Category Archives: For the Mormons

Something to read while waiting at the well

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Jesus Christ faces the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well as He tells her that He is the “living water.” (lds.org)

 

I had barely walked into my future mother-in-law’s home for the first time when they offered me a glass of water.

So thoughtful, I thought to myself back in 1988. I could really grow to love this family living in Magna, Utah, at the time.

Not long after the first sip, I knew I was the victim of a good-natured prank, courtesy of Barbara, her mom and younger sisters. They lived in Magna, in the shadow of the Kennecott Utah Copper mine and delighted in introducing newcomers to “Magna water” for the first time.

For all I know, “Magna water” tastes much better now. After what I tasted in 1988, I wouldn’t even use it to water house plants.

It looked like a byproduct of Three Mile Island. The smell was worse than dogs rolling around in curdled milk. A dying man in the Sahara would say, “no thanks, I’ll take my chances.”

Much like the people in Magna in 1988, I didn’t have a choice about the source of my drinking water while growing up in Forks, Wash., during the late 70s. It ran from a nearby stream downhill through a plastic pipe and into a large, rusted holding tank. From the tank, it flowed further downhill to where it serviced our small neighborhood. No purifiers were added, no inspections were made by any regulatory agencies and we tried not to think what deposits were left by wildlife left in our water source.

The salamanders sure liked our water. At least two to four times a month, we would experience water outages often accompanied by a horrific smell. It took only a few times before we saw the same pattern. Armed with a flashlight, I would crawl under the house and open different water connections until I found the dead salamander stuck in our small black pipe — effectively blocking our water until I could remove it by hand.

It’s as gross as sounds, but until we could an afford an upgrade to our primitive water system, we had few other options. Brita filters had yet to be introduced in the U.S. We weren’t rich enough to truck in Perrier water.

In both cases, quenching our physical thirst depended on our means and our surroundings. Thankfully our Savior has clearly defined the way to quench our spiritual thirst.

Using his encounter with the woman by the well in Samaria, the Savior taught that about the Well of Living Water — that drinking daily from the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ would bring us true happiness and everlasting life. You can read about it here.

Elder Robert L. Simpson put it this way.

It is only this ‘living water,’ the gospel of Jesus Christ, that can and will bring a happy, a successful, and an everlasting life to the children of men.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1968, p. 96)

In the Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that the Living Water lesson in the New Testament is the “the words of eternal life, the message of salvation, the truths about God and his kingdom; it is the doctrines of the gospel.”

He further said, “Where there are prophets of God, there will be found rivers of living water, wells filled with eternal truths, springs bubbling forth their life-giving draughts that save from spiritual death.”

It’s important to note that McConkie isn’t telling us to blindly follow prophets. One of the main purposes of the Holy Ghost is to teach us and confirm truth — which could also include counsel from priesthood leaders, promises made in priesthood blessings, sacrament talks or messages from inspired lyrics.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)

In his October 1983 General Conference address, McConkie refers to people who know about the Book of Mormon and still refuse to read it.

Instead of drinking from that fountain from whence clear streams of living water flow, they prefer to go downstream and drink from the roily, muddy, poison-filled streams of the world.

For you young people who think water comes from 7-Eleven or Circle K, just remember these three most important principles about (spiritual) wells.

1. Water from a well doesn’t just show up at your house. It’s not like Bountiful Baskets or a delivery from Amazon. You have to show up and draw from directly from the source.

2. Using a straw or Dixie cup to draw from the Well of Living Water is highly ineffective. Think about that when you’re checking Facebook during sacrament meeting, stake or General Conference. As somebody once said, bring a jug with you every week to sacrament meeting.

3. Unless you’re a camel, one trip to the well a week won’t work to quench your spiritual or physical thirst.

Attempting to drink from sources other than the Savior’s teachings or his divinely called prophets is much like passing up the Well of Living Water for a Big Gulp of Magna water. Seeking truth from sources other than the way outlined by the Savior might result in a few drops of water at first.

In the end, it will leave you feeling parched.

 

 

 

 

Why I am home right now

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I am home because my son has a mental illness.

I am home because he needs me to watch over him and keep him safe. I have temporarily stepped away from my career of nearly 30 years because I love him.

Thankfully he is safe as he can be … now. With the help of the right medicine, prayers and medical professionals, he is slowly regaining his balance in life.

He’s not normal, but then again, neither are the rest of us. For as someone once said, normal is only a setting on a washing machine.

But if “normal” means telling jokes that make me laugh out loud, we’ll take it. If normal means someone with the kindest of hearts who will listen and empathize with you, we’ll take it. We’ll take our son with an exceptional creative ability and love for animals.

As hopeful as we are for the return of the “real Spencer,” we are realistic.

It’s likely that he will have this for the rest of his life. That he will have to take medicine, continue to seek professional help and rely on family and friends who understand both his challenges and his great potential. He needs people who believe like we do, that Spencer is not defined by his mental illness.

It’s true that he may continue to struggle from the effects of medication. While great strides have been made in understanding mental illness, we recognize how little we still know. We’re grateful to live in a time where great minds give us hope for more answers.

As we do with all our children, we believe in Spencer’s divine potential for greatness. There’s no reason why he can’t be a force for good on this Earth and touch the lives of others.

He can do almost anything he sets his mind to, and we as his parents, will not tire in our efforts to help make that happen.

We couldn’t do this without a firm belief in God and his plan for us. Without that knowledge, it’s quite possible that my wife and I would have given up long ago. The excruciating toll exacted by mental illness is best understood by those who must experience it every day — along with those provide ongoing support.

You can make a difference for millions like Spencer, by showing more compassion and less judgment. By recognizing stereotypes for what they are and tossing them aside. By willing to stand up for those who can’t always stand up for themselves.

That’s why I wrote this. For so many years now, we’ve kept fairly quiet about Spencer’s mental illness. We’ve only shared with close family members and friends. We didn’t want people to misunderstand.

It’s time for more understanding. It’s time to educate more and hide less. There are millions of people who have to face their demons every day and often question the value of their existence. To them I say it’s very much worth it. And never give up hope.

It’s time we lobby for more resources and research. It’s time to reach out even more to those who suffer silently among us.

I will need to return to at least part-time work sooner than later. But nothing I do to earn a paycheck will be nearly as important than what I am doing now.

Staying home with Spencer.

 

 

 

 

The blessing and the importance of a fleece

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Figured this would be cuter than what a true fleece from the Old Testament looked like.

At the time, it seemed like I was doubting the bishop. Who would want to do that?

I had no reason to do so after the bishop had given me such a wonderful priesthood blessing — one filled with the Spirit and specific answers to my medical questions concerning Spencer and my employment in the future. This followed an equally powerful blessing given to me by another member of the priesthood less than a month earlier.

And yet here I was, prepared to ask a my hometeacher for yet a third blessing. If ever there was a needy child of God, it was I. Having resigned my job in order to help Spencer with online school at home, it had been a grueling few months. My tank was running near empty, and I dared hope the Lord would give me a little boost.

Much like a young man in the Old Testament, who thought he was asked to  do the seemingly impossible for the Lord.

—-

In Chapter 6 of Judges, we find the children of Israel in bondage to the Midianites, a group of nomadic tribes who had swept through the land from Southeastern Palestine.

In that chapter, an angel of the Lord shows up with a message to Gideon. The Lord wants him to lead Israel against the powerful Midianites, telling him in verse 16 that “thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.”

Gideon’s response? You must have me confused with somebody else.

Gideon leading Israel from bondage against the Midianites.

Gideon leading Israel from bondage against the Midianites.

Responses such as this — whether it be in times of old or today — could surely exasperate the Lord. It would be so easy for Him to say: Move out of the way, my weak and faithless servant, and I will take care of this myself.

In his talk, “Lord I Believe,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminded us that the Lord uses imperfect people to do his work. Because he has no other choice.

Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we.

So it was with Gideon. Even though there’s no doubt that Gideon failed to see himself that way, an angel of the Lord refers to Gideon as “a mighty man of valor.” (Judges 6: 12)

Through the angelic messenger, the Lord continues to reassure Gideon, but doubts remain.

It takes what would be the first sign from the Lord in verse 21, before Gideon recognizes the Lord’s hand and goes to work.

He overthrows the altar of Baal in the middle of the night and prepares to face the Midianites.

And yet, as many of us do, Gideon still doubts himself. That’s apparent when he approaches the Lord one more time in verse 36.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 1.22.22 PMOf course, Gideon wakes up the next morning to find the Lord had granted his request, wringing enough water out of the fleece to fill a bowl. (v. 38).

Still full of doubt, Gideon approaches the Lord yet another time. Fearing that the Lord might be angry with him, he asks for yet another fleece.

In verse 39:

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It’s important to remember that Gideon wasn’t asking for a sign. But like we all do when faced with seemingly impossible tasks, just needed extra reassurance from the Lord.

And now here I am, asking for what amounted to be a third priesthood blessing from the Lord in less than a few months.

I needed another fleece.

My hometeacher put his hands on my head, invoked his authority and sealed the anointing which had taken place.

In the blessing, he reaffirmed specific points made in the first two blessings. It was so close that it would seem that he had read a transcript of the first two blessings to make sure he got it right.

Of course, that wasn’t the case.

After he said amen, and I stood up, the scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants 6:28 came to my mind.

In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

I once again had full confidence in the Lord. I felt peace.

I had my fleece.

Why God gives us ‘spiritual training wheels’

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Image used under a Creative Commons license.

I catch on rather quickly — that is if you measure me by an archaeologist’s standards.

It took me forever to learn how to ride a bike. Come to think of it, I was the last kid to learn how to tie my shoes, color in the lines and drink my milk with a straw. It’s a wonder I ever graduated from kindergarten.

No matter how hard I tried while growing up on Jefferson Street, I had the coordination of Sid the Sloth. Whistling, tying my shoes and waking up without hurting myself were skills that would elude me for some time.

As if I had enough trouble, life came so much easier for Danny, who happened to live three houses down from me. Never a hair out of place, he learned how to ride his bike during lunch and was the designated ladies man in Mrs. Grahn’s first-grade class.

As for me, riding my orange bike with the sissy handlebars and banana seat required traction, training wheels and extra angels on duty. But I never gave up, even after the training wheels came off. Every day, I would wheel the bike over to my launch pad – the edge of the driveway next to our front lawn. After an initial push-off with my feet, I would pedal as fast as I could before falling over on the lawn a few feet away.

Over and over, I did that until one day something wonderful happened. Instead of falling over, I kept riding — past the front lawn, around the side of the house and to our lawn in the back.

It had taken me the equivalent of the paleozoic era, but I had learned to ride a bike.

As for my  “spiritual training wheels,” I’m going to need those for awhile longer.

The scrapes and cuts from learning to ride a bike were a cinch compared to qualifying for exaltation. I promised to be like the Savior in every way, to serve as he served, love as he loved and obey all his commandments.

Count me, Lord. I’m on your team. I won’t let you down.

That would last about a day until a movie with a high body count showed up on Netflix.

Public pronouncements didn’t help, even back when I served my mission.

“I’m getting off the fence,” I told other missionaries during a zone conference. No more mediocrity for me.

Afterwards, Elder Muzzy brought up his own fence.

“My fence has a gate that opens and shuts,” he said. “Makes it easier to go back and forth.”

To be certain, “spiritual training wheels” aren’t mentioned in the scriptures that I can see. But this scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants comes pretty close.

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In the process of conversion and change, the Lord won’t give up on us. President Hinckley offered similar encouragement during a dedication of the Hinckley Building in 2002 at BYU-Idaho.

“With all the capability that you have, you have to do your very best. And somehow if you do that, the Lord will open the way before you and the sun will shine.”

President Uchtdorf taught that we should start with a desire to believe until it becomes a habit.

The first step to walking in righteousness is simply to try. We must try to believe. Try to learn of God: read the scriptures; study the words of His latter-day prophets; choose to listen to the Father, and do the things He asks of us. Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible—and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you. (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Love of God,” Oct. 2009)

As I sat down to write this, my sick wife was sitting on a chair in the living room typing one-handed on our laptop something she needed for school.

“I don’t suppose you could type this for me,” she asked.

“Not right yet,” I replied. “I need to get this written first.”

The irony of writing a blog post about being a better Christian while failing to serve my sick wife didn’t hit me at first.

About those training wheels, Lord. I’m going to need them for awhile longer.

 

Here’s the entire talk by Pres. Hinckley. It’s worth a listen again and example of why I love him so much.

A letter to BYU-Idaho Pres. Kim B. Clark

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Dear Pres. Clark:

Sorry to hear that people are so riled up again about you. While you continue to have numerous supporters in and outside the church, these folks don’t seem happy at all, let me tell you.

They say you are misguided, that you are off your rocker. It appears a good number of people in the church think you’re intent on dragging us down with this outdated Honor Code thing at Brigham Young University-Idaho. They’re calling it mindless obedience, a well-orchestrated plan to turn us into Amish or something you dreamed up because you must be bored.

By now, you know I am referring to this post on the President of BYU-Idaho Facebook page from a few days ago. Here it is again for those who missed it.

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Here’s one example of the many of the negative responses I found about you in about 10 minutes of searching. I didn’t spend any more time because wallowing in the mud makes it tougher to get cleaned up for church.

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Surprisingly, a good number seem to be from members of the church.

The ones who raised their arms to the square and sustained Gordon B. Hinckley as prophet, seer and revelator. I only mention him because he was the one who asked you to move to Rexburg and lead BYU-Idaho. It’s as if by implication that the prophet sure messed up on this decision.

Speaking of mocking and criticism, when did it become OK for members of Christ’s church do murmur, complain and criticize about you, your policies, BYU-Idaho and what took Chick-fil-A so long to get on campus.

You’re probably the first to admit that not every decision of yours has been a good one. Even as a church institution, BYU-Idaho has problems and challenges to resolve. Still it doesn’t mean that detractors get to stand you up against the wall and make you duck a barrage of verbal dodge balls.

Maybe we should remind folks what Elder Dallin H. Oaks said about criticizing church authorities. In a 1986 address to the Latter-day Student Association in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, he said:

“Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed toward Church authorities, general or local. Jude condemns those who ‘speak evil of dignities.’ (Jude 1:8.) Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true.”

But Pres. Clark isn’t a bishop or a stake president, so this doesn’t apply, somebody will insist. Maybe they forgot that you served as an Area Seventy for the church until you were released in May. And if Pres. Hinckley asked you to be the next president of BYU-Idaho, that’s good enough for me. I guarantee plenty of prayer and fasting went into that decision.

I’m sure you agree with Elder Oaks that Latter-day Saints don’t need to be docile or indifferent to defective policies, deficient practices, or wrongful conduct in government or in private organizations in which we have an interest. But we got to build people up and not be so quick to tear down. Whether they are the former dean of Harvard Business School or work at a local convenience store.

President David O. McKay said this about what he called “murmurers” and “faultfinders”:

“Speak not against the authorities.’ What does it mean? Be not a murmurer; that is what it means. It is one of the most poisonous things that can be introduced into the home of a Latter-day Saint—this murmuring against presidents of stakes, high councilors, Sunday School superintendents, etc. …

“Better stop murmuring and build. Remember that one of the worst means of tearing down an individual is slander. It is one of the most poisonous weapons that the evil one uses. Backbiting and evil speaking throw us into the class of malefactors rather than the class of benefactors.” (Gospel Ideals, Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953, pp. 142–43.)

Oh and about the dress code. I chuckle when I see the people who say obedience in small matters doesn’t lead to bigger blessings. Only because it seems so Naman of them.

I know you’re not concerned about what people think, that they’ve pegged you as a Pharisee or wouldn’t allow the Savior on campus because of his beard or sandals. But it must be comforting to be on solid gospel footing after hearing these words from Pres. Hinckley about the Honor Code at BYU in Provo. Yes, we know the Honor Codes differ some between the two schools. That’s not even the point, according to Pres. Hinckley, who gave this address at BYU while first counselor to Pres. Hunter in 1994.

“I recognize that some have strong feelings concerning standards of dress and conduct. I can only say that in every game we play, we play by the rules. I hope you will not look upon the Dress and Grooming Standards as repressive. They have been designed with another objective in mind. Our leaders have taught through the generations that “cleanliness is . . . next to godliness” (John Wesley, Sermon 93, On Dress, c. 1780). Neatness in dress, modesty in dress, cleanliness in person—are these too much to ask of a student body of this kind of young men and women who carry in their hearts a conviction that you are indeed sons and daughters of God, our Eternal Father?”

It sounds to me like the Honor Code gets us ready to enter the temple where everybody wears white. When you consider how the temple prepares us for exaltation, the dress code doesn’t seem so much about what you wear but who you are and what you can become.

I’m not sure if you noticed or not, but I used your full name in my blog post title.

As a sign of respect.

Your friend,

Mike

 

Can we talk about talks?

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“Let me get this straight,” I said as I stared incredulously at my missionary district leader.

You want us all to bring investigators to a chapel in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, where we served as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Then you want me, with my Dollar Tree Spanish,  to stand up and preach to them.

And then challenge them to be baptized THAT NIGHT?

I looked at him, looking for any sign that this was a joke.

He looked at me and just smiled.

“Sounds about right.”

That was nearly 30 years ago when I finally agreed to do this. I remember the nonstop prayers pleading for help from above, the fasting, the sleepless nights and the fear that made it impossible to concentrate on anything else.

I still remember standing outside the church that night, looking for any means of escape. A wise district leader wouldn’t let me. He talked to me and encouraged me until I walked inside the chapel.

Two hours later, as the six of us relived the event over sundaes, I couldn’t deny how good I felt. Confidence and peace had replaced extreme fear.

In an almost apologetic way, I begged forgiveness for not directly challenging investigators in attendance to be baptized.

Elder Johnson looked at me and smiled. It didn’t matter that he had almost perfect looks with perfect blond hair from California, he had the biggest heart.

Elder Henneke, you glowed up there when you were speaking. You were on fire, so full of the Spirit, he told me. Other elders nodded.

Fast forward 30 years.

Can you believe they want me to give another talk? Talks assigned to us three weeks earlier are prepared on Saturday night. More emphasis is placed on the right joke instead of the right Spirit. It is so much easier to find a conference talk to read.

Next time, it would be more truthful to end your talk, “and we read these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Before you blow off your next speaking assignment or convince yourself that you aren’t good enough, stop and consider a couple of observations.

1. Elder Dallin H. Oaks referred to sacrament meeting as the most important meeting of the church. Next to the ordinance of the sacrament, the Lord has trusted you to help change lives. When you were baptized, you promised to stand up for the Lord at all times and at all places. Loving Heavenly Father with all your heart, might, mind and strength doesn’t come with an escape clause when you get the call from the executive secretary.

2. Speaking in church can be incredibly scary. So was walking on water for Peter

You’re right. My stomach still knots up each time I am asked to speak. Maybe it’s physically impossible to get up and speak right now, for your brain will turn to mush. Remember when Peter started to walk on water before becoming afraid.

Every one of us will have our own walk-on-water moments.

Every one of us will have our own walk-on-water moments.

Every one of us will have “walk-on-water” moments, and giving a talk could be one of yours. If the Lord can help part the Red Sea, he can help you with a talk.

3. Since I’m not really a good public speaker, how do I know what jokes to use?

Oh for the love of John Bytheway, the Lord has not asked you to do stand-up comedy. He has trusted you to teach his flock through the power of the Holy Ghost. Live so you can qualify for the Holy Ghost and be willing to pay the price to receive its promptings. In an April 2011 General Conference address, Elder Jeffrey R, Holland described the process that each general authority goes through before they speak. That could be a lesson for us.

Each is to fast and pray, study and seek, start and stop and start again until he or she is confident that for this conference, at this time, his or hers is the topic the Lord wishes that speaker to present regardless of personal wishes or private preferences. Every man and woman you have heard during he past 10 hours of general conference has tried to be true to that prompting. Each has wept, worried, and earnestly sought the Lord’s direction to guide his or her thoughts and expression.

Don’t compare yourself to others, schedule sufficient time for preparation and don’t settle for reading another talk. Just do the very best you can.

Then the Spirit can work through you, even calling an audible (changing the play) when you least expect it.

It happened to me as I was sitting on the stand ready to speak one Sunday. I had studied, prayed and sought the help of the Holy Ghost.

Right before I stood up, I heard a voice as if it were speaking right next to me.

“Put away your notes.”

I looked around and I heard it again.

“Put away your notes.”

I shuffled through my papers and saved out a quote.

Everything else came from memory.

Years later, I still wonder what would have happened I had more faith, to trust completely in the Spirit to say all the words that come through me. Or to have the faith to testify and invite people to drink from the living waters.

Even if it means I have the courage to walk on water myself.

 

 

 

Gospel lessons for dummies

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Two things you should know about the road where I live.

It’s so narrow that Amy Adams couldn’t fit through it without a pair of pilot cars and “over-sized load” signs. And if the tight fit wasn’t enough to make a new driver cry, somebody decided that this road designed for the Lollipop Guild crowd needed a set of S curves.

It was the first thing my neighbors told me about when I got there. Stay out of our snacks and watch out for the S curves.

“How do I get through it,” I asked nervously.

“Follow the sign, go slow and stay to the right.”

I didn’t believe the  yellow sign when I saw it at first. I thought it was cute how slow these country bumpkins wanted me to go.

I’m supposed to go 5 mph? Tectonic plates shift faster than that.

Keep right, the sign said.

And then I went around the curves the first time. And I then I imagined another truck meeting me somewhere in the middle, resulting in the use of a spatula to get scrape my Camry off his grill.

So I was so careful at first, driving like a grandma during rush hour. I inched along while hugging the right each time, no matter how stupid the neighbors thought I looked.

Each day as nothing happened, it got easier to go a little  faster, to move inch-by-inch toward the center.

Then I could feel a tiny alarm go off in my head, warning me to be careful. And I slowed down again, not wanting to be that guy who took one head on for State Farm.

Each day on my way to work, I couldn’t help but think this could be a chapter from “Object Lessons for Dummies — The Mike Henneke Edition.”

It must have been one of those times when I heard this from Thomas S. Monson.

The Prophet Joseph declared, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.” 5

Let us walk these clearly defined paths. To help us do so we can follow the shortest sermon in the world. It can be found on a common traffic sign. It reads, “Keep Right.” (Priesthood session, Aprill 1999 General Conference.)

I bet he got that from my old, yellow sign.

 

Why you should give thanks after reading this

I’m grateful for $13 in my checking account until Tuesday. It helps me focus less on stuff and on what really matters.

I’m grateful for the chance to live by myself in a tiny apartment over a garage  for three months. The quiet here has led to some amazing inspiration and makes me treasure even the briefest of phone calls from home.

I’m grateful for walking down the hallway in high school day after, waiting for the name-calling, derisive comments and the laughter. It prepared me to help my own kids and blessed me with empathy for kids experiencing the same thing. Thanks-in-sand

I’m grateful for church held in an old schoolhouse where our most holy place consisted of a room with folding chairs on a wooden floor surrounded by a chalkboard. It taught me to never take for granted beautiful church buildings that now look and feel like mini temples.

I’m grateful for a dad who thought that watching television with him was good enough for bonding time. It gave me the resolve to be different, to be better for my children.

I’m grateful for those two car accidents on black ice, nearly drowning twice, just missing a head-on collision with a semi truck, nearly getting run over by a tractor and leaving two minutes later so I missed the incredible damage done by that moose crossing the road. It taught me that I’ve been protected by divine sources — that I can’t explain, but know to be true.

I’m grateful for a mom who made me memorize my first public talk at age 7 where I was so scared that I cried. And for that speech in humanities that may go down as the most epic fail in public speaking of all time. From those fails, I learned how to stand in front of a crowd and speak with some power and confidence.

I’m grateful for those who treated me unfairly and placed a tremendous burden on my family. It taught me humility and made me tougher.

I’m grateful for the guy who asked the homeless man in Dairy Queen, “would you like a sandwich,” and then bought him a meal. It taught me that nothing else matters.

I’m grateful to hear words like these, for they have taught me a whole new way to think of gratitude.

Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be. — Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf (General Conference, April 2014)

 

The best “customer service” when I needed it the most

I didn’t pay attention to him at first, because I just wanted a place to wait with nobody bothering me.

With my wife shopping in another part of the store, I put my head down and stared at my phone like we all do.  

Less than a minute later, the restaurant employee worked to my attention from the other side of the room.

“Can I help you with something, or do you just need a place to sit,” he asked me politely from behind the counter. He was a clean-cut young man, one that I used to attend the same local LDS ward with for a time. I vaguely remembered he was a married student pursuing some sort of degree at BYU-Idaho, but not much else.

I motioned that I was fine and returned to my phone, struggling to set up an email account with little success.

It was several minutes later before I noticed him again, efficiently wiping down walls behind me.

“Do you need me to move,” I asked.

“No, you’re good,” he said with a smile, moving around to the other side of my table.

He was so polite to me and I didn’t deserve it. Despite all the blessings showered upon my family, despite all the good people I had met and the miracles I had seen, my spiritual tanks were running low tonight.

It wasn’t too much later when the employee asked about my employment prospects. He knew that I had been unemployed for five months, but didn’t know much about the acrimony that never seemed to let up.

I told him about my new job and how I would be leaving for Oregon in less than a week.

After he offered congratulations, he looked at me.

“I know it probably hasn’t been easy for you here,” he said. “When I first saw you in church, I noticed how much energy you had to live the gospel. That really made an impression on me.”

I smiled, mumbled thanks and he returned to his duties.

I tried but couldn’t concentrate on anything else except what he said.

Before I left, I walked across the room and motioned for him to come out of the back.

“Remind me what you’re studying,” I said to him. He was working his way toward becoming a lawyer.

“Thanks for what you said,” I told him.

It hasn’t been easy here at times, I said. In fact, it’s been incredibly hard. “But your comment means a lot to me,” I said.

After shaking hands, I walked out of the restaurant with a smile and more energy.

All because of some of the best customer service when I needed it the most.

 

The wrong way to get to the right way

Which direction to take?

A young Elder Holland stared at the two roads, praying to know which direction to go.

 

Very little of it made sense.

It didn’t make sense that I knew I was supposed to go to this job interview in another state, in another time zone, some 1,000 miles away.

It didn’t make sense because — although the job sounded pretty good on paper — it involved leaving my family for several months, working regular Sunday hours and returning to a newspaper, something I wasn’t sure I was ready for.

Yet as I fasted and prayed beforehand about the job opportunity, I had that knowledge, that undeniable conviction, that I needed to go to Washington state to study it out in my mind and figure it out for myself.

Driving into Port Angeles, it felt good at first. Many of the people there were so kind, the salary was more than I expected and it gave me a chance to relive the incredible scenery of the Olympic Peninsula. My mom lived next to 50 miles to the west.

One of the beautiful lakes where I would be working.

One of the beautiful lakes where I would be working.

I started talking myself into how our family could live there, how maybe I could sneak into church on Sundays and justify working the rest of the Sabbath at the newspaper.

Then came the shattering news on Day 2 of my tryout there. My son-in-law, Nick, had been rushed to the emergency room the night before, on the verge of death. And my good wife, who had portrayed strength through so many trials this year, showed signs of emotion, fatigue and stress.

From the darkness of that conference room in Port Angeles, the quiet voice from within was unmistakable, “You need to go home.”

I informed my wife and everyone at the newspaper that I needed to rush home. They understood and put everything on hold.

Two days later, I made it to Rexburg, and by the next morning, had traveled to University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City. I would spend much of that next week after that providing whatever support I could as Nick made a miraculous recovery from severe bleeding in his brain.

While I was in Salt Lake City, I felt prompted one afternoon to visit the LDS Tabernacle on temple square. From my seat near the back of the building, I sketched out on a piece of paper the pros and cons with this job in Port Angeles. Around me, tourists from other parts of the world listened as missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints demonstrated the remarkable acoustics of the historic building.

As I did that, I felt prompted to look up talks on keeping the Sabbath Day holy from general authorities.

I read excerpts from the first few talks on the subject, before coming to this one from Elder John H. Groberg. I wasn’t even done before I knew my answer. It was not right for me to accept employment that required me to work on Sunday. Everybody else has different circumstances, but this my revelation for my circumstances at this time.

Still, as I wrote the letter to the newspaper executives explaining the situation and withdrawing my name from consideration, one thought persisted.

If Heavenly Father knew all along that this wasn’t the right job and that this was the wrong road, why did I feel so strongly like I needed to go there? It surely wasn’t a surprise to him that NIck would be sick and I would be needed on the morning of the second day. Not to mention that we spent a significant amount of our cash reserves for some trip expenses.

It didn’t make sense at all.

Until this week, when a friend sent me this story from Elder Jeffrey Holland, about when he and his son were returning home late in the evening from a wilderness exploration and came to a fork in the road.

As they both prayed about which way to go, father and son both felt strongly like they should take the road to the right. They didn’t travel more than 400 feet before realizing it was the wrong road.

“We went to the right and it was a dead end … clearly the wrong road,” Holland said, recounting the story. After retracing their route, they ended up on the right road heading home.

As I pondered this story, I realized that this was my answer. That we needed to experience a slight detour to help remind us what the right path looked like.

We’re still walking, and it might take awhile. But thanks to that detour 1,000 miles away, we know we’re headed in the right direction.

Watch the story of Elder Holland and the wrong road below.