Posted by: 2thdocbob | 29 January 2023

Embrace the Bot: A Look at Artificial Intelligence

In which I test ChatGPT’s gospel knowledge.

The education world is abuzz with talk of the new AI chatbot, ChatGPT[i], which was released in November. Many educators are vilifying it, saying it will become too easy for students to cheat in school. Some, myself included, are thinking: “Let’s learn about it and see how we can incorporate it into our teaching.”

I’ve done more reading than I should have, I suppose, but two things stood out. First, in My First Chat With the Bot,[ii] I began to grasp a sense of its value as an interactive study aid. Second, I read a summary from ContactNord, an outstanding support organization that supports remote K-12 education in the Province of Ontario, Canada, and shares its knowledge and webinars with the rest of us. In Ten Facts about ChatGPT,[iii]it carried the idea of using it as a study aid even further. A student could conceivably review a chapter on gas laws in chemistry (or physics), then ask ChatGPT to ask ten questions about gas law.

The opportunities are startling. That is, if we approach it well.

I took it for a test drive this afternoon. The log-in process was simple. That’s always a good thing. And at least for now, it’s free. A tab opens with a chat window. You can type in your question, and the bot begins its response immediately. You have the option to stop it, let in run, or try again. I let it run, then clicked the thumbs up because I liked the response. This opened a window with a text box and asked how the answer could be made ideal. I responded, clicked OK, and got a second response, also very good.

Since I spoke at a baptism last week, I asked for a five-minute talk on baptism, then refined it. Following this “chat,” I asked two questions about the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

Here is my chat in its entirety:

“I need to speak for 5 minutes on baptism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”

First Response

Baptism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) is an essential ordinance performed by complete immersion in water. It is performed by a priest having the proper authority, typically after an individual reaches the age of 8 years old. The ceremony symbolizes the individual’s commitment to follow Jesus Christ, and symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

LDS baptism is performed only once and is considered a covenant between the individual and God. The individual promises to keep God’s commandments and follow Jesus Christ. In return, God promises to forgive their sins and give them the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Baptism is followed by the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is received through the laying on of hands by someone with priesthood authority. This gift provides comfort, guidance, and inspiration to help individuals live according to God’s will.

In the LDS Church, baptism is considered a crucial step in obtaining salvation and exaltation. It is a sign of faith and obedience, and is an essential requirement for membership in the church.

In conclusion, baptism in the LDS Church is a significant and sacred ordinance, symbolizing an individual’s commitment to follow Jesus Christ, and providing them with the opportunity to receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Second response, given after my suggestion to quote from scripture, including the Book of Mormon

Baptism is an important rite in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church). It is performed by immersion in water and is considered a symbol of the individual’s faith and commitment to follow Jesus Christ.

LDS baptism is usually performed on individuals who are at least 8 years old, and is performed by a properly ordained Priest, Teacher or Deacon. The person being baptized is required to make a personal declaration of their faith in Jesus Christ and their intention to follow His teachings.

Baptism is considered an ordinance that is necessary for an individual to enter the celestial kingdom, which is the highest of the three degrees of glory in the afterlife. The celestial kingdom is considered the home of God and those who dwell there will be with Him forever.

In addition to being a requirement for salvation, baptism is also seen as a way for individuals to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is considered a member of the Godhead, and serves as a guide, teacher and comforter to those who receive it.

The LDS Church teaches that baptism is not just a one-time event, but a lifelong process of spiritual growth and renewal. Members are encouraged to attend the temple, read the scriptures, and participate in regular worship services to deepen their relationship with God and strengthen their commitment to following Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, baptism is an important rite in the LDS Church, representing an individual’s faith in Jesus Christ and their commitment to follow His teachings. It is considered a requirement for salvation, and a way to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Church encourages its members to continue growing in their faith and relationship with God throughout their lives.

Next Test: A simple question

What is the origin of The book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ?

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is a religious text of the Latter Day Saint movement and was first published in 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr. According to Smith, he received the text as a revelation from God and translated it into English through divine inspiration. The text purports to be a history of ancient American peoples, including the appearance of Jesus Christ in the Americas after his crucifixion and resurrection in Jerusalem.

Third Test: Rephrased the question:

What is The book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ?

As a language model AI, I don’t have personal opinions, but the Book of Mormon is a religious text published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is considered another testament of Jesus Christ, alongside the Bible. The book is based on the story of ancient American peoples and their interactions with God, angels, and Jesus Christ. It is said to have been translated from golden plates by Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church, in the early 19th century. The Book of Mormon is considered a central scripture of the LDS Church, along with the Bible and the Doctrine and Covenants.

These were copied directly from the app. I did not change anything.

As you can see, the answers are pretty good. They are very neutral, and perhaps a little shallow. One of the weaknesses at this point, is that there will be errors or inaccuracies as the bot “learns” more about the various topics. And I suspect it is free at this stage because they are using us to “teach” the bot. Also, I think asking for 500 words on baptism would yield more content than asking for 5 minutes’ worth. Neither response would be anywhere near 5 minutes.

Note that in the third test, a common disclaimer is used: “As a language model AI, I don’t have personal opinions.”

I think the baptism information provides a good framework for child to speak about baptism. Others might consider it as a framework for their talk and add scriptures or other quotes, and perhaps personal experiences, and, of course, their testimony, which a chatbot cannot do.

I can see the youth, once they discover this resource, using it to write their Sacrament Meeting talks. It could be interesting. Or embarrassing.

This is my first foray into the world of artificial intelligence. It is simply amazing to me. Of course, it may also have harmful uses, such as creating disinformation for political gain or to stir up conflict. It is important to be aware of this as well, so we can keep our defenses up.

Next on my list is trying out DALL-E 2, an AI image creator.

I commit to disclose any use of an AI bot in my posts. But I enjoy writing too much to delegate it to a bot.


[ii] Log-in is required.


Posted by: 2thdocbob | 27 November 2022

An Invitation to Come unto Him; Learn of Him; Look to Him

Sometimes a particular message approaches me from so many different sides that I have stop and pay attention. This is one of those occasions. And the message is significant. Because I am still a little challenged in some of the formatting in this newer version of WordPress, everything in italics is a quote.

Following is the 2022 First Presidency Christmas message, released Nov. 25 and signed by President Russell M. NelsonPresident Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring:

This Christmas season, we invite you to find quiet moments to reflect on our Savior’s birth, life and atoning sacrifice. Come unto Him. Learn of Him. Look to Him for lasting peace and divine rest. In a world that often feels overwhelming and contentious, He offers peace that “passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

He has promised: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; … and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

We testify that as you seek our Savior’s love, peace and rest, you will find it. You will be blessed to feel the true spirit of Christmas, the eternal joy that comes only from Him.[1]

I believe in prophetic promises, and I welcome the promise of peace through Christ. This is an important promise which is relevant to believers and non-believers.

I have been listening to Christmas music for nearly a month. It struck me, with some disappointment, that very few songs that receive airplay are actually about Christ. In fact, most of them are winter songs that are only played at Christmastime, so they have become associated with Christmas. Most of the rest are Santa Claus songs. There are also romance songs.

I honestly enjoy the vast majority of these songs. They are fun to listen to, and fun to sing along with. I enjoy the creativity that goes into dressing up old Christmas songs in current styles. But the absence of songs about him whose birth we celebrate is striking.

I have listened to more country Christmas songs this year than in years past, and I have concluded that Jesus Christ is still alive and well in Nashville, in Memphis, and even in Luckenbach, Texas. But he seems to be missing in New York and Los Angeles (Hollywood).

There were some notable songs that I hadn’t heard until just recently that I would like to highlight. Their messages are touching and significant.

First is “The Nativity,” by Lee Ann Womack. Don’t forget “the,” or you’ll get the wrong song.

I remember every Christmas on my mother’s china hutch
Sat a tiny nativity I was not allowed to touch.
I would stand on tip toes peering pensive and eyes wide
Imagining what I would do if I were there inside
Would I kneel beside the manger and worship him on my knees
Would I be of any service to the savior soon to be
Could I persuade the unknowing to accept him in their home
If I were there with Jesus would I help to right the wrong

This is a wonderful way to invite Christ into your life this season and always. Imagine what you would do if you had been there. I believe most of us would have knelt with the shepherds as they worshiped him. Except we were probably in the angelic choir that sang. Have you thought about that?

Next is a song by Rhett Akins, “No Room.” Akins sings of the well-known events prior to the birth of Christ, when Mary laid Jesus in a manger because there was “no room at the inns.”[3] Akins sings:

Once again Christmas is here
Busiest time of the year
There’s a growing list of last minute things still to do

Not many shopping days left
Still got presents to wrap
People are saying parties we’ve got to go to

No room, no room
Sorry, but life’s too full to let you in
No space, no place for the Savior Jesus
No room

No room, no room
Lord, help us find, help us find the room

Akins invites us to make room for Jesus, and begs the question “Is my life too full to let the Savior in?” This is a question all believers should ask themselves regularly. It suggests that I need to realign some of my priorities.

Next is Reba McEntire’s reading of a poem by Helen Steiner Rice, “The Story of The Christmas Guest,” which Reba simply calls “The Christmas Guest.”[5] This is a poem I have heard infrequently throughout my life, but it has great meaning. It is based on the Savior’s words to his Apostles shortly before his crucifixion, as told in Matthew 25:34-47. It is likely an adaption of a German folktale about Martin, the cobbler. There are also connections to Tolstoy’s “Where Love Is, There God Is.”[6]

Rice tells the story of Conrad, a humble cobbler, who saw the Lord in a dream.

“The Lord appeared in a dream to me
And said, ‘I am coming your guest to be.’”

Conrad waits in his shop for his honored guest with increasing concern as the day passes. He helped three individuals in their time of need, but with sadness turned to the Lord in prayer:

“He knew that the Lord was not coming today
For the hours of Christmas had passed away.

So he went to his room and knelt down to pray

And he said, ‘Dear Lord, why did you delay?

What kept You from coming to call on me,
For I wanted so much Your face to see.’

When soft in the silence a voice he heard,
‘Lift up your head, for I kept My word –

Three times My shadow crossed your floor –
Three times I came to your lonely door –

For I was the beggar with bruised, cold feet,
I was the woman you gave to eat,
And I was the child on the homeless street.

Three times I knocked and three times I came in,
And each time I found the warmth of a friend.
Of all the gifts, love is the best,
And I was honored to be your Christmas Guest.’”

This tale suggests a wonderful way to invite Christ into our lives: through serving his children in need. And that is probably the best gift we can offer to Jesus as we celebrate his birth. It will certainly help us to feel his love.

Honorable mention goes to “Thank God for Kids.” It gets honorable mention because it mentions God, but not Jesus; but Christmas isn’t the same without children around, and that we should be thankful for the children in our lives.

“When I look down in those trusting eyes
That look to me I realize
There’s love that I can’t buy
Thank God for kids.

Thank God for kids, there’s magic for a while
A special kind of sunshine in a smile.

Do you ever stop to think or wonder why?
The nearest thing to heaven is a child
When you get down on your knees
Tonight to thank the Lord for His guiding light
And pray they turn out right thank God for kids.

Because of their nearness to heaven, the children understand that Baby Jesus is important to Christmas. Just watch a young child looking at a creche, or nativity. The focus is almost always on Baby Jesus. We can learn from that.

A final thought comes from Lloyd Newell, in his weekly Music & The Spoken Word message on November 27, 2022.[8] Newell suggest to us that although the word Christmas is not a Spanish word, the word más means more. So when we see the word Christmas, it could remind us to give more of Christ to this holiday season: “More of Him in our thoughts, in our actions, in our anticipation for Christmas — so much more, in fact, that one day can’t hold our love for Him, and it overflows into every part of our lives every season of the year.” 

I look forward to a Christ-centered Christmas season this year. I plan on giving him more intentional time between now and Christmas as I seek to feel his love and his peace. I hope my gentle readers will consider this in their own lives.

[1] The Church News,

[2] My own transcription, because I couldn’t locate the lyrics. Listen here:

[3] KJV, Luke 2:7 (JST). We should note that the innkeepers’ stories are romanticized fictional additions to St. Luke’s account, and are not scriptural.

[4] No Room, Listen here:

[5] Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and Grandpa Jones also recorded versions of this. Johnny’s version can be found here:

[6] Who Wrote the Song, “The Christmas Guest?”

[7] You can listen to Kenny Chesney’s version here: I love the visuals.

[8] The Church News,

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 10 July 2022

To Heal the World, or Defending Our Religious Freedoms

I was privileged to speak today, and was assigned to speak to Elder Ronald A. Rasband’s talk on religious freedom from April 2022 General Conference. I was blessed by the influence of the Spirit as I prepared the talk. I have studied the addresses of our leaders as they have spoken to numerous groups throughout the world on this critical topic; it is one I also feel strongly about. And think I am in tune with them. I hope it motivates you to become more aware and more involved in protecting this sacred right.


Elder Rasband’s most recent conference talk on religious freedom resonated with me. I hope you have experienced something similar when listening to General Conference, when a particular message speaks to you. As I have studied it further, I have gained additional insights into this important topic. I would like to share some of these insights with you this morning, as well as some personal examples, if time permits.

I pray for the Spirit to be with us so that we may be taught the things that the Lord desires each of us to learn. Please understand that I will speak as a child of God, and as an Elder in Israel, not as an adherent of any political party.

I will try to address three important questions as I discuss religious freedom:

What is it?

Why is it important?

What can we do to protect it?

What is religious freedom?

“It is freedom of worship in all its configurations: freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom to act on personal beliefs, and freedom for others to do the same. Religious freedom allows each of us to decide for ourselves what we believe, how we live and act according to our faith, and what God expects of us.”[1]

Religious freedom allows us to meet here each week to worship our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ and to feel the presence and comforting influence of the Holy Ghost. It allows us to renew our covenants, and to draw closer to Christ and to one another.

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, a prominent defender of religious liberty, and a friend of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has said “A just society allows people to not amputate their covenantal identity in the public square.”[2]

Take a minute to consider the significance of that statement. As Latter-day Saints and followers of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we strive to walk on the covenant path. Through baptism and confirmation, we become God’s covenant people, and have been instructed by the Savior to let our lights shine before this people.[3] Religious freedom allows us to share and enjoy all the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

More importantly, religious freedom makes possible the gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil.

In Primary we learned the Eleventh Article of Faith:

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”[4]

This right was defined in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”[5] This has been interpreted in various ways over the years, sometimes to our detriment.

In an early draft of the First Amendment, Madison wrote:

“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”[6]

This provides an interesting insight into the original intent of the Founders, and guides us in our effort to defend religious freedom.

Sister Sharon Eubank stated, “People have inherent rights and privileges just by being children of God and we’ll protect those.”[7]

Why is religious freedom important to us?

Elder Robert D. Hales said:

“The faithful use of our agency depends upon our having religious freedom. We already know that Satan does not want this freedom to be ours. He attempted to destroy moral agency in heaven, and now on earth he is fiercely undermining, opposing, and spreading confusion about religious freedom—what it is and why it is essential to our spiritual life and our very salvation.”[8]

Let me quote from Elder Maxwell, in 1978. I heard him speak these words.

“In the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).”[9]

Will we use our agency to follow the Prophets, Seers and Revelators, or will we follow the calls of the world that come from the great and spacious building?

Elder Maxwell continued prophetically:

“We shall see in our time a maximum if indirect effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism that uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of Western civilization to shrink freedom even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage.”[10]

Remember, Elder Maxwell said this 44 years ago!

Since then, acting on religion has been equated with establishing religion in the courts and in public discourse, and our religious rights have become endangered. That is just in the United States. Conditions tend to be worse in the rest of the world, which is why the General Leadership of the Church has been so involved in defending religious freedom on the world stage.

A wise observer said: “A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it.”[11] I have experienced this on occasion, and you may have as well.

The Book of Mosiah offers instructive lessons in the challenges of living in an oppressive society without freedom to worship openly, or even to pray aloud.

Elder Rasband noted four ways that society benefits from religious freedom.[12]

First, religious freedom allows us to place God at the center of our lives through our devotion to him and through serving His children.

Second, religious freedom fosters expressions of belief, hope and peace that we could not share openly without these freedoms.

Third, religion inspires people to help others. Look at the good the Church has done for individuals of all faiths through partnerships with many other faith groups in response to urgent needs throughout the world. Even within Waterman Ward, we have individuals who serve with other faith groups in helping the needy. There is strength in numbers as we strive to bless Heavenly Father’s children.

Fourth, religion becomes a unifying force for shaping values and morality in society. I teach ethics, and cannot separate my religious beliefs from my professional and ethical convictions. I find it gratifying when individuals comment to me that it is obvious that I am a believer.

One of my co-workers is a devout Christian. Years ago, he saw a copy of the Book of Mormon in my truck, and exclaimed “I knew you were a brother in Christ!” He could have responded very differently, for example “Oh, so you’re one of those!” but he chose a unifying comment. And he continues to refer to me as a Brother in Christ. That was high praise, and he gave me a lot to live up to. We have strong mutual respect built on the foundation of our faith in Christ, which we have the freedom to express openly.

What can we do to defend religious freedom?

Discipleship includes good citizenship. Our Church leaders have encouraged us for years to read and understand our governing documents.

As good disciples of Jesus Christ, we can learn from the example of Captain Moroni when he raised the title of liberty. We should also remember what Moroni inscribed on the title of liberty:

“In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children …”

Then we read,

“And he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land …

“Moroni prayed that the cause of the Christians, and the freedom of the land might be favored.”[13]

We learn from the Jaredites that when they did not repent of their iniquity,

“The Spirit of the Lord had ceased striving with them, and Satan had full power over the hearts of the people; for they were given up unto the hardness of their hearts, and the blindness of their minds that they might be destroyed;”[14]

Returning to Moroni,

“It came to pass that when he had poured out his soul to God, he named all the land … both on the north and on the south—A chosen land, and the land of liberty.

“And he said: Surely God shall not suffer that we, who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions.”[15]

The Book of Mormon teaches us that we can avoid the fate of the Jaredites and the Nephites if we repent and seek and follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost. I testify to you that this blessing remains in force today.

We can each raise our own Title of Liberty.

In the Religious Freedom section of Gospel Library,[16] the Church offers us suggestions on ways we can act to protect religious freedom. Let me share some of them.

First, become informed on the issues. Each of us will choose to do that at different levels, but it is important that we know how our rights are outlined. Begin with Section 134 in the Doctrine & Covenants, then read the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and other significant documents. It isn’t necessary to become a legal scholar to appreciate the blessing we enjoy.

Second, commit to be civil in your interactions with those who do not hold similar beliefs. Find common ground and build on that.

Third, (my addition) learn to see each person as a child of God who is deserving of your love and respect. And seek the gift of charity, the pure love of Christ, and demonstrate it in your interactions with others. Pray fervently for these gifts.

Fourth, volunteer for a local charity. When we work arm in arm with members of other faiths, we develop feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood that go a long way to promoting the respect that is at the heart of promoting religious freedom.

Fifth, be a force for good in the world. Quit complaining on social media and share the goodness that you see in the world. Freely express gratitude for the good you see around you. Be examples of good discipleship and be a light to the world.

What is my take-home message?

In order to promote and defend religious freedom, we must choose to follow Jesus Christ in the covenant path. As we follow in his footsteps, we will become a light unto the world. Don’t settle for being a 5-watt tungsten bulb; strive to become a xenon lamp. And as we combine our lights, we will make the world brighter as we prepare for the return of the Light of the World, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I pay close attention when I hear the word “invite” in General Conference. Near the end of his talk, Elder Rasband said “I invite you to champion the cause of religious freedom. It is an expression of the God-given principle of agency.”[17]

I pray that we will work together to champion the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I testify that Heavenly Father will bless us as we do our best to be good disciples of Christ and good citizens of our communities, our nation, and the world. All things are possible through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, through the power of faith in Him, and through the power and authority of his priesthood, which has been restored to the earth in this dispensation. I pray that we will actively defend our right to enjoy the blessings of the priesthood, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Rasband, To Heal the World. April 2022 General Conference.

[2] Quoted in Religious liberty advocates call for faiths to join forces. Deseret News, June 1, 2013.

[3] See The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. 3 Nephi 12:16; cf. Matthew 5:16.

[4] Articles of Faith 1:11.

[5] Constitution of the United States.

[6] What does ‘a wall of separation between Church and State’ mean exactly? Deseret News, Oct. 8, 2020.

[7] Church History Symposium panel: Defending religious liberty as both a Church member and citizen, and in societies around the world. Church News, Mar. 12, 2022.

[8] Hales, Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom. April 2015 General Conference.

[9] Maxwell, Meeting the Challenges of Today. Oct. 10, 1978.

[10] Maxwell, op. cit.

[11] Sobran, The Established Irreligion. Human Life Review, Summer 1978, p. 58.

[12] Rasband, op. cit.

[13] The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Alma 46:12, 13, 16.

[14] The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Ether 15:6, 19.

[15] The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Alma 46:17-18.


[17] Rasband, op. cit.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 21 April 2022

Thoughts on Academic Integrity

Last week I was invited by our Deans of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs to address one of our classes on the topic of academic integrity. I was given a little direction, and I was given five minutes. The challenge was to cover all the points in five minutes. After four edits, I came up with a statement that students and administrators appreciated.

I suppose this assignment came to me because I am the Chair of our College’s Student Performance Committee and also manage and teach our Ethics curriculum. I am grateful for the challenge that it presented.


Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you all for being here.

I am here today because I want to see you succeed in your professional lives. More than that, I hope you will all succeed in your personal lives as well.

A family member loves playing Assassin’s Creed. She has nine different games. She also goes to several sites that offer hints and cheats, which help her know where to go and what to do when it isn’t clear. “Cheat codes” are common in video games. Most of you know that. (Some of you will recognize UUDDLRLRAB.) The term describes “anything a person does other than the traditional way of doing something for the purpose of winning or scoring above their competition.” (You probably see where I’m heading with this.)

But let’s be honest; in life there are no cheat codes. Dishonesty may bring a temporary advantage, but it is rarely beneficial in the long run. We cannot achieve anything worthwhile in life without effort. In fact, hidden features in life are only unlocked through honest effort. Dishonesty creates vulnerabilities and limits your ability to advance to higher levels.

One of the characteristics of a profession is self-regulation, or self-governance. The applications of this principle encompass the entire profession as well as each individual. One sense of this concept is expressed as having control or rule over oneself. Thus, we refer to yielding to impulses to do wrong as unprofessional behavior.

We tend to rationalize acts of dishonesty by telling ourselves that “I’m not hurting anyone.” When we examine this in terms of ethical principles, we find that this is not true. Cheating limits your own autonomy, your freedom to choose, as well as the autonomy of others; it violates the principle of justice, which we equate with fairness and how we treat others; cheating violates veracity and competence by being untruthful about one’s professional knowledge, which could harm your colleagues, your patients, and you; and it violates society’s trust in you as a professional. This trust is the foundation of the privileges society grants us based on our training. Breaking this trust has the potential to harm you, your family, your employees, your patients, and your colleagues.

Like it or not, the acts of each individual reflect upon all members of the group. If a small group engages in cheating, in microaggressions, or in other disrespectful actions, the whole class is labelled. One of the dental schools along I-10 has gained a reputation as the one whose students cheated on the California Law and Ethics Exam. Dishonest individuals continue to tarnish dentistry’s reputation. We will examine some cases later on in the Ethics course.

If you recall the Academic Integrity assignment last semester, Papadakis[i] found a connection between dishonest behavior by medical students and later discipline by medical boards. This also has application to dental students. The path you choose to follow now will be the path you follow the rest of your life unless you make an effort to change in one direction or another.

The good news is that the laws of motion apply to our behavior. A force must be applied to change one’s trajectory. We can apply that force ourselves, or it can be applied by the Dental Board or by a Jury. I invite you to consider which approach you prefer.

In closing, I challenge each one of you to commit or to recommit yourself to living an honest, respectful, integrity-filled life. The benefits will far outweigh any disadvantages. Remember, if you are struggling, we can help you; if you are dishonest, we cannot. Disrespect is a losing game; dishonesty is a game you cannot win.

[i] Papadakis, et al. Disciplinary Action by Medical Boards and Prior Behavior in Medical School. N Eng J Med 2005;353:2673-82.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 23 January 2022

Children of the Covenant

I was asked to speak just two days ago. Because I had read some insightful articles on our covenants, I decided to pursue the topic further. This is the talk that I gave.

I bear witness that I felt the Lord’s guidance through his Spirit as I prepared this talk. His covenants with us today are valid and real. As we bind ourselves to God through faithful covenant keeping, we will blessed with strength and wisdom beyond our natural abilities to help us remain true to these covenants and stay on the covenant path, as the Prophet has urged.

My brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be with you today, and grateful for the invitation to speak. I pray that the Spirit may be with us, that you and I may be taught through his influence. I’m excited for the opportunity to study the Old Testament this year. When I read it, it is like a reunion with old friends, meeting up with some of my earliest scripture heroes again.

The Old Testament has two purposes. First, it is a witness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is filled with prophecies, types and symbols of the promised Messiah. Second, it is a witness of the covenants and promises God has made to his children since the creation of this earth, and a lesson in what happens when covenants are honored or dishonored.

President Nelson’s talks have focused on these covenants since he was first called as an Apostle in 1985. In an early talk, he referred to us as children of the covenant. This phrase touched me deeply, in part because I often refer to Heidi as my wife of the covenant.

In his first message as Prophet, he said: “Now, to each member of the Church I say: Keep on the covenant path. Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women and children everywhere.”

In General Conference in October 2020, President Nelson gave us this invitation: “As you study your scriptures during the next six months, I encourage you to make a list of all that the Lord has promised He will do for covenant Israel. I think you will be astounded! Ponder these promises. Talk about them with your family and friends. Then live and watch for these promises to be fulfilled in your own life.”

This invitation has changed how I perceive the Old Testament. The Joseph Smith Translation and the Books of Moses and Abraham in The Pearl of Great Price support the Old Testament in teaching us that God made covenants with Adam, Enoch and Noah. The Abrahamic covenant reflects in part the covenants and promises made with the prophets before him. We also read of covenants and promises given to Isaac and Jacob, and to Joseph and Ephraim.

And the Lord didn’t just make covenants with the men. We know that he also covenanted with Eve, Sarah (Gen. 17:15-16, ff.), and other valiant women.

These covenants reaffirm and validate the Abrahamic covenant, which makes sense, since they are his righteous offspring.

Abrahamic descent is claimed by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and rightly so. But not all were of the covenant lineage. We will see this year that when the Lord’s covenant people, the house of Israel, were true and faithful to their covenants, they were blessed; when they were not faithful to their covenants, they suffered. This is the same pattern we have seen in the Book of Mormon; and they were the same people.

Through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Abrahamic covenant is offered to all people who will accept Jesus Christ through ordinances and covenants performed by those who have authority “to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof” (Articles of Faith 1:5).

The promises to Abraham include:

  • Jesus the Christ would be born through Abraham’s lineage.
  • Abraham’s posterity would be numerous, entitled to an eternal increase, and also entitled to bear the priesthood.
  • Abraham would become a father of many nations.
  • Certain lands would be inherited by his posterity.
  • All nations of the earth would be blessed by his seed.

And that covenant would be everlasting—even through “a thousand generations.” To provide a little perspective, it is estimated that there have been about 100 generations since Abraham’s time.

Why are these ancient covenants important to us? When we join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we become God’s covenant people in the latter-days. When we are baptized, we inherit the blessings and responsibilities of the Abrahamic covenant, as we are adopted into the family of Abraham through baptism. Through these covenants, we may claim all the blessings of the new and everlasting covenant as if we were born into the covenant line. Our covenant lineage provides blessings that our blood lineage might have missed out on. When we partake of the sacrament, we renew our commitment to these covenants.

I invite you to think about what that means to you, personally. When we are baptized, we covenant to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. We take the sacrament as a witness and a personal reminder that we are willing to take upon us the name of the Son.

There are just two other times when an individual takes another’s name: marriage, when the wife takes the name of her husband, and adoption, when a person becomes part of a new family. Through our baptism we were adopted into the family of Jesus Christ, and took his name upon us.

The Lord told Alma: “Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;” (Mosiah 27:25).

When speaking of Christ and his mission, Abinadi testified:

“When his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?

“Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 15:10-11).

As the adopted seed of Christ, we become joint heirs with him through our obedience, as Abinadi taught. In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 84 we read:

“For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;

“And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;

“And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him” (D&C 84:36-37).

This is promised to us through obedience to the oath and covenant of the priesthood, which applies to every member of the Church who has received their endowments in the temple. This is a part of the new and everlasting covenant, which encompasses the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and includes all ordinances and covenants necessary for the salvation of mankind. I bear you my witness that the new and everlasting covenant has been restored to earth in this dispensation; it is active and available to all of us.

Yes, we have to pay a price to follow Christ and stay on the covenant path, but where does that path lead us? It leads us to life everlasting where we may inherit “all that [the] Father hath.” And when the final judgment comes, the Savior, our Advocate with the Father will speak up for us. What a tremendous gift it is to understand the blessings that are available to us if we stay on the path, or return to the path and stay on it.

Brothers and sisters, I have come to understand through studying the words of living apostles and prophets, that the most important thing for each one of us is not where we are on the path or how fast we are moving on the path; the most important thing is that we are on the covenant path and facing the right direction.

Heavenly Father expects each of us to move at our own pace. But he also expects us to lift those who are slipping, and to help those who lag behind. We can “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” (Mosiah 18:8); and “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5) as we walk the covenant path together.

Being part of God’s covenant people means we help each other as we move closer to Christ. It also means we work to strengthen God’s Church on the earth. When we keep our covenants, we can find power and strength from God. Even in our weak moments, a willingness to help others counts in God’s eyes. He expects us to do what we can.

This is what children of the covenant do.

Sister Bonnie Cordon shared this invitation with us:

“We continually seek to draw closer to the Savior through faith, cherished repentance, and keeping the commandments. As we bind ourselves to Him through covenants and ordinances, our lives are filled with confidence, protection, and deep and lasting joy.

“As we come to Him, we see others through His eyes. Come unto Christ. Come now, but don’t come alone!”

We need to be on the covenant path together. We can’t do this alone. We need each other, and we need to be bound to the Savior through our covenants so that we can call upon his strengthening hand.

I testify to the authenticity of Heavenly Father’s covenants with us.

I know that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father, who provided a plan for us to return to his glorious presence and to become like him – if we choose to do it – and live together in eternal joy as families. All he asks is that we keep his commandments (see Mosiah 2:22). His promises are sure.

Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. His atoning sacrifice and resurrection, combined with our faith, and our faithfulness, will enable us to stay on the covenant path and truly be children of the covenant.

That we may walk the path together as children of the covenant; as brothers and sisters in Christ is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 30 December 2021

Goals or Resolutions? Does It Matter?

As we approach the new year, it’s never too late to start making changes. I happened upon this article in 2018 in our Church’s magazine for youth 12-18 (or to 95: I still like to read it), and really liked the ideas for resolutions. I am reposting it with some revisions of my own.

I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions; there is an implication that they are not serious enough to stick with, even if the intent is good. I have always set goals at my birthday, and review and revise them at the New Year. That’s simply a personal preference, and it really makes no difference when you set your goals, as long as they are done with good intent.

There is a tremendous amount of literature about making goal-setting easy, and many people share three or six or five “quick easy steps to meet your goals this year and find happiness.” Malarkey. If it’s easy, it probably isn’t a meaningful goal. If a goal does not stretch you and push you out of your comfort zone, it may not be a worthwhile goal: you may not grow. But if it’s too challenging, it might discourage you and thwart your overall progress.

In my mind, goals are a means to grow. And my goals can assist in my own growth as well as in others’ growth. That is why this New Era article resonated with me. I have posted it with minor edits (in brackets), including an added seventh goal.

You can read the original article here.

6 New Year’s Resolutions You Probably Never Thought About [Plus One]

Charlotte Larcabal | Church Magazines

Tired of making the same old New Year’s resolutions? Here are [seven]new ideas to make [2022]amazing!

My [2022]New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Eat better.
  2. Get better grades.
  3. Exercise more.

Have any of these goals made your list? Don’t be too surprised if they have—year after year, these are among the most popular New Year’s resolutions. In fact, if you’re like many people, these goals were on your list last year—and the year before that.

For some reason, we keep setting (and oftentimes, not achieving) the same goals year after year. There’s nothing wrong with these goals, and there’s no reason why you can’t accomplish them, but why not shake things up a bit by setting (and meeting) a goal you’ve never thought of before? Here are [seven] new goals that will help make [2022] amazing!

1. Make eye contact with people as you speak with and listen to them.

If you’re looking to make new friends, this is a great goal to set. Don’t overdo it—staring into someone’s eyes for too long (sometimes even for just a little) might make them uncomfortable—but try to look people directly in their eyes as they talk to you. When you meet someone new, notice the color of their eyes. Looking people directly in their eyes sends the message that you see and appreciate who they are. (Read “How to Be a Good Friend.”)

2. Try something new every day!

This doesn’t mean you have to jump into a new hobby every day. Something new can be something little. Never hang up your coat? Hang it up! Always sit with the same people at lunch? Sit with someone new. Even making the smallest changes can lead to amazing new experiences and help you learn new things.

“Fill up your memory bank and your book of life with as many ‘I’m glad I did’ activities as you can possibly crowd into one lifetime,” counseled Elder L. Tom Perry (1922–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (“Making Memories,” Ensign, Aug. 1993, 63). Don’t let fear, laziness, or a routine keep you from “I’m glad I did” experiences. Surprise yourself! You’ll be glad you did. (Read “How to Discover Your Gifts.”)

3. Look in the mirror every morning and say, “I am a child of God. He loves me and will help me today.”

We think thousands of thoughts every day, and if we’re not careful, many of these can be negative. Repeating a positive, powerful, and hopeful thought to yourself is a great way to keep out all those complaints, criticisms, and fears. Repeating that thought out loud makes it an even more powerful reminder. That fact that you are a child of God, who loves you and will help you, is one of the most positive, powerful, and hopeful thoughts out there! (Watch “Our Divine Destiny.”)

4. Do something besides pull out your phone when you have free time.

What do you do when you’re sitting in class before the bell rings or waiting for your mom to pick you up? Chances are, you pull your phone out. But what if you didn’t?

Set a goal to not pull your phone out every single time you’re bored or waiting. Give your mind time to wander. Look around. Notice things. Bored? Good. You can handle a few minutes of boredom. Creativity can happen when you’re bored.

5. Learn to cook three new meals this year.

Think outside the (cereal) box. Reach for some fresh ingredients and kitchen gadgets and wow your family with your chef skills. Whether you love to cook or aren’t sure what a tsp is, learning a new recipe is always a good idea! You can find someone who cooks well to teach you a few things, or you can find some recipes to try yourself. Don’t forget to clean up! (Read “Self-Reliance: Preparing for Your Future.”)

6. Say “thank you” 10 times a day.

You can make someone’s day by showing them some gratitude, but studies show that being grateful also has a powerful effect on your own mood and well-being. Many people find that the more they focus on things to be grateful for, the happier they are. Want to be happier, healthier, and make someone’s day? Amp up the gratitude. “No matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish,” said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. “There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it” (“Of Regrets and Resolutions,” Oct. 2012 general conference).

Try saying “thank you” 10 times a day. Or finish each day by writing down 10 things you are grateful for. (Read “Live in Thanksgiving Daily.”)

[7. Try to treat everyone kindly, even if you disagree with them.
Our world has always been a challenging place to live in. But during the pandemic, we have faced many new and difficult challenges. Respect for others with differing viewpoints seems to have become passe.

Elder Dale G. Renlund, speaking of the pandemic, said “in some instances, the spiritual stress test [the pandemic] has shown tendencies toward contention and divisiveness. This suggests that we have work to do to change our hearts and to become unified as the Savior’s true disciples. This is not a new challenge, but it is a critical one” (“The Peace of Christ Abolishes Enmity,” Oct. 2021 general conference: see also footnote 4 for additional references).

Jesus Christ explained that His doctrine was not “to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but [that His] doctrine [is] that such things should be done away” (3 Nephi 11:30).

It could be helpful to recall the Primary song that many of us learned as children and repeat the line “Kindness begins with me” (Kindness Begins with Me, Children’s Songbook, #145B).]

It’s in the Doing

There are many, many different things you can do to become a little more like Heavenly Father this year. After all, that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? Maybe you really are going to practice discipline as you lose weight or save more money this year. Or maybe you want to shake things up and set a brand new goal. Whatever you choose to do, just remember what President Thomas S. Monson has taught: “It is not enough to want to make the effort and to say we’ll make the effort. we must actually make the effort. It’s in the doing, not just the thinking, that we accomplish our goals” (“A Royal Priesthood,” Oct. 2007 general conference).

Happy New Year!

“Our responsibility is to rise from mediocrity to competence, from failure to achievement,” the late President Thomas S. Monson has taught. “Our task is to become our best selves. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.”1

This is what meaningful goals are about. The [seven] suggestions above will certainly make a difference in the life of a teenager; they could also make a difference in the life of an adult. [And these changes will have ripple effect because they will certainly affect those around us for the better.]

Does one of these goals resonate with you? Or do they inspire you to set a different goal? Please share!

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 30 May 2021

Our Inspired Constitution

Brothers and sisters, I am grateful for the assignment to speak this morning. On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember those who have sacrificed so that we can enjoy the blessings we enjoy in this great land. I think in particular of the Founding Fathers, who laid everything upon the altar to help establish the United States of America. A wise person has said “when you drink from the fountain, don’t forget who dug the well.” We celebrate in gratitude this weekend.

I will speak of the Constitution this morning. In parallel with President Oaks’ statement at the beginning of his masterful conference talk, let me make it clear that I do not identify with any particular political party or group. I speak as an Elder in Israel, and as a disciple of the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ.

I am not the constitutional scholar that President Oaks is, but I have I have studied the Constitution in some depth, and I have read commentaries and even Supreme Court decisions to gain a deeper understanding.

As we study the Doctrine & Covenants this year, I encourage you to pay attention to the statements the Lord has made about this land of promise. It will fortify your faith and your patriotism.

President Nelson testified in April Conference, “Satan has marshaled his forces and is raging against the work of the Lord and those of us engaged in it. Because of the increasing dangers we face, our need for divine guidance has never been greater, and our efforts to hear the voice of Jesus Christ—our Mediator, Savior, and Redeemer—have never been more urgent.”[1]

In the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 101, we read of the

“constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and [it] should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;

“That every man may act in doctrine and principle … according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood[2].”

The founding fathers have been judged harshly by many in our generation. But the Lord has testified through the Prophet Joseph that he raised up these “wise men” to establish this nation and free it by the shedding of blood.

In Section 98, the Lord informs us:

“And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.”[3]

Heavenly Father has given the Constitution his seal of approval. Do we dare reject it? As for me and my house, we will follow the Lord. The prophets continue to testify that it is an inspired document. Does that mean it is perfect? No, but it is inspired. Things change over time and laws do require some adjustments. As President Oaks stated, we do not believe that all legal interpretations of the Constitution are inspired.

Elder J. Reuben Clark, Jr. an Apostle, and perhaps the most noted Constitutional scholar in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, testified in Conference in 1935 that the Constitution was given by the workings and operation of the Lord’s mind and Spirit upon the minds of these men. This is what makes it an inspired document.[4]

A few years later, he stated: “Brethren, I wish you to understand that when we begin to tamper with the Constitution we begin to tamper with the law of Zion which God Himself set up, and no one may trifle with the word of God with impunity.” [5]

This statement and others from the Prophets and Apostles of the Latter Days resound in my heart, because the prophets have stated in very clear terms over the years that the Constitution was established to pave the way for the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prior to 1787, there was no nation on the earth that offered the protections that were necessary to allow the Church of Jesus Christ to be restored and to flourish in its infancy.

President George Albert Smith testified: The founding of the United States was not an accident. The giving to us of the Constitution of the United States was not an accident. Our Heavenly Father knew what would be needed, and so he paved the way to give us the Constitution. It came under the influence of prayer, and he guided those who framed that wonderful document.” [6]

President Oaks asked “What was God’s purpose in establishing the United States Constitution? We see it in the doctrine of moral agency.”[7]

Please note that Elder Clark, Presidents Smith and Benson, and Elder Christofferson also testified that the Constitution was given to preserve our agency. Our moral agency is one of the greatest gifts that Heavenly Father has granted us.

President Oaks stated further:

“God has given His children moral agency—the power to decide and to act. The most desirable condition for the exercise of that agency is maximum freedom for men and women to act according to their individual choices. Then, the revelation explains, “every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78).[8]

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we understand the concepts of agency and accountability through the lens of our testimonies of Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation. Proper exercise of our agency will qualify us for eternal life in Heavenly Father’s presence.

John Adams stated: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[9]

These important truths that were revealed to the Brother of Jared about the promised land explain why President Adams’ statement is true:

“And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. …

“For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. …

“Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ.”[10]

You will recall that after the dedication of the St. George Temple in 1877, the Founding Fathers appeared to Elder Wilford Woodruff, the Temple President and requested that saving ordinances be performed for them in the temple. He saw to it that this was done, along with other notable men and women who helped establish our nation.

This shows us the caliber of these individuals. They were not perfect. I am not perfect, either, but I have access to God’s inspiration, too.

All the blessings enjoyed under the United States Constitution are dependent upon the rule of law. The righteous respect the rule of law. That is why President J. Reuben Clark said, “Our allegiance run[s] to the Constitution and to the principles which it embodies, and not to individuals.” The rule of law is the basis of liberty. It is part of our civic duty to be moral and respectful in our conduct toward all people. There is no place in responsible citizenship for dishonesty or deceit or for willful law breaking of any kind. We believe with the author of Proverbs that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” The personal righteousness of citizens will strengthen a nation more than the force of its arms.[11]

I urge you to prayerfully study President Oaks’ powerful talk from April Conference. I also urge your prayerful study of the Doctrine and Covenants in relation to this important topic. Study the teachings of the prophets about America. And study the Constitution as well. This will help us hold these great men in sacred memory on Memorial Day and always. They played an important part in the Restoration. They dug the well.

I testify that if you will do this, you will be blessed with a deeper understanding of the promises of the Lord to us, his covenant people.

I testify to you that the Constitution was inspired of God. I know that it was established to allow the Restoration of the Gospel to occur so that we can fulfill our roles in covenant Israel and assist in the gathering.

I testify that God is at the helm. He is directing the affairs of his kingdom.

I know that if we are true to the principles of liberty as revealed by God, we will find peace amid the confusion and evils of our world.

That we may do so is my prayer.

[1] Russell M. Nelson, Ensign January 2021.

[2] D&C 101: 77-78, 80.

[3] D&C 98:5.

[4] J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report, p. 90. April 1935.

[5] J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report, October 58, 1942.

[6] George Albert Smith, Teachings, 167.

[7] Oaks, Defending Our Divinely Inspired Constitution. General Conference, April 2021. Italics mine.

[8] Oaks, ibid,

[9] From John Adams to Massachusetts Militia, 11 October 1798

[10] Ether 2:9-10, 12.

[11] Benson?

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 6 May 2021

Famous Last Words, But Not Quite Last

Clinical faculty, staff, and administration at Western University College of Dental Medicine were invited to share thoughts and advice with our graduating class of 2015 on April 28, 2015. When we were invited to speak, I had a flood of ideas. However, we were given strict time limits (which I observed). This gave me a new appreciation for blogs, because this allows me to share all my thoughts.

Here is my “Last Lecture,” had I been given an hour to deliver it. I have updated it for the Class of 2021. Although I was not able to join with you this year, I still wish to share some thoughts with you, because of your importance in my life.

This posting is version 3.0.

Greetings, colleagues! In August 2017, we brought you into the WesternU family. We were excited to welcome your class. Now, some 3 years and 9 months later, I have written my “last lecture” for you.

If you are not familiar with the “Last Lecture” concept, at many universities, respected faculty members are asked to speak at special gatherings and give their last lecture, in response to the question “If this were the last lecture you gave on earth, what would you want to say?”

That is a somewhat morbid thought, especially as I consider that in the last few years I delivered eulogies for my grandmother, my aunt and my mother as well as a close friend and colleague. This is not my eulogy. Or yours. I am thinking that “Famous Last Words” might be a better title.

In order to address that, let’s go back to some of your first words here. I think I may have been privileged to interview some of you, so I may have heard some of your first words.

Nearly five years ago, each of you was interviewing for dental school. A common question, for generations, has been “Why do you want to be a dentist?” and I’m certain you responded to that one here, as well as in other schools. Try to remember your answer. (And I think you might have repeated that same question as you struggled through the early going here: something like “why in the world did I want to do this?”)

Let me pose the same question to you now: “Why do you want to be a dentist?” I hope your answer isn’t exactly the same as it was five years ago.

What changed? Well, you have. Yes, we have aged you a little. And you have aged us a little as well. You have experienced some significant life events, which may have included births, deaths, marriages, breakups, and the list could go on. We watched each of you make the transition from an excited freshman to a tired sophomore, then you entered the clinic as scared new juniors. At some point, we saw a visible change in each of you as you became professionals. You walked differently in the clinic. You showed more confidence in your own abilities and judgment, and the thought of being out in the world was no longer frightening to you: in fact, you began to anticipate it. You became confident (maybe even cocky) seniors, and finally, after boards, a new anxiety surfaced as you realized your “sheltered” life was about to end.

What changed? Your experiences in serving others; in relieving pain, and in becoming a healer helped you to recognize the intangible benefits of serving humanity: the smiles and expressions of thanks, and sometimes even the tears of gratitude. Or just the feeling that you have made things better for an individual. This probably wasn’t exactly what you expected in 2016 when you said you wanted to change the world.

When you enrolled in the College of Dental Medicine, neither you nor we realized that you would have to confront the challenges of a pandemic that has continued for over a year and has disrupted our lives on all fronts. It certainly made your dental education unique. You learned resilience and flexibility as you adapted to the changes and challenges of pandemic clinical education. From my vantage point, you have come through with flying colors.

You are not the same people who entered these doors in August 2017. I you are, then you, and especially we, have failed. I hope you will take time to recognize that.

My advice will not include:

Don’t violate the supracrestal attached tissue!

Recapitulate and irrigate!

Don’t leave unsupported enamel.

Remember to walk your patient to the front and collect the fee at the end of your appointment!

No aqua boxes!


I’m not going to write that. You will not hear that from me!


Remembering that free advice is worth what you pay for it, if I could give some final words of advice to each of you, it would be these:

Step out of your comfort zone. We have pushed you out of your comfort zone many times since you came here. That is that is how you grew and learned new skills.

When you leave the shelter of these walls, we will not be there to guide you or to push you. You will have to take the initiative. There will be many uncomfortable moments in your career. This may include difficult procedures, unpleasant experiences, giving bad news, or even firing an employee. These moments, properly managed, will make you stronger. And don’t overlook preparing for the unexpected challenges.

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. This leads to my next point.

Jump into life with both feet. You have spent a long time preparing for a great career. You will have many frightening moments. Remember your local anesthesia activity, or the first time you worked on a live patient. Think of how far you have come.

There will be many times in your life when you find yourself standing on the high-dive watching the people down in the pool having a good time. Will you hesitate, or will you jump in?

Granted, some dental procedures require careful preparation, but most things in life demand that you simply jump in and start.

Approach life with boldness.

Include God in your plans. You may not believe in the same God as I do; that’s fine. The important thing is to make God your business partner. That doesn’t guarantee that everything will go smoothly, but with God on your side, things always go better.

I have prayerfully approached all the major decisions in my life. I have also prayed as I faced various challenges and struggles, and the help and inspiration I received was invaluable. Don’t turn your back on a valuable resource.

I should also add that I have prayed for you. Individually and collectively. Some of you already know that, and have felt it. You are that important to me. And as some of you faced various crises, prayer was the best help I could offer you. And feel free to let me know in the future when prayers are needed in your behalf.

Keep your priorities straight. Keep a balance in life. Recognize what is most important in your life. Set your priorities and honor them. Of course, life doesn’t always cooperate, and sometimes you have to temporarily shift your priorities in order to maintain your balance. But don’t go it alone.

A wise friend said: “If you take care of the big things, the little things tend to take care of themselves.”

I have learned above all, that sacrificing your family or your faith in order to have success in your career is too high a price to pay. I know some prominent dental speakers who have done just that. When I caught on to the pattern, I lost some respect for them.

My own priorities are God, family, myself, then dentistry. You may decide to prioritize things differently, and that’s fine; the choice is up to you. But take some time to seriously consider what is most important to you. It will help you keep focused when challenges arise.

Family and friends are where true wealth comes from.

During the long isolations of the pandemic, I received a lesson in the importance of personal health as a priority. A diagnosis of diabetes was an unpleasant wake-up call. With the assistance of my wife, and a good deal of stubbornness on my part, in less than three months, my diabetes was controlled, and eight months later, I have lost 65 pounds and prioritize time for my personal health. Don’t forget your own health: bad things will sneak up on you as you get older.

Don’t forget your heritage. None of you were dentists when you began your education. Some of you may have been the first college graduates in your family. Some of you may be the first doctors in your family (I am). Others are second- or even third-generation dentists. Nearly all of you are here because your family sacrificed and supported your efforts.

Your roots are important. I am descended from British coal miners, inventors and carpenters, Scottish shipbuilders, Irish and Dutch farmers, and even some royalty. I am a product of many great individuals who have shaped who I am. And I am proud of all of them.

There have also been many individuals outside my family who have shaped me: friends, teachers, colleagues and other associates. Our circles of influence are broad.

Always act in a way that will bring honor to your family and their heritage. Celebrate their sacrifices that brought you to where you are. Remember to say thank you occasionally.

Wherever you came from, don’t forget your heritage!

And in connection with that, ask yourself: what will my legacy be? How do you want to be remembered?

This is an important question to ask. Your legacy comes from your character. It is built moment by moment through your words and your actions. One major incident can destroy your reputation, and that cannot easily be restored.

I remember a dentist in our community who spent an evening in a bar, got his blood alcohol up to .16%, was involved in a police chase, and was shot to death when he tried to run over an officer when he had been cornered. He was a good man, but he will be remembered most for his last hours.

How will you be remembered? How do you want to be remembered?

Choose your paths wisely. We are free to make choices, but we are not free to choose the consequences.

Enjoy life – enjoy working! Life is meant to be a joyful experience. Enjoy your life! Enjoy working, enjoy your family, and enjoy fulfilling your responsibilities. Above all, take time to enjoy the pleasures life has to offer you.

You may feel discouraged at times, especially when you consider your financial burdens. But consider that you have skills that will allow you to work almost anywhere and earn a living. Sure, you will have to work hard, but that will also bring satisfaction to you.

Dentistry is a rewarding profession. The things that bring you joy are relieving someone’s pain, improving someone’s smile, helping someone eat better, or just the joy of a good outcome. And these are all non-taxable benefits!

As much as I loved the practice of dentistry, I love teaching even more. The opportunity to work with outstanding, ambitious and idealistic young adults has been priceless. I had no idea I would enjoy working with you as much as I do!

In Boy Scouts of America’s Order of the Arrow organization, we pledge to “seek to preserve a cheerful spirit even in the midst of irksome tasks and weighty responsibilities.” That’s a great life philosophy.

And another reminder: The time to get out of dentistry is when you stop having fun. Life is too short to have a job that you hate.

Find a cause; and be passionate about it. Reach out and be a part of something bigger than yourself. Make the world a better place by combining your efforts with others. And don’t do it with the intent of publicizing what a good person you are. That is a direct violation of our professional codes of ethics.

Your passion for a cause will influence others, because you are a doctor.

It may be as simple as donating blood (very anonymous). Perhaps coaching a youth sports team or coaching youth in other areas where you have talents. It may be Scouting, or in your church. You might help out with marching band. There is no limit to the contributions you can make.

It may be a community cause; it may be on a larger scale. But find something!

I even have some friends who have turned their passion to politics. Bill Emmerson and Sam Aanestad served in the California legislature, and Jim Woods serves there now. And Paul Gosar represents Arizona (and dentistry!) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

You definitely should be a part of your dental organization’s charitable efforts, as in CDA Foundation and other similar organizations.

Make sure you support causes that you can embrace fully.

You get what you pay for. If you were going to have open-heart surgery, you wouldn’t look for the low bidder to do the job. You would seek out the services of an experienced surgeon; one who has successfully confronted your condition before.

You didn’t go to the low bidder for your dental education. But you will recognize in the years to come the great value you received.

While it is important to be thrifty and try to save money, don’t try to do everything on the cheap. In many cases it will cost you more.

Always express sincere gratitude. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It will carry you far in life. Learn to express gratitude from the heart. Be thankful for the small things as well as the bigger things. Expressing gratitude to your spouse or significant other is an important key to a happy marriage. And thank your children for their efforts. This will teach them to be appreciative and thankful people.

Sincerely thank your staff. Treat them politely and they will become fiercely loyal to you. Thank your patients: they are contributing to your successes.

People need to feel appreciated. Your expressions of gratitude and appreciation will change lives. Including your own.

I hope you have noticed that even in the midst of challenges, you don’t have to look very far to find something to be thankful for.

Be a mentor: don’t keep your wisdom to yourself. You know the value of a good mentor. You have had them in school, and you have had them at other key points in your life.

There will be many times in your life when you have the opportunity to teach someone a life skill or give them some kind of help or encouragement. As a professional, you are obligated to help others. You may be the only person that treats some of your young patients with respect, and that goes a long way.

If you ever have a teenage patient who asks you if life is really worth living, you will suddenly feel that burden. Some of your patients will subtly ask you to throw them a lifeline when they are struggling. Perhaps you have made the same request during your education here, and have been blessed by the timely response of a sensitive faculty member or classmate. You will need to be aware. And be encouraging.

Other patients will ask more positive questions. Like the kids who ask how long you have to go to school to become a dentist. When you answer, let them feel your passion for the profession. It is a priceless moment when you hear a patient say “I want to be like you.” Believe me, these comments make the struggles worth it.

A song in your heart will keep a smile on your face. I find that I continually have music in my head. It’s good music. It keeps me sane. That is one reason I love the blues. It makes me happy. It makes me feel good.

I will never forget the anxious patient who was having some extractions. She started to laugh in the middle of the extractions. I had to stop and ask her why. She told me to listen to song that was playing (Twist and Shout by the Beatles). She asked if I had thought about the words. I had not, at least not in connection with dental work. But thinking about Paul singing “twist and shout … come on baby, work it on out” was enough to relax her for what might have been a miserable procedure. That has been my extraction song ever since. And you will never hear that song the same way again.

Dr. Friedrichsen told me of a similar experience while numbing a patient to the old standard I’ve Got You Under my Skin.

There are other songs that belong in my dental repertoire as well. Comfortably Numb is my favorite. And how about Hurts So Good? Or Hurts So Bad?

Even without a dental connection, music influences our moods. I have written about that. Go for the tunes that make you feel good. I cannot imagine a world without music.

Keep a sense of humor, but don’t take yourself too seriously: we don’t.

Humor can grease the wheels of life and help difficult times to go better. I don’t recommend crude, profane, or offensive humor; that is unprofessional. But a little humor makes the day better.

One caveat: some patients do not want humor when they visit the dentist. You’ll learn to switch it on and off.

Appropriate humor will also make family life more fun.

And don’t take things personally: we all have bad days – and good ones. When I have a bad day, I like to remind myself that even trash collectors have bad days. Even Eric Clapton hits a bad note on occasion, but he always recovers quickly.

The great jazz trumpeter Miles Davis taught a band member that “If you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if its’s good or bad.”

And a bad day in some careers is far worse than a typical bad day in dentistry.

Set goals. You might feel as though you have been on a runaway freight train as it races full speed ahead for the past few years. Now, as you look ahead, you are still moving at full speed, but you don’t see any tracks ahead! You have reached the point in your lives where you will have to lay the tracks yourself; you will have to determine your course. Otherwise, gravity will do it for you. And gravity always takes you downhill.

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice comes to crossroads, where she meets the Cheshire Cat.  As usual, Alice is puzzled by the choice she faces.

She asks: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” To which the

Cheshire Cat responds: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Alice replied: “I don’t much care where.”

The Cheshire Cat replied: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.” And Alice interjected: “…So long as I get somewhere.”

The Cheshire Cat concluded: “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

At many crossroads in your lives it will be critical to make an informed choice. If you don’t, life will carry you along to a place you may not desire.

Most of us here in the College of Dental Medicine are here because we came to a crossroad and made a choice. Few of us of us had any idea where the road would lead, but it has been a fulfilling journey.

That is also important to remember. Don’t fear the unexpected.

Robert Burns wrote: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley [awry].”  Our best plans don’t always work out. Things change. Be flexible. Adapt to the changes and keep moving forward. You may find you end up in a better place!

Let me give you all a last little bit of homework. You won’t have to turn this in, but that doesn’t diminish its importance.

During the next few weeks, many of you will have more down time than you have ever had as adults.

If you are wise, you will use some of this time to sit down in a quiet place and take stock of your life. Start with questions like “Where am I? Where do I want to be in 5 years? In 10?” Write your thoughts down. Organize your thoughts into solid goals. Don’t discard a goal because it might seem to take too long or require too much effort. Your journey to becoming a dentist was neither quick nor easy.

Then set some intermediate goals that will help you to reach that destination. Again, write it all down. Organize it. And put it all where you can see it frequently.

Be sure to include continuing education in your goals. This will help you improve in some of your weak areas. Don’t leave it to chance.

For example, paying off student loans early (and some of you will do that) will not happen by accident. Those who achieve that will do it because they made a plan and carried it out.

Your biggest challenge may be that all your plans led up to May 19. Your pursuit of that has been in a very structured world. Now you must determine the structure of your future. If you don’t, life will just happen and you may not get anywhere.

Be true to the trust placed in you, as a person and as a professional. Society has entrusted you with great responsibilities as healers, as scholars, and as professionals. You have been granted privileges that few others enjoy. You may just think of the privileges included within your scope of practice. But it goes beyond that.

You will also be respected because you bear the title “doctor.” In matters both dental and non-dental, your opinions will be highly respected. They may be given more weight than you think is appropriate. Choose your words carefully.

Strive for excellence in life. Always give your best efforts in whatever you do. Do your job the best you can. Not just in your practice but in your life outside your practice as well. People will form impressions based on what they see. Be consistent.

Be a person of integrity. Be a trusted, reliable person. Like it or not, you are role models. That obligates you to be a good example.

Be a good neighbor. Be kind to others, especially to those who seem least deserving of kindness. In the end, your caring demeanor will mean more to your patients than your ability to cut a perfect prep.

Never stop learning: Be curious about the world around you. You have spent the last four-plus years focused on dentistry and the health sciences. You will now have the freedom to look into other areas as well. It has been said that if you choose the right five books on a subject, you can become an expert on that subject.

Some of the subjects I have studied in depth include birds, computers, constitutional law and the Supreme Court, weather, birds, plate tectonics, marketing, leadership, literature, ethics, religious studies, photography, birds, and many others.

Gaining knowledge outside of dentistry makes you a better citizen of the world. And you will find it easier to converse with your patients.

Of course, you must also continue your study of dentistry. We are part of a rapidly changing profession. If you don’t make an effort to keep up to date, you will quickly become an old school dentist and find it difficult to compete. Take time for continuing education! Don’t become stagnant and irrelevant!

And by all means, look at the history our profession. This has not been a part of our curriculum. But understanding where we have been can help you appreciate where we are going. And there are some fascinating characters in our history.

Your most valuable asset is not your hands or your eyes: it is your brain! Keep it active; keep it healthy.

Never stop learning!

Give back! The first words of advice I received as a new dentist were from Dr. John Brown, from Claremont, who told me “Welcome to dentistry. Make sure you give back.” At point, I wasn’t sure what he meant. I wasn’t sure I had received anything at that point. But I took his remarks to heart. I took advantage of opportunities to serve my colleagues in the dental organization in small ways. One thing led to another, and I was asked to serve in leadership positions. I had opportunities that I could not have imagined, and I have friends around the globe. Because I chose to give back, I had the opportunity to join the faculty of a fledgling dental school in Pomona. You have seen the results.

Giving back doesn’t apply just to your profession. Give back to your community, to your church, to other organizations that have helped you along the way.

You will have many opportunities to serve. Serve as your circumstances allow, and to the extent you desire. But serve. Somewhere.

You will be a happier person because of your service. And you will make the world a better place.


This is an amazing time to become a dentist. The profession has an exciting future. They told us that when I was graduating. It was true then; it is true now. Sure, there are economic pressures, especially as the world and our profession recover from COVID-19. The real rewards are those of being a healer, an artist, and a creator of smiles. As technology develops, there will better ways to do what we do. Things that we can’t even imagine right now.

One warning: you are now condemned to be hearing voices the rest of your life. I think most of us can hear particular faculty members saying things repeatedly. That will be a good reminder to you all. For me, it has been Doctor Tom Watkins, in his South Texas accent, reminding us to make our class V preps roundy-roundy, with an outline form like hot dawgs or smiley faces.

So just take a deep breath, and do what you know how to do. And make us proud.

So, I wish you all great success in your personal and professional lives. We are proud of what you have done and will continue to take pride in your accomplishments. I look forward to seeing what you do with your lives. We live in an extremely connected world, so be sure to share!

I deeply appreciate the opportunity I have had to work with most of you in some capacity, and the opportunity I have had to touch your lives. Please know also that you have touched my life, and changed me.

I love you all, and have great respect for each of you. I hope you have felt that when we have worked together. I am proud of each of you for your great accomplishments in reaching this point. Particularly those who have endured extra struggles in getting here. You are an example to all of us.

Now one final last word. My teaching philosophy can be summed up in three words: “dreams to reality.” I am grateful beyond words for the trust you have placed in me, and in my colleagues, and for the privilege of assisting you in making your dreams a reality.

Thank you.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 29 January 2021

America is a nation in need of grace

This editorial was posted in The Deseret News on January 27, 2021. Matheson penned a powerful, non-partisan statement on the desperate need our country has for grace, in each of its understood meanings. I am sharing it as he wrote it, because I certainly can’t improve on his sentiments. The original post can be read here. It is a little longer than most opinion pieces, but it is worth reading and pondering.


The people of this country need to receive it, show it and share it

By Boyd Matheson, Opinion Editor Jan 27, 2021, 8:00am MST

On Inauguration Day, Jennifer Lopez took to the steps of the United States Capitol and sang the time-honored classic, “America the Beautiful.” It was beautiful, as beautiful as it has ever been in so many inaugural moments. The words and melody still ring true. The prayerful plea, “God shed His grace on thee,” more striking, more powerful and more important than ever.

America is a nation in need of grace. The people of this country need to receive it, show it and share it.

A friend reminded me that grace has many meanings. We often think of grace as having elegance and poise, courtesy and civility. This kind of grace has little to do with wealth, prominence or elite education. I have seen elegance in the noble way a teacher bends down to help a struggling student and how a middle-aged child cares for an aging parent. I have watched poise in the restraint of those, who in the heat of an argument, give grace through a soft reply. I have observed courtesy extended by brilliant women and men who listen so intently that they elevate the talker or teacher, even when they already know what will be said.

This type of grace is difficult to see or sense with the rage of angry voices, physical or verbal assaults or the kind of contempt that crushes communities and grieves the soul of the nation. Lacking grace, we have seen an increase in actions, openly hostile or deceptively subtle. Those audaciously brazen enough to violate sacred spaces — whether in our capitols, our houses of worship, our homes or our digital screens — are not exhibiting any form of grace.

Grace creates space for healing and unity. That kind of grace won’t come easy. It is won one day, one interaction, one moment at a time. Neither President Joe Biden pushing executive orders nor Sean Hannity calling the president’s first week in office an abject failure allow for grace. Shouting matches on cable news, road rage or the incessant mocking and demonizing of those we disagree with does not demonstrate or create space for the grace that can heal.

America! America! God shed His grace on thee.

In the early days of the pandemic, and every day since, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has reminded the residents of the city that maintaining social distance from each other demands that we show an increase of social grace.

Part of what must transcend our politics, our personal relationships and our communities is the kind of grace that allows us to see beyond the insignificant. We spend far too much time hyperventilating about trivial matters.

Judith Martin, better known by her pen name Miss Manners, has spent her career writing about etiquette, manners and social grace. She once wrote, “Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without a comment is a wonderful social grace.” Miss Manners then humorously cautioned, “Children who have the habit of constantly correcting should be stopped before they grow up to drive spouses and everyone else crazy by interrupting stories to say, ‘No, dear — it was Tuesday, not Wednesday.’”

Patriot dreams, “that see beyond the years,” begin by seeing beyond the insignificant and instead seeing deeply with an eye of grace.

New York Times columnist David Brooks addressed the need for such grace when he spoke at Brigham Young University in 2020. He said, “We have entered an age of bad generalization. We don’t see each other well. We do not see the heart and soul of each person, only a bunch of bad labels. To me, this is the core problem that our democratic character is faced with. Many of our society’s great problems flow from people not feeling seen and known: Blacks feeling that their daily experience is not understood by whites. Rural people not feeling seen by coastal elites. Depressed young people not feeling understood by anyone. People across the political divides getting angry with one another and feeling incomprehension. Employees feeling invisible at work. Husbands and wives living in broken marriages, realizing that the person who should know them best actually has no clue.”

Brooks concluded, “We all have to get a little better at seeing each other deeply and being deeply seen.” That is the beginning of grace.

America! America! God shed His grace on thee.

Across religious and faith traditions, the idea of grace is central to redeeming imperfect people and reconciling them to their divine nature. Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, showed how within the Christian tradition the atoning sacrifice of Jesus impacted the world. “When all is said and done, when all of history is examined, when the deepest depths of the human mind have been explored, there is nothing so wonderful, so majestic, so tremendous as this act of grace.”

Individually we are all a little broken. There are no perfect people. We are all in need of redemption from mistakes and offenses. Imperfect people, employees, bosses, spouses and friends need grace that is both human and divine. As a nation we are also and imperfect and broken. Restoring and strengthening the soul of America requires every citizen and all institutions of government to find grace and the step forward.

The inspiring words from youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem provide hope for grace:

When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade

We’ve braved the belly of the beast

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace

And the norms and notions

of what just is

Isn’t always just-ice

And yet the dawn is ours

before we knew it

Somehow we do it

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken

but simply unfinished.

We often quote Abraham Lincoln as one who may have been outwardly awkward in size, demeanor and social sophistication, yet he understood that need for the nation to find grace. In 1861, he created the space and place for grace declaring, We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

In a profound piece in the “Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy,” Judge Thomas B. Griffith, then serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, addressed grace in the form of civic charity, including Lincoln’s call for bonds of affection. Judge Griffith wrote, “What then of our current moment? How strong are our ‘bonds of affection’? The Constitution’s form of government not only allows spirited disagreement, it requires it. But the Constitution cannot withstand a citizenry whose debates are filled with contempt for one another.”

Judge Griffith included an observation from columnist Michael Gerson: “The heroes of America are heroes of unity. Our political system is designed for vigorous disagreement. It is not designed for irreconcilable contempt. Such contempt loosens the ties of citizenship and undermines the idea of patriotism.” Judge Griffith concluded, “The Constitution anticipates instead a citizenship whose ‘bonds of affection’ cross regional, religious, racial and ideological boundaries. For the Constitution to succeed, We the People must unite to create a society based on shared values.”

One additional form of grace is found in an additional bit of time graciously granted. The “grace period” given to one whose payment is due is a good example. It is an act that comes without penalty, judgement or retribution. Imagine what would happen in our individual and collective relationships if we simply granted people some additional time, or if we withheld our judgement, restrained our anger or frustration for long enough to discover there was more at play than we had supposed.

America needs a grace period — a chance to exhale and to forgive, a moment to remember what unites us and why we are united. Rather than condemning America as a nation irredeemable we each should take advantage of the grace period granted to us, today, to create a union more perfect and indivisible. That space for grace will allow us to hear the mystic chords of memory, repair our faults and failings and strengthen our bonds of affection.

America is a nation in need of grace. The people of this country need to receive it, show it and share it.

America! America! God shed His grace on thee.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 13 December 2020

For Unto Us A Child is Born

I spoke virtually today in Highlands Ward’s worship service. It was a pleasure to speak to so many old friends. It is a blessed responsibility to talk about the birth and mission of the Savior. I recorded a condensed version of the talk for the missionaries to use that can be seen here. It is not the entire talk.

This sermon is a Christmas message that I felt provides context to 2020 as prepare to leave it behind. Thank you for reading it.


Christmas time is a magical time of year. I think it is a time that all of us, young and old, look forward to. There are so many different traditions and expectations associated with Christmas that make it a happy time.

I think everyone will agree that we need the Christmas spirit to help us end this year on a good note. We need to immerse ourselves in the holiday traditions that bring us joy; we need to have a Christ-centered Christmas.

Next to being with family, the music is my favorite Christmas tradition. I have a large collection of Christmas music, and I started listening in October. One of my oldest favorites, which we sang in our ward choir way back when I was a young man, is “For Unto Us A Child Is Born,” by Handel. The text was taken from Isaiah 9:6, which is repeated in 2 Nephi 19:6.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

I can’t read this verse without the music beginning in my mind.

Isaiah was probably the foremost among the many prophets who prophesied and testified of the Christ who would come. He certainly was in Nephi’s eyes.

Beginning with Adam, and on up to Russell M. Nelson, all the prophets have testified of Christ.

We have been blessed this year to study the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ in our homes. In it, we have heard the words of many of the prophets whose testimonies were recorded in this wonderful book of scripture. From these writings, we know that the prophets foresaw the life of the Savior in great detail.

In Nephi’s vision, recorded in First Nephi, chapters 11 and 12, we share in his conversation with a heavenly messenger.

“And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. …

“And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

“And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

“And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.

“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! …

“And … he said unto me: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him. …

“And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.

“And I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him; and I beheld that they cast him out from among them. …

“And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.

“And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.” (1 Nephi 11;13, 18-21, 24, 27-28, 32-33)

Some five hundred years later, Alma also testified of Christ:

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

“Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.” (Alma 7:11-13)

I’m grateful for Alma’s testimony that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is far broader than we generally think. It does more than just help us overcome our sins and weaknesses. He reminds us that it covers our pains, our sicknesses, and our infirmities. What a great blessing that is!

President Nelson reminded us that there are over 2200 scriptures that testify of Christ.

With all this information, we might well ask ourselves the question Pilate asked long ago: “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22) What shall we do with his teachings, and how can we make them an inseparable part of our lives? How can we always remember Him, as we covenant to do each Sunday as we partake of the sacrament?  In light of these questions, at this season we ask another: What does Christmas really mean?

I will share some thoughts about this from President Hinckley, and add my own comments.

Christmas means giving. We are reminded in this season of the great gift the Father gave us: the gift of His Son, and of the gift that Jesus Christ gave us through His Atonement and Resurrection: the opportunity to overcome death and to overcome our sins. As we commemorate Christ’s birth, we should give to others in remembrance of these infinitely important gifts we have received.

Christmas means the Christ child, the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger while angels sang, and wise men traveled far to bring gifts. It is a beautiful and timeless story, and I hope each of us will read it again this season.

I suggest that you make the video “The Christ Child” a part of your Christmas traditions. If you haven’t watched it yet, you need to do so. (You can view it here.)

Christmas means compassion and love and, most of all, forgiveness.“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29.)

Right now, we need compassion, love and forgiveness more than ever before. We need to receive it, but we have a greater need to offer it to those around us. If everyone were to emulate Christ’s example of love, our world would be a better place. We can love others in spite of political, cultural or religious differences. Our example of love for others can bring light to a very dark world.

We need to be the leaven that helps to lift the world. We can do this as we share our light and our spirit despite the ugliness that prevails.

We need to do as the Apostle Peter described Christ’s activity, that He “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38)

What shall we do then with Jesus who is called Christ?

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8.)

Christmas also means peace. This is the message of the angels on the night of Christ’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)

As we strive to love and forgive others, we will more easily find peace in our hearts, and good will toward men.

The only way to lasting peace in our world is through Jesus Christ and his gospel. As we learn to hear Him, we will be guided in our search for peace. After all, He is the Prince of Peace.

At the beginning of the year, President Nelson invited us to consider how we “hear Him.” Many of our general Church leaders have shared the different ways in which we hear Christ. As 2020 draws to a close, I invite you to ponder this invitation. Ask yourself how you have heard the Savior speak to you during this year of unprecedented challenges. You might want to discuss this with your family. It is likely to strengthen your faith and theirs as you share.

I feel certain that as you ponder the blessings that have come into your lives this year, you will begin to focus on the positive aspects of 2020 and find that it actually has been a good year.

I also invite each of you to prayerfully consider what you can do to make 2021 a year of personal growth and positivity through the Spirit and through “hearing Him.”

I testify that the child whose birth we celebrate is Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. I know that He lives. He is the true gift, from our Heavenly Father to each one of us. Accepting that gift gives us the key to a wonderful, peaceful life.

Jesus Christ truly is “Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” and He invites all “to come unto Him … [and] buy milk and honey, without money and without price.” (2 Nephi 26:25)

I know that as we trust Him, we will find true joy and peace, regardless of our current circumstances.

May the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a spirit-filled New Year, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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