Recommended Reading for CES Instructors, in light of Elder Ballard’s recent remarks

If you follow any Mormon topics on any form of social media, it’s likely you’ve heard about Elder Ballard’s recent remarks:

“Gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and the teacher responded, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue.”

What I hope to do in this post is list a few resources that a seminary/institute (or even a really dedicated Sunday School teacher) could read to help them get the knowledge to either give good answers to these questions or to know where to look and find the answers. Continue reading

Holding onto Hope: The Rest of the Story

Note: Emma’s story was recently featured in the March edition of The Friend, a children’s magazine published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The title of the article is “Holding onto Hope.” This blog post tells the rest of Emma’s story.

Emma on the couchIn early spring of 2014, my seven-year old daughter, Emma, was diagnosed with strep throat. My once active daughter was now tiring easily and taking naps–something she never did before getting sick. Her pediatrician prescribed a 10-day treatment of antibiotics and the usual suggestions (e.g., get plenty of rest, drink lots of liquids, etc.) that normally accompany an illness like this.

Toward the end of the 10 days, my daughter wasn’t showing any signs of improvement; she still had a high fever and was very lethargic. That Saturday night, my wife and I decided that we should take her to the emergency room. We knew something wasn’t right. Continue reading

The Berlin Wall and Me.

Berlin 4It was June 3rd 1991, and I had graduated from high school exactly three days before. I sat with suit cases assembled at a gate in the Phoenix airport, surrounded by family, my friends, and my German teacher. A group of students from my school were headed off to Germany for a month to be exchange students in Berlin. It was going to be my first big adventure as a newly minted “adult”.

Fifteen hours and a very uncomfortable plane ride later, we landed in Munich. After we had toured Bavaria and Austria for a week, we boarded the equivalent of a Greyhound bus, and were Berlin bound. As we drove northward out of Bavaria into Thuringia, the roads became bumpier and less maintained; a sign of communist neglect. We passed fields of bright yellow flowers and forests of thick green trees. What a contrast to the monolithic apartment blocks and dismal architecture of East Germany. As we approached Berlin, evidence of East Germany’s desire to keep people from fleeing to the west became very evident. Abandoned, yet intimidating, grey gates and check points were our gateway into Berlin. Shortly we would meet our host families and begin our stay in the Spandau Quarter of the city, and would attend Hans-Carossa Oberschule. Continue reading

Equal and Opposite Sins?

At college (Ricks College, which really dates me!), one of the oddest controversies I encountered dealt with students complaining that the DJs were playing a filthy, dirty song about sex at every dance.  Now, I have no complaints about people actually complaining about songs that are actually and explicitly about sex, but this one was a bizarre one:  “Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane (this also dates me, since most people are more familiar with the recent Rascal Flatts in the Pixar Cars movie).

Continue reading

Stilling the storms of life: The time I was put on church probation

Isaiah 1.18 bigIt’s been a long, and noisy week here in the Bloggernacle, hasn’t it?

I have to admit I am tired of all of the back and forth, the sides, the contention, the news stories, the blog posts … so very tried. I didn’t realize how tired I was until I stepped into Church on Sunday. I sat down on the chair with my kids and our stuff and waited for Sacrament Meeting to start. The organist started playing some of my favorite hymns and I just sat and listened and quietly sang along,

“Jesus lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly, while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high. Hide me O my Savior hide, till the storm of life is past. Safe into thy haven guide, oh receive my soul at last.”

“Precious Savior dear Redeemer, Thy sweet message now impart. May thy spirit pure and fervid, enter every timid heart. Carry there the swift conviction, turning back the sinful tide. Precious Savior dear Redeemer, may each soul in thee abide.”

“Jesus Savior pilot me, over life’s tempestuous sea. Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treach’rous shoal. Chart and compass came from thee: Jesus Savior, pilot me.”

“Master the tempest is raging! The billows are tossing high! The sky is o’er shadowed with blackness, no shelter or help is nigh. The wind and the waves shall obey thy will, peace be still. Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea, or demons or men or whatever may be. No waters can swallow the ship where lies the master of ocean and earth and skies. They all shall sweetly obey thy will, peace be still, peace be still. They all shall sweetly obey thy will, peace, peace, be still.”

I needed to hear those particular hymns and have those words going thru my mind as I began my Sunday worship. Those songs and those words melted a lot of my fatigue away. The words of the Sacrament prayers were especially powerful to me as well, and I felt very refreshed as these prayers were spoken. I also thought a little deeper about what it meant to take upon me the name of Christ, and the promise to always have His spirit to be with me. It was a comfort and a blessing to think of the atoning blood of Christ washing away my scarlet sins – making them white as snow.

My thoughts turned very briefly to many years before, as I sat in my bishop’s office confessing my sins and asking for help. That was a hard day, one of the hardest in my life. The decision to go to him for help was one that I knew I needed to make, but was afraid to make; I was embarrassed – for all of the reasons you might expect. But I made the choice to go and to ask for help.

In that meeting I was put on probation.

Bishop was not angry, or judgmental. In fact, he was quite the opposite, and full of love and concern for me and my spiritual well being. As part of my probation he asked that I refrain from taking the sacrament, and that I not comment in meetings or say prayers in the course of the church service. He encouraged me to come to Church and to stay for the full 3 hours and to sit in the chapel during Sacrament Meeting. He gave me some homework to do as well – passages of scripture to read and think about. He asked me to keep a journal of my experiences, but that he would not ask me to share that with him. He asked me to pray for specific things: forgiveness, and to be able to feel the Atonement and the love of Christ as I worked thru my problems. We met together a few more times during my probation and each meeting was a blessing. I could feel the grace of the Lord and the Atonement working in me and on me, to change me into something better. As Bishop prayed for me and as I prayed for myself in those meetings, I could feel the tremendous love that my Heavenly Father had for me, just for me, pouring down on me, healing me, cleaning me, and making me whole again.

If life had a rewind button, I wouldn’t make the choices again that landed me in that bishop’s office and on probation. However, that probation taught me so much about what is important. Not being able to fully participate at church was a humbling experience. It taught me to appreciate the full fellowship of my membership in the Church. It taught me, as the words of the hymns suggest, to fly to the bosom of my Savior for help. It taught me to abide in the Lord. It provided me a course correction back to Jesus Christ, and it showed me that truly He is the one who stills the storms of life. The beauty of The Plan of Salvation is that we do have a Savior provided for us. He has already done the hard work, and asks that we come to Him with our weaknesses, our trials and our sins to be healed, to be forgiven and to have the storms of our lives stilled. He can do these things. He wants to do these things for us, but we have to be willing to humble ourselves and to take Him up on His offer.