Monday, November 18, 2013

What of the Ninety and Nine?

As my final blog post, I wanted to include the text of the letter I read in Sacrament meeting. While it is impossible to adequately capture the torrent of emotions that come from being released, I tried to summarize our almost four-years experience into a short one-page letter.

Please understand how very much Sister Heiss and I grew to love each one of you. You are a light in our lives that will never dim. With the power of social media, it will be simple to stay in touch in the short and long term. Please keep us posted on the great things you will accomplish.

We love you all very much.

                                                                            Sunday, November 17,  2013                      
Dear Amy:
It seems odd that I would use my last opportunity to address my ward from this pulpit by reading a letter to you. Odd, because you are not a member of this ward. In fact, we only recently became acquainted as you and Scott participated in my marriage prep discussions.

So, why read a letter to you on this of all Sundays?

Well, in the short time we have known each other, I see in this relationship a microcosm of the miracle of this ward. So though I am writing a letter to you, I am really writing a letter to all ward members --past and present.  

One of the most intimidating aspects of being a Bishop is the amount of trust ward members afforded me without even knowing who I am. I realize it is the office of Bishop that they trust and not so much in me as a person. But the key to working successfully with people is transforming that automatic trust to a more personal trust.

As we met together, I saw your trust in my calling quickly change to a personal trust. It is so strange how that happened but I sincerely appreciated it. You had no need to trust me. I was not your Bishop. Still, you trusted. This miracle happened repeatedly as I worked with my ward members. I feel this personal trust was the direct result of you feeling genuinely loved.

My guess is that throughout your life you did all those things that were expected of you. Because of your goodness, most priesthood and young women leaders worried less about you than they did about others; hence, your needs, which were real, were mostly ignored.

For the most part this probably didn't bother you. But over time, this benign neglect as a result of your good choices left you on the periphery. Leaders will say that they were following Christ’s example and leaving the ninety and nine to seek after the one. I do not agree with that. True, there are times when extra effort must be devoted to those who wander, but what about the ninety and nine?

We learn in Isaiah 53:6 we are all like sheep and we all go astray, everyone to his own way. This verse became the genesis of a grand experiment I performed in the laboratory of this ward. What would happen if all ward members were treated with special attention? What if I assumed that none were of the ninety and nine?

It took time to develop this idea, but through you, I saw that we had truly accomplished this goal. You were able to develop that personal trust in me, because you felt loved. Through small and simple acts of kindness, be it a cheer note, a sincere compliment, a heart to heart conversation, or just a smile, the miracle of this ward was manifest in the love and community we have enjoyed and still enjoy to this day.

As I have often said, we are all in leaky boats on the ocean of mortality. At times we need others to help us stay afloat. Sometimes others need us to keep them afloat. The key to our success in mortality is our ability to love (by helping others bail out their boats) and to be loved (by allowing others to help us bail out our boats).

Thank you, Amy, for allowing us to love you.


Reid Heiss

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We Can Do Better

We Can Do Better
I am once again deeply concerned about the social media posting that has been so bitter during this current political crisis. I raised this concern over a year ago when we faced a hard-fought election season and challenged ward members not to get caught up in the lack of civility that was so prevalent. I was deeply impressed that ward members heeded this challenge and kept their dialog civil.

I feel it is of no small coincidence that two Apostles (Elder Perry and Elder Anderson) reminded us of the importance of the 12th Article of Faith which reads:

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Focus for a minute in the terms “obeying, honoring, and sustain.” Where, in these admonitions, are we encouraged to be rude, close-minded, or disrespectful?

Now add to this the following words from President Hinckley:

Civility is the root of the word civilization. It carries with it the essence of courtesy, politeness, and consideration of others. How very much of it we have lost in our contemporary society! All of the education and accomplishments in the world will not count for much unless they are accompanied by marks of gentility, of respect for others, of serving as a good Samaritan, of being men and women who look beyond our own selfish interests to the good of others. Our Fading Civility, June 10, 2008.
In light of these two powerful concepts, let me offer some suggestions.

The height of disrespect, which runs counter to President Hinckley’s counsel, comes in name calling of elected officials. I have seen Face Book posts referring to President Obama a liar, slime ball, dictator, and as Satan incarnate. These irresponsible and childish epithets were found on Face Book pages hosted by members of the Church. In my opinion, when we resort to name calling, we dilute our own voices in the conversation and become nothing more than annoying static.

A sure sign of an impotent argument is when the one framing it insists on absolutes. The minute we assume ours is the only true and living opinion, we become close-minded and are no longer contributors to the political arena. There are no absolutes in politics.

When we blur the lines between our religion and our politics we run the risk of assuming that we speak for God or as God as we pontificate our beliefs. God is not American. He is not a member of any party. While our religiosity can shape our politics, it cannot become our politics.

Please remember this; America is a conversation and not a blunt instrument. The Framers of our Constitution clearly understood that this nation would evolve and change in content and complexity. They purposely left us a document and political process that could ebb and flow with those changes. 

The best way to join that conversation is to integrate President Hinckley’s counsel for civility. We all can do better at constantly seeking to obey, honor, and sustain the law.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What is your Balcony


Ward Date Night

To those new in the ward the concept of Ward Date Night may be new. So let me take a minute to explain. 

In reality, Ward Date Night is no different than any other ward activity. We have a committee that plans it. We try to do things that are fun. There is usually food. Most important, it costs you nothing. 

So, if that sounds like a normal ward activity, why do we call it Ward Date Night?

Simple, you all attend this ward activity with a date. 

But how do we do that?

Again, that is simple. The Ward Date Night committee not only plans and executes the activity, they also assign who will be going with whom. Now that may seem like a restriction of your agency. Well, get over it. It is just for an hour or two and there in no pressure to create from this data a lasting relationship. It is just a date, nothing more, nothing less. 

Here is how it works.

1. The Ward Date Night leaders announce when the activity will take place and what we will be doing. 

2. They send around a sign up sheet to get as many of youth sign up as possible. 

3. They personally contact all those who did not sign up to make sure no one was missed.

4. They make sure we have an even number of guys and girls so that each person is actually on a date.

5. They inform the guys who their date will be. 

6. The guys must ask the girls at least three days prior to the activity. 

7. On the day of the activity, the guy picks up the girl and takes her to the activity.

8. When the activity is over, the guy takes the girl home. 

It couldn't be any easier. 

Now, if you are a committed relationship, a commitment you have both agreed upon, you let the Ward Date Night leaders know and they will not assign you a date.

Our first Ward Date Night will be this Saturday. We have reserved the Wlikinson Center bowling ally for just our ward at 10:00 a.m. We have one hour of free bowling. After that hour, we will go upstairs to a room we reserved in the Wlik for some light refreshments. 

I know you are all busy, but this active will take less than two hours on a Saturday. 

Remember, this is a commandment. As it states in D&C 139:1

"Thou shalt all attend Ward Date Night ."

It is hard to argue with scriptures, even those I make up. 

If you are still confused, please see this link from last year to gain greater clarity.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Jesus Wept

image Now I think I better understand the poignancy of these two small words buried deep in John 11.

As you are aware, Jesus wept when he arrived at the home of his dear friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus had been dead for three days and Mary and Martha had been hit hard by this untimely and even preventable tragedy. Upon seeing the pain this death had caused His friends and perhaps struggling to understand His own emotions, Jesus wept.

But why?

More than anyone, Jesus knew the Plan of Salvation. He knew where Lazarus was. Jesus knew that Lazarus’ pain was over. Lazarus had fought a good fight and finished the race. Christ was aware that death is merely a passage way each of us will take in our journey back to that God who gave us life.

Yet, He wept. Despite all that He knew and despite who He was, Jesus wept.


Biblical scholars all have their insights into this seemingly strange reaction. But having just gone through the death of a dear friend, I think I have an explanation -- at least one that suits my current needs.

I am on firm doctrinal ground when I state that Christ, as a mortal, had to experience the full onslaught of the human experience in order to qualify to be our advocate to the Father. Yes, the preponderance of this suffering could only come through His atoning experience, that much is for sure. But a critical part of His ability to heal our pain and dry our tears comes from what He experienced during His own life.

image I am convinced that Jesus wept because this may have been the first time He experienced death so closely. He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He told his apostles this well before they arrived. But the theory of death is always much simpler to understand that the reality of death.

I feel Jesus wept because of His great love for Lazarus. Add to this the deep mourning of  Mary and Martha whom He loved as well. He wept because He grieved the untimely death of a good friend. He wept because the death of a loved one is hard.

image But, there is hope even amidst the pain. For Christ, during this same experience stated the only words that can bring peace to a grieving soul:

I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.

Our family will miss our dear friend Dorothy Gillespie. We will grieve. We will weep. But we have hope that though she is dead, yet shall she live.

I thank each of you for your words of support and prayers during this difficult time.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Trojan Horses

image Growing up, one of my all-time favorite stories from Greek mythology was the tale of the Trojan Horse. As you may recall, Greece was in a lengthy 10 year war with Troy. The Greeks had besieged the city of Troy but the war drug on with no end in sight.

In a bold act of desperation, the Greek army constructed a beautiful wooden horse to offer the people of Troy as a gift of the city’s bravery and tenacity in their ability to hold out against the seemingly overpowering military

After completing the horse, the Greek invaders wheeled it up to the city gate, marched down to the sea,  boarded their ships, and the entire army sailed back home. Or so it seemed. Little did the people of Troy know that hidden within this wonderful “gift” was a number of Greek soldiers.

The people of Troy celebrated their hard fought victory -- a celebration that likely included wine flowing freely late into the night. Unconcerned about an entirely inebriated populous, the people partied until all were in a deep, drunken sleep.

image In the cover of darkness, the men inside the horse crept out and opened all the city gates to the Greek army that had secretly returned. In a matter of minutes, the magnificent city of Troy fell to the invading army – a city that defiantly withstood that same army for years.

While it is disputed if these events ever really happened, story teaches us some important lessons. Throughout our lives we will all face a myriad of personal Trojan Horses. By that I mean we will be tempted to let down our guard to something that seems so innocent only to become easy prey to forces that wish to destroy us. Let me enumerate a few such personal Trojan Horses.

image Honesty is a virtue we all wish to possess but it can be misused. I am convinced that honesty devoid of kindness is nothing more the rudeness hidden inside a Trojan Horse. We must be ever vigilant in how we say things to others because words really do count. James called the tongue “a little member that boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth” (James 3:5).

Sensitivity is a better companion to honesty. We must refrain from using honesty as a weapon. This is especially true with your roommates and friends. To be honest without sensitivity is, in my opinion, a sign of immaturity. It may have worked in High School, but it does not bode well in the adult world.

image Another Trojan Horse is the incessant need to be right. Yes, this is a paradox. We are taught to be right in all that we do. I am not talking about doing right. Rather, I am talking about setting ourselves apart as the fountain of all knowledge. When our opinions or our practices become absolute in our minds, our only course of action is to diminish those who think differently. This is not a Christ-like attribute. Tolerance must replace our desire to prove to the world the we are right.

image Being too casual among others is one of the tricky Trojan Horses. We live a very casual society. But being casual too easily leads to gross and indecent behavior. Conversations about body functions, body parts, and bodily fluids, will initially be funny but do little to bring one closer to Christ. Yes, like a Trojan Horse, such juvenile behavior seems innocent on the outside, but inside the deception of casualness is a festering pool of disrespect and lewdness that we need not entertain.

image A final Trojan Horse I wish to comment on is that of physical intimacy. In a developing relationship, physical intimacy has its place. (Yes, I struggle to say that.) When properly used it can create a bond between a couple and provide clarity in a relationship. However, when used as a form of conquest, meaning such expressions are merely a tool to satisfy a selfish desire or to boast of one’s own powers, you cheapen the experience.

I am convinced that God is not pleased when we become casual with the tender feelings of others. The prophet Jacob warned the Nephites to respect the tender feelings of others. I feel a cavalier attitude toward physical intimacy is nothing more the a Trojan Horse that will lead to hurt and confusion.

These are just a sampling of potential personal Trojan Horses. As always, I am open to a vigorous and lively debate.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What’s Love?

image I have been in this calling for a long time and have seen trends that are consistent even when ward membership changes so dramatically from year to year. One of those consistent trends is a discussion of love. This makes total sense. We are, after all, a singles ward. Many members are meeting their future spouses while living within our boundaries. So it comes as no surprise that I am often asked to help people come to understand love.

Now, of course, there are many meanings to the word love. I have no intention to try to delineate love and its different expressions. My aim to provide you greater clarity on the type of love necessary to gently push a budding relationship towards marriage.

image To start out, let me explain what I feel is the facade of love. By facade, I mean it has all the trappings of love. It looks and feels like love. But, scratch beneath the surface and there is really nothing there. Hence, it is called a facade.

image The facade of love is best expressed in the giddy feelings that come when you think about, dream about, or are even in the presence of that person you think you are in love with. This feeling was best descried by Thumper in Disney’s Bambi, as twiderpation. The more mature word to use is infatuation. Contrary to popular opinion, this emotional turmoil is not love.

While it is true that infatuation may lead to love. This transition from the facade to the substance of love has lead many potentially great relationships to break up for no good reason. Too often, I have seen great relationship end up in heartbreak when one or both people feel the spark is gone or that they are not feeling it.

Now, I will admit that couples have the right to explore a relationship and determine if it is right. This is a vital part of your current social situation. You are not meant to marry everyone you meet. But if your sole reason for questioning the potential of a relationship is simply because the infatuation is over, then I question your motives.

Married couples cannot sustain an infatuated relationship. It would kill them in a week. Married couples must quickly learn that love is more than an all consuming feeling. Rather, love a journey that two people take requiring their best effort everyday. It evolves, it changes, and it deepens over time.

image The problem many of you face is that you judge the love you need to marry someone by a benchmark that is not allotted you at this time in your life. Many of you look to your parents or to beloved leaders as an example of the type of relationship you want before you enter into marriage.

This is unrealistic. Those relationships you look at as being the definition of love only came after years, if not decades of hard work, constant nurturing, and massive personal changes. You don’t get that at this time of your life. Instead, you get the confused, muddled, and even down right frightening version of that all consuming emotion called love.

image As I have explained to many of you, Alma’s lecture on faith is a perfect recipe for understanding love. He teaches that faith is to be compared to a seed. When you first plant it, if it is a good seed, you will feel stirrings. Soon, a seedling appears. If you are not careful, you will find yourselves rejoicing at the seedling but neglecting its care. In a short amount of time, the seedling will wither and die. Why? Because it was not nurtured. Faith cannot grow without constant nurturing.

I feel faith is nothing more than a relationship with God. So Alma is talking about how relationships work. Infatuation is the stirrings that let us know a relationship may work. Once that seedling of love appears, the work of love begins. At this point, the infatuation is over. It is the work of love that causes great couples to shy away from that seedling and look elsewhere. The problem with that is if they walk away because of the work, then they will likely find that same problem with the next relationship.

This is why I feel love is misunderstood. Love is not so much a feeling as it as an opportunity to work.

What do you think?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Our Strengths Can Become Our Weaknesses

image  King Sisyphus prided himself on his cleverness. Any why not, he was a very clever man. So much so that when Thanatos, the god of death, came a calling to chain this clever king on the banks of the river Styx, in preparation for his final journey to the underworld, Sisyphus was able to trick Thanatos into chaining himself.

imageThe gods were not impressed. They likely enjoyed clever people, but when Sisyphus used his strength to control or coerce, the gods turned the table. Zeus decreed that Sisyphus would spend eternity pushing a large heavy boulder to the top of the mountain. His punishment would end once both he and the boulder reached the top.

As soon as Sisyphus got close to the summit, Zeus would cause the boulder to roll back to the bottom of the mountain. I would call that eternal frustration.

Clever? Well, if you are Zeus, then yes. If you are Sisyphus, you have all eternity to wonder how your strength became your weakness.

image In a speech given by Elder Oaks at BYU, he spoke on how we can fall into similar traps. He gave several examples of strengths, many of us have or some of us desire, becoming nothing more than a boulder reluctant to reach the top of a mountain.

With today being Sunday and the weather being hot, I encourage each of you to read this great talk and let me know your thoughts.

Have a great Sunday and apologize to Br. Sikahema for me posting this during Sacrament meeting.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Understanding Consequences

image The emotional pain had to be intense, more intense than Alma and Amulek could have possibly imagined. There they stood on the edge of the fiery pit in Ammonihah watching their recent converts - women and children they dearly loved - being tossed into the biting flames where all these victims could do was pray for a rapid death.


Why did God require Alma to watch this when clearly Alma had the power to make stop? That was Amulek’s question. It was Alma’s question as well. Alma did not clearly understand the purpose. His best guess was that God allowed the wicked people to cause so much unnecessary pain to justify the awful destruction that awaited the perpetrators.

Alma may have been right. Ammonihah was destroyed and all its inhabitants were eventually killed.But I think there was a much deeper purpose to this senseless slaughter. A purpose that Alma was not comfortable expressing, nor did he likely understand at the time of the massacre.

image Let’s go back several years to a time when Alma was one of those who would have gladly thrown these women in children into that fiery pit. Mormon, looking backwards, labeled Alma and his cohorts as the vilest of sinners. They were young men who caused more harm, more pain to more people over a longer period of time than the torturers at Ammonihah.

As we know, even after being such vile sinners, Alma and his friends were all completely forgiven. So much so that they all became mighty men of God - even prophets. Yet even while they were freed from the burden of their past sins, I am convinced that God needed them to bear the consequences of those sins for years to come.

To be sure, the days, weeks, and months after their miraculous conversions, Alma and his friends had to face the family, friends, indeed the whole church, they had hurt during their rebellious years.That had to be difficult. In fact, I feel it was so hard to overcome the mistrust and emotional drain of having to face the victims and their families, that the Sons of Mosiah felt it would be better to live among the Lamanites.

image But some sins, even when we are completely freed from them, still require us to go through consequences. Sometimes those consequences may be delayed by years. This, I feel, is why Alma was constrained by the spirit to stop the killing at Ammonihah.

For the first time in his life, as he watch those whom he loved suffer in those awful flames, Alma finally understood the pain he had caused so many during his season of sin. As he looked at the suffering faces of each woman and child who died in those flames, Alma could finally truly empathize with victims and their families.

image This is a vital lesson for each us. We are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. Yet we need never fear that our sins are so serious that there is no path back. We can all be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God. Never doubt the enabling and healing power of the atonement.

However, we must be willing to accept that consequences are separate from being healed. Alma and his friends were all cleansed from their vile sins. But they still had to bear consequences. For each of them, the brunt of these consequences were delayed.

image I encourage each of you to never allow the consequences to cloud the healing power of the atonement. Consequences have nothing to do with cleanliness. They are just consequences. Also, never fear allowing God to lift your burden even if the consequences of the repentance process frighten you.

You can be clean. You will be clean. You must trust God. He loves you and will succor, or run towards you, when you need Him the most.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Call for an Open Discussion

image In Young Single Adult wards challenges seem to wax and wane. At times it feels as though all is well in Zion. Then, without warning, it feels as though a tsunami of challenges plaque the ward. Of course, neither is true. Mortality provides us a constant arena of triumphs and tragedies.

So it is with this ward.

image Because of alarming trends I have been monitoring, I would like to create an open forum for any who desire to participate. To better target this discussion, I ask each of you to watch this video.

Think about its message and share with me your insights. Feel free to post your comments on the blog, on Face Book, through a text, or an a-mail.

I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Building Confidence

The following is a message from Kaylie Sikahema.

image Being a woman in today’s world can be confusing, and difficult to navigate. We hear from hundreds of sources what our role in society is, and what gender has to do with that role.

image On one end of the spectrum we have women objectified and treated as though they were only values by their bodies and appearances. On the other end of the spectrum, we are told to completely reject the natural differences between men and women, and expect total and complete sameness, and nothing less.

Obviously most individuals don’t occupy either of these two extremes, but often, we as women do place ourselves somewhere on the edge of these extremes; whether it is being overly concerned with our image and comparing ourselves with the images of others, or whether it is feeling the angst of women full of femininity.

image Let me be clear, I do not feel femininity itself is a bad thing. Yes, it can lead to ideas, feelings, and images that are more harmful to women then helpful. I’ve been in both of these places, so I guess that’s why I feel okay talking about it.

But here’s the thing I want you to know about the breadth of this spectrum. Each of us must work to find a happy medium.

It is good to learn how to take care of your body and present yourself in a nicely dressed, well groomed way without becoming obsessed with the materialism of it or objectifying yourself. It is also good to know that, yes, women are equal to men and that, yes, we deserve to be treated fairly and with respect in any scenario without expecting to be men.

Emily and I are writing these posts at the Bishop’s request. He feels that some in this ward, both men and women, may struggle with purpose, presentation, and perception of femininity.

Bishop referred specifically to girls who want to pursue marriage, but just feel like they are constantly “one of the guys.” However, I think that the misperception of femininity goes beyond that; I think every single woman in the church can relate to the difficulty of defining herself as a woman, and what and who that woman is supposed to be.

But here’s my thing, girls.

image There is always going to be another argument. There is always going to be a spectrum to gauge. There are always going to be things to distract, degrade, and deface you. Satan himself is working so arduously at this very thing. You may have heard Sister Dalton this morning. (And if you didn’t, for heaven’s sake go listen to that talk!!) Women have power. Power we don’t even know we are capable of. And Satan knows it.


My take on all of this? My advice?

image Pray.

If you want to be more feminine, more attractive to your future eternal companion, tell Heavenly Father. If you want to struggle less with the angst of femininity, if you want to feel more peace about your place in God’s kingdom -- pray. If you are sick of being “one of the guys” and you want to be seen for the beautiful daughter of God that you are-- pray. Forget about the spectrum for a minute. Forget about the world’s definitions, and expectations, turn to the one who knows you best. He has promised to help you.

And then after you pray?

image Study.

Open your heart to the scriptures, and I promise you the Holy Spirit will lead you to specific insights about the minor course corrections you can make to confidently define yourself as a daughter of God. God will help you to learn what things you can do, what small changes you can make to not only be worthy of and ready for one of his valiant sons, but also the changes you can make to recognize the beautiful woman of God He wants you to become.

image I wish I could give you some specific things you could do, I wish I could just sit you down and tell every single one of you how incredible you are, I wish I could just hand you confidence in the fact that you are a daughter of God.

But that’s the beauty of it. I can’t! And because I can’t, you get to seek out a relationship with Him. And by doing so, you get to divinely define yourself in a way that no worldly endeavor possibly could.

However, I do believe that we have the ability and responsibility to learn from each other. So let’s make this a discussion, shall we?

I’m open to responses.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Confessions of a Flawed Zone Leader

I can still remember that day, over 33 years ago, when I got the transfer letter informing me that I was going to be a Zone Leader. This calling truly frightened me. How could I be a Zone Leader?

imageMy doubts came from me constantly fighting against feelings of inadequacies I felt as a District Leader. I thought for sure that when I was made District Leader a magic wand would be waved and all self-doubt and personal struggles would instantly disappear. Well, they didn’t.

imageThere was no magic wand. All the temptations and shortcomings I had as a senior companion, and those I brought with me from before my mission, simply followed me when I became a District Leader. I didn’t expect that. I thought for sure I would be magically transformed into a better person.

But now, being called as Zone Leader, surely God would wave His wand this time. There was no way He could use someone as flawed as I was in such a position.

My guess is that you know how this story ends.

There was no magic wand and once again my flaws followed me to my next calling. In fact, these flaws kept following me until I had the courage to face them head on and was finally willing to do the hard work necessary to allow God to change my heart.

I retell this story to drive home an important point. Too often we think that after having been a missionary we are entitled to be free from all weaknesses that haunted us before and during our missions. This false notion frustrates many returned missionaries when they come home.

image They errantly think that all flaxen cords that once bound them were forever removed from their lives only to painfully discover that most of these annoying cords were sitting there on the bed right where they left them.

What we fail to realize is that a mission is an existence apart from reality. It is a time God grants us to live in a laboratory where challenges and temptations are tightly controlled. Then, when released from that laboratory, those controls are gone and we are inundated with hard dose of reality.

For example, many missionaries who, before their missions, struggled with the plague of pornography, felt confident that they were cured of this curse because they had no problems while serving as a missionary. So they come home feeling sure that those struggles are behind them.

Not so. While abstinence from pornography will strengthen one, it is not a cure. The cure will only come when that person can fight those strong temptations where access is abundant and not curtailed.

image As we learned from Elder Lund at our last stake conference, the key to being a successful returned missionary comes from understanding that a mission is the beginning of the great journey of life and not the destination.

So what does that mean?

image You served a mission. Congratulations! But now it is time to apply those lessons learned in that laboratory into real life. Here are some simple suggestions:

  • Never assume you are immune to temptations.The sweet siren songs of past successes can easily lull you towards the rocky waters of sin.
  • Never create obstacles to learning. Video games, hobbies, media, and too much leisure time create such obstacles.
  • Never try to recapture the days of your youth. Put your hand to the plow and don’t look back.
  • Never face the turbulence of life alone. If you find yourself facing former temptations, reach out and get help.

There is no magic wand. Coming closer to Christ is a journey not an event.

Monday, February 18, 2013


image The talks on Sunday about different aspects of obedience, as well as President Mullen’s concluding comments opened the door for a boarder discussion about the importance of obeying with exactness.

Please note, this post is not intended to drudge up feelings of guilt or to turn roommates against each other in a quest to rid ourselves of sin.

Quite the contrary, this post is designed to create an atmosphere of dialog and to motivate each of us to look inward to see where we can make the necessary course corrections that will better position us to receive God’s blessings.

image You see, this is the whole point of obedience. God, parents, priesthood leaders, or BYU do not give us commandments to make us miserable. Rather, these commandments provide us a means to be happy. Once we make that transition from seeing rule as an irritant to seeing them as a vehicle to find happiness, then we will truly begin to understand that man is that he might have joy.

So, let’s get to it.

image Each of you signed a contract with Centennial to abide by the BYU Honor Code. Because you signed this contract willingly, you are under a legal and moral obligation to abide by these rules. Failure to comply with these rules may put you at risk academically as well as jeopardize your ability to live at this facility.

Here are some of the rules from the BYU Off-Campus Housing site that apply to each of you while at Centennial:

  • Visitors of the opposite sex are permitted in living rooms and kitchens, but not in the bedrooms in off-campus living units.
  • The use of bathroom areas by members of the opposite sex is not appropriate unless emergency or civility dictate otherwise and then only if the safety, privacy, and sensitivity of other residents are not jeopardized.
  • Visiting hours may begin after 9:00 a.m. and extend until 12:00 midnight.
  • Friday night visiting hours may extend until 1:30 a.m.
  • Landlords may establish a shorter visiting period within the time frame stated above if proper notice is given to students. This policy applies to all housing units occupied by single students.
  • All students of university-contracted housing are required to know the BYU dress and grooming standards and abide by them.

image Some may see these rules as arcane and unnecessary. Others may feel that such restrictive policies simply invite rule breaking. Still others may feel that the inability to consistently enforce there rules make them nothing more than a facade.

While these all may be true, but if this is your attitude, you fail to understand two concepts.

First, you signed the contract. That means you committed to follow these rules. Open rebellion against these rules is a breach of contract which represents a lack of personal integrity.

Second, when you choose to live in a community, you have willingly sacrifice some of your personal freedoms. A community cannot exist in anarchy. No one has the right to jeopardize the potential positive experience of another person. Rules violations, at any degree, place you on the path to negatively impact the life of another person.

Let’s be honest. No one ever found greater happiness when they purposely violated any of these rules. No relationship was ever improved by breaking the curfew or by going beyond the boundaries within an apartment. No one ever gained greater respect of their peers by dressing or acting immodestly.

I encourage each of you to do the following:

  • Take the time to personally reflect on your attitudes towards these rules.
  • Discuss as an apartment how to help each other do better to live by these rules
  • Make the necessary course correction to position yourself to receive the joy that comes from obeying with exactness.

I look forward to your comments.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Art of Listening

image As we all work harder to be more inclusive in our circle of friends to make sure there are no more strangers in the ward, we need to make work harder to improve our listening skills. The foundation of great communication is built upon a listening ear.

So, what can we do to improve our listening skills? Here are some easy suggestions:

1. Ask sincere questions. Let’s be honest, there really is such a thing as a dumb question. I would say a dumb question is one where you really don’t care about the answer, you simply used the question to fill a void.

image We need to view questions as a treasure map. Questions provide us clues to help us get to know that person with whom you are conversing. So tailor your conversations to give the other person an opportunity to help you get to know them better.

2. Carefully note how your questions are answered. Yes, as you seek to get to know someone better you run the risk of asking something that is too personal. This is not a disaster unless you fail to catch on.

image For example, it is typically non-threatening to ask about someone’s family. But let’s assume the person you are trying to get to know just heard that his or her parent’s separated.Well, now a normal question has the potential stir up some raw emotions.

The sensitive person will notice the difficulty of the situation and try to steer the conversation a different direction.

image 4. Don’t be an expert. When trying to create an atmosphere of open communication, it is frustrating when you automatically assume the role of expert on each topic. No one wants to be around someone who knows everything.

Instead of being an expert, seek to understand why the other person feels the way they do. You don’t have to agree with them. But it is not a good idea to always make your disagreements known.

image 4. Verify that you clearly understood the answer. Before you assume you understood what someone just said, take the time to verify that you really understood. Sometimes people don’t communicate clearly. Sometimes we don’t listen completely. It is better to ask for clarification than to assume you understood and do the exact opposite of the person expected.

image 5. Find a way to incorporate what you learned in the relationship. When you discover small nuggets of information, look for ways to meet the other person’s needs by providing them something they mentioned in the conversation. This small act of kindness will go a long way to improve a friendship.

None of this stuff is hard. Just listen.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

No More Strangers…

image One of the great challenges facing Christ’s early church was overcoming the natural and centuries old divisions between Jews and Gentiles. After Peter received the revelation that Gentiles had as much right to join the Church as did Jews, the stage was set for conflict. As the Apostle Paul was the foremost missionary to the Gentile nations, we see this division through his eyes.

Christian congregations in Corinth, Thessalonica, Galatia, and Rome all struggled to create a sustainable atmosphere of unity. But in Ephesus, the strains caused by this difficult division seemed most prominent. To combat this schism, Paul wrote:

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God… Ephesians 2:19

image This doctrine of unity is extremely important to each of us as we are all part of a ward community. We all come to this community from different backgrounds. We all have different personalities. While we may have the church in common, we still have fundamental differences in how we feel our religion should be practiced. This is normal.

Yet in spite of these differences, we all have one thing in common. We all need each other.

image The problem with friendship in a singles ward is that there is a pervasive feeling that any attempt at friendship between the men and women is simply a prelude to marriage. I want to make it clear that I view this cultural constraint on friendship to be abhorrent. So much so that I think this oppressive pressure to marry is one of the greatest obstacles to the sense of community we all need to be fellow citizens with the saints.

My goal for this ward is simple. I hope that each member in this ward could go to any apartment or spend time with any ward member and feel sincerely accepted and cared for.

Yes, we do have this in abundance. But we can do better. How can we breakdown the remaining walls that make some of us feel like strangers and foreigners and live by Paul’s vision of each of us being fellow citizens with the saints?

image While I do have suggestions, and I have stated them in previous blog posts, I am asking each apartment to come together over this weekend and discuss small and simple things you can do to foster greater unity. Look for small and simple things that can help expand your established circle of friends to include all ward members.

The key to remember is that friendships are more valued when they are sincere and not burdened with hidden agendas.