Monday, April 30, 2012

Pixels Away!

My fifth child (second daughter) is the first of my children to choose to serve a mission. We received a call last night from the stake president that he had just pressed “Send” and her mission application is on its way to Salt Lake City.

The combination of emotions I have today is something else.

On the one hand, I’m remarkably proud of my daughter for her choices. She has talked about serving a mission since she was four, when she and my lovely wife hosted sister missionaries for lunch in our home one day each week when we lived in Venezuela. And she has spent the last 17 years since then preparing to serve.

Her choice to serve was not without some trepidation. More than once in the last few years at BYU she has wavered. She’s wondered if she would be better to stay and finish her degree, if she should pursue certain romantic endeavors, if there was some other way she would better serve. But more than once along the way she has received what she knows to be divine guidance that she was on the right path, and that yes, she should serve.

I should point out her decision has been hers and hers alone. In fact, at times I’ve told her she does not need to serve; she has no obligation to do so, except if she really feels moved by the spirit to do so. She has three older brothers who did not serve. Her mother and I were sad about those choices, but we have not pressed her to serve as some form of compensation or validation for us.

Her older sister has also not served. When our oldest daughter’s friends were leaving on missions, she called me and asked if she ought to serve. I told her what I told daughter #2: only if she felt strongly called to do so. As much as my own mission meant to me, and as much as I loved serving (most days, at least) I firmly believe the Lord does not need an army of unwilling missionaries. And sisters have always been in a place where they have considerable more choice whether to serve, without such social pressure to do so. Perhaps that’s one reason why the sister missionaries I have known almost without exception have been truly remarkable missionaries.

So, yeah, I’m very proud of her and her decision to serve, and her preparation to serve. (And yes, I am really proud. I have recently re-read President Benson’s words on the subject: there is no enmity in my properly placed parental pride.)

I’m also awestruck by the work that she will do. Yesterday in sacrament meeting we happened to sing Hymn #263, “Go Forth With Faith” as a closing hymn. As we sang, it occurred to me what my young daughter is about to do. She will

Go forth with faith to tell the world
Of Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Bear witness he is God’s own Son;
Proclaim his wondrous word.
Go forth with hope and courage strong
To spread the word abroad
That people of all nations
Are children of our God.

As I write to other missionaries in our family and serving from our ward, I regularly remind them of the awesome work they are doing. Now that I am three decades removed from my own missionary service, I’m amazed what we trust these young people to do. And at the same time I realize that there are few others who could do it. Somehow as I have aged, I’ve lost the childlike faith that propelled me to proclaim a gospel I barely knew with enough conviction that someone would listen long enough for the spirit to bear witness of the truth.

So I’m also pretty amazed that my little girl will participate in this great work.

And it’s very cool to me to see how – and where -- the work is progressing. Even the application process is digitized. We talked in the beginning of my daughter’s mission “papers” because we remembered when it was all paper. Now I talk of her Mission Pixels. Soon someone will sit in front of a screen an meet her as Elder Rasband described a few conferences ago.

Of course we’ll all be excited to learn where she will serve and when she will leave. But mostly I’m excited when I hear her honestly say that she doesn’t care where she goes, but just that she can. Already she is preparing to go where He sends her.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Things I avoid when I teach

I’ve written couple of posts on gospel teaching (for instance, here, here and here). It’s a subject I care a lot about and have for many years. Just before my mission (I think the telephone had been invented by then – and by telephone I mean the one that was connected to a wall…) I took the teacher improvement course and I really enjoyed it.

Early in my marriage, I served as a Sunday School president. I approached my calling very seriously (even though by then SS presidents were about as useful as the human appendix) and my counselors and I worked hard to try to improve teaching in our ward. I’ve really enjoyed teaching over the years, and have taught in Sunday School, Primary, Young Men’s and in my Melchizedek PH quorums. I even taught one Relief Society lesson when I was a bishop. (Ok, it wasn’t a whole lesson, but I was in the room and I got to teach!) I’ve never taught in Young Women’s, but I have taught Young Women in seminary and in youth firesides. And I’ve taught institute, as well.

I don’t know that I’m a great teacher, but I guess I’m entertaining enough. People seem to respond to my lessons enough that I keep getting asked to teach.

Here are a couple of things I try to avoid when teaching. When I’ve seen these things in other classes (or when I’ve realized I’ve been doing it in my teaching), I’m kind of turned off, and I figure other students are, too. This is my short list. Maybe you have others, and you’d like to share them in the comments:

1. Play “Guess what the teacher’s thinking.” Remember in Junior High (ok, I’m so old that we didn’t have the trendy “Middle School”) when a teacher would ask a question, you’d summon the courage to answer in front of your peers with a completely logical and reasonable answer and she’d say, “Well, that’s not what I’m looking for; anyone else?” It made you feel silly, didn’t it? (Well it made me feel silly, anyway.) The point of questions in a church class is not to test knowledge, but to foster discussion. Even if an answer is a bit off the beam of a teacher’s message, the teacher can walk back to his central theme and still acknowledge and accept the discussion as it comes.

2. Ask yes-and-no questions. See #1. If the point of questions is to foster discussion, how does a yes / no question do that? Furthermore, do we really expect anyone to say “No, we don’t believe in the Godhead?” I agree that a careful series of yes or no questions may work as a rhetorical device from time to time, but as a general rule, these are the wrong kinds of questions to ask.

3. Be Nephi (or any other scripture character). Avoiding this is a newer innovation for me in my teaching. In fact, I used to assume roles all the time. I used to say things like, “I can imagine what Nephi was thinking – here he was tied up on a ship which is about to go under the sea and his brothers are dancing and having a great time…” The thing is, I don’t know what Nephi was thinking. There are surely some who might have said of me, “I know Nephi. Nephi is a friend of mine. You’re no Nephi.” This issue came home to me a few years ago as I sat in a class taught by another entertaining gospel doctrine teacher who did the same thing. Except I thought to myself, “Nephi didn’t think that. He never said that.” And I realized that although I can liken the scriptures unto myself, I ought not liken myself unto the characters of the scriptures. I ought to let them speak for themselves.

4. Run overtime. There is nothing I have that will be more important to all the members of my class than getting out on time. If they can hear the bell or see a clock, they will worry about whatever they have to do next more than whatever fabulous ending I have planned for my lesson. Therefore, I need to plan to start my “big finish” (if I have one) early enough to be done at the end of class. (That said, it was entertainingly ironic a few weeks ago as our substitute gospel doctrine teacher ran five minutes over while discussing looking past the mark. As it happens, he had misunderstood what time class was supposed to end.)
Well, that’s my short list. I’m happy to have you add your thoughts to the list.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hand sitting progress...

A while ago I posted about sitting on my hands -- in church classes, that it. I thought I'd let you know know that's going.

I'm relieved that not every idea I have is bad. (One bad one here...)

I have tried to be more measured in my participation in class. I am happy to read, and volunteer to do so. And I'm trying (for now) to limit myself to just one comment. My reasons:

1. To avoid "teaching from the fourth row" -- I want to respect that the instructor has a point of view, a message he or she has prepared, and I want to hear what that is. If I keep interrupting with my great ideas, neither the rest of the class nor I get to hear what the instructor has planned.

2. To avoid monopolizing the conversaton -- more than once I've been in a class where someone comments so much that others kind of shut down and let the instructor and the verbose commenter carry on their dialog. Recently I've realized that sometimes I'm that guy, and I didn't want to be.

3. As much as I like to hear myself talk, I'm trying to limit my pontification to my blog and to my home, where I'm king. (Oh, strike that second part...)

So over the last few weeks, I've been pretty good about it. I substituted for two weeks in my son's Sunday School class, so I got to talk all I wanted there (guided by the lesson manual and the Real Manual (aka, the scriptures), of course).

In priesthood the first week of hand sitting, I responded to a question early on, and the stake president, who was visiting our ward that day, commented on my comment. I was anxious to answer his thoughts, but even as I was putting up my hand, I remembered to sit on it, instead. As it happens, someone else commented on what he said. The conversation did not go in the direction I would have taken it, but the instructor was happy to have several people participating, and that was good.

In Sunday School yesterday, I was a little late to the discussion because I had to follow up with the bishop on another matter. When I joined the class, they were discussing one of my very favorite chapters of all scripture, Mosiah 4. There we learn about our need to serve others, about how our attitude in service is at least as important as our actions, and about how caring for the poor and needy is the way we ensure that we retain our sins' remission that we receive in baptism and in taking the sacrament.

Our teacher had me read verses 21-26. For me, the key is verse 26:

And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. (Emphasis mine.)

As our teacher reviewed key verses, he had me read through verse 26, but he did not discuss it. My hand was itching to go up, but I sat on it again. He clearly had somewhere he was heading. After class, he told me that he was going to spend some time on that subject, but because I'd read the verse with the emphasis I marked above, he felt like his point had been made and he moved on.

All in all, so far so good. I am noticing, particularly in my HP group, more participation when I curb my dialog with the instructor. And I'm getting to hear some other points of view besides my own. That can't be a bad thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ok, it was a bad idea...

I blogged last week about e-scriptures and their use in classes. I was so motivated by a post at Middle-Aged Mormon Man (who has a WAY bigger readership than mine). In my post, I spoke in favor of e-scriptures (mine are on a Kindle Fire, and I love them that way, thanks, very much). And I wrote about the kids in the Sunday School class where I sometimes substitute (including last Sunday).

And here’s the dumb idea:

I’ve actually had an idea while writing this post that I’ll try when I substitute next Sunday. I think I’ll put a table in the room where we have class, and ask all the student to put their scriptures (electronic and otherwise) flat on the table in front of them. That way I’ll be able to see whether they are staying in the scriptures or not. Of course, whether their minds are in their scriptures or not is another matter, and I won’t be able to see that…

What I did was I finally let sink in what MMM was saying in his post, and I stopped by the library and picked up a few paper copies of the Book of Mormon. In class, I announced that it would an e-free day for students (I still taught from my Kindle, because that’s what I was prepared to do, and I just had this idea on the way to class, and I was not at all troubled by the double standard for students and teacher, and neither were they.)

So everyone but me used paper scriptures. No one texted during class. No one surfed the web. And no one really cared. (In fact, one student – my son’s best friend -- observed that if I was trying to get the class to be quieter, I wouldn’t be able to tell because there were too many independent variables – not only had I outlawed e-devices, but my son was not there, so this young man wouldn’t be chatting with him during the whole lesson. Fair enough, I said. I wasn’t trying to reduce chatter, just get people to use their paper scriptures.)

There was little difference in the discussion. All the kids participated just as they had before – some more willingly than others. All read. All laughed at my corny jokes (my son was absent, remember?).

But I was glad not to have their attention divided between me, their friends, their other extraneous thoughts AND their e-devices. At least one distraction was eliminated.

I should, in fairness, point out that as I told my very supportive daughter about my lesson, she asked with just a tint of saracasm in her voice, "So, did you drag a table in for them to put their devices on?" Even she knew it was a bad idea...

Monday, April 16, 2012

The work of moms

Yep, I read the comments of Hilary Rosen, and the counter-comments from Ann Romney, Michelle Obama and many others. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google it.) And even before all the excitement, it was clear that Rosen’s comment might have been more about Romney’s wealth and less about her stay-at-home-ness (as the serious back-pedaling suggests), but for someone who’s paid to communicate, it is hard to imagine how Rosen could have done worse than she did.

I am a huge fan of stay-at-home moms. My mom stayed home, and pinched pennies in order to do so. Of course in those days MANY women were doing what she was doing, and so they pinched pennies together. Two stories I remember from my Mom’s telling:

First, there was the time she took a shoebox (or was it a bag?) of change to the A&P to pay for groceries, and after the cashier informed her she’d have to roll the coins before she could spend them there, the box broke, sending the coins scattering to the floor. (Double embarrassment, being turned away by the cashier and then having to pick up the coins).

Second was the repeated experience of Mom and her best friend’s going to the ice cream counter at Kresge’s to split an ice cream sundae. Kresge’s would have a number of balloons with prices in them, and you could pop a balloon to pick your price. She said on days toward the end of the month, getting the full price would send her and her friend digging for pennies in their pocketbooks to pay the tab.

We did not grow up poor. My dad was well-employed as a mechanical engineer; my parents owned their modest home (or shared ownership with the bank) and sometimes we had two cars. We got a set or two of clothes at the beginning of the school year that was meant to last til the end, and we often got underwear for Christmas. But we had plenty to eat, and despite my mother’s near constant protestations that we could afford that (whatever we children were begging for at the moment), I never once believed we were a step away from the poor house.

But Mom was home (when she wasn’t being a Cub Scout or Girl Scout leader or serving on some PTA committee or other or at a Relief Society meeting) – she was home every day when I walked home from school for lunch, and when I arrived at home after school. She taught piano lessons after school to pay for our orthodontics (three of the four of us kids had braces) and our own piano lessons. It never occurred to me growing up that it might be another way. (I had only two friends I can remember who had moms who worked – one had divorced parents, and the other had lost his dad to cancer; I’m sure there were more, since there were plenty of women working in various places.)

I remember when I (the youngest) was finally a senior in high school, and my mother talked about getting a job in real estate. My father was not pleased, and was concerned about what it would say about him if his wife needed to work. She finally prevailed, however, and did work for a number of years before they retired.

Of course Mom worked long before the real estate job. Not only did she teach and train and nurture the four of us, but she managed the home. She deposited Dad’s monthly check and divided the money she withdrew into her envelopes with which she controlled the family finances (Dad wrote the checks for bills paid that way). The “big” grocery shopping was a monthly affair, and sometimes the last week of the month had lots of pasta or potatoes. (It goes without saying that the sugared cereals were all consumed early in the month and the Cherrios and Corn Flakes were the end-of-month fare).

Mom was the family chauffer; she was the interface with the schools, the doctors, the neighbors. She taught us to clean our rooms, to wash the dishes, to paint the walls; she taught my sisters to sew; she baked bread and made real home-cooked meals. She was the head of the house when Dad was not there – not only during working hours, but also during long business trips that took him out of town. She was the chief disciplinarian, and we quickly knew if we had run afoul of her wishes.

As I observe my lovely wife, also a stay-at-home mom, I am amazed at all the things my mother must have done that I did not know at the time, the weight she carried on her shoulders constantly. I now understand because I have some sense of the things my wife does and the weight she carries on her shoulders – weight that does not sleep. It is way more than housework. It is even more than homemaking. It is mothering.

I stand in awe of women I know who work full time and have children at home. I frankly do not know how they do it, and I can only imagine that they must make tradeoffs about what they do and don’t do for their homes and for their families and for themselves. I don’t believe for a minute that those choices are simple for any of them.

Of course, I write this as an outsider. I am not a mom. I am a loving dad. Yes, I provide financial support to my family (and I count myself fortunate that I can). I pay for the house and the clothes that protect them (and the phone with which I would call 911 for further protection). But I also love and support my kids and my wife – their ambitions, their hopes and dreams. But I live in a compartmentalized world. I can leave my family at home and concentrate on work for major portions of my time. I can leave work and concentrate on my church callings or my own entertainment. My wife is not wired that way. She can leave the house, but she does not leave the family behind. It is always with her. We are always on her mind.

So I’m grateful to my working stay-at-home mom. And to my lovely wife who chose to stay home and work there. As my youngest daughter gets older, I’m sure that my wife will do different things than she has done for the last 30 years of parenting. For now, I’m grateful that she works where she does.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Digital vs. Analog Scriptures

My blogging friend MMM has blogged about paper vs. electronic scriptures, and it’s engendered a lot of comments from his faithful readers. I’ve been intrigued by the subject, and I’m even more intrigued by my own behavior.

Until December 26, 2011, I was a dyed-in-the-wool, paper-only, don’t-take-that-quad-away-from-me scripture reader. I proudly carried my little brick (my eyes are still good enough to use the “standard” format) with me to church each week, to family scripture study and to my personal study and lesson preparation.

On December 26, 2011, my world changed, scripturally speaking. Santa brought my wife a Kindle Fire for Christmas, and I liked hers so much that I went out and bought one for myself on December 26. (My lovely wife hid her annoyance at my doing this, for which I continue to be thankful.) I found the Kindle Fire easy to use, easy to read, and it was super-easy for me to mark, bookmark, cross-reference and study the scriptures. I have not turned back.

This surprises me for several reasons:

1. A number of years ago, our stake president told me he’d been counseled by a visiting authority to get new scriptures every couple of years and start marking them anew. The visiting authority held that by using scriptures with old marking (and I’m paraphrasing what I remember my SP’s saying about the visiting authority said, so I might be getting this a little wrong), we rely on old learnings. By marking a fresh set of scriptures we see things with new eyes and we will notice things we did not see before. Even as I was formulating how I could say how silly I thought that was, my SP told me he wasn’t really thrilled by the counsel, and how he was very slow to follow it (a highly unusual move for him, by the way). That is until he lost his scriptures a few weeks later and had to buy a new set. And then he found what the visiting authority had said was true: he was learning new things, seeing things in a new light, as he studied his new set of scriptures. I heard all that and still didn’t trade in my well-worn scriptures for a new set.

2. I’m not a real technophile. I mean, I like my computer and my cell phone, but I don’t have a cell phone data plan, and my phone theoretically has texting capability, but I rarely use it. I don’t want my e-mail in my pocket, frankly. And I don’t feel a need for universal connectivity. And I really don’t want to try to read scriptures or lessons on my cell phone – the screen is just too small for me.

3. I love books. I like going to my public library and browsing the stacks. I like buying books at the airport and reading them on planes. I even found an English bookstore in Shanghai a couple of years ago when I was there on an extended trip so I could find some new books to read. I like the feel of paper in my fingers and the sense of progress as I see my bookmark move through the book over time. It’s not that I just like reading, but I like the books I read, too.

Given all of that, I would not have expected to flip almost instantly to an electronic scripture-studier. And yet I have. I have the very simple and free download of LDS Gospel Library (the free one from the Kindle App store). It allows me to mark in multiple colors, to write notes, and (once I figure out how to do it) to save them to my LDS account. I can slip my Kindle Fire into my suit coat pocket when I go to church. And, like my stake president, I’m finding that visiting authority’s counsel is true: I’m seeing many new things in the scriptures; I’m reading them in a different light since I’m marking them for the first time. Yes, I could play Angry Birds or surf the web during class if I wanted to, but I don’t. I am an adult, after all, and I can make choices about how I behave.

That said, we still encourage our kids (who do not have electronic scriptures; they will get them when they pay for them themselves) to bring their scripture bricks to church and to family scripture study. We encourage them to mark them and to cross reference them. Our son uses paper scriptures in seminary (and has memorized the scripture mastery scriptures). Our kids would love to play with our Kindle Fires during church, but we don’t let them. We are adults, after all, and we can make choices about how we behave.

I substitute in my son’s Sunday School class from time to time. (His teacher tells me I’m the preferred substitute of the class, for everyone except son, that is, who would probably rather have anyone but me there.) I teach with my Kindle Fire in hand. Some of the students have paper scriptures and some (whose parents think differently than we do) have electronic ones. Those with electronic ones sometimes do other things with their electronic devices. Of course, in this group of 15-year olds, there is a pretty constant undercurrent of other things going on, whether it’s a running commentary on the lesson, on whatever else in on their minds, or what is on someone’s electronic device. Because I am a substitute, I do not demand silence. I believe as a teacher I need to earn their attention. Yes, the electronics make that more challenging, and if I were their regular teacher, I might take a different approach.

(I’ve actually had an idea while writing this post that I’ll try when I substitute next Sunday. I think I’ll put a table in the room where we have class, and ask all the student to put their scriptures (electronic and otherwise) flat on the table in front of them. That way I’ll be able to see whether they are staying in the scriptures or not. Of course, whether their minds are in their scriptures or not is another matter, and I won’t be able to see that…)

Our Young Women’s presidency does a cool thing. They have a wicker basket at the door of YW meetings (Sunday and mid-week) which is labeled “Basket of Worldly Cares.” They invite the YW to put all their electronics (and any other distractions) in the basket at the beginning of YW and to retrieve them at the end. That way, the YW can concentrate on face-to-face communication during the YW class or activity. That’s a great idea.

In a recent stake youth fireside, they posted signs at the entrances inviting the kids to leave their electronics put away. The stake YM president explained that they would not need to be checking scripture references during the meeting, and therefore there was no need for any electronics of any kind in the meeting. That worked for that meeting, too.

Personally, I don’t think the answer is to keep electronics away from our kids forever. It is to teach them how to use them and how to learn to turn them off when the time is right. In our home (and we are not a model of all that is right and good, but I can only tell you what we do), the kids sometimes have to take time away from screens – any screens (TV, computer, cell phone, laptop, video games…), and typically when they can use screens, it’s for a limited time and often a specific purpose. They’ve come to accept our approach (though, being kids, they try to get around our guidelines all the time), and I even heard my 15-year old complain the other day that he’d spent too much time on screens and wanted less screen time the next day. That’s a start to his learning to sort that out for himself.

To my fellow congregants, I hope you won’t judge me for using my electronic scriptures. Although I can assure you I’m not playing Angry Birds (I really don’t like Angry Birds, anyway…), it shouldn’t matter to you if I am.

What’s your experience with electronic scriptures?

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Big One

Like others, I tend to see themes-for-me in conference. As I’ve blogged before, I took a couple of specific questions into conference with me. Those questions had me listening particularly closely for messages that had to do with how I related to my family.

In the spirit of listening for multiple messages (see here), I paid particular attention to repeated calls (to me and me alone) to be a better parent, and counsel about how I might do that. (I say to me and me alone for two reasons: First, President Uchtdorf told me I can’t judge anyone else; Second, my stewardship is my stewardship, not someone else’s, so of course the counsel I get will be for me.)

Here are some lessons I learned about my relationship with my family:

1. Elder Packer reminded me that a child is a nation, which means, I think, that a child represents all who come after him. He’s not the only one to suggest that when we save a child we may also save the subsequent generations that follow him, too. It’s a big responsibility.

2. Sister Esplin reminded me that I need to teach my children in love; I need to let the Spirit teach them. Frankly, in my 30 years of fatherhood, I’m not sure I’ve paid nearly enough attention to allowing the Spirit to teach my children, and I’ll be giving a lot of thought and prayer to how to do that.

3. Elder Koelliker taught me that I can help awaken in my children the desire in their hearts to know gospel truths. I have prayed for this often in my years as a parent. I’ll be looking for more help here, too.

4. President Eyring was clear: I must lead in saving my own family. It’s part of my role as a father and a priesthood holder. There are others who will help me, but I must take the lead. And I must do it using the principles of D&C 121.

5. Sister Beck reminded me that my wife has power and authority. There’s great value in my remembering that, especially in connection with #4.

6. As Elder Ballard talked about reforming our homes, I found myself thinking of ways I can reform mine. And how I can enlist the help of those who live there in that effort.

7. I need a vision for my family. Thanks, Elder Halek for that counsel. It’s not that I haven’t had a vision for my family before – or at least hopes and dreams – but I’ve never thought about it in this way. I don’t yet know what that vision is, but it will be the subject of continued pondering and prayer.

8. I cannot compel my children against their agency. Elder Wilson’s story at the beginning of his talk reminded me of something my father taught me when I was very young: having the priesthood does not grant a man the right to command anyone. That I cannot compel my children against their agency is more than counsel not to do it. It just really can’t be done. I wish I had learned that lesson earlier in my life than I did. (More D&C 121 – applicable to dads and moms.)

9. I should fill my home with courtesy and quickly resolve contentions. Thanks for that gentle nudge, President Monson. My take away is not that I should teach my children to do this thing. I should do it. I should lead by example, in love.

This is my mountain. And I’m thankful for it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter celebrations

Happy Easter!

The Easter Bunny does not come to our house. He never has. I don't know why he doesn't seem to know where we live... We will have some Easter candy in the house -- probably a common bowl or basket that everyone can munch on during the day.

Here are some things we'll do Easter weekend, though:

1. An Easter egg hunt -- We usually do this on Saturday afternoon. We'll hide plastic eggs (filled with goodies) in the yard and the kids will find them. The kids are getting older, so we may skip this tradition this year.

2. Resurrection cookies -- These are those cookies you can make while reading selected verses from the New Testament about the crucifixion and resurrection of the Savior. We've done them off and on over the years, but our 11-year-old daughter specifically asked for them this year so we'll do them. (I'm putting a recipe at the bottom of the post in case you don't have one.)

3. John 20 -- My favorite chapter of scripture, bar none. We'll read it aloud as a family on Sunday, probably Sunday morning since we have afternoon church. Quite a number of years ago, we were attending a general conference broadcast one Easter morning when the satellite dish went out. To fill the time, someone suggested we sing hymns, and our bishop asked me to read this chapter in between hymns. It was really moving to me at the time, and it has been a part of my Easter celebration ever since.

4. Enjoy Easter messages at church -- I'm pretty confident this will happen. The first Easter my lovely wife and I were married, we attended our Provo ward only to have the high council speaker begin his talking hoping the Easter Bunny had been good to the children, and then he went on to speak about food storage. Since our present Bishop used to be our ward clerk while I was bishop, he heard me tell that story every year for five years. I'm not saying I'm the reason he's mindful of Easter, but I'm happy he is! I know at least our ward choir will sing my favorite Easter hymn ever, "That Easter Morn."

I hope you have a peaceful Easter weekend, and that you are able to reflect on the remarkable miracles of the first Easter.

Here's the cookie recipe. I found this one at Annie's "Resurrection Cookies" Page, but it's just like the typed recipe we have (and saved my typing it again). She does not know the original source of the recipe, and neither do I.

Annie's "Resurrection Cookies" Page
~Also known as Easter Story Cookies~

This is a great recipe to teach your Children the REAL story of Easter. That the Lord Jesus Christ
our Savior is not dead but has Risen. We serve a Risen Savior......

This activity can be done as a "family" or for Sunday School. Of course the Sunday School option might
be to hand it out to the class with a note to the parents. Grandparents might considering
doing this with their grandchildren this year too!!!

So Grab your Apron and Let's Get Started!!!!!!!

You will need:
1 cup whole pecans
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
a pinch salt
1 cup sugar
a zipper baggy
1 wooden spoon
scotch tape

These are to be made the evening before Easter. Preheat oven to 300F.
*** (this is very important --- don't wait until you are half done with the recipe).
Place pecans in zipper baggy and let children beat them with the wooden spoon
to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested. He
was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read: John 19:1-3

Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 teaspoon vinegar into mixing bowl.
Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross He was given vinegar
to drink. Read: John 19:28-30

Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life
to give us life. Read: John 10:10&11

Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest
into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers,
and the bitterness of our own sin. Read: Luke 23:27

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 cup sugar. Explain that the
sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to
know and belong to Him. Read: Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed.
Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins
have been cleansed by Jesus. Read: Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3

Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper covered cookie sheet.
Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid.
Read: Matthew 27:57-60

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF.

Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door.
Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read: Matthew 27:65-66


Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight.
Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read: John 16:20&22

On Resurrection Sunday (Easter) morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked
surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed
to find the tomb open and empty. Read: Matthew 28:1-9


Thursday, April 5, 2012

You can say that again!

On my mission, I was really impressed by a talk given in a zone conference by Elder Theodore M. Burton of the Seventy. (Regular readers will know I’ve referenced this talk before.)

One of the concepts he taught was that when we find repeated messages in the scriptures, it’s worth sitting up and taking notice. He suggested that when the Lord repeats himself through his prophets, the result is something that probably more important an obscure part of a verse in Habakkuk.

There’s another scripture study tool I learned before my mission. My Book of Mormon instructor my freshman year (a Brother Anderson, but I don’t know more than that, except that he had been my sister’s bishop and later served as president of the Tokyo Temple) taught us to write personal applications for what we’ve read.

I thought about both of those things as I listened to General Conference this past weekend. Here are a few of the repeat messages I heard. I’m sure there are more, and I invite you to share some of your own in the comments if you like.

1. I should stop judging others (period) – Both President Uchtdorf and Elder Cook taught this.

2. I will understand the blessings of holding the priesthood by serving others – Elder Bednar, President Uchtdorf and President Monson taught me this.

3. The Lord understands the burdens I carry and he can make them lighter – President Eyring, Elder Rasband, Elder Baxter and Elder Perry.

4. I can prepare myself better to receive personal revelation; I can listen more carefully and record the inspiration I receive – Elder Pieper and Elder Scott.

5. And, related to #4, I can improve my personal scripture study – Elder Scott, Elder Cook, Elder Christofferson.

There’s another very large theme that I took away from conference, but I’ll do a post on that one separately.

Conference is, as I suggested in Monday’s post, a wonderful thing to me. But I also feel like I’ve been handed a mountain. Thankfully, President Eyring reminded me that’s ok. I’m grateful for repeated messages that speak to my own needs.

When I begin to feel a little overwhelmed by my new “to be” list as a result of conference, I’m heartened by what Elder Anderson taught: Discipleship is a lifelong migration. Wherever I am on the road to discipleship, it is good to be on that road.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I've got questions. They've got answers

Just a quick post today.

I mentioned in my pre-conference post that I was, for the first time that I can remember, taking specific questions into conference with me. I told you I'd report back what happened.

Well, Saturday Morning and Priesthood, that's what.

I'm still not telling you what my questions were.

(My 11-year old shared her questions with me, but I refused to share mine with her. I told her maybe one of my questions was about her... Mine weren't about her (and I told her that), by the way, but I also didn't feel comfortable sharing them with her last night when she asked. But we did both observe that we did receive answers to our questions, and that was important to her.)

My questions were very specific, and the answers were, too. Some were frighteningly specific (frightening because of the work ahead of me).

I'll blog more on conference later, but I'll add this:

As usual I took notes on each talk. Last night my lovely wife and I discussed our impressions and what things we ought to begin to think about for our family as a result. It was, frankly, not a completely easy conversation. The work of gospel living is not always easy for me, especially when I see my shortcomings as clearly as in the light of a conference weekend.

But from my notes I've generated a bit of a punch list for myself (no, that's not a list that gives my 15-year old license to punch me; it's a stepped-up to-do/to-consider/to-meditate list).

I have plenty to do.