Come Follow Me: Mormon 1-6

My blog post on Come Follow Me: Mormon 1-6

Excerpt: A person or people may become so wicked and hard-hearted that the Holy Spirit withdraws completely. Such a person has procrastinated the day of his repentance “even until spiritual death.” What a contrast to the last several lessons of Jesus’ sojourn with the Nephites. In these chapters of 3 Nephi, we’ve seen the people renewed, reborn, and sealed to Christ. They have been filled with the Spirit, which they prayed for and desired most of all (3 Nephi 19:9). Christ has all power over the righteous Nephites for about 200 years time. When they died, they were received into the bosom of Abraham, which is the final state of the righteous.In our study of Mormon and Ether, we will see how a people become so depraved that the only solution for God is a mercy killing.

Terryl Givens’ excellent article on Latter-day Saints and abortion

Terryl Givens, one of the most prominent LDS intellectuals, has written the best article on abortion I have ever read. Of course it helps that Prof. Givens is a member of our Church and is writing from the perspective we can understand and appreciate as Latter-day Saints. But by any standard, Prof. Givens’ article is well-written and well-argued.

Prof. Givens, who is considered in many circles a “progressive Mormon,” has done an extremely rare and praise-worthy thing: he has gone against orthodoxy among many people in his peer group. It is not brave to do things that will generally win you applause from people who agree with you. It is very brave to “come out” as a conservative on this issue when most academics, entertainers, artists and the media are certain to disagree with you. Prof. Givens has proven himself a brave man.

(I want to make it clear that I don’t know Prof. Givens’ politics, but I do know many, many people who consider him a “progressive Mormon.” I apologize if that description is not accurate).

I cannot do this article justice by extensively quoting from it, but I would like to quote just one section at length because it is so well written and so convincing. The background is that you will often hear people say that they are personally against abortion but not in favor of legislation limiting the act. Prof. Givens destroys that argument:

If abortion is wrong, it is wrong because it involves the intentional destruction of another human being. This is really the heart of the matter. You must ask yourself, why are you personally opposed to abortion? I am not personally opposed to abortion because of religious commitment or precept, because of some abstract principle of “the sanctity of life.” I am personally opposed because my heart and mind, my basic core humanity revolts at the thought of a living sensate human being undergoing vivisection in the womb, being vacuum evacuated, subjected to a salt bath, or, in the “late-term” procedure, having its skull pierced and brain vacuumed out. (I have spared the reader the clinical descriptions of those procedures, although I think those who support abortion rights while willfully avoiding direct confrontation with the specifics of what they countenance are in an indefensible position). According to the Mayo Clinic, an infant in the womb has a beating heart by 5-6 weeks of pregnancy. The first electrical brain activity also appears at this point. Well over two-thirds of abortions are performed at that stage or later. And as we saw above, at a very early, undefined moment in the child’s development, a nervous system responds to the horror of such inflicted suffering. There is no more ethical or logical sense in being “personally opposed, but pro-choice” than in being personally opposed to sex trafficking, slavery, or child abuse, “but” pro-choice regarding the adult’s prerogatives in those cases. Abortion is not like heavy drinking or pornography or blaspheming, where one deplores the action but accords another the right to act immorally. Abortion is of that class of wrongs that entails the willful infliction of pain or killing on another human being.

Ultimately, the pro-life position is not a commitment predicated on sectarian values or God’s precepts. It is the fruit of a more universal commitment to protect the most vulnerable and voiceless. It is a commitment to the most fundamental obligation we have as part of the human family: to defend the defenseless.

As you might imagine, Prof. Givens’ article is being pilloried by his angry progressive friends who seem to think they have been betrayed. I will not link to any of their jeremiads, but Prof. Givens’ son Nathaniel wrote a very good article defending his father that will give you a taste of the battle going on. Nathaniel Givens’ point, which is somehow being ignored by many, is that there IS room for a moderate position in between a total ban on abortion in all cases and current law, which allows abortion up until birth in many states (including my state, Colorado).

If we did away with late term abortion (after 20 or 22 weeks, for example) in most cases, I think the issue would be much less contentious. What pro-choice people seem unwilling to accept is that legal late term abortion is what drives many of us to become activists on this issue. Does a six-week-old fetus have a human soul? Nobody knows for sure, but I think most people believe that a seven-month-old fetus definitely has a human soul. The unwillingness to compromise on late-term abortion is hurting the pro-choice position more than helping.

My stake in Colorado, never involved in politics up to this point, put out a request for Church members to support Proposition 115 this year. This proposition makes most late term abortions (after 22 weeks) illegal. I already voted for Proposition 115. I would also point out that the claim that the Church is somehow pro choice on abortion is contradicted by the Church’s official position on abortion as described here. President Nelson has given several talks about abortion, two of which can be read here and here.

So, I thank Prof. Givens for his excellent article and for his bravery. Bravo!


How do we best care for ourselves? Apparently the secret is to care for others.

This tidbit is something we learn constantly in Church and from reading scriptures. But for those who are ashamed to cite scripture or prophets, it is possible to now add the most popular class at Yale University as a source for this wisdom.

Coursera hosts Yale’s Psych 157: Psychology and the Good Life for free (if you want a certificate proving you took the course, you can get that for $49). The course was created by Professor Laurie Santos based on her concern about the stress and depression she saw among students. When I signed up for the course, I saw that there are over 3 million others taking the course now.

For those who are ashamed to cite anything but scripture or prophets, recall the admonition to “seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” 1

If you’re wondering what you can do to help others, I highly recommend the video Gift of Time, which is part of the My Foundation course material in the Self Reliance workshops.


  1. D&C 88:118

Book Review: Miracles Among the Rubble

 Book Review: Miracles Among the Rubble – Bringing Convoys of Humanitarian Aid, Hugs, and Hope to a War-torn Region, by Carol R. Gray

Miracles Among the Rubble: Bringing Convoys of Humanitarian Aid, Hugs, and Hope to a War-torn Region

This is very different from many of the recent book reviews I’ve done. Most of the books I review tend towards gospel teachings or the scriptures. In this book, published by Greg Kofford Books, we get an entirely new experience. It is a semi-autobiographical look at some of Carol’s experiences leading convoys of humanitarian aid to the devastated areas of Bosnia and Croatia, during the civil war with the Serbs.

The book is divided into 26 short chapters, each describing a trip to Bosnia, bringing truckloads of food, medical supplies, clean water, and other needed assistance to the region. The chapters share the heartbreak of war and the hope that is renewed by Carol and her crew of volunteers, as they travel from England, across Europe, and to the dangerous regions.

However, the book starts unexpectedly with an unrelated, but key, event in Carol’s life. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 29. She was only to have weeks left to live. It helped her to focus on the most important things, such as family. Six years later, as a Relief Society president in England, she became focused on the Balkan war. The Spirit whispered to her to help, so she found a charity that would transport items to Bosnia that she could obtain, by rallying Latter-day Saint members from her region. As the day approached to hand the supplies over to the Charity organization, they rescinded their offer of transporting the donations.

Distraught over this news, she prayed as to what to do next. The Spirit gave her the inspiration to obtain some trucks and volunteers and drive the supplies to Bosnia herself. That first trip turned into over 40 trips over several years, often bringing a dozen or more large trucks of aid to areas close to the front lines of the war.

Her first trip was taken with her college age daughter, Samantha, who eagerly agreed to go with her mother. As some of the truck drivers were happy to drop off their supplies at the border, Carol sensed she needed to go further into the country, where the most destitute would be found, and ensuring the items got into the hands of the needy, rather being placed on the black market.

In the chapters, she describes various people she met, dangers in traveling due to hidden landmines, shelling and machine gun fire. On more than one occasion, she found herself driving over makeshift bridges, put together with tires, oil barrels and planks of wood. All of her chapters end with a spiritual message of a truth she and others learned on the trips.

For example, for one trip, she was asked to bring toiletries and cleaning supplies. It was for a new village that was quickly built for about 100 women and their children. Carol was surprised to find that the women and children had been freed from the Serbian rape camps. The women and children feared men, and so the men on the convoy initially stood apart, until the Bosnian women personally welcomed them into their village.

On another trip, a Bosnian friend of Carol had opened her home on the Dalmatian Coast to the injured. Carol’s friend worked tirelessly, comforting the wounded soldiers and civilians who found their way to her house. Carol could not imagine how a beautiful place as this, could be so uprooted by violence. It showed her that people in dire situations can make a huge difference for others.

Even those driving in the convoys  were often changed by the experience. Carol notes a man named Fred, who was an alcoholic and close to losing his family and work. He begged to drive with her. The experience changed him greatly, as he hugged and comforted children and others, who really needed a shoulder to cry on. After the trip, he had sworn off drinking and returned to his family and work.

Another gentleman, who was in the military and was very stern and strict, told her that he was not a hugger. However, over the two week trip, his heart softened. As they pulled into their first Bosnian village, he jumped from the truck and began hugging the people. 

She also shares how triumph can come from tragedy. In one place, she heard a child screaming. As she went to check it out, she found that the child’s leg was being amputated, the child having stepped on a landmine. The surgery was being performed without anesthesia, as there was none available. This shook Carol. She thought and dreamed about it all the way back to England. Once there, she prepared a convoy of medical equipment needed in Bosnia.  

Each time a special item was required, the Lord provided it to her, often just in the nick of time. She describes the doors that opened for her, as she saw a new need appear. Her list of miracles in the book is quite impressive, even though they obviously do not begin to number all the miracles that occurred in the lives of the drivers, the medical personnel, and especially, the people of Bosnia.

Carol finally succumbed to cancer in 2010, and the book was lovingly finished by her daughter, Samantha.

After reading this book, I stopped to reflect on the service I have given. Was it enough? Was I willing to enter into dangerous places, in order to serve those most in need? Was I willing to give up some of my creature comforts and idle time to make a difference in the lives of others?

It brought me pause. 

I highly recommend this book. It will make you uncomfortable, as it did for me. Yet, it will also enrich you, seeing that one person can make a big difference in bringing Christ-like love and service to others that perhaps live far away and are currently strangers. It doesn’t require us to enter war-torn nations to experience such things as Carol writes in her book. It can be those affected by wildfires, hurricanes, floods, poverty, or hatred. But this book becomes a wonderful eye-opener to the possibilities of what each of us could do to bring down a little heaven on earth to those in true need.

Available at:

Greg Kofford Books


Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 27-4 Nephi

My blog post for Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 27-4 Nephi.


“just because a church calls itself after Christ’s name, does not mean it is his Church. It must also be “built upon my (Jesus’) gospel.” To the extent that a church strays from that directive, it is less and less the Lord’s church. A Church built upon the gospel will show forth the Father’s works.

“if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return. For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you” (3 Ne 27:11-12).

Here, the Lord gives us an insight on not only the churches that are in the world, but all organizations and things found on earth. All things are founded upon the Lord’s gospel, man’s gospel, or Satan’s gospel. Of the three, only the Lord’s gospel promises eternal joy and peace. The other two are temporary, and one may find “joy” {perhaps “pleasure” is a better word} in those things. But eventually the things of man corrode and fall apart, while the works of Satan will all end tragically.How do we determine the things of man?

A simple illustration might help us see this. Many eons ago, my youngest son asked me to buy him the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game for his Nintendo system. He told me that it would make him the happiest person on earth. So, for his birthday, I purchased it for him. Indeed, he seemed like the happiest kid in the world when he unwrapped it. For days he played the game, almost without stop. After a couple weeks, I noticed he wasn’t playing it. I asked him why he wasn’t. He responded that he now had beaten the game several times and was bored with it. No longer did I see the face of the happiest kid in the world, but someone who needed his next “fix.” 

In a world of avarice and greed, this is now ubiquitous. Today, we find people looking for happiness in the things they buy or rent, the number of vacations they have, the number of kills on their current video game, the nice restaurants they frequent, the size of their house and SUV. Yet, even though most Americans are wealthier now than when my son was 8 years old, they are more miserable than ever. Pleasure does not equal lasting joy.