Sunday, December 21, 2008

I'm not much for Christmas. I don't get all magical spazical about it. I enjoy the music and the lights, but I usually get frustrated with all the "gift stuff". When the kids were teeny tiny it was a bit different, but even then I was sensitive about all the commercialism. I've become more comfortable with my scrooge-like attitude and actually have been quite relieved that people seem to be a bit more calm this year. I feel like for the first time in a long time people are thinking more about what they have, what they need, and more about what they can make or do for someone instead of spending lots of money on things people don't need.

I understand people need to buy stuff to keep the economy going, but at the same time I appreciate it when things settle down a little bit. Now if we could just get past the, "What did you get for Christmas?" questions I would be ecstatic.

I haven't even gotten a family Christmas letter out this year. I guess I'll write one on here. Sometime in the next little bit, perhaps.

carry on.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Staying inside the moment

I was just thinking about how pretty the colors of the leaves are on the trees and how they would soon be gone and there wouldn't be any color left. I tried to catch my thought before it went too far because I'm working on trying to stay within a moment rather than shoot my thoughts out into the unpredictable, mysterious future. (Even though it's fairly predictable that the leaves on the trees will fall, it's the mental exercise I'm talking about.) It's a challenge for me because sometimes my painful moments add up and I don't much like staying inside of them. It's a dreary day and my heart feels dreary.

A man shared his testimony yesterday and in it he said that things have been pretty tough at work and one night at the dinner table one of his kids asked the mom why dad didn't smile anymore. I think many of us get caught up inside of our moments of worry and anxiety and those moments stretch beyond out intentions. There aren't immediate solutions to some of our dilemmas and as we are thinking of ways to change our current situation our thoughts can get stuck. They become particularly sticky when we can't seem to find a way out of our problem.

The man who shared his testimony is someone whom I would not have thought about being in a difficult situation. How often do we assume everyone else is doing fine unless they say something to the contrary? We had a lesson in RS yesterday about self reliance and I was thinking about whether or not everyone in the room was financially self reliant. I wondered what it was like to feel like no matter how much money you had it was enough, instead of wondering how to get more money. I wondered how many people were thinking what I was thinking, and how many were saying things that were based on everything we should be doing rather than what their personal situation is really like.

Anyway...these are my thoughts inside of this moment. I'm thinking about how desperate some people might be feeling right now and what kinds of prayers they are saying. Are their prayers like mine? We might believe the Lord is watching over us and our needs will be met but we still wonder how that is going to happen over time. Perhaps I'm not self reliant enough in terms of faith. How much does a moment of faith cost?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sermon on the Mount

Teaching the Sermon on the Mount last week in sunday school was tough. I wondered HOW we are supposed to be meek, pure in heart, peacemakers, not judge, turn the other cheek, live the golden rule, and on and on. The verses didn't say, "and this is how you do it." I thought about what it meant to be that kind of person -- someone who never gets angry, never lets pride creep in, and only considers treasures in heaven (even while in debt).

And then, during yesterday's lesson I wrote the things Jesus taught when he visited the Nephites on the chalkboard (from last week and this week). We studied ch. 17 of Third Nephi which begins: "I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words..."

And then, we ended with an answer to my question of HOW to do what Jesus taught.

ch. 19 verse 33:
"And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed."

This is what I taught my students as my hands swept across the board showing them all that Jesus had said and done -- we can only do these things if our hearts are open.

The process of teaching taught me.

My heart knows how to do the things he taught, so why am I weak?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The freedom to vote as we choose.

My nephew recently moved to California for graduate school and posted a blog about the gay marriage proposition that is on the ballot this fall and the Church meetings he has recently attended. His post encouraged me to write my own.

I have been struggling with the idea that Church leaders are telling members of their congregation to send money and call people to vote a specific way in an election. I can appreciate when they tell members to get involved in the political process and to exercise their right to vote, but I have a hard time with them telling people how to cast their vote. I believe the voting process is personal and, dare I say, sacred.

Every time politics is brought up in a Church meeting it feels awkward to me. I can look around and see other people who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ as I do, but we have vastly different opinions when it comes to political issues. Opinions, opinions, opinions - some informed, some ill-informed, some wacko, some clueless, some hurtful, some silent, and some inspired.

The argument is that this proposition is a moral issue and the LDS Church leaders have a responsibility to speak out against gay marriage. If so, fine, they can preach doctrine and whatever else they desire, but then leave it up to the people to decide. I would prefer they tell them to study the issue and vote according to their conscience.

My issue in this post is not about whether gay marriage is right or wrong, but rather it is about the voting process. Yes, people still have the right to step into the voting booth and make their own choice, so perhaps this is a moot argument. Nevertheless, it still bothers me.

As for gay marriage....well, I am a sociologist.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Just in case anyone is actually checking to see if there is a new post I'm letting y'all know that I will one day post some pics. I'm not even kidding. As far as writing a post in the near future --- I've pulled out my book to start writing again. I have a love/hate relationship with this project. I love the process of writing in some ways, and find it very painful in other ways. Mostly because the words on the paper never fully express, describe, articulate, or fully emote the feelings I have in my heart nor the delightful eloquence that they seem to have in my mind prior to trying to type them out. Also, I just edited an entire chapter to the point that is is barely recognizable from before. I fear that will be the case with every chapter and it feels as if this process could very well be endless! In other words, my writing energy is being expended elsewhere. I may post again soon and I may not. You are always welcome to check back, leave comments of a supportive nature, and breath peace and happiness.
carry on.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chaim Potok books

I AM THE CLAY, story takes place during the Korean War.

Old Men at Midnight, 3 stories in one book - first, a story about a Holocause survivor; second, a story about a KGB officer during WWI and WWII; and third, a story of a man writing his memoir and remembering forgotten pieces of his childhood. Excerpts from this book are below.

p. 74 Davita (one who gathers stories) speaking to former KGB officer.
"...But I would never put anything in writing."
"Then your stories will die with you."
"So they will. Who needs stories of yet another Jew?"
"I need them. Without stories there is nothing. Stories are the world's memory. The past is erased without stories."

p. 268 (speaking of the ram in the story of Abraham and Isaac)
Davita is talking to the man in the third story. She first made a comment about the ram in an earlier conversation and he brings it up again.
"You know about rams."
She turned to look at him. "My stories are about what the world is like when there are no rams. Benjamin, as a person whose specialty is war, doesn't the ram interest you?"

(Thinking about the ram in a battle situation is quite profound.)

At the end of the book there is a conversation with Chaim Potok. The book is about the tensions Jews faced in their transition from a war-torn Europe and an emerging American society. He makes this comment (which as a sociologist I quite enjoy).

"I think I have inadvertently stumbled across a cultural dynamic that I didn't quite see clearly myself until sometime toward the end of the writing of The Chosen. I think what I am really writing about is culture war. The overarching culture in which we all live is the culture we call Western secular humanism...Within this culture there is a whole spectrum of subcultures. The basic characteristic of the over-arching culture is what I call the open-ended hypothesis; that is to say, nothing is absolute in any kind of permanent way. A model is a shifting or temporary absolute on the assumption that additional data will be discovered that will impinge upon a given model. That model must be altered. So there is a constant search for new knowledge that is built into the civilization that we live in, this overarching civilization. But embedded inside this civilization we have a whole series of cultures which come into this world with givens, with models that are fixed absolutes. If they are alterable, they are alterable only under inordinate pressure. What happens is that these subcultures clash in a variety of ways with the overarching culture, as somebody from this subulture grows up and encounters elements from the outside model."

Yes. This is not only the case with "displaced" people, but this idea can be applied to various subcultures within our country. A mormon leaving a small mormon community, an amish teenager leaving the community, adjusting to a new school/religion/family; and, we could even go so far as to say that anyone who has been isolated in any way will one day face this model when introduced to a new idea or even a new discovery. With the speed of technology we may find people facing this model as they try to keep up with a culture that feels as if it is racing away from them.

carry on.

Monday, August 25, 2008


"It's hard to make room for what is no longer there."

Mary E. Martin, poem called "Loss"
Where is the rest of the poem?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Excerpts from book on Civil War

Maybe the House and the Senate would get more done if they did things the old fashioned way. An excerpt from the book, The Civil War, A Narrative, Fort Sumter to Perryville, by Shelby Foote - (a mere 810 pages):

p. 15
(speaking of Jefferson Davis) "Returned to the Senate in 1857, he continued to work along these lines, once more a southern champion, not as a secessionist, but as a believer that the destiny of the nation pointed south. It was a stormy time, and much of the bitterness between the sections came to a head on the floor of the Senate, where northern invective and southern arrogance necessarily met...Here, too, the anti-slavery Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner had his head broken by Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina, who, taking exception to remarks Sumner had made on the floor of the Senate regarding a kinsman, caned him as he sat at his desk. Brooks explained that he attacked him sitting because, Sumner being the larger man, he would have had to shoot him if he had risen, and he did not want to kill him, only maim him. Sumner lay bleeding in the aisle among the gutta-percha fragments of the cane, and his enemies stood by and watched him bleed..."

Another quote. This is about Abraham Lincoln. (It reminds me a bit of special interest groups, or very loud groups like the Christian Coalition, or any kind of extremist group in 2008.)

p. 68
"In early May he had said to his young secretary, 'For my part I consider the central idea pervading this struggle is the necessity that is upon us of proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle this question now, whether in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose. If we fail it will go far to prove the incapacity of the people to govern themselves.' Two months later, addressing Congress, he developed this theme, just as he was to continue to develop it through the coming months and years, walking the White House corridors at night, speaking from balconies and rear platforms to upturned faces, or looking out over new cemeteries created by this war: 'The issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man the question whether...a government of the people, by the same people, can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes.'"

Something to think about...

carry on

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cancer blog

LeRoy Sievers died this weekend. He wrote a daily blog on NPR entitled, "Cancer World". For the past little bit I've wondered everday when I opened his blog if it would say that he had passed away. He had made the decision just a few days ago to go into hospice care. I read about his death in the newspaper this morning. I still opened his blog today.

I first saw LeRoy on a program on the discovery health channel several months ago. He was on a panel with Elizabeth Edwards, Lance Armstrong, and another person whose name escapes me, and they were being interviewed by Ted Koppel. It was in a theatre in the round type of setting with people in the audience who were doctors, nurses, patients, family; and, I believe the program was in two parts. It was all about people living with cancer. I learned from it. I wanted to know more, so I started reading LeRoy's blog.

I don't know exactly why I read his blog everyday. I don't have cancer. I think it's because I've always been fascinated by how people deal with adversity in their lives. In other words, how do people survive?

I will miss reading about his daily life. He took me into 'cancer world', and as an outsider looking in, I was able to see a world that hundreds of thousands of people live everday. His blog gave me a sharper perspective of life.

I will miss reading his words and feeling his experiences. He offered an opportunity for people from all walks of life to connect in a world that stripped away many of their differences and gave them an outlet to share their stories and support one another.

I feel sad. I didn't know him personally and that's why it's interesting to me that I actually feel like I know a very special part of him. Our experiences, thoughts, and feelings can be expressed in words that have great impact on people's lives. Think about it...

carry on.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I'm not dead yet

This is for thespians who love Monty Python's "I'm not dead yet". Some of it is tough to understand but "the moments" are worth it.

"I feeeel happyyyyy."

(Just learned how to embed videos so having a bit 'o fun.)

This video rocks my 70's soul.
Disco balls rule the world!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cloning dogs and organs

I just read about scientists in South Korea who cloned five dogs. This after reading the book, Never Let Me Go , by Kazuo Ishiguro. I'm not recommending the book, unless of course, you want to take a ride into Creepsville. This is a story from the perspective of a woman who was a clone. She was raised with other clones for the purpose of organ donation. Perhaps it was so unsettling for me because it didn't seem too far removed from the possible.

As the gap widens between the "haves" and the "have nots" I think there will be a lot of things that are unsettling and ringing the truth of "the love of man waxing cold".

An interesting documentary about kidney bargaining in India provides evidence that people are being used as donors unjustly. This documentary reported that the government will pay roughly $1500 for kidney donation, and then the donor can make a bargain with the recipient for whatever amount they can agree upon for the organ donation. Of course, poor people are the ones donating and the rich are basically buying an organ (or life). Is it unjust if the poor are being compensated for their "loss"? What happens when a poor person needs a kidney?

Mostly people who are in debt are offering themselves as donors. One man used his donor money to buy a taxi. He got in an accident and the taxi caught on fire. He was then in the same financial situation as before his donation (Americans are wondering why his insurance didn't pay for his taxi...think about who you are and what you have). One woman who was responsible for taking care of her younger siblings did not have enough money for rent or food. She felt like her only recourse was to sell an organ. What a fascinating picture of class structure and power.

There are those who argue that lives can be saved with the discovery of cloning organs. Is it possible to save everyone from everything? I read an interesting article several years ago by a scientist writing about what would happen if there were no deaths from draughts, famine, and other natural occurances where people can receive food, water, medicine from relief agencies as opposed to natural disasters like earthquakes, etc. where some people inevitably die. He made the point that if everyone was saved from nearly everything it would challenge the natural coming and going of life on the planet. Does that mean we just let people die? His article wasn't about humanitarian efforts, it was about the capability of the earth sustaining life for people when natural (and cyclical) death is prevented. He presented an interesting argument - one that people tend to shy away from because we are programmed to think of death as something to avoid, no matter what. Even if it means test tube babies for the purpose of harvesting organs?

Note: I'm actually impressed by the use of umbilical cords for stem cell research. I'm not sure if I'm all too keen on manufacturing, or cloning life, for the sole purpose of obtaining a particular cell. Something to think about...

carry on.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

This is the text for my talk in Sacrament Meeting, July 27, 2008. I only had enough time to share the first section. I enjoyed writing it, nevertheless.

Purpose: To help us understand that our faith in God is what carries us through our lives.

It’s July 27th today. The early pioneers of the Church entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. In celebration of their journey I am using a pioneer theme for my remarks today.

Gordon B. Hinckley wrote an article called, “The Faith of the Pioneers”, in the July 1984 Ensign Magazine. In this article he wrote:

“It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, {but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries.} Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all, for each of us is a pioneer in his own life…”

He also writes a statement that I am using as an outline for my talk:
“Oh, how much is faith needed in each of our lives – faith in ourselves, faith in our associates, and faith in the living God.”

Faith in ourselves

Even though there are many converts to the Church who do not have a direct blood line to the early pioneers, I believe we have a spiritual bloodline, so to speak, to the early saints in both the time of Christ and in the early days of the restored Church. We all have to venture forth into wild frontiers to have our faith tested.

Throughout time, those of us who understand we are children of God thrive on our faith. As individuals, every experience in our past that we’ve endured, the challenges we are presently facing, plus those we will encounter, are all in some way wrapped up in our faith.

Over the years as I’ve read about the early pioneers I have come to believe that the sacrifices they made and the incredible hardships they endured were a result of their testimonies. They believed that the Book of Mormon was true and they believed that Joseph Smith was a prophet. These beliefs motivated them to make decisions in their lives that required courage and faithful endurance.

Most of the early converts did not see the prophet before they were baptized, yet they believed he was a prophet and they were willing to follow his counsel to gather to Zion. When I think of their faith I am reminded of the story of one of Jesus’ apostles named Thomas.

In the book of John, chapter 20, Jesus has been resurrected and he shows himself to Mary Magdalene and then to some of his disciples.
Verses 24-31:
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

The early members of the restored Church who were faithful honored their beliefs, and their testimonies carried them through all kinds of life experiences. They made choices based on their faith even when they could not see the outcome. In the same way, our faith is carrying us through everything we are faced with in our lives.

A meaningful quote for me was said by Elder Russell Ballard in a Conference address from April, 1977.
“Life isn’t always easy. At some point in our journey we may feel much as the pioneers did as they crossed the Iowa – up to our knees in mud, forced to bury some of our dreams along the way. We all face rocky ridges, with the wind in our face and winter coming on too soon. Sometimes it seems as though there is no end to the dust that stings our eyes and clouds our vision. Sharp edges of despair and discouragement jut out of the terrain to slow our passage. …Occasionally we reach the top of one summit in life, as the pioneers did, only to see more mountain peaks ahead, higher and more challenging than the one we have just traversed. Tapping unseen reservoirs of faith and endurance, we, as did our forebears, inch ever forward toward that day when our voices can join with those of all pioneers who have endured in faith, singing, ‘All is well! All is well!’”

I’ve pondered the expression, “Tapping unseen reservoirs of faith and endurance…” I wonder if individual pioneers weren’t like us when faced with overwhelming challenges. Most likely there were times when they weren’t able to think of a way to get through certain situations. They probably wondered how they were going to endure in the same way we do when we are faced with trials. There are times when there isn’t a plan that we can devise to get ourselves out of certain dilemmas, but somehow we pull through. Somehow, we hold on to our faith and turn our hearts to God and we tap into an ‘unseen reservoir of faith’, and we find the strength to put one foot in front of the other, even when we don’t feel strong enough. We keep going when we can’t see how we are going to make it, and we keep going during those days when the light can’t seem to penetrate our thoughts and we are unable to see God’s hand in our lives.

Even as the saints were being driven from Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1846, new immigrants were pouring into the city. Can you imagine what it would have been like to finally arrive at your long awaited destination and saying to yourself, “Yes. I made it to Zion,” only to have Zion moving across the river? All of your resources are gone and the promises that the Elders made about the great city of Nauvoo are being driven away by angry mobs. Perhaps they felt just a bit overwhelmed.

What about when the first pioneers to reach the Salt Lake valley were in the last stretch before they reached a point where they could actually see the great valley. This was the time when the word ‘great’ was used to describe the size of the valley and not necessarily what it looked like. When they got their first look and they began to exclaim, “Yes. I made it to Zion.” Did they stop themselves and question the meaning of the word, ‘Zion’? Did they wonder if a wrong turn had been made somewhere back along the trail? I remember reading one pioneer’s written account of looking out over the valley and being convinced that she no longer had to worry about the enemy following the saints.

It took a lot of hard work to make the ‘desert blossom like a rose’, and I imagine it took a lot of faith for those first pioneers seeing the valley to actually visualize its blossoming.

What was it that kept the early saints moving forward?
Referring to the pioneers President Hinckley said,
“It was by the power of faith that they threaded their way up the Elkhorn and along the Platte, past Chimney Rock, and on to South Pass, down the Sweetwater to Independence Rock, and finally over Big Mountain and into Salt Lake valley.”

So many of the early converts left home and family and gave up the familiarity of their lives to join a religion that required a great deal of sacrifice. I can only imagine what it must have been like for a mother traveling across the plains to experience the death of her child and have to bury it in an unmarked grave along the side of the trail. She then had to carry on even though a piece of her heart was buried back in the grave with her child. Perhaps, the revelation given to the prophet regarding the salvation of children ran through her mind and touched her soul with a calming peace. “But behold, I say unto you, that little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten; (D&C 29:46),.

I believe faith keeps us moving when we want to give up. Faith lifts us up when we don’t see how we can make it one more day. Faith in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ, forces our hearts to beat when they feel broken and irreparable. Faith pulls the power of the Holy Ghost into our lives and we witness miracles that could not be seen without the eyes of faith.

For me, one of the most interesting things about faith is how it works in our lives without our even realizing what’s happening. Often, it isn’t until we’ve made it through to the other side of some of our darkest trials that we look back in amazement and question how we endured. And, even though we make it through many experiences we think might perhaps kill us, we still wonder how we are going to get through whatever we are facing this time. Is faith a teacher we easily forget?

When we wonder how we’re going to make it through something difficult, or we wonder if we have enough faith to endure, we might ask ourselves:
Do I believe in God?
Do I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?
If you believe in God, and you are doing your best to keep His commandments, then you have given your heart to God, and I’m telling you, the Holy Ghost is gonna be all over you.

God knows our hearts. He knows our desires. He knows how much we love Him. Every time we offer our heart to God, we receive His grace. We do the best we can with what we have been given and through our faith in Jesus Christ we receive the grace we need to make up the difference between what we can give, and perfect love.

President Hinckley said the following about the early pioneers, and I believe it is the same for us, “…A personal and individual recognition of God their Eternal Father to whom they could look in faith was of the very essence of their strength.”

Faith in others

In the book of Daniel we learn about King Nebuchadnezzar and how he brought a certain number of the children of Israel who were well-favoured, wise, and knowledgeable into his kingdom. Among these were Daniel, Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego. I’m skipping the story of Daniel in chapters one and two, and jumping to chapter three into the story of his friends. To refresh your memory I need to tell you that Daniel had become a great man and the king had made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and he had requested that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be set over the affairs of the province of Babylon.

So, now we come to the point of the story where Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold that was 9 feet wide and 90 feet high. He gathered all of the princes, governors, and so forth to the dedication of this golden image. The people were told that when they heard music play they were to fall down and worship the golden image. Verse 6“And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.

It soon came to the attention of the King that Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego had not fallen down to worship the image and in his rage and fury the king commanded that they be brought before him.
Verses 15-18
Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of …all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

So, they were saying that even if God did not deliver them, they still wouldn’t worship the golden image. What I need to point out here is the combined faith of these men. When they address the king they are speaking collectively when they say, “If it be so, OUR God” whom WE serve is able to deliver US, and WE will not worship your golden image. They make it clear that they were in this situation together and they stood firm together. Shadrack didn’t say, “O King, I’m going to be just fine, but I don’t know about these two men.” In fact, it doesn’t say that any one particular individual answered the king. The scripture says that all three answered.

As you might have guessed, Nebuchadnezzar was furious with their response and commanded the furnace be heated seven times more. He had his mightiest men in the army cast them in, and the flame of the fire was so hot that it killed the men that threw them in.

Verses 23-28
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counselors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counselors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.

This is an amazing story. In my mind, these men were pioneers because they set themselves apart from the idol worshippers. Perhaps every time we stand up for our beliefs we are pioneers because we are on a journey that sets us apart from those who aren’t interested in seeking truth. For all pioneers there has been, and will be, a frontier out in front of us that we haven’t traveled across before. How much easier is it to walk across the unknown with faithful people at our side?

The three men in this story were figuratively their own little wagon train embarking on a trip into the frontier of righteousness. The road they were taking was leading them away from the enemies of God. They didn’t know how their journey was going to end, but they put their trust in God and moved forward with faith. In many cases, that’s all any of us can do. Step by step and day by day we pray for strength and move along with faith. We are particularly blessed when we feel the presence of that “fourth person in the furnace”. Whether an angel of the Lord, or the Lord himself, we are promised companionship along our way.

In the book of John, chapter 14, Jesus is speaking to his disciples shortly before his death when he says in verses 15-18:

If ye love me, keep my commandments.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

The Holy Ghost can provide comfort when we personally need it, and it can also reveal to us the truth of what other people are feeling. Our fellow saints provide us with examples of faith on a regular basis. How does it affect our own faith when we see others faithfully enduring in remarkably tough situations? Do we change the words in our prayers when we witness the humility and courage of someone we know who is suffering?

In Paul’s message to the Thessalonians he wrote in chapter 5, verses 8- 11:

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet the hope of salvation.
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
(italics added)

Faith in God

We are all pioneers as we pass through our spiritual journey on this earth. Whether a convert, someone who has a stronger testimony than how they were raised, or those who come from generations of strong faith, we each have to develop and strengthen our own personal testimony of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we are strengthening our testimony, sometimes we are simply maintaining it, and other times we are repairing it. We will pass through all kinds of trials in our lives and along with our personal trials we have personal revelation.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 8, the Lord responds to Oliver Cowdery’s request to be given the gift of translation. The Lord tells him he will receive knowledge if he asks in faith with an honest heart. Elder Cowdery is reminded of a gift that we all have as members of the Church, and it is a gift that many faithful pioneers throughout time have been blessed with. Verses 2-5:

Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.
Therefore this is thy gift; apply unto it, and blessed art thou, for it shall deliver you out of the hands of your enemies, when, if it were not so, they would slay you and bring your soul to destruction.
Oh, remember these words, and keep my commandments. Remember, this is your gift.

Ever so gradually we learn to listen to the whispers from heaven, and to become more sensitive to the power of God in our lives.


I need to repeat the words of President Hinckley, “Oh, how much is faith needed in each of our lives – faith in ourselves, faith in our associates, and faith in the living God.”

There is a sensitive relationship between the faith we have in ourselves and the faith we have in the power of God. We often feel our own limitations when we are struggling with a difficult situation. But this life isn’t about what we think we can or cannot do ourselves. I think this life is about having faith in the power of God and learning to understand how He works in our lives. When we are feeling downhearted, confused, helpless, or hopeless, we can turn to the word of God and find many stories about individuals who faced ongoing hardships; yet, over time, with faith, they endured and experienced miracles.

Our faith in the power of God helps us to not only recognize the needs of others so that we can reach out to them, but it also helps us discover a more faithful perspective when we see the hardships that others are going through. Our individual faith in the power of God is transformed when combined with the faith of others. It becomes a catalyst for tremendous change. Our collective tithing, our collective humanitarian efforts, our collective prayers and faith are incredibly powerful. And, remember how Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego stood together with faith and how they were blessed with a miracle.

Our faith in the power of God gives us a spiritual bloodline to faithful pioneers throughout time. As latter-day saints we have been given many promises and blessings. One of them is found in D&C 115:4-6:

For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Verily I say unto you all: “Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations;
And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.
(italics added)

Faith in God is an incredibly powerful force that changes lives. When we faithfully turn our hearts over to God he accepts them with mercy and forgiveness. When we put our faith and trust in God we are sharing the same spiritual heritage as faithful pioneers from every generation, and our names are placed in the Lord’s book of remembrance.

In the book of Ether, chapter 12, Moroni writes about the preaching of the prophet, Ether. Remember, Ether “could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him”.

Verses 4-6
Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not.
And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”

It is the same for all pioneers throughout time.

I leave this message of faith with you…

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Great article on coaching!

"What Makes a Good Coach?" by Alan Goldberg, Ed.D., March 2007, ADDvantage Magazine

NOTE: If you just type in the title, author, & date, you will find this delicious article.

Is it worth it?

Is it worth it?

I have a friend whose son plays basketball with my son. Our boys are 12. She often says to me, "Is it worth it?" I'm assuming her question is rhetorical, but maybe she actually wants an answer while I'm just smiling at her.

I can't help but believe that it must be worth it to have my kids play sports. I've been watching them dance and play for 19 years. I can't just throw 19 years out the window. It is delightful to watch my children perform; however, there have been many heartaches over the years. As much as I want my kids to have everything go right for them there is inevitably going to be some agony along with the victory.

I tell myself I'm doing much better with my competitiveness and anxiety with the fifth (and last) kid, but I could very well be kidding myslef. My four oldest children are girls and I have learned that boys, in general, are different in some ways when it comes to sports. I have extremely competitive girls, but boys are so competitive with each other to the point that it gets kind of creepy sometimes. Also, I listen to what parents (not just the dads, but moms as well) say to their kids during games and I've noticed an overall difference between expectations of boys versus girls. Plus, there is palpable pressure sometimes for these young boys to play like professional athletes. At the same time, I'm amazed at their abilities and what they are able to do.

I have a bazillion stories about coaches, but it seems the most haunting stories are those that involve the Dr. Jekyl and Mr Hyde kind of coaches. They are the ones that are good, nice people until they put on their "coaching hat" and become crazy, venomous monsters. I'm talking about the kind of stuff that goes way, way beyond playing time issues (which are inherent in sports). This is the wicked stuff that destroys confidence and creates bad memories that last far too long. I wish they could hear themselves yelling and screaming and saying the nasty things they say. There's a part of me that has to believe they don't know what they are doing IN the moment. EIther that, or they think that the more intensely they crush a kid, he/she will work that much harder to fight back and get better. (Incidentally, that fake "psychology" rarely works and the benefits are short-lived.) There's a line these coaches cross with their behavior and their words punch and kick at kids' souls. I strongly disagree with a behavioral technique that is being used to supposedly motivate a kid while tearing them apart and stomping on them; especially, when there isn't any kind of teaching going on to help build the kid back up. (Note: Some coaches are nice off the field/court while others are just mean people. I don't find it as perplexing if they are just plain mean.)

Okay, so what do we do about playing time? It goes with the territory, doesn't it? I've heard upset parents talk about how their kid should be playing because their kid is so much better than so and so who gets to play all of the time, and the coach doesn't know what he's doing. While I'm listening to these parents I'm wondering if my opinion of my kid is a screwed up as their's is for their kid. I've also heard reasonable parents who will say something about how their kid may not be the best, but then say something about how they wish the coach would at least communicate to their child and let her know what to expect during a game. Some parents don't have a clue about sports (I've wondered if that is blissful), some are crazy and overbearing, and some are inbetween those who are absent and those who could be physically out on the court if at all possible.

What do you think about parents who try to coach their kid from the sidelines?

I think the bottom line is the same for most of us watching our kids in their activities. We love our kids and we want them to be happy and happiness seems to be equated with success, and success is often equated with winning, and winners are perceived as the ones who are playing all of the time. Therefore, consequently, and nevertheless, we want our kid to play all of the time. We want them to be happy.

So, is it worth it? Is it worth it to watch our hearts walk around outside of us when we watch our kids playing and performing? I'm assuming the question is rhetorical, so I'll just smile.

carry on

P.S. Kudos to those coaches in the world who care more about the kids than they do about trophies; who teach, teach, teach, and create positive energy rather than fear. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
(I will post my favorite article about coaching later since I don't have it at my fingertips.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Oh, to be a parent.

I read once where raising a child is like watching your heart walk around outside of yourself.


For me, there is a connection to my children that is actually painful. I feel what they feel, and admittedly I feel what I think they are feeling when they may not be feeling as intensely as I believe they are. Nevertheless, when they are in pain I am in pain and when they are happy I feel happy for them. I wonder why these feelings are so strong.

I understand that my children have to go through experiences that will give them the strength and knowledge they need for the next trial that comes along, but that doesn't mean I don't want them to be happy and have things go well for them pretty much all the time. No, if I'm truthful, I want them to be hap, hap, happy all of the time. Yes, then my life would be much less worrisome.

How could we have understood what it would be like to be a parent before we had kids?

I simply have to trust in the purpose of life. How easy is that?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Relative gratitude vs. absolute gratitide

It's easy to be grateful. So, why is that we often want more than we have? We want more because we see that someone else has something we don't have.

When I hear someone talking about their vacation and where they went, what they did, how their children had fun; I feel sad about not being able to afford vacations. My kids don't have vacation memories. We've taken some camping trips, but family reunions are the only vacations we've had over the years. Yes, I'm grateful for the memories my kids have from them.

I'm grateful that our old vehicles get us to where we need to be every day because it truly is a miracle when we are safe and our cars are working. I don't need a fancy car, but I would like to not feel worried about what we would do if one of our cars absolutely had to be replaced. How could we afford a car payment? We don't have a vehicle that we can trust to drive long distances. And, the price of gas has definately cut into our budget in a painful way. I look around and wonder how other people afford cars and insurance and gas?

I'm grateful that my kids are healthy and that they have opportunities for education, sports, and various activities. Yet, it prickles my skin a little bit to listen to people talk about how a relative bought their kid the newest electronic game, or I hear about kids going to expensive sports camps, or a teenager receiving a new car from his/her parents, etc. I wish I could do more to help my kids financially, but I also know people who pretty much cut their kids off when they graduate from HS and they are on their own for everything.

No matter which way we are looking there is a different direction. For every privelege that I see there is a basic life-sustaining need somewhere else. For every new car there is someone wondering how they are going to feed their kids. For every opportunity that my kids have there is a kid wishing he/she could have a supportive and caring family.

There are miracles every day to be grateful for. Do we miss some of them because of the direction we are looking?

If we are relatively grateful that means we are grateful for what we have when we compare ourselves to someone else who has less than we have. (Or, someone who has more than us but we judge them to be unhappy, or at least unfortunate in some way.)

If we have absolute gratitude there is no comparison and we feel joy in our hearts for everything that comes our way, the good and the bad.

Is it possible to feel absolute gratitide when we have eyes to see what others have, and ears to hear what others are doing, and televisions showing us what is available to feed our appetites?

Think about it and your desires will reveal themselves.

carry on

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Every day I read a blog written by Leroy Sievers on NPR website. Mr. Sievers has cancer and writes about what he is going through. Today he had the question, "How do you want to be remembered?"

My first reaction was that I don't have control over how people will remember me when I've "gone the way of all the earth". I don't seem to have too many ideas about how people will remember me. My world is pretty small so I don't imagine too many people will be thinking about me besides my family and a few friends. I have quite a few acquaintances but not a lot of close friends. I've always kind of felt like I was on the outside looking in, watching people and wondering about why they were doing certain things. I guess I'm more of a sociologist than a friend. Then again, every once in a while someone will say something that gives me a bit of an eyebrow raise when I hear that they consider me a friend. I get along with all kinds of people, but I'd rather hear their stories than tell my own most of the time. I admit I don't work at friendships. My illness, my family schedule, and I guess my innate characteristics, play into my aloneness.

I guess the question is about what I want rather than what I think others might feel. So, how do I want to be remembered? I'd like to be remembered as someone who was thoughtful, kind, understanding, and funny. How would you like to be remembered?

I'm not sure anyone can truly understand me by going through journals, files, or this blog. What kind of picture do we have of a person's life when they die? Does that picture change over time? Why do we have different pictures for different people when our purpose is the same? Why can't some people get a picture out of their mind? How accurate are our memories of people, I mean, would our memory be anything close to how that person saw him or herself?

"Who am I? They tell me I bore
the days of misfortune equably,
smilingly, proudly, like one
to win.

Am I then really that which
other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself
know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick,
like a bird in a cage."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

carry on.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

into my chronic fatigue

It hit today. I'm talking about the feeling that creeps over me and lingers with tremendous, painful fatigue. Can't say it's much fun. My legs ache, my head aches, my whole body aches, but I think the most painful is the aching in my heart. When this feeling is really strong it is so very, very hard to hold on to hopeful thoughts. It takes everything I have inside of me to push myself forward when I want to shut down, give up, and turn away from the world. Some days I'm forced to shut down. My body simply won't cooperate with my efforts to keep going. Other times I do keep pushing, but it's a "survival mode" where everything is pulled inside of me and I silently (because noise hurts) put one foot in front of the other and step-by-step feel the moments tick by without my heart living in them.

I can't think too far ahead. I'm not talking days, I'm talking about thinking ahead in terms of hours and even minutes. Man, it hurts. There is a pain that is beyond the physical sensation of discomfort. It is a deep pain that pierces my soul and seems to settle in my chest, inside of my heart, and it weighs heavily upon me forcing me to feel the pain as my chest lifts with every breath. Deep breaths seem to channel the pain more intensely up into my head and they tighten the vice that surrounds my thoughts. Where does it come from? Why is it here inside of me?

The daily challenge of Chronic Fatigue is difficult in itself so when days like this come around it is even more wrenching to my spirit.

I don't know how to meet the expectations of others when it is so hard to push myself through the days. When a day like today comes around my soul cries and I feel the sorrow of not being able to be what I feel like I need to be, to do what I feel I'm expected to do. I have those feelings pretty much every day living with this illness, but when my body and mind are locked into the pain it is a struggle to convince myself that I'm okay. I mean, it's hard to feel worthwhile and significant when I'm not doing what I wish I could be doing for other people.

I try to stay quiet about my pain. I don't think most people can relate. I don't think anyone can really understand unless they are living with a comparable illness. It's interesting how people just expect "the usual" out of other people. It is days like this when I want everyone to stop expecting me to not be sick. It takes too much of me to just get through the moments to have to push through obligations. Nevertheless, I push. Some may argue that it is good to push, but they don't understand my illness. It may be good to try to push through the depression, but physically it is pain upon pain to push.

I need the world to be silent, but the world doesn't stop for my pain. Noise is amplified a hundred times over in my head. I've learned to survive. I've learned to pull myself into a place that I'm not even aware of until I'm through the most painful moments. I'll get through today. When my spirit is lifted away from this brutality I will feel the release and give thanks. It's a curious thing how endurable the everyday kind of pain is when I emerge from these episodes of extraordinary pain. I remember being delivered from this kind of pain before, and I will wait for my reprieve.

carry on.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pioneer women

Janie Arnold asked me to write something like a diary entry for a pioneer woman with entries for Nauvoo, traveling across the plains, and living in Salt Lake valley. At first I had a hard time trying to feel any kind of inspiration, but I went to the library and picked up 8 books (all but one I had read before), and started digging through them. I wrote a page and decided it would not be very interesting to sit and listen to me read pages of writing, and I found the task to be forced and somewhat unreal. I decided it would be far more entertaining to have actual entries from the actual time periods and have different people reading them.

As I have been going through the books I am reminded of how strong the early pioneers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were. I am reminded of their faith and courage and sacrifice. I am reminded that we share the same human emotions and desires. I am reminded of how convenient my life is in many ways; but also, I remind myself that I can’t really put myself in their place because the world of the mid 1800's is foreign to me. Just as they must see the world of 2008 being far removed from what they could have imagined.

These pioneer women were waiting for the return of the Savior just as we are. I wonder if they believed it was more imminent than we do. Perhaps we have a different sense of time because of all the access we have to history, but more than that, I think we have a sense of immediate gratification that is contrary to their mindset of rewards in heaven versus hardship in this earthly life. They were preparing for eternity while we tend to prepare for tomorrow on earth.

Their stories teach me about courage and faith; about perseverance and commitment. I wish I understood more of the culture of the time period. There isn’t any way to look at the past through a clean window. Our view is clouded with our own time period and what we know of the here and now as well as the past. What would I see if I could look into their world as they are living their lives? What would I hear? If I could listen to their thoughts, what would they be thinking? If our thoughts are a product of our environment, our language, culture, education, religion, beliefs, the literature we read, the things we watch on television, etc., then, what would their thoughts be like?

My curiosity actually hurts me at times. It feels like a desperation that I know can’t be satisfied by any means but I can't stop the questions from plaguing my mind.

Some of the entries from these pioneer women are written later in their lives about experiences from the past, and we know that we see our past according to where we are in the present, so, what is the truth of their stories? Are we reading their real story, or the story they want to others to believe? How can I know these women?

We can only share snippets of our lives with others. There is our life inside of us that no one else knows but God. When we try to write about our lives there must be something missing from every story. We are individually everything that we’ve seen, heard, felt, experienced, read, thought, and there isn’t any way to describe a life on paper. There aren’t words to describe every moment that our hearts beat. Even our moods shift and one day we may write about a story that would be told differently on another day.

What I do know is that they believed in something that moved their lives in a specific direction. They had a purpose that is hard to fathom because I haven’t been called to gather to Zion. I haven’t been asked to do the things they did. Many of them moved from one place to another and then moved again and again, and they carried on, some admitting that they kept going because they had “cast their lot” with the Church and its people and there was no turning back. Of course we know that there were those who did turn back. What made the difference? There were those who had nothing to turn back to, and those who had comfort and wealth with family that they had left for the gospel of Christ. At least, they believed their leaving was for the gospel and that belief motivated their decisions again and again.

Where would I have been in the world of the Church in those days? I can’t place myself there. Perhaps my stubbornness and independence would have carried me through and I could have endured the hardship. We can’t ever completely imagine with total clarity a life that isn’t our own, can we?

There is a new movie out about Emma Smith, wife of the prophet, Joseph Smith. I watched the trailer for the movie on you-tube and then there was a music video that I listened to. The chorus to the song says, “How much can one heart take?” It says something about, “when you lost your husband, when you buried your children…” and it says that the angels stood in reverence and heard your prayers. It made me think about how much a heart can feel and keep beating. I think a lot about those kinds of things. I mark the lines in the scriptures that have the word, “heart”, and I wonder about how much it has to do with everything in our lives. Our hearts are what lead us astray, keep us steadfast, stir us up to anger, bring us peace and joy, and feel the witness of the Holy Ghost. I don’t know how much one heart can take. I know that every person is unique and God knows our hearts and whatever we keep in our heart will be revealed on judgment day. I know that one heart may seem stronger than another, but things aren’t always as they seem.

I know that each heart can take more than the owner ever thought possible. I hear that again and again.

I know the point of the song was to not judge Emma Smith for not going with the Saints to Salt Lake and to give her credit for everything she endured. Yes, there are those who believe she did not endure to the end or she would have followed Brigham Young, the leader of the Church after Joseph Smith was martyred. We can only pretend to know what was in her heart. To say that the journey westward was more than her heart could take at the time, in her circumstance, is to say that she gave up. I don’t know that she did. I don’t really know anything that was in her mind and heart and in her prayers. Books have been written, but we don’t know the words written in her heart. I admit that I wonder about what happened. I wonder how much of her faith was in Joseph and how much of her incentive to keep going was wrapped up in his life. Did his death shatter not only her heart, but her mind? Maybe we should also ask, “How much can one mind take?” Our thoughts are powerful.

What was she thinking when her world (Joseph) was “taken from her”? (Did she think he was “taken” from her? If so, did her perception affect her faith?) Did his death bring about the culmination of everything that she had been through? Did all of the years of sacrifice and the enormity of her fatigue, pain, grief, sacrifice, love, joy, heartache, faith, courage, doubt, fear, determination, and everything else, weigh so heavily upon her that she had to rest? Perhaps, she simply had to rest.

You know what it feels like to have to lay your head down? And, do you know what it feels like to keep going because you can’t stop, because if you stop you might never get going again? Either way, sometimes we have to lay our heads down because there is no other way we know how to survive.

I believe the angels hear our prayers. I believe they help us whenever possible. I believe there is something strong beyond this life. I believe that no one knows my heart and mind the way God knows me.

When I think of the pioneers I wonder: What would I do for my belief in the Book of Mormon? What would I do for my belief in Jesus Christ? What would I do for the leaders of the Church when they call for sacrifice?

My heart knows.


June, 1978. I was driving to work in a small silver pickup with red interior. I was listening to the radio as I traveled down the highway to Radium Hot Springs where I worked as a lifeguard the summer after I graduated from high school and I heard the news. The prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Spencer W. Kimball, had announced that black men who were members of the Church could be given the priesthood. My heart soared!

It seems like I had always questioned "the ban" that refused black men from being ordained to the priesthood, but when I was about 14 years-old I challenged my dad with my objection (he was a bishop at the time). He didn't have a satisfying answer to all of my questions. He gave me books to read. They must have been written in the 1950's because they used the word 'negro'. I wasn't impressed with the books. My questions remained in my mind, heart and soul. Fortunate or not, I never found myself in a situation where I had to defend the Church's policy; therefore, I'm not quite sure what I would have said. It's highly unlikely I would have defended it. I wasn't one to waste time saying things that I thought people wanted to hear. I sometimes got myself in trouble with my blatant honesty, so I probably would have admitted that I didn't understand why it was the way it was.

I wonder if I would have been able to keep moving forward in the Church had the revelation not come when it came. How much longer could I have lived with the separation of my heart from that particular Church doctrine? How much longer could I have sustained a prophet of the Church who I felt was discriminating against men with dark skin? I don't know. I still have questions about some things in the Church, but my testimony of core beliefs is stronger than my questions. Would I have continued living with what I knew to be true and simply set aside that which I could not reconcile? I don't know.

I remember that day in June, 1978, driving down the road. I remember arriving at work and feeling a spirit of celebration throughout the day. It's a jubilant feeling to have one's heart repaired. Of course I wondered why things had to be the way they had been, but I felt happy that day.

I've read a lot about Church history and there is a trilogy of historical novels about black Mormon pioneers that I enjoyed reading. The trilogy is called, Standing on the Promises, and it is written by Margaret Blair Young and Darius Aidan Gray. There is documentation of a black man being ordained to the priesthood by the prophet Joseph Smith. (I've also read about women being set apart by J. Smith to give blessings.) I can't help but wonder what some things in the Church would have been like had Joseph Smith lived longer.

I can't help how leaders of the Church personally felt about black people in the 1800's and into the 1900's. Anti-mormons dig up quotes from different Church leaders in the past and throw them around to try and prove racism and hate, but I don't know the context of the quotes or whether or not they were actually said. My life is now, and my Church membership is now, and I could (and would) apologize for how things were if I found myself in a situation where I thought it was necessary. My point is that I can't change the past.

In the Book of Mormon there is a story of a curse being given to a group of people called the Lamanites. Their skin is made darker because of their wickedness - the Lord didn't want the righteous people to become wicked so he gave the Lamanites a curse to distinguish them from the righteous. Later in the Book of Mormon there is a time when the Lamanites become righteous. When I was young I remember reading several passages in the Book of Mormon and thinking that the curse was about wickedness and not about the color of a person's skin. I wondered why other people interpreted the Book so differently from me and called it racist. For many years I have boldly taught my sunday school kids that any "curse" that is given to someone in the scriptures is about wickedness and righteousness, and it is NOT about the color of a person's skin. The good news is that I haven't had a student challenge the point (and I always encourage my students to question things). They seem to "get it".

This is what I do know: The Lord knows our hearts. Today my heart rejoices for the gift of the priesthood to ALL worthy males in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.