This blog shares my ongoing study of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and my studies draw from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, as well as teachings of LDS Church leaders past and present, many of which are prophets and apostles. This site is not an official representation of Latter-day Saint doctrine and practice. For official sites, please visit or

Saturday, December 24, 2011

French Snoopy Socks for Christmas

Some years ago I served as a missionary in France. Christmas was a special time for us because we all knew we could expect to receive a package from home full of our favorite foods and other things. As the holiday approached packages arrived for the other missionaries in my apartment, but not for me. Deciding that mine was delayed, I had no expectation of seeing a package for me on Christmas morning. When that day finally came, I was surprised by the brown box addressed to me. The other missionaries were hiding it! As I began to open it, they all watched me closely. I pulled out a pair of Snoopy socks...with french print on them that said "Je ne supporte pas le matin!" (I can't stand mornings!), a jar of jam...also with french print on it, and some other french products. I knew exactly what had happened. My holiday package had not actually come in time and these good brothers took it upon themselves to make sure I had something to open on Christmas morning.

(Yes, I still have them!)

I can only imagine their excitement when they had the idea to put together a package for me and selected various items to put in it. I believe we have all experienced the joy of giving. If giving a pair of Snoopy socks can bring us great joy, how great must be the joy of our Heavenly Father in giving us all that He has!

Jesus asked, "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:9-11)

I know that our Father in Heaven loves us and loves to bless us. He is the great Giver of Gifts. He also loves to employ us in the great work of blessing His children so that we might experience His joy. I hope we can all accept that employment this Holiday Season and rejoice with Him.

P.S. My mom did, in fact, send me a package but the delivery service got the addresses mixed up and delivered it to my mom some weeks after she had sent it. (Here's a package for you from France! ha ha ha... No.) She re-delivered it and I ended up getting it in February if I remember correctly. :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pen and Page

I heard a powerful analogy in a church meeting yesterday that has stayed with me. I try to always take note of the thoughts and ideas that linger with me for more than a day or so.

A friend explained to us that it's useful to compare our lives to a blank journal that we are given when we are born. The journal itself is of such quality we sometimes hesitate to write within its pages. The choices we make determine what is written. He asked us, "are the choices we are making worthy of the pages they are written on?"

This simple analogy has gotten me to thinking about what is written in my book. What will I hope to see in there at the end of my life? What will each of us hope to see in our own books? These are some of the things I hope to see in my own book:

1. Selflessness
2. Bravery in doing what I know to be right even when so many others are not
3. Faith overpowering fear
4. Belief
5. Moments of taking risks
6. Creativity
7. Many many editorial marks made by our Savior and His atonement

There are certainly others, but those are things currently on my mind. I love the talk by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin entitled "The Abundant Life." In this address he says, "The abundant life is within our reach if only we will drink deeply of living water, fill our hearts with love, and create of our lives a masterpiece."

I know it is within our power to create, with God's help, a masterpiece of our lives - a book truly worth reading.

(P.S. I also love the lyrics of Natasha Bedingfield's song, Unwritten, as pertaining to this concept.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Loving More

I had a friend recently point out to me that repentance really means to love God, yourself, and others more than you currently are. I think she's right. Concerning repentance, the Bible Dictionary says, "The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world." Wouldn't the fresh view spoken of here include one of greater love and respect for God, oneself, and the world?

If love isn't the inspiration behind and the fruits of our repentance, is it repentance at all? I think that just might be the difference between godly sorrow and the sorrow of the world. Paul taught "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." It seems that godly sorrow originates from love and leads to greater love while worldly sorrow is born of fear and brings spiritual death. 

Jesus Christ set the perfect example for us in all things. His love for us is a model for how we need to love ourselves. I need to learn to love Nate just as much as He loves Nate. Hopefully the power of His example can motivate me (and you) to try. As we seek to repent on a daily basis, it might be worthwhile to ask ourselves, "do my actions reflect the fact that I love Him, I love myself, and I love the people around me?"

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Getting Into Shape

I have a number of friends who are very good at taking care of their physical bodies. Many of my close friends work very hard at eating only things that are good for them and exercising on a regular basis. I believe a strong parallel can be drawn between the way we take care of our body and the way we take care of our spirit.

The body needs good food and it needs to be put to work. Our spirits need food and work just as much as do our bodies. Nephi says we need to "feast upon the words of Christ." The prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and John the Revelator all make reference to eating the words of Christ as well. This analogy is nothing new!

Our bodies grow stronger by being submitted to challenging tasks. Our spirits are no different. Not only do they need to feast upon and digest the scriptures, they need to be put to work in the form of prayer, service, and faith-testing trials, in order to grow. Just as with our physical bodies, feasting alone cannot produce a healthy spirit, nor can exercising without nourishment.

President Hinckley referred to these ideas in his message in the Ensign of October, 2006. He taught that new members "need to be constantly 'nourished by the good word of God' (Moroni 6:4)." He also said they need work to do - "Faith and love for the Lord are like the muscles of my arm. If I use them, they grow stronger. If I put them in a sling, they become weaker. Each of you deserves a responsibility."

Some of our spirits are probably in very good shape. Some may be weak and starving. Our spiritual health should be a matter of great importance. We have a trainer who is ready and willing to help us improve our spiritual health at any time. He knows everything there is to know about spiritual health and can help any individual reach a level of health they wouldn't believe possible. He knows we all have the potential to be like His Father. He even has his own gym and gives out unlimited free memberships.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Eye For An Eye

This week at school I felt like some of my students didn't quite realize how much I cared about them as individuals. I tried to show a lot of patience when they would communicate with me in a somewhat less-respectful manner. I've learned by now that just because someone treats me in a negative way doesn't call for me to do the same to them. In fact, it's really an occasion to do quite the opposite, to treat them with increased kindness and respect, and invite them to do the same. In my seven years of teaching, I can hardly think of one student that hasn't eventually come around to treating me well.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." I have thought a lot about that scripture and the implications of our words ministering grace to others.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught, "Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known." There is a real power in kindness that helps people open up their hearts and perceive the person before them as a human being, and hopefully as a child of God. The key, then, is to develop a habit of kindness, which is certainly a lifelong endeavor.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Quick Fix to Misery

I don't think anyone will be surprised by what I find to be a quick fix to misery - exercising gratitude.

President Thomas S. Monson taught, "We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues" ("An Attitude of Gratitude," April 1992 General Conference).

President Monson asks us in this talk to exercise gratitude for six things:

1. First, there is gratitude for our mothers.
2. Second, let us reflect gratitude for our fathers.
3. Third, all of us remember with gratitude our teachers.
4. Fourth, let us have gratitude for our friends. 
5. Fifth, may we acknowledge gratitude for our country—the land of our birth.
6. Sixth and finally—even supremely—let us reflect gratitude for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Each time I have made a conscious effort to reflect on all that I have to be grateful for I have felt better. There is a real power that comes when we exercise gratitude. It sounds cliche but gratitude journals can be very effective. I remember starting one in a summer in Arizona when I was in graduate school. I was in an area far from my close friends and family and found myself entertaining a lot of negative thought. I decided to begin jotting down three things each day that I was grateful for - my favorite moments of the day. Soon I could not keep myself to only writing three things. I found myself writing 10, 12, or 15, and realized that each day was full of blessings.

Just this last week I began teaching math for the first time in six years. When my AP Statistics students found out it was my first time teaching the subject they said, "well you're doing a good job!" A teacher whose classroom is just behind mine listened in on my class from her room during her prep period and said it sounded like I was doing a great job and that the students were understanding the material. These compliments meant the world to me. How grateful I am for those words of encouragement - just one small thing I am grateful for this week, among many.

Our Father in Heaven loves us and shows us His love all throughout the day by "small and simple things." I have found that if I make a conscious effort to recognize these blessings I can feel of His love on a regular basis, and that is truly our heart's greatest desire.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

And [Charity] Is Kind

"And charity suffereth long, and is kind..." (Moroni 7:45).

A person with charity is very kind. Seeing one person being kind to another is beautiful and lifts the spirits of both parties and of anyone observing. I've always enjoyed the Liberty Mutual commercials that show people helping others because they recently observed someone serve someone else. I really think the most beautiful thing in the world is seeing one person helping another.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught that "kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known."

One of the noblest people I have known is my mother. She serves everyone around her almost constantly and finds joy in serving. She is proactively kind - searching for opportunities to help instead of only being kind as the need arises. I'm very grateful for her example.

If we reflect back on our day, we can see that a great many people have been kind to us. It may be as simple as a smile or as great as sacrificing hours of time to help us. We often overlook these many acts of service (at least I do). Each act is another message to us from a loving Heavenly Father, reminding us that He loves us.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

And Charity Suffereth Long

"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (Moroni 7:45)

"And charity suffereth long" means to me that it never quits. Charity tolerates difficult people and circumstances as best it can without throwing in the towel. How? People with charity know that the other person is not living up to their potential and they just might with a little more patience and encouragement. People with charity endure challenges knowing they have every reason to believe in something better to come. They understand that Christ is "an high priest of good things to come," (Heb. 9:11; see also this video), and they believe in Him and what He has promised them if they have faith in Him.

"And charity suffereth long" doesn't mean that when we have charity we accept the poor choices of others. It means quite the opposite. Because we love that individual we refuse to accept nothing but their best. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, "those who understand God’s plan for His children know that God’s laws are invariable, which is another great evidence of His love for His children." I recently observed this when a fellow teacher had to impose consequences on a student for not making grades. After reminding the student that he had agreed to such potential consequences and explaining that these would prohibit participation in certain extracurricular activities for a time, this teacher made it overwhelmingly clear that she cared very much for him and his academic performance. He understood and will likely get better grades next term and be allowed to participate once again with his friends.

"And charity suffereth long" really means to me that Christ will never give up on me and those I love. His perfect love tolerates me when I'm difficult because He knows I'm not living up to my potential but that I can with a little patience and encouragement.

Additional note - perhaps one of the most important ways "charity suffereth long" is when we are patient with ourselves and forgive and love ourselves in spite of our mistakes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Trust in Him

I was reminded yesterday of the importance of trusting in our Heavenly Father. The topic was already on my mind when a sister in church spoke about how she and her husband had been blessed as they followed a series of impressions concerning their home. They thought they needed to sell their home, which they did despite market conditions, and found a home they thought to be perfect for them, but then they felt they should not buy that house, although they had already sold theirs. Feeling some concern, they earnestly began their search anew with only a couple of weeks left in their house. They ended up finding a wonderful home that had just been reduced in price, and consequently fit within their budget. They made an offer, but theirs was one of three. Although theirs was not the highest offer, it was accepted, and they've since made many family memories in that beautiful place.

I was impressed by how willing this couple was to act on impressions of the Holy Ghost - first to sell their home and then to not purchase their first real interest, even though they had already sold their current residence. They understood that the Lord had their best interests at heart because He loves them, and they knew they would be happy if they trusted in their impressions.

Christ said, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." I think one of the best ways to do that is to act on impressions we receive. When we refuse to do so we feel frustrated and afraid. When we obey, we feel peace and joy and qualify for more help from the Holy Ghost.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Realize Your Full Potential

I thought I'd share a few excerpts from a talk given in the October 2003 General Conference entitled Realize Your Full Potential by Elder Richard G. Scott. The talk is mainly for the youth but the following quotes certainly apply to us all.

"With all my capacity I encourage you to discover who you really are. I invite you to look beyond the daily routine of life. I urge you to discern through the Spirit your divinely given capacities. I exhort you to prayerfully make worthy choices that will lead you to realize your full potential."

"When you push against the boundaries of experience into the twilight of the unknown, the Lord will strengthen you. The beauty of your eternal soul will begin to unfold."

"Realize your full potential. Be the leader and example the Lord expects you to be. ... God loves you. I testify that as you seek His help, He will guide you to fulfill your worthy dreams..."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Blessings of Scripture Study

Each time I rekindle my efforts to seriously study the scriptures I feel better. President Kimball said, "I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns."

Elder D. Todd Christofferson reminds us that the scriptures do all of the following:
  1. Enlarge our memory
  2. Empower us to distinguish between truth and error
  3. Fill our souls with faith in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ
Certainly desirable things! If we have forgotten how we came to obtain a testimony, scripture study will remind us. If we struggle to identify right from wrong, the scriptures will clear it up. If we feel far from our Heavenly Father and His Son, studying the scriptures will narrow the gap. I gladly add my witness that studying the scriptures blesses us in these specific ways.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Is the Gospel Working for Me?

I was struck this morning in my studies by the phrase "by faith all things are fulfilled." I believe this statement is easily supported. Nothing is accomplished, spiritual or secular, without some faith that what is being pursued will be fruitful and worthwhile. We wouldn't even reach for a light switch if we didn't think flipping it would turn on the lights. Nor would we rely on a single vehicle day after day to get us to work if we didn't think it would actually function once we turned the key in the ignition. We rely on these things habitually, because they work, time after time after time. Sometimes they break, but once fixed, they will usually function again for another long while.

We need to recognize that faith in Jesus Christ likewise produces fruit time and time and time again. Like flipping the light switch for light in a room, studying the words of Christ brings the Spirit into our hearts, sometimes subtly, sometimes powerfully, and probably more immediately than we realize. A great difference here is that this light switch never breaks. We can rely on God's word more than any man-made device.

At times we question whether or not the gospel is working for us. We continue flipping the switches and turning the keys in the ignition, but get seemingly minimal response. It may be useful to ask oneself the following question in such a case - "Am I secretly wanting to get minimal response?" Why would anyone want to get minimal response? Sadly, if we feel justified in disbelieving the gospel (because it apparently doesn't work), we can then easily justify any thought or action that is not in harmony with it. We unfortunately are not always willing to receive the fruits of gospel-living. An individual in this position has been duped! They have fallen for that great lie that tells us to rely on ourselves and ourselves alone (especially our natural desires) and not on a Heavenly Father that seems to ask so much of us. This is true tragedy and cannot bring us happiness.

I believe the first step in coming out of such deception is to be reminded of how good the fruits of the gospel truly are, and this reminder can come in many different forms. The next step is to try the word again and find that such fruit is actually within our reach, and that it tastes better than anything else we've sought after in life. Finally, one continues to pursue and enjoy and appreciate anew the blessings of living the gospel, to the point that they cannot help but share them with others.

The gospel works. Sometimes we just need to remember that our greatest desire actually is the fruit it brings.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Overcoming Selfishness With Service

One of our strongest temptations in this life is to put ourselves first - to look out for "number one." We become convinced that the only way we'll be happy is if we're getting what we want. However, we have centuries of history and our own personal experiences that beg to tell us differently. When have we or anyone else found a lasting and peace-producing joy through acting selfishly?

Christ taught, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" I will not attempt to interpret what the Savior meant by losing our soul but I think we have all felt our soul diminished when we have acted selfishly. Conversely, I know I have felt my soul magnified when I have acted out of love for another, placing his or her needs before my own.

I remember one day arriving at work in a rather bad mood. I don't remember what I was concerned about, but I must have been entertaining some kind of fear great or small (are all bad moods tied to a form of fear? I think so...). I thought to myself, "man, I need to help someone because I am worrying way too much about myself right now!" Just then I thought to stop in and see how a coworker was doing. He was doing well but needed some help moving some equipment. That was easily done and I left the room feeling much better! Victory! Bad mood banished.

This is one of many such experiences I've had getting outside of myself and finding relief from the temptation to be selfish by helping someone else. Chances to do so are all around us! President Dieter F. Uchtdorf emphatically stated, "My dear brethren, there are so many people in need whom we could be thinking about instead of ourselves. And please don't ever forget your own family, your own wife. There are so many ways we could be serving. We have no time to become absorbed in ourselves."

Selfishness creates misery, and is terribly tempting, but can be overcome. Elder Neal A. Maxwell quoted Joseph Smith saying, "Let every selfish feeling be not only buried, but annihilated." We can do so. We need only turn our attentional compass from S to N - "Self" to "Neighbor."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Great Gift of Choice

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. (Henry David Thoreau)

I marvel at the great gift of choice which God has given us and how very much we underestimate it. "Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself...[a]nd because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon..." 

I had a bishop who told us that if we weren't satisfied with our current situation - our job, our education, etc. - that he firmly believed God gave us the power to improve it. I believe that our Father in heaven even expects us to improve it. We are His children and He wants us to be happy. If we leave ourselves in an unhappy situation by our own choosing, surely we are not meeting the purpose of our creation and are burying the talents or opportunities He has given us.

I further believe that when we boldly pursue the things we righteously desire, the heavens acknowledge our efforts and magnify them. A good friend of mine was dissatisfied with his engineering job a few years ago and decided to leave despite no assurance of other employment, and in the midst of a recession. Shortly thereafter he was offered his dream job in Colorado working on dams. He left Salt Lake single and found a wonderful young woman in Denver and is now very happily married and enjoying his job. He exercised the great gift of choice and improved his situation many fold.

I know that our Father loves us and believes in us. Were it not so, He would never have given us the power to choose - to act for ourselves. He knows we can improve our lives through the use of this gift and must watch anxiously for us to do so that He might bless us.

See also "To Act for Ourselves: The Gift and Blessings of Agency," Elder Robert D. Hales, April 2006 Conference Addresses.

(Please feel free to respond to these thoughts in the comments section.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Come Unto Christ by Remembering Him

I find renewed enthusiasm for life and serving others when I make a conscious effort to remember the Savior. Just the thought of Him can lift me and motivate me to do better and to pay more attention to others' needs. This serves as a catalyst for a chain of good events in my life and the life of others. It is no wonder that when we partake of our sacrament we promise on a weekly basis to "always remember Him."

I remember walking to a new class in college years ago and being deeply concerned about my new work and class schedule, wondering how I was going to be able to manage it all, and feeling less and less hopeful and cheerful. Then I thought to think upon the Savior. As I made that effort, my heart lifted, peace and hope returned, and I walked into class quite a different person. That experience taught me of the importance of keeping our promise mentioned above.

I believe that coming unto Christ is often as simple as thinking about Him and that such simple things can have far-reaching effects in our lives. The Prophet Alma taught, "Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise."

I wish I could remember the rest of that day back in college. I imagine I encountered someone else who was struggling. I would like to think that I helped them in at least some small way - picking up a dropped paper, smiling, etc. Having had my heart lifted by thoughts of the Savior I am certain I was more cheerful to the people around me and helpful to them than I would have been otherwise.

We can make a lasting impact on the world as we make the effort to come unto Christ by remembering Him throughout our day. President Henry B. Eyring taught that “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.” If we are thinking of Christ when we encounter someone in need we will be able and ready to meet those needs and we will serve them as He would serve them and become more like Him.