Kids Sacred Grove

We teach our kids a lot of stuff. Saturday I taught my youngest how to trim some bushes with a hedge trimmer. Last night I taught him about Neil Peart. If you think about it, we are constantly teaching our kids new stuff.

This past week I saw a conversation where the question was asked, “What is the most important thing you can teach your kids?” We have given a lot of thought to that question over the years as parents, and we know what our answer is.

It isn’t to have them love their neighbor,. It isn’t for them to have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. It isn’t even for them to have a personal relationship with the Savior – even though all of these things are terrific and important. Our answer is based on a warning the Lord gave the saints in 1831.

“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” (D&C 68:25)

Yikes. Pretty direct. The Lord wants us to teach our kids the first 4 principles of the Gospel.

  1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  2. Repentance
  3. Baptism
  4. Gift of the Holy Ghost

Well, one of those items is wrongly seen as a check-list item that can be marked off (baptism). IN essence, baptism is never really done, because of the weekly re-baptism through the sacrament. The others are more obviously seen as lifetime efforts. One of the four stick out to us, and has defined a lot of what we have done as parents. Here are our thoughts on what is the most important thing we can do as parents:

We believe it is crucial to teach our children to recognize and follow the voice of the Holy Ghost.

All of the other things I listed before – a testimony of the Book of Mormon, a relationship with Christ, a testimony of the Gospel, charity towards others, and so many more – all of those things happen through the Holy Ghost. The only real testimony of the Savior or his Gospel comes through the Holy Ghost. Any relationship with the Savior is communicated through the Holy Ghost. Any testimony of the Book of Mormon or the modern prophets is gained through the Holy Ghost. (Do you sense a pattern here?) He is at the center of the acquisition of all truth – religious or secular.

Even charity is a spiritual gift – brought to us from…you guessed it…the Holy Ghost. Here is Moroni’s take:

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.

And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.” (Moroni 10:5-8)

What more important thing can we try and teach our kids than to recognize and follow the voice of the Spirit? I can’t think of anything more important. I once heard an idea expressed and, for the life of me, I cannot find the reference. Here it is paraphrased, and un-cited: “Introduce your children to the Holy Ghost, ad He will lead them to the Savior.”  (If you know the actual quote, please help me!) I believe this to be true. All too often we think we need to handle the heavy lifting that the Holy Ghost is prepared and anxious to provide for our children.

“Several years after the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, he appeared to President Brigham Young and shared this timeless counsel: “Tell the people to be humble and faithful and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach [you what] to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits. It will whisper peace and joy to their souls, and it will take malice, hatred, envying, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness, and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 98). (Link)

I would like my family to “go right,” both in their childhood, as adults, and eternally.

How do we get there? By looking for and creating what we call “Spiritual Collisions.”

A “Spiritual Collision” is simply this: An opportunity to feel the Holy Ghost. We have made it a point, as parents, to find opportunities for our children to “collide” with the Holy Ghost. Of course, “collide” may not be the best word for the interaction, but it works for us.

Now I know your mind is already churning out ideas, and you are on the right track. Here are a few more thoughts about Spiritual Collisions that have been powerful for our family:

• The picture at the top of this post is my son Alex and me walking together through the Sacred Grove. With some preparation, and an open heart, it is  a perfect place to encounter the Spirit. Sure, we could have gone to Disney World that year instead, but I think the Holy Ghost ride at Epcot was down that year.

• We took the our young kids to temple open houses in American Fork, San Clemente and Gilbert. Whenever we travel we always try and stop by and see whatever temple is in that area. This was especially impacting before the kids were old enough to actually enter the temple and do temple work.

• Teaching them to do family history, and then taking the names to the temple for the ordinance work. This has been especially sweet with my youngest, because I wasn’t very into family history earlier in my life. All of our older kids have taken family names to the temple on a regular basis. The temple is a no-brainer for spiritual collisions.

• Musical firesides, Messiah sing-a-longs or any kind of religious music – even played at home. Music brings the Spirit. I would add visiting the Christmas temple light displays.

• Every time one of my boys turned twelve, I took them to the site of the Aaronic Priesthood restoration. The peaceful setting on the Susquehanna river is perfect for inviting the Spirit.

• Whether it is working at the church farm, fixing the neighbor’s fence, or taking in dinner, grab whoever you can to take with you so they can feel the spirit that comes with service.

• Once we took a right turn in Flagstaff and ended up taking an unplanned trip to Nauvoo. Visiting places like the Liberty Jail, Carthage, Andam-Ondi-Ahman we drenched in the Spirit. I specifically remember the sweet, peaceful feeling at those places, and helping my kids recognize what the Spirit can feel like to them.

• One of the most obvious collisions my sons experienced was actually a non-collision. It was enlightening for them to sense the difference in what they felt in the de-commissioned Kirtland Temple, vs. the Gilbert Temple where they participate in ordinance work.

You might be thinking, “Sure, I would love to go have Spiritual Collisions in places like that.” True, we have been very fortunate, but it has also been a matter of choice as to what we do with our time and resources.

Thankfully, you don’t have to even leave home for you or your kids to have a spiritual collision. Family Home Evenings, watching General Conference, family scripture study and prayers, family councils – all of these events can be prime opportunities to cause a collision.

Not far from our home there is a chapel and a temple which provide an abundance of opportunities for spiritual collisions.

I know that some of you won’t agree with this next part, and that is okay. In our home, we believe in mandatory Church, Mutual and Seminary attendance. Why?  Let me put it this way…

If my son wants to stay home from church and play video games, there is 0001% chance that he will have  any sort of spiritual collision with the Holy Ghost. BUT, if he attends Sacrament meetings and his classes, there is at least a chance that something just might click, and a chance encounter is greater than no encounter  – even if that chance is small. I know from personal experience that the Holy Ghost can push his way through reluctance, given the opportunity.

Most of my kids are now out of the house and off being adults. I do believe that each one of them has grown to understand how the Spirit communicates with them, and are doing their best to follow that voice. (Note: The manner in which the Spirit communicates can differ wildly from person to person. It is an incredibly individual, and sometimes tricky thing to learn.)

It is not merely enough to arrange the collisions, we must be at the ready to help point out when these collisions are happening. This requires us to be in tune as well. If we can sense that our child is feeling the Spirit, and can point it out to him/her, it will help the child learn to understand the method the Spirit uses to communicate with them.

If my children maintain the voice of the Holy Ghost in their lives by staying worthy and responding to Him, we, as parents, can breath a bit easier, and also feel that the Lord is not gonna smite us for not doing our parental duty.

Start while they are young, and find any and every opportunity you can to help your children have spiritual collisions with the Holy Ghost. Whether at home or on the road, there is nothing you can do as a parent that can make a greater impact in their lives – both mortal and eternal.


Great talks on the subject:

“Receive the Holy Ghost.” Elder David Bednar.

“An Unspeakable Gift From God.” Elder Craig C. Christensen

“Guided by the Holy Spirit.” President Boyd K. Packer


 This past month we have been talking about Testimony in Sunday School. I was recently reminded of this post, and since it is the time of campfires and testimonies, I figured I should dust it off.

A few years ago, I heard someone say something that stuck with me. Here it is years later, and I can’t find where I heard it, who said it, or exactly what was said, or even if I just thought it – so I won’t attribute it to anyone, or claim it to be doctrine or policy. But it stuck in my head.  (If any of you can source this, please let me know.)

The gist of the quote is this:

“I am concerned that we are raising a generation of youth who can only bear their testimony in the mountains, or around a campfire.

It probably stuck in my head because I agree with it.  Having had the privilege of serving a large chunk of my adult life with the youth of the Church, I know that testimony meetings around a campfire are often the only place a young man or woman will ever bear their testimony.  I get it. Testimony meetings are scary. Campfires are safe, semi-occluded, and peer-pressure responsive. I have been witness to some wonderful testimony meetings around campfires – important, life-changing testimony meetings. I am not trying to denigrate this experience, rather I hope to add to it.

A few years back, when I was privileged to serve as bishop of a large and vibrant youth program (90+ kids), one of my favorite things was to go to Girl’s Camp.  I don’t know how other stakes do it, but in ours, the bishops were all invited to come up one day to participate in activities with the girls, and end the night with a bishop’s fireside and testimony meeting. I loved this experience, and it is one of the things I miss most about being a bishop.

For many of the young women, and we adult leaders, this testimony meeting was often the high point of the week at Girl’s Camp. It was as close to a guaranteed spiritual experience as you could find.

One particular year, we cleared out an area in a grove of trees and hauled in enough stumps, logs and chairs for everyone to be seated. We decided against having a fire because it can be so distracting. Lanterns and flashlights were placed strategically. We had an opening prayer and sang a hymn, after which I had a few moments to talk to the girls and deliver my message to them. Such good girls. Strong, pure, and happy.

Before I opened the meeting to testimonies, I had a idea come to mind that made me instantly uncomfortable. I tried to dismiss it, but it persisted – so I went with it.  After I shared my thought and testimony, I closed with the following request -as best that I can remember:

“As you bear your testimonies, I would like you to do something a little different this year. Let’s do away with some of our traditions and try something new. This year I would like to hear what you know. I would like to hear your testimonies about the Gospel and the Savior.

For example: We all know that you love coming to Girl’s Camp. So, nobody needs to stand up and tell us that they love Girl’s Camp. We also know that you love your friends, and your leaders. Your friends already know, and so do your leaders, so you don’t need to share that with us either.

We also know that you are thankful for a lot of things – parents, brothers and sisters, friends, etc. We don’t need to hear that, either.  What I am hoping, is that we can hear from each of you and understand what you believe, and what you know in your hearts to be true.  That is a testimony.  I know it’s different, but I feel that it will be worth it.

Finally, I would also ask our wonderful Young Women leaders to abstain from bearing their testimonies tonight, and leave the time for our young women.”

Then I sat down. Terrified.  I caught a few of glances from Young Women leaders. One of concern, one of confusion, and one of irritation. So I just looked at the ground in front of me and waited.

Crickets. That’s all I heard. Literally, crickets.

Nobody stood up.


Five minutes passed.

Ten minutes.

Silence, except for the crickets.

I did it. I actually destroyed a testimony meeting. I ruined a grand tradition – the high point of Girl’s Camp.

As I sat there in the dark, trying to figure out how to dig myself out of this disaster, I heard a sound. One of our sweet, shy young women stood up, and cleared her throat. She testified that she knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that through him, Jesus restored the true Church to the earth. I don’t remember what else she said, but I remember what I felt.  I felt the Holy Ghost surge into my heart and confirm what this courageous young lady had said.

The dam burst. One by one, every one of the young women stood and testified to the things they knew to be true. The prophet, the Book of Mormon, the Priesthood, the Plan of Salvation, the temple, and mostly, the Savior. It was powerful. No fluff, no filler.

These sweet, strong young women were rewarded for their courage with an outpouring of the Spirit that I had never felt around at a camp before. The girls had risen to a challenge from a priesthood leader, and all were blessed because of it.

Two stuck out in my mind: The first was a young woman who stood and explained how she was not to a point in her testimony where she could declare knowledge, but that she believed many things to be true. It was humble, and honest. The other, which happened to be the last girl, was not a member of the Church. But she stood and bore testimony that she knew the Church was true. (She was later baptized.)

As I sat and listened I prayed inwardly that the young women and their leaders would feel what I was feeling, and poured out my heart in gratitude for permitting me to witness this wonderful event.

We closed with a gentle hymn, had a prayer, and quietly made our way back to camp – to the sound of crickets.

(An amazing talk that has had great influence on my perception of testimonies is ‘Pure Testimony,” given by Elder Ballard in October of 2004.  I highly recommend it.

Originally publish October 23, 2012


Note:  I am getting lots of requests to comment on the latest Church policy announcement (That was leaked prematurely). I hadn’t planned on it, but decided, at my EC’s encouragement (pressure), to chime in.  I’ll respond with some thoughts and with a story that, until now, I thought everyone was familiar with -I was wrong. Here you go:

Two Wolves

There is a story told of an old Cherokee teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil: he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good: he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”  (Link)

Every so often the Church comes out with a new policy, directive, announcement, etc. that causes a stir. Today’s announcement regarding the standing of same-sex couples and their children is no exception. There is much angst, doubt, and struggle in the hearts of many members.

And it will happen again.  And again. As the gulf between the Church and the World widens, there will necessarily be more and more days like today.


The question – which I consider MUCH more important that the issues at hand is this:

Which wolf will we feed?

The Wolf of Faith?

or the Wolf of Doubt?

The Wolf of Doubt quickly turns to anger, indignation, public acrimony and discussion. He takes offense, and is quick to share it.  He searches for allies and information to validate his views. He turns to sources that are not enlightened, are not sanctioned by God. He often doesn’t even bother to read the very thing that he is so upset about. He will look to support his doubt…

And he will find it. There are many who are more than happy to feed the Wolf of Doubt.

The Wolf of Faith is quick to restrain his reaction. He turns to sources he knows are endorsed by God. He reads the actual policy – instead of seizing on the exploitive headlines in the media. He is not afraid to drop to his knees and seek truth from God through the Spirit before he makes up his mind – and especially before he speaks out. He will look to find that which will support his faith…

And he will find it.

Which wolf are you?

Do you desire understanding, enlightenment, inspiration and truth?

Or do you desire contention, justification and doubt?

You can find either.

And you can feed at the trough…or drink at the fountain.



LATE ADDITION:  Here is what a lot of us have been waiting for.  Elder Christofferson did a remarkable interview today that explained the policy changes and all that was involved. This is “going to the source.”

(I had to take the video down, because my ISP got ad at me for hogging the CPU.  Go to the link instead.)


Here is a great article that helps explain things in more detail for Wolves looking for faith.

Here is a quote by President Boyd K. Packer as well:

“The family is safe within the church. We are not in doubt as to the course we must follow. It was given in the beginning, and guidance from on high is renewed as need may be. As we continue on our course, these things will follow as night the day: The distance between the church and the world set on a course which we cannot follow will steadily increase. Some will fall away into apostasy, break their covenants, and replace the plan of redemption with their own rules.”  (Link)




crumpled paper

I woke up this morning with today’s post fully-formed in my head. After the normal ritual of waking FOML5 and settling down in the dark living room with my laptop, I began to type it out.

About two-thirds of the way through the post, I started feeling that something was amiss. By the time I reached the end, I was sure of something: I shouldn’t post it.  Not that it isn’t a fine post – I quite liked it, and plan on sharing it with my family – but for some reason, I feel like I should not post it here on the blog.  Why? I don’t know.

Rather, I feel prompted by the Spirit to not post it here on the blog. That is a distinction that needs to be made.

So there is no new post this morning. I apologize for that – instead I will include my favorite Harold B. Lee story, as told by President Lee himself.

As a young boy I was out on a farm away from our home waiting for my father to finish his day’s work. I was playing about, manufacturing things to while away the time, when I saw over the fence in the neighbor’s yard some broken-down buildings with the sheds caving in and with rotting timbers. I imagined as a young boy that that might be a castle I should explore, so I went over to the fence and started to climb through.

Then I heard a voice as distinctly as you are hearing mine: “Harold, don’t go over there.” I looked in every direction to see where the speaker was. I wondered if it was my father, but he couldn’t see me; he was way up at the other end of the field. There was no one in sight. I realized that someone was warning me of an unseen danger—whether there was a nest of rattlesnakes, or whether the rotting timbers would fall on me and crush me, I don’t know. But from that time on, I accepted without question the fact that there are processes not known to man by which we can hear voices from the unseen world, by which we can have brought to us visions of eternity. (link)

The key phrase in his story? “I don’t know.”

Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

Have a great day, and I’ll be back with something else on Sunday. (Unless my editor says otherwise.)

MMM logo small

Bear with me while I talk about music for a minute, then I’ll get to the meat – promise.

Years ago, when I was a college boy, a friend invited me to a fireside about music. The place was crowded with young adults – word had gotten out that the speaker had an excellent presentation about the dangers of music, and that Devil Rock n Roll.

I was happy to go. I was a big music fan and knew that there was a lot of music out there that was dangerous for the mind and the spirit. (That has changed – it is worse now.)

The presenter was good, and very passionate about the subject matter. He had a slide show that followed his talk – with slides, mind you, no PowerPoint existed yet.

We moved quickly through the predictable stuff – backwards masking on Beatles albums, satanic messages in Led Zepellin, etc. Stuff I had heard of before.

Then he put two albums on his screen that caught me off guard. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon, and Rush, 2112.

I sat up and took notice.  He told us how both of these albums contained satanic messages and how the symbols on the covers were occult symbols.

What?  I was a big enough rock fan to know that he was completely wrong.
A) Pink Floyd’s album art was a picture of Newton’s Prism – as in Sir Isaac Newton.
B) The pentacle/pentagram on 2112 is a reference to an Ayn Rand story.

And neither album is remotely satanic, occult, or anything but terrific. In fact, anyone who knows Rush knows that their lyrics are not only clean, but brilliant.  And classic.

At that point in the fireside, I sat back and listened, knowing that this well-intentioned brother didn’t know what he was talking about. Sure, he was passionate in his cause, but his passion was not supported by the facts.


Years later, Rush released an album called Presto. In the title track there is a lyric that stuck with me since 1989.

Can’t you see
My temperature is rising
I radiate more heat than light.

Heat vs. Light.

A concept I have thought about for years. What is the difference between radiating heat vs. radiating light?  Which do I radiate?  How are they different?

The best way I can describe my perception of the two is by using two different words.
Heat vs. Light
Passion vs Enlightenment.

The man at the fireside was definitely passionate about his beliefs, but he wasn’t enlightened.

How often do we see this in our lives?  Passionate people making a case for what they feel is vitally important – yet completely wrong about what they espouse. We see it in our conversations, in the media, in politics, and a lot on Facebook. People can get very worked up about things that aren’t even real or true.

Our society has adopted the culture that heat is more important than light – or that passion supersedes enlightenment. (Don’t believe me? Turn on any debate-style news program)

But that is backwards.

The idea is to get enlightened first, then get passionate about it.

But that enlightenment is something that cannot be forced upon someone else. It has to be learned and understood – and the harder we try to open the brain of the person we are arguing with,and pour in our viewpoint, the more we move from productive enlightenment, to unproductive passion.

Ini the movie Amadeus, Mozart desperately attempts – almost begging – to convince the Emperor to allow his opera to be performed.  The Emperor cooly suggests to him, “You are passionate Mozart, but you do not persuade.” 

I remember in the mission field, a good bible bash was always exhilarating, but ultimately unsatisfying. No matter how passionately I tried to disprove someone else’s beliefs, no progress would be made.

Yes, it was wrong, and I would encourage anyone to distance themselves from that way of thinking. Better yet, I’ll let Elder Robert D. Hales enlighten you:

“Paul reminded the Corinthians that his preaching was “not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). Because that power resides in the Spirit of the Lord, we must never become contentious when we are discussing our faith. As almost every missionary learns, Bible bashing always drives the Spirit away. The Savior has said, “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me.” (3 Nephi 11:29) (Link to Conference talk here)

I have seen conversations in real life, and online that have descended from an attempt to enlighten to an all out war.  Just last night I had a rather intense discussion with a good friend that other people interpreted as a “fight.”  If that was how they saw it, then I was in the wrong, and was radiating more heat than light.

We all do it – we argue “in the heat of passion.”  But that is where it gets difficult – how do we disagree, or try and help someone understand a different point of view, without chasing the Spirit away?

Because we know that the Spirit hates contention. Here is a quote by Elder Richard G. Scott that I found fascinating:

“The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape, while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit.” (Link to Conference talk here.)

The Holy Ghost can be overcome by strong emotions and passion?

About a year ago, I wrote a series of posts making the case that anger is never justifiable. I would like to thank Elder Scott for his support.  (Here are the links to the Anger series: One, two, three, & four.)

The influence of the Holy Ghost is not only important in the process of enlightenment, it is vital as well.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy.” (D&C 11:13)

That is the role of the Holy Ghost, to enlighten our minds – right? Neither should be limit His influence to just “churchy” stuff.  ‘And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5)

–Yes, this topic has the potential to turn into a gigantic post, so I will cut to the chase…

What I am taking away as I write this is the following: If I am trying to “enlighten” someone, and I start getting worked up about it – then the Spirit has left me, and I am making the case by myself.

My passions and emotions get in the way of carrying the Spirit, and communicating spirit to spirit with other people.

So the point of arguing with someone is….?

Help me out here…..


I can’t figure it out – but I do it all the time. I argue with people, I use emotion, passion, manipulation to “enlighten” those who aren’t as “enlightened” as I am. Is that going to stick?

Dave Barry said this:
“I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of respect, they don’t even invite me.”

One last thought: Walk into a cold, dark room. Turn on a space heater and a light.
Which makes the quickest impact?
Which uses less energy?

Some things I need to work on:

• Enlightenment is spiritual, and voluntary. I can’t force people to think like I do – even when I am right.

• If I find myself resorting to passion, or emotion when trying to persuade, I have already lost the battle.

• I need to make sure that the things I share with the world are based on light, not heat. There is a lot of false information out there that people passionately espouse to be true. I must rely on the gift of discernment through the Holy Ghost to help me see what is what.

• I need to recognize when I am radiating more heat than light.

• Sometimes, I need to just smile…and walk away.