We are commanded in the scriptures to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And so, many people, in particular religious people, seek for ways to live a life that is considered “perfect.” However, is the idea of being “perfect” even remotely possible? The question that begs an answer is, “How does a person go about living a perfect life in an imperfect world?” According to a new study, our quest to answer that question has significant bearing on our mental health.
Defining the Terms
When we hear the words “perfect,” “perfectionist,” or “perfectionism” what thoughts come to mind? The philosophical definition of perfectionism is “a doctrine holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable, especially the theory that human moral or spiritual perfection should be or has been attained.” The Apostle Paul addressed the subject of being perfect in his treatise to the saints of the church at Philippi. In Philippians 3:12-16 Paul exhorts:
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
What Paul is telling the saints is that he is not perfect, but he lives his life in such a manner as to daily strive to become perfect or more Christ-like. He further explains that he has left behind those things in his life which he once thought would gain him favor with God, and instead continues to look ahead and set the attaining of a Christ-like life (a perfect life) as his spiritual and moral target.
High Expectations and Striving for Perfection
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught to have high expectations and to strive for perfection, a task which frequently leaves members finding themselves falling short of the mark. This often leads to feelings of discouragement, dissatisfaction, anxiety, and stress. However, Professors G. E. Kawika Allen from the McKay School of Education at Brigham Young University, and Kenneth T. Wang at the Fuller Theological Seminary, argue that perfectionism, or striving for high standards, is not the problem.
The first group, 22% of people surveyed, were not perfectionists, that is, they don’t believe they hold themselves to high personal standards. The rest were considered perfectionists, but had an interesting split among them – a new type of perfectionism. Of the perfectionist group, 30% were classified as what Allen and Wang labeled maladaptive perfectionism, while 47% were classified as adaptive.
Allen admits that the populace surveyed for the test was perhaps the most appropriate as it is at that crossroads in a person’s life when they feel the most pressure to live up to the high standards of perfectionism as they contemplate going on a mission, getting married, and pursuing a higher education.
The study indicated that over half of the 267 LDS members surveyed could be classified as adaptive perfectionists which can be described as follows:
Adaptive perfectionists are likely to feel acceptance of themselves and their efforts, even when they fail or fall short of the high personal standards they have set for themselves. They are also more inwardly and outwardly committed to their LDS faith, which supports previous peer-reviewed findings that religious commitment plays a role in achieving better psychological health. That means adaptive perfectionism is actually healthy.
Taking this into consideration, the Apostle Paul would be classified as an adaptive perfectionist.
By contrast, however, members who were classified as maladaptive tend to feel less satisfied with their lives, and often experience depression and anxiety. They also tend to have a deeper fear of being punished by God for their sinful behavior. The study renders the following explanation about maladaptive perfectionists:
Maladaptive perfectionists are those folks who have high standards and high expectations for themselves, but when they are unable to meet those expectations, whether it’s school, family, or personal expectations, they struggle a little more with feelings of failure, feelings of not being good enough, disappointment, discouragement, and they feel down about themselves because they’re not able to meet those high standards.
Allen further commented that “adaptive perfectionists are more resilient to discouragement and create a ‘buffer’ for themselves if they fail —allowing themselves a chance to simply try again and again and again and do their best. He relates this to the repentance process.
How Members Can Achieve a Healthier Perfectionist Behavior
Allen offers three basic suggestions for helping members to become adaptive perfectionist versus maladaptive perfectionists. He states that the first step is for a member to figure out the type of perfectionist that he or she is. For those who struggle with maladaptive perfectionism, Allen states that, “Knowing that they have this negative tendency is half the battle. Then they can begin practicing more patience with themselves and studying the Atonement – both key steps to becoming an adaptive perfectionist.” He also states that it can be encouraging for adaptive perfectionists “because it reinforces the ‘Okay, I can be perfectionist in an adaptive way, and I can feel good about myself when I’m not able to meet those expectations.”
The second step in the process is to not allow fear to rule how the gospel is lived. Allen states,
Oftentimes we find ourselves doing things out of fear and anxiety rather than wanting to do it out of the love and out of faith—our own faith. When we’re driven by fear and anxiety, that’s when we need to take another look at the meaning of the Atonement and grace and our testimony of the living Christ.
He further emphasizes that adaptive perfectionists are motivated by love for the Savior more than they are by fear of repentance or punishment.
The third step is to apply the atonement in daily living and remember the unconditional love that God has for each of us. Allen commented:
As we let go of fear, we also need to strive to understand the Atonement and God’s love. When we understand that the Atonement allows us to strive for perfection simply by doing our very best and we remember that we are already imperfect, it helps us pick up the pieces and start again when we make a mistake.
Each of Us Strive for Perfection
None of us are perfect. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The psalmist also declared, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:1-3).
The only One who is perfect is Christ Himself. He is our Exemplar. As mortals, being perfect is an impossibility, but yet we should continue to strive towards becoming perfect. If we would keep that as our perspective and goal in life, we will be able to become adaptive perfectionists, continuously working to improve ourselves. Allen concludes with this counsel:
The next time you find yourself feeling like a failure, and that achieving perfection is impossible, take a step back, pick yourself up, and remember that the beauty of the Atonement is our ability to frequently fail, but always be able to move forward, a little better than we were before.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints profess that the Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of the Mormon faith. It is considered to be a sacred volume of scripture that is comparable to the Holy Bible. The Book of Mormon is not used as a substitute for the Holy Bible, but rather it is used in conjunction with that sacred text, and its teachings enhance the doctrines and principles that are found therein. In fact the 8th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ states, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”
The work is nothing less than a miracle and has touched the lives of millions of people all over the world. A modern-day Apostle, Elder Mark E. Petersen, in his October 1977 General Conference address titled “It Was A Miracle!” commented, “The Book of Mormon is a literary and a religious masterpiece, and is far beyond even the fondest hopes or abilities of any farm boy” (Ensign, November 1977, 11). Nevertheless, for many years critics have done their best to discredit the Book of Mormon, and all but dismiss it as a book of fiction. The question that has caused considerable discussion and debate is, “Did Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon from gold plates as he claimed, and as witnesses testified, or did he write the narrative himself?”
The Book of Mormon – A Miraculous Book
There have been many instances when great works have faltered under the scrutiny of critics. However, despite all of the negativism concerning the Book of Mormon and its authenticity, it continues to be placed into the hands of people all over the world, and those who embrace its teachings have had their lives transformed and testify of its power. Here are a few reasons why the Book of Mormon is so miraculous.
Reason 1: There Have Been Minimal Changes to the Text
Critics have long claimed that the Book of Mormon cannot be authentic because they purport that 3,913 “changes” have been made to the text of the first edition. Their argument is refuted, however, when the short period of time that it took to translate the volume, and the fact that it required fewer changes as compared to other translated works is considered. That in itself makes the Book of Mormon a miraculous work.
The fact that changes were required is not unusual for any complex manuscript. Even Bible scholars such as Daniel B. Wallace, a professor of New Testament studies, affirms that the manuscript of the Bible “has undergone three revisions, incorporating more than 100,000 changes” (“Choosing a Bible Translation,” christianity.com).
Several other tidbits of information also deserve careful consideration. First, when Joseph Smith verbally dictated the Book of Mormon manuscript to scribes, he was a 23-year-old uneducated farm boy. With the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the translation work, the finished result was a 588-page manuscript which had as its central theme, the Lord Jesus Christ, and it contained thousands of original phrases, brilliant doctrinal speeches, and unique names.
Joseph Smith did not have the advantage of skilled editors to correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. He relied heavily on his scribes and the typesetter to make such corrections. In fact, when the Book of Mormon was completed it was basically one continuous paragraph with little to no punctuation. John H. Gilbert, an employee of publisher E.B. Grandin, set the type and punctuated the first edition of the Book of Mormon. The 3,913 “mistakes” which critics use to substantiate their claim that the Book of Mormon is not true, are indeed minor changes such as punctuation. The fact that the Book of Mormon with its length and complexity of manuscript required so few corrections, is substantial evidence and proof that the book is of divine origin.
Reason 2: The Complexity of the Manuscript Nullifies that it is a Work of Fiction
Many critics claim that the Book of Mormon is nothing more than a book of fiction, and Joseph Smith, whom they further claim is a fraud, is its author.
One internet critic paints Joseph Smith as an ignorant fraud and then says, “The Book of Mormon is no more complex than many other works of fiction, such as J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” He failed to point out that it took Tolkien, an internationally renowned Oxford English professor, 12 years to write his classic book. It is believed that this brilliant professor knew up to 30 different languages in various degrees. He also associated daily with other renowned fantasy writers, one of which was his good friend C.S. Lewis. Perhaps no one was better prepared to write The Lord of the Rings than Tolkien. Despite his experience, at the time he finished his book, Tolkien said: “There were some frightful mistakes in grammar, which from a Professor of English Language and Lit are rather shocking” (Dennis Gerolt, “Now Read On,” BBC Radio 4, January, 1971).
Contrast J.R. Tolkien’s life to that of Joseph Smith. Joseph was a farm boy. He had very little formal education. He was not afforded the opportunity to consult with professional writers and editors, or professional translators for that matter. He was only 24-years-old when the Book of Mormon was published. The entire manuscript of the Book of Mormon was produced in 63 days. And, it should also be duly noted that Joseph did not have any notes to refer to, but rather he verbally dictated the manuscript to his scribes. Furthermore, at times when the dictation of the manuscript was interrupted, he did not have bookmarks to remind him where he had left off, but yet when he returned to the work, he was able to continue as if there had been no interruption.
Wright further comments in his article, “If Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, he should be considered one of the great fiction writers of all time. If he translated it, he should be considered a great prophet. It is interesting that he receives no credit for being either from the world.” However, the substantiating evidence that an uneducated farm boy could not have written such a powerful book as the Book of Mormon, and that he was a true prophet of God, far outweighs any arguments presented by critics.
Reason 3: Joseph Smith is remembered for good and evil
On 21 September 1823, Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith and prophesied that Joseph’s name “should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33.) Most people who are able to obtain international fame or power in their lifetime are usually thought of as being good or evil, however, Joseph Smith is remembered as being both good and evil.
In his article, Wright further comments:
What horrific crimes did Joseph Smith commit to be viewed as evil? Perhaps his “crime” was similar to that of William Tyndale, who infuriated both the religious and political authorities of his day by translating the Bible into English. Because of his actions, Tyndale was condemned as a heretic and executed.
Joseph Smith, like Tyndale, also translated into English an ancient religious record that boldly testifies of Jesus Christ. Many political and religious leaders of his day also considered this heresy. As a result, they vehemently spoke against his character and his work, they unjustly persecuted him personally and legally, and some ultimately took his freedom and his life, fulfilling Moroni’s prophecy.
The Book of Mormon is exactly what its title proclaims it to be, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The book was never intended to replace the Bible, but rather to complement the Bible in its doctrines and principles. Like the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon is a powerful testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the True and Living God, and the Savior of all mankind.
In the closing chapter of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni gives this promise:
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:3-4).
All who are willing to accept Moroni’s promise and diligently read the pages of the Book of Mormon with sincere intent will come to know for themselves that the book is true.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revere the Book of Mormon as a sacred volume of scripture that is comparable to the Holy Bible. The Book of Mormon is not intended to replace the Bible, but rather its teachings enhance those doctrines and principles that are taught in the Bible. Latter-day Saints testify that the Book is exactly as its name declares, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Therefore, they further testify that both the Bible and the Book of Mormon together present to the world an irrefutable testimony of the Divine Redeemer and Savior of the World, and the immensity of His love for all mankind.
To date the entire book of Mormon has been translated into 91 languages, and selections of the Book of Mormon have been translated into an additional 24 languages. Thus, the volume is made available to many people in their native tongue, but the question that begs an answer is, “How many people have ever read it or know anything about it?”
In 2014, three returned missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Kyson Kidd, Jacob Justice and Jake Christensen – set out on a mission to find an answer to that question. The culmination of their quest which was dubbed “The Book of Mormon Project” was the creation of a 5:08 video called “What is the Book of Mormon?” The video was published on YouTube on 1 January 2015, and has already received over 33,000 views in its first week online.
Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon
The motivation behind their mission was their own personal testimonies of the Book of Mormon and their desire that people everywhere would have the opportunity to read the book for themselves. Christensen who is from Eagle, Idaho, originally came up with the idea to create the video after wanting to share a video about the Book of Mormon with his friends on Facebook. In searching for a video to share he discovered that a majority of the videos found in the top searches on YouTube were about the satirical Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” and decided that something had to be done.
It’s such an important book, and it’s made such a huge difference in my life. The more I’ve read it, the more I’ve honestly grown closer to Christ … and I have become such a happier person because of the Book of Mormon, and I just want everyone to have that.
It is hoped that after reading the book, people would accept the prophet Moroni’s challenge as recorded in Moroni 10:3-5:
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
They received additional guidance and inspiration from a quote taken from an October 1988 General Conference address given by President Ezra Taft Benson titled “Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon.” In that timely address, President Benson exhorted:
The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon for the many reasons which the Lord has given. In this age of the electronic media and the mass distribution of the printed word, God will hold us accountable if we do not now move the Book of Mormon in a monumental way.
Christensen further notes that with all the technology that we have available to use, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have an even greater responsibility today to share the Book of Mormon than ever before.
The three friends, who are BYU-Idaho students, hope that the video will impact members and non-members alike. They believe that the reason that most people don’t read the Book of Mormon is because they don’t understand what it is. Christensen stated:
If people could really understand what the Book of Mormon is, they would cherish that book like their lives depended on it. That’s what we’re hoping to do with this video is ignite the spark of the importance of the Book of Mormon so both members and nonmembers will have more of a desire to read it.
We want people to see that this isn’t just for us. This isn’t just for me and you. This is for every single person on planet Earth. I think for members, it’s going to be like, ‘Wow, this is a cool thing I’m a part of.’ And then for nonmembers it’ll be like, ‘Wow, this is a big deal. How have I not heard of it? How have I not read this yet?’
On 19 August 2014, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles delivered a message during Campus Education Week at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, titled “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood” in which he encouraged members to “flood the earth” with gospel messages on social media. Albeit “The Book of Mormon Project” was begun before Elder Bednar’s address was given, Christensen, Kidd, and Justice were excited to hear his message because they knew that it would help their video to succeed. As a result of Elder Bednar’s message, they believe that now, more than ever, members are willing to share gospel messages online.
A Promise to All who will Read the Book
We actually decided that Jan. 1 would be best because that’s the time of year that everyone is thinking about making changes in their lives,” Christensen explained. “So we just thought that would be the perfect time to release it as they’re thinking, ‘OK, what can I do to better my life this year?’ and then they see this video, and they think ‘Oh, that could be something that could benefit my life this year. I’ll try it.’ That’s what we’re hoping people will say and do.”
Sharing the Book of Mormon with others is an excellent missionary tool and a great way to share the gospel. As we do so, we not only bless the lives of others, but we are also blessed because of our efforts to do the work that the Lord has commanded us to do. Therefore, not only do we help others to draw closer to Christ, but we ourselves are drawn closer to Christ.
The prophet Moroni’s clarion exhortation applies to all who will read the Book of Mormon:
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts (Moroni 10:3).
In a recent article, this author wrote about what a missionary can expect after the mission is complete and he or she returns home. In that article, it was brought out that while serving a mission a missionary leaves behind the cares of the world, and the primary focus is on teaching the gospel to the people in his or her assigned area.
Although there are challenges in the mission field, none of those challenges perhaps remotely compare to the trials that a missionary faces upon returning to “normal” day-to-day living. There are some who even find themselves slipping into what may be referred to as Post-Mission Depression or PMD.
Recognizing the Symptoms and Learning How to Cope
A standard dictionary definition of depression states that it is the “severe despondency and dejection, typically felt over a period of time and accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.”
Any type of depression, regardless of how mild or severe, can have adverse effects on a person’s life. The reality is that depression does not show partiality by only affecting a select group of people, and it is not something that a person, not even a person who has just returned from laboring in the Lord’s vineyard, can easily “snap out of.” Depression is a serious physical and emotional condition that could possibly lead to damaging one’s spiritual, social, and mental well-being if not treated.
Giles Andreae, a British artist, poet and greeting card writer, is quoted as having said, “Here is the tragedy: when you are the victim of depression, not only do you feel utterly helpless and abandoned by the world, you also know that very few people can understand, or even begin to believe, that life can be this painful.” There are many missionaries, who after serving a faithful mission for The Church of Jesus Christ, understand Andreae’s sentiments all too well.
The symptoms of PMD may include, but are not limited to, random bouts of crying for no reason, a broken heart, the urge to help people or teach the gospel all the time but being unable to do so, not finding joy or satisfaction in doing day-to-day or menial tasks or activities you love, feeling guilty for just sitting around or wasting time, among other symptoms which are commonly found in returned missionaries with PMD.
The Prophet Jeremiah asked the pointed question, “”Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22). As Hill points out in his article, the “balm in Gilead” that is normally offered to returned missionaries suffering from Post-Mission Depression is to spend time going out teaching with the local missionaries, perform service for others, or read and study the scriptures. These things however, may only appear to be a short-term cure, as Hill points out that the common response is, “It’s just not the same.” Hill further notes that the only real “cure” for PMD is time. He continues:
That, and putting into practice what you’ve been teaching for the last two years by living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Using the Atonement daily is the only hope in treating Post Mission Depression. The first week or so after the missionary is released, the patient will most likely remain in a surreal state of shock. After that is when PMD really begins to kick in, however within three to four weeks, symptoms will start to fade away. If the medicine is used correctly and in the recommended doses, PMD can be cured within a relatively brief period of time.
Counsel and Guidance from an Apostle of the Lord
Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in answering a recently returned missionary’s question, gave specific direction as seen in the video below:
Mother Teresa’s words of wisdom echo Elder Bednar’s response. She said, ‘Be faithful in the small things because it is in them that your strength lies.“ And Helaman, in the Book of Mormon, gave this counsel to his sons which is wise counsel for not only for returned missionaries who may be suffering from PMD, but for all to heed:
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).
President Thomas S. Monson, the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes nicknamed the “Mormon” Church) shared a powerful teaching near the end of a General Conference for Mormons when he said:
This has been a remarkable session. In behalf of all who participated thus far in word or music, as the President of the Church, I have chosen simply to say to you at this moment just two words, known as the two most important words in the English language. To Sister Cheryl Lant and her counselors, the choir, the musicians, the speakers, those words are “Thank you.”
I believe this man to truly be called of God as the mouthpiece of the Lord Jesus Christ, a servant to God to help lead the inhabitants of this earth to return to live with Heavenly Father. So, when he said that those are the two most important words, I took it most seriously. But why; why is ‘thank you’ the two most important words?
Being Grateful in the Moment
Have you ever noticed that you find out what you are grateful for once it is gone? My little family and I have moved away from family for the summer to complete an internship for my husband’s schooling. We were so excited to leave to have this great big adventure. It only took a few hours after arriving to realize this wasn’t going to be a fun party the whole time–we were going to miss our family like crazy! And oh how we have missed them! I can’t count the many tears I have shed since being away, but I can tell you my regrets for the times that I thought it a hassle to drive 30-40 minutes to drive to family dinner. I have realized, since being away, how blessed I am to have them. This experience has given me the desire to live with open eyes to see the all of my blessings. On another occasion, the Mormon Prophet Thomas S. Monson shared this story to teach us how we can live with gratitude always:
I share with you an account of one family which was able to find blessings in the midst of serious challenges. This is an account I read many years ago and have kept because of the message it conveys. It was written by Gordon Green and appeared in an American magazine over 50 years ago.
Gordon tells how he grew up on a farm in Canada, where he and his siblings had to hurry home from school while the other children played ball and went swimming. Their father, however, had the capacity to help them understand that their work amounted to something. This was especially true after harvest time when the family celebrated Thanksgiving, for on that day their father gave them a great gift. He took an inventory of everything they had.
On Thanksgiving morning he would take them to the cellar with its barrels of apples, bins of beets, carrots packed in sand, and mountains of sacked potatoes as well as peas, corn, string beans, jellies, strawberries, and other preserves which filled their shelves. He had the children count everything carefully. Then they went out to the barn and figured how many tons of hay there were and how many bushels of grain in the granary. They counted the cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and geese. Their father said he wanted to see how they stood, but they knew he really wanted them to realize on that feast day how richly God had blessed them and had smiled upon all their hours of work. Finally, when they sat down to the feast their mother had prepared, the blessings were something they felt.
Gordon indicated, however, that the Thanksgiving he remembered most thankfully was the year they seemed to have nothing for which to be grateful.
The year started off well: they had leftover hay, lots of seed, four litters of pigs, and their father had a little money set aside so that someday he could afford to buy a hay loader—a wonderful machine most farmers just dreamed of owning. It was also the year that electricity came to their town—although not to them because they couldn’t afford it.
One night when Gordon’s mother was doing her big wash, his father stepped in and took his turn over the washboard and asked his wife to rest and do her knitting. He said, “You spend more time doing the wash than sleeping. Do you think we should break down and get electricity?” Although elated at the prospect, she shed a tear or two as she thought of the hay loader that wouldn’t be bought.
So the electrical line went up their lane that year. Although it was nothing fancy, they acquired a washing machine that worked all day by itself and brilliant light bulbs that dangled from each ceiling. There were no more lamps to fill with oil, no more wicks to cut, no more sooty chimneys to wash. The lamps went quietly off to the attic.
The coming of electricity to their farm was almost the last good thing that happened to them that year. Just as their crops were starting to come through the ground, the rains started. When the water finally receded, there wasn’t a plant left anywhere. They planted again, but more rains beat the crops into the earth. Their potatoes rotted in the mud. They sold a couple of cows and all the pigs and other livestock they had intended to keep, getting very low prices for them because everybody else had to do the same thing. All they harvested that year was a patch of turnips which had somehow weathered the storms.
Then it was Thanksgiving again. Their mother said, “Maybe we’d better forget it this year. We haven’t even got a goose left.”
On Thanksgiving morning, however, Gordon’s father showed up with a jackrabbit and asked his wife to cook it. Grudgingly she started the job, indicating it would take a long time to cook that tough old thing. When it was finally on the table with some of the turnips that had survived, the children refused to eat. Gordon’s mother cried, and then his father did a strange thing. He went up to the attic, got an oil lamp, took it back to the table, and lighted it. He told the children to turn out the electric lights. When there was only the lamp again, they could hardly believe that it had been that dark before. They wondered how they had ever seen anything without the bright lights made possible by electricity.
The food was blessed, and everyone ate. When dinner was over, they all sat quietly. Wrote Gordon:
“In the humble dimness of the old lamp we were beginning to see clearly again. …
“It [was] a lovely meal. The jack rabbit tasted like turkey and the turnips were the mildest we could recall. …
“… [Our] home … , for all its want, was so rich [to] us.”
My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.
Don’t you just love that account? It inspires me on many levels.
What can we do to recognize what we are grateful for?
As I have reviewed the past 49 years, I have made some discoveries. One is that countless experiences I have had were not necessarily those one would consider extraordinary. In fact, at the time they transpired, they often seemed unremarkable and even ordinary. And yet, in retrospect, they enriched and blessed lives—not the least of which was my own. I would recommend this same exercise to you—namely, that you take an inventory of your life and look specifically for the blessings, large and small, you have received.
What is the benefit of doing this? He continues to say:
Reinforced constantly during my own review of the years has been my knowledge that our prayers are heard and answered. We are familiar with the truth found in 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon: “Men are, that they might have joy.”1 I testify that much of that joy comes as we recognize that we can communicate with our Heavenly Father through prayer and that those prayers will be heard and answered—perhaps not how and when we expected they would be answered, but they will be answered and by a Heavenly Father who knows and loves us perfectly and who desires our happiness. Hasn’t He promised us, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers”?
Perhaps President Monson has taught the principle of gratitude time and time again because of the Lord’s promise found in a book of Mormon scripture, “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious” (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19). His counsel to live with gratitude inspires me to share with you some of the things I am deeply grateful for: I am grateful for a living Prophet, even Thomas S. Monson, I am thankful for my family, my parents, my children, my husband, the Gospel, and I am especially grateful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who makes all of my blessings possible. May we live with gratitude always in our hearts, in our expressions to others, and in our prayers to God.
The issue of a state’s right to define marriage as between a man and a woman is winding its way through the court system, and it is likely on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court later this year. Proponents of same-sex unions argue that marriage is a “fundamental right.” One justice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit Court hearing arguments compared the ban on same-sex marriage to laws prohibiting interracial marriage decades ago, asking what is the difference between the two? But there are more important questions that must be answered: Why does it take a man and a woman to create a child? Why has marriage been—from our very first parents—the standard for bringing children into the world? What role does marriage play in society at large? And why does traditional marriage deserve a protected status? These are the relevant questions to answer.
Traditional marriage has a foundation thousands and thousands of years in the making. Same-sex marriage is still in the experimental stage. If as a society we succumb to the rhetoric that traditional marriage supporters are anti-gay, bigoted and hateful, we turn our backs on the fundamental, rational reasoning that has held societies and nations together for millennia—as well as the democratic ideals upon which our country was founded. The family is the fundamental unit of society. Not just any family unit, but the family unit that provides a stable and protective foundation to bring children into the world. It is our responsibility as adults—the ones who are supposed to protect children—to make the world a better place for future generations. The reality is that the fight to protect traditional marriage is just that: A fight to protect the definition, sanctity and importance of marriage between a man and a woman.
Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage Isn’t Bigotry
Defenders of traditional marriage often do so based on their religious beliefs as well as their experience with families. A 53-page so-called “friend-of-the-court” brief filed with the 10th Circuit Court by five religious organizations, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church), said:
Faith communities like ours are among the essential pillars of this Nation’s marriage culture. With our teachings, rituals, traditions, and ministries, we sustain and nourish both individual marriages and a culture that makes enduring marriages possible. We have the deepest interest in strengthening the time-honored institution of husband-wife marriage because of our religious beliefs and also because of the benefits it provides to children, families, and society. Our practical experience in this area is unequaled. In millions of ministry settings each day we see the benefits that married mother-father parenting brings to children. And we deal daily with the devastating effects of out-of-wedlock births, failed marriages, and the general decline of the venerable husband-wife marriage institution.
Religious leaders shepherd their flocks through times of trial—and see firsthand the devastating effect of the breakdown of the family. They are uniquely qualified to answer the questions of why the traditional family unit is so important. The brief continues:
In truth, we support the husband-wife definition of marriage because we believe it is right and good for children, families and society. Our respective faith traditions teach us that truth. But so do reason, long experience and social fact. … Faith communities and religious organizations have a long history of upholding traditional marriage for reasons that have nothing to do with homosexuality. Their support for husband-wife marriage precedes by centuries the very idea of same-sex marriage.
For The Church of Jesus Christ and other religious organizations, support for traditional marriage stems from their belief in God and in His commandments. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ), said:
Man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. … Laws legalizing so-called “same-sex marriage” do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it.
People of faith believe that we are here on earth as part of God’s divine plan for His children—because we are all literal spirit children of our Father in Heaven. Elder Oaks explained:
For Latter-day Saints, God’s commandments are based on and inseparable from God’s plan for His children—the great plan of salvation. This plan, … explains our origin and destiny as children of God—where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. The plan of salvation explains the purpose of creation and the conditions of mortality, including God’s commandments, the need for a Savior, and the vital role of mortal and eternal families. … Our theology begins with heavenly parents, and our highest aspiration is to attain the fulness of eternal exaltation. We know this is possible only in a family relationship. We know that the marriage of a man and a woman is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s plan. Only this marriage will provide the approved setting for mortal birth and to prepare family members for eternal life. We look on marriage and the bearing and nurturing of children as part of God’s plan and a sacred duty of those given the opportunity to do so. We believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity.
Because marriage and children are central components of this plan, believers feel obligated to defend traditional marriage for the sake of children. Elder M. Russell Ballard, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, explained:
Church leaders have the responsibility to speak out on moral issues and to counsel individuals and families. The family is the basic unit of society; it is the basic unit of eternity. Thus, when forces threaten the family, Church leaders must respond.
The family is at the heart of Heavenly Father’s plan because we are all part of His family and because mortality is our opportunity to form our own families and to assume the role of parents. It is within our families that we learn unconditional love, which can come to us and draw us very close to God’s love. It is within families that values are taught and character is built. Father and mother are callings from which we will never be released, and there is no more important stewardship than the responsibility we have for God’s spirit children who come into our families.
While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriage, the Lord has not. In the very beginning, God initiated marriage between a man and a woman—Adam and Eve. He designated the purposes of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults to, more importantly, advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared, and nurtured. Families are the treasure of heaven.
Why do we continue to talk about this? As Paul said, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” As Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the responsibility to teach our Creator’s plan for His children and to warn of the consequences of disregarding His commandments.
The Nuclear Family is the Fabric of Human Society
The traditional, or nuclear, family is the fabric that holds society together. The marriage covenant regulates the use of the procreative powers—the ability for a man and a woman to create life—and provides a stable foundation for bringing children into the world. It binds husbands and wives to each other, and the children to their parents. From the beginning, our first parents Adam and Eve were married and commanded to have children. In that order. Their commitment to each other provided the framework into which their children were born, nurtured and taught. They formed the first family on the earth, setting the example for generations to follow and teaching their children the ways of God. The 2012 State of Our Unions report explained:
Throughout history, marriage has first and foremost been an institution for procreation and raising children. It has provided the cultural tie that seeks to connect the father to his children by binding him to the mother of his children. …
There is now ample evidence that stable and satisfactory marriages are crucial for the well-being of adults. Yet such marriages are even more important for the proper socialization and overall well-being of children. A central purpose of the institution of marriage is to ensure the responsible and long-term involvement of both biological parents in the difficult and time-consuming task of raising the next generation.
Children need both biological parents because mothers and fathers have complementary roles. Husbands are the protectors and providers and mothers are the caregivers and nurturers. Elder Russell M. Nelson, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:
… Parenting is a joint venture. The father exercises his leadership with light and love, never in any degree of unrighteousness. The mother provides the intuition, the inspiration, and the nurture that come from her so naturally.
For centuries the family was the bedrock of this and many other nations. It was the glue that held society together. Now many families are in trouble, and the glue is coming unstuck. As a result, many children are bewildered: they are growing physically but lack the support system, the disciplined moral framework, and the love and understanding that a strong family can provide.
It is in a home and with a family that values are usually acquired, traditions are fostered, and commitments to others are established. There are really no adequate substitutes. Church, school, and government programs can only reinforce and supplement that which is acquired at home. …
Alternatives to the legal and loving marriage between a man and a woman are helping to unravel the fabric of human society. That fabric, of course, is the family. These so-called alternative life-styles cannot be accepted as right because they frustrate God’s commandment for a life-giving union of male and female within a legal marriage (see Genesis 1:28). If practiced by all adults, these life-styles would mean the end of family.
Traditional marriage is the fabric that holds human society together because it is here where we are taught our values, morals and fundamental beliefs. President Gordon B. Hinckley, until his death, the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ, taught:
A nation will rise no higher than the strength of its homes. If you want to reform a nation, you begin with families, with parents who teach their children principles and values that are positive and affirmative and will lead them to worthwhile endeavors. That is the basic failure that has taken place in America. And we are making a tremendous effort to bring about greater solidarity in families. Parents have no greater responsibility in this world than the bringing up of their children in the right way, and they will have no greater satisfaction as the years pass than to see those children grow in integrity and honesty and make something of their lives.
Redefining marriage would reform America’s homes by weakening the foundation upon which they are built. And if a nation will rise no higher than the strength of its homes, we owe it to ourselves to strengthen our homes, defend our families and protect the sanctity of our marriages. Marriage does matter—and it matters how it is defined. Why does traditional marriage deserve a protected status in our society? Because it is the only union capable of producing offspring—and it is the children, not the adults, who need to be protected.
Marriage Between a Man & Woman is Good Public Policy
In addition to benefiting children, traditional marriage, frankly, is good public policy. It is economically beneficial for both spouses, and it eases the economic burden on society when both parents work together to provide for their children. The 2012 Report State of Our Unions found:
The institution of marriage itself provides a wealth-generation bonus. It does this through providing economies of scale (two can live more cheaply than one), and as implicitly a long-term personal contract it encourages economic specialization. Working as a couple, individuals can develop those skills in which they excel, leaving others to their spouse. Also, married couples save and invest more for the future, and they can act as a small insurance pool against life uncertainties such as illness and job loss. …
Beyond the economic advantages of marriage for the married couples themselves, marriage has a tremendous economic impact on society. … Research has consistently shown that divorce and unmarried childbearing increase child poverty. In recent years the majority of children who grow up outside of married families have experienced at least one year of dire poverty…. The rise in child poverty, of course, generates significant public costs in health and welfare programs.
Marriages that end in divorce also are very costly to the public. One researcher determined that a single divorce costs state and federal governments about $30,000, based on such factors as the increased use of food stamps and public housing as well as increased bankruptcies and juvenile delinquency. The nation’s 1.4 million divorces in 2002 are estimated to have cost the taxpayers more than $30 billion.
Traditional marriage binds husbands and wives to their children, providing a stable foundation to bring children into the world. The financial costs alone of the breakdown of the family are staggering. Elder Oaks said:
Few measures of the welfare of our rising generation are more disturbing than the recent report that 41 percent of all births in the United States were to women who were not married. Unmarried mothers have massive challenges, and the evidence is clear that their children are at a significant disadvantage when compared with children raised by married parents. …
We should assume the same disadvantages for children raised by couples of the same gender. The social science literature is controversial and politically charged on the long-term effect of this on children, principally because, as a New York Times writer observed, “same-sex marriage is a social experiment, and like most experiments it will take time to understand its consequences.”
These are all very compelling reasons for the courts to uphold the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. As eager as the courts seem to be to break new ground on the marriage front, they owe it to the nation as well as to future generations to slow down and really listen to those who are on the front-lines of the marriage culture—religious leaders who are dealing with the aftermath of the breakdown of the family.
Traditional Marriage is Different and Deserves Protection
The government’s role is to protect the common good. History has proven that this is best done by preserving and protecting traditional marriage and the family unit. The amicus brief concluded:
Marriage, understood as the union of one man and one woman, remains a vital and foundational institution of civil society. The government’s interests in continuing to encourage and support marriage are not merely legitimate but compelling. No other institution joins together two persons with the natural ability to create children for the purpose of maximizing the welfare of such children. No other institution strives to ensure that children have the opportunity of feeling a sense of security and being raised in a stable household by the mother and father who conceived them. Undermining the husband-wife marital institution by redefining it to include same-sex couples will, in the long term, harm vital child-welfare interests that only the husband-wife definition can secure. The result will be more mothers and fathers concluding that the highest end of marriage is not the welfare of their children but the advancement of their own life choices. We know, from personal experience over numerous decades of ministering to families and children, that more focus on satisfying adult needs will not benefit vulnerable children. The societal ills caused by the deterioration of husband-wife marriage will only be aggravated if the State cannot reserve to marriage its historic and socially vital meaning.
Traditional marriage deserves protection and its own unique status because it is different. Traditional marriage has a power that no other relationship does. It was ordained of God from the beginning of the world. Elder Boyd K. Packer, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:
I have seen and heard, as you have seen and heard, the signals all about us, carefully orchestrated to convince us that marriage is out of date and in the way. … Marriage is the shelter where families are created. That society which puts low value on marriage sows the wind and, in time, will reap the whirlwind—and thereafter, unless they repent, bring upon themselves a holocaust!
There are both moral and physical laws “irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world” that cannot be changed. History demonstrates over and over again that moral standards cannot be changed by battle and cannot be changed by ballot. To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as surely as night follows day.
Opposition to same-sex marriage isn’t based on bigotry—it’s based on belief in God, His commandments and His plan for His children. It’s based on a fundamental desire to preserve and protect the family and its place as the foundational unit of society. Those who would redefine marriage to include same-sex unions would replace the strength of the family with a counterfeit replica.
When His disciples asked how they would recognize the times in which the Savior would return to the earth again, a part of Jesus’ answer was, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:7-8).
God Has Always Had a Plan for His Children (more…)
Most people would generally agree that Christmas is a “magical” time of year. It is during this time of year that people seem to be a little more thoughtful of others, especially for those of their own families as they shop for that special gift. There are also those who broaden their vision, and with giving hearts, they reach out to those who are less fortunate in order to make their holidays a little brighter. However, no matter how a person views Christmas and its meaning, the fact remains that commercialism plays a huge part in the celebration of the holiday. The question that begs an answer is whether more people focus on the commercial aspects of the holiday, or on the deep spiritual roots and meaning of the holiday.
Religious Holiday or Commercial Celebration
According to an article by Cathy Lynn Grossman for the Religion News Service, “Nine in 10 Americans will celebrate Christmas this year, but a new poll shows that increasing numbers see the holiday as more tinsel than gospel truth.”  A survey released on 17 December 2013 by the Public Religion Research Institute, revealed that more people prefer to be greeted in stores and businesses at this time of year with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” than “Merry Christmas.”
Another interesting factoid revealed by the survey is that 26 percent of American adults view Christmas as a cultural holiday, and not as a day to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Life and the Light of the world – Savior and Redeemer. Even in many of our schools, students are encouraged to say “Happy Holidays” versus saying “Merry Christmas” so as not to offend anyone who may not be religious, or view religion as part of the holiday celebration. (more…)
Space—the final frontier. The stage for epic intergalactic battles and alien foes. Science fiction classics like “Ender’s Game,” “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” transport us to other worlds, alternate universes where Ewoks, Buggers and Klingons reside. But science fiction is also about two worlds colliding—and what happens when they do. Different worlds, different cultures, different peoples and/or species who may not speak the same language or share the same beliefs. We may never encounter an extraterrestrial being in our lives—but we’ve all met another person who just seemed to be from a different planet. Maybe we were the ones feeling like the alien—someone who just didn’t fit in, or didn’t belong. Author Orson Scott Card—best known for his sci-fi novels as well as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church)—said:
In a way, being a Mormon prepares you to deal with science fiction, because we live simultaneously in two very different cultures. The result is that we all know what it’s like to be strangers in a strange land. It’s not just a coincidence that there are so many effective Mormon science fiction writers. We don’t regard being an alien as an alien experience. But it also means that we’re not surprised when people don’t understand what we’re saying or what we think. It’s easy to misinterpret us.  (more…)
Religion is falling out of vogue. We’ve all heard it. Though people may identify with Christianity on a census form, in reality they are not particularly interested in religion anymore. People don’t attend church with regularity. But, what about Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)? They still attend Church services on a regular basis.
Why? And how does The Church of Jesus Christ manage to grow and stay strong in a world that continually diminishes the importance and role of religion? The answer is simple: Mormons keep the message of the gospel at the forefront of their lives.
Doctrine Never Changes
The message of The Church of Jesus Christ is simple: Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and when we commit ourselves to Him, we find lasting peace, qualify for saving ordinances, and will eventually live with God and our families forever. The core doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ remain constant, and if there is a change in church operations or policy, it comes directly from general church leadership. (more…)