New Goal (Posting it here so I’ll do it)

I still haven’t found a way to maintain a blog along with 2 jobs and all my family responsibilities (BTW, my body fat percentage as of 12/08/14 was 24%, down from close to 33% in May.), but I have still tried to complete some various goals related to self-improvement.  Some are easy to maintain, others are hard.  I’ve been doing one for a week and a half now and it has been very hard to not fall behind, so now I’m posting it publicly so I’ll be more inclined to do it.

I have found that in the last 6 years or so it is much harder to pay close attention to General Conference the weekend it actually airs.  Part of that had to do with the fact that UNT held a campus wide open house the first Saturday of April while I worked there, but part of it has to do with the fact that with 4 kids in the house it is hard to just sit down and listen.  We find things for them to do and encourage their participation in conference, but distractions pop up.  For some reason I was thinking about this during sacrament meeting a couple weeks ago while we were visiting Texas, and I thought up a way to play catch up with some of the recent session: each week I’d devote to listening to one apostle (including those in the First Presidency) and listen to one talk a day from the last 5 General Conferences on weekdays.

…and then I promptly forgot that I wanted to do that.

But then on December 7th I remembered and made a chart on my Google Drive and actually put on all the links to the talks and assigned them to days.  Luckily if I started on the 8th, I’d still finish before the April 2015 General Conference.  I listened to the two talks assigned for the 8th, and 9th

…and then didn’t listen to another one until yesterday when I started playing catch up on the goal.

Today I managed to properly catch up, but seeing as how I forgot for two weeks that I wanted to do this, and then got 4 talks behind right in the opening days of the goal, I needed more accountability.  Thus this blog post.

While I’d like to promise that I will publish something each Friday when I finish with my thoughts about the theme the apostle seemed to have, the last few months have shown that I don’t have a schedule that can permit such a promise.  However, I will likely post an update every so often on the progress I’ve made or something I’ve learned.

So if you like this goal or idea, feel free to share in it or modify it to fit your schedule and lifestyle. Or come up with your own goal to do, after all a good healthy S.M.A.R.T. goal is necessary every so often for all of us.

The Conference Center

October 2014 Conference Wordle

Finding my Place in Higher Ed – #MormonPositive

Continuing my theme on stories from my life where the struggles of being Mormon made my life better.

For those of you unaware, I work professionally as an Academic Advisor.  I currently work for Brigham Young University, but I started in this field 4 years ago (this month!) at the University of North Texas. Prior to that I worked for about 20 months as a Financial Aid Counselor, and before that I bounced around in a few different jobs trying to figure out who I wanted to be professionally. I love being an academic advisor, it is a fun job for a person like me.  And given that my education allows be to become a licensed counselor and working for a university allows me access to free and discounted continuing-education opportunities, I love that I still have a lot of potential for growth professionally (and personally) in the coming decades before I retire.

The interesting thing about all of this is that if I weren’t Mormon, I sincerely doubt that I would have found this career path and I don’t know if I would have ever found so much happiness in my career. In fact, if you were to look at the type of student I was in high school or my undergraduate, you would have never thought that I could become what I currently am.

You see, I was a bad student. It wasn’t that I wasn’t bright, or that I didn’t understand things that were being taught. It was simply that I was terrible about finishing my homework. During middle school and high school, I’d do fine on the tests but I would never read my assignments or do my worksheets.  I’d average out to a “C” when all was said and done, but it was entirely based on my test grades balancing out a bunch of ZEROs on all my homework. One thing that my dad and I would always argue over is that sometimes he’d find an assignment I hadn’t done in the morning and he’d make me complete as much of it as I could during breakfast and he’d make me do it between bites of cereal and tell me to turn it in even though I’d only complete about 25-50% of the assignment. For some reason though, I was more embarrassed to turn in an incomplete assignment to my teachers than to tell them I didn’t do it, so I’d keep it stuffed in the bottom of my backpack. I knew I’d get a lecture from my dad when my teachers would send home progress reports with a bunch of NHIs (Not Handed In) for all my homework assignments, but it didn’t matter. (I think I’m personally responsible for 60% of my dad’s baldness.)

After deciding that the arguments weren’t worth it, my mom finally hired a tutor for my my junior and senior years of high school. She wasn’t there to teach me anything about school subjects, her only job was to track all my assignments and create a schedule for me to get them done. It helped.

Thanks to my extra-curriculars (Academic Decathlon being the #1) and straight A’s in seminary, I was admitted to BYU out of high school.  That was remarkable in the late 90’s, my high school GPA probably put me in the bottom 5% of admits.  Today, theUndergrad Graduationy wouldn’t have bothered with the likes of me, I was too much of a risk.  In fact, I was a risk. Without the skills needed to manage my study schedule without a tutor, and since so much of the work at the university level requires self-directed study, my past habit of being able to at least get passable grades thanks to my test scores didn’t work.  I was failing my tests too. Somehow I pulled off graduation, but I spent all my time as an undergrad in and out of academic probation.

So, what does this have to do with being Mormon? Well, as you can imagine there were many times that I was ready to call it quits on this whole school thing.  I wanted to take the easy way out, just get an associates or a professional certificate and just get on with life. I probably would have done that if not for one thing: my Patriarchal Blessing.

I don’t want to offer too lengthy a description of a Patriarchal Blessing in this post (you can learn more here), but in short it is a blessing of guidance given typically during teenage years that offers inspired counsel for how to live your life. Most items said in the blessing are broad guidelines that relate directly to scripture. It is a personal thing though, so often we can find very specific guidance in those broad guidelines.

One of the guidelines in my blessing reads almost more like a commandment. My blessing counsels me to “continue throughout your life in your education and seek to grow in knowledge and wisdom.” It seems like a good bit of counsel for just about anyone to follow, but it felt very personal to me each and every time I’d get another email telling me that I had to go to the Academic Support Office because I was back on probation. So many times I wanted to call it quits and walk away, but thanks to a few words spoken to me during a blessing given by a total stranger, I kept on trying. And eventually, my efforts paid off and I graduated.

The story doesn’t end there though.  After three years out of school and finding myself professionally unfulfilled I began to realize that I needed more education to move forward again. The thought of putting myself through the stress of schooling again, and this time while married and with children, was almost too much to bare. I still had that counsel to lean back on though: “continue throughout your life in your education and seek to grow in knowledge and wisdom.” So, I eased my way back into school. I started with some independent study, then took some leveling-courses to get back into the swing of things, and then got into grad school and finished my Master’s, and I did so with a 4.0 GPA.  Every semester, as I’d get my report card, I would already know that I had satisfied the requirements for A’s, but I was still amazed to see them added to my transcript.Graduate Graduation

The most interesting thing about this story to me is where it actually led me. I didn’t plan on becoming an academic advisor when I started grad school, that was just a tangent that was supposed to help me pay my way through my master’s program.  Now though, I work every day with students who struggle the same way I did and don’t know how to turn it around. My life and experience with school has helped me develop knowledge and wisdom to help these students. I know how to help a struggling student change his or her habits in school, and it’s not a theoretical knowledge, it is genuine knowledge that I learned through effort and trial. Seeing these students who struggled like I did, and then make their lives better is what makes being an academic advisor the funnest job I could ever ask for.  And, it would have never happened if not for a stranger, who when I was 18 told me to “continue throughout [my] life in [my] education and seek to grow in knowledge and wisdom.” Another reason I am one very happy Mormon.

Science vs Religion? Not a Problem for Me #MormonPositive

So far in my #MormonPositive series I have written about experiences in my life that were stressful specifically because of my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but how experiencing that stress made me a better person.  I’m going to break from that pattern a little bit today and focus on how my membership in the church prevented me from experiencing a stress that impacts some religious people.

I have never to my recollection felt any conflict been my religious beliefs and science, and I attribute that entirely to the doctrines of my church.  For me:

Evolution, not a problem.

Physics is fascinating, has never made me question God.

The age of Earth/Universe, sure 4.5 & 13.5 billion years respectively, again not a problem.

 

At one time during my freshman year of college I thought about being a physics major.  I didn’t pursue it because I didn’t have confidence I could learn that math, but I blame that on my public schooling education, not my religion.

For some reason there seem to be people in other Christian denominations (and occasionally some individuals in my own church) who seem to think that science is a threat to their faith.  Also, there are scientists who seem to think that religion in general is a threat to further learning in science.  I find myself comfortably outside of both camps.

There is such a fascinating legacy of scientific thought within the Mormon community.  Some intriguing quotes worth pondering:

“The origin of life whether human or inferior, must be lodged in some character whom I have not seen! Follow it back, no matter whether it be for six thousand years, six millions, six million millions, or billions of years, the figures and numbers are immaterial, I must have come from some source, my natural philosophy teaches me this. But, leaving the natural philosophy of the child free from false tradition, let us inquire. What does the philosophy of the Christian sects, or many of them, not all, teach? “God made the world in six days, out of nothing!” This is very wrong; no child should be taught any such dogma. God never did make a world out of nothing; He never will, He never can!” [Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, pg. 248, 25 Sep 1870].

“Miracles are commonly regarded as occurrences in opposition to the laws of nature. Such a conception is plainly erroneous, for the laws of nature are inviolable. However, as human understanding of these laws is at best but imperfect, events strictly in accordance with natural law may appear contrary thereto. The entire constitution of nature is founded on system and order.” [James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, Deseret Book, SLC, 1966, originally published 1899, pg. 220.]”

“Truth is truth forever. Scientific truth cannot be theological lie. To the sane mind, theology and philosophy must harmonize. They have the common ground of truth on which to meet.” [John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith as Scientist, originally published in 1908, Bookcraft, 1964, pg. 156].

“Since the gospel embraces all truth, there can never be any genuine contradictions between true science and true religion… I am obliged, as a latter-day saint, to believe whatever is true, regardless of the source.” [Henry Eyring, Faith of a Scientist, p. 12, 31]

This perspective has been very helpful for me.  It means that I can watch Neil deGrasse Tyson’s documentaries or TV shows and thoroughly enjoy them.  I meant that I could work as the academic advisor in the Biology department for a major university in Texas, and never feel even the slightest bit of conflict.  Now, I find myself working for Brigham Young University and I see around me so many scientists in the top of their fields with no conflict between the experiments they conduct, the lessons they teach, and the peace they have found through the practice of our religion.

I know that conflict occasionally erupts and a person will claim that they are being torn between his/her scientific principles and religion, and much attention is focused on those events, but I think that is more the exception than the rule.  So many of us in the LDS Faith find comfort, knowledge, and synchrony between both science and religion and experience no internal conflict.  For any out there who do, please take the time to understand that truth is truth and that it is the limits of our minds’ that might prevent us from seeing the ties between religious truth and scientific truth, not the lack of ties between the two.

Milky Way 2005
Additional Readings:

Henry Eyring, The Faith of a Scientist

Science Meets Religion

Evolution and the Origin of Man

Trouble at the MTC #MormonPositive

Here is my 2nd post in my #MormonPositive series.

 

So, to recap I’m writing about ways in which my life is either harder or more stressful because I’m Mormon, but illustrating how that difficult issue and/or stressful event made me a better person.  I guess I have to discuss my absolute most stressful time ever as a Mormon: the 8 weeks I spent in the MTC.

Many people speak with fondness of their time in the MTC (Missionary Training Center), they talk about how it was the first time in their lives that they were able to focus on their spiritual selves and the first time that the various truths they had learned about the gospel finally coalesced into a unified testimony of the restoration. However, for me the MTC marked a time of extreme anxiety and internal turmoil.

Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT

I had reported to the MTC expecting the time of my life.  I was one of those LDS kids that had sung “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” with gusto, because I meant it!  Sometimes when I was home alone I would watch the old “Called to Serve” VHS and think about how that would be me someday. I lived a life worthy to become a missionary (and very much by choice, not accident nor lack of opportunity). Yet, my arrival to the MTC was filled with voices telling me that I wasn’t good enough, and due to an inherent problem within me that I had not yet overcome, I believed them.

I put the blame for my stress at the MTC on three people: the first counselor in my MTC branch presidency, one of our language teachers, and myself.

The first one was a seminary teacher from somewhere in Utah County, so our branch president delegated most of the presidency instruction to him.  Right from the get-go he was very open with his opinion that young adults were not the best way to preach the gospel to the world, but because this was the way the Lord said to do it right now, he was going to do everything in his power to get us ready.  He openly said that if the Church was serious about increasing convert baptisms they would shift focus from sending out young adults and start sending out more senior couples.  He openly called us lazy, unprepared, unworthy, unfocused, and undeserving of our calling.  The interesting thing is that I knew his whole opinion about the missionary program was incorrect because I had a family friend who was transitioning from the roll of mission president into general authority while I was preparing for the MTC, and I had personally heard him bemoan the fact that senior couples in the Church are extremely hesitant to serve missions.  But, while there in the MTC under this man’s influence, I unfortunately allowed myself to believe this member of our branch presidency regarding my personal worthiness to serve a mission.

The second one, one of our language teachers, had just returned from his mission to the Philippines and was hired by the MTC to teach Cebuano.  I’ll give him this, he learned the language beyond what most consider possible for a Westerner, let alone as a proselyting missionary.  In my opinion though, his unique ability to learn this language filled him with a level of arrogance unbecoming of a priesthood holder.  He was hired about a week after I reported to the MTC and he substituted and observed my class for about 3 weeks until the next batch of Philippines-bound missionaries arrived.  I was happy to be rid of his daily presence, but unfortunately not his influence.  He told us, in no uncertain terms, that the Philippines was a blessed land (which I agree with) and that he was disgusted and disturbed that the Church headquarters would have called a group of so unprepared and unacceptable missionaries to be sent there.  When a missionary in one of the Tagalog classes got reassigned to an English speaking mission after he’d had some difficulty, this teacher openly asked if our whole class ought to have the same fate when we mis-conjugated a verb he was teaching us.

And then there was me.  At that time in my life I believed pretty much anything anyone said about me. The sad thing about this is that my own stake president, minutes before setting me apart as a missionary warned me that this was a weakness of mine, and that it would be a serious challenge for me, particularly while I was in the MTC.  Today, I understand this problem through the psychological theory of Locus of Control, which in brief says that people either define themselves through internal beliefs or external influences.  For much of my childhood, especially during the years that I was bullied, I defined myself and my self-efficacy through external voices.  When voices the voices that were critical of me (bullies & some teachers) outnumbered the voices that spoke positive of me (my parents, different teachers, a Sunday school teacher) I had difficult times.  If the positive voices got louder, I would feel better.  Currently, I know that the healthiest thing is to self-evaluate myself and my self-efficacy so I don’t get into a shame spiral when criticized.  That was a long and hard lesson, but the foundation for me to learn that also came during my time at the MTC.

The voices telling me that I wasn’t worthy to me a missionary were rather loud, but I kept myself tied to my determination to be a missionary.  Fortunately, a much more influential figure came into my life and helped me silence those critical voices.  One of our Tuesday Devotional speakers while I was in the MTC was Elder M. Russell Ballard.  He came and gave a wonderful lesson on the gathering of Israel and of foreordination.  It was a great talk, but it wasn’t the talk that left an impression on me.

Elder M. Russell Ballard

Prior to Elder Ballard’s arrival, I had been in the auditorium early to participate in the MTC choir.  Once we had finished our rehearsal the rest of the elders, sisters, and MTC leadership began to arrive.  The MTC is organized into branches and the branches into districts.  One of the district presidents had been selected to conduct the meeting.  By this point, I had gotten used to the MTC devotional routine of the conductor standing up a few times as people filed in and asking everyone to take their seats quickly so we could begin.  Once everyone was finally seated the speaker and his/her party would then be the last to enter and sit on the stand.  This district president though, called us to order well before people had started coming in, basically while just the choir was in the room.  He read a prepared statement that read something like this: “Elder Ballard has another obligation following the conclusion of his remarks here.  At the conclusion of the closing prayer, REMAIN IN YOUR SEATS until he has left the auditorium.  DO NOT approach the stand expecting to meet Elder Ballard or shake his hand as he needs to leave IMMEDIATELY.” As he read those words, which as just words were harmless enough, his tone created a message of derision or contempt.  The emphasis he placed on the commandments in the statement were in the same tone that a drill sergeant would use with a belligerent soldier, or a warden with a difficult prisoner.  I felt disrespected, and I felt as though I had one more person who didn’t respect the choice I had willingly made to become a missionary.  My ill feelings towards this man increased every 2-3 minutes as he stood up and repeated the statement as more and more people came into the room, each time the tone harsher and the statement given louder.  It didn’t bother me that much that Elder Ballard had to leave and we wouldn’t be able to shake his hand, but the tone of this man telling us that bothered me a great deal.

Eventually the meeting began, and as I said before Elder Ballard’s talk was wonderful.  I was lifted and filled with positive emotion.  Little did I know how quickly that could all be undone.  The same district president who had opened the meeting stood to announce the concluding hymn and prayer, and then before we got to those he started reading the announcement about Elder Ballard leaving early again. (As a note, since Elder Ballard had been the last one to enter the auditorium, this was the first time he heard this district president read this statement.)  The harsh tone was identical to the one that had preceded the meeting, and immediately the warm feeling within me retreated and I felt my anger return.  I remember looking down at the floor because I couldn’t stand both looking and listening to this man.  Then, as I was looking at the floor, something interesting happened, the harsh voice of the district president stopped mid-sentence and was replaced by Elder Ballard’s calm and reassuring voice.  I immediately looked up.  To the best of my memory, this is what Elder Ballard said, “Elders and Sisters, I know that typically propriety does not require me to disclose why I would need to leave early following a meeting, but since you are my fellow servants in full-time service to the Lord, I feel I owe you an explanation.”  He then continued and told us about a sick relative who lived nearby and that this evening was the only opportunity he would have to visit this person.  He asked us to forgive him for giving time that he would normally give to us to this sick individual.  Of course I forgave him, he called me a “fellow servant.”  At no time while at the MTC had I felt as respected or cared for.  From over 100 feet away and with over a dozen rows of people in between us, an Apostle of the Lord spoke directly to me.  I’m sure that other people in that room needed that same message, but I know that the ill feelings in my heart towards that district president were part of the reason Elder Ballard was prompted to stand and break from propriety.

After that, those two people who had been such tormentors to my soul didn’t bother me as much in my remaining weeks.  I knew why I was in the MTC.  I knew that they were not witnesses to the work I was doing outside of their purview, I knew they couldn’t see the motivations in my heart, and that the motivations of my heart were pure.  I had had and Apostle call me a “fellow servant” and certainly his opinion was worth far more than that of a prideful language teacher or a grumpy old seminary teacher.

It took me several more years to learn to always look back within my heart when faced with criticism and to not internalize the critiques of those not worthy to critique me.  One of the people who helped me learn that and built on the foundation Elder Ballard had laid I met in the days following my departure from the MTC.  He was my mission president.  I remember knowing within seconds of meeting that jovial, loving man that despite my challenges in the MTC, I was right where I needed to be.

Sitting Without Dad during Sacrament Meeting

This is my first post in my Mormon-Positive series.

I was very young when my dad was first called into a bishopric, I can’t even remember how old I was, I just remember seeing dad as one of the three men on the stand during church meetings at a very young age.  I believe on two separate occasions in my early years he was in a bishopric which required him to sit on the stand.  When I was about 11 or 12, my dad was called as bishop which meant another five years sitting on the stand presiding over our sacrament meetings.  I’m sure this was stressful for my mom. In fact I know it was because she has said so.

The tradition and instruction for sacrament meetings in the LDS Church is that the bishop and his two counselors will sit on the stand next to the podium and preside over and conduct the meeting.  They make sure that proper assignments for prayers, hymns, speakers, and special events are arranged as well as making sure that the sacrament is blessed and passed properly and in accordance with the reverence it deserves.  Because we are a lay church the three members of the bishopric are invariably fathers who have families, typically with young children, sitting in the congregation and the mothers are left alone to get the kids to church and keep from being disruptive throughout the meeting.  When a man is called to be a bishop his wife also takes on a huge burden of responsibility, primarily she has to do a number of parenting activities solo because her husband needs to be at church early, stay late, and attend meetings on weeknights.  Plus she has to put up with the fact that at any given time he may need to run off to attend to a crisis a member in the ward may be experiencing.

The Bishop’s Team

I know it was not easy for my mom to do all those Sunday mornings getting us out the door to Church and then splitting her attention between the speaker and four kids who would rather not be sitting in a pew and could become restless and moody at any given moment.  I know this because I was a teenage punk who intentionally didn’t make life easy for her.  I know many other bishops’ wives have had similar frustrations because there are blog posts, active campaigns, and public criticisms towards the church that have recommended that how a bishopric presides over sacrament meeting should be revisited.

I don’t know what will become of those campaigns, perhaps change will come.  I do know that even though this was a stressful experience for my family, especially my parents, I learned something those five years that my dad was bishop.   I learned that my dad had a powerful testimony of the truth of the gospel, and I learned that my parents would sacrifice almost anything in devotion to their belief in the restored gospel.

One of the responsibilities of the bishopric is to begin the monthly fast & testimony meetings by publicly stating his own testimony and then inviting the rest of the members to come to the front and share their individual testimonies.  Since there are three members of a bishopric, this meant that once every three months my dad would stand before the congregation and tell them that he knew of Christ’s divinity, the reality of the atonement, and his confidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet through whom the fullness of the gospel and the priesthood ordinances were restored to the Earth.  My dad is a convert and had a challenging childhood and early adulthood, filled with contradictions and cognitive dissonance.  Hearing him talk about the clarity and purpose-of-life that finding the gospel brought him left impressions on me that have impacted me to this day.

There were other times when my Dad’s example as a presider left lasting impressions on me.  When I was about 14 or 15, I was sitting with other deacons and teachers who were preparing to pass the sacrament.  Everything looked all ready to go, but as the hymn for the sacrament began and the priests stood up to break the bread before blessing it, they folded back the sheet and discovered that the trays in front of them were the used and empty trays from the previous ward.  Apparently, they hadn’t cleaned off the sacrament table at the conclusion of their meeting and as our ward arrived and saw a sacrament table that looked prepped, we all assumed it was ready to go.  Well, knowing it would take us about 5-10 minutes to clean off the used trays and then prep them for the sacrament service my dad as bishop stood up and on the fly gave a sermon on the difference between looking prepared and actually being prepared.  He asked the congregation if we arrive at church looking our best in our Sunday clothes, but have we taken the same efforts to prepare our hearts to renew the covenant of baptism with the sacrament ordinance.  He then reminded us of the baptismal covenant, to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those needing comfort, and taking upon us Christ’s name.  When he finished we sang a new sacrament hymn and then blessed and passed the sacrament.  It was a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

I know those years were hard on my parents, after all the years that parents have teenagers tend to be the most challenging anyway, but these extra little challenges that my parents took on, even though it added additional stress to their lives have left both them and me with unexpected opportunities for growth and personal development.

New Blog Project: #MormonPositive

I’d spent the last few weeks trying to figure out if my blog was something worth maintaining and updating.  I recently started using it for a weight loss project, since blogging about your change of lifestyle and diet has been shown to increase adherence to the new routine, but that one purpose alone didn’t seem sufficient.

It seemed clear to me that for a blog to be of value, it needs to have a theme and a purpose, rather than simply be a vessel in which to pour out random and occasional thoughts when I have the time or the inclination.  A couple weeks ago I had one of those shower-epiphanies (quite literally) and came up with a thought for a personal blog project for the next few months.  The theme/title of this project is “Mormon-Positive.”

To be brief, I will be cataloging ways in which my life has been improved by being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Sometimes, being a Mormon is not the easiest thing in the world and there are times when I can clearly see that finding another church or simply not being a church going person would greatly simplify my life.  Yet, I am compelled to stay.  I want to catalog why that is.

My longer explanation of how I got to this epiphany was that I was pondering on several things and they melded in my mind into this project.  The four main thoughts that conjoined into this project were:

  • A piece of advice that a family friend gave me right before I went on my mission regarding journal keeping.  He said that we often use journals to explore our complaints and problems in life, which can be helpful, but if that becomes the focus of our journal writing it means that the good things don’t get recorded.  Since blogs are modern-day journals it seems as though a lot of time spent writing and reading blogs is on the complaints of life, not the positive aspects. I myself have been guilty of this, so it’s a personal critique as well as a public one.
  • A TED talk on how stress is not necessarily the evil it has been portrayed to be and can actually be your friend.  As I’ve watched it a few times, and as I’ve looked at the research that has backed her up, I’ve been amazed at how true it is that a change in attitude about your stress seems to be the key not only to stress management, but excellence in life.
  • Another online video, this time from a PragerUniveristy video on five lessons Dennis Prager would like college graduates to know.  Specifically, his first idea (at 0:21 in the video) is that “the greatest struggle in your life is not with society, it is with yourself.”
  • The final thought came from a comment my wife received in an email.  Essentially, my wife was told by the author of this email that she would be a better person and live a happier life if she eventually learned (like the email author) that the LDS Church is a fraud.  That way we could let go of false beliefs and stressors that hold us back from living fuller lives.  This was a personal email from someone my wife intimately knows, not one of those form-letter collections of complaints against LDS doctrine and practice that are often circulated by people as they’re leaving the church.

I think that we in our society are often too quick to demonize hard things, especially when our perception is that the hard thing originates due to an organized system, whether culture, government, church, society, etc.  Our primary inclination is to change the system (which often times is necessary) rather than looking internally and figuring out how this stress that came from something external could be used to improve ourselves internally.  I can think of many ways which my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has made my life harder, but many of the hardest things about being a member of the church have been the things that have led me to the greatest personal improvement.

My goal is to write at least one blog post on this topic a week until September.  Depending on how this project goes I might continue it.  Most of my posts will likely be recollections from the past, focusing on stories that have the blessing of hindsight.  However, if something contemporary happens in the next few months, I might also write about that as well.  If you like this project and feel like adding your own voice to it, I’ll be using the hashtag #mormonpositive on twitter whenever I share one of these posts.  I’ll happily link any outside posts on this topic back to my blog.

 

 

 

 

(Given the timing of when I finally finished this intro and first post coinciding with the news flurry that is the announced church discipline hearings for Kate Kelly and John Dehlin, I feel I should point out that this is something I had intended to write for a couple weeks and I had been working on my drafts since early this week.  This is a personal project that I wanted to do, and is not a response in any way to the news of the day.)