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).

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Seeing with an Eye of Faith: Visualize Your Desired Future

A remarkable phrase shows up a number of times in the Book of Mormon. It involves “looking forward” with an “eye of faith” to a desired result in the future. The idea is that if there is something that you sincerely desire, you should use your inner “eye,” or your imagination, and picture yourself as already being there or having what you want.  Through your faith that it is possible, you can begin to see yourself as having already reached your goal.

In the book of Alma 5:15-16, Alma preaches to the people about the goal of being received into heaven when their life on Earth is over.  In order to direct them toward that goal, he asks them if they can imagine how things will be at that future time when they finally get there. As they “look forward with an eye of faith,” what kind of outcome do they see? He asks:

15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality … to stand before God …?

 16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?

What Alma is trying to have his audience do is to visualize their own future in minute detail. They are to imagine being resurrected and raised to stand before God.  They are to imagine themselves hearing the approving voice of the Lord accepting them into heaven — reaching their ultimate goal.  He suggests that if they try to visualize this scene and what they envision is only negative, then perhaps they need to find that balance in their lives so that the way they are living is in alignment with a positive outcome and then exercise their faith so that they are now headed in this more desirable direction.

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Nobody’s Perfect: A Look at Toxic Perfectionism and Depression

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By Joanna Benson and Lara Jackson

Guest blogger:
Lara Branscomb Jackson has her BA in psychology, her master’s in counseling and is completing her PhD in counseling. Lara has a private practice and works at a Wellness Center that focuses on eating disorders, addiction, diabetes, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety.  She grew up in North Carolina in the LDS faith and is an active member in the  LDS church. An interesting aspect of Lara’s experience is that her parents were converts to the church from the Baptist faith. Her parents were the only converts to the LDS faith of her extensive family. Lara has been in numerous callings in the church including multiple opportunities with the Young Women’s program.

Utah Valley University professor Kris Doty observed first hand how depression affected LDS women, when she worked as a crisis counselor in the emergency room at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. Doty saw increased activity of LDS women on Sunday evenings after church meetings suffering from feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and guilt.

Doty concluded the LDS women’s depression was caused by genetics, abusive history, family relationships, and judgment by others. However she found that toxic perfectionism was the major cause of depression among LDS women.

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Suggestions for Giving a Good Sacrament Talk

Having finished partaking of bread and water in memory of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, a young man walks up to the podium. He pulls out notes copied by printer from information found on the LDS Church website. Nervously he clears his throat and prepares to face a group of people familiar to him, but often no more than acquaintances. He puts on a smile to cover true feelings of discomfort.

“Hello.” he starts. “The Bishop wants me to talk about happiness. I first learned of the assignment Saturday morning soon after getting out of bed. The phone rang and woke me up. I climbed out of bed and started dressing when my mom called out that I had a call. ‘who is it?’ I begged. It seemed too early for it to be my girlfriend who was probably just getting up. ‘You’ll find out. Just pick up the phone.’ I wish I hadn’t,” the young man says, turning to the far older man sitting between two other men. “You caught me at the only time to reach me.” He turns back to the audience, “The minute I said hello and the Bishop said hello back, I knew what this meant. I’ll get back at the Bishop,” he chuckles in good nature. No one takes him seriously. That is part of the problem.

He clears his throat to start the rest of the talk. For a moment he looks out among the bored adults, screaming babies, inattentive busy children, and self-absorbed teenagers. It seems the only ones paying attention are his parents; siblings not caring. “I am going to base my talk on Elder _________ of the Seventy who gave this excellent talk about what Christ did for us.” The young man proceeds to read paragraph after paragraph, interjecting a few short comments of his own. By the time he ends most in the meeting are taking a cat nap or reading the latest Church magazine or scriptures on mobile devices. He sits down and the next speaker gets up to more or less repeat the process.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Although the example was from a young man, adults often follow this same pattern. Part of it is a general nervous reaction to getting up in front of a group to communicate. The American culture is extremely individualistic with only the most extroverted getting noticed. Exhibitionism is the norm for public presentations and lectures set aside for teachers. No matter. There are some suggestions anyone can follow to give a better Sacrament meeting talk that is engaging and less uncomfortable. Most who read this probably already know these tips, but hopefully it can be shared. Do in our own talks what 1 Timothy 4: 12 says, “but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Continue reading