True Gifts of Christmas--A Family Tradition

In 1988, I was called to serve as a counselor in a bishopric for the first time. My remarkable bishop taught two principles that I have never forgotten. 

First, Jesus is the Christ. Every day of our lives, we must reflect his love, his mercy, his sacrifice, and especially his Atoning gift that he gave to us all by our actions and service to others. 

Second, charity. This bishop believed in always showing love for our fellow man through giving ourselves in unconditional service to others. Serving the people of our ward was a top priority, so I was not surprised by the idea this bishop had for our first Christmas as a bishopric. 

In October, just a few months after we had been called to serve, the bishop wanted to bring these two principles to the people of our ward through a Christmas gift. The main purpose of one meeting was to think of specific ways we could serve the members of the ward and teach them of Christ. Since our first Christmas as a bishopric was only a few months away, the bishop wanted us to conceive a gift that we could give to the members of our ward to help them focus on the Savior during the Christmas season.  He asked us to go home and pray for inspiration for ideas on what we could do. 

Life Isn't Fair

This post originally appeared on Hearts of Zion. We post it here with the author's permission. 

Five years ago, a month before my 25th birthday, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor called an acoustic neuroma. It was slightly larger than the size of a golf ball (which is huge in terms of a brain tumor). Due to the tumor pressing against my brain stem the doctors had concerns that the tumor could prove to be fatal and would need to be removed as soon as possible. My oldest son was two years old, and my daughter was just 6 weeks old. Needless to say, it was a time of immense stress and fervent prayer.

So many questions flooded my mind. What will this mean for my family? For me? What will the rest of my life look like? What if the doctors concerns were realized and it was fatal? How could I leave my husband alone with our two babies? The questions of the unknown were overwhelming. Most days leading up to the surgery were spent trying to keep busy in effort to keep my mind off of the reality of what was happening but would usually land in a puddle of emotions.

The surgery was complex and would required two doctors and over eight hours to complete. Following the surgery I spent a week in the ICU and hospital. When it was time to go home, I would have been happy to never go to a hospital for the rest of my life. But after only two days of finally being home, I was rushed back to the hospital for another emergency surgery due to complications from the first one. I was so disheartened.

Lessons Learned as a Bathroom Usher for the Star Valley Temple Open House

During the October, 2011 Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Thomas S. Monson surprised the worldwide membership of the church when he announced that a temple would be built in Star Valley, WY.

My shouts of joy may have been heard from as far away as College Station, TX where I lived at the time. Though I was not raised in Star Valley, my parents moved there soon after I married and my family quickly adopted it as home. My wife and I never could have imagined at that time that one day, our family would also call Star Valley home and that we would experience the construction and dedication of a temple in our midst.

In connection with these events, I was blessed with several opportunities to serve as an usher during the Star Valley Temple open house. For my part, I simply had to express a desire to serve. Exactly where and when would be determined by those with the responsibility to organize the assignments.

Thank You to Bless Us

My husband and I have tried to model how to pray for each of our sons since before they could speak. Some things have stuck; others have not. Even though the boys are now 9, 6, & 5, we still step in every now and then with reminders to actually bless our food before a meal, or that we do not need to bless dinner in our family prayer before bedtime. Their prayers are often simple and far from perfect. However, in the last few weeks I’ve listened to one of my son’s prayers and have realized there are some things I’d rather not correct. 

There is often a pattern in this son’s prayers: 

Thank you to bless us.
Thank you to bless our food.
Thank you for us to be safe.
Thank you that we will sleep well.
Thank you for us to be safe.
Thank you that we will have a good day at school.
Thank you that we make good choices.
Thank you for us to be safe.
Thank you that we will be healthy.
Thank you that we are a family.

Thanks to Cancer

It’s the season of Thanksgiving, but there is one thing for which I am not grateful:


I know what some of you might be thinking:
How dare she not be thankful in all things? 
Have we not been commanded to always be thankful? 

The scriptures say so:

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18, emphasis added.)
 “….do all in the name of Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:17, emphasis added.)
  “…Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” (Ephesians 5:20, emphasis added.)
  “…but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know unto God.”  (Philippians 4:6, emphasis added.)

What If God Seems Silent?

Several close friends have confided in me in recent months, all saying something like this, "I am in the deepest pit of my life and God is completely silent."

These friends have widely differing roadblocks causing various sorts of havoc in their lives. They've told me they believe that God is there, but it's as though there is a wall between them and him. They are suffering, deeply, and they feel alone.

I grieve with my friends. If there is anything worse than life kicking your trash, it's the feeling of being alone in the state of being beaten to a pulp. Where's the mercy, the help? Where is God when you need him the most?

I empathize, as these conversations have brought back distinct memories of a period in my life when I felt exactly the same way.

Five Books To Read Before You Serve A Mission

During an LDS missionary's 18 - 24 months of service, he or she is encouraged to read only from the Missionary Reference Library, which includes: Jesus the Christ, Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Our Search for Happiness, and True to the Faith. That small library plus the standard works, Preach My Gospel, and other official Church publications are all a missionary should read while serving.

I remember wishing I had read a few "outside," uplifting, LDS resources before serving my mission. Reading these books before heading out will teach you valuable lessons and give you important principles to reflect on. Check out these five LDS mission prep books...

8 Ways to Embarrass Your Kids (In a Good Way!)

I read somewhere on the internet that parents embarrass their children 14 times a week. I don’t know about the statistical accuracy of the statement, but I believe that we can all remember a time in our adolescence when we felt our cheeks burn red after some comment, outfit, or dance move. Parents embarrass their kids; that’s just a law of nature. It is widely accepted and expected. In most instances, it is viewed as a bad thing. But here, I hope to explain a few ways to embarrass your kids in a good way, and I will even try to prove that it is important to do so. Keep in mind that this is coming from the perspective of a young adult not too far removed from those embarrassing grade school days.
1.      Be “Mushy”
This is the one of the most important purposes of parenthood and is one of the easiest ways to be a good parent. Show your kids that you love them! Believe me, affection conveys parental love much better than buying the newest video game or ordering their favorite pizza for dinner. Lick your thumb and wipe something off of their face. Hug and kiss them a lot. Tell them how much you love them and do it in front of people. Publicly display affection at the grocery store, at church, and especially in front of their friends. Kids, teenagers especially, may push you off or get irritated and call you “embarrassing,” but that’s a fleeting feeling. Their worries about what their friends may think don’t matter because you are showing them what you think of them. Knowing without a doubt that your parents love you enough to publicly display it makes a huge impact, especially during the teenage years. It’s an added bonus if friends or anyone else gets to feel that kind of love.

General Conference Coloring Pages

It's so fun to watch friends from high school grow up and do amazing and inspiring things with their creativity.  This week, one of those friends shares with us how she has used her talents to help her in finding the joy in General Conference and how she has been able to share that joy with others.

Secrets of General Conference from a Former Member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

My mother was a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for over fifteen years, retiring seven years ago. As most people know, Choir Members are called and set apart as Musical Missionaries. Just like full-time missionaries, choir members must apply and meet religious standards. There is also a rigorous audition process.

People often ask, “Do you have to be a fabulous, professional musician in order to become a member of this choir?” Yes, you must meet certain criteria. However, just being a professional musician does not guarantee a spot; it’s a calling, so the spiritual aspect must fit. Some amazing singers have not gotten in for whatever reason—maybe it wasn’t their time, perhaps the Lord needed their talents in other ways.”

In her nearly two decades as a part of “America’s Choir,” my mom sang in 30 General Conferences, never missing one. She remembers, “Conference was a highlight of my time in the choir.” Thus, each April and October she becomes nostalgic, recalling memories of singing and preparing for some of her most favorite performances. Although she now enjoys watching General Conference from home, she shares some memories and behind-the-scenes secrets from “MoTab.

The Non Baptism Day

This post was originally published on The Liahona Project by Sarah Sargent. We post this with her permission.

A high pitched squeal of laughter pierces the otherwise reverent sacrament meeting as my son, Cohen, races at full speed towards the stand. My husband’s feet are heavy and loud as he sprints after him. Besides a few suppressed smiles, barely anyone reacts; maybe they don’t even notice anymore as this is a normal occurrence several times each and every week.

Why Mormons Are Different

I have been a Mormon my whole life. My father converted as a young man, and my grandparents on my mother’s side welcomed the missionaries into their home to try and “prove them wrong,” only to find that the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ was what they had been missing. For 22 years I have benefitted from the dedicated examples of my parents, enjoyed the atmosphere and culture of the church, and I have loved the teachings of Jesus Christ. As I have grown, I have noticed that Mormons can sometimes be considered social anomalies. Certain commonalities amongst members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not quite “normal.” Here are of some of my experiences with these so called “abnormalities.”

Abnormality #1: Serving Full-time Missions

The young men and women of the LDS Church are invited and encouraged to serve full-time missions. This means dedicating 1 ½ -2 years completely to inviting others to come unto Christ. Most young men leave right after high school at the age of 18, and the young women can leave at age 19. Some missionaries stay in the United States, while others travel across the world and learn an entirely new language and culture. For all missionaries, communication with family and friends back home is limited to weekly emails and calls only on Christmas and Mother’s Day, in an effort to maintain focus and dedication to the Lord’s work. (Mark 16:15, D&C 20:59) There are also strict expectations of obedience and responsibility.

10 Quotes about the Temple That Will Inspire You

I See More Clearly My Place

“The mighty perspective of eternity is unraveled before us in the holy temples; we see time from its infinite beginning to its endless end; and the drama of eternal life is unfolded before us. Then I see more clearly my place amidst the things of the universe, my place among the purposes of God; I am better able to place myself where I belong, and I am better able to value and to weigh, to separate and to organize the common, ordinary duties of my life, so that the little things shall not oppress me or take away my vision of the greater things that God has given us.” (Elder John A. Widtsoe, Conference Report, Apr. 1922, pp. 97–98)

Temples Are Places of Personal Revelation

“I testify that temples are places of personal revelation. There have been times when I have been weighed down by problems or difficulties and have gone to the house of the Lord with a prayer in my heart for answers. These answers have come in clear and unmistakable ways. Now, by virtue of the sacred priesthood in me vested, I promise you that, with increased attendance in the temples of our God, you shall receive increased personal revelation to bless your lives as you bless those who have died.” (President Ezra Taft Benson, Frankfurt Germany Temple Dedication, Cornerstone: August 28, 1987; “The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, 85) 

How Cancer Changed My Outlook on Family History

After being challenged with completing 2,016 minutes of family history work throughout the year, I set out to meet that goal. I tried; I really did! 

I easily registered on all the sites.
I found my own records, along with those of my children. 
I searched for my parents and began to follow their lines back to further generations. 

It was going so well that I was excited to do more. Once I simply merged my information with my parents’, my genealogy would also be completed several generations back. Easy, peasy!

But, I couldn't get it to work. Was I really going to have to reenter information that was already correct in another place? Shouldn’t I be able to link to my mother and have all of her ancestors’ names linked to me, as well? Isn’t that what computers do? Suddenly, my well-intentioned goals turned into the mandatory shutting down of my laptop before I threw it across the room in frustration. 

Six Tips for Living after the Manner of Happiness

Sickness, natural disasters, death, financial burdens—the list of life’s stressors could go on and on. Yet while we can’t change what happens to us, we can control how we handle it.

When we signed up for time on earth, we signed up for the bitter and the sweet—a whole lot of sadness and a whole lot of joy, all to help shape and mold us into the people our Father in Heaven want us to be. While it is good and healthy to face our emotion—to be sad, angry, or upset about life—I’ve found that choosing to be happy can help make life a little easier.

Here are six ways I have found to cultivate more happiness in life:

Three Tips For LDS Youth Heading Back To School

The back-to-school season is like a New Year in August. A time for new beginnings, setting new goals, and making changes to better oneself. The daily grind of tests, homework, and school can wear on anyone after a while, but I know that these three tips can bless the lives of LDS youth (or anyone really) heading into this new school year. 

10 of Elder Holland's Best Quotes about Dating and Marriage

Faith has everything do do with romance
“Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does. You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Or, to phrase that more positively, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the path of love and happiness for you and for your sweetheart.”
"How Do I Love Thee?" BYU Devotional, February 15, 2000

Love is what you go through together
I still think the best definition of marital love is James Thurber’s, who said simply that love is what you go through together. I will be eternally grateful for what Pat was willing to go through with me—that she did not feel I had to have my degree and a car and a home and a career all in hand before we could marry.”
"Be Not Afraid, Only Believe" CES Devotional, February 6, 2015

Mastering Optimism in Three Easy Steps

“Kids are the worst!”

This phrase has become a family joke, used to diffuse frustrations in parenting. Most often, it’s in response to a child’s mischief of one kind or another. For example, my brother might call to moan that he hasn’t slept in nearly two years, since his daughter was born. I might respond, “I hear you,” followed by, “Kids are the worst!” (For the record, I love my children and do not truly believe they are the worst.) The joke has helped put tough parenting moments in perspective. Made in complete jest, it gets a good laugh and helps remind us that no parent has perfect days. Let’s face it; there are moments when “the only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it…[because] crying [will give you] a headache.”1

Light-hearted banter about life’s difficulties is one thing, but constantly complaining is no laughing matter. It’s human nature to criticize, grumble, find fault, and murmur. When we seem more likely to “mourn, or think our lot is hard,” how do we begin to see that “all is well"?2 How do we “refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude”?3 Develop gratitude, and you become more optimistic.

How Connecting with Church History Has Strengthened My Testimony and Blessed My Life

Last month, we commemorated the anniversary of the Latter-day Saint pioneers' arrival in the Great Salt Lake Valley. I am grateful for each and every sacrifice they made to help pave the way for me to be where I am today, that I might have the opportunity to prepare to meet God.

When I think about the early pioneers in Church history, my first thoughts are that I have no heritage in Church history and my knowledge of Church history is fairly limited. My husband, Tom, and I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1974, so Church history for us is a mere 42 years, which doesn’t seem like very deep roots. But then as I pondered this, I realized the Church was restored only 186 years ago. So even though I have no ancestors who were there in the beginning, I have actually been a part of this great organization for almost one-quarter of its existence. 

3 Considerations When You Have Spiritual Questions, Doubts, and Confusion

Sometimes in life, events happen that shake our spiritual foundation and leave us with questions, doubts, confusion, or unresolved feelings. We might find ourselves at a crossroads or a standstill, not sure of what to do next. Here are three questions to ask yourself that will help sustain you in a world where it is becoming more and more difficult to discern the darkness from the light.

1. How’s My Vision?

In July of 1952, Florence Chadwick attempted to swim 26 miles between Catalina Island and the California shore. This was not her first attempt at a long-distance swim in open water, as she had already swum the English Channel twice. Small boats surrounded her, keeping her safe from sharks and ready to offer aid if needed. After about 15 hours of swimming, a thick fog emerged. She could not see the coast, the water was chilly, and fatigue crept in. When she asked to be pulled out of the water, her mother, in a boat alongside her, tried to reassure Florence that the shore was near. Still, the physical and emotional exhaustion was too much and she stopped swimming. Sitting in the boat, she realized that the shore was less than a mile away. In a news conference the next day she said, “All I could see was the fog…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.” Two months later she attempted to swim the same channel. Again, a thick fog set in, but this time she kept a mental image of the shoreline and she was able to succeed in reaching the shore.1

3 Lessons For My Children to Learn From Their Pioneer Ancestors

I recently read this article from the Deseret News that encourages LDS Church members to honor their pioneer ancestors this year by telling better stories. It got me thinking about the experiences of some of mine and my wife's ancestors, the lessons they learned from them, and how I can apply them to my life today. Additionally, I want my children to know that their family members who lived years ago learned things that can help us today. Thanks to Family Search and the wonderful Memories feature attached to each person, I was able to find three stories from pioneer ancestors and identify lessons I hope that my children can learn from them someday.

"That I May Heal You": What a Broken-Down Car Taught Me about the Atonement

Having your car break down is never a fun experience. But it's especially challenging when it happens at 5:30 AM on a cold December morning along a snowy stretch of highway in Idaho.

I had noticed in the days previous to this incident that something was off with our car, but life was so full of to-do's that I ignored the warning signs and simply drove on -- until, that is, the vehicle became inoperable and I sat stranded on the side of a long and lonely highway.

Three Lessons Learned from Preach My Gospel That I Still Use Today

In 2004, the Church introduced Preach My Gospel as the main resource for missionaries to use and study during their service, and in doing so, changed how missionary work was done. 

President Gordon B. Hinckley said during a “Missionary Service,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting in 2002:
“[Missionaries] should master the concepts of the lessons. But they should … teach the concepts in their own words under the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit.”
This method of teaching was not new to the mission field, but teaching it as the foundation of how to teach, find, and baptize was new. 

My Prayer for Two Future Sons-in-Law

I am confident that every dad who’s ever had a daughter can relate to at least some of what I’ve been feeling lately. Pardon the cliché, but it feels like just yesterday that my wife and I were bringing our first child, a daughter, home from the hospital in Austin, Texas. Now suddenly that daughter has her first Stake Young Women’s camp under her belt, she’s starting middle school later this fall, and she will be a teenager next spring. I don’t mind admitting I am in denial that my little girl is not so little any more. With a mixture of anxiety and awe, I realize that before I know it, six more years will fly by, and she’ll be heading off to college. (We have a private agreement about where she’s going.)

How Living in NYC Has Taught Me to Serve

About a year ago, my husband, young son, and I packed up our suburban lives and relocated to a tiny apartment in Brooklyn, New York. Indefinitely. It was not our first time in the city, so we had at least an idea of the culture shock that would be involved in our transition. Still, we were up for the challenge and looked forward to this new adventure.

What More Can I Do? — The Unexpected Challenge of Service

Moving to any new community brings with it a new direction and myriad of challenges. Twelve years ago, our family of six found ourselves in that situation moving to the Bryan/College Station area.

It was a challenge but not in the way I expected. Getting the kids settled in new schools, settling into a new job, and establishing new routines made us a part of the college town hustle and bustle, but there was something different about this community the we all felt almost immediately. 

Here in Aggieland, the challenge for me was sensing the strong spirit of service and knowing how to be a part of it. Having three kids of my own still at home and one away at college, I had plenty of opportunities to serve my own family but I just couldn’t get away from a feeling of needing to do more.

Three Favorite Church History Sites and Lessons I Learned There

Eleven years ago this month, you could find me on a bus with more than 100 other recently graduated high schoolers stopping at dozens of LDS Church History sites across the country for three straight weeks. 

Heritage Tours isn't the typical graduation trip the world thinks of. In addition to riding a bus for hours on end, we studied the scriptures and gospel readings to go along with each site. We were challenged to give away pass along cards every chance we got and even a Book of Mormon if the opportunity presented itself. 

It was a great experience, one that I will never forget and one that really helped build and strengthen the foundation of my testimony. It came at a crucial time just a few months before I left on my mission, and it helped me feel of the truthfulness of the gospel first hand. 

Here are three less popular LDS Church history sites, but ones where I had experiences that helped shape my testimony greatly.

7 Powerful Poems President Thomas S. Monson Has Shared in General Conference

Ordained an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ on October 10, 1963, President Thomas S. Monson, 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been sharing powerful sermons in general conference for more than five decades. The personal stories President Monson frequently shares have endeared him to members of the Church of all ages throughout the world. President Monson also commonly uses literary devices as a part of his messages. In one familiar example of alliteration, President Monson has often reminded us that "decisions determine destiny." ("Decisions Determine Destiny," Fireside Address, November 6, 2005).

President Monson also has a beautiful way of integrating poetry into his sermons. Below are seven examples of powerful poems President Monson has used in his general conference addresses. These poems are great material for a Family Home Evening lesson or can be a source of inspiration during personal study. In each case, we can ponder the message President Monson wanted us to learn from the poem:

1. "Prayer" quoted in "We Never Walk Alone" in October 2013:

I know not by what methods rare,
But this I know, God answers prayer.
I know that He has given His Word,
Which tells me prayer is always heard,
And will be answered, soon or late.
And so I pray and calmly wait.
I know not if the blessing sought
Will come in just the way I thought;
But leave my prayers with Him alone,
Whose will is wiser than my own,
Assured that He will grant my quest,
Or send some answer far more blest. (1)

The Works of God are Manifest, Sometimes in Whipped Cream

It was a cold day just before Christmas, a year and a half ago. I sat in my car, on the side of the road. I was panting and sweating from deflecting the blows of my large, mentally disabled preteen son, Jack, and holding him from climbing into the backseat and hurting his younger brothers.

Jack had had a violent outburst as I ordered his fries at a drive-through window, and everything went horribly awry. He attacked me, relentlessly, as I tried to drive us home to safety. When we reached a busy intersection, Jack kicked the gearshift into reverse. The car stalled. I screamed. Cars barreled past. Jack punched and kicked me. He bashed his head against the car window and tried to unlock the door to escape.

“Lord, help me!” I yelled.

It was the first, but not the last time I have shouted a prayer.

Jack suddenly quieted down. He stopped hitting. He began to cry. Miraculously, no cars hit us in the intersection. I put the car in drive and pulled off the road to call my husband, Jeff, to come help us.

Writing My "Last Words" -- A Sincere and Sacred Experience

Several years ago, my friend and Relief Society president concluded a year-long process of ministering to a terminally ill sister in our ward. For her first Sunday lesson following the funeral, my friend gave inspired counsel—things she learned during the final days of this less-active sister's life. There were several powerful takeaways from her lesson, but the one that touched me the most was the suggestion to write last words for your loved ones. The Spirit confirmed to me the importance of this exercise. That said, I dreaded what I knew would be an emotionally taxing experience. But after a good, long, ugly cry my task was complete. Since then I've had another baby, so I sat down recently and wrote last words for my youngest son. While it's a solemn topic, I know that it can be a wonderful spiritual experience. I would like to share five reasons why you should consider writing last words for your own loved ones.

5 Favorite Lists Used Within the LDS Church

Listicles became popular about five years ago and quickly began being consumed by people all over the internet. They are defined as being "an article on the Internet presented in the form of a numbered or bullet-pointed list." A combination of a list and an article. The idea has gained popularity because it is so quick and easy to get all of your desired information in just a few short bullet points.

Listing tips and helps isn't something new. Even the Lord likes to makes lists--to help us. Below are a list of five lists common used and read in church that I love. Their teachings reach further and deeper than the few short words used.

Here are my favorite lists used within the LDS Church...

Eight General Conference Talks about Motherhood and Women

Mothers Who Know, Julie B. Beck – October 2007
When mothers know who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him, they will have great power and influence for good on their children...
Mothers who know are leaders. In equal partnership with their husbands, they lead a great and eternal organization. These mothers plan for the future of their organization.

7 Truths to Teach Your Children about the Temple

Earlier this month, my wife and I took our oldest child to the temple for the first time. She had just turned 12 years old. It was a sacred and joyous occasion, one we had looked forward to for many years with great anticipation. Our experience at the temple with our daughter exceeded even our highest expectations and was a highlight of our 12 years of parenting. There are few things I hope for more as a father than that my children will cherish the temple and always remain worthy to enter and learn within its sacred walls.

I have reflected this month on the truths our children need to understand about the temple. I believe they need to understand these truths at a younger and younger age, well before they reach the age of 12 and can enter the temple for the first time to perform baptisms on behalf of their own ancestors. As parents, we must take the time to teach our children plain and simple truths about the temple that will help them look to the temple as a beacon that will guide them safely back to our Father in Heaven’s presence. Here are 7 truths we can all teach our children about the temple today:

3 Experiences That Prove to Me Compassion Always Wins

It’s not hard to be kind and generous to those whom we see deserving of our compassionate acts – taking a meal to a new mother or someone who’s ill, providing financial assistance to a family who is struggling out of no fault of their own, or offering periodic childcare for our close friends. But how much harder is it to have compassionate responses to people during their worst moments? Perhaps it’s someone with an illness or disease brought on by poor lifestyle choices, the disadvantaged family that chooses to have more children, or the child who burns her hand after you told her not to touch the stove. For some reason, we sometimes feel that a person does not deserve our help or empathy because their suffering comes from their mistakes or poor choices.

The parable of the ineffective Weed & Feed: What a dead patch taught me about faith and hope

We all have trials, and most of the time I think we do a pretty good job of dealing with them. But for the last few months, I have to admit I’ve let mine get the best of me. While I’m usually a pretty optimistic person, I allowed a series of ill-timed setbacks in my work to strip away that optimism and replace it with a sense of hopelessness and doubt toward God that is uncommon to my psyche. After weeks of praying and asking for some form of guidance, I had an experience that helped change my perspective.

What surprised me was that the experience had nothing to do with my work. Instead, the Lord took the opportunity to teach me while I was free from distractions, working in my yard.

Because of Your Tickets — A Story From General Conference

"Tell me about yourself."

That's the question posed to me over the weekend while I stood on the corner outside the LDS Conference Center hoping to get tickets to the General Priesthood session Saturday evening. 

Caught off guard by the question and while trying to come up with a worthy answer, I said something like, "Uh... I live here and want to go to conference." Really eloquent, right? 
Despite my less-than-impressive response, he gave me and my friend tickets for two great seats and we quickly hurried into the Conference Center. 

The session was great and it was neat to sit so close to the brethren and feel the spirit radiating from them.

However, after the session, I was still bothered by my response to the man's simple question. If I could meet that man again, here's what I would hope to say to him.

4 Things I Wish Parents Understood about Protecting Their Children from Pornography

As societies across the globe become more and more accepting of immorality, it can sometimes feel like protecting our families from the onslaught of pornography is an insurmountable task. What can we do to stem the tide? As a parent, I worry about the risk that my own children will be exposed to pornography in spite of my efforts to protect them. As a bishop, I pray earnestly for the Youth in my ward (and around the world) to recognize the seriousness of the threat pornography presents to all of us individually and to our society collectively. I applaud Youth everywhere who resist the pull of pornography and find the strength to say “No!” when pornography knocks at their door, or worse yet, when it barges into their lives totally uninvited.

Uplifting Easter Resources

One of my favorite general authority quotes comes from Elder Bruce R. McConkie when he said...
"How do we know that Jesus is the Christ? It's because he was resurrected.
How do we know that Jesus was resurrected? It's because of witnesses."

4 Non-LDS Books Sure to Inspire Your Faith

Truth is all around us and comes in many various forms. I enjoy finding truths in the diverse books I read – whether it be books about parenting, fiction, historical, biographies, or self-help. One of life’s great joys is to open a book and learn from its pages, to be inspired, to feel, and to grow. A favorite daily endeavor of mine is to listen to audio-books as I ride the subway every day. Time after time, I’ve found myself feeling uplifted, inspired, more compassionate, and with a commitment to myself to be a better person – which is amazing to me given the hectic surroundings around me. Here are four of my favorite books that have been an inspiration to me.

Abraham Lincoln – A Man of Faith and Courage
by Joe Wheeler

13 Common Idioms with Scriptural Roots

It’s no secret that the English language is “chock full” of idioms, short figurative expressions we use to “paint a picture” with our words. But what may surprise you is that some of the most common idioms we use have scriptural roots. This week we share 13 of our favorites. See how many of these references you already knew!

Six Talks to Help You Better Understand the Sacrament

As as child, I remember looking for and picking the biggest piece of bread in each sacrament tray that passed me. As a youth, I looked forward to the sacrament because it gave me some quiet time to sort my thoughts and reflect on the previous day's game. Making sure my mind and heart are in the proper place has always been a struggle for me, even now, as most Sundays I am trying to wrangle my three kids and make sure they are quiet and reverent during the week's most sacred minutes. However, I have found that when I am prepared, focused, and willing, the few fleeting moments of the weekly sacrament can bring strength and peace and make my Sabbath Day holy. Here are six talks that can help us understand and get more out of the sacramental time we have each week.

Learn Wisdom in Thy Youth: Part 2 of Our Interview with Taysom and Emily Hill

Last fall, we sat down with Taysom and Emily Hill for an interview in their home in Provo, Utah. Among the topics we discussed were the lessons Taysom’s football injuries had taught them both about the importance of trusting in the Lord. Since that time, Taysom’s plans for his final season of college football have materialized, much to the delight of BYU football fans around the country.

In this post, we asked Taysom and Emily about their experiences growing up as Youth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In their responses, you’ll read about what they learned from their parents; when they first felt they had a personal testimony of the restored gospel; what lessons Taysom learned on his full-time mission; and what advice they would give to LDS Youth around the world. Through this post, we hope you’ll see a glimpse of the blessings and strength that have come into the Hills’ lives through their choices to take to heart Alma’s counsel to “learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God” (Alma 37:35).

Q: What was it like growing up in a place where there weren't very many Mormons?

6 LDS Temples That Are Special to Me

At one point in our 10 years of marriage, my husband and I decided to make the temple a focal point in our family. As I reflect back on six temples that have made a deep impact on my life, I am reminded of the blessings the temple brings and hope that I can plant a seed in the heart of my young son.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Dedicated April 6, 1893. Iconic to me growing up in the Salt Lake valley, it was my first temple experience as a youth going to do baptisms for the dead. I felt special to be able to enter into this House of the Lord, and it was one of my first experiences of feeling the Spirit. Of course, I also have fond memories of walking Temple Square, attending the Tabernacle and Conference Center, and seeing the brilliant display of lights at Christmas time. These are special experiences that I’ve delighted in sharing with my husband and son.

5 LDS Talks to Read With Your Valentine

When we were engaged and newly married we received a lot of advice on how to be successful in marriage. Some of it was good, some was not so good. We did some research and reading ourselves too. Each read offered helpful and inspiring insights into the new world of marriage. The 5 Love Languages gave us secular knowledge and understand of one another, and Between Husband & Wife: Gospel Perspectives on Marital Intimacy respectfully taught us about the wonderful unknown of marriage. 

In the end, some of the most helpful lessons have come from reading the inspired messages in the Ensign and words of prophets and apostles. Together, we decided to share five LDS talks and articles that have taught us lessons about marriage and love. We hope that you can gain something from them too. Enjoy.

A Bishop's Testimony

A bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has many responsibilities, including working with full-time missionaries, less-active members of the church, and Young Men and Young Women. The greatest challenges is not to bring converts into the church, reactivate members, or help Young Women and Young Men through their challenging years; the greatest challenge is to bring individuals and families to a greater understanding of Jesus Christ and teach them of the love He has for each of them. My testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel is built on the following truths.

1.    In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. Genesis 1:1

In the October 2015 General Conference, Elder Devin Durrant invited us to ponderize on one verse of scripture each week. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus commanded us that when we are in doubt, we should ponder: “Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.”[1] The word ponder is also found in Proverbs 4:26, Proverbs 5:21, Proverbs 24:12, Luke 2:19, 1 Nephi 11:1, 2 Nephi 4:15, 2 Nephi 32:1, Helaman 10:2, 3 Nephi 17:3, Moroni 10:3, D&C 30:3, D&C 138:1 and in Joseph Smith history 1:47.