Why do we spend so much time worrying about things we can’t change?

I find myself repeating versions of the “Serenity Prayer” to myself all the time. As most readers probably know, the most popular version is:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

What I usually say to myself is:

God, please help me to stop worrying about changing the things around me that I can’t change. I can only change my reaction to the things that happen. I can only change myself.

Now, I would never claim I am 100 percent successful in this effort. I worry about things I can’t change all of the time, including in some posts on this blog.

But, interestingly, I have found that one of the primary messages of the Gospel, and the message we are about to hear in General Conference this weekend is: “concentrate on the things you can change to make your life better and to bring you closer to God, not the things you cannot change.”

Jenny’s boyfriend justified slapping her because he was mad about President Johnson

The world, meaning most of society around us, wants to distract us by having us concentrate on all of the outrages that we cannot change. Just to give one example, think of all of the apocalyptic rhetoric about climate change and how people all around us are urging us to concentrate on trying to change the weather, for heaven’s sake. (For the record, I do believe the Earth is warming, and that man has contributed at least some to that warming, so please don’t be triggered. The point is that if you stop and think about it, there is not much you personally can do about that problem, while there are many things you can do to improve your own life).

Think of all the things you can do with your personal life. You can eat better, you can exercise more, you can make a decision to try to control your temper in situations that make you angry. You can tell your spouse you love her or him. You can offer to help a friend who is in need of help. You can decide — today — to say sincere prayers twice a day and read the scriptures every day. You can decide — today — to make an appointment to go to the temple. You can decide — today — to do more family history work.

What are the source of stress and conflict in your life? How many of them could you possibly change through different reactions that you can control?

A quick story: when I was in my 20s and obviously the smartest person in the world (in my own mind) I found that I was always bugged by people at work. So many of them had annoying habits, or were just plain stupid, or not doing their jobs the way they should. And I had no compunction about telling these people what I really thought about them. And for some reason I was always having conflicts with people at work! The nerve of those people!

Now that I am in my late-50s I am struck by the fact that I almost never have problems with people at work. I really do get along well with just about everybody I know in person. So what changed?

It should be obvious that it was not all of the annoying people around me who changed — it was my attitude and what I choose to do with my time and energy. I find that I care personally more about the people I work with, and I know more about their personal lives and their hopes and dreams. And, miracle of miracles, none of them is annoying or stupid!

I really do try, especially at church, to see the best in the people in my ward. I try to support leadership and the people in their callings and to avoid gossiping and judging. And, again, I get along great with people in my ward and I have almost exclusively positive opinions of the people with whom I worship regularly.

It seems clear to me that one of Satan’s distractions is to get us to spend a lot of time obsessing about things we cannot change.

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How to recognize Satan’s tactics in times of turbulence

Does it seem to you that the world is more divided now than any recent time?

It certainly seems that way to me. The divisions seem to be popping up in every sphere: politics, culture, religion, in families and even in leisure activities.

For the first time ever, the Oscars involved a physical confrontation in which a presenter made a joke about an actor’s wife, and the actor walked onto the stage to slap the presenter.

Personally, I found the joke in very poor taste. Making fun of a woman who is losing her hair should definitely be out of bounds, but the point is that this is yet another sign of division and conflict in a world filled with it.

During the pandemic, there was conflict between mask wearers and non-mask wearers and the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Now we are being told that we as Americans must consider Russia our enemy, and if we don’t we are guilty of treason, even if the United States is not at war with Russia. When it comes to cultural issues, it seems like we are supposed to be outraged every day. Biological men take the place of biological women in women’s sports events, and if we question this at all we are condemned. If we ask teachers not to discuss sexuality with very young children, we are condemned yet again.

Long-standing boundaries of behavior and social mores are being erased, and yet those who want to maintain even a semblance of the boundaries are somehow the bad people?

My wife and I have noticed we know a half-dozen married people — latter-day Saints married in the temple — who are either divorced or heading towards divorce. In our lives, this seemed to happen all at once — all of a sudden a married couple who seemed happy was suddenly unhappy.

It seems obvious to me that these conflicts are part of Satan’s plan to cause division and contention and conflict in the latter days.

President Wilford Woodruff warned in 1896:

“There are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth—the power of God and the power of the devil. In our history we have had some very peculiar experiences. When God has had a people on the earth, it matters not in what age, Lucifer, the son of the morning, and the millions of fallen spirits that were cast out of heaven, have warred against God, against Christ, against the work of God, and against the people of God. And they are not backward in doing it in our day and generation. Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers labored to overthrow it.”2

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The worst week ever for an LDS senator?

Mitt Romney apparently wants to be known as the worst LDS senator ever.

Over the weekend he accused former congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of spreading “treasonous lies” regarding Russia. And then yesterday he was the only Republican senator to vote to continue to force everybody — including two-year-olds — to wear masks. The Utah senator voted against lifting an HHS mandate, and as another senator said:

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Temples to return to normal operation based on local conditions

The Church released the following statement today:

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has shared the following letter with Church leaders around the world.

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Thank you for your patience during restricted temple operations that occurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are eager to return the temples to full operation as soon as possible. Now that more people are immunized, we are pleased to announce that temples throughout the world will gradually return to more normal operations, including the elimination of face masks and capacity restrictions.

Based on local circumstances, the return to normal operations for each temple will be made by the temple presidencies and Area Presidencies in consultation with the Temple Department. Temple presidencies are invited to prepare plans to return temples to full capacity.

We are grateful for the sacred work performed in temples. We trust that our members will rejoice in the lessening of restrictions and will increase their commitment to temple and family history work.

Sincerely,

Russell M. Nelson
Dallin H. Oaks
Henry B. Eyring

Reminder: “immunized” means people either have natural immunity or have been vaccinated.

It is morally wrong to confiscate Russian oligarchs’ property, no matter how bad you think they are

“Thou shalt not steal.”

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s property.”

Anybody who has seen a James Bond movie can imagine one of the villains being patterned after a Russian oligarch. These guys use their government connections to amass billions and some of them certainly are loyal to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. And Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is certainly an immoral act.

Nevertheless, it is still wrong for Western nations to seize these oligarchs’ property, including their massive yachts. You can read about it here:

The oligarchs are being charged with “avoiding sanctions.” These sanctions were imposed just a few weeks ago. Up until then, the Russian oligarchs, who head large Russian companies in the energy and steel business, among others, were simply being capitalists, which is what the West wanted Russians to do for decades when they were under Soviet rule. They were trying to use their connections, smarts and resources to make profits, which, let’s face it, is what all entrepreneurs do.

Are these oligarchs corrupt? Probably yes. But then so are many of the executives at Pfizer, who are deliberately promoting drugs they know are harmful, and paying off U.S. government bureaucrats and media companies while they do so. And it would still be immoral to seize the assets of Pfizer oligarchs, even though they have done plenty of seemingly iniquitous things.

Are these oligarchs crony capitalists? Of course they are, but let’s face it, so are the leaders of many large companies these days, from Facebook to Google to most large insurance companies.

Are these oligarchs breaking the law? Well, as I say, they are breaking laws that were arbitrarily imposed upon them by government officials just a few weeks ago in response to Russia’s invasion.

So, let’s say that a random country — Indonesia, for example — decides to confiscate the yacht of an American executive because that executive broke a law. Not all laws are morally correct, even if they may be legally correct. In the history of global capitalism, there have been millions of government seizures of property that may have involved the breaking of a law, but nevertheless the seizure of property broke moral laws against theft. Was it morally correct for the Bolsheviks to seize without compensation all of the property of wealthy Russians at the beginning of the Russian revolution? Well, if you have ever seen “Dr. Zhivago” you must have some sympathy for that poor family having their house stolen by those revolutionaries in 1917. And if you don’t, you have an empathy problem.

How would you feel if a group of people suddenly took your house or car or boat by force, deciding you “did not deserve it?”

What is happening to the Russian oligarchs is, at the end of the day, a group of powerful government officials deciding these rich people “don’t deserve their property.” Really? Do you know the work habits and the moral status of ALL of these people? And by what standard don’t they deserve their belongings? Remember, most Americans are wealthy by worldwide standards. The same standard applied to confiscating Russian oligarchs’ property can later be applied to you.

The problem with basing society on a standard of “that person doesn’t deserve their wealth” is that it promotes lawlessness, not the law. Whoever has the power gets to decide who deserves and doesn’t deserve something. It promotes theft, which is a sin, and it promote covetousness, which is also a sin.

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