Thursday, September 27, 2012

You (or I) may be the sample of one

The following letter appeared in my local paper’s printing of the syndicated Ask Amy column this week:

Dear Amy: My 26-year old daughter waitresses in an upscale eatery in a liberal college town. She has numerous tattoos visible on her arms and legs, which get a lot of attention. I don’t like tattoos, but she is my child, and I love her regardless.

A coworker’s mom, who is Mormon and visiting from out of state, sat in my daughter’s section and proceeded to tell her that she was disgusting. She said she could not believe my daughter was allowed to work there, told her not to spit in her food and said that she is going to hell.

I am seething. My religious beliefs teach love and acceptance to all, and I firmly believe that I should not judge others. My daughter treated the offender with kindness, but she was stunned by this spewing. What a perfect way to turn others against religion!

Was there a tactful response my daughter could have given to make the offender realize her behavior was wrong? – Sad Mom (emphasis added).


My first response was to wonder why this offending woman identified herself as LDS, and worse, why she claimed the young tattooed waitress would be going to hell?

This dear sister obviously missed all those admonitions of the Savior to love one another and not to judge one another.

I’ve spent more time thinking about this than I should, probably, but I’ve come up with some scenarios:

1. Sad Mom was aware of the visiting woman’s religion because the co-worker had mentioned it, not because the visitor had mentioned it. Sad Mom then attributed the awful behavior to the visitor’s Mormon-ness rather than to her being a crabby old lady. (This is the best case scenario.)

2. The visitor actually mentioned her Mormon-ness why chastising the young waitress about her tattoos. (Can you imagine that discussion? What do you know about the Mormons? Do you know we hate tattoos, and people who wear them? Yikes!!)

3. The young waitress embellished the story for her mother. (Can you believe what happened to me today? This woman sits in my station and goes off on my tattoos….)

The lesson that lept to mind is that whether we like it or not, we are missionaries. We are seen by others as representatives of our faith and our church. For some people, we are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Well, of course we know there are stupid people everywhere. And the church is not immune to that condition. How sad that this LDS woman would treat a waitress the way she did and make claims she has no right in the world to make. (I have to chuckle as I think about a professor I had in college who wore long sleeves every day of the year to hide tattoos he’d gotten as young sailor. This tattooed professor was also a sealer in the temple when I knew him.)

I hope that if I’m someone’s sample of the church that I do a better job representing.

(BTW, Amy’s response was spot on: “Dear Sad: This isn’t about religion, but about rudeness….” She goes on to point out that the waitress did the right thing trying to be polite, and suggested that she could have offered to re-seat the upset woman in a different section of the restaurant.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I write with Real Intent

I’m breaking with my normal post timing because today is a special day. There’s a new group blog in town, with Real Intent. You can see the button over there to the right. Here's what it looks like (Sorry I'm not smart enough to turn it into a the button on the right to get there from here):

Real Intent was conceived by Bonnie, a fellow blogger who I’ve read in a number of places. Bonnie is faithful, insightful, and (based on the past two weeks as she’s gotten this group blog up and running) incredibly energetic about things she cares about.

There are over twenty bloggers writing with Real Intent, including me.

Those of you who read A Latter-day Voice know that I don’t speak for the church, but I do speak in favor of it. I haven’t read posts from all of my fellow authors at Real Intent, but I have read most of them through the peer review process. Their posts run the gamut. Some are heartwarming; others are challenging; some reflect on what we could or should be doing; others ruminate about what we may have done already. There’s discussion of history (church and personal) and doctrine, and there’s even poetry.

Bonnie’s vision for Real Intent is pretty straightforward:

We, the authors at Real Intent, are interested in promoting a journey of discovery through the experimentation of faith, aiding one another by sharing insights and solutions regarding issues that face individuals, families, and communities in an increasingly divided world.
If that sounds interesting to you, come on over and have a look. Oh, and you can find my inaugural post at Real Intent, On Parental Controls here.

For now, my content at Real Intent will be different from what I write here – similar themes, but unique posts. I hope you’ll join us there, and I hope that, like me, you’ll find it’s worth the look.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ideal Families in the Proclamation

Today's post is cross-posted at Middle-aged Mormon Man as part of the Proclamation Celebration. You can find it here. At MMM's site you'll also find links to the other hosters of the the celebration. I invite you head on over and take a spin! But read this first:

There’s occasionally discussion of a conundrum in gospel teaching. None of us is perfect, yet we’re all teaching one another the gospel so that we can do as the Savior commanded us, and become perfect. As a result, much of what we teach is, as a good friend of mine says, “aspirational.”

You know how this goes: you teach a lesson on missionary work knowing full well that you’re a bit of a slug in that department, or you teach about family relations and all you can remember is the disagreement you and your lovely spouse had over something insignificant that morning.

There’s an extended concern some people raise, namely that we teach a standard that is unachievable, and we therefore put ourselves in the impossible position of always trying, but never attaining it. In so doing we become discouraged (at least) or disaffected (at worst). None of those responses seem consistent with the Savior’s injunction that His yolk is easy and His burden is light.

How does The Family: A Proclamation to the World cope with that conundrum?

First, the standards are established in the Proclamation:

1. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God

2. The family is central to the Creator’s plan for us and is ordained of God

3. We are all created in the image of God, and each of us is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents

4. We all worshiped God in the pre-mortal existence and accepted the present plan of salvation

5. Temple covenants allow family relationships to extend beyond the grave

6. The powers of procreation, consistent with God’s command to Adam & Eve, are to be used within a marriage between a husband and wife

7. Husbands & wives should love each other and care for their children, rearing them in love and righteousness, providing for their physical & spiritual needs, teaching them to love & serve one another and to be obedient to the laws of God and man

8. Children are entitled to be born to parents who are married and to be reared by parents who honor their marital vows and are completely faithful to one another

9. Happiness is most likely when families live within the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, organizing their families accordingly

10. Those who violate covenants or fail to fulfill family responsibilities will stand accountable before God, and the disintegration of families will bring consequences to individuals, communities and nations
Is the bar too high? Who could feel left out or uncomfortable by these mileposts? Well, there are probably some:

1. Unmarried adults. Although the proclamation never says it’s evil not to be married, it’s pretty clear that those who are not married are missing out on something that’s “central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

2. Married couples without children. Whether by choice or for some other reason, childless couples may feel left out of the blessings of family life.

3. Single parents and their children. Whether these parents had their children out of wedlock, or are single because of divorce or death of a spouse, they are single. Their children are (perhaps) not enjoying “birth within the bounds of matrimony” or being “reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” They do not have both a father who presides and a mother who nurtures.

4. Covenant breakers. There’s pretty harsh language for those who break marital covenants, abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities.

What’s the remedy? Does the Proclamation provide any solace or help? Yes, of course it does.

1. Like so many gospel truths, those presented in The Family: A Proclamation to the World appear as opportunities for us. If we find ourselves in families, here is how we can maximize the joy of that circumstance. The Proclamation itself is not a commandment to marry, nor is it a commandment to have children; it is a description of how we can have the best marriages and families we can. Further, it teaches that all of us, married or not, are children of loving heavenly parents, and that blessings accrue to us for that reason alone. The language of the Proclamation says to me, “If you are married, then…” and “If you are a parent, then…”

2. The Proclamation itself recognizes that we are not perfect. In the list of qualities that contribute to the most successful families are these: “faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” Number three and four on that list make clear that the Lord acknowledges (as if He needed to) that we are not perfect. (Of course His real acknowledgement of that fact is far more significant since he gave His own life that we might live and return home to our Father in Heaven.) The fact is that every marriage and every family is made up of imperfect people who (sometimes, at least) are trying to do the best they can.

3. The Proclamation recognizes a family’s need to personalize the application of the Proclamation. As it discusses the best chance for happy families, it reminds us: “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” It’s not inconceivable to me that one family might choose to have mom work and dad stay home with the kids because of their individual circumstances, for instance. In another family (in many families today), both parents may need to work, and then they’ll have to sort out how to nurture and provide. Families with only one parent in the home (for whatever the reason) will have to sort out how to carry the whole load of parenting. (Elder Baxter’s words from this past conference still ring in my ears.) It would seem that in some geographic areas, exceptions are the rule, and the Proclamation makes clear that that’s ok.

4. Even the covenant breakers will be accountable to God. Covenant breakers do exist, and God knows that. And He will deal with them. It is not up to me to judge someone else. I cannot judge a single dad, wondering what failed in his marriage to put him where he is. I cannot judge a teenage mom and wonder why she made the choices she did. All I can do is follow the admonition of the Proclamation and teach by my example respect, love and compassion. I’m not suggesting that covenant breakers get a pass. They will pay appropriately for their transgressions. But unless I’m in law enforcement, the aggrieved party or the bishop, it won’t be my decision or my concern how that happens.
The Proclamation itself allows for exceptions and teaches clearly that we will not all measure up all the time to the standards of the proclamation. Does that diminish the ideal? No, of course not. Does it change my aspiration to work to have one of those “successful marriages and families”? No, of course not. Does it give me license to teach the ideal and turn a blind eye or deaf ear to the concerns of those who are not living the ideal? No, of course not.

One might argue, if families are “central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” that the stakes are so high that we should only teach the ideal with rigor, letting the chips fall where they may. But in my view that would be wrong (and inconsistent with the example of the brethren and the Proclamation itself). Indeed, if families are central to that plan (and I believe they are), we should do all we can to lift up the hands that hang down, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and to work so that all families of every stripe realize as many blessings taught in the Proclamation as possible. We are among the responsible citizens called upon by the Proclamation to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

Let us work to promote families in which parents can nurture their children, as well as provide for and protect them. Let us teach one another to practice faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love and compassion – within our families and from one family to the next. Let us accept the standards as aspirational blessings that we seek and take steps to realize those blessings as far as we can, relying that the Lord will recognize our efforts and can make us whole where we fall short.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Richard Dawkins is on my mind

And I can’t get him off. And I’d like to. Maybe writing about it will help.

I watched a video of an appearance of Mormon rocker and Killers front man Brandon Flowers in a post at Times and Seasons a few days ago. Here's the clip if you'd like to watch:

In the clip, Flowers appears on a Norwegian talk show and takes a question or two about his music, then several from the host about his church (and Mitt Romney). Then Richard Dawkins (famous British biology professor and athiest) comes in and all but attacks Flowers for believing in the story of the “convicted charlatan” Joseph Smith and the fraudulent Book of Mormon. To his credit, Flowers responds with grace and calm, despite the fact that it seems he’s been ambushed by both host and Dawkins.

Flowers interrupts Dawkins’ monologue to take exception to his “facts” and Dawkins presses on, insisting that he has done his research and knows he is right. Flowers is then told he needs to leave to prepare with his band to sing the closing number of the show. Flowers, as a parting shot, offers to chat with Dawkins later about his views. (Dawkins apologizes only because he didn’t know that Flowers would have to go, not because of the ambush or his boneheaded and offensive tone in the conversation.)

I thought about this exchange the other morning as we read about Korihor in our family scripture study.

Dawkins offered an oft-used chestnut when scientific atheists talk about God: There is no evidence of the existence of God. Korihor also claims not to believe, and demands that Alma provide him proof. Alma responds that it should be Korihor’s burden to prove that God does not exist, for all things (including repeated testimony of prophets of which Korihor was aware) denote that there is a God (Alma 30:44).

My daughter-in-law is finishing her PhD in biology and will soon begin working in a post-doc position at a major research center on the East Coast. Although she was reared in a Catholic home, I don’t believe she practices her religion (I know my son does not practice the LDS faith of his youth). In a recent online discussion of evolution, she commented (quite correctly, I think) that science doesn’t really explain the supernatural. Dawkins would do well to remember that.

I don’t think that my DIL was necessarily making a case for belief in God (and I wouldn’t want to put words in her mouth), but I appreciated that she allowed that there are different disciplines at work. (I am not suggesting there are different truths, but there are different disciplines for exploring truth.)

Just because there are scientific explanations that some religious people may choose not to accept, it does not mean that God does not exist.

For instance, it may well be that God used natural means when creating the earth. Certainly evolution provides a way to explain the development of life on this earth that has facilitated additional study by biologists, and that’s a good thing, because good things come from that study. (My DIL will use her genetic research skills in diabetes research, for instance.) I acknowledge that there are faithful Christians (including many Latter-day Saints) who reject evolutionary theory in part or in whole. Their choice to accept or reject evolution as an explanation of the origin of life has no bearing on whether God exists. (Or on the correctness of evolutionary theory, by the way.)

It may be that science can isolate unique chemical activity in the brain associated with what subjects describe as spiritual experiences. That does not mean that spiritual experiences do not happen, even if it’s possible to mimic them artificially. (We’ve discovered ways to mimic lots of natural processes to create artificial flavors, and even artificial diamonds; it doesn’t mean that the originals of those things don’t exist.)

Dawkins’ insinuation that believers in God are intellectually deficient (and that is the message that I got from his interchange with Flowers and the conversation that followed after Flowers left, though I admit I’m sensitive about this particular subject) is insulting and ignores the very thing that attracts young people to science, namely the wonder of learning about the world around them, and the openness to learning new things. That Dawkins simply dismisses belief in God the way he dismisses Santa Claus suggests that all thinking people should do so. (I don’t question his right to believe as he wishes, but his suggestion that all rational people should do the same is silly.)


A few days have passed since I started this post. And I’ve had another thought. Just as I’m annoyed at Dawkins’ out-of-hand rejection of the notion that God exists, so am I also troubled by the attitude of some of my fellow-believers that science is the enemy.

Not long ago, a statement from Bill Nye (“The Science Guy!”) made the rounds as he encouraged people to stop telling their kids that evolution was wrong.

And I agree with him. As I mentioned above in reference to my DIL, there are different disciplines at work here, and that’s ok. The study of evolution (for example) allows the building of a scientific foundation that supports other scientific research, and the kids of believers should also be engaged in that work.

I will say this: I don't particularly like the phraseology of "believing" in evolution. Evolution is science, not religion. I don't "believe" in Hydrogen and Oxygen combining to form the chemical compound we call water. I don't "believe" in gravity. It's what we observe. Yes, there are incomplete theories out there (remember relativity?), but they do a great deal of good in allowing scientists a framework for observation and further study. It's not a question of "belief."

It’s wrong for Dawkins to dismiss believers as intellectually deficient. It’s just as wrong for believers to dismiss scientists as morally deficient.

Well, I feel better now. I hope I haven't made you feel worse.

Monday, September 17, 2012

It's here!

So, if the stars all align and MMM does what he said he’d do, clicking that blue-green frame to the right should take you to the Proclamation Celebration. So click away, but after reading this:

I love The Family: A Proclamation to the World!

Here’s why:

1. I love my family, and I want to be a better dad. The proclamation helps me with that.

2. I love the Lord, and I think the proclamation does a great job of teaching what He wants me to know about families, based on scriptures and words of modern prophets.

3. I love our modern prophets (you know, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve). They authored the proclamation, and I trust them to lead me where the Lord wants me to go.

By the way, here’s a link to The Family: A Proclamation to the World, just in case you haven’t read it in a while. Click here.

Now, get clicking! And you’re welcome!

UPDATE: When I checked at 745 EDT, MMM hadn't yet started his Celebration posts. Sorry for that. I guess I get up earlier than he does... ;-) Keep checking...

UPDATE II: Looks like he finally woke up! Let the Celebration begin!! (BTW, check these links for more Proclamation Celebration posts:

Chocolate on My Cranium

Diapers and Divinity

We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Saving Marriage -- Part III

In the last installment, I said I’d talk about how to get someone else to change.

Have you ever had a say something like this to you, “My husband drives me nuts! How do I get him to…?”

Here’s the answer: You can’t.

I could stop the post there, since I’ve written complete truth, but there’s still more I want to say. But you could stop reading here and get the basic message.

When I was in a position that had me counseling couples from time to time, the most common experience was that a spouse (usually a wife) came to see me and asked, “How do I get my husband to…?” Fill in the blank with anything from spend more time with the children, get a better job, earn more money, honor his priesthood (apparently the list of husband-infractions is long; fortunately most people did not have a list of more than two or three things).

My first response to these questions (which I never said out loud, as far as I remember) was, “How should I know?” Sometimes I listened to the spouse complain a while and then offered some technique for communicating. Once or twice I might have even offered to speak to the spouse (where I usually got a completely different side of the story and a similar question: “How do I get her to….?” A few times I sent the couple off to LDS Family Services for counseling.

During my time as bishop -- and since then -- I’ve learned a few things about people, and one of them is this: I can’t make you do anything. (Even if you’re my teenager.)

It’s not that I should not try to make you do something. I simply cannot do it.

I learned part of this lesson early in our marriage when children started to come. My sweet mother-in-law reminded us that a parent can never make a child eat, sleep or go to the bathroom. What she neglected to say is that a parent cannot make a child do anything. Had I learned that lesson sooner, I might have saved my oldest son some years of emotional pain. As it is, his younger siblings owe him a great debt.

There are (at least) two huge marriage lessons to take from this truth:

1. You can’t fall in love and marry someone assuming you will change him or her over time. He or she may change, but you can’t build your future on it.

2. Trying to change someone else will only may you unhappy.

I was really fortunate when I married my lovely wife. I loved her just the way she was. I saw nothing about her I wanted to change. Some would say I was naïve, or maybe immature (and they would be right: I was just 21, after all), but that was my reality when we married. But I have known spouses who desperately wanted to change their partners. Those seeking the change were always unhappy.

I believe the source of their unhappiness was less in the behavior of their spouse (the behavior they wanted to change) and more in their determination to do something they simply could not do.

We could talk about the doctrine of agency here. Often when we do, we speak in terms of allowing someone to make choices. Real agency in adults is not about allowing someone to choose; it’s about recognizing that each of us will choose. Our teenagers who lead wholesome lives choose to do so. Our teenagers who stray choose that, too. They will make choices. Foolish parents assume they have more influence over the choices their teens make than they do. (I’m not saying parents don’t have influence, but at some point our kids make their own choices independent of what we have taught them. The sooner we recognize that, the better parents we can be, because we can operate in the light of truth – but that’s a different post.)

From my 21st-century American viewpoint, it seems unthinkable to me that there may be husbands or wives who think they can keep a spouse from doing something by “not allowing” it. But I acknowledge that there must be some who do. After all, as recently as last April’s conference, Elder Wilson told of an interchange with his new bride within a month of their marriage. He thought she should drive more slowly and told her so. He tells the story:

She replied, “What gives you the right to tell me how to drive?”

Frankly, her question caught me off guard. So, doing my best to step up to my new responsibilities as a married man, I said, “I don’t know—because I’m your husband and I hold the priesthood.”

When the laughter in the conference center died down, he then spoke at length about how we influence our family, but also about the fact that we cannot force them into good behavior.

Since we cannot force someone into our way of thinking, trying to do so will frustrate us. We may develop an expectation that our partner behaves a certain way. We may mistakenly try to compel that behavior. And when the desired behavior fails to materialize, we will be frustrated, and maybe angry. That resentment may lead us to try to control the situation even more, which will ultimately lead to any number of unhappy endings.

We cannot force someone to choose our way. Trying to do so will ultimately make us unhappy.

In a future installment, I’ll write about how we can communicate our needs in a way that may facilitate change.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Elite athletic training and testimony

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not athletic. Never have been and never will be. I do try to watch my weight (I’ve lost 60 pounds between Christmas and the beginning of July, and am very near my “ideal” weight now) and I get cardio exercise six days week. But I am not athletic.

I do, however, appreciate the craft of those who are athletes, especially those who train significantly. And that’s why a lesson a young man in our ward taught in a youth talk a few months ago still rings in my ears.

This young man spoke about testimony. After definitions and a few quotations from For the Strength of Youth and True to the Faith, he said something that really made an impression on me. He said (and I’m paraphrasing):

I participate in an elite soccer league. I train as many as four hours a day to compete. Only by that regular and sustained regimen of training am I able to compete at the level I need to in that league.

We need to dedicate ourselves similarly to gaining a testimony.

That was it. But it is powerful stuff. I tried to think about when I devoted four or more hours a day to the development of my testimony. My mission was probably the only time I came close to that level of intense spiritual training.

Prior to my mission I attended seminary and church most of the time (though I did not graduate from seminary). I was on-again-off-again with scripture reading. By the time I got to BYU I was more serious about scripture study and took good advantage of my Book of Mormon class my freshman year, but still I was not training like my young friend was for soccer.

Since I lost so much weight this year, I weigh myself almost every day. And I still count calories to maintain my present weight. When I find that I’m gaining again, I know I need to make adjustments to my diet and exercise program. By keeping track, I've been able to maintain my new weight for two months and counting.

Spiritually I need to do the same thing. I’m decades away from that pre-mission boy who was not very serious about nurturing his testimony. Fortunately for me, my mission was a significant contributor to a strong testimony of the gospel, and the intervening decades of church service have allowed me to continue to build that testimony through study and experience. But I still need to weigh myself spiritually, to check my commitment to scripture study and prayer, and to continue to live my life in a way that supports my spiritual training program.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's true: I'm promoting something

There’s a big blue (or is it green?) button over to the right. Yep, way over there. It looks like a frame hanging from a string. And it says “Celebrate The Family Proclamation."

If you click on it, it will take you to a vblog announcement over at Middle-Aged Mormon Man. (I didn’t even know what a vblog was until I saw one at MMM a while back.) The vblog announces that MMM is one of four hosts for this year’s annual celebration of The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

Why am I promoting it?

For two reasons, really. One: I’m a big fan of The Proclamation. Two: I’ve been invited to participate in the celebration by submitting a guest post.

What is it?

For a couple of weeks in late September, four different sites will host the celebration by offering posts on the subject of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Some of those posts are likely to be “experience” pieces. Maybe others will be discussions of doctrine or application. Mine will be either long and boring or awesome, depending on how your day is going.

So, click on that button over there (the blue frame) and check out MMM’s vblog. He’s got links to the other hosts whose blog names include words like chocolate, cranium, diapers and divinity. Crazy, huh? Who’d-a thunk I’d get connected with such a group?

I’ll let you know when the celebration begins. In the meantime, you can get your party hat in shape.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Small town church

I live in the suburbs of a large Midwestern city in the U.S. and I attend a large suburban ward. My ward really has the best of an established Wasatch Front ward in terms of church programs (fueled by regular influx of folks from "out west") and solid gospel teaching and the best of a “mission field” ward in terms of newer members and reliance on the gospel rather than Mormon culture. I love my ward, and I’m glad we’ve lived there off and on (between foreign postings for my work) for years.

This weekend we visited my daughter who lives in a small town in Pennsylvania and we attended her small ward. The ward is geographically huge and takes in her small town of 5,000 plus several other small towns in the county. You can drive for an hour and still be in her ward.

This is the kind of ward that many of you will know, one in which the number of people with long church experience is relatively small. There are few imports from “the west” because there are no industries to draw such imports. Many of the members of the ward are home grown, some the second or third generation of converts in the area.

It’s a small ward, and might even be a branch in another stake just because of its size. Programs struggle to look like they would in a large established ward because of number of participants and the experience of those running the programs. Lots of ages combined in small youth classes and in Primary.

We settled in for Fast and Testimony meeting in a ward that we did not know, not knowing quite what to expect. Of course our daughter has made many good friends here and has come to rely on her church family to take our place since she lives so far from us. But sometimes attending a testimony meeting in a ward you don’t know is like attending a wedding where you only know the bride or groom, but no one else. You never quite know the backstory; you never quite know what’s really going on.

This weekend’s meeting, I have to say, was delightful. It was hard for me to know if there were many who bore their testimony every month; some apologized for getting up again so soon, and others suggested if people were tired of hearing from them, they ought to get up first. But almost to a person, each testimony followed the simple counsel given by the bishop’s counselor who conducted the meeting: testimonies should be about the Savior and should be brief.

One of the first testimonies was from a sweet gentleman who was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his conversion (he’d been tracted out by missionaries I learned later in the day). Another proud dad spoke of having two sons sealed to their wives on the same day. A sister offered hope to families that might not yet know the blessings of temple covenants with encouragement and hope that seemed to come from her own experience. Other brothers and sisters did just what one hopes for in a testimony meeting: short, simple testimonies offered because the bearers felt a spiritual prompting to stand and share.

There are many ways in which my daughter’s small rural ward is different from my large established suburban one, but in this way it is not different: the Spirit taught me there just as it teaches me at home. How grateful I am for that truth.