Relief Society Newsletter

rsLast week I received an e-mail containing the Relief Society’s great newsletter. At first I thought I was being recruited to join these elect ladies. I was ready to send my High Priest resignation to Br. Child and learn the truth behind charity never failing.

But then it occurred to me I got this e-mail not as a request to join these blessed ranks, but to add this newsletter on the ward web site.

So, I deleted my letter of resignation and gladly added this document to the site.

Please click the link below.

rs-newsletter3-3march2017

Advertisements

Reach Down, Reach Out, Reach Up

doldrum1The doldrums are those parts of the great oceans near the equator where the winds are frequently calm.  Sailing ships relying solely on wind power could languish here for days or weeks. Time spent here could push sailors to the brink of insanity.

doldrum2If mortality is a voyage across a vast ocean in a leaky boat, then each of us are sure to encounter the doldrums.

Some possess coping strategies enabling them to recover quickly from these times of discouragement. Others, for whatever reason, languish in hopelessness so that even the joy that comes from discipleship is sucked from their sails.

None of us is immune from the doldrums. But I offer three tools that may help improve coping strategies for when the wind is taken from the sails of our already leaky boats.

These are tools, not cures.

  • Reach down
  • Reach out
  • Reach up

doldrum3Reaching down is accomplished by earnestly striving to find small and simple ways to serve others.

No one needs a calling to serve.

No one needs to be assigned to help another.

There is no act too small or attempt to insignificant while serving others.

A kind and sincere note, a smile, a phone call, or even a prayer are all acts of reaching down.

No act of pure love will ever be wasted.

Reaching down may be the tool we need to cope.

doldrum4Reaching out is difficult.

Too many of us have misguided notions of self-reliance. When we face despair, we retreat and shut people out. Besides, all I need is faith and all my problems will disappear, right?

Wrong!

Isolation from others is one of Satan’s favorite tools to block our happiness. We need the courage to reach out for help. We do not reach out so others can solve our problems. But a burden shared is a burden lifted.

Reaching out is a vital tool to cope. Please, allow us to help.

doldrum5Reaching up is the most courageous and most difficult act. It is the very core of a broken heart and contrite spirit.

I have learned that when I exhaust all avenues for relief, including reaching down and reaching out, there are times when my burdens are so heavy my only option is to reach up to God and say: “I can’t do it. I need Your help.”

Why is this so hard?

Perhaps we view this act of submission as weakness. Maybe we fear that there really is more we could do and we don’t want to burden God.

Burden God?

Yet, such myopic thinking denies us God’s greatest gift — the pure joy that comes from knowing He loves you.

Again, reaching up may not solve the problem.

By yoking yourself with God, allowing Him to show His love, realizing you are never alone can lighten your burden.

Reaching down, reaching out, and reaching up are not cures. But they can be effective tools enabling us to endure.

If we can endure, we have eternal life within our grasps.

 

Leaky Boats

leaky1Several years ago, the Teacher’s quorum from our Orem ward decided to go to Strawberry Reservoir for an overnight fishing trip. This event was planned well.

They had two expert fishermen as part of the adult leadership.

They had adult leaders who were familiar with the area.

They had all the supplies necessary to keep a group of 8 boys and 6 leaders warm, dry, and well fed.

They contacted the harbor at Strawberry months ahead of time to reserve the boats.

This was going to be a great activity.

After setting up camp, the excited group was ready for their first fishing experience. It was to take place as the sunset upon the western shore of the reservoir.

The water was smooth and the fish were hungry.

The group donned their life vests, loaded the boats with their fishing gear, and, to avoid spooking the fish, they all remained as quiet as possible – not an easy task.

leaky2As they got further from the shore, they all noticed that each of their boats had a variety of leaks. They were all taking on significant amounts of water.

Now the fishing trip was transformed into a bailing exercise. They quickly turned the boats towards the shore rowing and bailing as fast as possible to get to land before the boats sank.

Those boats with a crew willing to devote full time to bailing made it back to shore quite easily.

Those boats with a frightened crew that abandoned ship sunk.

leaky3No one was hurt. But this image of these leaky boats has stayed riveted in my mind as a powerful analogy for life.

In my All We Like Sheep post, I commented that looking at this familiar story differently can change how we look at mortality. We are all sinners and we all fall short of the glory of God.

Now I offer my leaky boat analogy to build on this foundation.

I believe mortality is an ocean where each of us is purposely given a leaky boat.

Our task is to navigate these waters without sinking.

At times, we can stay afloat by bailing out our own boat.

At times, we need the help of others to keep our boat from sinking.

At times, we can help others bail their boats even while ours is still taking on water

leaky4The constant of this analogy is that we all need help from a community of fellow-bailers to get through life. None of us can go it alone.

The real tragedy comes when some isolate themselves from the community. They are either unaware that help is so readily available or are too proud to ask for help.

We all have leaky boats. It is so much easier to work together to keep a boat afloat than it is to rescue a boat that has needlessly sunk.

God has purposely placed us on this ocean in leaky boats to teach us to work together to keep us all afloat.

We all need each other.

“All We Like Sheep”

sheep1I have often wondered why God uses sheep as a symbol for His children. As I explored this idea, I came to a strange conclusion. One that dramatically changed how I view mortality.

Since I just invited you on my journey of discovery, let’s first look at the very familiar image of the shepherd leaving the ninety and nine sheep to go after the one who strayed. We have seen different touching images of the smiling Savior walking back to the fold with the newly found sheep draped around his neck.

But what of the ninety and nine who were left behind?

Too often we assume this parable points us to exert all possible effort on the ones who stray. Besides, the ninety are doing exactly what good sheep do. This is a valid interpretation until you combine this parable with the following more realistic passage from Isaiah.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way…

To me, this is a game changer.

sheep2This passage tells me that ALL sheep are prone to stray. All are ready to turn to his or her own way.

Think about images you have of herding sheep. Sheep seem to be averse to following the shepherd. As a result of their natural tendency to stray, herding sheep requires dogs, horses, and many hirelings.

sheep3It appears to me that sheep, more than any other domestic animals, are prone to stray.

With this in mind, let’s return to the ninety and nine.

Sure, they are in the pen at that time. But no good shepherd will ever assume all is well. Some sheep are fine in the pen. Others are roaming around the periphery looking for a way out. Why? Because they are sheep and that is what sheep do.

Each day when the shepherd releases the flock from the pen, the same cycle starts again. Some will wander and need to be rescued. That is the nature of sheep.

Perhaps what we need to learn about the ninety and nine is that we should never assume that simply because people are at the right place at the right time doing the right things, that all is well with them. Maybe God is telling us that we are ALL prone to wander and we ALL need to be rescued.

This is a sobering thought and one that should alter how we think about ourselves and those over whom we have stewardship. I am convinced as soon as we think all is well with our current path or with the paths of our loved ones, we let down our guard and miss the signs that they are straying.

Remember, all sheep stray. That is what they do.

I feel the ninety and nine must be treated with the same level of concern and love as we devote to the ones who stray. Remember the ninety and nine are made up of individuals. Individuals who will soon need to be rescued.

sheep4

 

 

Bob’s Story

bob1Bob came to this world with a series of challenges. He had Asperger’s and as a result, he struggled socially, academically, and spiritually.

This is even more devastating when you live in a BYU student ward filled with people who are actively improving their social, academic, and spiritual skills.

Bob felt out of place.

Yes, the ward rallied around him, but his disability prevented him from accepting their love. 

bob2Bob and I worked together to find some avenue in which he could succeed and that could help him realize his individual worth. We discovered a school that had a year-long program teaching students how to make dental appliances. This skill did not require team work and turned out to be a great fit for Bob’s academic abilities. He excelled in his studies and graduated near the top of his class. 

As he got positive reinforcement from this academic successes, he started to integrate better into the ward.

Success breeds success. 

When he graduated, he immediately found a job and his life seemed to be on a positive trajectory.

But, Bob found it hard to get to work on time.

He couldn’t integrate into the culture.

His work suffered and after many failed attempts to help him succeed, he was fired. 

He came to my office that night was extremely discouraged.

He could not think rationally.

He was not ready to make any future plans.

He was completely devastated.

bob3When he went home, he found a bottle of sleeping pills and swallowed all of them with his roommate watching. His roommate called 911 but Bob refused we get into the ambulance. He did not want to be saved. As soon as Bob was incapacitated, the first responders were able to get him to the ER. 

My wife and I got to the hospital later, after they had pumped Bob’s stomach. When we arrived, he was laying unconscious on the hospital bed. The doctor explained he had high confidence Bob would recover.

I notified Bob’s parents of the events and they made arrangement to take the next flight from Texas to be with Bob when he awoke. Confident that all was well, my wife and I left the hospital. 

About 15 minutes later, I got a call from the ER that Bob had suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of the pills he ingested. They were able to stabilize him but they were unsure if there would be any long-term negative effects. 

Luckily, Bob did not suffer any brain damage.

When he awoke, his parents were there. We all counselled together and decided it would be best for Bob to return home. Once in the refuge of his home, his parents were able to work one-on-one with him. They arranged for a therapist who helped Bob regain some confidence.

Soon, Bob was able to find a new job in his field. But this time, he worked closely with his employer making sure they understood his limitations. 

Now Bob is doing better. Through the support of his family, friends, and therapist, he was able to understand his individual worth. He stayed employed for the long-term and even worked hard to attend the temple.

The key to Bob’s success was when he realized that others loved and cared about him. 

bob4

Jane’s Story

jane1Jane was the heart of my BYU singles ward. She had that rare ability to be lovingly inclusive making even those who sought out the shadows to feel part of the ward. I learned to rely on her to make me aware of those who were suffering silently. Through her assistance, I was able to reach out to those who were on the edge of disaster.

One evening, as I prepared for my interviews, I noticed Jane’s name on the list. This didn’t alarm me as I had an open door policy when it came to interviews.  Many ward members came simply to talk about school, relationships, and future plans.

When Jane entered my office, I could tell something was wrong, very wrong. She sat on the chair across from me and slowly her head bowed until it was resting on my desk. Then she began to sob uncontrollably.

jane2When I was able to get her to talk, she explained that she had been living a lie and could not go on any longer.

Back when she was 15, she committed a sin that she felt is unpardonable. She knew she should have confessed her misdeed to her parents and to her bishop. She wanted to. But she was too afraid. Not because of embarrassment. Rather, because she did not what to hear what she already knew to be true. She knew she was lost and had no chance to live with God again.

As I searched for a way to give her hope, my mind was opened and God allowed me to glimpse beyond the veil to see who Jane really was.

I could see Jane in the pre-mortal life, as a valiant supporter of the Father’s plan. I saw her pleading with her brothers and sisters who had chosen to follow Satan. They rebuffed her and ridiculed her for believing in Christ’s role as Savior.

In spite of their taunts, Jane stood tall among the disciples of Christ. She was one of the noble and great ones.

As this fleeting glimpse into Jane’s past faded, I could hear God saying: “Tell Jane she is forgiven. Remind her that Jesus willingly suffered from all her sins.”

jane3When I told Jane what I had experienced and explained that she was totally forgiven, it was as if the burdens of the world were lifted from off her shoulders. Soon she was sitting upright in the chair beaming with a hope that she had lost so many years ago.

Once she felt the undeniable and overpowering love God had for her, she became a new person, a person willing to love herself so that she was better able to love God and love her neighbors.

A Conversation about Individual Worth

iw1On Sunday, October 30, while the adults were meeting for their fifth Sunday discussion, the youth met combined for a discussion on the same topic – Individual worth.

As the presenter, I wanted to share with the parents how we approached this topic. My goal is to invite a conversation that can help to offset this latter-day plague.

I opened this conversation with the familiar scripture

iw2… thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

After a brief discussion, I had them focus on the concept of loving your neighbor as yourself. I then stated the following:

Our ability to love God and to love our neighbor is heavily influenced by our ability to love ourselves.

I shared with them the following three questions which many youth (and adults) struggle with:

  • Am I worthless?
  • Am I a failure?
  • Do I have value?

To tackle these serious questions, I used the evolution of a Violet Parr, a character from the movie The Incredibles.

iw3At the start of the movie, we meet Violet, a typical teen-age girl who felt ugly, different, and worthless. She is miserable at home and at school.

I connected Violet’s self-doubts with a true story of a girl I called Jane (not her real name) to highlight how this stalwart LDS young woman had reached a nadir in her self-esteem, so much so that she convinced herself she was irredeemable and unlovable. (Click here for her story.)

iw4Next we discussed the idea on being a failure. In the movie, Violet was on a plane with her family that was under attack by missiles.  Violet had the power to create an impenetrable force field around the plane but she doubted her ability. As a result, she failed to protect her family.

I used Violet’s failure to tell them about Bob (not his real name). Bob suffered a devastating failure in his life and as a result he attempted suicide. (Click here for his story.)

At this point, I told the youth that a common thread between both tragic stories, was that neither Jane or Bob felt worthy of God’s love. I explained that God’s love cannot be earned. His love can neither grow nor diminish. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less. He loves us perfectly.

I feel the constancy of God’s love must be the foundation of our relationship with Him and is the key for us to understand our individual worth.

iw5Not wanting to leave the youth with two tragic stories, I concluded my presentation by showing the transition of Violet from feeling she was a worthless failure to becoming a confident young woman Her transition started when her mother expressed love and confidence in Violet, even after her horrific failure. This brief conversation was the catalyst for Violet’s discovery of her individual worth.

I returned to the stories of Jane and Bob and explained that each of them had a similar transitional moment that rescued them for the clutches of their self-esteem crisis. Once Jane and Bob felt valued by others and by God, they were better able to roll up their sleeves and work to discover their individual worth.

At the end of the presentation, I shared with them the video from President Uchtdorf about our individual worth.

iw8