If I was an investigator of the Jewish church, in Jesus time, and I had as my example Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes, I might have been extremely resistant to joining up. The Pharisees certainly never appear to be peaceful and happy. They were judgmental and preoccupied with others, rather than themselves—in a negative way. I certainly would not have been willing to count my steps on Sundays or avoid pork simply because some God commanded it if…their sour-faced life was the result.

I sometimes can’t figure out why the Pharisees stayed converted to their own version (because it was certainly of their creation) of Judaism. The only thing I can determine is that they stayed faithful out of fear. And, it was fear they passed on to others. Fear of breaking a commandment. So much did fear guide their actions that they passed it on to others—judgmentally. Everyone was doomed in their eyes…even Christ.

And, because the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes led the religion, (and their principles), it was dying out. Israel had been conquered and scattered and would have continued to dwindle had not Christ come to fulfill the law and restore the truths that had been lost. Fear does not convert people to God. It only keeps them afraid. And obeying out of fear, ultimately, cannot produce salvation.

So, why do people choose a religion? Why do people convert? Why do people stay faithful? Why do people come back to God?

I think I can sum it up in two words: happiness.

2 Nephi 2:25 teaches us that “men are that they might have joy.” So, are we so surprised that the reason we seek God, or religion, is because we believe it will bring us happiness? No. And, the gospel of Jesus Christ is about happiness. It is not about temporary, fleeting excitement. It is not about intense, dizzying highs followed by horrific lows. The gospel of Jesus Christ is about peace, happiness, and continual joy.

But, are you happy? Are you peaceful? Do you experience joy despite the struggles of life? If not, why? Why aren’t you happy?

Happiness is Personal Peace

When most of us think of happiness, we think of the absence of trials, struggles, pain, suffering, sorrow, etc. And yet, God has shown us that joy can only come from opposition (2 Nephi 2:11). If there is no down there can be no up. If there is no sorrow there can be no happiness. This life is about the ups and the downs. The triumphs and the sins, and the weaknesses, and the mistakes (Ether 12:27). The gospel of Jesus Christ is about finding peace in knowing the downs are part of the ups and that ultimately Christ has overcome all of the downs. The ups become precious because of the downs. We become godly during the downs.

Now we come back to the Pharisees. They made the gospel about fear. Fear of making mistakes. When instead they should have preached the hope of overcoming them. They made the gospel about lines, boundaries, and achievement. When instead they should have preached the destination of godliness. Because ultimately there are no lines. There is only becoming godly. There are commandments, but they are practice in becoming godly, not an end unto themselves. The Pharisees, out of fear, made the commandments and end unto themselves.

Nothing, in the gospel, has a beginning or end, save in Christ. If we give it another beginning or end, apart from Christ, it will cease to belong to Him. When it has a beginning or end in anything else it becomes the gospel of that thing or person. Grace is not about not sinning. It’s about becoming godly as we learn from sins and mistakes. And so forth.

Personal peace comes from knowing we can do it, we can make it, despite our struggles, sins, weaknesses, and so forth. And when we say that, so many pharisaical people want to freak out. They’re so afraid that if we tell people that, that those people will stop keeping commandments and staying away from those lines. Again…they’re so afraid. And so they can’t be happy. And they can’t let others be happy, or peaceful.

Problems with the Rising Generation

I was pondering this blog post when the memory of the Olive Tree Allegory came into my mind from Jacob 5. You know, that chapter everyone dreads reading because they’re so worried that it has 70+ verses rather than what’s in it?

In the Olive Tree Allegory we always have the Lord of the vineyard grafting branches in and grafting braches out. Pruning branches off and dunging and aerating the roots. And, it’s always about the roots and the branches. Either the roots go bad or the branches overcome the good of the roots.

As I was staring out a window, watching the highway go by, a principle jumped into my head. The roots of the gospel are: faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the ordinances and covenants that follow. All of these things are centered in Christ. The branches of the gospel are the commandments and the organization put in place to keep the roots healthy. When the branches overcome the roots, the tree (person, family, ward, stake, region, area, etc.) gets sick. If the tree stays sick too long then the roots get ruined.

The gospel ceases to be the gospel if we let the branches overcome the roots. The roots can become corrupted if we allow in false doctrine. But usually, the problem with long-term religious culture (like the Pharisees) in our homes is that we start focusing on the branches without tending to the roots. We start making the gospel about fear instead of happiness.

Oh, we may preach happiness and peace, but that doesn’t equivocate. It must also be a part of us. It must show in our lives. We can say going to church will make us happy, but if we go to church and then are not happy, what are we really teaching? It’s something different than what we’re saying.

Branches Overcoming the Roots

It’s easy for this to happen when you get past the first generation of converts to a religion. The original crew is usually converted. They get the foundation of the gospel because they depended upon it so heavily in their conversion. Thereafter, however, to children and posterity, the gospel becomes something it is not—it becomes a tradition. It becomes a system of do’s and don’ts rather than a framework for joy, peace, strength, healing, and happiness. It becomes a set of lines and rules and lectures about negative consequences instead of tools and paths for the greatest amounts of joy, peace, strength, healing, and happiness.

The culture of religion so often preaches that happiness can only be had from a strict regimen of religious ritual and participation but fails to continue on to explain the doctrine WHY. Happiness can be found in lesser amounts in less strict religious observance. It can. And when it does, we appear as liars and control freaks determined to force our children into a life they can’t see the benefit of. A life they don’t yet believe in.

God doesn’t want our obedience and our devotion to His gospel and His plan out of fear, awe, and reverence. Those are mildly important. What He wants is our obedience and our devotion out of love for Him. Love that stems from an understanding of what He offers, what He gives, how He loves, and who He is. That is the kind of understanding that creates a visible peace and happiness in us that transcends life’s struggles and problems. That is the kind of example others, especially our kids, need to see. If they can’t see what it is to be truly at peace, to experience true joy, and to know a fullness of happiness, how can they desire it? How can they see that it’s not worth it to settle for less?

The Pharisees (and the others), as nearly as I can tell from scripture always seemed to be unhappy. They were so caught up in the details of not crossing the wrong lines and not appearing evil that they had room for little else, aside from pride. They were so stressed and preoccupied with building fences around fences to prevent themselves (and others) from sinning that they sinned worse than if they had crossed those lines. They omitted love, mercy, and righteous judgment (Luke 11:42). They were absolutely miserable. The only happiness they seemed to get was from judging others by their over-zealous piety and righteous data. And, that’s not real happiness.

In the Book of Mormon we have the story of the people of King Benjamin. They extol Benjamin as an incredible king. They listen to his final sermons and have magnificent changes of heart, covenanting to follow Christ and take upon them His name. Then, as always happens throughout the Book of Mormon when there has been a great Christian revival, the rising generation doesn’t become converted, or doesn’t remain converted (Mosiah 26:1).

Obviously, even our children, our responsible for acting upon righteous principles and gaining their own conversion to the gospel. But, it’s highly important that they know what the gospel is and not just the rules, lines, and commandments. The gospel is the atonement of Jesus Christ. All else stems from it. From His love. From His plan of happiness.

Parents giving piggyback ride to children

We Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Teach the Gospel of Happiness

Now, I’m not saying parents have to be perfect and that as families we can’t have struggles. Life is hard for everyone. But, to some extent, there are those who preach the gospel and yet create toxicity surrounding it. They don’t embody the godly characteristics (to any great extent) that they keep preaching to their kids. They pound into their kids heads that if they read and pray and keep all the commandments that they’ll have the Spirit and be happy. And yet, these kids see parents who do all these things and yet are rarely, if ever, happy. They see parents preoccupied with commandments, not doctrines. They see family going through righteous motions but not becoming happier or more Christlike. And that’s because that’s what’s really happening! They aren’t progressing. They are tripping and stumbling over major stumbling blocks, just like the Pharisees.

Now, one or more parents or family members may struggle with keeping the commandments. And yet, this also should not create crisis. The gospel is the atonement. The principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ can be lived and taught in any home even with varying levels of belief and testimony. The atonement is mercy, forgiveness, patience, long-suffering, etc. Even with family members who lack righteous consistency, or who sometimes fail to say a kind word, peace can abide. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it doesn’t take heroic effort. I’m saying it’s possible. That’s what the gospel should provide. That’s what people, especially our kids, should see. The gospel should be lived so that our kids can see that despite weaknesses, struggles, and differing levels of testimony, the basic principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ can abide. And that those principles are what create peace, joy, love, and happiness.

If we preach forgiveness and mercy to our kids. Then we have to show it to them and our spouses. If we preach that keeping the commandments makes us peaceful and gives us strength to find happiness. Then, we have to show it. And, if we fall short a bit in showing what we know to be true, then we have to be open, communicate and bear testimony of the hope and faith we have in Christ despite our shortcomings. We have to frequently, outwardly, and honestly show the gospel of Jesus Christ working in our lives. Our imperfections are what give us the opportunity to show our children that the gospel works! We should not pretend to be perfect when our kids are smart enough to know we’re not.

I was sitting in Relief Society one day, and a woman said, “If we were perfect our kids would never learn anything about the atonement of Jesus Christ.”

I was floored. I had been feeling so miserable that day for my failings as a mother. Then, here this woman brings me back to the gospel. I have worked hard to focus my efforts as a mother into using my own failings to teach my kids more about the atonement. I am also trying to get better, and not mess up as much, but I know that as long as I keep trying, I can have peace. I want so much for my kids to see this and to never despair. I want to show them the happiness and peace that comes from God’s grace. I want them to feel the faith I have and to be infected with it as they face their own weaknesses, sins, and struggles. I want them to see that for me it is a gospel of happiness and peace.

So, is the gospel a gospel of happiness and peace for you? If it’s not, it’s time to get back to the roots. It’s time to make it a gospel of happiness and not a gospel of fear.


Is there only one perfect person out there for you? Is there such a thing as soul mates?

Well, when I met my first husband, at the old age of 19, I was certain he was “the one.” After all, he was a return missionary, he was tall, he played sports, he was super fun to be around, he had a killer smile, was charismatic, and I’ll never forget the first time I heard him bear his testimony. I felt strongly that, “this man knows the Lord.” And I know he did. And, I suspect he still does.

In fact, though I nurtured a crush on him, it wasn’t until my first husband bore his testimony that I fell in love with him. After that, I didn’t really worry about it. I felt he was “the one.”

And, even after our 11-year marriage ended, it wasn’t because I had decided he wasn’t the one. It was because he decided that I wasn’t right for him. And, all things considered, perhaps I wasn’t. But, it didn’t mean it couldn’t have worked out. In fact, it could have. He could have remained the right one. But, I didn’t understand that at the time.

So, once that marriage failed I had to ask myself a lot of questions I had never asked before. And, as a Latter-day Saint woman, these were highly significant questions. Questions like:

  1. Why did God let me marry him if it wasn’t going to work out in the long run?
  2. Did I misinterpret the peace, the answer I thought I got to marry him?
  3. If I did, does that mean personal revelation is bogus?
  4. Could I have done something to save the marriage that I hadn’t already done?
  5. Did the marriage fail because I wasn’t good enough? Pretty enough? Etc.
  6. Were my eternal marriage covenants still valid for me? Or did the other party screw it up for me?
  7. Did I want to ever get remarried?
  8. Would I ever get remarried?
  9. Did I need to get remarried to receive all the blessings God had promised me during the covenant ordinance?
  10. Was there only one right person for me, and if so, had I lost all chances for happiness?

The list of questions was a lot longer than this, but these were the general strain of thought I went down.

It’s very easy when at a crossroads like this to question the foundation of our beliefs, especially as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e. Mormons). When all that we have bargained on is directly tied to personal revelation we feel that we have received, our first instinct is to question the revelation, God, and in consequence our beliefs.

The Atonement Helps Us Find True Love

Just as it is in every lesson, talk, and scripture, the Atonement of Jesus Christ is always preached as the answer to everything. Sin, use the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Hurt, sorrow, emotional pain, use the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Grace, grace, grace…

Well, as I wondered down this path of questioning, it was not my first instinct to curse God for letting me enter a marriage that would fail. I certainly was upset that it had failed. But, it was not my natural inclination to blame Him. Sadly, my natural inclination was to blame ME. I tore myself apart and, of course, was shown quite clearly how I might have been better in some aspects. God didn’t hide truth from me. But, He also taught me two very important truths that I had been unable to consider prior to, and up until this point after the divorce.

First, the divorce wasn’t about me. It was about covenants. God taught me that though I’d been “let go,” that it was actually He who had been divorced from the other party. The covenant we had made with Him together was what mattered. The covenant was what had made the love true.

When the covenant was abandoned by my spouse, God had been abandoned. God had been abandoned before me, and in place of me…in a sense. And when God was abandoned the love ceased to be true.

Second, that because I had been willing to keep my covenant, though extremely imperfect and certainly not faultless, my connection to God had not been severed. The covenant I kept held me to Him. Therefore, only one party had removed themselves from the marriage. It was both God and I who had been divorced.

Third, the thing that allowed me to still hope for true love was the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

You see, Christ’s Atonement and it’s power (grace) can fix anything. But, it would be rendered pointless if there was only one person in life we could find eternal happiness with. Missing out on a relationship that has the potential to be eternal is just like all other aspects of life. We can miss such relationships. We can mess up. We can let people go we should have stuck with. People can let us go when they should have stayed. It’s still a mess up. And, if we could not repent from, heal from, or recover from such an unwise mishap in our lives, then what would be the point of life? What would be the point of grace? There would not be one.

Thus, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the principle of grace that we apply to sin, suffering, sorrow, and so many other things, is also the very thing that preaches to us that there being only one true love in the whole wide world for us is a false doctrine.

We can’t miss out on true love if we understand that it doesn’t reside in a person. True love resides in God and in His covenants. So, when we think about trying to find the right one, what we are really looking for is someone who will remain true to their covenants with God, no matter what. If they will stay true to God then they will stay true to us. If they will stay true to their covenants with God in sickness, health, poorness or wealth, etc. then they will stay true to us.

I’ll say it again, true love resides in the covenant of marriage, not in the person you make it with.

How to Find Your One True Love

Dallin H. Oaks talked about the doctrine of good, better, and best (Ensign, November 2007). President Gordon B. Hinckley also often referred to this principle: that there are many options available to us to choose from but that some are good, some are better, and some are best.

The principle works like this. On any given day there are several things we can choose to do. Most of the activities we engage in are not evil. But, at any given moment there are good things we can do, better things we can do, and best things.

For example, we can get up and eat a donut for breakfast. That’s a good thing. Delicious! But, it’s even better to get a little exercise first and then eat something a little healthier. We’ll feel better. And we’ll have a delicious day by avoiding the guilt and physical after effects of that donut. But, it’s best if we first get down on our knees and offer a meaningful morning prayer, ponder a verse of scripture, then get a little exercise, and then eat a healthy breakfast.

Just like on any given day we can choose any number of good, better, or best choices. I believe strongly that at any given time in our life there are also good, better, and best choices of relationships for us. God can take any choice we make—and IF both parties are willing—lift it up and turn it into a best relationship. But, there is always a best choice for us and we can’t miss it if we own the choice. We have to own the responsibility for making that best choice.

Let me explain.

What is the False Doctrine in Having Only One True Love?

Believing that there is only one person meant for you takes all the responsibility for the relationship and the marriage covenant off of you and places it on the person you think you’re seeking. It places the responsibility on God, or someone else’s advice. When we do this, we ultimately make the decision for true love about getting lucky enough to meet a certain person. Since we can’t control anything in life, not really. This is a stupid way to view love. And a false one.

Albeit, this is a romantic view. But, it’s a temporary, untrustworthy, and unkind view. I have found from experience that it is quite a bit more romantic to trust in God than in people. And with God, true love is about faith, repentance, sacrifice, service, humility, persuasion, long-suffering, and so on. Even the sexual chemistry we feel toward others must transcend the physical and dig deeper into the spiritual and intellectual. It must reach God’s view.

God’s view is the correct view. And, it is hard. It’s nigh upon Abrahamic (meaning as hard as being asked to sacrifice your son). But, it’s also the ONLY view that can bring us—you, me, everyone—the love that their heart truly desires: true love. A love that lasts must bind people together. And the only thing on this earth and in heaven that binds is covenant (Doctrine & Covenants 82:10).

The Answer At Last

So, how do you find your one true love? There are only two steps.

  1. Become a covenant keeper.
  2. Find a covenant keeper.

Christ’s love is true and can’t be severed from us because His love has been bound by sacrifice and covenant (Romans 8:35, 39).


After my first marriage ended and I discovered the doctrine behind “true love” I went looking for a covenant keeper. And, then I stopped looking (actively) though when approached for dates this was my most critical requirement. Then, at the age of 35, God finagled a way to get my current husband into my life.

The man I met is not perfect. But, he is a covenant keeper. He keeps his covenants daily. He tries to make better and best choices, daily. And because he is a covenant keeper he has my adoration, my trust, my love, my long-suffering, my forgiveness, my patience, my honesty, and my heart.

We can all find the best person for us (our true love) or take our current relationship and make it best by loving God first, and by so doing becoming faithful covenant keepers. It begins and ends with our decision to keep covenants and to find another who does the same.


Today I have a guest vlogger of whom I quickly became a fan. One video? Ya, that’s all it took. And you’ll be a fan, too. Why? Because she is a woman of truth. And when she speaks, the truth rivets you to the screen. She is an inspiration to all girls, young women, and women. I asked to her guest vlog for me and she accepted. Take the five minutes to listen to her talk about how to eliminate the fear in your life with perfect love. She knows. She’s had to fight those fears.

Thanks Rebecca Kiser!

I still remember the first time I got a paycheck. I was working at the Hardees in Moberly, MO back in 1994. That first part-time paycheck was perhaps for a $150 and the first thing I thought of was that, after tithing, I could finally afford to buy a pair or two of name brand jeans. Because, back then, people weren’t nearly so friendly about clothes. Back then, homemade clothes, thrift store clothes, and vintage find offerings meant only one thing—you didn’t have money. And, for some reason that mattered. Doesn’t everything matter when you’re a teen?

I also remember a particular Cosby show episode that I love to this day. It’s the one where Vanessa comes home and complains to her dad, Bill Cosby, that people at school are making fun of her because she wears rich clothes (the opposite problem I had). I’ll never forget Bill Cosby’s response. “Me and your mother are rich. You are not rich.” The scenario goes on, but the issue derives from the same feeling.

Vanessa Cosby wanted to fit in by not looking so rich. And I wanted to fit in by looking a little bit more rich. We both thought that money (having a lot or little) was the essence of our problem. It was the evil.

Don’t we all do this? We make some type of currency (physical, emotional, or psychological) the evil. If we only had more or less of that currency, life would be great. If we only had more outward talents we could earn money posting this or that on social media. If only we had the perfect marriage like so-and-so. If only we didn’t suffer with anxiety and depression and could do something with the gifts we do have. If only…

We continually make the “evil” the physical, emotional, and psychological currency that we have (in our perspective) too little of or too much of.

Do you know what happened after I bought those jeans? Nothing. It didn’t change my popularity or likability. It didn’t make me better or worse at things I was already talented at. And, the money was gone and I was left still feeling “emotionally short-changed.”

After that, I still bought clothes, but I also decided to take some of the burden off my family’s budget a bit by buying my own toiletries, necessities, and the like. That use of my paycheck, or abundance, brought me a sense of gratitude as I began to understand how much money my parents were always chucking out for me. It brought me a sense of independence and self-reliance as I could choose what kind of shampoo I wanted. I got to pick out my own stuff—of what I could afford.

Interesting isn’t that the stuff I thought would contribute to alleviating my teen suffering only left me feeling underwhelmed. And the stuff I thought wouldn’t matter ended up bringing me more self-esteem, self-worth, and gratitude.

Money, or abundance (of whatever resource) is not the root of all evil. It is our covetousness that brings about the evil.

Exodus 20:17 says:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

To covet means to:

To desire (what belongs to another) inordinately or culpably. It’s resentful longing.

Inordinately is exceeding reasonable limits. Culpably means warranting condemnation, blame, as wrong or harmful.

Thus, to covet is to desire what belongs to another in a way that exceeds reasonable limits and warrants condemnation.

So, are we allowed to want money (of all kinds) and abundance. Absolutely. But, there is a godly way to want such abundance of talents, money, fame, and recognition.

Jacob 2:17-19 teaches us:

Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.

But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and afflicted.

God has all talents and gifts. God has eternal loving relationships with His family. God has all material wealth (all that we have He has created and made available to us). God has fame and recognition. And what does He use all that He has for? To help us become like Him (Moses 1:39). Not for anything selfish. We, on the other hand, spend way too much time coveting all that we don’t have instead of using what we do have—and we’ve all been given some type of riches and abundance (emotional, spiritual, or physical).

What am I rich in? Family. My family is the most kind, supportive, helpful, non-judgmental group of folks I have ever met. They are simply amazing and I can’t even put into words sufficiently how rich I am with them by my side. The Lord has also blessed me with many internal and external gifts. And right now, though I still get a little selfish, I’m getting much better at using them all to love that awesome Family He’s given me and to help others come unto Him.

The interesting thing about the Jacob 2 scripture is that first, God tells us that no matter what we have, we should be free with our substance. We should be free with our talents, gifts, and stuff. By so doing we help bring others (as much as is possible) to a similar level of substance as ourselves. This is not a free handout system. This is a self-reliance commandment. This is to share our talents, gifts, knowledge and love. Thus we clothe others, encourage them to be self-sufficient (in whatever way and these days emotional and spiritual self-reliance is one of the worst poverty’s we have). We teach them what we know. We share our knowledge and gifts to help uplift others. They do the same and “Whala!” We’re all, all of the sudden, on a similar level of richness, providence, and abundance.

Second, God tells us that if one of our desires is riches (of any kind), then if we truly want it we should first seek the kingdom of God. And after we have obtained a hope in Christ, and if we still seek riches after that hope has become ingrained in us, then He commands us to seek them for the intent to do as He does eternally—to help others become like God. To both spiritually and physically clothe them, feed them, liberate them, and administer relief.

Think of Christ. How often did He first offer emotional comfort and spiritual relief—often through forgiving sin—before healing the physical infirmities of His followers. Honestly, many times the physical healing was an outward symbol to help the Pharisees to recognize that He was the Son of God and if He could heal hopefully they would believe that He could also forgive sin—especially theirs.

Christ used His riches to bless and heal the whole person. Do you not remember the wealthy man who comes to Him and wants to know what else he needs to do to inherit heaven (Matthew 19)? This man had physical riches and wealth. He was also what I might call middle-class righteous. He was doing all right. An all-around good guy. In his case, Christ commanded Him to forsake the physical riches in an invitation to help the man become truly rich spiritually—a spiritual billionaire. But the man coveted his own stuff and left sorrowing because he was not willing to part with it (Matthew 19:20-22).

James 1:27 teaches us that:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

I Timothy 6: 10 4

1 Timothy 6:10 is often misquoted that “money is the root of all evil.” But that’s not actually what it says. Here’s what it says:

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

The root of all evil is not abundance. It’s not riches or currency of any kind. It is the love of, or I would substitute obsession (coveting) of, things above all else. It’s coveting stuff of all kinds. Which is ultimately pride and selfishness. Covetousness is putting the stuff we want ahead of the love of God and our fellow men. This makes us willing to stilt God and manipulate, abuse, extort, and use our fellow men to get what we want. Which, ultimately comes back to get us (whether in this life or the next) and we are truly pierced through with many sorrows. Just like those brand name jeans I bought, such covetous pursuits leave us unsatisfied, underwhelmed, and depressed.

On the other hand, when we put the love of God and our fellow men first we remain in the faith and avoid being pierced through with sorrows. No matter how much it doesn’t make sense, when we put God first and love Him and our fellow men above our selves, abundance simply begins to appear in our lives in a way that can only be described as miraculous. I know because I have experienced it first-hand. You get an abundance of love, emotional stability, hope, gratitude, patience, mercy, et cetera, et cetera. Did I mention peace?

When we love God and our fellow men above everything else, we are able to use our abundance in the proper way: to bless and uplift our fellow men.

Whether you are a talented musician, a person who has learned to live successfully with a mental disorder, a writer, a darned good hard worker, an organizational magician, an excellent teacher, someone who has no trouble forgiving, a naturally humble person, a person with unnatural charisma, or even a person who can public-speak like no one else. Whether you are the most loyal friend or a person with millions of dollars at your disposal, it matters not. These are your “money,” your “abundance,” and your “currency.” They are a blessing to be used in a godly manner.

God, through His invitation to the wealthy man, also issues the same invitation to us. We are to go and “sell all that we have,” or share it and give it and use it to lift up others, and “follow Him.” Our reward? An hundred fold compensation (Matthew 19:29).

We all need to consider what it is that we covet and renew our perspective. If there is anything between us and true richness and abundance, it is most certainly the “evil” of what we covet.


[Note: It’s important to note that I am not suggesting we allow people to take advantage of us, manipulate us, and extort our emotional, psychological, and spiritual resources. There are personality types that tend to leaching and co-dependency. We can’t give others the “oil” in our lamps (Matthew 25:1-12). When I suggest that we share, I’m suggesting we use wisdom in learning to find ways to use “our abundance” or our “riches” to uplift others who are willing to be uplifted and who desire to also be self-reliant in psychological, emotional, and physical ways. Some people want to leach off of you and have no desire to change or be uplifted. At some point, we must love these types a little more distantly. We have also been commanded not to “cast pearls before swine.” I advise prayer and pondering when wondering what to do with these “bucket-dippers,” as I call them.]

What does it mean to be happy? The dictionary says it means to feel or show satisfaction or contentment. To me, that means to be at peace.

I think the modern world today defines happiness very different from what it actually is—thus confusing many and creating an environment of misery and entitlement, which can never produce happiness. It’s a vicious cycle of always wanting and never being satisfied, content, or at peace. I see happiness in the world today defined as a lack of suspense, lack of effort, lack of patience, and even ignorance. Indeed, our entitled world seems to feel that happiness is the absence of troubles rather than what happiness really is.

Happiness, in fact, has nothing to do with the absence of troubles, trials, sickness, pain, poverty, calamity, or even the state of society. We can be happy even when the world is falling down around us. We can be satisfied and at peace when our hearts are hurting and our bodies are incapable of moving the way we’d like. We can be happy if we focus on our lives and what we can control and accept and let go of the things we can’t control.

Living after the manner of happiness is truly about what we can individually control.

In 2 Nephi 5:27 Nephi says, “And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.”

So, what is that and how do we do it, right? Let’s take a look.

Keeping the Commandments

And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things (2 Nephi 5:10)

2 Nephi 2:13 clarifies why observing the judgments, statutes, and commandments of the Lord brings happiness when it talks about God’s law establishing what is sin and what is not, and ultimately declaring, “And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness.” Alma 41:10 is also often quoted, “Wickedness never was happiness.”

Consider the idea of accomplishment and achievement. A law establishes how to achieve and accomplish something. Godly rules: when we keep them or know we’re making a sincere effort to keep them, there is a sense of accomplishment and achievement. Such a feeling of spiritual peace is not possible without a law and set commandments. Thus, observing them helps us to feel happy with ourselves.

When there is uncertainty about what is good and what is evil, there cannot be the peace that comes from accomplishing good and avoiding evil. Let me explain.

The world today calls much that is sin, righteousness, and much that is righteousness sin (Isaiah 5:20). Thus, people engage in sin thinking that it’s okay. Yet, because God’s law stipulates that it’s sin, the consequences still follow. Gravity is gravity even if we are determined to jump off a cliff. Thus, happiness comes not from fighting against, or remaining ignorant of, the law but in learning to apply it (D. Todd Christofferson) to preserve our lives and to be happy. So also with the eternal and indisputable laws of God.

Whether we acknowledge it, believe it, or feel it, every one of us is alive and has the opportunity to partake of this mortal existence because of the light of Christ. It lights every person that comes into this world (John 1:9). We can’t go against that godly light, which is our fundamental and even subconscious conscience and essence, without experiencing its effects. Sin leads to guilt, uncertainty, un-identifiable internal suspense, heightened anxiety (above that which life already presents), unexplained loss of self-worth, defensiveness, pride, fear, despair, and misery.

Thus, to live “after the manner of happiness,” requires a submission to God’s judgments, statutes, and commandments. By embracing them and learning to apply them personally we find satisfaction, contentment, and peace. We experience faith, certainty, meekness/humility, identifiable internal composure and calm, decreased anxiety, an increase in self-worth, a decrease in defensiveness, trust, assurance, happiness, and self-confidence. We feel like we are right with the world, because we are. This is happiness.

For example: Most people know, or suspect (even un-religious folk), that forgiveness is healthy and holding grudges is not. God defines holding a grudge as a sin. God defines not forgiving as a sin—even a worse sin than the one committed against us (Doctrine & Covenants 64:9). And yet, people today thrive on the negative euphoria of focusing on the offenses they’ve received. They try to stay angry all the time. They don’t believe in God or they don’t trust God to enact justice in the time frame they want. They try to find ways to revenge themselves (another sin, since God says vengeance is His) or enact their version of justice. They devote time and energy to actively hate and exert force or manipulation on the lives of others—whom they can’t fundamentally control—instead of actively forgiving—which they can control. Thus, they suffer all the consequences that accompany it (as noted above). They think they have a right to hold on to that offense and yet all doing so does is make them unhappy—because it’s a sin. Their negative attitudes and hatred never make them happy. They do not find happiness until they leave the matter in God’s hands (hands much more capable of enacting both justice and mercy). Then, peace, satisfaction, and contentment can enter.

Hard Work, Being Actively Creative, Learning Trades

And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind. (2 Nephi 5:11)

And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance. (2 Nephi 5:15)

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands. (2 Nephi 5:17)

Nephi is very clear here about what his people are doing that creates happiness, self-worth, satisfaction, contentment and peace. They are working hard, being actively creative, learning trades, and enjoying the fruits of their labors. They are up and doing.

There’s a reason why we feel good about ourselves after we’ve worked hard, offered service, attended educational courses, learned or discovered something, or created something. It’s because these are all godly endeavors. God has a work and glory—it’s us. He spends all of His eternity trying to help us become like Him. He doesn’t hold anything back as “His.” He shares it all. He creates everything. He gives all of Himself to us. He serves us non-stop. He tries to give us as much of Him, His power, and His resources, as we will worthily seek and accept.

Whenever we exert our moral agency to get up and do something that is similar to what God does, we will always get that beautiful, peaceful feeling of contentment and satisfaction. We feel right in a way that we can’t explain. We also can’t explain why something that seems like it should be unsatisfying is so satisfying. It simply is, because its godly.

There are some strong principles here. Happiness doesn’t come from outside ourselves. We create it.

[Note: Some people suffer with clinical depression and anxiety and I’m not suggesting that just performing an act of service will take these things away. I happen to live with and be related to several people who struggle with these very real psychological diseases. And yet, even for them, they have to choose to be up and doing despite their clinical struggle. The depression and anxiety rarely go away for them and if they waited to do anything until these diseases were cured they would be robbed of the little happiness that is available to them.]

When we put many godly things in the right order in our lives they gain the power to produce satisfaction and contentment. Such godly things include: taking care of our physical body, studying the scriptures, serving others, earning our living fairly and honestly, seeking education, reading from the best books, seeking our talents and using them to bless others and to serve God, etc. When we abandon godly things for unproductive endeavors, or sin, we begin to feel the effects. And while they may seem unexplainable, they are.

A Thought on Unproductive Endeavors

Psychological studies are beginning to suspect a strong correlation between social media/computer use and increased levels of anxiety, depression, and even suicide (see Endnotes for links to these study results). How can this be? Technology is such a blessing. Is it now only to be discovered as a curse?

I remember a few years back, after my divorce, I began to spend a lot more PASSIVE time on social media, email, and phone games. I went to those places looking for a pick me up. I wanted someone to send me an email and pick me up by saying something, or doing something that would change my life up a little bit. I wanted to pick up my phone and find a text from the perfect man who’d just happened to notice me. I wanted to play games that would make me feel happy and satisfied with my life.

Well, the result should not be unexpected. Those PASSIVE hours looking for external (outside of myself) pick me ups was fruitless. Those texts didn’t come. Or not as often as I wanted. Those emails didn’t come. Those games didn’t create any sense of satisfaction or contentment. They only made me feel like I needed to spend money to get more credits and buy more virtual stuff to keep the game exciting and to have it go somewhere. I was a bunny chasing a carrot. This viewpoint was leading me nowhere. It was unproductive, and over time debilitating.

Then, I remember the day I decided that whenever I felt down I would text someone else to pick them up, or even just to see how they were doing. Instead of waiting for a text I sent uplifting, genuine, messages to women I had a stewardship for that I cared about. I’d always think, “Sending this text isn’t going to help me feel better.” But, every time, EVERY TIME, I acted to create happiness for someone else it got me out of my funk. I’d find just that extra bit of energy to go for a walk, or cook a fun meal, or to sit down and write a book on my computer for a family member or to hash out a doctrine I had been pondering.

It was in these moments that I realized that happiness comes from doing, working, creating, giving, serving, etc. It seems so counterintuitive. We imagine hard work to be difficult and require so much effort and so we think: work=unhappiness. We’d much prefer to watch another episode of our favorite show on Netflix. We imagine our talents are too meager to create something that other people will appreciate. We’d much prefer to search Pinterest and copy what someone else has created. Laziness and depression feed on self-deprecation and the need to create mountains out of molehills. These downers protect themselves by creating false beliefs and ideals in our minds about getting up and doing.

And then, despite what we are certain is true, when we finally get the impetus to get up and work hard, to create, to give, to serve, we end up with this feeling of satisfaction and contentment that can only be recreated by the same godly endeavors. When we stop waiting for someone else to pick us up and we act, we find satisfaction and contentment. This is absolutely true and it never changes.

Thus, if we are to be active on social media and our electronic devices, then we should use them to create and share uplifting material. We should use them to serve others. We should go to these devices looking not for pick me ups but for ways to pick others up. It’s amazing how it changes the end results. We may get tired. Our brain may get over-stimulated. But, the anxiety, the depression, the lack of satisfaction of our lives in comparison with others, the misery of not getting any likes, dies. We have used social media “after the manner of happiness.” And, we can apply this to nearly everything in our life we use passively. We simply have to become active to increase its capability to provide satisfaction and contentment.


Have you ever noticed that when you lay in bed all day (unless you’re really sick, and sometimes even then) that going to bed at night is difficult, and uncomfortable. Mentally and physically you just feel rotten. Sitting around all day doing nothing is not restful. Sitting around all day and playing video games or scrolling through social media timelines is not rest. Laziness is not rest. And yet, rest is not always sleeping.

For me, a good book helps my mind to rest during, and after, a long, stressful, busy day. Sometimes, after being active from 7 a.m. to  2 p.m. with errands, a good TV show is restful. Digging into my scriptures at night before I go to bed always re-energizes my spirit and allows me to feel at peace so I can turn my mind off and get sleep. Prayer also lets me mentally work through my day and settle down so I can have a greater chance to get rest.

A vacation is a rest from work. Wholesome recreation is rest from our labors. But too much vacation and too much recreation and we are back to feeling unsatisfied and discontent.

Even if we are anxiously engaged in doing good (Doctrine & Covenants 58:27), we should still not run faster than we have strength (Mosiah 4:27). God rested after creating the earth. We should also work hard and then rest well. The Sabbath is a day of rest, hallowed and sanctified by God. What does that teach us about rest? We need it. If we don’t take it (like even God, Himself, did) we cannot be happy. We cannot feel satisfied and content and at peace. We’ll be a basket case.

Reasonable Preparation

And I Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us… (2 Nephi 5:14)

What Nephi is talking about here is preparation. How much suspense would the Nephites have been in if they hadn’t been prepared to defend themselves against the Lamanites, who were always coming upon them unawares and trying to bring them into slavery and bondage? Perhaps not all fear of the Lamanites could be eliminated, but preparation to defend themselves certainly increased their confidence in their ability to preserve their way of life.

Each of us has areas of our lives that increase suspense and fear. Preparation can decrease and often eliminate that fear. Doctrine & Covenants 38:30 teaches us that, “if [we] are prepared [we] shall not fear.” We can’t always do everything we want to do. We don’t always have the money or resources to prepare for every possible calamity that could come our way. We don’t always know when a job will be lost. We don’t always know when a loved one will be unkind or even attempt to hurt or abuse us. We don’t always know when a tornado is going to rip off our chimney. But, if we have prepared to the best of our ability based on the resources we have, our fear will be greatly decreased and our peace of mind, contentment, and self-confidence will skyrocket.

Nephi and his people were prepared against their greatest fear. As we do what we reasonably can to prepare against our fears and worries, we are living “after the manner of happiness.” We can relax and know that we’ve exerted ourselves in our defense and can leave the rest in God’s hands.


Living after the manner of happiness is not about the absence of struggles and troubles. It’s about actively being who we want to be, actively living in godly ways, resting sufficiently, recreating wholesomely, and being prepared against our greatest concerns and worries. Then, we can let go and give the rest to God.

This doesn’t mean we walk around with a smile pasted on our faces. But it does mean we move forward in faith with peace, power, and contentment.


End Notes – sites with stats about social media/computer time leading to increased anxiety, depression, and suicide








“Don’t be hasty.” For fellow Lord of the Rings fans, this is a beloved phrase spoken often by the character Treebeard. Treebeard was an Ent. An Ent, in the world of Middle Earth, is a being that looks much like a tree, and yet it isn’t. It’s a tree shepherd. It’s takes care of the trees. Ents live a long, long time. And in the books they are very slow to make decisions and to cast judgments. To Meriodoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took Treebeard says many times, “Don’t be hasty.”

It is not in the nature of the Ents to make hasty judgments. If it was, Treebeard would have squashed Merry and Pippin because by their physical size he thought they were orcs. But, he didn’t. He was curious. He wasn’t hasty to judge. He sincerely wanted the truth. So, he took time to figure out what they were, and when he wasn’t sure, he went to a wise source (Gandalf).


I don’t know why it is human nature to cast hasty judgment on all aspects of life with so little fact. Perhaps it’s a subconscious defense mechanism. If we see an orc, or what we think is an orc, we want to squash it to protect ourselves (and others) without taking the time to really find out if it’s an orc.

We judge hastily the worst with our fellow human beings.

Yet, on the other hand, if we bump into an electrical circuit that isn’t working or if we come upon a new animal, more often than not, we take the time to study the circuit or make long-term observations about the new animal before making a final judgment as to the problem with the circuit or the nature of the animal. We enact curiosity instead of moral judgment.

If only we were so kind to each other. And, we can be.

What is Judgment

The definition of Judgment is:

An opinion or decision that is based on careful thought. The act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought. The ability to make good decisions about what should be done.

I find it interesting that the dictionary definition of judgment presupposes careful thought. What then do we call an opinion or a decision that is based on hasty, careless, and foolish thought? Well, the antonyms for judgment are ignorance and stupidity. I find those accurate.

So judgment is good. Ignorance is not. If we form an opinion or make a decision hastily, it’s chances of being good are low. And it can be destructive to us and others. Few lasting opinions can be formed successfully, if they are hasty. And few decisions made hastily are successful. Without taking sufficient time to educate ourselves, we will increase our chances of acting in ignorance and stupidity.

So, how do we quit being hasty?

Well, the tendency we have as humans to judge based on first impressions is a subconscious act of our reflexive brain functions. We cannot turn it off. But, we can control it.

I consider this subconscious judgment function a coping mechanism. From our earliest years we learn to make judgments based upon what we see and that defines how we build coping frameworks. We learn to read social signals, facial expressions, and to manipulate our environment based upon what we see. To suggest that we turn it off altogether is not only impossible, but unwise. We need it. But we need to control it.

The dilemma then is not judging, but learning to judge with careful thought. And, in our fast paced, entitled society, careful thought is defined as a few minutes spent Google-ing. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t sufficient (see previous blog post The Lost Art of Pondering).

Legal law concept image

Judge Righteous Judgment

Christ commands us to judge. But, He commands us to do it righteously, as He does (3 Nephi 27:27).

It’s difficult to judge as Christ does. We simply can’t do it as well because we don’t have His omniscience, perfection, or love. But, we can learn to do it far better than we do.

Some great scriptures about how to judge righteously are:

Alma 41:14

Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.

Matthew 7:2

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you again.

Romans 12:19

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Whether you’re driving in the car behind a precarious driver or standing in line at the store behind a woman who is screaming at her kids, righteous judgment can be applied. Sincere curiosity can be applied. I find it interesting that in our rough moments we can completely understand why we’re driving precariously or screaming at our kids. And yet, when others do it, we make hasty, uneducated judgments.

I find it interesting that when we see others who look different than we do or who have chosen to live their life differently that we do, we automatically assume that they aren’t good people. And yet, when we react in un-Christlike ways to their lifestyle differences based on hasty judgments (i.e. ignorance and stupidity) we are actually the ones who in that present moment aren’t “good.” Did not Christ say to the Pharisees regarding justice, mercy, judgment, and love that they were the weightier matters of the law (Luke 11:42)?

We have been commanded to merciful unto others (Alma 41:14). What does that mean to me? It means giving them the benefit of the doubt. It means developing an appropriate and merciful curiosity about who they are and what their life is like.

A car pulls out in front of me, forcing me to slam on my brakes. My immediate conclusion could be: they are a maniac driver that cares nothing for the safety of others and should get their license taken away since they nearly injured me and my family. OR, instead of honking like a mad woman and becoming a precarious driver myself (all in an attempt to bring this maniac driver to justice and teach them a lesson), I could muse about why they might drive like that.

A devil’s advocate might suggest that coming up with suppositions to show mercy to the maniac driver is useless since they are guesses and I have no way of knowing that they are true. They very well could be a careless, maniac driver. And yet, I don’t know if that’s true either. Since I don’t know which is true, the merciful thing to do is to form a merciful guess. To be mercifully curious.

We have also been commanded to deal justly and to do good continually. So, whether or not the driver really is a maniac, for me to drive similarly in an attempt to punish him/her, is not just nor is it an act of goodness.

The same can be said for people we see every day who live life differently and believe differently than we do. No matter how they act or what they look like, we can focus on the merciful and good things we recognize about them: they are children of God, they are trying to live day-to-day just like we are, they have families, they work, they want to be happy, they have struggles and sadness (perhaps self-inflicted, perhaps not, we don’t know) and they are trying to find that happiness in the best ways they can. They are learning at their own pace, just like we are.

We are so quick to judge people by what’s different about them instead of by what we have in common. Interestingly enough, our commonalities nearly always outnumber our differences. Finding the commonalities is merciful and curious.

We’ve been commanded to leave final judgment and ultimate Justice to God (Romans 12:19).

No matter how terribly we have been wronged, we simply don’t know how people will act in the future. We don’t know if they will repent. We don’t know if they will change. We don’t know what current issues and struggles they have experienced which have influenced their sinful actions toward us. To attempt to refuse to forgive them for their wrongs against us and to attempt to seek vengeance is an act of usurping God’s authority to cast final judgment.

We have been commanded to love our enemies, to do good to those who purposefully wrong us, and to forgive all men (Luke 6:27, 35; Doctrine & Covenants 64:9-11). This seems so ridiculous. How is it possible that not forgiving someone’s sin against us is a greater sin than the horrific offenses which have been committed against us?

When we take final judgment upon ourselves, which we have no authority to do because it belongs to God, we are “playing God.” It’s a greater sin to try to cast final judgment on others when we can’t see all that they are and who they may eventually become. Look at the woman taken in adultery. Christ asked, “Hath no man condemned thee?” (Or, has no man cast final judgment on thee? Remember, they were going to stone her to death.). “No man, Lord,” she replied. “Neither do I condemn thee,” He said (meaning, I’m not casting final judgment on you either), “Go and sin no more,” giving her time to repent and change because He knew she had more time. (John 8:10-11) He who had the authority to cast final judgment did not. Did not Christ also say while hanging on the cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He understood that those soldiers were minions and urged on by the judgments of others. He knew that despite their treatments of Him, they didn’t comprehend fully what they were doing. That’s mercy. That’s righteous judgment.

Now, by advocating curiosity and mercy in light of making judgments, I know that many feel (and I have felt myself) concern. Does that mean we simply let people mistreat us and never react, never hastily judge?

My opinion is that the answer is, “Yes.” I have learned that it’s much easier to act, than to be acted upon and always react to external influences (see previous blog The Power to Become).  God is not a reactor. If we would be like Him and judge like Him, we must also not judge by reaction. We must choose the type of person we want to be and act, consciously, even in light of offenses, and bumping into people each and every day that we know nothing about. God is not hasty. Neither should we be hasty.

Does that mean when we see people day-to-day that we can’t make accurate judgment calls? No, we should make accurate, kind, curious, and merciful judgment calls. And, we can teach our children about the different lifestyles of others in a kind way while also reinforcing our own beliefs. It simply takes a loving viewpoint. Casting judgments out of fear will never save our kids. It will only teach them some people are to be feared, shunned, and possibly reinforce the idea of treating them unkindly. If we would have them be confident in their assessments of life and the Christian beliefs we have, we must be honest.


“I don’t know why they dress like that, or look like that,” we say to our kids. “We all have to decide how to live our own lives. You know we’ve taught you to _(insert commandment)_ because we believe that _(insert clear gospel doctrine that explains the WHY behind the commandment)_. But, they are children of God just like we are and He loves them. We should be kind to them and love them too, right where they are.”

It’s hard to leave final judgment and justice to God. It’s hard not to cope with our environment by casting hasty judgments based on shallow cues. It’s hard to forgive when others have offended us deeply and continue to do so. It’s hard not to consider them lost forever. We want to condemn them and write them off so we can move on. It’s very hard to leave the judgment and Justice to God…at first.

Personal Peace is the Result of Righteous Judgment

Casting hasty moral judgment about who people are, what they’ve done, and their moral path is not only impossible to do accurately, it’s simply fruitless. And considering people condemned and lost forever never results in peace. We think we are being righteous judges, but we are miserable souls determined to control our environments by carrying loads of hasty opinions around on our backs. Such burdens make us impatient, self-righteous, prideful, angry, and rigid.

On the other hand, learning to leave judgment and Justice in God’s hands always results in peace. We let go of control on everything but our own lives. We carry no burdens of hasty opinions, no bonds of physical reactions to others’ lifestyles, and we quit all quests for vengeance and Justice. Our need to verbally or physically show our outward judgment dies. Our desire to micromanage how everyone around us lives becomes a silly endeavor. We simply learn to teach, instruct, and correct lovingly when opportunities arise. We become more patient, humble, happy, and accepting. It doesn’t mean we stop having beliefs, strict morals, and standards. But it means that we don’t measure others by our spiritual, social, and psychological rulers. We have peace because we only worry about that which we can control: ourselves. It takes an incredible load off to give the rest to God.

Just like the malfunction in our electrical circuit or the new animal we’ve never before seen, we need to adopt an attitude of merciful curiosity. We need to seek to understand what it is our mind tries to make sense of the moment we see it. We need to practice and take control of our natural judgment center and strengthen our ability to “not be hasty.” We need to educate ourselves. We need turn our brain to more merciful conclusions. We need refuse to retaliate and condemn when offended. We need to simply let go and leave judgment and justice in the perfect hands of God. God is just. Justice will always be served, but not necessarily in our limited, flawed, and weak mortal time frame.

And thank goodness we all have more time to learn, grow, and become.

Some Judgments Must Be Made

Without fail, some judgments must be made. Some judgments we don’t get a lot of time to ponder. In such cases, when time makes it difficult to be careful, then nothing can better avail us than a quick prayer. God knows our circumstances. He will guide us if we ask.



I remember vividly having a substitute teacher for about eight weeks in elementary school. She was a very disciplined and naturally harsh person—initially. Though, I think with time we saw a soft side to her. But, mostly I remember her taking roll call at the beginning of class.

“When I call your name, if you are present, say, ‘here.’”

By present I believe what she wanted to know was if we were there physically. That’s what counted in elementary school. If we were in the classroom and in our seat then that was sufficient.

However, when it comes to life, being physically present isn’t sufficient. There is a mindfulness that is required. Psychologists call this mindfulness “being present,” but it is also referred to as simply being mindful, focused, and “in the moment.”

The first time I remember truly understanding what it meant to be mindful was the first time I decided to try yoga. I’d always seen yoga as an exercise for eccentrics. I still won’t ever aspire to some of those poses, but yoga (if you stick with it) teaches you to be truly mindful of your body. It’s the strangest thing. The first time I did yoga I simply didn’t understand the poses. It seemed silly, but I persevered. The second time I did it, as I listened to the funny things they were saying to get me to think about different muscles and with what appendages I was carrying the weight of a pose, etc., I suddenly began to feel the poses click. They were teaching me how to be mindful of my body. I’ll say it again. It was the strangest thing. But, as I was mindful of what I was doing and tried to “feel” the pose instead of just imitate it, the pose felt different. I felt different.

Now, every time I do yoga (about once a week), I’m naturally mindful. I know the moment my body gets the pose right because of how it feels. I’ve learned, in this instance, to be mindful.

Being Present and Mindful in Your Current Life with Eternal Goals

Being present in life, as a whole, is quite difficult when we live in a religious culture that embraces the eternal perspective. We’re always grasping and reaching for the immortal and eternal blessings of the gospel while being literally beaten up, weighed down, and distracted by the present, the temporal, and the mortal. Being present with so much abuse from mortality is difficult.

So, like Yoga, I’m going to talk you and walk you through some pondering exercises to help you be not only physically present in your life, but spiritually present. My goal is to help you learn how to maintain that eternal perspective while also understanding how to deal with the every-day.

Let Go of the Past

The past is in the past. It has made us who we are. Its consequences and effects can be long-reaching, but it should not rule our present, or limit our intentions or goals for the future.

Alma, who self-proclaimed himself as one of the vilest of sinners, was called to repentance publicly by an angel. He suffered the pains of a damned soul (one who could not progress) until he remembered his father preaching to him about Christ, who would come to redeem men from their sins. He says very clearly (Alma 36:19):

And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my PAINS no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

So many people misread this scripture to say, “I could remember my SINS no more.” But, that’s not what it says. Alma could remember his sins. He was a vile sinner. Yet, when he embraced the atonement of Jesus Christ, repented of his sins, and was enveloped by mercy, he let go of the pains and harrowing feelings. He didn’t let them depress and distract him from his current life. He went on to become the prophet of the church. His past didn’t hold him back.

  • Do you spend worthless time feeling depressed by your past sins (even yesterday’s)?
  • Have you repented of them appropriately?
  • If you have repented, why do you hang onto to the pain of them?
  • What do you do with the pain you purposefully generate when you dwell on your past sins?
  • What does your focus on your past sins keep you from doing in regards to your eternal goals?

In Doctrine & Covenants 58:42-43, God says very clearly (make no mistake):

Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.

Now, when God says He remembers our sins no more, it is rhetorical device. Of course He can remember them, but what He is saying is, those sins don’t define us. Those sins, repented of, no longer matter to Him. The pain we felt as we committed and repented of those sins was accepted of God. He certainly does not expect, or want, us to continue to beat ourselves up or to refuse to move forward in the present because we’re bogged down by sins He’s already forgiven.

The next line is also extremely clear and we don’t often ponder about. But, the Lord says, we can know if we’re clean by two simple things. If we’ve confessed our sins to Him (or to proper priesthood authority, if necessary) and we no longer commit these sins, then there is no need to waste time on them. They are in the past. We need to leave the past in the past.

Even if your past is only yesterday or last week, if you’ve properly repented. Let the past go. Do not let it define your present. If you live in the past, you cannot be present in your life, nor can you reach for eternal goals.

The problem with living in the past is that you live life facing backward. Imagine yourself walking backward around the house, always preoccupied with what is behind you instead of where you are going. Imagine yourself trying to work with your back to everything you are supposed to be presently focusing on. If you are always looking backward, not only can you not anticipate or plan for the present (or future), but you completely botch anything you put your hand to. Can you imagine cooking with your back to your stove? It’s a pretty ridiculous picture.

It’s not less, and even more, ridiculous to live your life focusing on the past.

Those who live in the past lack faith in the atonement, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ. They do not believe that appropriate repentance is sufficient and allow their sins to define them. They falsely feel that God would rather have them self-deprecate, beat themselves up, devalue their own efforts and repentance, and discount their accepted offerings. These kinds of individuals struggle to progress in faith and are often exceedingly judgmental of others—desiring to beat them up also lest they also get off too easily.

Have Future Intentions but not Predictions

Like the past, the future is not a place we can live in or dwell on without detriment to our present. Many of us like to predict our future. And it often looks like this:

  • I’ll be happy when I get that pay raise
  • I’ll feel happier when our debts are finally paid off
  • I’ll be a better parent when I’ve met this career goal
  • I’ll start preparing to go to the temple when I finally feel like I can do it
  • I’ll repent of that sin once I can prove to the bishop that I’m already back on the right track
  • I’ll go to church when the meeting time starts after 10:00 a.m.
  • I’ll make time to read my scriptures once I get out of this tough semester of school
  • I’ll commit to preparing for and receiving my endowment when I can prove to myself that I won’t mess up anymore
  • I’ll get married when I can prove to myself that I can be faithful to someone and to the marriage covenant

Many of us like to make promises to ourselves and predict our future contentment and success by dwelling on future arrivals. It’s a silky-smooth, nearly undetectable form of ingratitude, resentment, jealousy, covetousness, and perhaps most dangerous, procrastination. It allows us, most satanically, to falsely justify spiritual and temporal entitlement. It allows us to comfortably (albeit unhappily) refuse to take control of our lives (and our eternity). It makes it easy to blame others for our misery.

So often we want proof of who we can be and what we are capable of without jumping into the very things that will give us the proof that we seek. We want to do things perfectly or not at all. We want to know that we won’t fail without having tried to succeed. This type of future focus will destroy all of our dreams. It brings up the cliché phrase: it is better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all. Obviously, right after any kind of heartbreak or failure, this phrase feels like a lie. But it isn’t. We can’t know love or God without having tried. Much of love is learned in the failure of it, just as much of becoming like God and getting to know Him is learned in the failure of it. There is no perfect moment when we’ll just know that we can keep His commandments, just as there is no perfect moment when we just know we’ll never sin again. We probably will. But, the atonement of Jesus Christ is there so we can keep trying no matter how many times we mess up. It’s a beautiful, eternal scholarship.

Those who focus on the future do not realize it, but they lack faith in the atonement, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ. They are also deceived that true happiness comes from not having suffered, when in fact it can’t come without having suffered (2 Nephi 2:11).

Christ taught (Matthew 6:28-34):

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore, take no thought saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? …for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

There are two beautiful doctrines in this section of verses about living in the present.

First, God is not saying to not be prepared, in general. There are a numerous amount of scriptural admonitions to be provident in our living and prepared. But, He is telling us that once we’ve prepared to not dwell on or focus on the future. He’s telling us not to devote time and effort to worry, nor to put off enjoying our present. When tomorrow comes we can devote thought to it then. He is saying, more or less, “be present in today.”

If we have food and clothing enough for today, and we’ve paid our tithing, and we’re doing our best to live providently; then we need to be grateful today. We need to be at peace today. We need to use what resources we have—today—to serve God and our fellow men. Tomorrow’s resources, food, clothing, etc., will take care of themselves if we are present in today.

God has said, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear,” (Doctrine & Covenants 38:30). If we have done what we can, if we have prepared, then it does no good to fear the morrow. Leave tomorrow until tomorrow. Just as we can live at peace with ourselves if we know we have repented, we can do the same with the future if we know we have prepared.

Second, God tell us very clearly what to do with the present, even how to live in the present, once we’ve tackled our issues with looking back or focusing too far forward. If we naturally repentant and we do what we can daily to be prepared for the future, then He says for the present that we are to, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

We aren’t to dwell on the past. We aren’t to panic over the future. We are to live in the present with eternal intent. In the moment, day-to-day, we are to put God, and His kingdom, first, in whatever ways that applies. In the present, day-to-day, we are to live for our eternal goals, and all the other mortal and temporal things will take care of themselves.

Jar with sand and rocks from travels on a window

The Jar Principle (or the Tithing Principle): How to Live in the Present

There is an object lesson that was quoted to me for years. It’s the jar with the large rocks, the pebbles, and the sand. However, though I’d heard it several times, I’d never actually seen it. And, I wanted to test it.

Here’s how it works. You take a jar and you fill it as full as you can with large rocks. Then, when you can’t fit anymore large rocks in, you pour in pebbles. They slide in and around the large rocks and fill in the spaces. When you can’t fit anymore pebbles in, you pour in sand. The sand fills in all the remaining gaps. You fill it with sand up to the top, level it off and put on the lid. Feel free to jostle the jar after you’ve done this. There is very little settling that occurs.

Next, you pour all the contents of the jar out into a bowl. You sort out the big rocks and then separate the pebbles from the sand with a sifter/strainer of some kind. Then, you put all the contents into the jar in the reverse order. Sand first, pebbles second, large rocks last. In reverse order, with all the jostling and shaking that you want, you cannot fit all the large rocks back in. That’s what people say anyway.

So, I tried it. And, guess what. They’re right.

Now, I’m sure there are some type of commercial conditions somewhere that could find a way to put all the contents back in the jar in reverse order. But, though that may be true, I think the principle is still valid.

What God is saying to us is that we can live in the present quite peacefully and calmly, despite the battering processes of life, if we will simply have faith in Him and put in the big rocks first, the pebbles second, and the sand last. (Corrie Ten Boom is a testimony that this is possible even when in the most horrific of human circumstances. Read The Hiding Place.)

The big rocks are the things of God: praying, reading and studying our scriptures, attending church, and fulfilling callings. The things of God include: patriarchal blessings, repentance, receiving ordinances and covenants, and learning to forgive. These are Big Eternal Rocks that need to be attended to daily, presently, mindfully.

The pebbles, well, I think everyone’s pebbles are up to them to determine and define. The sand, I think we can safely say that those are things we make important in the past, future, and even the present, but they have little, if any, eternal significance other than to distract us from the large rocks and remove room for the things of God in our lives.

How I Live in the Present (and Apply the Tithing Principle)

I’m not the model child of living in the present. But, there are a few habits that I’ve formed that help me to be present in today while shooting for eternal goals.

  1. In the morning I try not to look at my phone (mortal communication) without first picking up my spiritual phone and communicating with God (prayer). Even if I can only get in a 30-second prayer I make that big rock more important than the pebbles waiting on my phone via email, text, and various social media notifications.
  2. Before I take a bite of breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I try to take a moment to be mindful of where the abundance has come from. I try not to say “bless the food,” as much as I say, “thank Thee for the food.” I really don’t think God will fault me if I forget to pray over my food, but when I do I am more mindful of Him, and being mindful of Him (big rock) helps me to be more present in my life.
  3. Before I hop into bed at night to read or go to sleep or write a blog or make social media posts (pebbles), I kneel and pray and then read my scriptures (big rocks). Everything ALWAYS goes more smoothly when I have taken care of those rocks first. Everything else always seems to take less time than I thought. Somehow, that spiritual principle is true.
  4. When I say my prayers (morning and night) I try not to have a wrote list of things I am grateful for every time. I try to focus instead on the truth of how I feel at the moment. I try to be mindful and ponder what exactly it is I am grateful for in that moment. I don’t add ten extra things to my gratitude list just to sound good to myself (or God). I try to really thank Him for what I am presently, currently, truly thankful for.
  5. When I do something wrong, react poorly, or sin through weakness, I try to apologize as soon as I can. I usually try to gather my thoughts and to be mindful about what it is that is really wrong. I try to figure out why I would react so poorly and so unkindly. Then, I go and acknowledge my own fault in the altercation as soon as I can. I don’t worry about the other person’s apology (pebble). I put my own apology first (big rock). Sometimes it’s a prayer I offer, and within moments I know exactly what my problem is, or at least what I need to apologize for. I don’t wait for other people to throw in their pebbles of apology. I get my rock in that jar as fast as I can. It relieves me in the present, brings me peace in the present, puts me back in good standing with God in the present, and sometimes (though not always) it makes the other person’s apology negligible to me.

These are all seemingly little things, but they make a huge different in each and every part of my day. I wish I had more to share. I wish I had a perfect life that could model for everyone what it means to be present in life with eternal goals. But, guess what? I don’t have to. Christ modeled it for us all. Christ was perfectly present while shooting for eternity. He always did God’s will and never His own.

One Day at a Time

I looked up a few psychology articles on “being present” and found that in most ways, they agree with everything I have blogged about today. And, for certain, the one thing they preach that is very in tune with God’s instructions is to simply take one day at a time.

Just like my yoga experience, put God first today. You may think I sound a bit eccentric. You may have tried to “go through the motions,” before and it didn’t really click. But, I’m challenging you to try again. Put God first today. In the present, give Him your first offerings of all that you are. Do that today. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t worry about how you did yesterday. Simply put Him first today.

Tomorrow, you can worry about tomorrow. Yesterday was yesterday. But, for at least one day, you can put Him and His kingdom first. Then, tomorrow, try again. Then, the next day, try again. Like my yoga experience, I can guarantee you that being mindful of God first, each day, you will suddenly “feel” the difference. Instead of just “going through the motions,” you will feel it click. The mindfulness of God will reorder your life and make living in the present with eternal goals not only doable, but enabling. You will find the balance you’ve craved. You will find peace. Things you used to think were important will suddenly appear as they really are, grains of sand.

Be present in your eternal goals each day and the rest of life will take care of itself. So also, your eternal goals will take care of themselves. You have God’s promise on this. And, I promise you can trust Him.


The Monster

I didn’t know there was a monster

Hiding inside of me

I didn’t know it was lurking there

Waiting to be set free

I didn’t realize that there was so much

Ugliness in my heart

I didn’t think I was angry at all

That rage played any part

Yet I have reacted and yelled and spat

A vicious diatribe

My face has gone red and stiff and cold

I’ve sunken to the dark side

I’ve drowned in hurt, self-deceit, and hot pride

All for justification

I have sunk far below civility

All for guilt allocation

Yet the monster never left me alive

My spirit always dead

It ate and devoured my peace and my joy

Puking up what I had said

Then it hid deep down within my heart

Awaiting another meal

It knows that eventually I’ll feed it

A dish of repress-ed zeal


It was yesterday that I caught this Thing

Feeding on my life

Holding tight and tearing into my soul

Bleeding and breeding strife

I was shocked and pained to find it inside

An actual part of me

I was embarrassed, ashamed, terrified

At all that I did see

I wanted control, and I wanted out

Of burdens, need, and stress

And I had been willing to get them all

By feeding that angry Mess

I wanted to avoid pain and some hurts

Annoyances and noise

Quite willing to obtain perceived com-fort

By sacrificing joys


Though I know there’s a monster inside me

I can’t seem to set it free

I keep trying to cage and kill it

This evil part of me

I’ve tried to stab it and wrestle it down

It’s a slippery fiend

It keeps yelling that it’s a piece of me

That it can-not be weaned

So last night I came before the dear Lord

Begging for His healing

Offering up my anger and my rage

To His al-tar of sealing

For only He can sacrifice this piece

Of my broken mess of soul

If I give it to Him with all my heart

That is indeed His goal


It’s His now…         I have given it away

The monster is now done

And I can now live my life in sure peace that…

My angry monster is gone

What Does Your Angry Monster Look Like

I wrote this poem not long ago. It was therapy. You see, I never thought I was an angry person. I’m not, really. I hate contention, heated debate, unkindness, and hurt. I’ve always avoided arguments and fights. Recoiled from them. I’m always the first to self-evaluate and apologize for my part. I can’t stand the suspense of things not being resolved between me and those I love.

But, in the past year and a half this unruly, hateful creature came out of me. It was called righteous indignation. It was called justification. It was a monster of many names.

I suffered under attacks from this monster far more frequently than I’d like to admit. And each and every time it came out, I fed it. It was very persuasive, you see. And then, as soon as it left I felt as if I was on the verge of emotional death. It sucked everything out of me.

So, for quite a while I thought I understood the monster and thought I could handle it on my own. So, I put a little chain around that anger monster and pretended I could master it. And yet, it kept snapping the chain and getting free. Impatience and unkindness were seeping out of me from every direction. I was like a simmering pot of unhappiness and condemnation. I couldn’t seem to get control.

Finally, after months of trying, I collapsed on my knees one night and asked God where this monster had come from. “This is not me!” I cried. “I’ve never been like this, ever. Please help me figure this out.”

In that moment, a few clear memories from my childhood came up to the surface of my own little internal pensieve (thanks to Dumbledore for making this a part of my life). I saw my younger self running around with a smaller, younger version of this very same anger monster. Most importantly, God showed me the triggers that let the monster out: helplessness, frustration, tiredness, and a tendency to react rather than act. I saw my supposedly righteous anger and justified reactions from a place outside myself. They didn’t look the same at all. I looked ridiculous.

It was in that moment that I suddenly began to understand that as far as mortals are concerned (in my opinion), there is no such thing as righteous anger. Righteous anger is a fallacy. I don’t believe it exists—inasmuch as we refer to the action we take* when disappointed, hurt, frustrated, offended, or injured (whether on purpose or not). There is no such thing as justification for letting out our anger monsters. There is no time when it is okay to scream and yell to get a point across. There is no time when it is okay to hit or strike another person in an attempt to make them listen or do what we want them to do. There is no time when impatience, unkindness, insults, emotional digs, or vengeance is okay.

I believe God is capable of righteous anger (i.e. acting righteously in perfect love with perfect justification for His actions). But, as you read the scriptures, it seems God’s references to anger, jealousy, and wrath are much more of a rhetorical device (wording used to persuade, achieve a certain purpose, or to emphasize something). They imply how He feels about our wickedness or lack of repentance. But, you’ll notice He never calls anyone worthless except those who purposely offend little children (Matthew 18:5-6), and then I might have to agree with Him there. He doesn’t insult or jibe to purposefully retaliate or hurt us. His anger is always represented by a spiritual ultimatum. He does use appropriate terms such as fool, hypocrite, deceiver, and liar. But these terms when in use by God are not used lightly. They always accurate describe the actions of those He is addressing. They are not meant to insult but to teach and call to repentance. Again, He can do it right, I don’t think we can.

Even when God is speaking of curses that will come upon us if we don’t repent (spiritual ultimatum), I can hardly imagining Him yelling and screaming them with a red face, glaring eyes, and clenched fists and gnashed teeth. That is how Satan looks. Not God.

When I imagine God reprimanding me I imagine only sad looks of love mingled with disappointment. And those are sufficiently powerful to make me want to improve. I imagine Him delivering His “rhetorical devices” with sadness and looks of pleading for me to repent, to trust Him, and so forth. If I imagine a firm voice, it is firm and loving. It is firm and pleading. It is forthright and honest. (Kind of like Dumbledore or Gandalf…always measured, understanding, seeing the bigger picture, etc. although obviously these are mortal, fictional examples and very rare in actual humankind even on good days.)

There is a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19 that is often read in a way that is wrong (in my opinion). People always read it with the idea of this angry God in their minds instead of a God (Jesus in particular) who has already suffered for their sins and is pleading with them to not waste it. It’s a firm, loving, pleading voice (to me, anyway). Not an angry one.

So, I invite you to imagine a God who has given everything for you, and you are running around wasting it. A God who loves you infinitely. A God whose love you can’t escape. Imagine Him now pleading with you, perhaps firmly, perhaps with tears in His eyes. Perhaps both. Imagine Him saying the following to you with gravity and sincere intent:

Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

Now, there are some powerful words in here that have sufficient rhetorical device: smite, rod, wrath, anger, sufferings, sore, exquisite.

Now, notice some other words: tremble, bleed, suffer, bitter, shrink

Have you ever smitten someone with words? Have you ever used your hand or another device as a rod to beat someone? Have you ever exercised your wrath upon someone physically or with words? Have you ever purposefully tried to make someone suffer? Have you ever been sore emotionally or physically after berating someone for their flaws? Have you ever caused someone to tremble, bleed, suffer, or shrink from you? Have your pains ever been exquisitely terrible when you have come down from your anger and you have realized what you’ve done?

Imagine now that Christ suffered these things. It was Him you smote with words. It was Him you beat with a rod. It was Him you had wrath against physically or verbally. It was Him you purposefully insulted or made suffer. It was Him you berated. It was Him you made to shrink. (Matthew 25:40) It was because of His atonement that you felt terrible when you exhausted your anger. His mercy allowed you to feel the horror of what you had done. That horror is merciful because it encourages you to repent.

Does He not have a right to use rhetorical device to persuade you to stop being angry? Does He not have the right to plead with you firmly to please repent, to stop feeding your anger monster? Does He not have the right to remind you that if you don’t seek His help to rid yourself of this monster that you will suffer that which you have handed out…that He has already suffered?

God has to remind us of what will happen if we don’t repent so He can be just and merciful. If He didn’t tell us how horrific it would be, that would be eternally unfair. We need true information to use our moral agency completely. Thus, God is capable of using rhetorical device in an attempt to help us repent. He can do it righteously. You and I cannot. Our motives, no matter how justified we think they are, are selfish and satanic.

Satanic is a powerful word. Let me elaborate.

This is Moses 1:18-22. Moses has just talked with God face-to-face. After God leaves him and Moses recovers a little bit, Satan comes tempting (which is often Satan’s pattern, coming after we’ve had spiritual highs and feel invincible).

And again Moses said: I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.

And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.

And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.

And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan.

And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not.

Notice what Satan does:

  • cried with a loud voice (yelled) twice
  • ranted upon the earth (threw himself down? punched something?)
  • made demands
  • created fear and embodied the bitterness of hell in his visage (scary!)
  • trembled or moved in a way that shook the earth (stomped his feet? beat on things?)
  • weeped (manipulatively), wailed, gnashed his teeth

There is nowhere in scripture where we ever witness Jesus Christ doing any of these things—the things we tend to justify in reaction to others. There is one instance in the New Testament where Christ overturns a few tables in the temple because people are defiling it. He also casts many people out, but I can hardly imagine Him accosting them bodily and throwing them out. Can you? I also do not believe He screamed and yelled and went red in the face. I don’t believe He stomped, punched things, ranted, raved, or gnashed His teeth. It is my opinion that He spoke with a direct and firm voice, even an incredulous one, teaching them saying, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations a house of prayer? But ye have made it den of thieves.”

Portrait of screaming angry man on black background

Many people might say, “But he/she hurt me on purpose?” and will claim justification for the injury they have received on purpose. So, to that I ask, “Do we say that Satan was justified in yelling at Moses and threatening him all because Moses hurt his feelings and wouldn’t do what he wanted on purpose?” Certainly not. Satan reacted in enmity and hatred toward Moses because Moses would not do what he wanted. He threw a fit to scare Moses into worshipping him.

Do we ever throw a fit to get others to listen to us? Do we ever rant and rave and overkill our point to silence another? Do we create an environment of bitterness and fear to manipulate others into doing what we think is right? If we do these and other related things to elicit a certain reaction in others it is because we believe in compulsion. We are acting a certain way in order to get others to act a certain way. It’s a circle of reaction; of allowing ourselves to be acted upon by others.

We cannot claim our reactions are ever justified.* Why? Because we were created as beings to act and not to be acted upon (2 Nephi 2:14). If sin is compulsory (meaning others can make us sin), then we have no power to become godly. We are trapped in a hellish state. But, sin is not compulsory. No matter how strong the threat, injury, frustration, or persuasion, we can always choose to act how we wish. We always have the power to choose the right. That is the very power of agency. It gives the power to change. It is the power that makes it possible for us to become like God.

The Holy Ghost speaks in a still, small voice. God is not in thunder, earthquakes, wind, or storms (1 Kings 19:11-12). He speaks by the Spirit.

Make a Comparison

For those that are able to attend temple endowment sessions, I encourage you to evaluate what you find there about how God expresses His wrath, disappointment, and judgment. Pay strong attention to His responses to Adam and Eve’s transgression and Satan’s willfully rebellious actions.

Evaluate also how Satan reacts when he doesn’t get what he wants. Pay attention to his variability and his reactive nature.

Then, consider whom you resemble more? Ya, that’s a sobering thought.

So, what does your angry monster look like? What situations trigger its need to feed on your soul? Have you identified these triggers? Have you made a plan? Have you come up with a coping mechanism, that you can turn to when these triggers hit?

Most importantly to consider is how you can sever ties with your adoring, self-destructive monster. Anger can be an addiction. Are you addicted? If so, treat it as an addiction. For some people it’s as powerful as pornography, alcohol, and drugs. If you are addicted to your monster, it’s time to humble yourself and get help to sever its hellish ties to your soul. Addiction Recovery Programs now dot the world and the Internet. You need plans, backup plans, and backup-backup plans for coping mechanisms you can adopt to help you vanquish your monster. And, you can do it. You have been created to act and not to be acted upon. You are not a prisoner to reaction. It might be hard. But, God’s grace is sufficient (Ether 12:27).

My angry monster, I’m proud to say, is quite anemic these days. I go long stretches where I think it is gone forever. Sometimes, I’m not proud to say, it shows up in my house and it takes a serious amount of willpower to pick it up, drag it kicking and screaming to my door, and push it out through the narrow opening. But, I am glad to say that when it does make unplanned visits I am getting better at recognizing it, taking a deep breath, and slamming the door in its face. I’m getting better and better at apologizing when I’ve had a close call. I’m getting better.

I’m not perfect.

Thank goodness for grace.

*A Quick Note About Justifiable Feelings*

So, I’ve written this whole blog about how there is no such thing as righteous anger—as an action. But, there is such thing as righteous anger—as a feeling. Feelings are justifiable. You will get hurt by people. You will get offended. You will be horrified and angry at people who do horrible things. You will be overwhelmed by the effects of sin on yourself and others. The feeling—justifiable. Angry actions based on this justifiable feeling—not justifiable.

It’s okay to feel angry. It’s not ok to act angry. It’s okay to feel hurt and to respectively let others know they have injured us. It is not okay to take out our hurt and anger on others even if they have hurt us.

It’s okay to feel tired and past your limit. It’s not okay to then pat yourself on the back and justify unkind or impatient words and actions toward others because you felt angry or tired. We certainly can claim that we have acted because of our feelings. But just because we have justifiable feelings doesn’t mean that reactions are justifiable. They are not.

God is Justice. Vengeance and mercy are His to deal out and repay. Not ours. Why? Because He has claimed them for Himself. And that is because only He can do it right. Only He can do it justly. Only He can do it mercifully. Only He can do it with perfect love. Righteous anger and condemnation are His to own. Not ours. Our job is to learn to manage our justifiable feelings in a Christ-like way.

Forgiveness and Apologies

Apologies are the best place to douse the anger monster. They are the best place for us to acknowledge and own our actions and commit to being better. The better we become at understanding our triggers and owning them, the better we will get at apologies, and the better we will get at destroying our monsters. The more we take the time to realize what is triggering our actions the more power we gain to control them.

For example: “I know that I was a bit short and unkind earlier. I shouldn’t have accused you of not caring. I just had a rough day and have secretly felt hurt by something you said yesterday that I should have talked to you about, rather than harboring. But neither of those things made it okay to treat you that way. I’m sorry. I will try to be better.”

Also, forgiveness will injure and destroy nearly every anger monster alive. Even those who purposefully hurt us truly, to some extent, do not understand the full weight of what they do. Christ set the example with this statement prior to being crucified, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). At some point we have to choose to not let others have power over us because of their actions. We must learn to act in the way that we desire independent of others actions. We must capitalize on the Power to Become.

Learn to Admit and Own Your Faults

For some people, it makes them angry to admit fault. It hurts them internally to realize they are wrong. So, they use blame on, and anger at, other things to protect themselves from the hurt of learning the truth about themselves. The sad thing is that they suffer the consequences of acting in anger. Which, are far more damaging and hurtful things than if they would simply learn to admit fault.

If you can’t admit fault, you will be angry all the time. If nothing is ever your fault you have rendered yourself powerless to change. You are, in effect, damned (stopped in progress). If you always have a nice way of pinning all of your shortcomings and sins on others (claiming compulsion and that you “had no choice”), then you are of all people most pitiful. Learn the serenity prayer.

Make a Plan

The most important thing to do, once you have caught and captured your anger monster, is to make a plan on how to keep it caged, and if possible, to destroy it. Anger monsters are not buddies. They exist only to destroy you. Part with them willingly and happily. “And if thy [anger monster] offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that [thy anger monster] should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29).

If you have used anger as a coping mechanism, then in order to “pluck it out and cast it from thee” you are going to have to make a plan to replace it with something else. Only you can determine, with God’s aid and sincere prayer, how you are going to replace it and with what. You also will need to make a plan on how you will apologize and repent should your anger monster bang down the cage door and go running loose. Make a plan.


I could have listed prayer as a way to eliminate anger, but I guess I felt it was a given. I do know that without going to God in prayer and asking Him where my monster came from and what was triggering it that I may not be where I am today. That prayer I remember vividly and I hope I never forget it. It was immediate and direct personal revelation—which is often rare. Thankfully, I think God was waiting for me to ask and I was more than ready to do whatever it took to destroy the beast.

May you also get to the point where you are ready to destroy your anger monster. That it’s preservation is less important to you than becoming the person you want to become.


I’m a writer of fiction of all kinds. I’ve been writing for years. And, one of the biggest things I have to decide when a character visits (from another world, time, or place) and starts telling me their story is: what perspective do I write this story from?

Perspective can make all the difference in the world. It can ruin a story. It can turn an otherwise poor story into a page turner. Indeed, perspective is one of the most powerful tools a writer has.

Some characters are more interesting in first person. We get to see everything they think. However, the downside is we never know what any other character is thinking. It’s a very narrow perspective and often leads the character (and the reader) to make false and incorrect assumptions about his/her life, other characters, and the story itself.

Third-person perspective steps back just a bit and as a reader we can see a little bit more of what all characters are thinking. This removes ambiguity but creates a little less of a relationship between the reader and the characters. The reader (and characters) is still too blind to make completely accurate assumptions about the story or the state of others.

Omniscient third-person perspective is my least favorite for story writing, but it is the best for real life. This tends to be more of narrator perspective. The suspense we feel is that we know more than the characters and we are waiting for them to figure out what we already know. A very effective perspective for some stories and often for fairy-tales and age groups who can’t handle as much suspense. This, also happens to be the perspective that God has—omniscient. It’s a perspective we can’t get except from God.

So, why all this talk about writing perspective? What does this have to do with making your home a heaven on earth? Well, making your home a heaven on earth is 80% perspective and 20% action (in my opinion).

Perspective2: is a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

If you view your home with only a first-person perspective you will always make hasty conclusions about how heavenly your home is. If you view your home with a third-person perspective, trying to see more of what others are thinking, you’ll do a bit better. But, ultimately, you’ll still make incorrect conclusions about how heavenly your home is. But, if you learn to (and seek to) see your home as God sees it, your chances of having a heavenly home will increase exponentially.

Toxic Homes

First, let’s address toxic homes. They exist—far more than we’d like to admit. And, they cannot be treated the same as other homes.

Abraham 1:1, 16, 18

Abraham had a toxic home. His dad was an idol worshipper (who placed many things before God and family). His dad tried to have him sacrificed to Egyptian gods. We don’t know anything about Abraham’s mom. But, many people have one-parent homes. They tend to be either tight and loyal or horrific on many levels. But, it is apparent that Abraham was commanded by God to leave his father (and the Egyptians) so that he could make a heavenly home. His own community and home had become so toxic and corrupt that it was “needful” for him to obtain another place of residence.

From Abraham we learn that not all homes can be turned into heaven. Sometimes we must be led out to a home of promise that God helps us make as we keep His commandments.

Ruth (the whole book)

Ruth, we don’t know much about her Moabitish family. But, we know she married into a covenant Israel family, of which Naomi was a part. Then, by tragic circumstance all the males were killed (her husband, her brothers-in-law, and her father-in-law). Ruth, chose to make Naomi her family rather than go home to her blood family. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

What we do learn from Ruth is that our family, and our heavenly home, doesn’t have to be conventional or blood relations. She felt loyalty and love for Naomi. She made her home with Naomi. We too can create our heavenly home with those who love us (and they may not always be our blood relatives).

Genesis 37+

Joseph may have been a little self-righteous and annoying. But, he was essentially good and righteous. He was doted upon by his righteous (yet imperfect) parents. Yet, he was resented and hated by his brothers because he had lived righteous enough to inherit the birthright blessings which the few in front of him had forfeited by their sins and lack of repentance. In jealousy and hatred his brothers sold him into slavery. Not very heavenly.

We learn from Joseph that it’s not only our parents who can make our home toxic. Siblings can do that as well. Sometimes we ride it out. Sometimes we suffer at our siblings hands. From Joseph we learn that time, forgiveness, and mercy can often change the toxicity of sibling relationships. Life tempers us all. Sometimes we simply have to patiently wait.

There are numerous stories in the scriptures, and our own lives, that show that toxic homes cannot always be transformed. Addictions like anger, pornography, alcohol, and others cannot always be rectified in a reasonable amount of time. But, many homes can be saved by repentance, faith, love, and patience. The only way to know if your home can be saved is to seek the Lord’s will. But, be prepared to accept His answer and His guidance. He may tell you that your home can be saved. In which case you may be in store for a long, hard journey—that will end up in a heavenly result. If your home cannot be transformed, God will teach you what to do next.

The perspective we need, if our home is severely toxic, is God’s perspective. We need to know what He sees. We need to know if our heavenly home lies elsewhere or if we have a mission to save our currently, toxic home.

Regular Homes

When I say regular, I don’t mean perfect. I simply mean to imply that, in general, these regular homes contain individuals who want to get along, be happy, and basically do what’s right. Sure, toxicity might enter from time to time in small ways (a short-temper, a bad day of constant fighting, etc.). But, regular homes weather these moments of toxicity and move on because the individuals in the home eventually self-regulate, seek repentance, forgive, try harder, and so forth.

So, remember we were talking about perspective. And, that it’s God’s perspective that we need in order to begin the process of making our home a heaven on earth.

How do you seek, and learn, to see your home as God does? An LDS Hymn (#2980 begins with the following line of lyrics:

Home can be a heav’n on earth when we are filled with love

The hymn also goes on to point out characteristics that make a home “like heaven:” warmth, kindness, charity, safety, and security. It continues on in the second and third verses to mention things that may help to create a heavenly home: drawing family near each week, serving with cheerful hearts, parents teach and lead by example, children honor and obey, praying daily as a family, searching scriptures as a family, and singing hymns of thanks. It ends each verse by mentioning how family members feel about the home: where we long to be, where we long to stay…

To me the first line is the one that matters most. Home can be a heaven on earth when we are filled with love. Others in our home don’t have to be what we want them to be in order for our home to be heavenly. We have to be loving in order for our home to be heavenly. We have to feel love. We have to see through the eyes of love. It is our perspective, the way we view our home and tell it’s story.

So, your home being a heaven is all about you. It’s your perspective that makes the difference and that has to change. It’s your actions despite your circumstances and hopes and wants that makes the difference. You can’t have a heavenly home if you see through eyes of disappointment, ingratitude, revenge, resentment, and anger. You can’t have a heavenly home if you focus only on what your home doesn’t have or what the people in it don’t do. You can’t have a heavenly home if the people who are supposed to want to be there don’t want to be there. Their feelings about your home reflect what it is.

…where we long to stay…

Conversely, you can have a heavenly home if you see through the eyes of encouragement, gratitude, forgiveness, appreciation, and joy. You can have a heavenly home if you focus on what your home does have and what the people in it do that’s good. You know you have a heavenly home if people long to be there, and to stay there. Whether you or the people who belong in your home are perfect, if they all “long to be there,” and “long to stay” there, then that speaks volumes!

Home and Heaven are Far More Than a Place

For me, my home is far more than a place. It’s the place, the feeling I get of loyalty, love, appreciation, tolerance, safety, and security. Those feelings are created by the people who are part of my home—my family. These include blood relations, in-laws, through-laws, adopted, and so forth.

My family includes people from all walks of life that simply belong with us. It just happens, you know. They come in the door and then, suddenly, they are ours. Admittedly, at first we are reluctant to accept some individuals based upon the circumstances that bring them into our home. But, then, they simply become ours. I don’t know how it happens, exactly, but I do know that it happens primarily because of our perspective.

At first we see these individuals one way. Then, as we bide our time and try to hold our tongues, we suddenly see their virtues, how they bless our lives (or the lives of family members), and then bam! We see them through the eyes of love. Our perspective changes.

I feel that I have a most excellent family full of amazing and excellent people. But, sometimes I don’t wonder if that’s because I’ve decided they are excellent or if they are truly excellent. Does the difference matter? I don’t think so.

What matters is how I see them. When I am filled with love then all these people suddenly become beautiful, angelic, strong, dedicated, resilient, talented, and so forth. I don’t see where they are in life as anything other than where they currently are. I appreciate how they support and tolerate me. I count it a privilege to pass through this mortal estate in their godly-assigned support group. What a blessing!

Home can be a heaven on earth when we are filled with love

Perspektive Vision ©yvonneweis

So, you might ask: “How can I be filled with love when my family doesn’t respond to all the good I’m trying to do? How can I be filled with love when they treat me poorly? How can I see my home as a heaven when everyone grumbles during family prayer, family scripture study, and when I wake them up to go to church?”

I posted recently on “The Power to Become.” In summary, I learned that I can spend the rest of my life reacting to all that other people do, all that life throws at me, and my frustrations with God’s timing–in an attempt to create what I want or take control of what I want. Or, I can act how I want to act completely independent of those other factors. I can choose who I want to be, how I want to act, what I want to do, and how I will live and do those things no matter what else happens. By doing that I will become the person I want instead of a person who changes who they are based on what life throws at me.

It is the same with having your home be a heaven. It SERIOUSLY can be a heaven if you choose to focus on seeing your home with love, filling yourself with love, and acting with love. If you decide now that no matter how your spouse, children, or life acts that you will see with and act with love, then you have the power to create a heaven on earth. It’s your perspective that has to change. It’s you who has to “be love” so that your home is filled with it.

Do you realize what power you obtain when you act heavenly because that’s what you want to be instead of only acting heavenly if you feel heavenly, or if others are acting heavenly? You gain the power of control over your life and your home. You don’t change simply because others change. You simply are heavenly because that’s what you want to be. You see with love because that’s what you want to do—that’s who you are. Then, no matter what others do, you don’t react, in an attempt to change them. You only act in the attempt to be who you want to be.

Others may come and go in and out of your physical home or your family. But, you will always be in it. Make it a heaven by filling your life and your perspective of your home with love. Do this independent of the rest of the “story” and that perspective will write your story. Your home will be a heaven on earth.


This blog post has a deceptive title. But, I can almost guarantee it’s not what you think. I challenge you to read it and see if I bring up any doctrines that surprise you.

Know Do Be

This morning at choir practice, the choir director had us singing a very well-sung Primary Hymn: I am a Child of God. Years ago, when this song was first accepted and used, the chorus lyrics read thus, “Teach me all that I must know to live with Him someday.” Later, prophet Spencer W. Kimball requested the lyrics to be changed to, “Teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday.” Then, this morning, our choir director talked about how it would make sense to her if another alteration was made (and might’ve been made when Gordon B. Hinckley was prophet) reading thusly, “Teach me all that I must be to live with Him someday.”

In the simple words know, do, and be we see the natural progression of faith that we all pass through. First, we are taught truth. Then, we are asked to act upon what we know, to do. However, often, in our haste to do we forget the actual purpose of doing, which is to become.

God doesn’t just go through the motions. He is love. He is mercy. Etc. All these traits come to Him naturally. He doesn’t have think about being just, He is just, and so forth. We all easily forget that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about knowing, doing and most importantly becoming.

These three words (know, do, become) are at the core of the answer, “what does it mean to be active in the church?” This is because becoming truly active is both an internal and an external process. We all tend to start by knowing the Gospel (internal). Then, we try very hard to do the Gospel (external). However, the doing is often given to us and supplied to us naturally by the programs and inspired organization of God’s church. And because the doing is so readily available and provided for us, it is quite easy to get caught up in the external-doing and forget to press forward to the becoming (which is both internal and external).

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the doing that the doing overwhelms us and we forget what the Gospel is all about. This is often when people choose to go inactive in the church, by which they often become lax and inactive in the actual Gospel.

Becoming implies that doing has actually changed us into a different type of being. Which, if that’s the case, we no longer do, we are. Kind of blows the mind, but there it is.

In fact, many people complain that being a Mormon is very difficult. That our “church” requires too much of us. So much “activity” required, so much doing (which granted, can be empty doing if we forget its purpose and many of us do). Yet, what they misunderstand is that the organization of the church is set up in an inspired way. It is nothing less than a Spiritual University.

God commands us to serve our fellow men, in the scriptures. The church then provides frequent and long-term opportunities to do this serving. God commands us to sacrifice. The church then provides opportunities to give ritually and as inspired of our income, time, talents, and other resources. We sacrifice much that is earthly in our pursuit of godhood—which is what the church and gospel are all about. We are asked to pay tithing and offerings the same as the widow who was asked by Elijah to make him a little loaf of bread out of the last of her oil and meal before feeding herself and her son. We often do and give and serve when we have not even enough for ourselves and our family. And yet, it is such service, faith, and sacrifice which brings about miracles, and miraculously our cruses of oil never go dry and our barrel of meal seems to never become empty.

God commands us…and the church provides… It goes on and on. The Gospel is the Gospel. The church is the fundamental, critical, and godly instituted organization ordained with the power and resources to aid us in succeeding in the Gospel. It is a Spiritual University.

The church is a school of godhood. It is the highest and truest form of Christian education. God commands us to become like Him and to get to know Him. The church (as set up by God, Himself) is meant to provide the framework (Spiritual University) to help us accomplish what He has commanded us—to become like Him and to get to know Him. The church is His help, His support, His book of answers! There is no secret to godhood save attending His school and studying sincerely and genuinely—to become.

Thus, to be “active” in the church means to be “active” in the Gospel of Jesus Christ—to be active in accepting and acting upon all the support God has offered us. It’s not hard to be a Mormon any more than it’s hard to be any type of Christian. In fact, in many ways it’s easier because we have a spiritual curriculum, training ground, and a host of spiritual coaches. We don’t have to set out on our own seeking to figure out how to accomplish God’s commands. He’s given us the day-to-day framework and an entire organization to take the guesswork out of becoming like Him.

Active or Inactive

So, it is a common, traditional thing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to identify individuals and families as “active” in the church or “inactive.” I’m not a big fan of these labels, but I also recognize the intent with which they became so commonly used. And, if seen in the right light, they make absolute sense.

The word active means: doing things for an organization, campaign, or cause rather than simply giving it ones support.

When we refer to people as being “active” in the church, we usually mean that we can see outward evidence of their beliefs and desires to become godly. We see them going to church, serving in callings, etc. rather than them merely being a record on our rosters as someone who has been baptized but doesn’t outwardly act on their beliefs. Those who we don’t see actively participating in the organization (or spiritual university) of the church are often called “inactive.” Meaning, we suspect they belief in the core doctrines but they are not “acting” outwardly on that belief in ways we’ve come to expect.

However, members of the church are getting better (though far from perfect) at not too quickly assigning these labels. This is because many people who are outwardly “active” are not necessarily inwardly converted to the actual idea of becoming like God. They are, literally, going through the motions for all sorts of other reasons and motivations. And this happens when they forget that the whole purpose of doing is to become.

We also have the issue of people being very Christian and “active” in trying to be Christlike who are less comfortable with the more guided and structural spiritual educational framework provided by the church. And yet, the organization of the church has been put in place by God. And by acting outside of it individuals find themselves limited in their progression toward godhood. They can only progress so far without certain ordinances and covenants. They can only access so much grace and power. Thus, it is clear that to some extent we must all submit to God’s Formal School of Godhood.

I love this quote by Donald L. Hallstrom of the Seventy from the April 2012 Conference:

Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal. Therein lies a danger. It is possible to be active in the Church and less active in the gospel. Let me stress: activity in the Church is a highly desirable goal; however, it is insufficient. Activity in the Church is an outward indication of our spiritual desire. If we attend our meetings, hold and fulfill Church responsibilities, and serve others, it is publicly observed.

By contrast, the things of the gospel are usually less visible and more difficult to measure, but they are of greater eternal importance. For example, how much faith do we really have? How repentant are we? How meaningful are the ordinances in our lives? How focused are we on our covenants?

I repeat: we need the gospel and the Church. In fact, the purpose of the Church is to help us live the gospel. We often wonder: How can someone be fully active in the Church as a youth and then not be when they are older? How can an adult who has regularly attended and served stop coming? How can a person who was disappointed by a leader or another member allow that to end their Church participation? Perhaps the reason is they were not sufficiently converted to the gospel—the things of eternity.

Elder Hallstrom then goes on to suggest how to be “active” in the church and “active” in the Gospel.

I suggest three fundamental ways to have the gospel be our foundation:

Deepen our understanding of Deity. A sustained knowledge of and love for the three members of the Godhead are indispensable. Mindfully pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, and seek direction from the Holy Ghost. Couple prayer with constant study and humble pondering to continually build unshakable faith in Jesus Christ. “For how knoweth a man the master … who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13).

Focus on the ordinances and covenants. If there are any of the essential ordinances yet to be performed in your life, intently prepare to receive each of them. Then we need to establish the discipline to live faithful to our covenants, fully using the weekly gift of the sacrament. Many of us are not being regularly changed by its cleansing power because of our lack of reverence for this holy ordinance.

Unite the gospel with the Church. As we concentrate on the gospel, the Church will become more, not less, of a blessing in our lives. As we come to each meeting prepared to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118), the Holy Spirit will be our teacher. If we come to be entertained, we often will be disappointed. President Spencer W. Kimball was once asked, “What do you do when you find yourself in a boring sacrament meeting?” His response: “I don’t know. I’ve never been in one” (quoted by Gene R. Cook, in Gerry Avant, “Learning Gospel Is Lifetime Pursuit,” Church News, Mar. 24, 1990, 10).

Here’s a link to the whole article for those who are interested.

Converted to His Gospel Through His Church, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, of the Seventy, April 2012 Conference Address

Now, if I were to suggest anything, it would be two of the things Elder Hallstrom pointed out:

  • Get to know God better
  • Focus on the Gospel and use the Church to strengthen your ability to live the Gospel

The Pharisees looked beyond the mark (the mark being Christ) and focused so much on “doing” that they couldn’t see Christ through the wall of rules they created. And yet, Christ chastened them not for their excessive rules, but for the more internal aspects of the Gospel which they had omitted: faith, love, charity, mercy, righteous judgment… (Matthew 23:23).

Thus, we can see that the Pharisees largest mistake was putting rules before Christ, instead of Christ before rules. If we put the Gospel of Jesus Christ first and then look to the Church, we will at last find the peace and power God intended us to have in our spiritual education. We will find relief and support and guidance in our pursuit of the Gospel.

If we seek to serve our fellow men, as God commanded (Matthew 25:35-40; John 21:15; James 1:27), we will find all these ways laid out for us in the inspired organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

  • …when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King [Christ] shall answer and say unto them, 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.
  • So, when they had dined, Jesus saith unto Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
  • Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

There are certainly thousands of scripture references from God exhorting us to be unselfish, charitable, kind, meek, mild, loving, merciful, willing to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, to be perfect! How can one person manufacture enough experiences, resources, and so forth to accomplish the magnitude of such commands—to even come close to learning what needs to be learned? That’s just it. We can’t. No one person can become like God on their own.

The very organization of the Church is in place to give us the chance to help others learn the gospel (to be fed. Every member is exhorted to live a life that exemplifies Christ. We are “every member a missionary.” Every member is asked to be a visiting or home teacher. We visit those in our area and we seek to fill their needs (physical and spiritual), to comfort, to bless. We are encouraged (when we have the resources) to sacrifice conventional lives to serve official missions. Young men accept such a sacrifice as a personal duty, given to them by God through the prophet. Young women offer their lives as well. We have a lay clergy. Each person in every ward and stake, the world over, is called to serve (without pay—or purse or scrip…) in volunteer positions and callings from Bishop to nursery leader. Everyone serves in the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 27). The Church helps us focus our lives around becoming godly. By entering the church (through baptism) we promise to be “in the world” but not “of the world.”

Active is Being in the World but NOT of the World

What does that mean? To me it means to be living in the world but to have one’s most important priority and focus as the goal to become like God. All other worldly offerings take second priority. That is, to me, what being “active” is. When our highest priority and focus is anything other than becoming like God, then we are to some extent “inactive.” We are to some extent omitting or ignoring Spiritual University courses, classes, labs, tests, certifications, and practicals.

To me, to be “active” means to be trying to become like God and using His Spiritual University to reach that goal. To be “inactive” means to be a temporary dropout from what is certainly a rigorous course of study and an ambitious eternal career. We can choose another eternal career. We have the agency. But God will never stop sending us scholarship reminders and new class registrations until the final judgment when whatever eternal profession we choose can no longer be changed.

The neat thing about the Church, or Spiritual University, is that you can get a lot of Ds and Fs and have a GPA of 1.5 and still maintain your scholarship (grace). You simply have to not quit. You simply have to keep repenting and keep trying. Talk about a sweet scholarship. To be “active” you simply have to keep going to school and not quit.

And trust me, there are actually no A-students with 4.0s in God’s Spiritual University. There was only ever one valedictorian—Christ. He had a 4.0 and got an A in every class, and He did it to show us how. To give us the hope to not quit and to keep our scholarship. Even the most faithful to have lived on this earth had many courses with Cs, Ds, and Fs. All of us get Bs and As on some assignments, but ultimately, we are poor students. That’s why our scholarship (grace) is so powerful. We can only lose it (in varying degrees) as we drop out of classes.

So, with such a miraculous scholarship and such a priceless education why not be “active”?