Monday, April 29, 2013

Turning Back

Nephi went through an experience that I can relate to on an almost daily basis: he turned back. Turning back was not unique to Nephi, many other prophets have had to do a similar thing including Samuel the Lamanite, Nephi (later in the BOM), Jonah, Moses, Abraham, and many others. These prophets all felt inspired to return to an area, or people, that they thought they were done with. In 1 Nephi 3, Nephi is told to return to Jerusalem to retrieve the golden plates, and he promptly returns "without murmuring". His brothers Laman and Lemuel tried any excuse not too turn back, but Nephi knew he had to turn back in order to get the brass plates. And he also had great faith in the commandments. He said "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." He didn't hesitate to turn back.

But it isn't always hard to turn back, here are some things it is easy, although sometimes inconvenient, to turn back for

free food
something you lost
something essential for your day
your wallet
to brush your teeth
ice cream

Yet other things it is sometimes hard to turn back for like...

helping someone on the side of the road when you are in a hurry
reading your scriptures every day
saying your family and personal prayers
returning things you have borrowed
saying "I am sorry"

So what makes the top list different from the bottom list. It depends on what we think is essential. My father always stated that we rarely if ever forget to brush our teeth in the morning. If we treated saying our prayers as essential to our health as brushing our teeth then we wouldn't forget.

As a father and husband I need to "turn back" and do what will make my family happy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I had a similar experience (albeit in the modern world) to the exodus of Lehi from Jerusalem into the wilderness. Lehi, received a vision that they needed to leave Jerusalem and so the next day they packed up and left and "dwelt in a tent". The beginning of my junior year in high school my father took a position as an instructor in a far away place much different than where were living at the time. As a family we fasted to know if we should all move so that we could all be together. That Sunday when my father was attending church one of the church leaders said he didn't know why, but that he felt impressed to tell my father that he should be with his family. We took that as an answer to our prayers and moved to be with him. Both Lehi's family and my family recognized the need to be together. In today's modern world it is sometimes hard and many times impossible for families to be together all the time. It was a little bit hard to leave all my friends and be the new guy, but I knew that our family was supposed to be there and we were all together and that is what mattered most.

Lehi used metaphors to try and relate the gospel to Laman and Lemuel. I don't think they quite grasped the concepts he was trying to teach them, but at least they made it to the promised land (barely). Metaphors and analogies are a powerful way to teach the gospel, and a powerful way to learn the gospel. Being able to see God in things is a gift that I wish I had. I know people that are really good at relating every day things to their eternal perspective. This is a good skill to teach our children and to remember in our family relationships.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Abridgement

1 Nephi 1:2-20

Nephi abridged the record of his father. He knew his father on many levels. First, he saw him as family. Second, he saw him as a prophet. And lastly, he saw him as a historian. I think we all know about the importance of being a good parent. Our children look to us for spiritual guidance, but they also see what we do for others. Lehi "went forth among the people, and began to prophesy" after he had received a vision of Christ, and yet the people did not accept or appreciate his words, and they rejected and "were angry with him". That must have been a powerful example for Nephi. Nephi saw firsthand how to stand up for what is right despite what opposition he faced. Our children need to see that. They need to have a father of principle and integrity. They need to see beyond themselves.

I recently had an incident in a class I taught where I caught someone who was cheating. After the student admitted to cheating, the student said something that really exposed his/her true motives. The student said "at the end of the day, I have to look out for myself". I sure hope that my kids don't think like that, and I hope they don't see me like that. At the end of the day I want my children and others to say "that man/my father cared about other people more than himself". Nephi saw his father looking out for others and I think that made a permanent impression on him and shaped him into a powerful leader.

My last point that Nephi saw his father as a historian is something that I don't necessarily feel is a responsibility of fatherhood. However, I do feel that my children, and my continuing prosperity, will benefit from knowing my history. The best way to provide that is to keep a journal. I have been hot and cold at journal writing, but I think what will help me be more consistent is to think that I am not only writing for personal reasons but also for my family.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Goodly Parents

1 Nephi Chapter 1:1

Why does Nephi start his record stating that he has been born of "goodly parents". What does this statement say about Nephi and his parents? Because I have read the Book of Mormon many times I would agree that his parents were good. But what if I knew nothing of his parents? What if this was my first time reading this? What would be my reaction to the opening line of someone who says I was born of goodly parents?

1. This man (Nephi) is a respectful and grateful person filled with hope. I do not think that Nephi thought his parents were perfect, and I am sure if he wanted to he could list a long number of things that they did wrong, but he didn't. This statement says that Nephi is a man that honors the good that he has been taught over the bad. He had a positive attitude that permeated his associations with his family. He also must have appreciated all that his parents did for him. Our children could benefit from his example. Optimists are filled with the hope that produces progress and do not dwell in the negative parts of their past. I want my kids to be optimistic and encouraging to others, like Nephi was.

2. Nephi had some good parents. I feel similarly to Nephi, I have some great parents who raised me with the knowledge and confidence I need to develop and succeed in the world today. I can attribute much in my life to how my parents raised me. I want to do the same for my kids. Let them know that I have full confidence in their abilities, and teach the basics they need for living in this world.

3. Nephi was taught "somewhat in all the learning of [his] father". It sounds like Lehi (Nephi's father) taught Nephi many things, but let him have choices in many things as well. Having sons I sometimes think that they should be just like me and learn the same exact lessons that I learned. I want them to have my same interests and be my little "buddies", and for now I think that is fine (my oldest is 8 years old), but I know as they get older they are not going to want to be biologists when they grow up, or will have other hobbies. I will strive to teach them "somewhat" of what I know and then let them choose from there.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Composition of the Book of Mormon: a Metaphor for balance

A brief explanation about the Book of Mormon

The small and large plates of Nephi were spiritual and historical accounts of the Nephites respectively. But the prophets and historians had a hard time keeping the two accounts separate. "From the time of Mosiah, however, the large plates also included items of major spiritual importance." 

Similarly, teaching our kids boils down to the practical and spiritual. More often than not, the two blend together. I want to teach my kids to work hard, that has broad application in both areas. I want to teach my kids the power of prayer, that also can permeate every aspect of their lives. Still I think sometimes it is good to break down what you are teaching your child into both practical and spiritual aspects. I could be great at teaching my kid how to do well in school and take responsibility for their actions and still not be teaching them how to feel the spirit or share their testimony. However we break it down life skills are spiritual skills as Alma said 

"being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive." - Alma 7:23-

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith

In Joseph Smith's own words we read his account of how he received the ancient record from the angel Moroni.

Joesph Smith's account is miraculous and hard to believe. Joseph Smith said that he does not blame anyone for not believing his story and he would have had a hard time believing it if it hadn't happened to him (paraphrase). Which makes me wonder why when he told his father, Joseph Smith Sr., his father didn't question him, but replied that his vision was "of God" and he should go and do as instructed. They must have had a close relationship to have that kind of trust.

I want to have that kind of closeness with my children. I want them to be able to tell me anything. So what was it about Joseph Smith and his father that allowed this kind of relationship of trust to develop. One thing that I can think of was that it was a simpler time where families did everything together. They were farmers which required intense and consistent work to not only provide but survive. They could not afford to be lazy. They had to be able to trust each other and I am sure Joseph learned how to be responsible at a young age. I worked for my dad for a summer and I cherish that time because it was the only time in my life that I spent hours every day with him. I got to know him a lot better, and was able to see his example. My mom also taught us how to work in the home. These opportunities to work together formed a relationship of trust that allowed for loving communication to take place.

In short, to develop a trusting relationship with our kids we need to teach our kids how to work and get down and work with them. Working together also gives us an opportunity to talk to each other, and instills a sense of accomplishment. Trust takes work.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The testimony of eight

The testimony of the eight witnesses are the words of men other than the three witnesses bearing record that they saw the golden plates. This was of great relief to Joseph Smith. No longer did he have to be the only one to say that his experiences were true. He now had the companionship and testimony, in writing that he was not delusional, but a prophet called of God.

I felt impressed that in my marriage and in raising children that we stand together. I think it would be hard to be a single parent and my heart goes out to the many single parents who are trying their best to both provide for their children and teach them what is right. I feel encouraged and supported by my wife to pursue a career that I can be passionate about. We have been fortunate enough to have my wife stay at home with the children, but that in no way excuses me from also taking part in the care of our children whenever I can. All marriages are slightly different in their family roles, but I think whatever those roles shake out to be, we need to be "witnesses" of each other. Whether it be in our roles, parenting, or just being involved in the community, we need to be together in our decisions and support. This often first takes honest and open discussion to determine what is best for both of us, and a desire to understand each other. When our children see our cooperative efforts I hope it motivates them to find a spouse that they can share life with. That includes parenting, careers, little league baseball, theater, yard work, finances, everything. We can do it together! I am reminded of a talk from this past general conference by Elder L. Whitney Clayton entitled "Marriage: Watch and Learn". One paragraph in particular puts it better than I can articulate

"Husbands and wives in great marriages make decisions unanimously, with each of them acting as a full participant and entitled to an equal voice and vote.5 They focus first on the home and on helping each other with their shared responsibilities.6 Their marriages are based on cooperation, not negotiation. Their dinner hour and the family time that follows become the center of their day and the object of their best efforts. They turn off electronics and forgo personal entertainment in order to help with household duties. To the extent possible, they read with their children every night and both participate in putting the little ones to bed. They retire to their bed together. As their duties and circumstances permit, husbands and wives work side by side in doing the most important work there is—the work we do in our own homes."

I hope to be a better "witness" to my spouse.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The testimony of three

The Testimony of Three Witnesses

Three men besides Joseph Smith were able to see the golden plates and add their witness to his of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I had a couple of thoughts about parenting when I read this testimony

First: do my children know what my convictions are? I was fortunate to have parents that in both public and private told me how they came to know the gospel of Jesus Christ was true. Their conversion had a powerful influence in my life, and yet my conversion was something unique and different. I feel that my children don't hear it from me enough. I am really not sure if I have told them directly how I came to know what I know, and I think there have been plenty of opportunities. Testimony meetings, family home evenings, during family scripture, when they ask me questions, while giving them correction, just to name a few. They need to hear what I think is important, and then need to be able to find out on their own what is true. I am so thankful for testimony-bearing parents that gave me the opportunity to find out for myself and I want to pass that on to my own children.

Second: All three of these witnesses fell away from the church at some point and only Martin Harris returned later in his life. As a parent and husband what message does it send to our children when we are hypocritical. If we yell at them to stop yelling, if we tell them to be polite and are rude ourselves. I think sometimes we think they aren't listening, or are too young to tell the difference, but I don't think that is the case. I never thought the word "crap" was a particularly bad word until I heard my kids say it. They obviously learned it from me. The power of example and practicing what we preach teaches them integrity, honesty, and models good behavior. I am going to resolve to do better at this.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Title page

The  Book of Mormon: Title page

There isn't much on the title page. Moroni wrote the title page which is mostly a simple description of the peoples of this record. I was impressed by the line at the end which reads "And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men", referring to the book as a whole. It just got me thinking about the many mistakes I make and have made. I don't mean to dwell on the negative, but as a husband and father I seem to make the same mistakes over and over. When I realize what I am doing I resolve to do better, but I don't always go through the proper steps of making it better. I need to be more humble in my repentance and talk to my wife and children about my mistakes just like Moroni does here.

In my opinion Moroni is saying that there are no mistakes in the gospel of Jesus Christ, but men are required to carry it out, men make mistakes, and this book is subject to the same mistakes that men always make. Perhaps a similar discussion could be had with my children.

Would it be appropriate to have this conversation with my kids? Should I sit them down every once in a while and tell them I love them, but I know that I am making mistakes, and I need their love, patience, and support to be a better father. Should I go as far as asking them what I do that they don't like? I know that I could apologize more. I don't think it is healthy to try and give them the perception that I think I am perfect. I also don't think it is healthy to maintain unquestionable infallibility in parenting. I daresay that yes, this conversation needs to happen more. I need to not only admit to them when I am making mistakes but also apologize and ask for their help.

What might this do for my children? I think this will show them how to repent, how to face their mistakes, and how to make changes. Now I am not saying that the kids are going to run the show, and I am not going to apologize for things that I do that they don't like that are really for their benefit. Kids obviously don't like to clean their room but that is not something to apologize for. Kids do need to understand how to appropriately deal with their mistakes, and I think for our next family home evening, this will be our topic of conversation.

As a husband, my wife knows more intimately than anyone what my mistakes are. I think the same kind of conversation that I can have with my kids will be healthy for our marriage. Similar to what Moroni said about the Book of Mormon our marriage is a place for inspiration. My wife should know that first and foremost I love her, and that any mistakes I make are "of men". She is my greatest ally in helping me be a better person, but if I don't apologize and actively try and rid my bad habits then she can only do so much. My wife needs to hear this more.

All this from one statement in the title page. I am already feeling more inspired and reflective on my scripture study, and who knows how long this will take if I write 5 paragraphs for every thought. But it isn't about how long it is. It is about being a better husband, father, and person, and that is something I will be working on forever.


I was given instruction by Thomas S. Monson at the priesthood session of General Conference. Although I don't know this man personally I believe he as an inspired servant of God. I believe this because of what I have felt as I have learned from him and because of my convictions concerning the LDS church. He asked that as men we diligently study to word of God. To be honest this is something I have not been doing. I consistently read inspired writings, but many times it lacks the descriptions of diligence or even study. After hearing his instruction I pondered on how I could do better in this area. I realized I have been reading and studying scriptures from a personal perspective for most of my life. When studying I have mostly been concerned with my spiritual progress and have not considered my changing circumstances or other people, This has led to a stagnant method of reading the same old things without gaining significant insights.

I was then reminded of a lesson I had been taught many times but never actually applied. Why do we continue to study the same scriptures over and over throughout out lives? Why are we encouraged to read the Book of Mormon again regardless of if we have read it 50 times before? Many of the reasons are not complex, but one is that we change. We are never the same person from day to day. And so even though we are reading the same words they can take on different meaning for us as we change.

I realized I have been trying to read from the same perspective for too long, so I thought of who I am, who do I want to become, and how I can do better. My favorite and most important role I play is as of a husband and father. I have been a husband for 9 years and a father for 8, but I have not considered this enough when I am studying the scriptures. So I have decided to read and blog as I study the Book of Mormon again, but this time I am going to look for insight an inspiration from my perspective as a husband and father.

This blog will be my notes, thoughts, and perspective as a husband and father as I read the Book of Mormon. This is more for me than anyone, and I do not profess to be a great writer or have any expectations that this will cause significant ripples the blogosphere. But if you have anything to add please do so and I know at least I will feel enlightened through this commentary.