Welcome to LDS Blogs! This venue has been created by the More Good Foundation, as an online community of everyday, faithful Mormons sharing their lives, hopes, aspirations, challenges, and circumstances as they are influenced by and infused with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This site tries to show what Mormonism looks like from the inside when you live it everyday.
For some reason, I have been reminiscing recently about some old songs and artists from my youth: Jim Croce, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Simon & Garfunkel. You may be familiar with them or not—I realize they are ancient.
Those musicians still perform some of my favorites today. Another artist at that time, Carly Simon, sang “You’re so vain.” Though she wasn’t one of the artists I followed back in those days, her songs hit the airwaves big time, and “You’re So Vain” was one tune then that frequented the disc jockeys’ queues. For me at the time, I wondered what the word vain even meant. Like other words, the term has multiple meanings: conceited is one, flippant or trite is another. Today I want to speak about the latter.
Why would this even matter? Believe me, it matters. Author Robert L. Millet describes well the reason it matters, so I have chosen to use his description of the situation:
“Recently I sat with my oldest son at a professional baseball game. We were thrilled to see famous players and were excited to watch a well-played athletic contest. One thing, however, clouded the evening for me—the language of some of the fans. After only a half hour or so, the tension of the game and the desire for a win brought forth a stream of profanities from some people behind us. For the next three hours, we were subjected to crude and coarse language, including constant use of the Lord’s name as a curse or an exclamation. As we returned to our motel, I felt literally beaten down, even defiled. It was a painful experience.”
I know you are familiar with this type of scenario. It happens every day in the halls at high school, frequently at the work place, and all over television and mainstream movies. Coarse language and taking the Lord’s name in vain occurs regularly in sporting events and often among those having regular, daily conversations. Even those that acknowledge and love the Lord frequently find themselves using lesser terms—euphemisms if you will—which have become so common many of us don’t even realize the source of these terms is a rewording or milder reference to the actual words used to acknowledge our Father and the Son. In my mind, these expressions still desecrate deity.
So why does this even matter?
Mormon Samuel and Eli - YouTube
Happiness is the reward for those that are obedient. Wickedness never was happiness. Would happiness in your life and those you love be reward enough for being mindful of our references to deity?
Diety deserves our highest respect and acknowledgement. Remember the definition that was mentioned at the beginning of this article? We wouldn’t be flippant or trite or vulgar in the Lord’s presence, and we can’t use these terms without desecrating His name. Joy is the reward for those that are obedient. God will honor those that honor Him.
I like to think of it as in terms of speaking about my mother or father. Some people back in my earlier days were inclined to use terms like “old man” or “old lady” or something even more deprecating when referring to their parents, but I would never use those terms to refer to my father and mother, and I expect it is the same for you. We speak of our parents with respect because they have been so influential in our lives. We love and honor them. So why wouldn’t it be even more the case that we would speak in reverence and respect for Him that is the God of this universe, the Father of our spirits, and the source of everything that is good and brings us happiness?
I think you see my point.
So the next time you think of expressing yourself fervently with an “OMG” or “Geez” in a text message, or you have something to say with a great deal of force and passion, think about what you are really trying to say. Then say it confidently and articulately in language that doesn’t degrade yourself or your Maker.
The Simple Message That Brought This Middle School Class to Tears - YouTube
So one more story: As I was on my way to work today, I noticed a home in our neighborhood decked out with balloons and streamers and the big sign across the front of the house welcoming home a missionary. I know something about what those in the family are feeling today and the excitement they have in seeing their son’s return after two years away on a full-time mission. If you and I have that much excitement for the return of our son once he’s been gone for two years, think about what the God of heaven is feeling to have His children return to Him after a lifetime away. This is a magnificent opportunity for both you and Him!
My favorite part of the prodigal son video (found at the end of this article) made by the Church is when the father runs to his son when he finally comes home. I think that’s the way it’s going to be when we reach heaven. And someone that loves us that much deserves our reverence and respect today. That parable is all about us!
We show that kind of adoration by the things we say and the life we live. Commit to making your language and terminology always show love and respect for the One who gives you everything.
I know that great day is something we all look forward to because we love and respect Him in both word and deed.
Our family is in the planning stages of building a home. Since we remodeled our current home a few years ago, we have half an idea of what to expect. We are sure it will be exciting, but equally overwhelming. Every day a contractor will come to the job with the tools needed to perform his work. With the right tool and the skill to use it, they can create something lasting and beautiful.
The actual building work is horribly messy and loud. We know that we’ll step through danger zones, climb over piles of material, and walk through dust-covered rooms to see bits of progress here and there. The buzz of the saw or pounding of the hammer is usually constant. There will be mistakes that will have to be corrected, pulled out, and re-built. Delays are inevitable and most projects wind up behind schedule and over-budget. From a shell, the home slowly begins to take shape. If it is constructed with solid materials using the right tools and the right skills, the finished product can be a masterpiece.
Church leadership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints wrote a “Proclamation To the World” several years ago about the family to state the importance of this sacred responsibility:
“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”
As “builders,” Mom and Dad each have jobs to do but may need different tools and different skills to build their part of the structure.
“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.”
So how do Mom and Dad get the right tools and the skill to use them?
I can’t speak for the fathers, but being a mother, I know that I am in great need of certain tools: I need the tool of teaching, listening, and evaluating progress. I need the tool of increased patience, and an understanding of what motivates a toddler or teenager. I need the ability to correct someone while ensuring they know they are loved. I need to know when to get involved and when to pull back. I need the tool of good example, because all eyes in the home are watching—all the time! I need a selfless heart, ready to support and lift others. I know that I’ll need to use a different tool with a different child.
No matter what your background, every parent has gaps in their parenting abilities. There will always be a tool or skill I am missing and know I need, but don’t have. Whether we had great parental mentoring or none at all, we are always learning new things as parents.
In my search, I’ve found that one of the best resources to gain the tools and skills for this construction project are the scriptures. In the words of Henry B. Eyring:
“Often the answers will come as you study the scriptures. They contain accounts of what the Lord did in His mortal ministry and the guidance He has given His servants. They have doctrine in them which will apply in every time and every situation. Pondering the scriptures will lead you to ask the right questions in prayer. And just as surely as the heavens were opened to Joseph Smith after he pondered the scriptures in faith, God will answer your prayers and He will lead you by the hand” (Henry B. Eyring, “Rise to Your Call,” October 2002).
Our learning as parents is “line upon line, precept upon precept.” We don’t learn it in a day, but over a long period of time and usually through hard experience!
Another way to add to our toolset is prayer. A mother I know was having trouble with her teenage son. She was out of ideas and didn’t know what else to do. She prayed about it and her answer was a complete surprise. She was counseled through prayer to be nice to his friends — to talk to them when they came over and feed them when her son was entertaining them at her house. She said it was something she would have never thought of, but tried it. Because she built the relationship with her son’s friends, she strengthened the relationship with her son. This simple piece of counsel solved her problem.
The construction of a human life is indeed messy, hard work. In this hard-hat area we call family life, we may need to reframe something that we’ve built that is unstable. We will have to be careful where we step. It will take time to step back and see the frame slowly take shape. We will need to periodically check the blueprints and renderings to remind ourselves what the finished product should look like, and that it is worth the expense in time and sacrifice.
Our Creator has given us the grand opportunity to help create and build this human life. We are starting with first-rate materials! He will surely support us in the worthy work of caring for His spirit children. In the end, our foundation can be strong and our tools and skills ready for the task at hand. With His help and endowed with this miraculous power, mothers and fathers will have helped to construct a living masterpiece.
One of the greatest blessings since my son’s diagnosis has been the ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy he is receiving. He has mastered so many skills that he struggled with before. He learned how to cook simple things for himself, to put on his own band-aids, and even how to tie his shoes. The great thing about ABA therapy is that they work one on one with the child and go at their pace to help them master skills in baby steps. It’s been life changing. I recommend it to everyone!
I’m writing this article because I have read some comments on parent message boards that ABA wasn’t a good thing for their child. If that’s you, I urge you to find a different provider. Because it’s not the ABA therapy that is at fault, it’s the way it is administered.
An RBT needs 40 hours of online class training. It took me several months, but I finally did it! I think every parent with an autistic child should consider this training. It helped me so much to be a better parent and to better understand exactly what autism is.
ABA training is rigorous
Since I am not working in the field this is as far as I can go. To become a fully registered RBT I would have to complete many hours of supervised ABA therapy sessions and apply to the BACB Board, and finally take a test. I am so glad that so much is required for this field because I can be fully confident that my son is in great hands. Since therapy must be in baby steps, it’s vital that an RBT follow the BCBA’s plan so the kids don’t get traumatized or learn the opposite of what they are trying to teach.
I was surprised to find that some things I was doing were actually teaching my son the opposite of what I meant to teach. Now I know that I have to be firm in the consequences for his behavior to change.
The importance of IF/THEN
I decided to take the RBT training so I could better understand how to help my son. It’s a lot easier to understand his therapists now too. I learned SO MUCH! The thing I want to focus on today is called “contingencies”. Essentially, it’s an IF/THEN model. For example my son really struggles to attend school. So, I tell him IF he will go THEN he will get a new smoke detector. That is his most recent obsession.
The rewards for his behavior change often, because his preferences change often. We have rewards for daily attendance along with rewards for going the whole week. And we only diminish the rewards once we know his attendance is strong. That hasn’t happened yet. But eventually we will taper off till attendance is it’s own reward. I’m choosing to be positive that it will happen.
I’ve aged in this process. But I have gotten stronger too. My parenting skills had to take a leap forward to be able to consistently stick with the planned rewards. We have IF/THEN contingencies for when he doesn’t behave too. IF he chooses to stay home THEN he will stay in bed all day, not get any electronics except the TV, and not be allowed to play any electronics after school. I don’t allow the dog to keep him company either. What a really boring day!
It’s tough to enforce these strict rules especially at first. But once he knows them and accepts them, it gets easier. I had to be prepared for what they call “an extinction burst”. It’s a burst of horrible behavior as the child tries to get what they want the old way, and has a fit when they find it won’t work anymore. Just be strong, it does eventually end. I have seen it with my son.
A good BCBA is a lifeline
I am so grateful for our BCBA Amy. She taught me this IF/THEN model and helped me be strong enough to enforce it. So much is on the parent’s shoulders when dealing with autism, and especially this IF/THEN model. But IF I am consistent THEN we see results.
Without Amy’s support I would not be strong enough to do this. She gives me someone to lean on and ideas to help us get through difficulties. Most importantly she makes me accountable. I swear my son can smell when my resolve is weak. Thanks to Amy, my resolve is stronger.
Amy is why I think every parent needs a good BCBA and to get their child into a good ABA program. My son has grown so much through ABA, and I have seen other kids benefit from ABA too. My son has learned and grown from both in-home ABA therapy and sessions at an ABA center. Centers provide socialization so he can practice playing games and having conversations. But both types of ABA have their place. I am grateful that there are good, proven treatments for autism like ABA therapy.
ABA works, choose therapies carefully
To read more of Patty’s articles, click here.
Finally, a word of caution. Some therapies promise fast results and ‘cures’ for Autism. But honestly autism (especially high functioning autism) doesn’t need to be cured. It’s just a difference in the way the brain works, and sometimes those differences come with struggles. There are no quick fixes in this world. These precious souls deserve respect and kindness. They deserve to be treated with dignity and patience. And the best lasting results come from the baby steps approach that ABA uses.
Don’t buy into the fads or the treatments that seem too good to be true. They can hurt your child. We have been on this autism adventure for almost 4 years now. And I have been so impressed with the influence and progress that a good ABA program provides. Do your research and find the group you feel best with. Every child is different and has different needs. I have found that as I keep my son involved in swimming lessons, ABA, and having “snoop-ervised” play dates, that he is happiest. I pray you are also able to find what is best for your child.
If you want to be an RBT or learn more about ABA
If you are interested in taking RBT training too, I used Behavior University, and I highly recommend them. There are several online training courses out there. Our ABA center sends all their RBT’s to Behavior University. So I went there too.
I am extremely active-minded, a.k.a. easily distracted. I multitask and bounce from thing to idea to action. After reading articles about how multitasking is not efficient, I began trying to become single-task oriented with my long to-do list. I still find myself in the throes of busyness. And while taking time to pray and read the scriptures helps, I still often feel like I have to maintain a self-imposed frenetic pace.
This mindset has gotten me further along my spiritual and temporal journey, but now I’m ready to shift again. And the direction that keeps illuminating my thoughts is:
I’ve known this commandment existed my whole life and tried to live it according to the various levels of my journey. What does it look like now? I asked the Lord to teach me how to better live this principle at this stage in my life.
When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears
Our English bulldog, Stig
Enter the teacher.
I’ve known this teacher for five years. He is obstinate, arrogant, hilarious, and adorable. He is high-maintenance and worth it. He’s our English bulldog, Stig.
I’ve recognized Stig’s tenacious single-mindedness before. But two experiences over the past two weeks have taught me the lesson about living with an eye single that I’d been seeking.
Stig Meets Paddle Board
Our friend Malia invited me and Stig to doggy playgroup hour at their homeowner association’s lagoon. Since Stig absolutely loves his skateboard, we wanted to see how he would react to a paddle board.
We arrived at a beach full of dogs—primarily large dogs. I let Stig off leash and he ran to meet them. They greeted him and they ran all over the beach together—until Stig, after running for a couple of minutes, looked onto the water and saw a boy on a paddle board.
Stig full stopped amidst the doggy chaos and watched that boy for several moments. He walked into the water, and apparently calculated the obstacle (Stig doesn’t like obstacles). He turned and ran with the dogs again.
Soon, the boy came to shore and turned his board upside down on the sand.
The dogs began their lap towards that side of the lagoon again. Instead of running the distance, Stig (who was somehow sort of in front) ran straight up on that upside down paddle board and stopped. The other dogs ran with him to the board and sniffed it, but had no desire to follow his lead. They jumped around him in the water.
And there stood Stig, like the king of the world from Titanic, until I could get to him and physically pull him off that boy’s board. Then he started his crying, chirping noises to let me know how he really felt. He wanted—no, needed—back on that board.
Malia grabbed a staff person and asked for a board for Stig.
A board appeared and Stig ran immediately onto it. The dogs came to him, asking him to play with them, and he paid absolutely no attention to them ever again.
And thus began Stig’s paddle-boarding adventure. He loved every second of it. He slid off the board three times, but that never scared him or diminished his desire to get back on. He barked orders about keeping our speed up when I slacked and let us just float while talking to someone nearby.
We meandered around the lagoon for 35-40 minutes and then our allotted time was up. Oh, he didn’t want to leave! As I rinsed him down, he could still see his board upside down on the beach. Once, both of my hands were off his body and he bolted for the beach. I caught him and held him back the rest of the time.
From the time he first stepped onto that upside down board, he never took his eye off his prize.
Second Time at the Lagoon
Yesterday, Anthony accompanied me and Stig to the lagoon. We asked for a board for Stig right away.
There weren’t as many dogs as the time before, but they all came to greet Stig while he waited on-leash for Malia’s family to arrive. Soon, he was off leash and ran to the dogs. He said hi to everyone, but then looked for a paddle board.
It soon appeared and he hopped right on. Anthony took him for a spin. I got a board and went to meet them. As I approached, Stig suddenly lunged from Anthony’s board to mine! He ran up to me on the board, turned around, and then jumped across to Anthony’s board. We laughed.
Another 10-year-old friend paddled close to us and Stig jumped to her board, too. So we began paddling close to each other and watching Stig run from board to board. It was hilarious.
Stig wanted to ride every paddle board, so he did.
Some dogs approached Stig in the water. He would look at them, but had was not dissuaded by them. We tried to get several other dogs onto our boards, but they preferred to swim in the lagoon.
So Stig floated around the lagoon on his several perches until the inevitable, heart-wrenching gotta-go-home time came. Anthony and I both held onto him during the rinse-off. Stig’s body was tensed and ready to bolt back to the boards at any opportunity.
The realization that Stig was my teacher hit me yesterday while we stood to the side, waiting for Malia’s arrival, watching the dogs and the lagoon.
Stig knew the place when we arrived. When we got in, he watched a kid paddling on the lagoon. He watched a man corralling his dog onto a board. The dog jumped off. Stig watched the dogs running around the beach. He greeted the dogs that came to see him.
But as soon as he had agency, Stig bolted to the beach and barked for a board. The other dogs swirled around, but he was not distracted. People came to talk to us, but he was not deterred. Board! Board! Board!
As soon as the paddle board hit the water, Stig captained it. Except for sliding off while jumping from board to board, Stig never came off the paddle board.
He didn’t grow tired or bored or discontented. We could tell he was physically spent and decided to go home. He absolutely disapproved of our decision. He would have stayed on the board forever.
My Eye Single Lesson?
Do I live intentionally? Do I have a specific goal? If not, why not?!
If I do have a specific goal, do I get distracted when other dogs clamor for my attention? Do I think, “Oh, I could just play with that doggy for a moment! I don’t want to be rude!” or do I balance my interactions with others and my intentional living as the Lord directs?
Do I recognize the tool(s) that enable me to reach my goals? Only one item at that lagoon brought Stig to his goal though many, many other good and fun things were present. None of the things, dogs or people, were bad things, but could have been distractions to what he really wanted.
But Stig is incapable of distraction. He is laser-focused on food. He is laser-focused on his skateboard. He is laser-focused on paddle boards.
He chooses to live with an eye single to his intentional life. He is the best teacher of how to live that way. I love him for that.
The idea for this article came to me after realizing something exceptional about my wife from a few weeks ago. We always know something is wrong when she has trouble staying awake and alert long enough to eat, drink, or take any meds. This usually happens when she is being treated for infections, has high CO2 levels or low hemoglobin—all of which have been known to cause uncontrollable drowsiness for her. She and I have both worried at times when she gets so groggy or loopy from her tiredness that the attention, memory, and language centers of her brain are impacted.
When this happens, she begins slurring her speech and has a really hard time using her tongue to form words properly. She begins a sentence somewhere around ten times and can’t finish it because she can’t remember simple words at the end—stuff like that. Shelf that information in your mind for a moment.
There are many different degrees of conversion as we are taught in Christ’s restored gospel and one of the things that relates to our level of conversion is what Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten.” But what does this even mean? Fibers and sinews? Well, I went and looked up those words and here’s what Mirriam Webster said about sinews:
Tendon, is a toughband of fibrous connective tissue that usually connects muscle to bone and is capable of withstanding tension.
Fibers can be one of a few types of connective tissue that contributes to energy storage, the protection of organs, and the body’s structural integrity.
To me it sounds like Joseph Fielding Smith’s reference to fibers and sinews has a parallel to gluons. Don’t know what those are? I’ll explain as briefly as I can.
Anyone remember talking about protons, neutrons, and electrons in high school? The subatomic particles that make up every atom in the physical universe? Those protons are actually composed of something smaller: quarks. And those quarks? They’re held together by something ever smaller, a type of Higgs boson particle gluons, which “glue” the quarks together to form the protons. They are basically the thing that holds the temporal universe together by keeping the quarks together that from protons, which bind to neutrons, which together provide the nucleus, which provides the opposing and attracting force that keeps the atom’s electrons circling around it. The outermost electrons in each atom (valence electrons) are the primary particles that are responsible for which atoms bond together, and that determines how elements, molecules, and such are formed and how they behave… See where this is going?
Gluons are the source of the universe’s structural integrity, similar to our fibers and sinews being the source of our body’s structural integrity. Because there is significance to our fibers and sinews (think about the temple), whatever is woven into our fibers and sinews—both spiritually and temporally—needs to be eternal, that “which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted” (2 Nephi 9:51).
Now, back to my wife when the memory and language centers of her brain are compromised. Something very revealing happened the last time she was like that. I had recently had a gospel conversation with someone who seemed to be going through a sort of awakening in understanding a particular gospel principle. However, it was clear from our conversation that there were certain core parts of that principle they didn’t understand. I’m always happy to hear about people’s progress in the gospel, but I, in my weakness, was a little disappointed in the end result of the conversation because this particular principle is very close to my heart and I felt afterward that the other person lacked the understanding to appreciate the real mechanics and gravity of the subject at hand. Granted, the particular thing the person misunderstood was something that isn’t exactly light subject matter, nor it is very well understood in general—but either way, I felt how I felt about it.
I mentioned this to my wife and relayed a few parts of the conversation that concerned me a bit. Now keep in mind that this was in her altered mental state, so it would be have been natural for her to either not get what I was saying in the first place, or at least not understand why I was concerned the way I was.
Not only did she respond with complete understanding towards me, her level of surprise at the person’s lack of understanding surpassed even mine (which, for those who know me, might come as a shock) and she was like, “Seriously? That is really simple! How did they not understand that?”
I’m not trying to defend the attitude we had there, because I realize it was a little judgmental. I should have been more patient, but what struck me most about that whole situation wasn’t even the person’s lack of understanding—it was the fact that, even in my wife’s state of cognitive impairment, she could not only still understand my concern, but was almost more zealous than I was in how clearly she understood it. She had, in her mind and heart, such a firm grasp on the subject matter, and all while still in that altered mental state.
The first thing that came to mind in the moment was that my wife’s desire to understand the gospel and, more importantly, live by it was so strong and so solid—or as Joseph Fielding Smith taught, the “truth [was] woven [so much] into the very fibre and sinews of [her] body… that it [could ]not be forgotten.” The “gluons” of her body consist, more purely than I realized until that point, of her faith in Jesus Christ, her desire to understand Him, and the scriptures and the comprehension in her mind and heart of His love, His grace, His word, His patience, mercy, virtue, etc.
As Calvin Coolidge once said: “We do not need more material development, we need more spiritual development. We do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power. We do not need more knowledge, we need more character. We do not need more government, we need more culture. We do not need more law, we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen. It is on that side of life that it is desirable to put the emphasis at the present time. If that side is strengthened, the other side will take care of itself. It is that side which is the foundation of all else. If the foundation be firm, the superstructure will stand.”
I think I’ve come a long way myself in the last ten years in how much the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ is woven in the my fibers and sinews, and I know I still have a long way to go. What about yours? What else can you do to have those “gluons,” the central framework of who you are, totally interwoven with the word and truth of God? My willingness to do whatever it takes to have those truths evermore firmly woven into my fibers and sinews is always growing and I hope yours does, too. What are we willing to do to have the truth constantly and permanently dictating the structural integrity of who we are and what we do?
This is part one in a two-part series dealing with the theme of abuse and how to heal from it — for both the abused and their loved ones (particularly their parents) who strive to comfort and care for them. The next part will come out next Friday, the 19th.
image via workingmother.com
As I learn more about the skill of making agreements and choosing to make commitments based on those agreements, I marvel at how unaware I was when I chose to participate in behavior that would prematurely move me into motherhood. The details of that choice are perhaps not as important as the learning I received.
I had no idea what being a mother was about. I had some beliefs about the importance of making sure nobody took your kids away and put them in foster homes, but beyond that, it was a mystery. I used to think being a parent just meant you were supposed to teach your children to be good, to contribute to society, and earn a living. I knew love was supposed to fit in there someplace.
I now understand that giving birth to children also means you have created the opportunity to learn, as you attempt to teach your children, all the things you didn’t (or refused to) learn when you were a child, plus a lot more.
I have developed a deep gratitude and respect for the resiliency of children as they survive the maturing process of their parents.
Looking back at my parenting process is embarrassing. And sad. And rewarding. I recognize the pain I created with my lack of skill. In some ways, my sons are still healing. I also recognize I did some really wonderful things.
My sons and I lived through years of uncertainty and loss and change. I was very self-absorbed in my own pain and I rarely noticed theirs.
That self-focus shifted… finally.
Having just gone through several exhaustive months of emotionally supporting one of my brothers who was sent to prison, I had renewed my interest in studying about human development in my attempt to find peace of mind.
As a part of that study, I was involved as a trained volunteer in an incest treatment program for high school girls. As volunteers, we were required to attend numerous training sessions which included working through our own issues. Since we were “survivors” of sexual abuse, we wouldn’t be able to assist the girls past the point where we were willing to deal with our own pain. The idea of using trained volunteers was to allow the girls to see that there is “life after abuse.” Our willingness to prepare ourselves to assist the girls was a wonderful opportunity for our own healing.
As I trained and participated in the group sessions, I became more and more aware of how to recognize the symptoms of sexual abuse. In view of the story that was about to unfold, I will be eternally grateful for this training because it allowed me to understand how to come to the aid of my sons and open a doorway for their healing to begin.
Beginning the Healing Process in My Family
During this time, my oldest son was in his first year of college and my youngest son was just completing his junior year in high school. Since my youngest son was living at home, he became aware of the volunteer work I was doing and the training I was receiving. I remember sharing with him some of the concepts I was learning.
Soon we were visited by an out-of-town friend. My son shared with her that I had been asking him questions and he figured that I was wondering if he and his brother had been sexually abused. Although he was uncomfortable about telling me directly, he did share with her about the abuse they had experienced by a trusted family member over the past several years. She asked him if she could tell me and he said yes.
In the days that followed, I know I was functioning solely through the strength and guidance of unseen angels of mercy. I did not know what to do. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of pain and guilt. I was caught in an emotional rip tide. Somehow, I finally realized my pain was insignificant compared to the needs of my children. I am amazed at the size of the lightning bolt required to shift me from self-pity to compassion for my sons and the great pain they had been carrying for years.
I am grateful for the profound strength my sons possess and for their willingness to bring me the gift of compassion.
I finally began to understand certain things about being a mother. I finally realized that my children had a right to expect me to protect them. If I didn’t have the skill, it was my responsibility to find someone who did have that skill and learn it!
Through the fog of my pain, something inside me said they needed to know the abuse wasn’t their fault. They needed to understand they were victimized by someone who convinced them they couldn’t say no.
I don’t remember much about the details of those first few days. I do remember calling my son at college. I remember telling him I knew about the abuse. As I listened to him crying, I told him it wasn’t his fault. “Thank you,” he replied. I said I would have protected him if I had known. He thanked me again. I said “I love you,” and he said “Thank you” a third time. We were both hardly able to speak through the tears.
He was scheduled to return home for the summer and was planning on sending in his papers to go on a mission. I told him I would have appointments for him and his brother to see a counselor as soon as he got home and we would do whatever it took to begin the healing process.
I remember my youngest son going through a lot of anger and I worried whether he would self-destruct before the healing could begin. As the years have gone by, I have watched each of my sons choose a different path to deal with the effects of the abuse.
We were blessed to receive the help of a wonderful counselor who understood the importance of rebuilding their sense of self-worth. He was kind and gentle and straightforward with them. They allowed me to be in their sessions although, to this day, both have protected me from any details. I believe they feel it would serve no useful purpose for me to know.
Let It Go
“My innocent babies,
Sacrificed on the alter of my ignorance!”
“My precious sons…
I would have protected you
If I had only known.”
Will my guilt and pain ever go away?
He said the pain will go away
As soon as I forgive myself…
How does a mother forgive herself
For not knowing how to
Recognize the signs of abuse?
She dries her tears
She heals and helps them heal
She shows them by example
How to protect their babies.
She teaches them of the importance of forgiving their abuser,
So that he would have no power to do to their souls what he did to their bodies.
Sometimes in life we are hit with some tough questions that we simply don’t know the answers to—questions like Why didn’t God make broccoli taste like chocolate and chocolate taste like broccoli? I would be a much healthier person if only that premortal choice had been made.
There are answers in this life to which we may simply never have answers. Perhaps we have all prayed for miracles that have never come to fruition and some that never will in this life. There are things in Church history which we don’t comprehend and the choices of others that befuddle and confuse us. Yet we strive to remain faithful, always trusting in a God who knows all and sees all. He will not abandon us in our quest for truth and understanding.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once said:
“Hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes… In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do no know.”
Holding on to this thought has helped many through their crises of faith.
What do we do with the questions we don’t have answers to? Imagine a large library full of books. It contains shelves and shelves of knowledge and wisdom that exceeds anything we could ever have on our own. The information contained therein can be valuable and beautiful, each book filled with ideas and thoughts on any topic imaginable. Some books are fiction and some are non-fiction, some are analytical and others entertaining. We choose which books and which information we will consume every day. Sometimes there is a book which contains thoughts and impressions which are not our own and do not coincide with our current beliefs or standards and yet we may choose to read on. It is then our choice to take that opinion and merge it with our own, or we can simply choose to re-shelf the book and leave it alone.
The trouble comes when we cannot leave something alone. We find an insatiable need to quench our knowledge on a topic of concern and often allow ourself to “look beyond the mark.” We read online articles and opinions, and research spiritual ideas in secular modes and expect to find God’s answers. What if in choosing to look through the lens of the world, we lose our ability to discern heavenly truths?
Perhaps there are answers we will never understand until the next life. Can we be ok with that? Can we shelve those questions and have faith in a loving Heavenly Father who is aware of our questions and gives us peace anyway? He can and will give peace when answers don’t come, but only if we ask and then trust. He helps us move forward in faith regardless of the holes in our understanding, remembering that all His truth can be a perfect whole in this life and will be in the life to come.
We are told in multiple places, such as Job 38:7, that when we learned of the role of the Savior and His plan for us to come to earth, we shouted for joy. Do you still feel that way?
We teach our children that shouts for joy rang out in the Grand Council in pre-earth life when Heavenly Father told us about that great plan of happiness. Joyful anticipation for the “great plan of happiness” isn’t something we feel just once. That reaction can be a daily response—it can and should be a constant reaction, I believe.
The glorious message of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached through the millennia of time. Missionaries of today and yesterday follow the Spirit every day as they demonstrate courage to teach this beautiful plan for all of God’s children in the world.
And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.
When I write, I try to do the same thing as those missionaries. And this morning, as I was contemplating this article, I felt prompted to limit my writing in favor of the following video.
Education Week 2008 - Scott L. Anderson - The Great Plan of Happiness - YouTube
“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”
This message in the video above is less than an hour, and it could change your life. Better than that, it’s all about you!
Still unsure that you want to stop reading now and watch it? See the following teasers:
1) Ancestors daily cheer for us and our success; they help us prepare for the Second Coming
2) The grace and love of Jesus Christ and his marvelous gift to all of us is real
3) Our eternal destiny and the crowning doctrine is eternal marriage and families
You’ll have to watch the video to hear about these and other experiences, along with the answers to seven powerful questions and much more.
I know you will be glad that you did, because this message was written for you.
Have you ever thought, “It’s not fair”? Of course you have; we all have felt that way. In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, some labored all day and others but an hour, yet all received the same wage—and some felt it wasn’t fair. In the Passover tradition of releasing a prisoner, the people cried out to release Barabbas, a vile sinner who had perpetrated many crimes. He was given freedom from prison while the sinless Christ was accused. Again, we are inclined to think, “It’s not fair!”
Certainly it was not fair to release a sinner in place of the perfect Son. But we can be grateful for that. In a very real sense, every one of us is a Barabbas who is set free despite our weakness, sins, and imperfections. Likewise, each one of us receives the full wage despite our various lesser time laboring in the Lord’s vineyard. Because we follow the Lord, we do not receive what we really “deserve.”
Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, if we will follow Him and try to keep His commandments, we are freed from the clutches of justice and set free when justice’s demands would otherwise condemn us forever.
The Mediator (1993) - YouTube
You might be thinking that this isn’t fair, and you would be right. It is not fair. If we received what we really deserved, none of the tremendous blessings of the gospel would be ours. We would not live as families forever. We would not be exalted to heaven and live in peace and happiness. We would not enjoy a multitude of blessings for an eternity to come. Justice would ensure that these things would never become ours. But we are not advocating for justice. We are seeking for mercy.
Because of the Savior Jesus Christ, we have an opportunity to obtain mercy for all our foolish mistakes, our gross blunders, slip-ups and errors. None of us deserves heaven. We all fall short. But because of the Savior, our best is good enough, and when we goof up, we are allowed second, third, and fourth chances (and so on)… And with time and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our efforts are enough to qualify for exaltation.
Because of Him—Easter Video - YouTube
That’s not new. It’s not strange or unbelievable. It makes perfect sense. It engenders hope, peace, and joy. That is the great message of hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ! That knowledge carries you and me though hardship and lands us victorious
And My Soul Hungered - YouTube
Don’t believe me? You needn’t take my word for it. There are tens of thousands of others that feel just like me. Listen to what they say. You’ll be glad you did.
What Is a Temple Wedding Like? - YouTube
No. This isn’t too good to be true. To me, that’s the best part. The truths and teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ have an immediate and long-lasting effect. You and I don’t have to wait until we die to see that the authenticity of these blessings is true and real. We can and do know right now.
Heavenly Father gave me great gifts. He gave me the gifts of strength, tenacity, and passion. These gifts got me through a childhood of illness when the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. As tiny and sickly as I was, there’s probably no reason why I’m alive other than I wanted to be here. Maybe I just willed myself to stick around.
My strength of will has served me well throughout my life. I’m passionate about what I believe in my heart to be true. That strength or passion has sometimes been misinterpreted by others as a tough skin. Some would describe me as tough or stubborn. I even refer to myself as stubborn, but it is really just passion. I feel deeply about things, and when I do, I’m vocal about it.
The irony of this situation is that I’m also an introvert. I do not like to be the center of attention. I detest when I have to be vocal about anything. The introvert in me wants to sit in the corner of the room, lean against the back wall and keep my mouth shut. The introvert in me wants to sit in a meeting and let everyone else do the talking. The introvert in me wants to let everyone else battle it out while I sit as the quiet observer.
My life is a quagmire of uncomfortable situations because I feel passionately about a lot of things. That means I often feel like the bad guy. I was always the bad guy with my kids. My passion to raise good kids made me the disciplinarian. My passion for fairness often pitted me against the school district. My passion for agency often rattled relationships with extended family members. My passion for my job at times irritated those who didn’t understand the intricacies of the justice system.
When the things I’m passionate about meet the introvert in me, my heart leaps in my throat. Try as I might—and I try very hard—passion always wins.
While this gift of passion, strength, tenacity, or whatever you want to call it has served me well in life, it is uncomfortable. It is particularly uncomfortable as it relates to church callings. It is simply not possible for me to sit silently in a ward council meeting. If I’ve got something to say, it’s out there. It’s on the table. The bishopric can agree or not agree, but my opinion is on the table. As a writer, I think better with the written word, so email is incredibly important to me when it comes to church callings. I’m sure there have been bishops who have dreaded the countless emails received from me. I’m passionate about “return and report,” and I’m passionate about “telling it like it is.”
What I wish people knew about me is that every time I hit “send” on an e-mail, and every time I lay my cards on the table in a meeting, it is uncomfortable for this introvert. It’s not easy being me. I’m not stubborn by choice any more than I’m vocal by choice. I hate pointing out the obvious. I detest being the bad guy. I feel physically ill when I have to speak up.
I feel sorry for all the bishops I’ve served under. I know I’m the bane of their existence. I’m the squeaky wheel demanding the grease. I’m the phone call they want to avoid and the email they don’t want to read. I’m even more sorry for their wives and children, as I know how much family time I squelch by pointing out the obvious and speaking my mind. If I had a choice in the matter, the ward would run on status quo, but the Spirit whispers to use my gift of passion.
I’ve tried to figure out why Heavenly Father would give the gift of passion to an introvert. Was it to test me? Was it to see how I would deal with the challenge? It finally occurred to me that if He gave the gift of passion to an extrovert, an egomaniac would emerge. No one works well with an egomaniac. Nothing would get done. An introvert knows when it is important to speak up, even if she/he doesn’t want to do it.
Doing the Lord’s work is not easy. We each have to recognize our talents and gifts. Then we must set out to use those talents and gifts to the best of our ability, regardless of our personality. This is our challenge. This is the test we are all given. While we may sometimes wish we could trade in our gifts for something more to our liking, Heavenly Father has eternal perspective. He knows what we need in order to accomplish His work. He also knows what we need in order to grow and to return to His presence.
To all those introverts with the gift of passion who may be reading this, keep the faith. There is a reason for everything.
I got a good laugh yesterday talking to a friend of mine. She was describing the differences she saw with her new family when she first got married. She described the day she met her in-law’s for the first time. It was the 80’s in Illinois and her mother-in-law kept checking out her hair. She thought she was admiring her new hairdo. But she wasn’t, she was looking for her Mormon Horns! (Belly laugh) Her story reminded me of a memory I had from my childhood.
I grew up in Illinois around that same time. When I was 7 I was invited over to have lunch with my friend’s family. Her Dad was a Presbyterian minister and I remember her mom talking to my brothers and me about how we needed to join their church before our horns grew in.
They thought that my parents must file down their horns, but we were young enough to still be spared. I’m chuckling because if you knew my parents that would seem beyond ridiculous. My dad went bald when he was 22 and has had a monk’s halo ever since. Hiding horns on a head like that would be nearly impossible!
Along that same vein I recently read about the persecution and bigotry the Irish settlers endured when they came to America. Most of Ireland is filled with farms, and back then the farmers sent a majority of their crops back to England. Their English landlords required their harvest for payment on the land, and the people only got to keep what they could grow in their own gardens.
In fact, the English had imposed laws to punish the Irish Catholics. Called Penal Laws, they made it so the Irish Catholics were fined or imprisoned for practicing their religion. Their priests could be killed for leading any Catholic rites. And Irish Catholics were banned from owning land, voting, holding public office, having religious items, teaching or even publishing anything Catholic. They couldn’t even have a job, go to school, or claim guardianship of their own children.
So, with such difficult restrictions, it was no wonder most Irish were farmers back then. What else did they have? Most people lived on the potatoes and cabbage they could grow in the garden. So when a terrible potato blight hit Ireland, people starved. These Irish farmers had little choice but to find somewhere new to live. I mean, literally a million people starved to death in Ireland in The Great Potato Famine which lasted from 1845 till 1852.
A million more Irish people immigrated to the US in that time in a desperate bid to survive and build a new life. Those who were already settled in the US were intimidated and shocked by the massive numbers of immigrants. The Irish had a separate language (Gaelic), their communities were very tightly knit, and they were often decidedly Catholic while much of the US at the time was Protestant.
Even their culture was different from their neighbors. Soon, signs began appearing in store windows “Help Wanted- Irish Need Not Apply”. They were charged higher fees for groceries and basic necessities, called “Irish prices.” People saw the Irish as lower class.
My great grandparents were among these settlers. I remember hearing how my grandfather showed up for a date one night only to be met by the girl’s father holding a shot gun. He was informed that he was to never see the girl again. I guess he couldn’t see past their differences to see my grandpa was a great guy. My family eventually settled in California because there was less anti-Irish sentiment and better chances for finding jobs.
Remember the past
I use these two illustrations to introduce my topic because I think we have lost some perspective on our past. We see ourselves as much more enlightened than generations before us, yet we are still doing the same things. Only now it’s the Latino, Polynesian, or refugee immigrant populations that are targeted, at least near me. (You may find differently where you live.) Fortunately there are laws now to ease some of the discrimination, but it’s still there in many hearts.
I have been very blessed to have a beautiful aunt who married a Polynesian man. They had 8 kids, and my cousins bring flavor and flair to my life. I can’t imagine a world without them. And even though I don’t see them as often as I like, I always have happy memories of the times we get to spend together. The differences in our cultures adds beauty and fun to family gatherings. I admire and deeply love how much the family is protected and respected in both the Polynesian and Latin cultures, and I am deeply saddened when I witness others looking down on something they haven’t taken the time to understand.
Differences are blessings
Let’s be honest. I doubt there is anyone left who thinks that Mormons have horns. (They don’t, in case you missed that part.) But I do know there are still those who look at different cultures with disdain. Our world is diverse. And thanks to modern technology we are able to interact more and more with different people.
Do you know what I have found? I’ve found that we have far more similarities than differences. We all love to eat- food is delicious! We like sleep and wish we had more of it. We love our families and want to be with them forever. We want to be comfortable and accepted for who we are. We want to have a place where we feel valued and loved.
Neal A. Maxwell asked us to celebrate our differences and treat others with love. He said:
“Your lives, your friendships, your marriages, your families, your neighbors and coworkers currently constitute the sample of humanity which God has given you. We are each other’s clinical material, and we make a mistake when we disregard that sober fact. No wonder, therefore, we feel stress at times. The wise and insightful President Brigham Young said this: “There are no two faces alike, no two persons tempered alike; … we are tried with each other, and large drafts are made upon our patience, forbearance, charity, and good will, in short, upon all the higher and Godlike qualities of our nature” (in Deseret News, 6 July 1862, 9).
To read more of Patty’s articles, click here.
Now, you are going to have days when people make a large draft on your patience, when they lay claim to your long-suffering that you may feel they don’t quite deserve. This is part of the chemistry that goes on in discipleship if we are serious about it, as we constitute each other’s clinical material.”
When we start looking at our similarities the differences don’t matter as much. Language barriers can be overcome. Cultural differences can be celebrated. We are all children of the same God. And that God doesn’t make mistakes. I am so grateful for the diversity in our world. And I pray we are able to treat others as God intended.