Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Is Christ

Last night I visited a home of friends surprised to find them in the middle of reenacting the Nativity—as if they were celebrating Christmas Eve. As it turns out they were celebrating Christmas Eve on Christmas Day (and Christmas Day today); two of the children had been sick the day before and so they decided to postpone the festivities.

Christ's commandment to remember Him knows no holiday
One of my friends taught me a powerful lesson as he explained to his family that it doesn't matter when we celebrate the Savior's birth (the Savior wasn't born on December 25, after all). What does matter is that we celebrate His life by following His example. Perfect worship is emulation, and Christ didn't ask for a band of casual cronies to pay homage to Him once a year. He said, "Follow thou me" in word and in deed (see John 21:22; 2 Nephi 31:10; James 1:22). That commandment doesn't take a holiday.

When we set tinsel and toys, shopping and snow, music and mania aside we remember Christmas really is Christ. We celebrate His birth because He is the greatest gift God ever gave to mankind. We commemorate His sacrifice by giving and sharing, singing and smiling. We would do well to keep the Christmas spirit—the Spirit of Christ—with us all year long.

Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. He lived and died for us, and He lives again. My greatest hopes and dreams are reachable because of His Atonement. I trust Him. I love Him. And I can't wait to see Him again someday. This hymn describes what I feel in my heart.

These are your thoughts about the Savior—
  • Ryan: He is God. Ord of all. Pre-eternal and the only sacrifice that can satisfy God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1)
  • Karen: He is my one true Lord and Savior, the blessed hope of the world, the Holy Messiah!
  • Paul: One word. He talked about it more than anything—Love 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Is Family

I love this statement from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time.
Spending time with family is what Christmas is all about. How can I forget my many Christmas Eves at Grandma Barton's house? Reenacting the Nativity. Singing Christmas carols. Enjoying scrumptious food and hot wassail. Opening gifts from grandma and cousins. Reminiscing on Christmases past. Playing board games with my brothers, father and uncles.

I thought Christmas was all about the lights. Now I've learned it's all about the Light of the World.

Those memories are as much a part of me as snow is part of a white Christmas.

But last year and next week I made and will make different Christmas memories in Tennessee. I'm far away from my family in Utah. But they are always in my heart.

Most years I spend Christmas with my Barton family. This year I'll spend Christmas with my ward family.

Most years I spend Christmas wondering what I'll get. This year I'll spend Christmas searching for opportunities to give.

Most years I spend Christmas thinking about the Savior. This year I'll spend Christmas living for the Savior.

When I return to Utah I'll regain and retain the wonderful traditions given me by my family. And I'll be able to add to those traditions something I couldn't have gained without serving a mission—my testimony; my appetite for service; my understanding that true happiness comes from following the Savior, not my own selfish interests.

These are traditions money cannot buy. I asked you, friends, what some of your family traditions are. Here are your responses—
  • Salvador: Okay, you know I am Mexican so we have posadas, piñatas, we sing La Rama, etc.
  • Charlie: On Christmas Eve we watch Doctor Who Christmas marathons, then we open one gift (which always happens to be pajamas), then we make cookies and watch more Doctor Who
  • Chelsea: On Christmas Eve we go shopping and then we watch Joy to the World. On Christmas Day we spend time with family and friends. For Christmas dinner we have the missionaries over for Family Home Evening

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Is Love

The other day somebody pointed out that the happy, joyful spirit we feel at Christmastime does not come from trees and tinsel. It is not produced by flashing lights or fancy gifts. The spirit of Christmas is the Spirit of Christ. Feelings of love toward our fellowmen are created within us by the Love of God, even the Savior Jesus Christ.

President Thomas S. Monson noted
True love is a reflection of the Savior’s love. In December of each year we call it the Christmas spirit. You can hear it. You can see it. You can feel it.
An especially poignant manifestation of this spirit is the too-often-unexpressed virtue of gratitude. Recently I asked my friends what Christmas means to them. Their responses reveal faith in Jesus Christ and gratitude for family relationships—
  •  Debbie: When I was a teenager I had lots of nieces and nephews who were little and we always had a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve and the little kids sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. Good memories
  • Carrie Lynn: Giving a helping hand to those in need brings me the greatest joy. What a blessing it is to share of one's meager abundance to help those in need and actually appreciate it, even the simplest gifts. And all are blessed
  • Nathan: Presents!
  • Wiley: The Spirit of Christ—giving, love, joy, peace, forgiveness!
  • Debra: It is a time of God showing His great love for us. It can be a time of healing and renewed strength. You see, Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born. His birth brought great joy to the world. Shepherds, wise men, and angels all shared in the excitement of knowing about this great event. They knew this was no ordinary baby. The prophets had told of His coming hundreds of years before. The star stopped over Bethlehem just to mark the way for those who were looking for this special child
  • Salvador: Love and service
  • Brent: A reason for the family to get together
  • Jordann: Christmas is the small but great miracles of healing the broken-hearted and the effects of sin
  • Marissa: Celebrating the birth of Christ and the life He lived by emulating His selfless qualities through giving to others. He has given us everything and we become more like Him as we sacrifice for others
  • Jessica: Along with focusing on Christ, my grandpa's birthday is very close to Christmas, so I have always associated the season with visiting my extended family and enjoying the happiness of eternal families
For me, Christmas means spending time with family and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Healthy amounts of wassail and scripture-reading are a must. This year I'll spend Christmas away from my family. But my service as a missionary allows me to teach others how, through God's plan, they can spend eternity with their own families. Nothing could bring me greater joy!

I invite you to join in the Christmas conversation by visiting the website link embedded in the picture above. Learn about the babe born in Bethlehem. Request a free copy of the Holy Bible or a visit from missionaries. Share inspiring Christmas music. Leave a comment or two.

Christmas Is Love, President Thomas S. Monson
The Perfect Gift, President Henry B. Eyring
The Good and Grateful Receiver, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Are You Thankful For?

I love sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ online, but I've always been a little bothered by the pessimistic flavor I find on Facebook. It's so easy to gripe, whine, complain and stir the pot, especially when you're hiding behind a computer screen. But the Savior wasn't a griper, whiner, complainer or pot-stirrer, and He never suggested we ought to be. In fact, He taught us to be perfect "even as my Father which is in heaven is perfect", "even as I am." (Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 27:27)

A living apostle noted
Yes, life has its problems, and yes, there are negative things to face, but please accept one of Elder Holland's maxims for living—no misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse.
Which is why I was so happy when the Thanksgiving season rolled around. Nary a negative status update or comment. Complaints were few and accusations rare. I relished in this temporary online utopia but regretted that it must soon come to an end.

God has granted each of us a cornucopia of blessings

Gratitude is a cardinal Christian virtue, one we ought to carry in our hearts all the time and not just on the fourth Thursday in November. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught
When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism; you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.
Thankfully I have thankful friends, and out of desire to bask in the sunlight of their gratitude I posted this prompt on Facebook: What are you thankful for? Here are your responses—

  • Maer: A lot! My life and my family; friends for loving me for who I am :)
  • Kimberlee: I am thankful for answers to prayers!
  • Nancy: You! And all the missionaries!
  • Jessica: I am really thankful for doctors and medicine right now cause I have been sick all week!
  • Angie: I'm thankful for my Lord and Savior! I'm stoked to celebrate his birthday again!
  • Salvador: My family
  • Aimee: I was just sitting here marveling how sometimes my Heavenly Father answers prayers that haven't become prayers yet...just worries and concerns. I am thankful he knows me so well!
  • Melinda: I'm grateful for the Holy Ghost
  • Jessica: I am thankful for beds
  • Alicia: I am thankful for Christmas...without the birth of our Savior there would be no atonement, no resurrection, no New Testament, no Book of Mormon, no Doctrine and Covenants, no modern-day prophets, no LDS chapels and temples, no missionaries, and I would never have met you! MERRY CHRISTMAS!
  • Blair: I am thankful for my family and the support that they give me continually


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Power in Prayer

Some of my life's most meaningful moments happen when I'm alone in a quiet room on my knees pouring out my soul to my Father in Heaven.

We pray to thank God for His grace, mercy and blessings, and I am thankful for the gift of prayer itself. Elder Russell M. Nelson expresses so well my thoughts about this precious gift—
Even more amazing than modern technology is our opportunity to access information directly from heaven, without hardware, software, or monthly service fees. It is one of the most marvelous gifts the Lord has offered to mortals. It is His generous invitation to 'ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. This timeless offer to provide personal revelation is extended to all of His children. It almost sounds too good to be true. But it is true!
When I pray I am filled with peace, determination, hope and comfort. These are gifts from a loving Heavenly Father who is anxious to see me succeed and be happy. Fear is lost and confusion cleared away as I speak the thoughts of my heart.

I wrote this little verse in an attempt to crystallize my thoughts. It came to me as I studied about prayer in the scriptures—

Prayer and the Blue Horizon, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Come unto Him in Prayer and Faith, President Thomas S. Monson
How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life, Elder Richard G. Scott

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Minutes and Moments

A good friend of mine once urged me to look for "m&ms"—micro moments—in my life. Another friend taught me that life is made up of moments, not minutes.

What's the difference between a minute and a moment? A minute is concerned with busyness—getting ready for the day, filling out a schedule, creating a status update, rushing to an appointment, rushing from an appointment.

"In our search to obtain relief from the
stresses of life, may we earnestly seek
ways to simplify our lives."
Frantic. Stressed. Busy. Rushed. That's what comes to mind when I think of a minute.

A moment is something special—meditating on a park bench, experiencing a "light bulb" moment, finding revelation in the scriptures, holding a newborn baby, speaking unspoken messages of understanding with your eyes.

Quiet. Serene. Unhurried. Simple. That's what comes to mind when I think of a moment.

When I'm an old man telling old stories to my young grandchildren, do you think I'll bother them much with odes and tales of minutes? Of course not! Minutes don't matter much unless you're shopping for a cell phone.

Instead, I'll tell them of moments—moments when I felt joy, moments when I passed through sorrow, moments when I failed, moments when I succeeded, moments when I laughed, and moments when I cried.

The Savior's life was full of moments. How do I know? Take a look at these scriptures—
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23)
And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague. (Mark 5:34)
And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come. (3 Nephi 11:15)
No busyness there. No hustling and bustling and rushing to get to a destination. Only love and concern for the one—each one—of the people He knew and served and for us. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained
I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished.
I can’t see it.
Instead I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day. When He interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved. He knew the infinite value of the people He met. He blessed them, ministered to them. He lifted them up, healed them. He gave them the precious gift of His time.
In a world where it is easy to be a waster of minutes, it is helpful to learn from Jesus Christ, the master of moments. What are you doing to share precious moments with those you love? 

Of Things That Matter Most, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Good, Better, Best, Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Let Him Do It with Simplicity, Elder L. Tom Perry

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dear Skeptic: Read the Book!

Dear skeptic—

I've talked with you in many places. You are an individual with many faces. I'm almost always impressed by your enthusiasm, especially when you're friendly but even when you're not. I always leave feeling that we have more in common than perhaps you realize. 

I've heard it all—Why did the Church practice polygamy? Why couldn't blacks hold the priesthood until 1978? Why can't women hold the priesthood? Why do you adhere to such onerous health and moral codes? Why are you hiding secrets from us in your temples? I could go on but I won't.

I know the Book of Mormon is true. You can, too

Sometimes you accuse me of oversimplifying these perceived problems when I use the Book of Mormon to respond to your objections. But why wouldn't the answer be simple? Nature herself is wondrously simple.

I discovered I enjoy playing the piano by actually playing the piano. I learned the Book of Mormon is true by actually reading and praying about the Book of Mormon.

I do not understand how to build, repair, refinish, refurbish or tune a piano. I don't understand the intricacies behind creating hammers and strings and pedals and keys. I don't let that stop me from playing Clair de Lune and Liebestraume. I don't need to know all there is to know about the physical structure of a piano in order to understand its musical value of soothing and healing and inspiring human souls.

I don't understand all the details behind polygamy and priesthood, health codes and church history. And guess what? I don't need to know it all. I know the Book of Mormon is true. Because I know the Book of Mormon is true I know Joseph Smith is a prophet called of God. I know he restored the Savior's Church again to the Earth.

I don't need to know every historical antecedent in order to realize "what great things" the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has worked in my life and the lives of many millions more.

Someday I will find answers to all of those gospel questions. (I'm already finding some answers). If I'm lucky, maybe I'll even learn how to construct a piano. In the meantime I'm not giving up on the Book of Mormon any more than I'm giving up on Beethoven or Brahms. I've received spiritual confirmation that the Book of Mormon is true.

What greater witness can you have than from God?

A Friend

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mitt Files — Restoration

As He has always done, God provided a way for the restoration of priesthood authority after centuries of spiritual darkness. And consistent with revealed scripture, He did it through small and simple things. (see 1 Samuel 3:10, Alma 37:6-7)

In the early 1800s a 14-year-old boy—Joseph Smith—found himself grappling with important questions—Does God speak to man? Which church should I join? What does the Lord expect of me?

He searched in vain for answers from various denominations in and around Palmyra, New York. None of these churches were able to answer his questions. In fact, they just seemed to create larger concerns in his young mind.
"This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"

Undeterred, the boy pondered a familiar scripture found in James 1:5. No scripture, he said, had ever come with such force into his heart or the heart of any human being.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
And that is exactly what young Joseph did; he asked God. Early one spring morning in 1820 he went to a grove of trees near his home. He knelt to pray. He couldn't possibly have imagined what was about to happen—
I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me...When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (Joseph Smith—History 1:16-17)
God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith and told him to join no church, for none of them contained the fulness of the everlasting gospel nor the priesthood authority necessary to perform saving ordinances. In due time they would call Joseph Smith to be a prophet and to restore the Savior's Church once again on the Earth.

The Wondrous Restoration, Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Four Cornerstones of Faith, President Gordon B. Hinckley
Joseph Smith—Prophet of the Restoration, Elder Tad R. Callister

Friday, October 12, 2012

Six Statements to Live By

"We should remember that saying 'I love you' is only a beginning. We need to say it, we need to mean it, and most importantly we need to consistently show it. We need to both express and demonstrate love."
-Elder David A. Bednar

"You can know the things you need to know. Pray that you will learn to receive that inspiration and remain worthy to receive it. Keep that channel—your mind—clean and free from the clutter of the world."
-President Boyd K. Packer

"Don't let the low standards and expectations of the world and others cause you to aim beneath your nobility and ability—dream big! What I know and have learned is that anything worth doing is not easy and that we can do anything that is not easy if we believe."
-Elaine S. Dalton

"Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace."
-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"Righteous character is more valuable than any material object you own, any knowledge knowledge you have gained through study, or any goals you have attained no matter how well lauded by mankind. In the next life your righteous character will be evaluated to assess how well you used the privilege of mortality."
-Elder Richard G. Scott

"Every one of us is more beloved to the Lord than we can possibly understand or imagine. Let us therefore be kinder to one another and kinder toward ourselves."
-Elder Robert D. Hales

Saturday, September 8, 2012

71 Ways to Serve Someone Today

All around there are opportunities to serve—in your family, among friends, in your community, and with an organization you trust. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Leave your ideas in a comment below.
  1. Deliver meals to the elderly through Meals on Wheels or similar programs
  2. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen
  3. Rake leaves for a neighbor
  4. Clean, shelve or organize books at the public library
  5. Pick up litter along the streets
  6. Teach a second language to an interested learner
  7. Bake cookies for a friend
  8. Share a scripture with someone who's hurting
  9. Give blood through American Red Cross
  10. Plant a tree in the city park
  11. Invite an unemployed friend to a job fair or career workshop
  12. Wash the windows of your dad's car
  13. Post an inspirational thought on Facebook
  14. Teach a merit badge class to Boy Scouts
  15. Donate food to a local food bank
  16. Mow your neighbor's lawn
  17. Pray for someone...and then do what the Spirit tells you to do for that person
  18. Assemble hygiene, newborn or school kits using LDS Humanitarian Center guidelines. While there, check out a veritable smorgasbord of projects you and your family can become involved in today
  19. Visit lonely patients at a nursing home. Share with them, sing with them, laugh with them.
  20. Read with a child
  21. Say "I love you" and really mean it
  22. Do the laundry without being asked
  23. Talk with your mayor or city administrator about current needs in your community. Then go and do
  24. Run a 5k for charity
  25. Help someone move in or out of a new home
  26. Write a poem, paint a picture or sing a song to brighten someone's day
  27. Clean up in the community after a tornado, flood or other natural disaster
  28. People need to talk. Listen to them
  29. Sweep sidewalks or shovel snow
  30. Smile and say "hello" to stranger in the grocery store
  31. Distribute flyers for upcoming community events or fundraisers
  32. Give a handicapped friend a ride to church
  33. Refer a struggling friend to online addiction recovery resources
  34. Send a letter to a friend, serviceman, college student, foreign exchange student, or missionary (please and thank you)
  35. Participate in community, state, national or worldwide days of service
  36. Join the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at your child's school
  37. Organize files at an educational institution
  38. Familiarize yourself with political candidates and issues and teach your friends what you learn
  39. Walk your neighbor's dog
  40. Weed your family's garden or a neighborhood garden
  41. Make breakfast in bed for a family member or friend
  42. Sincerely compliment somebody on a job well done
  43. Volunteer as an election judge in your municipality
  44. Keep a journal for future generations to read
  45. As the new year rolls around, buy or make a beautiful calendar for a friend
  46. Share a meaningful talk, sermon or book with a friend
  47. Apologize to someone you've offended
  48. Invite a neighbor to dinner
  49. Sing carols at Christmastime
  50. Give an unexpected, anonymous gift to a neighbor
  51. Take five minutes to call a lonely friend
  52. Improve a nature trail in your area
  53. Play a board game with your brother or sister
  54. Share fruits and vegetables from your garden with a neighbor
  55. Take care of a friend's pets while he or she is on vacation
  56. Find an organization or cause in your area to which you feel comfortable lending support
  57. Treat the lonely and downtrodden the way you would like to be treated—with care and dignity
  58. Be the kind of person others can rely on in their times of need
  59. Prepare a meal for an expecting mother or a tired patient
  60. Teach somebody a skill you've learned
  61. Volunteer at a soup kitchen
  62. Rescue an animal from the pound
  63. Be kind to everyone you meet today—even your enemies
  64. Thank a solider for his military service
  65. Welcome a new friend into the neighborhood with a loaf of freshly baked bread
  66. Have a yard sale. Give proceeds to charity
  67. Purchase a book you love for your public library
  68. Host a foreign exchange student or foster child
  69. Donate items to Goodwill, Deseret Industries, Salvation Army and other similar organizations
  70. Volunteer at your child's school
  71. Learn from the master of selfless service, Jesus Christ. Study His life. Try to do what He would do and live as He would live. A good place to start is this website

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mitt Files — Apostasy (No, It's Not an Entrée)

This is the second in a series focusing on Mitt Romney's spiritual beliefs. As a full-time representative of Jesus Christ I am called to invite others to come unto ChristFeel free to contribute to this discussion, but keep comments focused on the gospel of Jesus Christ. View earlier Mitt Files here.

When people follow the prophet and keep God's commandments they are blessed. When they reject or distort the prophet's teachings they do not prosper; they experience disappointment, confusion and sorrow. The Bible and Book of Mormon are abundantly clear on this subject. As just one example—
"And [the Lord] hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence." (2 Nephi 1:20)
Widespread apostasy begins with individuals and soon infects communities and entire nations until but few believe the words of living prophets. When this happens God removes priesthood—the authority to act in His name for the salvation of His children—from the Earth. This is a pattern that has recurred since the beginning of time. Periods of time when priesthood is on Earth are called dispensations; periods without priesthood are known as apostasy.

The Savior's earthly ministry was marked by selfless service to others

When the Savior began His earthly ministry He restored priesthood authority. He healed the sick. He blessed children. He raised the dead. He taught His gospel. Most important He performed the atonement, an act of supreme mercy that covers every human being and ensures that somebody understands exactly what you're going through—your pains, your weaknesses, your sorrows, and your sins; but also your joys, your triumphs, and your beautiful experiences.

When Christ was crucified His apostles were left to administer the Church. But people quickly fell into apostasy. They brutally tortured and murdered the apostles, and it wasn't long before priesthood authority was again taken from the Earth. The world for centuries was enshrouded in suffocating spiritual darkness.

Avoiding Personal Apostasy, Elder Claudio D. Zivic

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mitt Files — Prophets and Priesthood

Thomas Spencer Monson
This is the second in a series focusing on Mitt Romney's spiritual beliefs. As a full-time representative of Jesus Christ I am called to invite others to come unto ChristFeel free to contribute to this discussion, but keep comments focused on the gospel of Jesus Christ. View earlier Mitt Files here.

This is Thomas S. Monson. He is the Lord's prophet on Earth today.

You may be surprised to learn that there are prophets and apostles among us, but if you've read and believe the Bible you understand there is precedent for that statement. God called prophets—first Adam and then others like Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jeremiah and Isaiah—throughout the ages to lead earnest followers of Christ, teach true doctrine, and point the world to the Savior and His atoning sacrifice. Prophets understand that it is only through the merits and mercy of Jesus Christ that we can be saved. They carry a special witness and testimony of the Savior's redeeming love.

Prophets also carry a special priesthood, even the power of God to act for the salvation of His children. God is a God of order, so ordinances like baptism and marriage must be performed by His priesthood authority in order to be binding. The living prophet is the only man who carries all the priesthood keys and the authority to use them. Fourteen other men are sustained as prophets, seers and revelators. They make up the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I was raised to believe in a living prophet and I sustain him today. But the sacred calling of the prophet became personal to me when in fall 2005 Gordon B. Hinckley—the prophet at the time—challenged everyone to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year. He extended this powerful promise to those who would do so—
Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God. (A Testimony Vibrant and True, August 2005 Ensign)
I took the prophet up on that challenge, and I found his promise to be entirely true.

Blessings follow those who follow the prophet. Unfortunately not everyone chooses to heed his God-inspired counsel. We'll talk about that next time we meet.

The Power of the Priesthood, President Boyd K. Packer
Willing and Worthy to Serve, President Thomas S. Monson
Prophets and Apostles Speak Today

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shredding for Service

I volunteer at the Adult Education Center where I teach English classes twice a week. I love my students and I'm amazed at how hard they work to learn a difficult language. They don't give up!

This experience has honed my teaching skills and improved my grasp of the language. The greatest benefit, however, is the determination and hope that fills my soul every time I'm around my students. It's impossible not to be inspired when you're surrounded by determined, hopeful people.

Once I showed up to an empty classroom! In my eight months at the center that had never happened before. Determined (there's that word again) to make the best use of our time, my companion and I asked the administrators if we could take on another project.

Okay, maybe we had a little too much fun

That's how I found myself sorting through and shredding thousands of folders of expired paperwork. As a child I actually asked for a paper shredder for my birthday (don't ask questions), so this chore was really no chore at all.

Though I was performing a menial task I left the center feeling the same way I do after a structured service project—fulfilled.

As a missionary I've painted houses, coated rooftops, raked leaves, chopped wood, visited widows, baked cookies and offered an encouraging word. Here's how some of you serve in the community—

  • Patsy: Cleanup after the [Nashville area] tornadoes
  • Misty: I have been running a crisis line for the past decade and many times have had to put people on overnight suicide watch. The fact that they are all still alive and many of them now thriving is very humbling and definitely leaves me with warm fuzzy feelings
  • Catherine: Being a block parent
  • Wade: I help serve everyone I meet by trying to be the best example I can be and helping them with anything they need help with. I just try to show others how much I care about them. Most of the time my service to others goes unnoticed, but I think just being there for people is service in itself

The Book of Mormon teaches us that service provides immediate and long-lasting rewards and reminds us why we ought to serve—
When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)
Look for an upcoming post full of more ideas on how you can serve someone today. Leave your ideas in the comments below, and I'll be sure to include them.

The Savior's Call to Serve, President Thomas S. Monson
Opportunities to Do Good, President Henry B. Eyring
The Sanctifying Work of Welfare, Bishop H. David Burton

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mitt Files — Families Are Forever

This is the second in a series focusing on Mitt Romney's spiritual beliefs. As a full-time representative of Jesus Christ I am called to invite others to come unto ChristFeel free to contribute to this discussion, but keep comments focused on the gospel of Jesus Christ. View earlier Mitt Files here.

Marriage in the temple seals
families together forever
Perhaps you've noticed that family is pretty important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons believe that true happiness comes from keeping God's commandments, and those values are best taught by a loving mother and father in the home.

In a groundbreaking proclamation issued nearly twenty years ago, modern prophets and apostles extolled the importance of family and warned against the disintegration of the family unit. That proclamation reads, in part—
The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities...
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. (Excerpts from The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Sept. 1995)
Because we believe we can live together with our families if we are faithful to covenants, we make and keep covenants in the temple. We strive to keep God's commandments. We work to develop positive relationships with family members. We learn to work, to live, and to love. And we look for opportunities to serve people around us, recognizing that the most important thing we can do is to follow the Savior's commandment to love Him and to love our neighbors.

My wonderful family! Me, Dad, Mom, Harrison
Audrey, Austin, Derek

I love my family. They mean everything to me. They are my friends. My parents and siblings have helped to create a home centered on the teachings of Jesus Christ. My home is a safe haven, a home filled with love truth and good memories.

A cherished hymn expresses our feelings about family so well—

I have a family here on earth.
They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them
through all eternity.
Families can be together forever
through Heavenly Father's plan.
I always want to be with my own family
and the Lord has shown me how I can.  

What does family mean to you? What are you doing to make your family better today?

Happiness in Family Life
The Importance of the Family, Elder L. Tom Perry

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mitt Files — God Loves Everyone

This is the first in a series focusing on Mitt Romney's spiritual beliefs. As a full-time representative of Jesus Christ I am called to invite others to come unto ChristFeel free to contribute to this discussion, but keep comments focused on the gospel of Jesus Christ. View additional Mitt Files here.

God is our loving Heavenly Father. That is simple, pure, unconditional truth. Because He loves us He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to teach us, to guide us, to heal us, and ultimately to suffer and die for us. We'll talk more about that later.

God loves each of us—His children—with the perfect love of a perfect Father. He wants us to enjoy happiness and success, and He wants us to return to live with Him someday.

Though He created all things, God loves us individually
He is pleased with us when we do good things and rejoices in our accomplishments. He is also aware of our weaknesses, disappointments, fears and failures. He will help us through our challenges, and He has provided prayer as a means to communicate with Him and receive His direction for our personal lives.

Once when I was feeling discouraged I knelt on the hard, cold bathroom floor of a missionary apartment in Spring Hill, Tennessee. I poured out my feelings to Heavenly Father. I talked with Him about my doubts, my fears, my weaknesses, my shortcomings, and my feelings of inadequacy. After exhausting my laundry list of self-criticism, I felt His comforting Spirit surround me. I felt calm. I felt hopeful. And I felt a renewed desire to get up and try again.

I had had similar experiences with prayer before and I have had many since, but that lonely night stands out in my mind as a personal testament of God's love for me. He loves you with the same unconditional, all-consuming love.

When we look for evidences of God's love in our lives we are sure to find them. We are likely to find more of His love and influence if we thank Him for what we already have. I felt God's love on Sunday as I listened to an organist playing the beautiful strains of I Know That My Redeemer Lives.

What has God blessed you with? What are you thankful for? Will you start looking around for answers?

Thanks Be to God, Elder Russell M. Nelson
He Truly Loves Us, Elder Paul E. Koelliker
The Race of Life, President Thomas S. Monson

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What Does Mitt Romney Believe?

"I'm voting for your guy!"
"Please tell my neighbors to pray for Mitt Romney."
"Do you have any Romney bumper stickers?"
These are just a few of the things I hear as I traverse the streets of conservative Williamson County, Tennessee. Regardless of their opinions of the man, people associate Mitt Romney with missionaries. He's Mormon; we're Mormon.

I am, quite frankly, excited about the increased attention toward the Church. Good publicity is always good, and bad publicity (of which there is much in any political race) backfires. I represent a missionary church, a church that believes in its divinely-inspired responsibility to carry the gospel to every man, woman and child on earth.

So I'm grateful that people know Romney and Reid and Donny and Marie are Mormons.

But I also hope my friends associate them and us with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is the church to which we Mormons belong. We are Christians. We believe in Christ. We love Him, we serve Him, we follow Him and we worship Him.

People routinely ask me to teach them about Mitt Romney's beliefs. Perhaps you, my readers, have questions similar to what they're asking. In an effort to address those questions, I'm starting a new series—we'll call it "Mitt Files"—in which I'll talk about the basic tenets of Romney's faith.

Allow me to set some rules for this discussion (and I really hope it will be a discussion; feel free to chime in by making comments)—
  1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages its members to be active in the political process
  2. The Church is politically neutral. It does not endorse, support or fund any candidate of any political party
  3. This blog is not an official Church website. Links to official Church websites are listed under the heading labeled From the Source
  4. Full-time missionaries—like me—are called to represent Jesus Christ. We invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. The Mitt Files will not be a platform for party politics but rather a forum for discussing faith and family values
I'll post new entries regularly starting with a discussion about God, our loving Heavenly Father. Posts will be listed under Mitt Files, and an appropriate heading will soon appear at the top of this blog so that you can easily access these discussions.

Please contribute, but keep comments centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ—not on Romney's platform or anything else.

I'm looking forward to learning with you!  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Letting Go and Moving On

One of the difficult lessons in life is learning to let go. Sometimes we must let go of appealing, longstanding fears or doubts which box us in a comfort zone and prevent us from reaching our potential through selfless service to others. Sometimes we must let go of friends who try to hold us back from accomplishing amazing things. Sometimes we must forget memories which impishly strive to hold our future hostage. Occasionally we are called to abandon incorrect ideas or beliefs which stifle meaningful progress.

And, perhaps most difficult of all, at times we may even have to drop some hopes and dreams—good things—which could get in the way of better or best things.

I'm learning all of these lessons now on my mission. Two or three years ago I never even considered that such lessons exist. Serving a mission forces me to grow up quickly—not a bad thing, just difficult.

Revelation is a cyclical process
We must rely on the Spirit to know how to abandon fears, which friends to unfriend, which memories to forget, which beliefs to change, which dreams to deflate. And then we must replace the void once filled by negativity with wholesome, positive thoughts, actions and people.

In place of fear, what item of faith or hope can I adopt in my life? Who will I befriend? What memories will I create. Will I allow my beliefs to be determined by faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ, or something else? And will I courageously modify my dreams in an effort to do God's will, not my own?

These are the important questions. Elder Richard G. Scott teaches us how to find answers:

  1. Fast
  2. Pray to find and understand helpful scriptures
  3. Capture everything the Lord is willing to give you
For more reading material, check out these helpful addresses from President Thomas S. Monson, who is masterful at teaching about finding joy and meaning in the journey of life. President Monson is the Lord's prophet on earth today. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Have I Done Any Good Today?

I love birthdays.

I turned 22 two days ago (how's that for a tongue twister?). I can't remember ever taking part in a more meaningful celebration. That's because friends and family from all over the country were celebrating with me.

Eddie, Edward Cullen and I
with a sectioned strawberry cupcake
My companion, Elder Hussey, and my Spanish brothers, Elder Lewis and Elder Fisher, pitched in to surprise  me with a fashionable Cross pen. Another group of missionaries presented me with a strawberry cupcake—candle and singing and all—complete with a musical, Twilight-themed birthday card. (There is no correlation between the card and my taste in entertainment)

A friend dropped in to give me a dozen neon-frosted cupcakes. At dinner, another friend surprised me with a piece of Hershey's chocolate pie, adorned with candles and accompanied by another refrain of "Happy Birthday". Next day a letter from Grandma and package from family arrived. They sent me—among other things—a new tie; a t-shirt emblazoned with the words Manti, Utah; cash; candy; and lots of love.

Why am I telling you this? Because it made my day!

More cupcakes! Aren't they attractive?
Birthdays come just once a year, but kindness is in vogue everyday. No, Mom, I'm not suggesting you need to mail me another package. And no, friends in Franklin, I'm not lobbying for more groceries and goodies.

I just want to applaud you for bringing a lot of good into my life. On special days and normal days—amid cupcakes and candies and Cross pens or without them—you make me feel important and loved. That's what the Savior would do. He went about doing good and so have you.

So I ask myself, have I done any good in the world today? Here to remind me and you of that daily duty is Will Thompson, author and composer of the jaunty hymn from which this post derives its name. Alternatively, check out this eclectic arrangement by Alex Boye and Carmen Rasmussen Herbert.

The Virtue of Kindness, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
The Merciful Obtain Mercy, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
What Have I Done for Someone Today?, President Thomas S. Monson

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In Franklin, Faith Trumps Fleetwood Mac

A popular Latter-day Saint hymn declares "Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven."

Every now and then I'm reminded of sacrifices I've made to serve the Lord for two years as a full-time missionary—sacrifices like not getting to watch the 2012 Summer Olympics in London or not getting to attend a Lindsey Buckingham concert at the Franklin Theatre last week. (To keep me focused on my missionary purpose—inviting others to come unto Christ—I avoid all forms of worldly entertainment for the duration of my service).

I know these sacrifices seem pretty small, and they probably are. Nevertheless, the facts are these: I love Fleetwood Mac and I love the Olympics, and prior to my mission I would have struggled to find many things of greater importance to me.

I still love Fleetwood Mac and I still love the Olympics; I always will. But my love for music and sports and entertainment pales in comparison to my love for the gospel of Jesus Christ. A three-minute Mac song urging me to "go my own way" is just not as satisfying as a thirty-minute, Spirit-filled lesson in which I urge my friends to go the Lord's way. Watching Michael Phelps win another gold medal is not as rewarding as observing a friend find gold in the scriptures.

I have found greater joy in living and teaching the Doctrine of Christ—faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end—than in anything else. You can, too. Click on some of the links below and start your journey toward joy and fulfillment.

Finding Joy in the Journey, President Thomas S. Monson
The Path to Peace and Joy, Elder Richard G. Scott
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, Elder L. Tom Perry

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why Don't You Understand Me!

Have you ever had a pity party?

I found myself having a pretty good one last night. Aren't you sad you didn't join? 

In an effort to change my selfish and self-centered feelings, I read scriptures. I listened to music. I spent time writing in my journal.

Truth from a loving Heavenly Father
distilled upon my heart and mind 
as the dew distills upon the grass
I postponed prayer because I didn't feel like praying. But since I've discovered that prayer is the most effective tool for inspiring hope and happiness in my heart, I finally gave in. I knelt down and began to visit with my Father in Heaven. I try to be honest with Him because that's the only way I can find resolution to my problems.

"Why doesn't anyone understand me?" I opined. "I make such an effort to understand others!"

I continued in this vernacular for an unreasonable amount of time until this heaven-sent thought sunk deep into my heart—
Why don't you understand me? I understand you perfectly.
Friends, how much time do we spend worrying about what others think instead of worrying about what God thinks? How much time do we waste vainly hoping that others will accept and understand us when we could instead be making an effort to accept and understand God?

For me, the answer is far too much, far too often! I'm reminded of a statement from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
We consume such precious emotional and spiritual capital clinging tenaciously to the memory of a discordant note we struck in a childhood piano recital, or something a spouse said or did 20 years ago that we are determined to hold over his or her head for another 20, or an incident in Church history that proved no more or less than taht mortals will always struggle to measure up to the immortal hopes placed before them. Even if one of those grievances did not originate with you, it can end with you. And what a reward there will be for that contribution when the Lord of the vineyard looks you in the eye and accounts are settled at the end of our earthly day.
Our precious emotional and spiritual capital is better spent doing things that will bring us closer to God. In an effort to better understand He who understands me perfectly, I am recording the lessons He teaches me through prayer and scripture study. These lessons originate as thoughts which come gently, almost imperceptibly into my mind and heart.

I record these lessons in a journal. I invite you to do the same. These treasured spiritual tidbits will provide great comfort and direction to you in moments of stress and confusion.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Love > Fear

Did you know you can actually replace fear with faith?

I didn't believe it either. I had been taught my whole life that faith is the antidote to a whole host of ills—fear being the most commonly mentioned. I struggled to wrap my head around such an abstract concept as faith until I internalized this life-changing verse of scripture—
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.
I've learned that love is the great motivator while fear is the great de-motivator. Love for Jesus Christ inspires faith in Him and motivates us to keep His commandments. Fear of the Lord causes us to question His divinity and our worth as His children. Love for our neighbors motivates us to serve and share truth with them. Fear of our fellow men causes us to withdraw from the world.

So the bad news is that fear is a real emotion with drastic, eternally negative consequences.

The good news is that love—a real action word and the primary manifestation of faith—is the antidote. If I'm feeling fear, all I need to do is love or serve somebody and that awful feeling will vanish.

That's my two cents. Here's yours—
  • Rian: Singing a hymn helps...and prayer. Sometimes I'm pretty sure that I don't overcome my fears; Heavenly Father just helps me ignore them for a while
  • Andrew: Every fear is just a diluted version of the irrational fear of dying that permeates most of our conciousnesses. If you can remove the fear of dying there's nothing else to be afraid. And why should we be afraid to die? Exactly—no good reason at all
  • Emma: I overcame my fear by praying. God helps us overcome our fears by giving us peace. Fear is what the devil instills in us. God replaces our fear with FAITH!
  • Sue: Our place here on Earth is to share the gospel and to lift one another up, and the best way for me to overcome a fearful situation is through prayer, fasting and the study of scripture. I often use my Bible Dictionary or Topical Guide to reference scriptures pertaining to my concerns and then exercise faith through prayer and obedience to receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit. I have been blessed with such an amazing peace that I know could only come from the Spirit.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Word about Birds

My dad's birthday was Monday and Father's Day was a couple of weeks ago, so I've been thinking a lot about the counsel he gave me throughout life—and especially as I prepared to serve a mission. I'm thankful for these lessons and the patient way in which my father taught them.

Dad often repeats a phrase he learned from his uncle—

Every day we are assaulted with inappropriate messages from friends and the media. Negative thoughts are a natural consequence of living in a negative world. I may not be able to control when an unsavory thought enters my mind, but I have ultimate control over when it leaves. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught this concept so well
Like thieves in the night, unwelcome thoughts can and do seek entrance to our minds. But we don’t have to throw open the door, serve them tea and crumpets, and then tell them where the silverware is kept! (You shouldn’t be serving tea anyway)...Whatever thoughts you have, make sure they are welcome in your heart by invitation only.
You can't remove sludge by sitting around, and you can't replace something with nothing. Thought control is an active process. Satan requires nothing more than an empty mind and an apathetic heart; he doesn't need us to seek out angry, bitter, lustful, hopeless, or confused thoughts and feelings.

Positive thinking, on the other hand, requires effort. What do you do to keep your thoughts pure and hope-filled? Here are some of your ideas—
  • Patsy: I keep my mind saturated with the word of God, keeping the commandments and doing His will.
  • Emma: Garbage in is garbage out :) Listening to positive music helps. 
  • Michael: Prayer, morning studies, and always surrounding myself with Gospel centered themes have prepared a way for the stage to remain pure and wholesome.
  • Brooklin: If I ever start thinking something I don't want to, I automatically sing a hymn in my head. It's hard to think bad thoughts when you are singing the lyrics to I Know That My Redeemer Lives. Soon it becomes a habit and it is easy to divert my thoughts.
  • Tyson: My mind is a stage; only one thing can be on my stage once. I keep my thoughts clean and pure by making certain that I am always the playwright. 
  • Doris: Thinking positive means you are following the Lord. Keep a song and or prayer in your heart and stand up for the right.
  • Michael: Flood your mind with God, truth, life and love.   
Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts, President Boyd K. Packer
Examples of Righteousness, President Thomas S. Monson
Think About What You Are Thinking About, Bruce K. Fordham
Hum Your Favorite Hymn, Children's Songbook #152

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

More Weighty Matters

A mission president is called by God to oversee a group of missionaries in a particular geographic area. President McKee, my mission president, hails from Pocatello, Idaho and oversees around 160 missionaries in the Nashville, Tennessee area. He is an endless source of wisdom and truth and love. Just like a good father he teaches me and others by example, showing in his words and in his actions how to be a good Christian in these troubled days.

Recently I performed with a missionary choir in Nashville. As we prepared to sing I found President McKee picking up trash that had been unfortunately strewn about the church kitchen. I paused to help. Almost immediately he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Elder Barton, we should be out in the chapel shaking hands." He talked about the familiar story of Mary and Martha (for a quick refresher, click here) and said, "We're doing Martha things and we need to be doing Mary things." His counsel echoed a favorite scripture—
[Why] covet that which is but the drop, and neglect the more weighty matters?
I will never forget that little encounter. In less than a minute my mission president delivered a powerful sermon on priorities, faith and charity. He did it without saying more than a few words. And he did it with love, as he always does.

I'm grateful for a special leader who wisely taught me a lesson I shall ever remember—it is important to prioritize spiritual matters first. When we put the Savior first, everything else falls into place.

Good, Better, Best, Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Developing Good Judgment and Not Judging Others, Gregory A. Schwitzer
We Are Sowing, Hymns #216

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Lifetime of Lessons

Everyone you meet knows something you don't know. Everyone you meet is facing a challenge you haven't experienced. Everyone you meet has a unique perspective to offer.

And likewise you know things and face challenges and have perspectives others do not know or have not experienced.

You can learn from everyone you meet. My compassionate mother and fair father taught me this lesson from a young age. When in my teenage ambition and spontaneity I was guilty of unfairly judging others, I remember my father wisely encouraging me to look at things from another perspective. He would give me additional knowledge and help me understand both sides of the story.

Likewise my mother, when I would say an unkind word about another, would urge me to treat everyone the way I would like to be treated.

From my wonderful parents and other leaders and friends, I learned how important it is to be fair and compassionate. The scriptures are full of examples of fair and compassionate leaders. Nephi "frankly forgave" his brothers just moments after they tried to kill him. Captain Moroni did not delight in bloodshed but in the joy and liberty and freedom of his people. Joseph Smith demonstrated charity and patience in forgiving William W. Phelps, who had betrayed him and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To the woman taken in adultery, the Savior did not condemn but offered encouragement, support and forgiveness.

All of these leaders demonstrated fairness, compassion, wisdom and maturity. And yet nothing in their good or perfect (in the case of the Savior) character shows that they viewed others as less important. They walked with humility, willing to learn from those around them and willing to learn from "that God who gave them life."

When we approach every person we meet and every situation we encounter with humility—with a desire to learn—we will never come away empty-handed or disappointed. Humility is not weakness—it is the key to power.
Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God. (Helaman 3:35)

Helaman 3:35
The Empowerment of Humility, Bishop Richard C. Edgley
Believe, Obey, and Endure, President Thomas S. Monson

Friday, June 8, 2012

A New Direction

It's time to unveil a new iteration of my blog.

For the first 10 months of my mission, I posted under the heading Rejoice, the Lord Is King!, which is also the title of one of my favorite hymns. My posts reflected how my fledgling faith in Jesus Christ was strengthened through my missionary experiences in Fairview and Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

For the last five months I've blogged about my gratitude for simple things. A Thousand Beautiful Things allowed me to number and expound upon the many beautiful blessings in my life. The inspiration behind the title is a favorite Annie Lennox song I listened to at home.

In keeping with this tradition of music and gratitude and faith, tomorrow I will present Let Wisdom Mark the Way, which draws its name from a line in the popular hymn Choose the Right. As I was writing one day it occurred to me in an instant that all of my posts center on life lessons I've learned from people. I learn most by listening to others, observing their actions and absorbing their knowledge—be it family and friends at home, members of the church in my community, gospel investigators in middle Tennessee, or casual acquaintances in any number of locations throughout the world.

More than just numbering the things I'm grateful for, Let Wisdom Mark the Way allows me to share important life lessons I've learned through observation, reflection and application. And it gives me an opportunity to shout out to my loyal audience—you—the people in the many places I call home and abroad who have forever changed my life.

Because the gospel is fundamentally life-changing, it should come as no surprise that gospel can be found in ordinary events, everyday conversation, and regular meditation. All around there is gospel wisdom to be found, for as the prophet Alma testified—
[A]ll things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. (Alma 30:44, emphasis added)
In your quest to let wisdom mark the way, don't neglect the most important gospel resources of all—the scriptures and the words of living prophets. And—please—feel free to post comments, questions or suggestions as we learn together.