nails!" Sometimes they'll try reverse psychology and say things like "Dad!  You ALWAYS let my sister have candy!", or "Dad! You ALWAYS buy things for my sister!" but in the end it's the same.  In their world, sometimes does not exist.  It's ALWAYS or NEVER.

Now this behavior isn't unique to children.  Plenty of adults say very similar things.  How often do we label someone by pointing out something that they ALWAYS do.  How often does someone say that their spouse NEVER helps around the house, or ALWAYS works late.  We have a tendency to speak in absolutes and it's a more dangerous problem that it appears.

To prove my point, I'd like you to try an experiment.  The next time you catch yourself speaking in absolutes, stop and ask yourself if ALWAYS or NEVER are actually the correct words to describe the situation. (If you're the kind of person who NEVER speaks in absolutes, have someone else help call you on it.)  For example, the next time your husband want to play golf on a Saturday morning and you find yourself telling him that he plays golf EVERY Saturday, stop and ask yourself if it's really true.  Chances are there are a number of Saturdays in his life during which he has chosen numerous other activities.  Perhaps the word FREQUENTLY, or OFTEN, or SOMETIMES may be better descriptions of his Saturday activities. 

(Quick side note.  You've probably noticed, and have likely already been annoyed by, the fact that I've capitalized certain words throughout this post.  It's my way of gently guiding you to recognize a pattern.  Hopefully you figure it out by the end.)

You see, the problem is that the moment the word ALWAYS or EVERY or NEVER leaves your mouth it becomes truth, either to you or to the person to whom you're speaking (which can also be you).  You immediately start to erase from your memory things that would prove your statement to be false.  Just because your wife spends the occasional afternoon on Pintrest instead of cooking and cleaning does not mean that she's ALWAYS on the Internet.  But when you say it, even if you only think the words in your mind, you immediately start to take ALL of the other non-Internet-related things you know she does with her time and you file them away in a deep corner of your mind.  You stop giving her credit for her actions and behaviors that don't fit your absolute, unequivocally correct statement. People are not perfect and because of that they are not consistent, so it is IMPOSSIBLE for a person to ALWAYS act in a certain manner.  Your absolute labels alter your perception.

There is one person that can get away with speaking in absolutes, and that person is Jesus Christ.  When he said to the prophet Joseph Smith that the words he had spoken would ALL be fulfilled, that's a statement we can trust.  Christ is perfect.  Perfect in ALL meanings of the word.  He is incapable of error or wrongdoing.  He is incapable of deceit or falsehood.  His word is more constant than heaven or earth. In Him we have someone in whom we can ALWAYS rely, someone who will NEVER abandon us and is there to comfort us in EVERY trial.

Of that, you can be ABSOLUTELY sure.