Tag Archives: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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)


Mr. (Not) Right

Welcome to Team Henneke, where everybody not only wants to be right, but needs to be right.

No way will we give into the other person because that would be — wrong.

We have to be right about everything, it seems. Including the exact date when dad first reached puberty, the number of times he posts on Facebook each day, who did the last load of towels and the proper location for toothpaste on the bathroom counter. mr-right

At our house, folks exercise their right to be right in practically any instance. It could be during a blessing on the food, during a football game or in a room full of VIPs.

As for me, I can’t say here if I am right or not, because somebody might take issue with it. Because it’s my blog, just pretend that I speak the truth for the next 30 seconds.

It doesn’t matter to me as much if I win a debate. I don’t care to defend any allegations that somebody does more housework than me. Or that nobody believes me when I deny any responsibility for using the milk jug as a doorstop.

Actually, it’s quite entertaining to purposely mess with those who have to be right. It shakes them up, makes them question the very reason for their existence.

The key is to calmly state any of the retorts listed below and walk away.

1. The sun won’t come up tomorrow.

2. I don’t owe you any money. If it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen.

3. Yes, I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you. I’m not at my best under general anesthesia.

4. I firmly believe Congress will do the right thing.

5. Nobody has shown any conclusive evidence that leaving mayo out for six hours can be harmful to you.

6. That Billy character on Family Circus should do stand-up. He’s that funny.

Now that I know my place, I don’t always need to have the last word. Unless you disagree with me, then I will have speak up.

Because, let’s be honest. It’s the right thing to do.

History in the making


Capturing those special moments is about to get much easier, thanks to Kinfolio.

I’m the world’s worst genealogist. There, I said it.

I can’t spell the word without Google. Searching records online? Combing cemeteries for gravestones? Sending away for census records? All of that makes my head explode.

What compounds the guilt is my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and having my mom as a veteran genealogist for at least 50 years.

It’s what we do. Mormons believe everything begins with the family unit, and we need to connect the dots back through history.

Despite my shameful example at times through my life, something still calls to me with family history, to find the stories of the people who paved the way for me and to learn from them.

Thankfully, capturing your family stories and personal memories is about to get much easier. The people who made Family Search are putting the finishing touches on a free new experience for capturing those special family moments.

I’ve seen a sneak preview. It’s called Kinfolio, and trust me when I say it looks fun and easy to preserve my family memories.

I think I’m coming down with the family history bug again. And this is one affliction I don’t mind getting at all.

Click here to get a sneak peek of the site and sign up to get news and updates.




10 unbendable, absolute truths about Christmas

1. I still believe in Santa Claus.

2. Santa likes only frosted sugar cookies made special by Mrs. Claus, with no more than a half glass of milk.

3. We look pretty silly camping out for 6 hours outside Target, only to stampede inside, just to be the first to get that discounted Seinfeld DVD before anybody else. I’ve been told, that with enough surgeries, that blind, one-legged nun will recover from her injuries.

4. This is the only time of year when it’s cool to listen to a capella. A friend of mine told me this once.

5. Speaking of Christmas music, Thanksgiving is the first day it can legally be played. Also, anyone possessing a David Spade Christmas album faces possible felony charges. I’m just repeating the truth to help you all out.

6. Forget about all the crazy talk you heard about Mormons, Temple Square in Salt Lake City is the coolest place to be on Christmas. The light displays will blow your mind, the music is heavenly and no pepper spray to be found.

Lighting up Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Reshared from newsroom.lds.org)

7. “Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney easily makes the top 5 for worse Christmas songs of all time. (You’re welcome, Jim!)

8.“A Christmas Story” is obviously the best holiday movie, end of discussion. “Elf” will have to settle for second best.

9. Mom meant well, but I always found her presents without even trying. Next time, don’t use the dirty clothes hamper.

10. You didn’t think I would end a Christmas post without posting this clip, just as gentle hint to why we do this to begin with.

Dear Journal: I guess I did need you

She held up the beautiful brand new journal and asked if I wanted it.

My first thought was to say no, because journals take too much work. Honestly journals are pretty useless, seeing how I hardly write on paper anymore. If you’re hankering to know, you can find my legacy on Facebook and Twitter.

Journals are so yesterday. They’re for presidents to make up material for their memoirs. Sisters battle over them, lawyers subpoena them or they gather dust under a bed.

But I looked at the pristine, embossed brown cover with detailed stitching and was touched by her generosity. I gratefully accepted her gift.

The next morning, I was exercising while listening to a church talk from Richard G. Scott. Figured it would do me more good than an “Everybody Loves Raymond” rerun. That’s something else my good friend and boss taught me.

Elder Scott spoke on how spiritual guidance can help us solve life challenges.

While I ran on the treadmill, Elder Scott described attending a church lesson from a member in Mexico who was struggling to teach. Suddenly, some very clear spiritual impressions came to Elder Scott’s mind. The following excerpt describes what he did next.

As each impression came, I carefully wrote it down. In the process, I was given precious truths that I greatly needed in order to be a more effective servant of the Lord. (Emphasis added.)


Tears came to my eyes and I paused the treadmill. This was meant specifically for me. I knew that I needed to write down the impressions that came to me.

I texted my friend and reminded her about the journal. “Coincidence? I think not,” I concluded.

About 30 seconds later, this was her reply:

Haha!! I was gong to send it to Taylor (serving an LDS church mission) but felt to take it out of my bag and ask you. You are so watched over.

I was stunned by her sacrifice and knew without a doubt that I was watched over. I vowed to treasure the journal, to not let her gift be given for naught.

Except that’s not the end of the story.

This Sunday morning, I read about Gideon from the Old Testament, how the Lord asked him to go save Israel from the Midianites. He doubted himself and needed reassurance from the Lord.

I was reading one of the verses in Judges, when I felt a strong feeling of warmth and peace. A definite impression came to my head that I knew was from God to me.

I waited to compose myself and looked at the brown journal sitting next to my laptop.

Thankfully I knew just where to write it down.


“What if Elder Zwick comes to your house?”

The voice, impression, perhaps revelation, hit me as soon as I walked through the door of my tiny basement apartment.

I had just returned from stake conference in Billings presided over by Elder W. Craig Zwick, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My mind was absorbing the doctrine taught and Spirit felt from two wonderful sessions.

Elder W. Craig Zwick

Elder Zwick and his wife spoke with great power during his two addresses. At no time did I see him refer to notes or written text. More than once, he looked at me and caught my eye. At least it felt that way. His words pierced my very soul. His Spirit spoke to my Spirit.

So were the thoughts in my mind as I entered my tiny basement apartment and put my Scriptures and notebook in their proper place.

I hung up my coat and quickly changed into pajama bottoms and orange OSU T-shirt. As I walked through my small living room measuring no more than 18-by-12 feet, the thought came into my head. It was very pronounced, almost like a distinct voice.

“What if Elder Zwick comes to your house?”

The first thought was panic as I looked quickly at the pile of clean laundry in the middle of the living room, still needing to be folded. File folders were scattered around my chair while blankets and my straw cowboy hat covered another chair. Crumbs and dirty silverware could be seen on of my kitchen counter.

I grappled with the absurdness of the idea. I knew he would be spending the week, working with missionaries in the Billings area. So it was possible. But there’s no way he would come to my house out of 5,000 members in the stake. What were the chances?

Then it hit me what I think I was supposed to learn here. What of instead of Elder Zwick, it was the Savior coming to my house. What would he find? What, if anything, would cause me to shrink from his presence?

I did a quick self inventory and realized something:

The Savior wouldn’t see football or anything else on television on this day set aside to focus on Him.

He wouldn’t find any movies in the apartment that would make it harder for me to be like Him.

The more I thought about it, the more I think he would find a good feeling here. And that’s more important than the garbage can sitting off in the corner of my living room. There’s so much I would tearfully beg his forgiveness for, but that’s OK. He already knows I’m trying.

So I don’t really expect a personal visit from Elder Zwick.

But just in case, I folded and put away my laundry and did the dishes.

Just in case, no matter who comes to see me.

"Go Ye Therefore, and Teach All Nations" by Harry Anderson





When the gringo had to learn Spanish

Giving up girls for two years I could do. Missing out on on a few seasons of Cheers or Family Ties I could handle,

Learning Spanish in order to be a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? That was asking the impossible.

I flunked Spanish in high school. I could barely string coherent phrases in English on most days.

Yet a church leader I believed to be a prophet of God sent me a letter in a large, white envelope from Salt Lake City. It said you will serve for two years in Puerto Rico and learn gospel lessons in Spanish.

Within eight weeks. No Rosetta Stone to bail me out.

Two months later, I stood in the San Juan airport in Puerto Rico, soaked in sweat from the humidity, noticing the stares and not understanding a single word.

Charlie Brown’s teacher made more sense than what I was hearing.

I tried every day, oh how I tried. If we were teaching in somebody’s home, I would speak for two minutes, feeling very proud of myself.

At the end of my short monologue in Spanish, perplexed family members smiled and glanced at my companion, the other missionary who had been on the island much longer than me. He patiently repeated everything I just said, only this time in Spanish that they could understand.

Weeks turned to months and the words came, slowly at first. I could say simple phrases.

If people spoke slowly enough, I could understand.

It was a few months before I went home when it hit me. No longer am I thinking of the words in English, coming up with the Spanish equivalent in my head and then speaking the phrase out loud.

Suddenly I was automatically thinking in Spanish in my head. I could speak much more clearly and people could understand me. Suddenly I had a different understanding of the gift of tongues.

Now I’m in another hard spot, learning new writing skills that seem almost as foreign as learning Spanish. It’s hard and I struggle each day, even as I work with very good, patient people.

Whenever I think it will never come, that I might not ever get this, I remember how I was able to learn Spanish, little by little, until one day when the fog lifted and I could speak.

It will happen here as well. So on that day, you’ll have to excuse me if I look up and say, “es muy bien.”



Why Mormons (yes we believe in Christ) shouldn’t get our feelings hurt

Somebody called you names again, and now you’re hurt a little bit.

That Dallas reverend said you belong to a cult, and it made you mad. For several days, national news outlets have carried the comments made by the Rev. Robert Jeffress and the resulting backlash.

You wondered how this could come up again, despite repeated attempts to explain the word “cult” really doesn’t mean anything in this sense. Except that it’s a downer word met to hurt and downgrade.

All because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t believe all the same things as other religions. While we share many of the same core beliefs as other religions, the differences still make people from some other faiths uncomfortable at times.

Some of you said the public relations arm of the Mormon church should rise up an repudiate the statements, show some pictures of Jesus Christ and denounce Jeffress.

Not necessary. Plenty of other people did that for us. CNN’s Anderson Cooper, not a known supporter, ate Jeffries for lunch during a now famous interview shared widely around the Internet.

In this column by Dean Obeidallah, he concludes with the following:

“But I can now say without hesitation that the LDS Church members we met represented the best of Christianity. They were truly caring and compassionate people.”

You all passed around the wonderfully written column by Michael Ottersen and said, “See, see, we are Christians.”

Perhaps my favorite so far is this column from the St. Petersburg Times, comparing Jeffress and LDS church apostle Russell M. Nelson. Daniel Ruth asks who he would be more comfortable with seeking guidance from: Jeffress or Nelson?

Whom would I be more comfortable with?

Would it be the bloviating little God-baiting parson in Dallas who is so quick to condemn, to judge, to exploit the worst ignorant fears in people?

Or would it be the octogenarian gentle man, who may hold dogmatic beliefs I don’t subscribe to, but nevertheless yearns to simply lead a meaningful life.

I think I would be on the next plane to Salt Lake City.


And the response from the LDS Church newsroom? A very short post included these final words:

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in, study and seek to live by the teachings found in the Old and New Testaments. We also believe the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. As the verse above plainly teaches, Christ is at the center of our worship, study, service and faith, and we believe this is clearly demonstrated in the lives of more than 14 million members in over 130 countries around the globe.

Some good members have even taken to changing your Facebook profile pictures to the one below. It includes the name of the LDS churchm the words, “I’m a Christian” and invitation to learn more here.

I have no problem with good people who have done this. We’re encouraged to share the source of our happiness and why we believe in Christ. Needless to say, these exceptional peopl are much better missionaries and better representatives of the church than I am.

Still, I don’t think a sign, virtual or otherwise, should be necessary to show people I’m Christian. If I wouldn’t wear a placard with the Savior on it around town, I probably wouldn’t post it as a Facebook profile picture.

If I’m doing it right, you’ll know I’m Christian by the way I treat others, by what you see me reading and how I treat my family.

You’ll know by my how I react to my mistakes and the words that come out of my mouth.

If somebody tosses out poisonous rhetoric, I might smile and move on, doing the best I can each day.

As near as I can figure out, that’s what Christians do.




In a strange land

It didn’t take long for the homesickness to hit, the kind that twists your stomach into 400 knots.

It was in the Wal-Mart parking lot, late at night with a hint of a warm Montana breeze. To my right, a small group of teens were huddled around a truck.

While my wife was talking, I thought back a few minutes earlier driving down Grand Avenue, one of the main streets here. The road was packed with students, packed in numerous vehicles following a football game that just finished.

I drove slower than I should down Grand Avenue, searching for a particular road I needed. One car filled with students ripped around me on my left. Evidently I wasn’t going fast enough, because one of them leaned out the window and shouted something that appeared kinda rude.

Back in the parking lot, my wife was talking. After 30 seconds or so, she paused.

“Are you there?” she asked. “Why aren’t you talking?”

A short pause before I could keep my voice steady enough.

“I was afraid if I spoke I might start crying.”

Even now, I’m disgusted with myself that I allowed myself to mope. The people are so nice here. Employees at work were kind enough to send my wife a bouquet of flowers and stole into my apartment with some groceries and supplies I needed.

I don’t think it was by accident, but a thought flashed into my mind. It was my young college-age friend back home. He just found out he has a brain tumor.

When I talked to him on Facebook later that night, he was surprisingly upbeat. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “You play the cards you were dealt.”

Hmmm. I’ll wondered if I would be so faithful facing that trial. If I couldn’t even handle this trivial change, how would I ever cope with something that grand.

This is where I need to be. No question in my mind. Doesn’t mean there won’t be a breaking-in period though. It’s happened with other moves before and will probably happen again.

Finally I hung up and walked into Wal-Mart. Before I went home, I set my GPS for another building. Surprisingly I found it in less than five minutes, with no additional insults hurled from students.

I pulled into the parking lot and stopped next to the familiar tan building. Lights lit up the parking lot and most of the facade of the building.

My eyes settled on a sign on the outside of the building. Some of the words on the sign jumped out more than others:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

I paused and smiled. I was home.

Chasing the perfect ending

I wanted my last Saturday as the Sunday editor for the Democrat-Herald to be picture perfect, something that would make filmmaker Ken Burns beg me to tell my story.

It certainly started out that way, before the night imploded. Two co-workers brought pie, I finished my final column for the Sunday paper and we got word of a great story involving a 60-year-old surfer dude saving the day near a Newport jetty.

Tracking him down for an interview usually takes an old priest and a young priest, a rabid guinea pig and 20 phone calls to friends on Facebook.

Not this time. He actually called me back in less than 10 minutes. It was so easy, Publisher Mike McInally advised me to embellish how I reached him. So as far as you know, I called in a favor to my soothsayer bookie in Tibet.

Not only did we land a very good story with a great photo by Jesse Skoubo, I would still had pie left to eat out of the carton after everybody else left for the night.

Maybe they would make a statue of me for the front of the paper. Future tours would include stops at Mike Henneke’s desk and bow down in reverence where they tiny toilet used to sit. This means I better make time for Matt Lauer.

What’s this? Have to remake a page before deadline because a story was three days old. There’s two more blunders in the Lifestyles section that needs to be fixed. And there’s a glaring error by me on the top of A1.

Suddenly my picturesque little woodland scenario has turned into the beach scene from “Saving Private Ryan.”

My Walt Disney ending turned into something like this.

What a way to go. Suddenly I can picture myself getting escorted from the building and the company tearing up my last paycheck.

Today I came home I came home to find my wife and youngest son reading my column at the kitchen table. I walked back into the bedroom, in preparation for my traditional Sunday nap.

Before I went to sleep, Spencer walked into the room, carrying the section with my column on the front. He had it folded over where I could see my picture on the front.

“Could I keep this?” he asked. “I want to show it to my teacher.”

I looked at him and smiled big. Maybe I found my perfect ending after all.