Posted by: 2thdocbob | 30 December 2019

How you know when a new day has dawned in 2020

The following is an opinion piece in the Deseret News written by Boyd Matheson, Deseret News Opinion Editor. In the past, Mr. Matheson has kindly encouraged me to share his articles, with proper attribution.

I am sharing this because his sentiments resonated strongly with me. As we approach a new year and a new decade, there is a serious need for understanding and civility. If each of us were willing to say “Let it begin with me,” we could initiate major change in the world.

But Matheson says it better than I do.

The original article may be found here.


Turning the calendar to the new year provides an opportunity to start a new day for the nation. On many of the important policy issues, the country seems to be divided 50-50, yet it is also apparent that vast majority of people are troubled by, and tired of, the incivility, divisiveness and contempt currently on display in America. Most would welcome in the dawning of a brighter, better day for all.

The country is weary. Washington and the national media only seem capable of making it worse. It is important to note that there are good people on both sides of the political aisle who are earnestly striving for the hard-fought and patiently nurtured positive solutions our nation desperately needs. Sadly, far too many have succumbed to the path of least resistance — the red-meat rhetoric of the extremes, the obsessive focus on fundraising and futile fights designed to produce social media moments. It is little wonder as to why so many Americans are so exhausted.

I regularly remind readers and listeners, along with professionals from every field, that in most endeavors we run out of energy long before we run out of opportunity. Weariness is always the enemy of good people who desire to do good.

Overcoming the nation’s weariness and creating a positive future for America will — like most worthy undertakings — require each of us to rekindle our commitment to community and reframe the way we see all the individuals we interact with each day.

I remain hopeful that the country can turn the calendar from what has felt like a long dark night in 2019 to a new day that will dawn for the country in 2020. There are many big things that must be done, but the dawn of a new day will begin with small and seemingly insignificant acts by individuals.

Many years ago I heard a story that may hold part of the answer for America. A Jewish rabbi sat enjoying the sunrise with two of his friends. The rabbi asked one of the men, “How do you know when the night is over and a new day has begun?”

One friend replied, “When you can look into the east and can distinguish a sheep from a goat, then you know the night is over and the day has begun.” The second man was asked the same question by the rabbi and replied, “When you can look into the distance and distinguish an olive tree from a fig tree, then you know the darkness of the night is past and a new morning has come.”

The two friends then asked the rabbi how he could tell when the night was over and the day had begun. The rabbi thought for a long time and then said, “When you can look into the east and see the face of a woman and you can say, ‘She is my sister.’ And when you can look into the east and see the face of a man and can say, ‘He is my brother.’ Then you know the light of a new day has come.”

The night of weariness ends and the new day for our country begins with kindness and with treating each other, especially the stranger and the struggling, like brothers and sisters.

On the dark night after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy stepped onto the back of a truck to address an already weary crowd. He acknowledged the devastating darkness of the night, then invited his listeners to join him in creating a new dawn. He said, “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another.”

What we need2

I have been lifted and inspired by many unexpected and unlikely friendships during 2019. Each began with someone seeing me as a brother before identifying me as anything else. Race, religion, background, political leaning, education and profession had no bearing on the beginning of the relationship. It was simply a new a day, launched in the recognition of, “he is my brother.” It is worth repeating the simple reality that we are all brothers and sisters. Weariness evaporates as the mist before the morning sun, and the rejuvenating hope of good things to come rises with clarity in the rays of that kind of light.

We have much to do to move the country forward. Many difficult conversations will be required, authentic leadership will be needed and the engagement of every citizen will be essential. We can start, however by recognizing that when we dispense with the wearying darkness of division and demeaning contempt, we will see the faces, not of foes, but of friends — truly of brothers and sisters. When we do, weariness can be washed away, and a new day for us, and for them, can dawn. Morning will come to America, but it is up to each of us to help usher in the light of a new day.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 18 August 2019

Being Truly Converted

I spoke this morning in the Rancho San Bernardino Ward, hence the testimony in Spanish at the end. I am always grateful for those who step up to translate for me. 

Good morning, dear brothers and sisters. It is always a blessing to worship with you and to feel of your love and strength. I am here by assignment from President Garvin, and I bring you his love and greetings.

As we have studied Come, Follow Me in our homes this year, we have had the opportunity to walk with the Savior and to know him better. I hope that we have also gained a desire to become more like him. That is truly why we are here on earth in this mortal life; it is why we meet here to worship Jesus Christ and to renew our covenants.

Through our studies, we have also become acquainted with Christ’s disciples, especially his chief apostle, Peter.

In an important moment, Jesus asked his disciples “Whom say ye that I am?”

Peter responded with conviction: “thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15–17).

From this conversation, we learn that a testimony is personal knowledge of spiritual truth obtained by revelation. Think of that! We have the right to receive personal revelation from the Holy Ghost. A testimony is a gift from God, and it is available to all of His children.

The Book of Mormon tells us that we can receive revelation if we ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, and faith in Christ. (see Moroni 10:3-5).

In our studies, we joined the Savior with his disciples at the Last Supper, where he said to Peter:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to … sift you as wheat:

“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31–32).

What did Jesus mean when he said this? Peter had walked and talked with him. He had witnessed many miracles and heard his teachings. Wasn’t that enough?

No. Even Peter needed to be taught about the converting and sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. Remember that they had not yet received the gift of the Holy Ghost and had no experience with it.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, and the plan of salvation, go beyond just having a testimony. To truly follow Christ requires a permanent change in our natures, made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Elder Bednar taught us that: “True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God (see Acts 3:193 Nephi 9:20) and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ”. (CR, Oct 2012)

True conversion enlarges our testimonies, just as a growing tree sinks its roots deep into the soil for nourishment and stability (see Alma 32). Conversion comes through revelation from God, which leads us to continue to repent, and to be obedient and diligent in living the gospel. Alma spoke of the “mighty change of heart,” and of being “spiritually born of God” (see Alma 5:12-14).

If we will honor the ordinances and covenants of salvation and exaltation (see D&C 20:25), “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20), and endure in faith to the end (see D&C 14:7), we will become new creatures in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), and we will be prepared to live with our Father in Heaven, enjoying the wonderful blessings he promises us.

Amaleki testified: “I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him” (Omni 1:26).

King Benjamin’s people responded to his teaching by exclaiming, “Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). Accepting his words, gaining a testimony of their truthfulness, and exercising faith in Christ produced a mighty change of heart and a firm determination to improve and become better.

Samuel the Lamanite spoke of the converted Lamanites who were “striving with unwearied diligence that they may bring the remainder of their brethren to the knowledge of the truth” (Helaman 15:5–6). Do you recognize what they were doing? They were ministering!

Having a testimony is important. But testimony is the starting point in our journey to eternal life; it is not the destination.

Elder Bednar taught that: “Testimony alone is not and will not be enough to protect us in the latter-day storm of darkness and evil in which we are living. Testimony is important and necessary but not sufficient to provide the spiritual strength and protection we need” (CR, Oct 2012).

Doesn’t this make you think of what President Nelson said in Conference last year? “But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost” (CR, Apr 2018).

Samuel the Lamanite identified five basic elements in becoming converted unto the Lord:

(1) believing in the teachings and prophecies of the holy prophets as they are recorded in the scriptures,
(2) exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,
(3) repenting,
(4) experiencing a mighty change of heart, and (5) becoming “firm and steadfast in the faith” (see Helaman 15:7–8).

This is the pattern that leads to conversion.

Once we experience this mighty change of heart, we will feel a strong desire to minister to our brothers and sisters who are not enjoying the blessings of the gospel right now. We will desire with all our hearts to help them return to full fellowship in the Church.

Continuing conversion must come from a willing heart. We must feel the desire to be true followers of Jesus Christ and to walk in His footsteps. We are free to choose to follow Jesus or to be left behind.

Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion.

We should know the gospel is true and be true to the gospel.

Yo testifico que ésta es la iglesia verdadera de Jesúcristo. Yo sé que Russell M. Nelson es nuestro profeta viviente hoy. Él habla con dios.

Yo testifico que Díos vive. Él nos ama. Jesucristo es nuestro Salvador y redentor.

De eso les testifico, en el nombre sagrado de Jesucristo, amen.


Posted by: 2thdocbob | 28 July 2019

Blessed, Honored Pioneers

The following approximates the talk I gave in Highlands Ward this morning. My assignment was to speak without text for ten minutes, which I did. This is a reconstruction of my talk, as I remember it. The exception is the poem Jacob Peart, Sr. wrote, which was added this afternoon as I fact-checked my story for accuracy. It was not part of my talk.

I am profoundly grateful for the sacrifices of my ancestors to embrace the true restored gospel of Jesus Christ, regardless of personal cost. I am also deeply grateful to my parents, grandparents, and my Uncle Donald Peart, who invested countless hours (and shekels) to search out our family history.

When I was turning twelve, I had already developed an interest in family history. My Uncle Don, who had been deeply involved in research, sent my a copy of my four-generation family group sheets along with a short letter, which made a deep impression on me. He encouraged me in my interest in family history, and then wrote that he was sharing a thought that he hoped would come to mean as much to me as it has to him: “No one shall know my ancestors better than I.”

That thought has stuck with me all these years. As I read and retell the stories  of my pioneer ancestors, I am thankful for all he did. When my dad retired, he and mom began compiling family histories, complete with photos and documents. Each Christmas I looked forward to receiving another CD full of new information. Last year, my dad handed me one, and told me “this is the last one.”

I am deeply grateful for our shared pioneer heritage. Whether you come from pioneer stock, or share the heritage as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ, you are a part of the pioneer heritage. And those of you who are first and second generation members of the Church are certainly pioneers, as you blaze new trails in your own lives. In many ways, you are experiencing many of the same challenges that our pioneer ancestors faced.

In a sense, aren’t we all pioneers, as we face new challenges and opportunities in our lives? President Hinckley has said that the challenges we face today are no less difficult than those the pioneers of last century had to face. And I sometimes think I would rather deal with crossing the plains than with many of the challenges of modern life.

I have felt prompted to share some of the life of Jacob Peart, Sr., my third great grandfather. Jacob was born and lived in Alston, Cumberland, England, an area with many sheep farms, and metal mining.

Jacob Peart Sr_edited-1

As we know, the first missionaries came to England in 1837. One of the missionaries, Isaac Russell, felt inspired to share the gospel with relatives who lived up the coast from Liverpool. He shared the restored gospel with his cousin Jacob Peart, who, with his family members who were of age, were among the first converts to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. He was a faithful member in the Alston Branch.

When the Brethren returned to America, Jacob was assigned to watch over the Branch (Branch President) and to assist the members in their preparations to migrate to America. Eventually, in 1841, Jacob Peart, Sr. along with his wife and six children, left heir homeland for Zion. Within a few months of their arrival, Jacob’s wife passed away, followed in the next 18 months by their four daughters. About a year later, a son also passed away, leaving Jacob, Jr. as the only surviving child. The records state that he, too, became very ill, but was healed by “the power of faith.,” under the administration of the Prophet Joseph.

Jacob, Sr. was a poet, and wrote the following about the loss of his beloved Elizabeth:

“In Joseph’s city lies.
Deep in the earth’s cold bed.
The partner of my youth.
There numbered with the dead.

“Her heart was full of love.
While actions graced her soul;
Truth was the language of her heart.
And all her ways control,

“Her love to me was great;
I never shall forget;
Though heaven and earth shall pass away,
I will remember yet.

“How lovely and how pure
Sweet and serene her mind.
Her duties, cheerful to perform,
Was ever her design.

“The time is rolling round.
When we again shall meet;
With everlasting glory crowned.
And happiness complete.”

In spite of this great loss, he did not complain, nor did he lose faith in the gospel. He wrote: “These Bereavements were great trials to me, but I knew the work of God was true, and I was at all times ready to say thy will be done.” Can you imagine bearing a loss like this with such courage?

Both Jacob, Sr. and Jacob, Jr. recorded the day the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were returned to Nauvoo, and the great sorrow that was felt as the wagon traveled down the street. Jacob, Jr., at eight years old, was deeply touched seeing the bodies of these great men, a memory which he carried for the remainder of his life.

At the age of eight, Jacob, Jr. witnessed the Elders baptizing in the Mississippi River. He requested baptism and became a full-fledged member of the Church.

When the Saints were expelled from Nauvoo, many of the men and boys sought work outside of Nauvoo to raise badly needed funds for the trek west. Jacob, Sr., went to St. Joseph, Missouri to work and to get outfitted to go west with the Vanguard Company, the first company of pioneers in 1847. A severe storm delayed his journey, and he arrived in Winter Quarters three days late for the departure. Jacob gave away all his provisions, and went back to work. The two Jacobs, with Jacob, Sr.’s new wife, went to Salt Lake City in 1848, in the Brigham Young company.

There, he remained a faithful member of the Church. He was said to have been reliable and respected. He died in Jacob, Jr.’s home in 1874.

As a young adult, Jacob, Jr. was called to the Cotton Mission in Southern Utah. While there, he did something that suggests one the sources of my own sense of humor. He sat atop one of the bluffs south of what is now Saint George, tending sheep. He had plenty of time for reflection, and we believe that the irony of his position struck him. He had been called to grow cotton, and there he sat raising wool, instead.

One day, he climbed onto the sandstone face of the bluff and carved into the sandstone “I was set here to rais cotton” [sic]. This was accompanied by a picture of a cotton tree, and a head, presumably Brigham Young’s.

Jacob, Jr. was also a faithful member, who remained true to his covenants.

I pray that we may all remain faithful to our covenants, in spite of the challenges that may confront us.

I testify that as we remain true and strive to follow the Savior, we will enjoy blessings that are wonderful beyond anything we can imagine.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 15 July 2019

Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

Call me an old Patriot. Call me naïve. Call me what you want. But I still stand for Old Glory. I still get a tear in my eye when I play or sing the National Anthem. I have never associated our flag or our National Anthem with slavery. I associate them with the freedoms we enjoy here in this great land.

The freedom to earn a good living. The freedom to worship my God according to the dictates of my conscience. The freedom to travel and see this beautiful country. The freedom to say dumb things now and then. The freedom to listen to good music. And many other freedoms that we enjoy. People with the requisite talent enjoy the freedom to become incredibly wealthy by playing games. The freedom to enjoy civil discourse as we discuss concepts of importance to us.

And I pray that no one will use these freedoms to tear down this great nation.

I read this commentary from the National Review and thought it was worth sharing. Civil comments only. You can read the original article here.

Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots





They risked everything for it, not for some idea or abstraction but for the piece of fabric itself.The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable.

The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and protesters storming an ICE facility in Aurora, Colo., and replacing the U.S. flag with a Mexican flag.

U.S. soccer had a pretty good statement a while back setting out, in response to Rapinoe, why it has an expectation that players will stand during the national anthem (which, of course, is all about the flag):

Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer’s National Team. Therefore, our national anthem has particular significance for U.S. Soccer. In front of national and often global audiences, the playing of our national anthem is an opportunity for our Men’s and Women’s National Team players and coaches to reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country.

(Rapinoe called the sentiment “cowardly.”)

The U.S. soccer statement could have added that men have fought for the flag, and not just in the sense of fighting under it as members of the U.S. armed services. Our troops have literally fought for the flag, for its physical advance and preservation. This is the story of color sergeants during the Civil War.

Color sergeants carried the flag —typically, both the U.S. flag and the regimental flag — into battle, and not a weapon. They depended for protection on the color guard, a small contingent of troops dedicated to the task. The flag, held aloft and leading the way, was important as a matter of tactics (to mark the location of the unit in the confusion of battle), of morale (to provide a rallying point for the troops), and of devotion and honor (to lose the flag to the enemy was a deep disgrace).

Needless to say, this was hazardous duty that demanded the utmost bravery and dedication. According to Michael Corcoran in his book on the flag, For Which It Stands, the 24th Michigan Regiment lost nine color bearers on the first day of Gettysburg alone.

The commander of the the Sixth Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Rufus Dawes described his unit’s charge at Gettysburg:

Any correct picture of this charge would represent a V-shaped crowd of men with the colors at the advance point, moving firmly and hurriedly forward, while the whole field behind is streaming with men who had been shot, and who are struggling to the rear or sinking in death upon the ground. The only commands I gave, as we advanced, were, “Align on the colors! Close up on that color! Close up on that color!” The regiment was being broken up so that this order alone could hold the body together. Meanwhile the colors were down upon the ground several times, but were raised at once by the heroes of the color guard. Not one of the guard escaped, every man being killed or wounded.

Corcoran notes of the inception of the Medal of Honor during the Civil War: “Nearly one thousand of the medals were awarded and, in a great many cases, they were bestowed upon men who had carried the Stars and Stripes into battle or who captured Confederate flags.”

Consider a few examples. There’s John Gregory Bishop Adams, awarded the Medal of Honor for his conduct with the 19th Massachusetts Infantry at Fredericksburg. As the citation recounted, he “seized the 2 colors from the hands of a corporal and a lieutenant as they fell mortally wounded, and with a color in each hand advanced across the field to a point where the regiment was reformed on those colors.”

There’s John Gilmore, awarded the Medal of Honor “for extraordinary heroism on 3 May 1863, while serving with 16th New York Infantry, in action at Salem Heights, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Major Gilmore seized the colors of his regiment and gallantly rallied his men under a very severe fire.”

There’s William Carney, the first black serviceman to perform an act deemed worthy of the Medal of Honor, who saved the flag during the doomed but valorous assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina.

Part of the famous Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Colored Regiment, the exploits of which were depicted in the movie Glory, Carney saved the flag when the unit’s flag-bearer was wounded and, despite getting shot up himself, kept it aloft. He supposedly said when he finally turned the flag over to his comrades, “Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!” 

There are countless such stories of men risking everything, not for the idea of the flag or any abstraction but for the actual piece of fabric itself.

Ancient history, you say? Regardless, the sacrifice and blood of these men are inextricably caught up in the meaning and moral status of the American flag. The historical illiteracy of those who protest it is perhaps understandable and on some level forgivable; their rank ingratitude and disrespect are not.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

I share this post with deep gratitude to Rich Lowry for writing it. I appreciate his insights.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 19 May 2019

The Power of the Priesthood

This talk was given this morning in Lake Arrowhead Ward and in Running Springs Branch. I love visiting their little chapel in the mountains, and seeing so many good friends. We had a little winter storm with some snow flurries up on the mountain, and dense fog. It was a beautiful day!

In this talk, I share some inspired feelings about the priesthood and its power and authority. I am very grateful for the authority that God shares with us, and for the power that he has given to exalt his children.

One hundred ninety years ago, the spring was cool and wet, clear into May. Because of the weather, farmers around Harmony, Pennsylvania were delayed putting in their crops. This delay allowed Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to make significant progress in their translation of the plates.

They had come to an account of what happened among the Nephites and Lamanites when Jesus died in Jerusalem. It told of the great destruction that occurred when Christ was crucified.

They read that the voice of Jesus Christ pierced the gloom. “Will ye not now return unto me,” He asked, “and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?”[1] Then the Savior dispersed the darkness.

While the people marveled, they saw the Son of God descend out of heaven. “I am Jesus Christ,” He said, “whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.”[2] He stayed among them for a time, taught His gospel, and commanded them to be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins.

“Whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved,” He declared. “They are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.”[3] Before ascending to heaven, He gave righteous men authority to baptize those who believed in Him.[4]

As they translated, Joseph and Oliver were struck by these teachings. Like his brother Alvin, Joseph had never been baptized, and he wanted to know more about the ordinance and the authority necessary to perform it.

On May 15, 1829, the rains cleared, and Joseph and Oliver walked into the woods near the Susquehanna River. Joseph wrote:

“While we were … praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven [who introduced himself as John] descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me.

Accordingly we went and were baptized. I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me—after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded.[5]

At some point later, Peter, James and John appeared to Joseph and Oliver and conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon them. Additional authority came on April 3, 1836, when Moses, Elias and Elijah conferred priesthood keys on Joseph and Oliver.

With these visits, all the authority necessary for salvation and exaltation had been restored to the earth.

I testify to you that the priesthood authority is here, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that we are privileged to exercise priesthood power daily, through obedience to God Law.

All of us who have been in Primary recall that “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors,
teachers, evangelists, and so forth”.[6]

I hope you have felt that priesthood power as you have had hands laid on your head for a blessing or an ordinance of whatever type it may be. I hope you have had the opportunity to feel the spirit, the peace, and the power that accompanies these blessings.

I testify with deep gratitude that this power and this authority is real. I have felt God’s strengthening power both in giving and receiving priesthood blessings, and I have seen miracles happen.

Now, let us step back and look at what the priesthood is, and why this restoration was necessary.

We know that the priesthood is the power and authority given to man to act in God’s name on the earth for the salvation of His children. The priesthood is given to us as a part of Heavenly Father’s plan. Without priesthood authority to perform the saving ordinances of the gospel, we could not return to Heavenly Father’s presence.

Joseph Smith recorded that during the “first vision,” the Lord told him that the churches at that time had “a form of godliness, but they den[ied] the power thereof”[7]

With the scattering and death of Christ’s original apostles, priesthood authority, and particularly the authority to direct the priesthood, was lost. And so a restoration was necessary.

When John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood, he informed Joseph and Oliver that “he acted under the direction of Peter, James, and John,” who were stewards of this greater authority and that the power to give the gift of the Holy Ghost “should in due time be conferred on [them]”[8]

The Lord also refers to this authority in Section 27, when he speaks of:

“Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them;”[9]

Have you noticed what this verse says about priesthood authority? The Lord says “I have ordained you by hand of Peter, James and John.” A worthy priesthood holder acts in Christ’s stead as he functions in his priesthood calling. For that matter, any worthy member acts in the Christ’s stead as he or she functions in his or her calling.

Do you understand the significance of that? As you serve in your callings, having been set apart by one holding authority, you are functioning in the place of the Savior, as if he were here himself. If you understand that, you will recognize that there are no unimportant callings in the Church.

When I speak, I am sent by authority, and commissioned to teach what the Savior would have me teach you. No more “dry council” speakers; we are on the Lord’s errand. This is something I take very seriously, and I pray continually that I will know what the Lord wants me to share with you.

We can trace our priesthood authority back to the Savior himself. [refer to my line of authority]. Each priesthood holder can receive his line of authority, either from the priesthood holder who ordained him to his current priesthood office, or by requesting it through

Because the priesthood is God’s power, there are principles that govern its use. These governing principles come from our Heavenly Father, whose authority it is.

The Lord has told us:

“the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and … the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness”[10].

Who exercises these rights? Every one of us who has a calling in the Church. Think of that as I read the next verse. It applies most particularly to ordained priesthood holders, but it can be extended to all who have been called to serve.

He continues:

” That [the rights] may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”[11].

All who exercise priesthood authority in any form must adhere to these guidelines.

In other words, we must strive to be like God to effectively exercise the authority he has given to us. What are the principles of righteousness? Keep the commandments. Repent. Love God. Love one another. Avoid pride.

When I consider the great trust the Father has placed in me in sharing a portion of His authority, I am humbled and grateful. I do not feel proud, but unworthy of this great gift. It feels overwhelming at times.

We should never take this responsibility lightly. I wish I had gained a better understanding of this as an Aaronic Priesthood holder as a youth. I did not fully appreciate the rights and powers that were bestowed upon me as a boy. If I had understood better, I might have shown more respect for the sacred honor that was entrusted to me. I might have taken my duties more seriously.

It is important to discuss the rights and responsibilities of the priesthood in family councils, and at significant family events, many of which are connected to sacred saving ordinances.

We can look to Abrahams’s example of obedience. We read in Genesis that:

“He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness”[12].

And “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice”[13].

God trusted Abraham because he obeyed his voice, and we enjoy the blessings of his obedience.

We gain some important insights from Abraham’s writings:

“And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.” [To me, this is a very powerful verse. Abraham was not satisfied with a life without progression: he desired something better for himself and for his posterity.]

It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.” [Abraham knew where his authority came from.]

I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.”[14]

As Abraham’s seed, we should follow his example. As great as Abraham was, he desired to be a greater follower of righteousness. He also sought greater knowledge, and look what happened: Heavenly Father taught him astronomy! (among other important things). He desired to receive instructions, presumably relative to his responsibilities, and also to keep the commandments.

Please note that Abraham also “sought for his appointment unto the Priesthood: he desired a calling.

The experience of Nephi, not the one in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, but the one in the middle, in the Book of Helaman, is also instructive. Nephi had been imprisoned because of his absolute commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and found himself freed.

The important lesson for us comes as he walks home alone. And isn’t that so often the case when we stand up for the truth? Righteous living can be lonely at times.

Nephi was pondering the wickedness of the people and he even felt depressed (although the scriptures say that he was “much cast down”[15], and this probably sounds nicer than depressed). We discover

“it came to pass as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him saying:

Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.

And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will”[16].

The lesson for us is that Nephi served the Lord with “unwearyingness”. In fact, we get a glimpse of the degree of his unwearyingness when we read that “he did stop and did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes who were scattered about upon the face of the land”[17]. He didn’t even say goodbye to his wife.

I believe that the Lord’s expectation of serving with unwearyingness varies from one person to the next, according to our capacities and our circumstances. But I also believe that the Lord’s blessings are available to each of us as we serve in our various callings and exercise the authority given to us.

I testify that the priesthood authority is here on the earth today. The authorized servants of Jesus Christ are here, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have the God-given authority to administer the ordinances of the gospel for the salvation of men and women. This saving authority extends beyond the grave, in both directions.

I testify that Russell M. Nelson holds the priesthood keys and guides the Church under the direction of Jesus Christ.

God lives. Jesus Christ is our Savior. This is his church. Of which I humbly testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 9:13.

[2] Ibid., 3 Nephi 11:10.

[3] Ibid., 3 Nephi 11:33.

[4] Ibid., 3 Nephi 11:23-33.

[5] Pearl of Great Price, JS-H 1:68-71.

[6] Articles of Faith 1:7.

[7] Pearl of Great Price, JS-H 1:19.

[8] See

[9] Doctrine and Covenants 27:12.

[10] Doctrine and Covenants 121:36.

[11] Doctrine and Covenants 121:37.

[12] Genesis 15:6.

[13] Genesis 22:18.

[14] Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 1:2-4.

[15] The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Helaman 10:3.

[16] Ibid., Helaman 10:3-5.

[17] Ibid., Helaman 10:12.

 It is Presidents’ Day once again. I choose to place the apostrophe at the end; Deseret News goes sans apostrophe. did not settle the issue in their article. So there. In my school years, we celebrated Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, and had both days off, usually in midweek. 

I am sharing this opinion piece from Deseret News, because, as a lifelong patriot, I think we can learn much from examining these great leaders. Yes, they may have had their faults. I was taught to look at their virtues and emulate them. Nothing is gained by focusing the faults of another person. It certainly does not provide any benefit for me.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I firmly believe that our Founding Fathers were raised up by our God to create a nation where freedom can flourish, and that the Constitution of the United States is a divinely inspired document. I believe that we as a nation are blessed to the degree that we worship the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ (see Book of Mormon, Ether 2:12). I believe in natural law and that our freedoms originate with God. I believe that those who fight against these freedoms are fighting against God. As a strict Constitutionalist, I keep my religion and politics separate. But my beliefs are still my beliefs.

Please enjoy this article as a reminder of why we have this three-day weekend. It is reprinted from the Deseret News, 17 February 2019.

Presidents Day is a time to ostensibly honor those who have served, or are serving, in the highest office in the land. And while some doubtless will pause to remember, most will focus instead on just another three-day holiday.

In the not too distant past the nation as a whole celebrated the birthday of George Washington, the “Father of His Country,” on Feb. 22. School children and others also marked the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12. These were times to recall the contributions that arguably the two greatest statesmen in U.S. history made to the country. Now the much-deserved veneration of these two great presidents generally falls by the wayside.

While it’s nice to have a three-day weekend to break up the doldrums of February, it is in many ways unfortunate that the nation no longer has occasion to reflect on the impact George Washington had on the founding of our republic.

He not only successfully led a ragtag army of colonialists toward victory over the mighty British army, he oversaw the establishment of a strong and well-financed national government. He was a man of unity, staying above the political squabbling of those who would be his successors as president. His farewell address, which he wrote to “friends and fellow citizens” at the end of his 20 years of public service before retiring to his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, is widely regarded as the greatest treatise on republicanism ever written. In it, he warned of the political dangers Americans must avoid if they were to remain true to the values of their new country.

While the modern political process is inseparable from partisanship, Washington warned against the rise of political parties, which he feared would be used by “demagogues seeking power.” He reminded the people that “the independence and liberty” the nation had recently won were the result of “common dangers, sufferings and successes” they had experienced together in the American Revolution and the early years of the new country. Said he, “The name of American must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.”

Nearly 70 years later, Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, led the nation through the most divisive period in its history. It was he who said, speaking of himself, “Nearly all men can stand adversity but if you want to test a man’s integrity, give him power.”

Both Lincoln and Washington recognized that government has a role in the life of the nation. As Lincoln would admonish Congress that their role was, “to elevate the condition of men — to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life.” Both men spent their lives working to form a more perfect union where that “fair chance” could be provided for every citizen.

Others who have served as president have, of course, made important contributions to the country at important times in history. But, arguably, none has had the impact of Washington and Lincoln.

Enjoying the weekend is a nice break from the winter blues. Taking time to thankfully talk about presidents like Washington and Lincoln is important. But acting like them is much more laudable. Each citizen should recognize neighbor helping neighbor and serving wherever and whenever possible is what fulfills the call of past presidents — to provide every individual a fair chance at their version of the American dream.

Further reading:

You can read the original article here.

See also the Orange County Register’s commentary here.

Washington’s great Farewell address can be found here.

Lincoln’s speech is worth reading. It can be found here.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 26 January 2019

Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence

This is a reposting of a speech transcript from Hillsdale College’s website. Alex Berenson writes for the New York Times, covering the pharmaceutical industry.

Marijuana is a controversial issue. It is the only drug in my lifetime to have been generally accepted without any rigorous proof from legitimate research. The GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) List came out in 1958, before I was born. In fact, it surprises me that no one tried to get pot on the GRAS list (insert laugh track here). But seriously, it is a dangerous drug. And the pot “industry” denies it just the same as tobacco denied the scientific research. And meanwhile, people stand to get filthy rich on mass sales of legalized weed.

Alex Berenson weighed in on this at Hillsdale College in Michigan earlier this month. You can read the post here.

Significantly, he says: “For centuries, people worldwide have understood that cannabis causes mental illness and violence—just as they’ve known that opiates cause addiction and overdose. Hard data on the relationship between marijuana and madness dates back 150 years, to British asylum registers in India.”

And he adds: “Whether to use cannabis, or any drug, is a personal decision. Whether cannabis should be legal is a political issue. But its precise legal status is far less important than making sure that anyone who uses it is aware of its risks.”

This is a long article. I apologize, but it is important.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on January 15, 2019, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.

Seventy miles northwest of New York City is a hospital that looks like a prison, its drab brick buildings wrapped in layers of fencing and barbed wire. This grim facility is called the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute. It’s one of three places the state of New York sends the criminally mentally ill—defendants judged not guilty by reason of insanity.

Until recently, my wife Jackie­—Dr. Jacqueline Berenson—was a senior psychiatrist there. Many of Mid-Hudson’s 300 patients are killers and arsonists. At least one is a cannibal. Most have been diagnosed with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia that provoked them to violence against family members or strangers.

A couple of years ago, Jackie was telling me about a patient. In passing, she said something like, Of course he’d been smoking pot his whole life.

Of course? I said.

Yes, they all smoke.

So marijuana causes schizophrenia?

I was surprised, to say the least. I tended to be a libertarian on drugs. Years before, I’d covered the pharmaceutical industry for The New York Times. I was aware of the claims about marijuana as medicine, and I’d watched the slow spread of legalized cannabis without much interest.

Jackie would have been within her rights to say, I know what I’m talking about, unlike you. Instead she offered something neutral like, I think that’s what the big studies say. You should read them.

So I did. The big studies, the little ones, and all the rest. I read everything I could find. I talked to every psychiatrist and brain scientist who would talk to me. And I soon realized that in all my years as a journalist I had never seen a story where the gap between insider and outsider knowledge was so great, or the stakes so high.

I began to wonder why—with the stocks of cannabis companies soaring and politicians promoting legalization as a low-risk way to raise tax revenue and reduce crime—I had never heard the truth about marijuana, mental illness, and violence.


Over the last 30 years, psychiatrists and epidemiologists have turned speculation about marijuana’s dangers into science. Yet over the same period, a shrewd and expensive lobbying campaign has pushed public attitudes about marijuana the other way. And the effects are now becoming apparent.

Almost everything you think you know about the health effects of cannabis, almost everything advocates and the media have told you for a generation, is wrong.

They’ve told you marijuana has many different medical uses. In reality marijuana and THC, its active ingredient, have been shown to work only in a few narrow conditions. They are most commonly prescribed for pain relief. But they are rarely tested against other pain relief drugs like ibuprofen—and in July, a large four-year study of patients with chronic pain in Australia showed cannabis use was associated with greater pain over time.

They’ve told you cannabis can stem opioid use—“Two new studies show how marijuana can help fight the opioid epidemic,” according to Wonkblog, a Washington Post website, in April 2018— and that marijuana’s effects as a painkiller make it a potential substitute for opiates. In reality, like alcohol, marijuana is too weak as a painkiller to work for most people who truly need opiates, such as terminal cancer patients. Even cannabis advocates, like Rob Kampia, the co-founder of the Marijuana Policy Project, acknowledge that they have always viewed medical marijuana laws primarily as a way to protect recreational users.

As for the marijuana-reduces-opiate-use theory, it is based largely on a single paper comparing overdose deaths by state before 2010 to the spread of medical marijuana laws— and the paper’s finding is probably a result of simple geographic coincidence. The opiate epidemic began in Appalachia, while the first states to legalize medical marijuana were in the West. Since 2010, as both the epidemic and medical marijuana laws have spread nationally, the finding has vanished. And the United States, the Western country with the most cannabis use, also has by far the worst problem with opioids.

Research on individual users—a better way to trace cause and effect than looking at aggregate state-level data—consistently shows that marijuana use leads to other drug use. For example, a January 2018 paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that people who used cannabis in 2001 were almost three times as likely to use opiates three years later, even after adjusting for other potential risks.

Most of all, advocates have told you that marijuana is not just safe for people with psychiatric problems like depression, but that it is a potential treatment for those patients. On its website, the cannabis delivery service Eaze offers the “Best Marijuana Strains and Products for Treating Anxiety.” “How Does Cannabis Help Depression?” is the topic of an article on Leafly, the largest cannabis website. But a mountain of peer-reviewed research in top medical journals shows that marijuana can cause or worsen severe mental illness, especially psychosis, the medical term for a break from reality. Teenagers who smoke marijuana regularly are about three times as likely to develop schizophrenia, the most devastating psychotic disorder.

After an exhaustive review, the National Academy of Medicine found in 2017 that “cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.” Also that “regular cannabis use is likely to increase the risk for developing social anxiety disorder.”


Over the past decade, as legalization has spread, patterns of marijuana use—and the drug itself—have changed in dangerous ways.

Legalization has not led to a huge increase in people using the drug casually. About 15 percent of Americans used cannabis at least once in 2017, up from ten percent in 2006, according to a large federal study called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (By contrast, about 65 percent of Americans had a drink in the last year.) But the number of Americans who use cannabis heavily is soaring. In 2006, about three million Americans reported using cannabis at least 300 times a year, the standard for daily use. By 2017, that number had nearly tripled, to eight million, approaching the twelve million Americans who drank alcohol every day. Put another way, one in 15 drinkers consumed alcohol daily; about one in five marijuana users used cannabis that often.

Cannabis users today are also consuming a drug that is far more potent than ever before, as measured by the amount of THC—delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in cannabis responsible for its psychoactive effects—it contains. In the 1970s, the last time this many Americans used cannabis, most marijuana contained less than two percent THC. Today, marijuana routinely contains 20 to 25 percent THC, thanks to sophisticated farming and cloning techniques—as well as to a demand by users for cannabis that produces a stronger high more quickly. In states where cannabis is legal, many users prefer extracts that are nearly pure THC. Think of the difference between near-beer and a martini, or even grain alcohol, to understand the difference.

These new patterns of use have caused problems with the drug to soar. In 2014, people who had diagnosable cannabis use disorder, the medical term for marijuana abuse or addiction, made up about 1.5 percent of Americans. But they accounted for eleven percent of all the psychosis cases in emergency rooms—90,000 cases, 250 a day, triple the number in 2006. In states like Colorado, emergency room physicians have become experts on dealing with cannabis-induced psychosis.

Cannabis advocates often argue that the drug can’t be as neurotoxic as studies suggest, because otherwise Western countries would have seen population-wide increases in psychosis alongside rising use. In reality, accurately tracking psychosis cases is impossible in the United States. The government carefully tracks diseases like cancer with central registries, but no such registry exists for schizophrenia or other severe mental illnesses.

On the other hand, research from Finland and Denmark, two countries that track mental illness more comprehensively, shows a significant increase in psychosis since 2000, following an increase in cannabis use. And in September of last year, a large federal survey found a rise in serious mental illness in the United States as well, especially among young adults, the heaviest users of cannabis.

According to this latter study, 7.5 percent of adults age 18-25 met the criteria for serious mental illness in 2017, double the rate in 2008. What’s especially striking is that adolescents age 12-17 don’t show these increases in cannabis use and severe mental illness.

A caveat: this federal survey doesn’t count individual cases, and it lumps psychosis with other severe mental illness. So it isn’t as accurate as the Finnish or Danish studies. Nor do any of these studies prove that rising cannabis use has caused population-wide increases in psychosis or other mental illness. The most that can be said is that they offer intriguing evidence of a link.

Advocates for people with mental illness do not like discussing the link between schizophrenia and crime. They fear it will stigmatize people with the disease. “Most people with mental illness are not violent,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains on its website. But wishing away the link can’t make it disappear. In truth, psychosis is a shockingly high-risk factor for violence. The best analysis came in a 2009 paper in PLOS Medicine by Dr. Seena Fazel, an Oxford University psychiatrist and epidemiologist. Drawing on earlier studies, the paper found that people with schizophrenia are five times as likely to commit violent crimes as healthy people, and almost 20 times as likely to commit homicide.

NAMI’s statement that most people with mental illness are not violent is of course accurate, given that “most” simply means “more than half”; but it is deeply misleading. Schizophrenia is rare. But people with the disorder commit an appreciable fraction of all murders, in the range of six to nine percent.

“The best way to deal with the stigma is to reduce the violence,” says Dr. Sheilagh Hodgins, a professor at the University of Montreal who has studied mental illness and violence for more than 30 years.

The marijuana-psychosis-violence connection is even stronger than those figures suggest. People with schizophrenia are only moderately more likely to become violent than healthy people when they are taking antipsychotic medicine and avoiding recreational drugs. But when they use drugs, their risk of violence skyrockets. “You don’t just have an increased risk of one thing—these things occur in clusters,” Dr. Fazel told me.

Along with alcohol, the drug that psychotic patients use more than any other is cannabis: a 2010 review of earlier studies in Schizophrenia Bulletin found that 27 percent of people with schizophrenia had been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder in their lives. And unfortunately—despite its reputation for making users relaxed and calm—cannabis appears to provoke many of them to violence.

A Swiss study of 265 psychotic patients published in Frontiers of Forensic Psychiatry last June found that over a three-year period, young men with psychosis who used cannabis had a 50 percent chance of becoming violent. That risk was four times higher than for those with psychosis who didn’t use, even after adjusting for factors such as alcohol use. Other researchers have produced similar findings. A 2013 paper in an Italian psychiatric journal examined almost 1,600 psychiatric patients in southern Italy and found that cannabis use was associated with a ten-fold increase in violence.

The most obvious way that cannabis fuels violence in psychotic people is through its tendency to cause paranoia—something even cannabis advocates acknowledge the drug can cause. The risk is so obvious that users joke about it and dispensaries advertise certain strains as less likely to induce paranoia. And for people with psychotic disorders, paranoia can fuel extreme violence. A 2007 paper in the Medical Journal of Australia on 88 defendants who had committed homicide during psychotic episodes found that most believed they were in danger from the victim, and almost two-thirds reported misusing cannabis—more than alcohol and amphetamines combined.

Yet the link between marijuana and violence doesn’t appear limited to people with preexisting psychosis. Researchers have studied alcohol and violence for generations, proving that alcohol is a risk factor for domestic abuse, assault, and even murder. Far less work has been done on marijuana, in part because advocates have stigmatized anyone who raises the issue. But studies showing that marijuana use is a significant risk factor for violence have quietly piled up. Many of them weren’t even designed to catch the link, but they did. Dozens of such studies exist, covering everything from bullying by high school students to fighting among vacationers in Spain.

In most cases, studies find that the risk is at least as significant as with alcohol. A 2012 paper in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examined a federal survey of more than 9,000 adolescents and found that marijuana use was associated with a doubling of domestic violence; a 2017 paper in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology examined drivers of violence among 6,000 British and Chinese men and found that drug use—the drug nearly always being cannabis—translated into a five-fold increase in violence.

Today that risk is translating into real-world impacts. Before states legalized recreational cannabis, advocates said that legalization would let police focus on hardened criminals rather than marijuana smokers and thus reduce violent crime. Some advocates go so far as to claim that legalization has reduced violent crime. In a 2017 speech calling for federal legalization, U.S. Senator Cory Booker said that “states [that have legalized marijuana] are seeing decreases in violent crime.” He was wrong.

The first four states to legalize marijuana for recreational use were Colorado and Washington in 2014 and Alaska and Oregon in 2015. Combined, those four states had about 450 murders and 30,300 aggravated assaults in 2013. Last year, they had almost 620 murders and 38,000 aggravated assaults—an increase of 37 percent for murders and 25 percent for aggravated assaults, far greater than the national increase, even after accounting for differences in population growth.

Knowing exactly how much of the increase is related to cannabis is impossible without researching every crime. But police reports, news stories, and arrest warrants suggest a close link in many cases. For example, last September, police in Longmont, Colorado, arrested Daniel Lopez for stabbing his brother Thomas to death as a neighbor watched. Daniel Lopez had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was “self-medicating” with marijuana, according to an arrest affidavit.

In every state, not just those where marijuana is legal, cases like Lopez’s are far more common than either cannabis or mental illness advocates acknowledge. Cannabis is also associated with a disturbing number of child deaths from abuse and neglect—many more than alcohol, and more than cocaine, methamphetamines, and opioids combined—according to reports from Texas, one of the few states to provide detailed information on drug use by perpetrators.

These crimes rarely receive more than local attention. Psychosis-induced violence takes particularly ugly forms and is frequently directed at helpless family members. The elite national media prefers to ignore the crimes as tabloid fodder. Even police departments, which see this violence up close, have been slow to recognize the trend, in part because the epidemic of opioid overdose deaths has overwhelmed them.

So the black tide of psychosis and the red tide of violence are rising steadily, almost unnoticed, on a slow green wave.


For centuries, people worldwide have understood that cannabis causes mental illness and violence—just as they’ve known that opiates cause addiction and overdose. Hard data on the relationship between marijuana and madness dates back 150 years, to British asylum registers in India. Yet 20 years ago, the United States moved to encourage wider use of cannabis and opiates.

In both cases, we decided we could outsmart these drugs—that we could have their benefits without their costs. And in both cases we were wrong. Opiates are riskier, and the overdose deaths they cause a more imminent crisis, so we have focused on those. But soon enough the mental illness and violence that follow cannabis use will also be too widespread to ignore.

Whether to use cannabis, or any drug, is a personal decision. Whether cannabis should be legal is a political issue. But its precise legal status is far less important than making sure that anyone who uses it is aware of its risks. Most cigarette smokers don’t die of lung cancer. But we have made it widely known that cigarettes cause cancer, full stop. Most people who drink and drive don’t have fatal accidents. But we have highlighted the cases of those who do.

We need equally unambiguous and well-funded advertising campaigns on the risks of cannabis. Instead, we are now in the worst of all worlds. Marijuana is legal in some states, illegal in others, dangerously potent, and sold without warnings everywhere.

But before we can do anything, we—especially cannabis advocates and those in the elite media who have for too long credulously accepted their claims—need to come to terms with the truth about the science on marijuana. That adjustment may be painful. But the alternative is far worse, as the patients at Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute—and their victims—know.

About the author:

Alex Berenson is a graduate of Yale University with degrees in history and economics. He began his career in journalism in 1994 as a business reporter for the Denver Post, joined the financial news website in 1996, and worked as an investigative reporter for The New York Times from 1999 to 2010, during which time he also served two stints as an Iraq War correspondent. In 2006 he published The Faithful Spy, which won the 2007 Edgar Award for best first novel from the Mystery Writers of America. He has published ten additional novels and two nonfiction books, The Number: How the Drive for Quarterly Earnings Corrupted Wall Street and Corporate America and Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 20 January 2019

Following the Living Prophet Through Continuing Revelation

I spoke today in my home ward and felt the guidance of the Spirit as I prepared for this one. That made it a humbling experience for me. The Stake Presidency was in attendance in our meeting, which also made it humbling. I am grateful for the privilege and responsibility that I enjoy as a High Councilor to speak regularly.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am thankful to be here with you today, to worship our Heavenly Father on this beautiful Sabbath morning. I hope you heard the birds singing this morning. It’s a reminder to me that the Lord is still at work in the world.

I bring you love and greetings from President Garvin and his counselors. They pray for you and are aware of many of your concerns.

Brother Ashton and I are here today by assignment from the Stake Presidency.

I pray for the guidance of the Spirit as I speak, so that each of us may understand what the Lord would have us learn.

In Primary, I learned a great truth: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”[1]

In Seminary, additional truths were added that made a deep impression on me. One of these was in the Doctrine and Covenants. “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”[2]

In the chorus of a beloved hymn, we sing

“Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.”[3]

What is the common thread here? I believe it is the doctrine of revelation. The 9th Article of Faith declares our belief in continuing revelation, Section 42 contains the promise of personal revelation, and I Am A Child of God reminds us of our need for personal revelation.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of revelation. It was established in our day with a glorious revelation of God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ to the boy Joseph Smith. The restoration of the gospel came by revelation through Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets, and it continues today under President Russell M. Nelson, our living prophet.

When we look at these great revelations and these great revelators, we may be tempted to ask ourselves why we need personal revelation when these prophets are here to guide us. I think that is a fair question.

Do we need personal revelation? And if so, why is it important to us?

To me, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” We need personal revelation more than ever.

The prophets of our dispensation have taught some important principles concerning revelation.

Joseph Smith said:

“We believe that we have a right to revelations, visions, and dreams from God, our heavenly Father; and light and intelligence, through the gift of the Holy Ghost, in the name of Jesus Christ, on all subjects pertaining to our spiritual welfare; if it so be that we keep his commandments, so as to render ourselves worthy in his sight.”[4]

“It is the privilege of the children of God to come to God and get revelation. … God is not a respecter of persons; we all have the same privilege.”[5]

Pres. Nelson, in April Conference last year, gave us this memorable counsel:

“In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. … Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.

“If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation.”[6]

Not only are we entitled to personal revelation within our own stewardships; we are obligated to seek it. This is a principle of personal revelation.

However, we are only entitled to revelation within our own stewardships. What are our stewardships?

Brigham Young offered this comment:

“There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God’s people, he may have the Spirit of the Lord to signify to him his will, and to guide and to direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied, however, that in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges.[7]

Think of that, brothers and sisters, we could be receiving much more direction from the Lord than we are now. We must simply be willing to do the work, as President Young and President Nelson instructed.

So, our stewardships are our temporal and our spiritual duties. They include

  1. Ourselves;
  2. Our employment and volunteer activities;
  3. Our families;
  4. Those to whom we minister, while respecting their stewardships;
  5. Our callings and assignments, within the bounds designated by our file leaders and the Lord.

There are limitations placed on our stewardships. My stewardship over my family is a shared stewardship with my dear companion. Our temple covenants make this clear. I would be a poor steward without her inspiration.

Although I have been called to counsel with the Bishop and with our Elder’s Quorum Presidency, and to counsel with our Stake Presidency, I recognize that they hold the keys for our ward and our stake. Because of these keys, I can advise, but not direct them in their responsibilities. I do not have the right to receive revelation for them.

And I am certainly not entitled to receive revelation on matters of Church doctrine or policy. Only one person has that right at any given time. As soon as we begin to think otherwise, we no longer stand in holy places, but are on shaky ground.

Remember, President Nelson told us that we need to develop our ability to receive personal revelation. He promised us that “Through the manifestations of the Holy Ghost, the Lord will assist us in all our righteous pursuits.”[8]

Elder Rasband stated that “The Holy Ghost binds us to the Lord.” Isn’t that what we really need? Don’t we want to bound more securely to the Savior?

What revelation do we need in our lives? Let me suggest six areas as a starting point.

  1. Revelations leading to testimony.

You have certainly received some of these revelations.

We are familiar with Joseph Smith’s experiences; we are familiar with Moroni’s promise, in which he counsels us to “ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true;” and he promises if we “shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto [us], by the power of the Holy Ghost.”[9]

If we follow this formula, not only will we gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon, but also a testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ and his atonement. Indeed, we may receive a revelatory witness from the Spirit regarding any and all doctrines and principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Moroni testified that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”[10]

  1. Revelations to assist in making important decisions.

President Nelson, in speaking of his own family, said “Each of these blessings has come as a result of seeking and heeding the promptings of the Holy Ghost.”[11]

Over the years, many of the apostles have echoed this sentiment as they spoke of their decisions to marry their wives in the temple.

I have sought the Lord’s direction many times in my life. Most noteworthy was when I felt that I needed Heidi in my life and asked for the Lord’s guidance. The Lord has also given me guidance in choices regarding schooling, career opportunities, and even a career change. He has directed us in countless other decisions, large and small. I know he will provide direction, if we ask.

  1. Revelations to help guide loved ones.

In our study of Come, Follow Me this year, we have already seen how Joseph received revelations that blessed his family.

An angel told him in a dream that he should take Mary as his wife; he was warned by an angel in a dream to take Mary and her son into Egypt; and he was warned once again by an angel to go to Nazareth in Galilee. His obedience to these revelations blessed his young family.

As parents and grandparents, our children and grandchildren are a significant part of our stewardship.  However, we must respect their agency, especially as adults.

Heidi has always been better at this than I have been. Even when our children were young, she helped them to seek the Lord’s guidance in deciding whether to have a surgery, for example. Because of her inspired guidance, they learned early to “counsel with the Lord in all [their] doings,” and they received his directions for good.[12]

They have been blessed beyond measure because they learned to rely on the Lord. I have been blessed as well.

  1. Revelations leading to repentance and forgiving.

Why do I mention this one? Because these revelations have been important in my life.

If we are open to the Spirit, the Lord will reveal to us the things we need to repent of. Sometimes that revelation comes through our spouses or children. This kind of revelation is not always easy to accept.

I have also experienced instances in my life where the Lord revealed to me that I needed to forgive certain individuals. This was also difficult, but it led to some choice spiritual experiences in my life. I am grateful that I have been directed to utilize the Atonement of Jesus Christ in both repenting and forgiving.

  1. Revelations regarding our callings.

I testify to you that our leaders are inspired of God in issuing callings to us. I have seen inspiration at work many, many times in the various councils I have participated in.

If we are called by inspiration, why shouldn’t we use inspiration in fulfilling our callings?

Many of the Sections in the Doctrine and Covenants came because early members came to Joseph Smith to learn God’s will for them.

The Lord is eager to inspire us to help us to magnify our callings. You have felt this as you seek to magnify your callings; I have felt it in connection with my callings. Sometimes these promptings come after much prayer and effort; other times, they come spontaneously. It may be revelation on how to teach a particular gospel truth, or on how to reach an individual in a class or quorum. The Lord is eager to provide assistance.

Most importantly, in our roles as ministering brothers and sisters, we cannot properly fulfill our responsibilities and change lives without revelation. A committed, effective, ministering brother or sister will be praying for the Lord’s guidance to bring their brother or sister closer to the Savior. Many of you have experienced this as you have served.

  1. Revelations when preparing and giving talks. 

Have you ever prepared a talk that just seemed to write itself? That has become a common but much appreciated experience for me as I have served as a High Councilor. At other times, I have had to struggle to know what the Lord would like me to say. Either way, I have come to trust in the Lord’s willingness to help. If I humbly seek to deliver the message he wants me to deliver, he will guide me to say what he wants me to say.

And honestly, we should all be preparing to listen to the talks every week, so we can reap the benefits of being at church.

As we listen to the speakers in our meetings, we frequently have insights given us by the Holy Ghost. Interestingly, most of these insights have little to do with the words being spoken, and more to do with the spirit that we and the speakers invite into our meetings.

And this is why reverence before sacrament meeting is so important. We all need this revelation. We all have the right to ponder quietly before the meeting in preparation to receive the promptings that are vital to us. We all have the responsibility to allow others to enjoy this quiet communion with the Spirit before our meetings.

Of course, there are many other areas of our lives where we need revelation, information from someone far wiser than we.

We often think of the temple as a house of revelation, and it should be for all of us. But the chapel should also be a place of revelation. And our homes should be just as sacred. We should stand in holy places and make the places holy where we stand.

Isaiah counseled us to:

“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon”.[13]

The Lord counseled Moses:

“But if … thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.”[14]

We are commanded to seek the Lord, and we are given the wonderful promise that if we seek him, he will reveal himself to us, if we seek him sincerely.

I believe very strongly that when we seek the Lord, and when we counsel with him in our doings, it should be with the desire to know his will, not to justify our own will.

Nor will the Lord force his will on us. In the hymns, we sing–or perhaps not; I have only sung this once in 60 years—the following:

“He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.”[15]

This is the revelation we seek as we strive to follow the prophet.

I testify that God lives, and that he does reveal his mind and will to his children on earth.

I testify that Russell M. Nelson is his living prophet on earth today, and that he receives direction for the church and for the world, from our Heavenly Father.

And I know that when we receive personal revelation from our Heavenly Father, we will be enabled to follow the prophet with greater faith. God wants us to receive that revelation, I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Articles of Faith 9.

[2] Doctrine and Covenants 42:61.

[3] Randall, NW, I Am A Child of God, Hymns, 301.

[4] Letter from Joseph Smith to Isaac Galland, Mar. 22, 1839, Liberty Jail, Liberty, Missouri, published in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, p. 54.

[5] Discourse given by Joseph Smith about July 1839 in Commerce, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards, in Willard Richards, Pocket Companion, pp. 75, 78–79, Church Archives.

[6] Nelson, RM, Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives, April 2018 General Conference,

[7] Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. and arr. by John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973, p. 32; emphasis added.

[8] Nelson, RM, Ibid.

[9] The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Moroni 10:4.

[10] Op. cit. Moroni 10:5. Italics mine.

[11] Nelson, RM, op. cit.

[12] Op. cit. Alma 37:37.

[13] KJV, Isaiah 55:6-7.

[14] KJV, Deuteronomy 4:29.

[15] Anonymous, Know This, That Every Soul Is Free, Hymns, 240.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 27 December 2018

Because of one miraculous birth, the wrong shall fail

I was struck by the power of this opinion piece in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News. The Editor, Jay Evensen, summed up why Christmas is, and always should be, important to us. Without recognizing the Savior, Jesus Christ as a part of Christmas, it just becomes a big, crazy holiday.

True, Christmas was two days ago, but even the great Ebeneezer Scrooge came to recognize the importance of keeping the Christmas spirit all year long. And what is the Christmas spirit? It is the spirit of Jesus Christ, whose birth, death and resurrection give meaning to our lives and the struggles we face.

The article follows. By permission, I have made some minor changes. These are bracketed. The italics are also mine.


The powers of the world are utterly incapable of frustrating the plans of an omniscient and loving God.

The world today is full of division, conflict, anger, crime, corruption, death and disease. Daily news accounts catalog the worst of these. […] Political dialog is tinged with hatred.
Yet because of the miraculous birth celebrated today, none of those things will win. Ultimately, they won’t have the significance of even a tiny mustard seed. God did not create us and then leave us for other pursuits. He loves us so much that he sent us his son.

What a glorious thing to celebrate in the darkest, coldest time of the year!

The world’s condition is not new. It may seem relentless, but the message of [Christmas] morning is sure and unchanging.

Consider that the Christmas story — the accounts of a traveling Mary and Joseph, forced to seek shelter in a lowly manger, the birth of God’s son in the humblest of circumstances, the angelic visits to shepherds tending flocks in neighboring fields — all hinged on an oblivious political decision by Caesar Augustus to levy a tax.

We have no doubt that this census-taking for purposes of taxation was unpopular, as it surely would be in today’s world where, as the French recently learned, taxes can lead to riots and rebellion. It certainly was inconvenient, requiring people to return to their ancestral homes to be enrolled.

And yet ancient prophets had foretold that the Christ child would be born in Bethlehem.
Caesar Augustus surely was clueless about the earth-shattering events unwittingly set in motion by his decree, and of his role in fulfilling prophecy. The clear message, however, is that he was powerless to stop them. The powers of the world are utterly incapable of frustrating the plans of an omniscient and loving God.

And that is the ultimate message of hope this Christmas [and every Christmas], as well.

As the familiar poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “I heard the bells on Christmas day,” puts it, “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.” This is the unwavering and unalterable reality of Christ’s birth, life, ministry, ultimate atoning sacrifice and resurrection. No one, regardless of worldly power, military might or technological prowess, can alter this in the least.

Longfellow wrote that poem in 1864, at a time when this nation was embroiled in the darkest, most violent days of the Civil War. The North had begun to take the advantage, but the cost in lives was as unimaginable then as it is today. Innocence was gone. The romantic ideals of noble and chivalrous battle had devolved into a stark and bloody slaughter.

Yet Longfellow, like many of his fellow countrymen, wasn’t about to surrender to hate or despair. “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep,” he wrote.

Today, hate is strong, as well. And yet, [at Christmas time], faithful hearts sing merrily and presents are exchanged.

That is the gift Christ gave us. He made possible the triumph over everything the world may throw our way. He brought a peace impervious to hate, violence or sorrow. His sacrifice made the mockeries and indignities he endured appear as they really were — puny and insignificant. He does the same for us. His victory is sure.

This gives everyone, regardless of circumstances, the right to shout “Merry Christmas!”

If you wish to read the original article, you may find it here. It appeared in the December 25 edition of the Deseret News, in print and online.

My thanks to the author, Jay Evensen, for his permission to share this.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 16 December 2018

Seeking Christ and the True Meaning of Christmas

I gave this talk today in two wards. This is the text I used for the English-speaking ward. The talk for the Spanish-speaking ward was similar.

I felt blessed to speak on the true meaning of Christmas.


My dear brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be with you today, to worship with you and to feel of the Spirit.

I am blessed to be here by assignment this morning. And I am grateful for my speaking companion.

I pray that Spirit will be with us, and that we may all be enlightened by the things we will hear and feel.

I love Christmas season. I have always loved Christmas season. The festive decorations, the gifts, and the friendly greetings make it a happy time. Most of us spend time with family, and this usually strengthens family ties as we enjoy traditions that have been passed down through generations.

Of course, the holiday music is my favorite part of the season. There are so many good songs, whether they are Christmas hymns, Christmas carols, or just seasonal songs. They all tend to make me feel happy.

We sing “it’s the most wonderful time of the year;” we dream of a white Christmas; sing of a blue Christmas and even a green Christmas. We sing about Santa, and dancing snowmen (until the alligators knock him down–seriously), and flying reindeer; about silver bells and how cold it is outside. We sing about gifts we want: my two front teeth, a hippopotamus, and a little baby doll that will cry, sleep, drink and wet.

Even Christmas movies seem to be all about love, family, and peace on earth: very desirable things.

But I think that all the fun tends to distract us from what we are really celebrating at this sacred season. Today is Beethoven’s birthday, but that’s not the reason we are celebrating.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a child, the baby Jesus, who came to earth to fulfill Heavenly Father’s plan for our salvation. No gift compares to that.

I am grateful to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I was baptized, I covenanted to take the name of Jesus Christ upon me. As I took the sacrament with you this morning, I witnessed to Heavenly Father, along with each of you, that I am willing to take upon me the name of His Son and always remember him.

As I do this, I am identifying myself as one who seeks Christ.

We enjoy singing about those who are the best-known seekers of Christ: the Magi, or wise men. There is a great deal of Christmas mythology surrounding these men, but the fact is that we know very little of them.

Matthew tells us that they came to Herod some time after the birth of Christ, having followed a star that guided them.

We read that they asked: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

“When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”[1]

This is just my own thinking, but certainly that star was visible to everyone. Did only this group of wise foreigners notice it and realize its significance? Will we pay attention to the stars in our lives and be led by them?

After Herod’s scholars searched the scriptures, they sent the wise men to Bethlehem in Judea. Herod requested that they return and inform him of the king’s whereabouts, so that he could also worship him.

Of course, that wasn’t why Herod was seeking Jesus. He was very insecure and was concerned about this other King of the Jews taking his place.

And so we discover that the wise men found Jesus and worshiped him, and gave him gifts that were appropriate to one of royal birth: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are not your typical baby shower gifts; they weren’t practical at all, but they were rich in symbolism.

We know that the wise men were warned not to return to report to Herod, so they took a different route home. Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to flee the country to escape Herod, and they became a refugee family for a time.

We should remember that even though Israel was in a state of apostasy at this time, there were many faithful Israelites, Jews, who knew the scriptures and were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.

I believe that the shepherds, to whom the angel chorus appeared, were not ignorant, illiterate laborers. I think they were faithful, watchful Jews, who were aware of the prophecies and promises associated with Christ’s coming.

Having said that, let’s turn to Luke. He tells us that the shepherds said after the angelic chorus departed:

“Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

“And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”[2]

Their words show an understanding of what was happening. Notice that they “came with haste.” This suggests that they were very much aware of what the angels’ message meant, and hurried to see for themselves. And they did not keep the experience to themselves. They made it known abroad.

All they that heard it wondered; probably because they did not hear it from those who were considered the wise and formally trained, but from common folk. This seemed to be outside the norm for them. But we know that the Lord doesn’t work within man’s norms.

Simeon and Anna[3] were two devout Jews who sought Jesus. They both served in the temple. Both had been promised that they would see the Messiah. When Mary and Joseph took their infant to the temple to present him to the Lord, as the law required, they recognized Jesus for who he was, the Promised Messiah for whom the Jews waited.

The scriptures tell us of many others who sought the Christ, and not just to draw near to him, but to be like him. They understood the importance of becoming his disciples.

In our day, we have been commanded to seek Christ. Of course, our covenant to take his name upon us commits us to seek him.

But in the Doctrine and Covenants, we are told:

“ye shall call upon me while I am near—

“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”.[4]

Please note that the Savior promises us that we shall find him. (And note that the imperative shall adds extra weight to the promise.)

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Amaleki summarizes the core message of the Book of Mormon when he counsels:

“And now, … I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved”.[5]

Moroni closes the Book of Mormon with similar counsel:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot”.[6]

That is the message of the Book of Mormon, and the invitation our missionaries offer to the world: “Come unto Christ.”

At Christmas time, it is appropriate to ask: Is my Christmas celebrating helping me to come unto Christ? Do my Christmas activities demonstrate to others that I am seeking Christ?

Please understand that I am not suggesting that we abandon our beloved holiday traditions; but I am suggesting that we remember those things that give deeper meaning to our Christmas celebrations.

I believe that what people desire most at Christmastime, whether they are Christians or not, is peace and happiness. These can be very elusive in this society.

Can we give this gift to others?

Yes! Yes, and it only costs our time and commitment!

But we must first possess it ourselves. So where can we get it?

I believe, in fact I know, that the prophetic directives we received in October Conference will lead us in this direction.

As we begin our home-centered, Church-supported gospel learning journey next month, we will take personal responsibility for our own spiritual growth and development. We will put our feet on the path to discipleship, and witness through our actions that we desire to take the Savior’s name upon us and follow him.

This will be a challenging path, but the promises are many. President Nelson promised us that as we do this, it “has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith. I promise that as you diligently work to remodel [and any of you who have done remodels, is it a quick, simple process?] your home into a center of gospel learning, over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings, and the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining”.[7]

I don’t know exactly what “unleashing the power of families” means, but it sounds powerful, and it sounds miraculous. I hope to discover at least a portion of what that means in the coming months and years.

I do know that as we grow, we will have a positive influence on those around us. Some will desire to have the peace and joy that we will radiate. We will become more effective ministers to our friends in and out of the Church.

So how do we start?

A good starting point is to take a look back at the past year, which is something many of us do anyway as we face the New Year.

As we reflect on the old year, we would do well to ask “Have I shown the Savior through my actions that I love him?” A follow-up question could be “How can I show my love for the Savior effectively in the coming year?

Another reflective question could be “What motivates me to follow the Savior?” Yet another question might be “How can I invite the Savior into my life this year?

Here are many things we can consider. There is great value in reflecting as a part of the learning process. And as disciples of Christ, aren’t we always learning?

I would like to echo the words of our Prophet in suggesting four steps we can take to come unto Christ.

First, commit fully to the spirit and intent of the home-centered Church-supported curriculum. Study the New Testament with your spouse, your family, or with others. Really seek to know the Savior and to grow closer to him. Study with intent, and gospel truths will be revealed to you.

Second, prayerfully seek ways to be a more effective ministering brother or sister. As we seek to serve as the Savior did, we will become more like him. The Lord expects us to seek revelation as we strive to minister.

Third, spend time in the temple. Visiting the House of the Lord will enable us to receive revelation and power from him as we serve there. President Nelson said that our need to be in the temple has never been greater.

Fourth, use the correct name of the Church. Now more than ever, we need to stand up and be counted as followers of Christ.

President Nelson said “I promise that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s church, He whose church this is will pour down His power and His blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen”.[8]

Of course, there are also many other ways we can come unto Christ.

But now, let us enjoy the Christmas season. Let us relish the peace and happiness that come as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Let us also remember that he entered into mortality just as we did. Abinadi testified that he “should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth.”[9]

May we stand all amazed as we consider the life and mission of our Savior Jesus Christ, and recommit to follow him, and may we let our lights shine before men that they may glorify not us, but our Heavenly Father, who sent his Son that we might live and enjoy the blessings of his eternal plan.

I testify that Christ lives, and that he is our loving Redeemer and Savior. He ransomed us from our sins to empower us to return to Heavenly Father’s presence, if we will be true to our covenants. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


[1] KJV, Matthew 2:2-3, ff.

[2] KJV, Luke 2:15-18.

[3] KJV, Luke 2:25-38.

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 88:62-63.

[5] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; Omni 1:26.

[6] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; Moroni 10:32-33.

[7] Nelson, RM; Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints; October 2018 General Conference. Parenthetical note mine.

[8] Nelson, RM; Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives: April 2018 General Conference.

[9] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; Mosiah 7:27.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »