How Can I Teach My Children to Be Resilient?

In the September 2019 issue of the Ensign magazine, Elder Lynn G. Robbins expresses his concern that many young people have not developed sufficient resilience. He defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change,” and he encourages parents to increase their efforts to help their children develop this virtue (“Resilience—Spiritual Armor for Today’s Youth“).

Today, I looked for examples of resilience in the Book of Mormon. Here’s what I found:

Nephi bounced back from multiple failures as he and his brothers tried different approaches to obtain the brass plates. After the first failure, when his brothers wanted to give up, he said, “As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us” (1 Nephi 3:15). After the second failure, he reminded his brothers that God had helped the children of Israel cross the Red Sea. “Let us go up,” he said; “the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 4:3). Nephi’s determination to keep God’s commandments and his ability to apply the scriptures to his life helped him to see beyond frustrations and to believe in their ultimate success.

After the death of his father, Alma the Younger served as high priest over the church. When King Mosiah died, he was also selected as the first chief judge over the Nephites. But when he saw growing pride and persecution among his people, he became increasingly concerned. Mormon tells us that Alma was troubled by the way his people were treating one another. “Nevertheless,” Mormon tells us, “the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him” (Alma 4:15). Selecting a new chief judge, he dedicated himself to fulfilling the office of high priest. Alma was able to take positive action in the face of discouraging trends because he remained close to the Spirit of the Lord.

As Captain Moroni led the Nephite armies against a formidable enemy, he was encouraged to receive a letter from Helaman, describing miraculous victories on the other front. But shortly afterward, one of the cities that he had retaken again fell into the hands of the invading army. Moroni had expected additional troops to be sent to that city, and “knowing that it was easier to keep the city from falling into the hands of the Lamanites than to retake it from them,…he became exceedingly sorrowful.” Mormon even tells us that Captain Moroni “began to doubt…whether they should not fall into the hands of their brethren” (Alma 59:9, 11). He wrote an angry letter to the leader of the government, who he believed was responsible for this failure. But when he learned the truth, he was able to take appropriate action and win the war soon after. Captain Moroni overcame discouragement by learning more about the challenges he faced, so that he could take appropriate action.

Mormon became commander of the Nephite armies at the age of fifteen (Mormon 2:2).  However, after leading them and teaching them for many years, and observing the hardness of their hearts, he says, “I…did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people” (Mormon 3:11). But some time later, he came back: “I…did repent of the oath which I had made that I would no more assist them; and they gave me command again of their armies.” But his expectations were realistic: “I was without hope, for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them” (Mormon 3:1-2). Why did he agree to lead them again under those circumstances? Because he loved them. He knew that he couldn’t save them because of their unwillingness to repent. But he could lead them and be with them. Mormon reset his expectations and acted upon what he could control, in spite of the challenges which were beyond his control.

Today, I will teach my children resilience in the face of discouragement. I will teach them that God will always help them keep His commandments. I will help them learn to stay close to the Spirit of the Lord. I will encourage them to see failures as opportunities to learn. And I will help them focus on what they can do, not on what is outside of their control.

Posted in Endurance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Is the Relationship Between the Family and the Church?

Elder D. Todd Christofferson has pointed out that the gospel was originally taught in families. The organization of the church came later:

Beginning with Adam, the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached, and the essential ordinances of salvation, such as baptism, were administered through a family-based priesthood order. As societies grew more complex than simply extended families, God also called other prophets, messengers, and teachers. In Moses’s time, we read of a more formal structure, including elders, priests, and judges. In Book of Mormon history, Alma established a church with priests and teachers (“Why the Church,” General Conference, October 2015).

The Book of Mormon follows that pattern:

  • The book opens with a family. The prophet Lehi teaches the gospel to his children while they travel in the wilderness and after they arrive in the promised land. (See, for example, 1 Nephi 8, 1 Nephi 10, 2 Nephi 1-4).
  • After Lehi’s death, Nephi consecrates his brothers Jacob and Joseph as “priests and teachers” (2 Nephi 5:26, Jacob 1:18).
  • When King Benjamin calls his people together near the end of his life, they listen to him as families (Mosiah 2:5-6). After they receive a remission of their sins and enter a covenant with God, he records their names and he appoints “priests to teach the people, that thereby they might hear and know the commandments of God, and to stir them up in remembrance of the oath which they had made” (Mosiah 6:3). Then, the people return to their homes with their families.
  • Many years later, when Alma baptizes a large number of people at the waters of Mormon, he organizes them into a church. Everyone who is baptized becomes a member of the church, and he ordains priests—one for every 50 members—to preach to them (Mosiah 18:17-18). But he warns the people to be careful: “trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments” (Mosiah 23:14).
  • After Alma’s people arrive in Zarahemla, King Mosiah authorizes him to “establish churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla” and to “ordain priests and teachers over every church” (Mosiah 25:19). He also learns how to establish reasonable boundaries on church membership (Mosiah 26). But the most miraculous experience occurs when he prays on behalf of his own wayward son. In response to his prayers, God sent an angel to call his son to repentance (Mosiah 27:14).
  • When the Savior visited the American continent, he gave twelve men authority to baptize (3 Nephi 11:18-22). He also instructed them to minister to the people and to be their servants (3 Nephi 12:1). But at the end of the first day, He instructed the people to go home and ponder His words (3 Nephi 17:3). He also taught them to pray individually, in their families, and as a group. They were to meet together often, and they were not to turn away anyone who wanted to join them (3 Nephi 19:18-22).

As I’ve pondered these stories today, I’ve learned the following principles:

  1. The home is the most important place to teach the gospel. Even when we are organized into a church, God expects us to teach, pray for, and bless our own children.
  2. The church is an extension of the family. Our church congregations strive to mirror the love and support that exists in good families.
  3. The church exists to strengthen families in their divinely appointed responsibilities. The church cannot replace the influence of a strong family, but it can bring individuals and families closer to the Savior and help them establish strong families.

Today, I will take seriously my spiritual leadership in my home. I will be grateful for the ways the church strengthens my family. And I will do my part to establish a house of faith where family members can grow closer to God and to one another.

Posted in Church, Family, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does It Mean to Pour Out Your Soul to God?

Several times in the Book of Mormon, people pray with such intensity that they are described as “pouring out [their] whole [souls] unto God.”

  • After Enos’s sins were forgiven, he “began to feel a desire for the welfare of…the Nephites.” As a result, he says, “I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them” (Enos 1:9).
  • While serving as the high priest, Alma faced disciplinary problems in the church, he was deeply troubled, and afraid of taking the wrong action. He tried to enlist the help of the king, who told him this was a church matter and refused to get involved. Finally, “when he had poured out his whole soul to God,” he received guidance about what he should do (Mosiah 26:14).
  • When Ammon saw the dramatic conversion of King Lamoni and his wife, “he fell upon his knees, and began to pour out his soul in prayer and thanksgiving to God” (Alma 19:14).
  • Both Captain Moroni and Helaman poured out their souls in prayer during the Great War between the Nephites and the Lamanites (Alma 46:17, Alma 58:10).
  • When Nephi returned to Zarahemla from his mission to the northern lands, he was horrified at the degradation of society in his absence. In response, he climbed onto a tower in his garden which was beside a public highway and began to pour out his soul to God in full view of the people passing by (Helaman 7:11, 14).
  • Before Mormon resigned as commander of the Nephite armies, he did everything he could for them, including pouring out his soul “in prayer unto…God all the day long for them” (Mormon 3:12).

As I’ve pondered these passages, I’ve had the following thoughts:

  1. Pouring out your whole soul means holding nothing back, being completely honest and completely engaged. It implies total focus, with no distractions or misgivings, a complete absorption in the experience.
  2. This is not an easy state to arrive at. In all of these stories, the individual was motivated to pour out his soul by a set of extraordinary circumstances. In the cases of Enos and Mormon, it was associated with day-long prayers.
  3. Nephi’s example shows us that we can pour out our souls even in public places. Our public prayers need to be sincere and heartfelt just like our private ones.
  4. In Alma’s case, the “pouring out” came only after he had exhausted other possible solutions and knew that only God could resolve the challenge he faced.

Amulek told the Zoramites to “pour out [their] souls in [their] closets, and [their] secret places, and [their] wilderness” (Alma 34:26).

We need to do the same. President Russell M. Nelson has given the following counsel:

Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort.
Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will “pour out [my] soul unto God.” I will pray long enough to be completely focused. I will pray sincerely and honestly, holding nothing back. And I will pray with intensity, engaging fully in the experience.

Posted in Prayer | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Can I Teach the Gospel More Effectively in My Home?

The Book of Mormon contains many sermons. Some were delivered to hostile audiences, some to congregations of believers, and some to audiences of one. The interesting point to me is that the sermons to very small audiences, generally a father talking to one of his children, are not materially different from the sermons delivered to large numbers of people. Doctrines are taught, convictions are shared, and counsel is given just as would happen with a much larger audience.

Two Book of Mormon prophets, Lehi and Alma, gave a series of messages to their sons. Lehi taught Laman and Lemuel, Jacob, and Joseph. Alma taught Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton. Today, I’ve given some thought about what I can learn from these private sermons which can help me teach the gospel to my own family. Here are some thoughts:

  1. Take the time to talk with your children individually. Both of these fathers found an opportunity to provide guidance which was customized to the individual challenges and strengths of their children.
  2. Express confidence in your children. Lehi told Jacob that, in spite of the difficulties he had experienced, God would “consecrate [his] afflictions for [his] gain” (2 Nephi 2:2). Alma praised Shiblon for his “steadiness” and “faithfulness unto God” (Alma 38:2). And he even expressed confidence that Corianton, who had committed serious sins, could fully repent and positively influence the lives of other people (Alma 42:29-31).
  3. Take the time to understand them. Both of these fathers customized their messages to the needs of each child. Lehi taught Jacob about opposition because Jacob was born in the wilderness and had endured significant adversity (2 Nephi 2:1).  Alma addressed three doctrinal questions which had been confusing to his son Corianton. Both fathers knew what messages their sons needed to hear because they knew their sons.
  4. Use the scriptures. Lehi used the story of Adam and Eve to explain opposition and agency to Jacob (2 Nephi 2:17-25). Alma also referred to Adam and Eve as he explained to Corianton that this life is a time of probation (Alma 42:2-10). Lehi used the story of Joseph in Egypt to teach Joseph about his spiritual heritage (2 Nephi 3).
  5. Share personal experiences. Alma shared with both Helaman and Shiblon his conversion story (Alma 36:6-23, Alma 38:6-8). Lehi reviewed with Laman and Lemuel the miracles the family had experienced during their journey to the promised land (2 Nephi 1:1-3).
  6. Give guidance. Lehi told Laman and Lemuel to “arise from the dust,… and be men” (2 Nephi 1:21). Alma identified Corianton’s sins clearly and then commanded him to repent (Alma 39:1-9). Both fathers recognized their duty to correct their children. “I would not dwell upon your crimes,” said Alma, “if it were not for your good” (Alma 39:7).
  7. Testify. Lehi said to Jacob, “I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer” (2 Nephi 2:3). Alma said to Helaman, “I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3). Both fathers told their children clearly what they knew to be true.

As I thought about this last point, I remembered the following counsel given by Elder David A. Bednar a few years ago:

Each of us already knows we should bear testimony to the people we love the most. But what we know is not always reflected in what we do. We may feel unsure, awkward, or even perhaps a bit embarrassed.
As disciples of the Savior, we are not merely striving to know more; rather, we need to consistently do more of what we know is right and become better (“More Diligent and Concerned at Home,” General Conference, October 2009).

Today, I will improve the way I individually teach my children. I will express confidence in them. I will strive to understand them better, so that my guidance can be personalized to their needs. I will teach them using both the scriptures and my own personal experiences. I will provide guidance as needed. And I will be bold in sharing my testimony of the things I know to be true.

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Is It Important Not to Procrastinate Repentance?

Three times in the Book of Mormon, prophets warn people not to procrastinate their repentance.

  • Alma tells the people of Ammonihah, “I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance” (Alma 13:27).
  • Eight years later, Amulek (who was with Alma in Ammonihah) gives the same warning to the Zoramites: “I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end” (Alma 34:33).
  • Many years later, another prophet, Samuel the Lamanite, warns the people of Zarahemla that, if they don’t repent now, they will one day regret it. “O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us,” they will say. But it will be too late: “Ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance until it is everlastingly too late” (Helaman 13:33, 38).

Is there a deadline for repentance? Will there ever be a time when God refuses to allow repentant souls to return to Him? I think the answer is no. The scriptures teach that God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (2 Nephi 2:4, Mormon 9:9, Moroni 10:19) and that His work and His glory is to bring about our “immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39). He wants to save us. So if our window of opportunity to repent is finite, it must be because of us, not because of Him.

In our last general conference, President Russell M. Nelson challenged us to repent daily:

Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process….
Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day (“We Can Do Better and Be Better,” General Conference, April 2019).

I know from experience that consistency is key to maintaining my level of physical fitness. If I get out of the habit of exercising, over time it becomes harder to get moving again.

Perhaps there is a spiritual equivalent. Perhaps a regular focus on repentance keeps our spirits conditioned, while an unwillingness to repent or a decision to defer repentance results in us being spiritually “out of shape.”

I think this is what Amulek meant when he explained to the Zoramites why they shouldn’t procrastinate:

That same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world (Alma 34:34).

Which spirit is he talking about? Your spirit. I would paraphrase his statement this way: If you don’t want to change now, what makes you think you will want to change later? Particularly since you will be even less in the habit of changing then than you are now. Better to get started today than to rely on your future self to bail you out. Besides, the longer you delay, the less likely you will ever get started at all.

Today, I will repent. I will remember that procrastinating repentance only makes it harder to repent in the future. I will follow President Nelson’s admonition to repent every day, in order to keep progressing.

Posted in Repentance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What Are “Gifts and Callings of God?”

Near the end of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni provides a mini-handbook for how to administer the church. Among other things, he explains how priesthood authority is given, how to bless the sacrament, and how to conduct church meetings.

In his discussion of priesthood authority, he uses the phrase “gifts and callings:”

And after this manner did they ordain priests and teachers, according to the gifts and callings of God unto men; and they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them (Moroni 3:4).

What did he mean by “gifts and callings?”

Paul uses a similar phrase in his epistle to the Romans. Explaining to non-Jewish members of the church that God continues to honor His relationship with the children of Israel, he says, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29).

The Greek word for “gifts” in this passage is charismata (χαρίσματα). It is the plural form of charisma (χάρισμα), which means a free gift or a gift of grace. It is the same word used to describe spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12.

The word “calling” is a translation of the word klesis (κλῆσις), which means invitation or summons. God calls on us to do something, and we choose whether to accept and act on that invitation or not.

So Paul’s message to the Romans is that God has not withdrawn either the invitation (the calling) or the promised blessings (the gifts) from the descendants of Israel.

As Moroni points out above, people who are given responsibilities in the church are given gifts and callings by God. We commonly refer to a position of responsibility at church as a “calling.” It may actually consist of many callings—invitations to serve others in personalized ways—and gifts—capabilities which empower us to serve others better than we could on our own.

Today, I will strive to be aware of the gifts and the callings that God has given me. I will strive to understand what He is both inviting me and empowering me to do on behalf of other people.

Posted in Callings, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

What Does It Mean to “See Him as He Is?”

What we see depends on who we are.

At the end of a sermon on faith, hope, and charity, Mormon encourages his listeners to pray that God will fill them with His love “that ye may become the sons of God, that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (Moroni 7:48).

This passage echoes the words of the apostle John in the New Testament:

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

What does it mean to see Him as He is?

  • It means to have an accurate perception of His character, His attributes, and His role in the universe.
  • It also means that we have achieved a level of spiritual maturity. Our recognition of truth becomes more precise as we become more pure. That’s why both Mormon and John said, “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” We will see better because we will be better.

The prophet Joseph Smith taught:

The nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 51).

We see the opposite of this phenomenon every day. How often do we observe that the judgments rendered by an individual tell us more about the individual than about the thing being judged?

One version of this cognitive failure is the Dunning-Kruger effect. Psychologists have observed that people who are unskilled in a particular field are also incapable of assessing their own skill level and that of others. In the words of David Dunning, “If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent … The skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is” (Self-insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself, New York: Psychology Press. pp. 14–15).

Sometimes, our ineptitude results in a foolish cynicism. Truman Madsen related the following story which illustrates this point:

A woman…came into a famous art museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. She took only five minutes to walk briskly past masterworks produced over the centuries. Then with a harumph she turned her back to leave. A guard said to her quietly, “Madam, the paintings are not on trial. You are.” (“Sacred Treasures,” BYU Commencement Address, 12 August 1993).

These works of art were not less magnificent simply because she was unable to perceive their greatness. As Nephi observed:

The things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet;… in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels (1 Nephi 19:7).

Today, I will strive to be more like the Savior so that I can more clearly recognize the Savior. I will remember that my perception is faulty because I am imperfect. But I will move forward with hope, knowing that as I improve and mature, my perception will become clearer, until one day I am capable of seeing Him as He is.

Posted in Knowledge | Tagged | Leave a comment