23 June 2014

A Sure Foundation

As a reminder, I set a goal some time ago to enhance my spirituality. For me this meant sharing some of my personal religious convictions. This post is about integrity.

As a Christian, Christ is my exemplar. A prophet from the Book of Mormon, Helaman, wanted for his sons to do the same. He had given them the names of great men, Lehi and Nephi, who were themselves great followers of Christ. He taught them the following:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
 (Helaman 5:12)

This idea of Christ as the sure foundation is important. In this life, we have become accustomed to those, often those in positions of great responsibility, who lack integrity. Whether it is the politician, the evangelist, the athlete or celebrity, we seize on people we admire, who we want to rely on. Time and again we are disappointed. This is because these individuals, sometimes good and worthy in many ways, are not capable of being the sure foundation that Jesus Christ is. He is an example of perfect integrity and reliability.

In a discussion with our congregation's youth last night, we talked about integrity. I recounted the story of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which famously collapsed in 1940. I drew the comparison between this bridge's failure in 40 mph winds with its lack of structural integrity, to the idea of each of us trying to be sure and steadfast and reliable. We would like for something as important as a bridge to be strong and totally trustworthy, like the Savior. We can't equal him, but we can do our best to personify his integrity. In the same way that we build the best, most resilient bridges, we can build integrity in ourselves.

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge is a notable example of man's design failing to meet the demands of the day. Are we ready to meet the demands of each day? What do we face that may cause us to fall? What is the "mighty wind, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind," that the adversary tries to send to us? When they come, what will we be built on?

I am trying to build my foundation on the Savior, his life, his teachings, and most importantly his atoning sacrifice for sin. It was made possible through his perfect integrity. I am grateful to have learned of it at a young age, and grateful to those whose examples of integrity helped establish my own resolve to seek it for myself.

17 June 2014


With the recent occurrence of Father's Day I feel compelled to write about Fatherhood. The choice about whether to be married or have a family is left to each individual. Where health and circumstance don't interfere, we make our own decisions on this important matter. My words are an expression of my own belief, my own experience, and I hope they'll be received in that way,

Being a father is the most important thing I've ever done, and my most important responsibility. It's also the most rewarding and enjoyable thing I've done.

For me, marrying and having children was an imperative. I wasn't forced to, though every social and cultural norm of my faith clearly promoted it. Fortunately, I agreed with those norms, and I believe that my personal spiritual growth required that I take these steps.

I've read recent opinions that are critical of the choice to have children, or that at least imply that there is some kind if nobility involved in not doing so. They mention the stresses imposed on marriages by children, or the potential for overpopulation. As a father, I find these arguments utterly uncompelling.

The stresses of life are what drives growth and development. The purpose of this life is to grow and develop, to move past our weaknesses and challenges and become better as a result. We are not here to avoid stress, so to argue that the childless life should be sought for that reason is not persuasive to me. Likewise, the choice to have children should be based on personal circumstance, and not on fears that children will lead to overpopulation in a world with tremendous resources and potential growth and technological advancement. 

Most importantly, children are a source of great joy. When they smile at you, hug you, express their love, it provides a sense of fulfillment that is hard to match. I can't imagine not being a father. It shows me what my parents felt for me, and what I imagine a loving God feels for each of His children. For my part, for my path, I have no doubt that this was the right choice. I give thanks every day for this blessing.

09 June 2014

Why We Serve

This was a nice little piece on National Public Radio about the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT.

I spent 10 weeks there almost 16 years ago, entering on my 19th birthday. We spent each day in intensive language and doctrinal study, in preparation for our service as proselyting missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It remains one of the most significant experiences of my life.

The decision to go on a voluntary, 2-year church mission was not a difficult one for me. My father served a mission, as did other family and friends, so people I loved and respected had set that example for me. My closest friends from college were planning to go on missions, so there was a strong social incentive for me to serve. The most important reason, and the one I credit with making my service so meaningful, is that I had a firm conviction that the message we would share came from God.

People sometimes wonder why Mormons are sent as missionaries. We send missionaries wherever they are alowed to go. It doesn't matter whether it is a country with dominant a Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or some other religion. Our belief is that our message should be offered to everyone, and that is what we try to accomplish.

My belief in that message comes from the Holy Ghost, and I can see the progression in my understanding through different spiritual experiences that I had as a child and young man. These experiences were remarkable to me, and they came in quiet and contemplative moments. Through them I came to truly believe that:
  God knows who I am, as an individual being.
  God hears my prayers.
  Jesus Christ is my Savior, and the Savior of the world.
  The Book of Mormon is scripture, and the word of God, as is the Bible.

The truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is one of the key reasons for my desire to serve as a misisonary. My study of the Book of Mormon has led me to cherish it as a source of truth, a confirming and clarifying companion to the Bible. The fact that our Heavenly Father has provided us with additional holy word is a message worth sharing with others. Having believed that the Book of Mormon was truly of God, what other option did I have but to share it with others?

So it wasn't a hard choice, but it was my choice, and I've never regretted it. I became an adult on my mission, made wonderful friends, and most importantly, saw the hand of God in my life and the lives of others. This is why I served. In the 12 years since I returned home, I have never had reason to regret that service. I hope that my children and the young people I work with at Church will want to experience the blessing of that service. 

01 June 2014


I missed last week, so I will need to double up on my posts to compensate at some point.

I wanted to write something on Memorial Day. It's hard to really express adequate appreciation for those who have died for the defense of our country. Walking around Washington D.C. and seeing the monuments to the fallen brings home the scale of that sacrifice over the years.

I was especially touched by this simple tribute:

Somebody left this drawing at the Vietnam Wall. I don't know when he died, but it had to be at least 40 years ago. It is evident that his loss was still deeply felt by those he left behind.

I have experienced the loss of all of my grandparents, some uncles, cousins, and one of my fathers-in-law. My parents are living, my siblings, wife and children are healthy and strong. But someday they will all be gone. Some will precede me, and I will precede others. I take comfort in my strong spiritual conviction that when that happens, I will someday see them again.

In our Church, we believe that families are a key part of our Heavenly Father's plan for us. They are not intended to be only a mortal construct, but something that exists eternally. Why else would our family ties have such powerful importance in our lives?

Those feelings of love are inspired by God, and he intends them to continue. Someday this man will be reunited with those that he left behind. The mortal separation, though painful, will seem like the blink of an eye. It is good to remember, and mourn, but it is the mourning that is temporary, not the death, and we can give thanks to our Father and to our Savior for that, and I do.