Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Intelligent Design or Randomness?

I've enjoyed this quote from a book I've recommended, Gethsemane, by Andrew C. Skinner. It gives some indication of the vastness of our cosmos:

"Astronomers tell us that our solar system is located in a spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, a flat, disc-shaped cluster of stars approximately 100,000 light years across at its widest point. A light year is the distance light travels in one year. Moving at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, a beam of light traverses 5.7 trillion miles in 365 days! The size of our galaxy in miles is a staggering 5.7 trillion times 100,000, and it is estimated to contain 200 billion stars, 50 percent of which (100 billion) possess solar systems like our own. The next closest galaxy is Andromeda, a galaxy much like our own Milky Way, that is approximately 2.2 million light years away from us. Further more, our best telescopes can probe outward into space to a distance of approximately 5 billion light years and view about 500 million galaxies, each of which possesses billions of stars. And these galaxies are only the ones we can detect with the present state of our technology. Truly, the observation made by Enoch the seer is one of the grandest understatements of all time: 'And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still' (Moses 7:30).

"The Savior redeems all that he creates. Such are the sweeping and incomprehensible powers of Jesus, the Victor of Gethsemane. And what's more, these creations are maintained and renewed continually by the very same power possessed by their creator, for

"he that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;

"Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ . . .

"Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space —

"The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things." (D&C 88:6-13). (See Chapter One, Gethsemane).

Spend a few minutes and watch this video, then ask yourself, "Randomness or Intelligent Design?" It's the burning question on Roger Ebert's mind these days as he faces the reality of his eventual demise. He's already had two near-death experiences. He concludes the universe is completely indifferent to his existence and his eventual passing. He has no use for true believers and finds comfort instead in randomness and this passionless assessment:  "When I die, what happens? Nothing much. Every atom of my body will continue to exist. The sum of the universe will be the same. The universe will not know or care." What a sad prospect.

Despite Ebert's lack of belief in "the plan of salvation" in stark contrast to Skinner's statement of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, when Ebert dies his agnosticism will no doubt ultimately yield to the knowledge he is a much-beloved son of God. If there is a Plan, there certainly is a Planner who has revealed His intentions throughout Holy Writ. In fact, rather than hoard His designs, the Designer is giving away all the secrets of His vast creations to anyone who asks and seeks the truth.

Roger Ebert, like each son or daughter of God, will be greeted at the veil by the Holy One of Israel as he passes over, and I suspect he'll have an eye-popping view of eternity he never suspected awaited him. (2 Nephi 9:41). I'd love to be a fly on that wall! 

Intelligent Design or Chance and Randomness? You decide for yourself. . . but I'm betting on the Designer.

What always amazes me is this simple logic: If there is no God and death holds no promise beyond the grave, then I already have a purposeless existence, so what harm does it do to my soul if I believe in God and it's actually better than my present belief in nothing? 

Have I lost anything by believing too much?

Joseph Smith, facing his ultimate demise like Ebert, came to a completely different conclusion and reasoned thus on the question:

"I want to stick to my text, to show that when men open their lips against these truths they do not injure me, but injure themselves. To the law and to the testimony, for these principles are poured out all over the scriptures. When things that are of the greatest importance are passed over by weak-minded men without even a thought, I want to see truth in all its bearings and hug it to my bosom. I believe all that God ever revealed, and I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief.

"They found fault with Jesus Christ because He said He was the Son of God, and made Himself equal with God. They say of me, like they did of the apostles of old, that I must be put down. What did Jesus say? 'Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are Gods? If He called them Gods unto whom the word of God came, and the scriptures cannot be broken, say ye of Him whom the Father had sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said I am the Son of God?' It was through Him that they drank of the spiritual rock. Of course He would take the honor to Himself. Jesus, if they were called Gods unto whom the word of God came, why should it be thought blasphemy that I should say I am the Son of God?" (TPJS, 373-74).

Three weeks later at Carthage Jail in Illinois, the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum sealed their testimonies with their martyrs' blood.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Is the Prophet Infallible?

Last Saturday, Peggy Fletcher Stack did what she always does in the run up to General Conference. She writes a story for the Salt Lake Tribune that is provocative to get members of the Church all stirred up and buzzing among themselves over some quasi-doctrinal topic of her choosing. Her writing genius is that she manages to make it critical and embarrassing enough to satisfy her readership in the “alternative” newspaper in Salt Lake City. She seems to delight in coming up with good fodder for conversation and controversy. Let’s be honest – controversy sells well in the public marketplace these days.
President Thomas S. Monson

I had three people send me e-mails asking for my comments about the article. See? It works. We’re talking about it. That’s good marketing strategy, and it’s bound to sell newspapers. However, (deep breath now), I don't remember ever consulting the Deseret Morning News or the Salt Lake Tribune as my source of truth even once in my entire life, and I’m not likely to begin at this late date.

The real underlying issue here has nothing to do with what I believe about whether or not the prophet is infallible. Rather, it has everything to do with our doctrine as a Church.

Ask yourselves, in all your lives as members of the Church, having attended your meetings, gone to Seminary and Institute classes, sat in as many gospel doctrine classes as I have, taught the gospel principles as missionaries and teachers, have you ever once – just one time, ever – heard anyone assert in this Church that the prophet, the prophet, seer and revelator, the president of the high priesthood, the president of the Church was infallible and that everything, every single word he speaks, or every word he writes, and I mean EVERYTHING was beyond even the possibility of error or revision?

Has anyone ever taught you the prophet was infallible, couldn’t make a mistake, couldn’t teach a false doctrine, or couldn’t misspeak on matters of doctrine? EVER?

Just ponder that question for a moment and let’s review some fundamental principles and truths. At least it is possible theoretically the prophet could speak falsely since all prophets are mortal. But if you'll allow me in what follows, I'll give you seven things to think about why practically speaking infallibility isn't even a meaningful topic of conversation. It's what investment brokers refer to as a red herring.

First, the Church as an institution, duly and legally organized on April 6, 1830, under the laws of the state of New York, is a legal corporate entity. It is not, however, the way members are governed. Instead, the keys of the priesthood have been transmitted to modern men, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, from heavenly messengers who held authority anciently, namely John the Baptist and Peter, James and John. We are not governed in the Church by a written canon of legalisms, creeds or even a written constitution of any kind.

Rather, the keys of the priesthood were transmitted by heavenly messengers by hand to head ordinations by legal administrators. It was so with Joseph and Oliver, and that pattern has been perpetuated ever since that day. To me, that fact suggests the only governing authority in the Church has always been the voice of the living prophet. "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (Article of Faith 9). There is only one man on earth at a time through whom the Lord gives ongoing revelation from time to time as needed. (See D&C 132:7). That man is always the living prophet.

Second, revelation to the Church comes from only one source to the living prophet – from the Father in the name of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost. In reverse, that is exactly how prayer works. We pray to the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is a pure channel of revelation. When it applies to the whole Church, that revelation comes through the living prophet. When it comes to each individual, it is the same pure channel provided we are worthy to receive it, walking in obedience to the best of our ability.

Everything we receive has only one pure and true source; otherwise there is deception and the possibility for error. Pure doctrine, true doctrine, must and can only be taught and learned by the spirit of truth and revelation, and all doctrine is subject to the principle of revelation. When doctrine is pure, those who teach it and those who receive it are both edified together, and the source is always God. True doctrine is never based upon someone’s opinion of the way things are or ought to be. Christ was the first to point out this distinction, identifying His Father as the source: "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me." (John 7:16). Speaking of doctrine, not plants, He also declared: "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." (Matthew 15:13). Among the Nephites, the resurrected Christ affirmed: "This is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father." (3 Nephi 11:35).

There is an even more compelling discussion about this doctrinal truth than in any other source document:

Let us reason even as a man reasoneth one with another face to face.
Now, when a man reasoneth he is understood of man, because he reasoneth as a man; even so will I, the Lord, reason with you that you may understand.
Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question — unto what were ye ordained?
To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.
And then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified?
Behold ye shall answer this question yourselves; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto you; he that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong.
Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
And if it be by some other way it is not of God.
And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
If it be some other way it is not of God.
Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together. (D&C 50:11-22).

Third, if it is pure doctrine it will always come through the only channel the Lord has authorized. If He established the pattern once, why would He deviate and knowingly invite confusion among His children? "This greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God." (D&C 84:19). Joseph Smith explained: "[The] Melchizedek Priesthood. . . is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven." (TPJS,166-67).

Every splinter group that broke off from the restored Church in this dispensation makes a claim to revelation that separates them from Joseph Smith as the conduit to heaven, contrary to the pattern the Lord set in place. I don’t know of one single exception. It’s so counterintuitive it defies description. If you claim Joseph was a fallen prophet and you have the right to dissent and break away, then why wouldn’t someone else do the same – make the same claim against you – and establish their own conduit to revelation? That, my friends, is exactly why there are so many so-called “fundamentalist Mormon” groups. One of the true earmarks of the true Church is that it promotes unity, not division. Sustaining those who are called to preside in the Church is the key to unity.

Fourth, at the heart of all true doctrine is the plan of salvation. “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Article of Faith 4). The Savior taught the Nephites: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them." (3 Nephi 11:39-40).

And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.
Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 28:27-30).

We are commanded to seek truth, and when we do we may rest assured the source of all truth, our Father in Heaven, will reveal it consistently, constantly and cogently to everyone who seeks it. It’s not a question about what we believe when this or that president of the Church presides. True doctrine is what it is – true, unchanging and unalterable. Thus, it is not subject to the whims of political correctness or the opinions of this or that writer in this or that newspaper. All truth may be judged against the standard taught by Christ and the Apostles. Is it in harmony with all other laws and ordinances of the gospel? Does it edify? Does it sanctify? Does it purify? Does it lead us closer to God? Every word by every living prophet, seer and revelator may be thus judged and discerned. Knowing the truth, seeking the truth, loving the truth aligns us with heaven.

Fifth, true doctrine will always edify. The Spirit of the Lord is positive and uplifting, never negative or pessimistic. It inspires, motivates, lifts and builds. "That which doth not edify is not of God." (D&C 50:23). When you read Stack’s article, ask, “Does it edify me, does it inspire me to live better, to love the Lord and His servants more?” Or, are you agitated and angered by her words? What spirit is speaking to you as you read? 

Originally, the verb "to edify" meant to build sacred edifices, for instance, the temple. Now we use it to suggest the process of improving character or building spirituality. Everything from God edifies — it builds our bodies and spirits, our souls, and makes of us a holy tabernacle, a temple to God. Any doctrine that does not lead to this end is not of God. I have never once known a missionary who asked a prospective convert to surrender any positive habit or practice when they encouraged them to join the Church. Rather, “I will also bring to light my gospel which was ministered unto them, and, behold, they shall not deny that which you have received, but they shall build it up, and shall bring to light the true points of my doctrine, yea, and the only doctrine which is in me." (D&C 10:62). Remember what Christ said to the Twelve? They were admonished to "seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness." (JST Matthew 6:33).

President Joseph Fielding Smith
Sixth, the standard works of the Church set the standard measurement for judging truth. President Joseph Fielding Smith stated, "It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man's doctrine.
"You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.
"Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted." (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:203-4).

President Harold B. Lee
Echoing his predecessor, President Harold B. Lee said: "It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they [speak] and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don't care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard church works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator — please note that one exception — you may immediately say, `Well, that is his own idea.' And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard church works (I think that is why we call them `standard' — it is the standard measure of all that men teach), you may know by that same token that it is false, regardless of the position of the man who says it." (Stand Ye In Holy Places, "The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer and Revelator," Chapter 15).

Seventh, all true doctrine centers in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the instrument of salvation. "Behold, Jesus Christ is the name which is given of the Father, and there is none other name given whereby man can be saved; wherefore, all men must take upon them the name which is given of the Father, for in that name shall they be called at the last day; wherefore, if they know not the name by which they are called, they cannot have place in the kingdom of my Father." (D&C 18:23-25). All true doctrine testifies of Jesus Christ. No doctrine of salvation can stand independent of Him.


President Boyd K. Packer
One may know by the spirit of revelation that the words of the prophet are from God. His teachings will meet all the criteria for true doctrine cited above. He will edify. He will inspire. He will urge his listeners to seek the Christ, embrace the plan of salvation. He will warn in advance of future calamities. He will counsel consistently with the revelations we already have. His peers, the living prophets, seers and revelators will bear independent witnesses of what he teaches. He will always be someone like President Thomas S. Monson and President Boyd K. Packer, whose lengthy lives as living Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ epitomize the principles and truths they teach. There will always be more than one or two, sometimes three or more, so the law of witnesses may always remain in place as a safeguard against deception by one man.

There is one infallible principle that will never change: Truth is absolute and will always stand the test of time against all its critics:

And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. (D&C 93:24-31).

It is impossible for a person to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost and at the same time deny that Jesus is the Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12:3; TPJS, 223).

It is by extension impossible for anyone to enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost and simultaneously deny Joseph Smith is the great prophet of the Restoration, his successors are also prophets of God, or The Book of Mormon is true. . .

And I intentionally use that word impossible infallibly.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Political Quote of the Day

There are many voices on the political landscape today who openly ask, "Is there a massive deception at work, or can America be saved?" I am one who firmly believes the answer to that question is "YES!"

President Barack Obama
Here's another:

"It has been difficult and heart-rending to watch over the years what has happened to a nation we have all come to love. In order to awaken at least a part of the populace it has taken an imminent financial and societal disaster and the election of President Obama, who personifies the excesses of the past sixty years. He is someone steeped in radical re-distributionist ideology; he is dishonest, as he is a believer in the end justifies any means; and he is dominated by an overweening narcissism. Mr. Obama is the epitome of someone with a lack of character, as manifested in his indecisiveness and willingness to destroy America's future in order to permanently seize control over the citizenry.

"Replacing the President by electing politicians who will make some cuts in spending or modifying entitlement programs may delay but will not save America from eventually entering the annals of the rise and fall of great nations. The only factor that can truly alter the future is a change in the hearts and minds of the people and their leaders. The foibles of human nature are hard to overcome without a massive national catastrophe as a catalyst.

"The founders of the United States were aware of the failings of mankind and as a result tried to establish a government structure which mitigated those traits. That structure is still in place, but are there national leaders willing to risk their ambitions in order to tell their constituents the awful truth? That the future of the United States is dependent not only upon immediate changes in fiscal policy, but more importantly the people and their leaders must re-constitute American society wherein honor, integrity, self-reliance, restraint, and respect for one's neighbor are paramount. These attributes will also ultimately solve the nation's long-term financial woes and insure the future. Unless the country does so, it will inevitably join the likes of Rome and other nations on the ash heap of history." (Emphasis mine).

-- Steve McCann (click the link to read the whole article)

On other occasions I have commented about the need for optimism not pessimism in the face of the altering landscape of American politics. Here's one example. Here's another. And, yet another. I'm not Polyanna, but there's still plenty of room to be of good cheer.

Keeping faith with America in its promise for freedom, liberty and opportunity is what we must continue to fight for, believe in and be willing to work for. We cannot sit idly by and wring our hands over the depressing problems of war, debt and deficit spending we face. As long as we remain in "victim" thinking we are doomed. We can rise above it with a little faith, hope and optimism by controlling our "stinkin' thinkin'" that would destroy us.

Earlier this morning I tweeted an article I read about a young fruit vendor in Tunisia, one man, who touched off the revolutions now toppling dictators everywhere. The whole Muslim world is in an uproar in the Middle East. It all started with a humble street vendor who would suffer the abuse no longer.

So don't try to tell me one person can't change a nation. It's still happening, and it's still possible in America today. No one knows better than America how to bring about change for the better. Maybe it won't take a young man torching himself to bring us back to reality. But it will take everyone working to make constructive changes in the way we do business here. The transformative leaders in America are on the way, and not a moment too soon. The citizens are also finding their truth. It's an exciting time in American history, and we're living it! The Republic was designed for times like these!

There is hope, there is a future for America, and together we can achieve the seemingly impossible. It's been done before, and as long as America remains a nation it is still and always the last best hope of mankind as we collectively prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. (Click the link for a discussion about the Mormon beliefs in eschatology compared to other world religions).

Ultimately, that's where this is all going. . . get on board. You are among friends.

Connections and Reflections: From Mormon Missionary to Husband

Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now dot the globe spreading the word of God everywhere. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is one of the most active modern practitioners of missionary work, with over fifty thousand full-time missionaries worldwide, as of the end of 2010. Commonly referred to as "Mormon missionaries," most LDS Church missionaries are single young men and women in their late teens and early twenties and are assigned to a mission which is usually far from the missionary's home. LDS missionaries serve voluntarily. They do not receive a salary for the work they undertake, and most are financially supported by themselves or their families. 

Throughout the history of the Church, over one million missionaries have been sent on missions. They learn many lessons to prepare them for their future lives as husbands, wives and eventually fathers and mothers during their two-year voluntary service. 

Today’s guest blogger shares his insights:

Missionaries learn about human relationships

A mission offers multiple opportunities to spend large amounts of time with many different personalities. Periodically assignments change, but in a two-year mission one will have worked with perhaps a dozen or more different companions in a 24/7 relationship. Each must work with the other through a myriad of life situations. Not only did my mission help me to understand my spouse better, but when she comes to me for advice about someone she’s having a conflict with I can offer advice about what I’ve seen before.

Communication resolution with companions

I learned a lot about myself on my mission. When conflict arose between missionaries (hold your breath, it happens), I learned how I preferred to be approached by someone else who was attempting to resolve whatever gap we were experiencing in clear communication. That’s usually where most conflict happens – not understanding one another. It’s true among missionaries, and it’s a model for world conflict too.

I had important, open, honest relationships with companions stemming from our ability to help each other to do our best. At the time, I know I did not fully appreciate how much that sounds to me like what it takes to make a successful marriage.

A mission gives unique perspective into families and family life

 Daily, missionaries can observe many different families; how they live, how they interact, what’s important to them, what they are doing that works and even their philosophy about raising children. It’s a laboratory of observation, rich with lessons for the “student” missionary. I was able to see great examples and “less than ideal” ones too. I observed in others the way they treated their spouses, raised their children, taught their children, magnified their Church callings, and balanced the demands of life between home, work and Church.

These encounters clarified my vision for my future home, and how I wanted to raise a righteous posterity.

Missionaries defer dating and relationships with girls

One of my first areas where I served was the campus at Ohio State University. As I served on the OSU campus, many were shocked to learn we weren’t allowed to date, kiss, or spend any time with girls for social reasons. Many times, when other students learned of this requirement we were openly ridiculed. Now as a married man, I am very grateful for the ability to avoid “the second glance,” as my mission president called it. There is temptation everywhere. As a missionary, I learned the lesson to fight temptation to retain the spirit. Sacrificing the ways and the praise of the world in a successful marriage is what true discipleship is all about.

Missionaries learn to value symbols

Missionaries who understand and value the symbol of wearing their name tag will understand and value the symbol of a wedding ring. As I put on my name tag everyday, I thought about whom I was representing (the Lord, the Church, my family) and it changed the way I approached my day. Now as I put on my wedding ring, I realize it represents my commitment to to my wife, and I strive to act in a way that would make her happy.

Life in general is all about understanding symbols. If we can learn to understand and appreciate the symbols of the temple, it will give us strength and power to live the covenants we make. President Jensen, my mission president, taught me so much about temple symbolism, and that has served me well as I take my wife to the temple and we learn together.

All young men are accountable to their future wives

All men will one day have to look their sweetheart in the eyes and be accountable to them for their past. A righteous wife (especially if she is a returned missionary) will want to know all about your mission, and she will know instantly if you were effective or not. My future wife while we were dating wanted to meet my mission parents, but they were still serving so we “Skyped” a video call on a Sunday afternoon and she was able to hear it right from the horse’s mouth. There’s absolutely no chance I would have even been a possibility in her mind if my mission president had told her I was a slacker.

Issues with pornography will be reported. Rightfully so, your wife will expect accountability for experiences, and struggles with pornography. If it’s hard to grasp that you’ll be accountable before God, picture how devastating it will be as you have to tell your girlfriend/fiancee/wife about issues with pornography. We are free to choose, it is true, and that is a great blessing, but what is also true is accountability always follows for those choices.

My wife asked me after dating for about two weeks if it was an issue for me in the past. I was filled with gratitude because I was able to look directly into her beautiful eyes and answer with confidence about my personal purity. A whole lifetime of “putting off the natural man,” paid off in that single instant. I was accountable, I knew it, she knew it, and now together we are still accountable before God as a partner in our marriage.

A mission teaches how to prioritize and plan time and money

Time management is an important skill for many aspects of life. Balancing school, work, church, dates, volunteering, and everything else becomes much less daunting if you’ve had a planner full of appointments, and busy days going to meetings, appointments, baptisms and interviews.

A mission is an important time to learn how a budget works. Missionaries are on a fixed budget. It provides a perfect opportunity to develop a working budget. Missionaries who consistently delve into “personal funds” lose this valuable opportunity to learn how to govern their money rather than the other way around.

In the words of President Jensen: “If you make $5 and spend $6, you’ll never be happy. If you don’t know where your money is going, you’ll never make enough. ALWAYS PAY YOUR TITHING!”

Companionship study

When missionary companions study together early each morning, they learn how to effectively testify and to discuss the content of the scriptures. How do you approach scripture study with your wife and family? How do you bear testimony to family, friends or acquaintances in a natural, conversational way? These questions are easily addressed after two years of effective companionship studies. Unfortunately, many missionaries waste this precious time and never get it back.

Studying, testifying, and learning with my missionary companion helped to make gospel discussion and family scripture study a natural, fulfilling and deeply rewarding mutual experience with my wife.

Missionaries learn to love through service

Serving my companions, investigators, and strangers taught me how to love the way Christ loved people. Success in marriage requires charity, the pure love of Christ.

Many missionaries come home from their missions and flounder, as if they don’t know what steps come next in their eternal progression. My journey continued after my mission and was filled with many frustrating experiences. Most of it, however, related only to my desire to take the next logical step in my life of service as a missionary, and that was finding my eternal companion.


My mission was the perfect preparation for my marriage in all the ways cited above. I can’t imagine even knowing where to begin in a marriage relationship without all the valuable lessons learned as a missionary. Young men who are wondering if they should serve would be well advised to step forward and upward. Be faithful and prayerful. Make the decision to go. Serve well, work hard, and prepare yourselves for marriage to the girl of your dreams later on.

She’s out there wondering where in the world she’s going to find a returned missionary who can fulfill all her dreams and expectations.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What 100% Looks Like

Submitted by today's guest blogger:

There is a great scene in the Bill Murray classic, "The Man Who Knew Too Little." In this scene the oblivious Murray, playing the clueless Wally Ritchey, believes he is acting in an elaborate audience participation drama, despite being a real-life hostage. At one point, after accidentally knocking his captors unconscious, Murray criticizes their lack of effort with the words,"Come on! Ya have to give it 100%. Let me show you what 100% looks like." He then, while tied to a chair and his hands tied behind his back, flops down onto the ground, digs out the knife from one captor's sleeve and cuts himself loose.

Growing up playing sports, I thought I knew a little something about giving 100%. In fact, as one having little natural ability, I prided myself on always working as hard as I could. Coaches often talked about this concept of giving 100%. By high school, giving 100% apparently wasn't good enough and before I knew it I had a sticker with 101% on my football helmet.

With time, even 101% wasn't enough and the cliche became "give 110%!" With a few of my more intelligent teammates it became a sort of inside joke that no matter what we did, it was never going to be enough. When I gave 100% the coach wanted 101%, when I gave 101% he wanted 110%. I even remember a professional basketball player who gave an interview where he said all he wanted to do was "go out and give 1000%." It made me want to go out there and give a million percent, a google-plex percent, or maybe an infinity percent. I got to the point where for me, the "give 100%" cliche became like most other cliches, overcooked and meaningless. It became difficult for me to see what giving 100% really looked like.

Then I grew up. . .

I remember coaches saying their goal in coaching was to teach players how to be good husbands, fathers, and contributing members to society. I never anticipated the realization of why I ran so many sprints, spent so many hours practicing my jump shot, and dedicated such a huge percentage of my adolescent years to sports, would suddenly make sense as I stood at Disneyland as a 30 year-old father of three.

I am a slow learner, but it was there I finally fully grasped why learning to give 100% in sports was such an essential lesson to learn.

My wife and I had been trying to get our family to Disneyland for awhile and the trip for our kids, 7, 5, and 2 was highly anticipated. We went on all the traditional rides, and because of the time of year and the soggy weather, we avoided the lines most anticipate finding at Disneyland. We did Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain Railroad half a dozen times and went on every major ride at least once, most twice. The kids loved everything it seemed, and this Disneyland trip was truly magical.

We had heard a lot about a new attraction, The Magical World of Color. It's a new light show at Disneyland California Adventure Park where favorite Disney movie clips are projected onto a water canvas, beautifully created by an arsenal of synchronized water cannons. We waited in line early one morning to get our "reserved" spots for that evening's show. But when we got held up on another ride, we arrived at the show later than most and found ourselves in the back of our "reserved section." I came to realize that by "reserved," what was actually meant was that you got to stand in a crowded roped off section, rather than standing where you wanted.

As the show began, my wife and I quickly tried to find a realistic way of helping all three of our kids get a glimpse of the show. Because we arrived late and we have a vertically challenged family, I was the only one able to see the show on my own. I started with my boys in my arms and my wife holding our two-year-old daughter. It didn't take long for my seven-year-old son to realize such an arrangement was uncomfortable and silly for a seven-year-old. We tried to adjust them, on my shoulders, to my back, in my arms, even standing inside the stroller, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, after about five minutes the seven-year-old gave up and sat in the stroller for the remainder of the show, missing it almost entirely.

We settled with my daughter in my left arm and my five-year-old son in my right arm. Before too long, my daughter was asleep. Twenty-eight pounds of dead weight in the left arm and my thirty-seven pound five year-old in the other. The show was forty minutes long.

Five minutes into it my back was cramping up in a bad way and my arms were burning worse than they ever did during the last rep of any weightlifting class exercise I remembered. My feet were burning too. As if the pain of "Disneyland feet" weren't enough, I have suffered from plantar fasciitis for the past two years and the pain was nothing short of excruciating. I wanted to set the kids down, but I didn't want to disturb my sleeping princess or distract the one child I had who was actually enjoying the show.

So, there I stood -- arms, back, and feet burning -- for forty minutes frozen it seemed in eternity.

It was at that moment I finally understood what my coaches were trying to teach me with all that 100% talk. It was not the first moment I had ever exercised mental toughness outside of sports. There were lots of times in my studies at law school and as a husband and father where I drew upon my experiences from sports and did something that was hard.

However, it was at that moment standing there in Disneyland when I completely and acutely understood. Had I not given 100% on the last set of lines in basketball practice when it mattered to my team, I never would have been prepared to give 100% when it mattered more to my family. I knew at any moment I could have made the pain stop by putting the kids down. Instead, I drew upon the lessons I had learned from sports and I gave 100%.

As I watched the show in the midst of this pain, I thought back to all of the sacrifices my parents made for me and my many siblings. I realized how much work a Disneyland trip must have been for them with all their children. Even more puzzling was how it was possible for us all to have positive memories of such a trip!

I thought about the mental toughness of my Mom having not been to sleep all night because she was sick, cleaning up the throw-up of the fourth child with the flu that night. I thought about her hands, cracked and bleeding out of service to us.

I thought about how difficult it must have been for my Dad to be a good sport about always doing what everyone else wanted to do, rather than doing anything he wanted. There was his passing up the fancy new car in order for his herd of kids to have clothes and shoes, despite our best efforts to outgrow and destroy them all. I remembered his giving me his last $20 in his wallet to fill up his car with gas I thoughtlessly used. Both were sacrificing literally all their selfish desires for the good of their children.

That is what 100% looks like.

As we left the park that night, our daughter remained asleep on my shoulder. We talked about our favorite things from the day and about the Magic Color show. The seven-year-old was happy about the day and claims to have not missed seeing the show. I think it was his way of not making us feel bad. The five-year-old could not stop talking about how much he loved the show.

At that moment, I felt a sense of satisfaction I always dreamed winning a state championship would bring. Despite the fact two of the three children were oblivious of any sacrifice being made on their behalf, I had been given a precious insight into what it REALLY means to give 100%.

I also learned all it takes is for one to appreciate the sacrifice to make it all worth it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Meanwhile, back at Obamacare. . .

I have been opposed to President Obama's attempt to reform health care in America since the day I first heard about it. Mark Shurtleff, Utah's Attorney General tweeted moments ago, "One year ago today Obamacare passed. Ten minutes later I sued in federal court and won!"

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) weighs in one year later.

Mitt Romney promised what he would do after being elected president:

"If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states. The executive order would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and all relevant federal officials to return the maximum possible authority to the states to innovate and design health-care solutions that work best for them.

"As I have stated time and again, a one-size-fits-all national plan that raises taxes is simply not the answer. Under our federalist system, the states are 'laboratories of democracy.' They should be free to experiment. By the way, what works in one state may not be the answer for another. Of course, the ultimate goal is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with free-market reforms that promote competition and lower health-care costs. But since an outright repeal would take time, an executive order is the first step in returning power to the states."

Watch for increasingly common sense statements like these to break out all over. The old management principle is easy to understand: "Sooner or later everybody knows everything."

The ongoing debate continues. Interestingly, the people who stand to benefit most and are by far the biggest segment of the population who access medical care -- the elderly -- are the most opposed to it. Coincidentally, I have been enjoying the rebroadcasts of Les Miserables (the 25th anniversary concerts on public television), and I now see the repeal of Obamacare as a call to action (see below). The objectives of Obamacare may be admirable (helping the poor and the elderly), but the financial reality of the debt burden on America is something completely different than what is possible. Unless Obama is defeated in 2012, there will be no repeal.

There has been a lot of "heat" over this issue in the last two years, but very little "light." Today, I received a concise summary of the financial reality we face in America (thanks, Tim).

I also stumbled over this YouTube video, an interview with a local businessman in Indiana, owner of several IHOP franchises, who explains his dilemma in attempting to come to grips with Obamacare. He leaves little doubt in your mind why Obamacare must be repealed or defunded. It's a mess for him and other business owners like him. All the mandates in the law will do is drive health care costs so high there won't be any room to operate.

The author quoted in the piece Tim sent to me, Lynn Britton the CEO of Sisters of Mercy (St. Louis) speaking to his executive team last week, stated, "On average, revenue as a percent of GDP has remained remarkably constant since World War II. During the post war era (1945 – 2011) there have been four major tax code 'over-hauls' and 13 total changes to the highest marginal tax rates ranging from a high of 94% to a low of 28% for the highest earning Americans. Said differently, the top marginal tax rate has dropped 71% with almost no effect on revenue as a percent of GDP. Clearly, we cannot tax our way out of our deficit." (Emphasis mine). Now there's a man how understands economics!

The problem with Obama and the Democrats is they got it wrong exactly 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Simply stated (I know, you don't get that very often, do you?) they zigged when they should have zagged. In addition to failing to expand access to health care across state lines and unhinging it from employer/employee programs (ever heard of free enterprise?), they also failed to fix the embedded cost structure and miscreant incentives under existing programs like Medicare and Medicaid. More affordable options get created through competition and consumer decisions from an array of cost choices. Note the key word -- choice. 

Now we face the conundrum with a misguided Washington creation. Employers are left to implement in an atmosphere of uncertainty while the courts wait for the SCOTUS opinion to emerge. Providers are also left to figure it all out themselves. Without the ability to eliminate pre-existing conditions, insurance companies will have no choice but to raise premiums. 

I'm with Tim, who wrote today, "Integrated care with evidence-based medicine is how Intermountain [Health Care] is attempting to do it."

Britton continues his analysis: "Since 1980, revenues as a percent of GDP are substantially unchanged.  However, entitlement programs during that same period have increased seven fold. By far, the largest increase in entitlement spending is Healthcare, rising from about $50 billion in 1980 to almost $800 billion in 2010. A whopping 16 fold increase in thirty years! As a percent of GDP, healthcare spending by government has risen from 1.2% to 8.2%. This change alone (7% of GDP) is nearly equal to the entire revenue the government receives from personal taxes. During the same period, out of pocket expenses by healthcare consumers have declined from 47% of total expenses to only 12% today.  This seems to indicate that lower relative out of pocket expense is at least a contributing factor to the problem." 

The author calls these "social taxes." We would call them entitlements. You can call it a calf's tail if you want, but calling it by any other name than what it is -- a sure-fire recipe for bankruptcy -- is lunacy.

Here's his conclusion: "No other cost in the federal budget has risen as much or as dramatically as healthcare costs. In fact, many other costs which have historically dominated the largest percentage of the budget have decreased by comparison. For instance, all military spending represents 19.9% of the federal budget in FY2010. Consider that in 1965 military spending was 65% of the total. In that same year, Medicare and Medicaid did not exist. Since it is not likely that increased taxes would yield sufficient additional revenue, and since we will not grow GDP fast enough to equalize revenue with spending, budget cuts are the only answer. Some economic advisors are urging the president to cut healthcare spending by 53% across the board. Even that draconian amount would only close 25% of the budget gap.

"Whether the president’s healthcare bill stands or not, there will not be enough revenue to sustain the current level of healthcare spending in the future. In fact, expanding coverage to more Americans will only widen the budget gap. Unfortunately, healthcare providers are likely going to bear the brunt of this social problem. There are few options and if these changes drive lower consumption – then so be it."

Who will stand against this ever-flowing and perpetual ocean of red ink? Watch for statesmen to arise and lead others to the barricades. Come join the crusade and let's get our national financial house in order. The world awaits our decision as a nation.

 Download this mp3 from

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!!

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you give all you can give
So that our banner may advance
Some will fall and some will live
Will you stand up and take your chance?
The blood of the martyrs
Will water the meadows of France!

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes

Dueling Utah Immigration Commentaries

There's some news on immigration:  Utah passed a law consistent with its principles in the "Utah Compact" with distinguished signatories, including Utah's major churches. The signers were looking for a more compassionate treatment of immigrants to Utah, and the final version watered down the originally tough enforcement provisions.

Now it appears the bill's passage is largely an effort to get the attention from Washington lawmakers who have been absent in their duty to defend our borders. There are passionate voices on all sides of this issue, obviously, but the facts are not easily mastered. Simplistic notions like, "Well, they've broken the law when they entered this country in the first place," just don't satisfy when stacked against the rigid enforcement provisions that separate and divide affected families.

No one would doubt the reasons for inaction on both sides of the aisle at the federal level have everything to do with politics -- no one wants to offend a growing segment of the voting public.

Bob Bennett
Yesterday, former Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett hailed it with an op-ed piece appearing in the Deseret News. His premise was that it's so nice that other people outside Utah are saying such nice things about Utah and saluting the wonderful new immigration law.

While Bennett may feel complimented, there are many more considerations -- like for instance, the bill may be unconstitutional on its face, a fact that legislative legal counsel pointed out to the lawmakers in the process of debating and passing the bill.

Nevertheless, heedless of the warnings from legal counsel, the legislature passed the bill and the signing was witnessed by the original signers of the Utah Compact. Bishop H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was front and center to witness the governor's signature, along with the Catholic Church's local counterpart.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
Today, however, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) appeared to throw a wet blanket over the whole thing. The Salt Lake Tribune published an opposing view pointing out the flawed premise upon which the new law was constructed -- it requires a waiver by the federal government of its Constitutional duties to secure the borders in order to be implemented. Oops. That was the part you didn't read in any of the press coverage. It was current Senator Lee who stepped up the microphone at UVU today and made the careful legal clarification.

Senator Curt Bramble (R-Provo), one of the bill's architects, said, “I think the bill sends a clear message to Washington that states are tired of Washington’s failure to act, and I think the precursor to many, if not most states, taking it upon themselves to address immigration if the federal government does not.”

Lee understands the states’ frustration and confirmed he is “calling on the Obama administration to enforce the law on the southern border.”

Said Lee: “I don’t believe there is any possibility that the state is going to get any kind of a waiver. I know of no process in federal law that suggests that such a waiver could even be granted, nor do I know of any political inclination in Washington to let that happen.”

So where does that leave Utah and other states? Right back where the conversation began with the founders and their Constitution. The principle of dual federalism -- shared power between the federal and the state governments -- is still an open question in 2011.

No less an authoritative source than the Washington Post, however, reported the aftermath of the Utah bill is having a positive impact. The article reports, "Reform advocates are at work on versions of the Utah Compact in Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Washington, Idaho and Oregon."

Don't be surprised if the question isn't settled during your lifetime, however. This struggle has been going on for a long time, and it is once again center stage over immigration and health care. I'll have more to say about that in my next post.

Shall we restrict the federal government to its enumerated powers, or continue to grant it much, much more than the founders ever contemplated?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Political Quote of the Day

I thought maybe I'd heard this all before:

MARCH 19, 2011
BARACK OBAMA: "Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world. . ."

MARCH 19, 2003
GEORGE W. BUSH: "American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger. . ."

Eight years to the very day! Yes, the more things change the more they remain the same. And you only thought there were vast differences between the last two presidents.

Did You Think To Pray?

When I was a little boy, prayers or apricots? was the defining question of my childhood. Apparently, if the truth be told, at one time in my life I believed the value of prayer was higher than whatever mundane task (bottling apricots) was before us.

As I have grown older and more self-reliant, perhaps hardened in my thinking, I believe I have become too proud to ask, too self-assured to need to bother Heavenly Father with trivial things -- even when "sore trials have come upon me," and even when I've been too weary to believe prayer would deliver the needed rest.

The words of a familiar hymn are instructive. I'd suggest you hit the play button and listen while you read:

You've all heard the stories about praying for lost keys and finding them, yet you wonder, don't you, if such simple things are worth taking to God in your prayers? I do. I tend to think He's got plenty on His plate helping His children in Sendai, Japan, for instance. In a city devastated by earthquake and tsunami, literally wiped off the map in a matter of minutes on March 11, 2011, surely Heavenly Father has his hands full with millions of petitions for help more urgent than mine. That's the way I sometimes rationalize about it.

To pray as a little child is a gift from heaven. I am reminded of this story this morning:

One night, one of the small children, saying her prayers while the Battle of Britain raged over London, asked the Lord to bless the members of her family who were absent, including her father who was serving in the Royal Air Force. And as she was about to close her prayer, she said: "And dear God, please take care of yourself — because if anything happens to you, we're all sunk!"

Too often our prayers are perfunctory and said begrudgingly, especially at night when we're the most tired and feel more like tumbling into bed without stopping to give thanks. But mostly, I find myself offering my gratitude. That's what most of my prayers are about these days. I have a growing long list of things to be thankful for. We are also praying for a lot of really big things too -- family members who are fighting cancer, parents suffering the ill effects of aging, daughters who are bravely suffering with health issues through their pregnancies, big decisions about employment and moving to another state, college students valiantly preparing themselves for a bright future, missionaries and near and dear friends who have much bigger problems than us.

Sometimes our prayers are heartfelt and meaningful. What they are is not dependent upon what God has willingly done or capriciously not done for us lately, like some unknown wispy ethereal spiritual essence who is always out of touch and beyond our reach. We too frequently imagine up to ourselves an unknowable wizard behind the black curtain who is always pulling strings (or letting them dangle) at will without our ability to affect His arbitrary decisions much at all.

There is a useful word to describe the reality of the existence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, however. It is "anthropomorphic." We believe the most endearing attributes of these two separate and distinct beings (see D&C 130:22-23) is that they are exalted and perfect beings possessed of body parts and passions not unlike our own. It is the essence of our faith to believe they actually know us by name and are like us. Our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ came to earth and anthropomorphically descended below all things so He may understand our condition in mortality more perfectly than in any other way possible. He is not a distant aloof Master. Neither He nor the Father is some mysterious being who pulls strings behind the black curtain, but our prayers are specifically dependent upon the degree to which faith in them operates in our lives.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
We pray directly to our Father in Heaven in the name of His Son Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost. Our prayers don't go through beads, the Holy Mother Mary, or even Jesus Christ. Like Paul, we may approach the throne of God the Father directly, boldly, and take our petitions, even as trivial as they may seem to us, to Him. (See Hebrews 4:16). He already knows before we ask what we are in need of, evidenced by knowing the falling of every hair from our head and every sparrow. His knowing is not the issue. We're the ones being tested here, not Him. We need to learn about ourselves, not questioning whether He knows and cares about us. Said Elder Neal A. Maxwell: "God has surely told us in enough different scriptures about how aware he is of us and of our needs. We have been told that he is so alive and aware that a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without our Father's noticing, and that the very hairs of our head are 'all numbered.'" (Matthew 10:29-30).

There is a human tendency well illustrated by this chapter of scripture that more often than not describes me precisely:

And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.
Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One — yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.
And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.
O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!
Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom's paths!
Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.
For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.
Yea, behold at his voice do the hills and the mountains tremble and quake.
And by the power of his voice they are broken up, and become smooth, yea, even like unto a valley.
Yea, by the power of his voice doth the whole earth shake;
Yea, by the power of his voice, do the foundations rock, even to the very center.
Yea, and if he say unto the earth — Move — it is moved.
Yea, if he say unto the earth — Thou shalt go back, that it lengthen out the day for many hours — it is done;
And thus, according to his word the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the sun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun.
And behold, also, if he say unto the waters of the great deep — Be thou dried up — it is done.
Behold, if he say unto this mountain — Be thou raised up, and come over and fall upon that city, that it be buried up — behold it is done.
And behold, if a man hide up a treasure in the earth, and the Lord shall say — Let it be accursed, because of the iniquity of him who hath hid it up — behold, it shall be accursed.
And if the Lord shall say — Be thou accursed, that no man shall find thee from this time henceforth and forever — behold, no man getteth it henceforth and forever.
And behold, if the Lord shall say unto a man — Because of thine iniquities, thou shalt be accursed forever — it shall be done.
And if the Lord shall say — Because of thine iniquities thou shalt be cut off from my presence — he will cause that it shall be so.
And wo unto him to whom he shall say this, for it shall be unto him that will do iniquity, and he cannot be saved; therefore, for this cause, that men might be saved, hath repentance been declared.
Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved.
And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works.
And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord;
Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation. And thus it is. Amen. (Helaman 12).

The earth moved violently last week in Japan, and the waves of the sea heaved and were tossed beyond their bounds in Sendai. (See D&C 88:89-90). The aftermath of destruction has been complicated by escaping radiation from nuclear reactors. In their extremity the people of Japan will be compelled to call upon God for deliverance. In like manner each of us in turn is sometimes compelled to be humble to more fully develop our faith. In our extremity, as it was with Joseph Smith, we are reminded, "Thou art not yet as Job."

I have noticed something about the quality and the quantity of our prayers. As I grow older my dependency upon my Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, tends to increase. Recently, our one and only car needed repairs. I say "recently," but what I really mean is "for at least six months." I hit a pothole at freeway speed that rattled our teeth several months ago. Immediately, I began noticing a distinctive rattling sound emanating from the passenger side front wheel. I'd hear a clicking sound associated with the rotation of the wheel and when I applied the brakes. It was getting worse as the months went on. Fearing the worst, a large repair bill, I deferred addressing the issue until this week when the safety inspection was due again.

The point of the story is to say that the car has been the specific object of prayer in our companion prayers every day since. I should be blunt and more specific. It has been the object of Patsy's prayers, not mine. I'm just too darn proud to ask about such trivial things. This is a woman, who years ago all alone at the Ranch with a car full of kids in our VW bus prayed it off a rock upon which she had become high-centered! There were eye witnesses to that minor miracle -- all my children. They know of her faith. They have all been blessed by it.

Thanking our Father in Heaven daily for basic transportation in an old car sharpens and defines one's faith, and petitioning for a small repair bill may sound sophomoric to some perhaps, but I have learned a valuable lesson listening to her pray. Heavenly Father really doesn't care much about my car. It's an inanimate object subject to entropy like few other things I know.

But He does care about my wife and me. And this time the answer was $277.00.