Sunday, November 27, 2016

Saved By Grace

Many members (and even non-members) are familiar with this scripture from 2 Nephi, or at least the last part. But I think we often misinterpret it. We read "it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do," and we think it means "I am only saved by grace after I have done all that I can do; if I don't do all I can do, I won't be saved." In reality, we should interpret it to mean, "Even after all I can do, it is grace that saves me, not my own works."
In the grand scheme of things, our all, our very best and most valiant efforts are pitiful compared to the great debt we owe our Heavenly Father, both because of all He has given us, and because of our own disobedience and unworthiness. Luckily, it is not our good works that pays our debt. Rather, it is by our good works that we show our faith (see James 2:18). It is an act of faith to humbly make our paltry offering, in spite of the great debt we owe. Such faith will ultimately be rewarded by the great gift of our Savior's Grace, which is sufficient to pay the debts of every person who has ever lived and ever will live. We will never be able to repay our Savior for that gift. And if we will accept Him and exercise faith in Him, we'll never have to.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pipe Down

All of us have a little voice in our head that gets reeeeeeally feisty the moment we hear something that differs from what we already believe. It's good to be skeptical, but not to the point where we won't even consider opinions that differ from our own. None of us is right 100% of the time, so there is nearly always something to be gained by respectfully considering another's perspective. So the next time you immediately feel combative upon hearing an opinion that's different from yours, tell that little voice to "pipe down!"

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Paving the road

Wouldn't it be nice if the road to hell were so clearly marked? But I digress...

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions"? Nah, I don't buy it. The devil and his minions only wish that were true. And they'd sure like us to believe it. Sure, bad things sometimes happen as a result of some misguided but well-intentioned act. But that's why we have a Savior. Thanks to the Atonement, we are not judged by the results of our actions but by the desires of our hearts (D&C 137:9). We will make mistakes. There's no getting around that. As hard as we may try to do the right thing, we will stumble. But if we accept Christ into our lives, love Him, and show that love by striving to keep His commandments (John 14:15), in the end it will be enough. Not because we've earned our way into heaven, but because He's paved the way for us.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Stop asking.

Just a quick one, because I was impressed by something I heard on a podcast I recently listened to. "Dear Hank and John" is a podcast put together by Hank and John Green (creators of Crash Course, SciShow, and other popular channels on YouTube as well as the books Fault in our Stars, Paper Towns, etc.) in which they take questions from their listeners and offer dubious advice in humorous fashion. Occasionally they'll answer a question that's a bit more serious, and in their recent episode they answered a question they've gotten from a lot of their listeners, and I felt it's very important for everyone to listen to it. You can listen below. The segment I'm referring to starts at 12:55 and ends around 17:00.
(You can click this link to jump directly to the segment:
Or listen to the embedded player below.)

To summarize Hank and John's remarks, when you ask someone if they would be interested in pursuing a romantic relationship and they say no, you absolutely must accept that as their final answer and respect that answer. Failing to do so by continuing to ask them is a form of harassment. As Hank said, I think many of us (myself included) have been guilty of this, perhaps innocently thinking "I should ask again. Maybe things have changed." We don't think we're having that creepy stalker vibe portrayed in my little cartoon above. But we may not realize how uncomfortable and even unsafe continuing to push the issue may make the other person feel. On the other hand, honoring their wishes shows respect for that person's agency.
So please, if you seek a relationship with somebody and discover that they aren't interested, however innocent you may feel your intentions are, leave them alone. You will likely save both of you a lot of stress in the process.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wasted Vote

Green pig? Sure, why not!

 I haven't yet spoken out about what Presidential candidate I support. That's partly because I'm still deciding, doing research and some serious contemplation, and partly because I want very much to avoid the unprecedented toxicity this election year has brought with it. But while I'm still not totally decided yet who I'm voting for President, I've finally decided to humbly voice a few of my opinions.

I'm fairly confident I will be voting third party. Many supporters of Trump and Clinton have been quick to mock, insult, and even shame those who support a third party candidate, claiming that by so voting they are giving their vote to the other side. There have also been many a well worded explanation for why that logic is false. The reason that stands out most to me is that the results of each election do not just affect who will be President for the next four years. The effects are more far-reaching than that.

Ending the polarization
 If there is one common complaint about modern American politics, it's that it is so polarized. The left and the right are so extreme that it's actually ridiculous. I think most Americans don't agree with the extreme positions taken by the party they support, but they feel they have no choice so they adopt a platform they don't feel comfortable with out of fear of an even worse platform. However, doing so shows support for the current system. Think of it this way: if the election turns out to be split 49% vs 51%, regardless of who actually wins, that is enough to show both parties that their party supports their position. So for the next election, they are likely to not only maintain their position, but push it even further to an extreme to gain even more support.

 If on the other hand a significant portion of voters shows dissatisfaction by not voting for either of the two main parties, think of the message that would send. If for example the election results were split 40%, 41%, 19%, even though a major party still may have won the election, they may seriously consider what they can do to win over that other 19%. After all, if they could gain their support, that would be enough to win the next election by a much more comfortable margin. How would they win over that 19%? By finding out what it is they want. And if what they want is a more moderate platform, they might, might just back down a bit from their political extremism. So even if a third party vote has very little chance of getting that third party candidate elected, it can still affect political discourse for the next four years and even the following election.

 Now, I'll fully admit I'm pulling these numbers out of thin air. I'm no political scientist, but I don't think anyone can say what will happen in each situation with near the level of certainty they claim to have. But that brings me to one final point I wanted to make:

Voting with a clear conscience
I believe if you do your research and vote in a way that you honestly feel is best for your country, you can do so with a clear conscience, regardless of how you actually voted. That includes
  • voting Trump or Clinton because you believe he or she is the best choice,
  • voting Trump or Clinton to keep the other out of office,
  • voting McMullin, Johnson, or some other third party because you believe they are the best choice,
  • voting third party to break the grip of the US two-party political system,
  • etc.

Call me naive, but I think a person's reasons for voting the way they do are way more important than who they actually vote for. Why? Because if a person votes for a candidate because they believe they are the best choice and then later finds out that isn't the case, they are likely to vote differently and more carefully in the future. On the other hand, if they vote for a candidate out of blind party loyalty or even selfishness for something that candidate has promised, they are likely to stick to their guns regardless of what may actually be best for the country.

Making sure you're voting for the "right reasons" requires being honest with oneself. It requires asking "why do I want to vote for this candidate? Do I really believe voting this way is what is best for my country?" I would challenge everyone to ask themselves these questions, and then to do their civic duty and vote.

Because the only truly "wasted vote" is the one you don't cast.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tune out the noise

A while back I conducted an experiment I called the Social Honesty Project in which I tried to be more genuine when I posted on social media. I tried to talk more about what exactly was going on in my life at the time, rather than curating and portraying only the best parts about my life. I was pleasantly surprised to find that when I talked about things not going super great, I didn't just get ignored. My friends and family were very supportive of me during even the minor pitfalls.

I feel blessed to have friends who support me. Unfortunately, I've seen others subjected to ridicule and unkindness when talking about what's going wrong in their lives. But there have nearly always been those small but sincere voices cheering in the background, expressing their love and encouragement. Sometimes those voices may seem difficult to hear among all the loudmouths who appear to only be interested in tearing others down for their own amusement. Pay them no mind. It's easy to tear down, so I guess it's not surprising to find more negative voices than positive at times. But look for them. And when you find them, focus on them and tune out the voices that have nothing to offer but venom. Because in the end, it's nothing but noise, distracting you from the voices of your true friends who will love and support you no matter what.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Vain Prayer

It is good to pray for those who are need. But it is better to pray to know what we can do to help, and then go out and do something! We can't just sit back and wait for God to do the good that He has sent us to do.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Other People

This quote by Jean-Paul Sartre has been examined by those much more versed in philosophy than I. That said, it seems to me that it could have a number of interpretations. Perhaps we sometimes view other people as nothing more than annoyances and inconveniences, constantly getting in the way of what we are trying to accomplish. Or maybe it's that other people cause us to constantly fret about what they think of us, for without the judging gaze of other people, we would never feel shame for our actions.
Maybe there's some truth to these, but if so, I say we must also accept their opposites! Life's greatest joys cannot be experienced by ourselves. And it is often others who show us the good in ourselves that we cannot see. Without other people, there would be--could be--no heaven.
Let us not become so self-absorbed that we see others people only as sources of pain and anxiety. Strive to see the good in each person and in our interactions with them.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Suicide Prevention Plan

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. I recently read an article in the Ensign about creating a "suicide prevention plan." I'd never heard of such a thing. I figured it was probably something for those who were already struggling with suicidal thoughts or who were already in a crisis. As I learned about the different steps involved in creating a plan however, I soon realized that in many ways, suicidal thoughts is like other crises: the time to make a plan to deal with it is before it happens! (I'd encourage everyone to read it, regardless of their religious preference or previous experience with depression or suicidal thoughts. The section about creating a plan starts halfway down the page:

I've never felt suicidal. And while I've struggled with anxiety and self-doubt on plenty of occasions, I don't think I've ever had clinical depression. So it's tempting to think this is something I don't really need to worry about. However, I've since learned from others that you just can't tell who will be affected. And like any emergency plan, you obviously hope to never have to use it. But when a crisis arises, you'll be glad you were prepared. On that note, I decided to follow the steps outlined in the article to create my own plan, which I've briefly outlined here. You can create your own by following this pattern and adapting it to fit your own needs. The idea is to start with step one and move on to each step in order if you still don't feel better:

  1. Recognize warning signs.
    • loss of interest in activities I usually enjoy
    • withdrawal from friends and family
    • melancholy and lack of motivation to do anything
  2. Try to comfort myself.
    • listen to calming, uplifting music
    • go for a walk
    • draw
    • play non-violent video games
    • watch videos that make me laugh
  3. Think about reasons for living.
    • my friends and family love and depend on me
    • personal projects I'm working on
    • goals I hope to accomplish in the future
  4. Reach out to others for help (include phone numbers).
    • family members
    • close friends
    • bishop
  5. Create a safe environment.
    • stay with someone supportive; don't be alone
    • ask for help removing potentially harmful items
    • go to a park, mall, movie theater, or other social environment
  6. Contact a professional.
    • US suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
    • crisis text line: 741-741
  7. Get emergency help.
    • call 911
    • go to nearest hospital and ask for help
( lists the phone numbers for suicide hotlines in different countries around the world.)
Again, I hope to never have to use this plan. But I have already made a copy that is easily accessible on my phone if I should ever need it. I'd encourage everyone to do the same. Treat this the same way you would treat preparing for any emergency. Sit down with family or friends and talk about it. Don't wait. Make a plan now.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Social Honesty

This past week, the topic of honesty has come up a few times. Friends, podcasts I've listened to, and even Church today brought up the topic. And in addition to that, I've been thinking lately about how we portray ourselves online, and how it affects those we interact with. How much of what we show to our friends and followers is our true selves? And how much does our online persona change as we move from platform to platform, or audience to audience? Are we honest in the way we portray ourselves and our lives?

I'm not talking about overt lying, but rather the way we curate our lives; what we chose to share or omit, emphasize or obscure. Obviously we can't share everything about ourselves online. That would be difficult, unsafe, and frankly boring for anyone who attempted to consume such an all-encompassing record. But the things we do chose to share say something about how we view ourselves, or at least how we want others to view us.

Have you ever been looking at someone's profile or recent post and thought that they seem to have their whole life together and that everything seems to work out for them? Would you be surprised to find out that they're struggling in their marriage? That they constantly worry about finances? That they wish they had a different career? I'm not saying we should take pleasure from other people's struggles, but mightn't it be somewhat comforting to know that we're not the only ones who have doubts and anxieties about our lives?

So what's my point? I don't even know for sure. It's just been on my mind. I don't think my point is that we should all complain a little bit more. I don't think it's that we need to be less optimistic, or that we should stop sharing silly memes or videos. I think what I'm getting at is that we shouldn't be afraid to be a bit more genuine. When we have a bad day or we're worried about something, let's leverage the power of living in such an interconnected world, not to throw a giant pity party, but just to show everyone that we are all human, that we all struggle, and that we're all working on things. And while we're at it, we can express empathy to others who are struggling. I think that all too often we conceal our struggles and ignore or even belittle those who have the audacity to talk about their own. Imagine how the world might change if instead we were more open with each other, willing to share one another's burdens (see Galatians 6:2 and Mosiah 18:8).

I thought I'd put my money where my mouth is, and try a little experiment. For the next week, for every few hours that I'm awake and available to do so (so maybe like 4-6 times a day), I'll make a short but honest status update on my personal social media accounts. I won't share anything that would be too private or contain details that would be inappropriate to share online. It may be as simple as "feeling exhausted after a busy day" or as specific as "laughed way harder than was necessary while watching the sloth scene in Zootopia!" (I could easily see either one of those appearing sometime during the week.) Also, I'm not going to get my phone out to blast out my update if I'm currently in the middle of a meeting, a conversation, a date, or something else important. The point isn't to increase my social media usage, but to be a little more open about how I really feel throughout the day.

I'm not challenging  others to participate in this experiment; at least not yet. But if you'd like to, you're more than welcome. I'm curious to see what comes of this. Who knows, maybe halfway through I'll decide I've annoyed my friends enough and call it done. Or maybe I'll learn something interesting about myself or how I portray myself online. We'll just have to see I guess. If you happen to follow me online, updates that pertain to this experiment will be marked with the hashtag #SHP for Social Honesty Project. I'll report on how it went and what I've learned sometime in the next couple weeks.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Agents Unto Themselves

One philosophy that is growing in popularity these days is the denial of the existence of free will. That we are nothing more than extremely complicated automatons and that our consciousness is just along for the ride. That whenever we make a choice, it is nothing more than the result of the complex, but ultimately predictable interactions between our environment and our bodies. There are very convincing arguments in favor of this philosophy, as well as enticing reasons to subscribe to it. After all, if free will doesn't exist, then we aren't really accountable for our actions, are we?
Those who subscribe to this philosophy however fail to take into account that when God created our bodies, he put in them a spirit. And while that spirit is subject to the frailties of the flesh while experiencing mortality, it also has the capacity to act. That action however must be a conscious choice.
When we are not paying attention, our mind and body slip into "autopilot" mode. And this is not a bad thing. Think of all the things we do every day without hardly needing to think about it: eating, walking, driving, working, etc. But there are moments when we need to switch out of autopilot mode and into "agency" mode. These moments include times when we are interacting with others and when we are resisting temptation. When we fail to make the switch, it can seem very much like we have no control. We lash out in anger, we succumb to bad habits, we indulge in things we know not to be healthy. The switch from autopilot to agency is sometimes difficult, especially when we are stressed or tired. But with practice, the switch can get easier, we will feel more in control over our actions, our lives, and our destinies, and we can do many good things of our own free will.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Slow to Wrath

I can't think of any times when I reacted out of anger and didn't regret it later. On the other hand, the times when I've waited until my anger has passed to respond to something that upset me, it's been much easier to give a measured response and much more likely that all those involved will leave edified, even if we don't end up agreeing with one another.
When angry, take time to cool off, take time to listen, take time to think, and then respond.

Monday, May 2, 2016


A watchman in a tower has a vantage point where he can see much further than those on the ground. He can therefore see things that may be coming more easily. That's the whole point: so he can raise the alarm and those on the ground can prepare before the threat arrives. It would be foolish for those on the ground to ignore such a warning just because they can't see the threat. God has set watchmen over us. They are prophets, apostles, church leaders, and even members of our own families when acting upon inspiration from the Lord. The threat of the adversary is very real, and so the true servants of the Lord will never cease warning of the evils of the day. It is up to us to head the warning.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Serve The Lord

The world has different idols and gods than it did in Joshua's day. But his counsel to be deliberate about who or what we choose to serve remains relevant. The transient trappings of mortality have their place. We should do what we can to keep them there, and choose to serve God by learning of Him and His Gospel and by loving and serving those around us.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Looketh on the Heart

Judging another based on outward appearance can mean judging based on looks, but could also mean judging based on personality, habits, and even their actions. Think about the last time you met someone new. What assumptions did you make about that person based only on what you could see right in front of you? How did your impression of that person change after you got to know them and learned more about their story? It's natural to judge before knowing all the facts. But we should remember that the only perfect judge is God, and examine our thoughts more closely the next time we find ourselves passing judgement one of our brothers or sisters.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Treasure the Word

When we study any knowledge that is of worth, it is like making a deposit to the bank. We store in our minds something we can draw upon later when needed. This is especially true of the scriptures, because the Spirit can call to remembrance the words we need for each situation. But only if we have put the words there in the first place.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Guard Our Brethren

I can't remember if I thought of the following comparison on my own or if I heard it from somebody else first. In the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites were enemies of the Nephites. The two groups come into conflict many times throughout the book. A group of Lamanites however, were converted to believe in Christ and repented of the many murders they had committed, vowing to never use their weapons to shed blood again. Other Lamanites became angry with them and marched to kill them, and these converted Lamanites (now called Ammonites) sought refuge among the Nephites. The Nephites could have reacted with suspicion, scorn, hatred, and fear. But instead, they gave a portion of their lands to the Ammonites and protected them.
I think the comparison to modern days is obvious. We ought to be charitable to those in need, including those seeking refuge from violence they had no part in creating. Let us look past our fears and political ideologies, and remember to see the real people--men, women, and children--that are affected, and let us extend a hand of fellowship.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Break the Bands

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter! Remember the One who has opened the way for us to be freed from death and sin.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Beauty For Ashes

Last Sunday the Provo City Center Temple was dedicated to the Lord! What a wonderful experience it was! Not only is this new temple a symbol of the Lord and His Atonement, but also of rebirth, renewal, and God's ability to take disaster and mourning and turn it into wonderful blessings.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Greater Portion

Just as the understanding a student gains from their classes is proportional to the heed they give to the material, so it is with spiritual knowledge.  Those that prove faithful in seeking out spiritual knowledge will obtain it to a much greater degree than those who are merely passive about the acquisition of such knowledge.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Thy Rod Comforts

While pondering one of the most well-known and beloved Psalms, I suddenly recognized something. It is the Lord's rod and staff that can give us comfort when we are traveling through the valley's of mortality. What do they represent? I think it would be appropriate to draw a connection to the iron rod seen in Lehi's dream. The Lord has provided us with His word, which will be a comfort and a guide if we will cling to it with all our strength.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Bridle Your Passions

Notice that Alma says nothing about burying, hiding, or killing our passions, but rather bridling them. Also note that the purpose for bridling our passions is so that we may be filled with love. Allowing our passions to run free and uncontrolled may seem tempting, but if we will control them--rather than allow them to control us--we can put them to good use and become creatures of deliberate acts of love rather than uncontrolled acts of passion.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Quench Not The Spirit

If there's someone who does an even better job than Alma at making me feel chastised, it's Jacob!  And When we feel chastised or when we hear someone (whether the Spirit or someone else) tell us something we need to improve on, our first instinct is often to "quench" that thought.  But when we accept correction with humility, we will be better able to improve ourselves and overcome our weaknesses.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mock Not Thy Brother

It's sobering to remember that Alma was addressing members of the Church in Alma chapter 5.  These verses in particular stuck out to me when I read them.  It's almost second nature, especially online, to be condescending and rude to enemies, strangers, and even friends and family when interacting with them.  We should heed Alma's loving yet stern warning and try to remove these negative interactions from our lives.  Let us be kind to one another.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Reprove With Love

Probably one of the most important and tricky things to learn as a parent is how to discipline our children so they learn right from wrong, while always making sure they know they are loved, regardless of what they do. D&C 121: 43-44 explains how we are to reprove with sharpness when necessary, but then show forth an increase of love.
Even though I've only been a parent for two years now, I've been able to practice this principle and see its effectiveness in raising my daughter. There have been days (and I'm sure there will be many, many more!) when she's been quite the troublemaker. But when disciplining her, I try to remember to also show her that I love her. And she, bless her heart, is so quick to forgive, even after being very upset for being put on timeout for the third time in one day!
I am of course not a perfect parent. But I'm trying to be more like the One who is by following His counsel.