‘Twas the last Sabbath of July 2016. ‘Tis. I can’t believe it! Surely someone is ripping the pages off my calendar… or something. I want to share some thoughts today which might include some repeats. I don’t care if you don’t. If you do, you can just flip back to what you were doing before “INASMUCH” popped up. (And by the way, in case you haven’t already noticed, I don’t read back over what I write/post … and I know I make mistakes [DUH!]… I hope you don’t get annoyed; try to ignore ‘em, OK?)


I’ve been pretty thirsty a few times in my life (besides Fast Sunday), but I almost always had water available. Safe, clean, cool… and I could drink as much as I wanted. I loved drinking from the hose out in the yard, and I loved drinking water from springs whenever I went hiking. I used to have what I called “The King’s Drink” (I have NO IDEA where that came from). It usually happened on Saturdays when it was my turn to clean the upstairs bathroom. I’d clean the sink especially well. Then I’d put the stopper in and fill the sink with clean, clear, cold water. And I stick my mouth (actually my whole face) in it and just drink and drink. I was a teenager, so it was a LOT of years ago. And I’ve wondered where it came from. Seeing someone stretch out over a steam in the Saturday Matinee? I don’t know… but I used to do that quite a bit: The King’s Drink.

I’ve ended up living in a few places where clean, safe water wasn’t readily available. (And sometimes in places where NO water was readily available).  Once I wrote about how long it took to prepare a drink of water in Africa. It made me realize that perhaps my “sink drink” really WAS “fit for a king.”


So what am I getting at? I’ve been thinking about people who are thirsty. I’ve been remembering that in some places where I lived – where people had to haul their water from wells or streams – it may be true that few were ever able to drink all the wanted, even of water which wasn’t clean and safe. But I’ve also been thinking about the MILLIONS of refugees who no longer have homes. What happens when THEY get thirsty? I wish I could remember more specifically how the refugees in the camp in Thailand which I visited 35 plus years ago got their water. I think a water truck came around, and the people lined up to fill whatever kind of container they had available.


It’s not a pleasant feeling to be thirsty, especially when there’s no water anywhere close (or anywhere at all).


So I’ve been thinking about Matthew 25:34-40. For many, many years I’ve thought and thought about what the Savior teaches. I’ve always called it “The INASMUCH principle.” The Savior describes a sampling of situations in which He’s been ministered to by others; it’s only a sample, because it would probably take up too much space to list “everything.” But He includes “I was thirsty….”  He also shared that He was hungry, sick, naked, imprisoned, and those to whom He was speaking had responded.  They didn’t remember having done things for Him – the things He described. And so He taught them about “INASMUCH.”  They had been kind, and it was not just that they had done something “FOR” Him (trying to be good disciples, good Christians, Good Samaritans, etc.). It was as if they had done something TO Him… it was as though they had given HIM meat, and had given HIM something to drink….


The words have such deep meanings… layers of meanings. To be thirsty and hungry includes a desire and longing (often for spiritual food and drink – for light and truth – as missionaries and parents and others know). To be naked is to lack protection and defense (among other meanings). I’m getting “long” here, so I won’t go into more detail about meanings.  I don’t especially like reading the last part (after verse 40) where there is an opposite “reward” for those who don’t respond – who don’t reach out to Him in [as Mother Teresa put it] “His distressing disguise.”


Maybe I’ve been thinking about this partly because of the thousands of gallons of water being WASTED … pumped out from under my home and running down the street … there are millions of people THIRSTY… and this clean, clear water disappears down the street unused . . . . Wow does that BOTHER me… bother my soul!

I know I’ve talked about some of this before – like about reaching out to do something kind for refugees. (If only I could send them the water!!). We do what we can. Maybe we increase our donation to Fast Offering, to humanitarian efforts or other helpful agencies and programs. Maybe we’re in a position to do many, many more things.


Then I’ve thought of those who are hungry for light and thirsty for truth, those who feel lonely and don’t know quite why. It’s as if there is a longing – as if they feel that something is missing. I think of those who are naked with no one to protect them or respond to their need for a safe place. And yes, we can do something about these needs through our example, through our kindness and compassion, through our courage to open our mouth and share something that is true … which might give the Holy Ghost a chance to have it sound/feel FAMILIAR to whoever is listening.  Let’s do what we can. The list is very, very long. I know YOU (yes, YOU reading this right now) have done and are continuing to do kind, amazing, beautiful things, and some day when He says “INASMUCH,” He will look at YOU, and He’ll smile . . . .




Several years ago a friend and I were visiting Sweden (my sister and her husband were on a mission there) for the first time. We saw some very interesting and beautiful places. I was especially fascinated by a very old boat which was preserved in a climate-controlled “museum” kind of place. The boat was called the Vasa.


The King of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, ordered the ship to be built.  It was built at the Stockholm shipyard by Henrik Hybertsson, an experienced Dutch shipbuilder. It was to be one of the mightiest, most powerfully armed warships in the world. The ship was richly decorated.  Carvings were made separately in workshops and were later attached on the bow and round the high stern castle. There were carved gods, demons, kings, knights, warriors, cherubs, mermaids, weird animal shapes – all meant to scare the enemies and also symbolize power, courage and cruelty.


But the Vasa was dangerously unstable and top-heavy with too much weight in the upper structure of the hull. Nevertheless, the king was anxious to get the ship to its station as flagship, and at the same time the king’s subordinates lacked the courage to openly discuss the ships structural problems or to have the maiden voyage postponed. Sunday August 10 1628 was the day of the Vasa’s maiden voyage. The beaches around Stockholm were filled with spectators, among them foreign diplomats. The maiden voyage was to be an act of propaganda for the ambitious Swedish king. The Vasa set sail and fired a salute. But after only a few minutes of sailing, the ship began to heel over. She righted herself slightly, then heeled over again. Water started to gush in through the open gunports. And, to everyone’s horror and disbelief, the glorious and mighty warship suddenly sank! It had only gone a little over one nautical mile. It was determined that the main reason for the Vasa capsizing was that the ballast was not enough as counterweight to the guns, the upper hull, masts and sails of the ship.


The ship was located in the late 1950’s – over 3 centuries later! – and was recovered through a long, slow, careful process. Then came the work of conservation and restoration.  Thousands of artifacts were found in and around the Vasa’s hull, and many are displayed in the museum.  Six of the ten sails were recovered (they are the oldest sails on display in the world).

One of the thoughts which kept coming to my mind was the fact that the ship was “top-heavy.”  I kept thinking of the lesson in Jacob 5:47 where the lord of the vineyard grieves for the way his vineyard has been corrupted after all his work. In Jacob 5:48, the servant replies: “Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard–have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves. Behold, I say, is not this the cause that the trees of thy vineyard have become corrupted?”  That’s one of the lessons which came to my mind as I surveyed what had once been a mighty warship.  I remembered that the lord of the vineyard and his servant made sure that “the root and the top [were] equal in strength” (Jacob 5:66), and “they did keep the root and the top thereof equal, according to the strength thereof.” (Jacob 5:73).

Then, a couple of Sundays ago, I happened to have BYU-TV on, and Elder Renlund was speaking. Lo and behold, he began to talk about the VASA!!! I was already “glued to the TV,” but now the glue pulled me even closer and tighter. I’m going to share part of his message (and I’ll give you the reference for the whole talk, which was fantastic) – I love the lessons HE drew from knowing about the VASA (much more than I did), with his Swedish background.




Let me begin by relating an obscure historical event, and then I will draw out some lessons that can be learned from this remote maritime misfortune. In the early seventeenth century, Sweden was a world power. Sweden’s king, Gustav II Adolf, commissioned a warship that would be christened the Vasa. The ship represented a substantial outlay of resources, particularly the oak from which the vessel would be built. Oak was so valuable that cutting down an oak tree without authorization was a capital offense. Gustav Adolf closely oversaw the construction process, attempting to ensure that the Vasa would fully realize his expectations. After construction had begun, Gustav Adolf ordered the Vasa to be made longer. Because the width supports had already been built from precious oak, the king directed the builders to increase the ship’s length without increasing its width. Although the shipwrights knew that doing so would compromise the Vasa’s seaworthiness, they were hesitant to tell the king something they knew he did not want to hear. They complied. Gustav Adolf also insisted that this ship have not simply the customary single deck of guns but cannons on three decks, with the heaviest cannons on the upper deck. Again, against their better judgment, the shipwrights complied. Over the course of several years, shipwrights, carpenters, rope makers, and others worked diligently to build the Vasa. Over one thousand oak trees were used to complete the ship. It had sixty-four cannons and masts taller than 150 feet. To give the ship the opulence befitting a king’s flagship, several hundred gilded and painted sculptures were added. On August 10, 1628, the Vasa began its maiden voyage. In view of countless spectators, the ship left its mooring directly below the royal castle in Stockholm. After being pulled along by anchors for the first several hundred feet, the Vasa left the shelter of the harbor. A stronger wind entered its sails, and the ship began to tip. The Vasa righted itself slightly, but only temporarily. Before long, as recorded by an observer, “she heeled right over and water gushed in through the gun ports until she slowly went to the bottom under sail. The Vasa’s maiden voyage was about 4,200 feet. The Vasa rested at the bottom of the Baltic Sea until it was recovered three centuries later in 1961. It was successfully raised from the seabed and towed back to Stockholm. Today the Vasa rests in a temperature- and humidity controlled museum in Djurgården, an island in central Stockholm. I have a model of the ship in my office at Church headquarters as a reminder of several lessons that underlie its short, tragic history.


Despite the Vasa’s magnificent appearance, the ship was not seaworthy. The alterations in its construction resulted in it not having sufficient lateral stability to enable safe seafaring. Gustav Adolf’s desire for an extravagant status symbol ruined the design of what would have been a magnificent sailing vessel, the mightiest warship of its time. The shipbuilders’ reluctance to speak up — their fear of the king’s displeasure — deprived the king of their knowledge and insight. All involved lost sight of the goals of the enterprise: to protect Sweden and to promote its interests abroad. A ship that attempts to defy the laws of physics is simply a boat that won’t float. For us to successfully navigate our mortal sojourn, we also need sufficient lateral stability — which is really spiritual stability — to confront crosswinds and crosscurrents, make the necessary turns, and return safely to our heavenly home. There are things we can do to increase our spiritual stability. There are also things we can do to diminish our spiritual stability. As our spiritual stability decreases, we predictably bring consequences on ourselves that could have been avoided. I will touch on four matters that help us build spiritual stability.

I very much enjoyed Elder Renlund’s whole talk and encourage you to “look it up” if you’d like to read it. Again: CONSTRUCTING SPIRITUAL STABILITY – ELDER DALE G. RENLUND – BYU DEVOTIONAL – 16 September 2014



The hymn I missed

Because yesterday was PIONEER DAY, I was sure we’d sing one of my favorite hymns. But it didn’t happen (even though Sacrament meeting was WONDERFUL). I used to sing this hymn – or just read the words – quite often when I was serving as a missionary. It seemed like the words were for ALL of us, not just for those from many years ago whom we call “The Pioneers.” I’m convinced each of us has a chance (or we’ve had a chance) to be “first” – to go ahead and prepare a way for others. And the words of this particular hymn are so beautiful … I feel sad that we (usually) only sing it once a year. So I especially missed the chance yesterday and decided to share it today.



(As you read the words, think of how much they apply to us in the invitation we’ve been given to be examples, to be missionaries, to be Good Samaritans . . . to be PIONEERS…)


They the builders of the nation, Blazing trails along the way;

Stepping stones for generations Were their deeds of ev’ry day.

Building new and firm foundations, Pushing on the wild frontier,

Forging onward, ever onward, Blessed, honored Pioneer!

Service ever was their watch cry; Love became their guiding star;

Courage, their unfailing beacon, Radiating near and far.

Ev’ry day some burden lifted, Ev’ry day some heart to cheer,

Ev’ry day some hope the brighter, Blessed, honored Pioneer!

As an ensign to the nation, They unfurled the flag of truth,.

Pillar, guide, and inspiration To the hosts of waiting youth.

Honor, praise, and veneration To the founder we revere!

List our song of adoration, Blessed, honored Pioneer!



HYMN # 197

This morning I’m sharing a hymn which I’m pretty sure I’ve never sung in any meeting. My friend Leanne pointed it out to me quite a while ago, and I love it so much!! Many of you may already be familiar with it. On the internet I found a link with a group of men singing it (with a short message before by a young woman). I’ve posted it so that you can hear the tune (in case you don’t already know it). The message is powerful, beautiful, and thought-provoking.  Enjoy!



  1. O Savior, thou who wearest A crown of piercing thorn,

The pain thou meekly bearest,   Weigh’d down by grief and scorn.

The soldiers mock and flail thee;   For drink they give thee gall;

Upon the cross they nail thee   To die, O King of all.

  1. No creature is so lowly, No sinner so depraved,

But feels thy presence holy   And thru thy love is saved.

Tho craven friends betray thee,   They feel thy love’s embrace;

The very foes who slay thee   Have access to thy grace.

  1. Thy sacrifice transcended The mortal law’s demand;

Thy mercy is extended   To ev’ry time and land.

No more can Satan harm us,   Tho long the fight may be,

Nor fear of death alarm us;  We live, O Lord, thru thee.

  1. What praises can we offer To thank thee, Lord most high?

In our place thou didst suffer;   In our place thou didst die,

By heaven’s plan appointed,   To ransom us, our King.

O Jesus, the anointed,   To thee our love we bring!


Text: Karen Lynn Davidson, b. 1943. (c) 1985 IRI

Music: Hans Leo Hassler, 1564-1612; adapted by J. S. Bach, 1685-1750

(So you’ll know how the tune goes; you’ll recognize it – A little introduction first)



GRACE – By Brad Wilcox

Many of you have probably already heard or read this message from Brad Wilcox or have read his books, but I wanted to share the talk for you to read again (or for the first time). I love Brad! He’s been a good friend for many years, and he is one of the most genuinely good, kind people I know. Enjoy this wonderful, uplifting, beautiful message!


HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT (Brad Wilcox – 12 July 2011 – BYU)

It is an honor to be invited to speak to you today. Several years ago I received an invitation to speak at Women’s Conference. When I told my wife, she asked, “What have they asked you to speak on?”  I was so excited that I got my words mixed up and said, “They want me to speak about changing strengths into weaknesses.”  She thought for a minute and said, “Well, they’ve got the right man for the job!” She’s correct about that. I could give a whale of a talk on that subject, but I think today I had better go back to the original topic and speak about changing weaknesses into strengths and about how the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient (see Ether 12:27, D&C 17:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9)— sufficient to cover us, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes.


A BYU student once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?”  She said, “I just don’t get grace.”  I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?” She said, “I know I need to do my best and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.” She then went on to tell me all the things she should be doing because she’s a Mormon that she wasn’t doing.  She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?”  She then went on to tell me all the things that she shouldn’t be doing because she’s a Mormon, but she was doing them anyway.  Finally I said, “Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.” Seeing that she was still confused, I took a piece of paper and drew two dots—one at the top representing God and one at the bottom representing us. I then said, “Go ahead. Draw the line. How much is our part? How much is Christ’s part?”  She went right to the center of the page and began to draw a line. Then, considering what we had been speaking about, she went to the bottom of the page and drew a line just above the bottom dot.  I said, “Wrong.”  She said, “I knew it was higher. I should have just drawn it, because I knew it.”  I said, “No. The truth is, there is no line. Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.”  She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?”  “Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to fill that gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.”

Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice — not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 3 Nephi 28:35).

“So what’s the difference?” the girl asked. “Whether our efforts are required by justice or by Jesus, they are still required.”  “True,” I said, “but they are required for a different purpose. Fulfilling Christ’s requirements is like paying a mortgage instead of rent or like making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt. You still have to hand it over every month, but it is for a totally different reason.”


Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. How many know what I am talking about? Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice. If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane. In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask (“Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!”), maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The great Mediator asks for our repentance not because we must ‘repay’ him in exchange for his paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 149).  Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, referring to President Spencer W. Kimball’s explanation, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” (The Lord’s Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991], 223).  Let’s put that in terms of our analogy: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.

I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.”  I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.”  They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?” I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully—yes!” Then I ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: “Have you been changed by grace?” They are so excited about being saved that maybe they are not thinking enough about what comes next. They are so happy the debt is paid that they may not have considered why the debt existed in the first place. Latter-day Saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from but also what He has saved us for. As my friend Brett Sanders puts it, “A life impacted by grace eventually begins to look like Christ’s life.” As my friend Omar Canals puts it, “While many Christians view Christ’s suffering as only a huge favor He did for us, Latter-day Saints also recognize it as a huge investment He made in us.” As Moroni puts it, grace isn’t just about being saved. It is also about becoming like the Savior (see Moroni 7:48). The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can live after we die but that we can live more abundantly (see John 10:10). The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed (see Romans 8). Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see Alma 40:26), but, brothers and sisters, no unchanged thing will even want to.

I know a young man who just got out of prison—again. Each time two roads diverge in a yellow wood, he takes the wrong one—every time. When he was a teenager dealing with every bad habit a teenage boy can have, I said to his father, “We need to get him to EFY.” I have worked with that program since 1985. I know the good it can do.  His dad said, “I can’t afford that.”  I said, “I can’t afford it either, but you put some in, and I’ll put some in, and then we’ll go to my mom, because she is a real softy.”  We finally got the kid to EFY, but how long do you think he lasted? Not even a day. By the end of the first day he called his mother and said, “Get me out of here!” Heaven will not be heaven for those who have not chosen to be heavenly. In the past I had a picture in my mind of what the final judgment would be like, and it went something like this: Jesus standing there with a clipboard and Brad standing on the other side of the room nervously looking at Jesus.  Jesus checks His clipboard and says, “Oh, shoot, Brad. You missed it by two points.”  Brad begs Jesus, “Please, check the essay question one more time! There have to be two points you can squeeze out of that essay.” That’s how I always saw it. But the older I get, and the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.” The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there. If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If Jesus did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us—part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus didn’t require practice, then we would never become pianists.


“But Brother Wilcox, don’t you realize how hard it is to practice? I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven? Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they always feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace. There are young women who know they are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves them, and they love Him. Then they graduate from high school, and the values they memorized are put to the test. They slip up. They let things go too far, and suddenly they think it is all over. These young women don’t understand grace. There are young men who grow up their whole lives singing, “I hope they call me on a mission,” and then they do actually grow a foot or two and flake out completely. They get their Eagles, graduate from high school, and go away to college. Then suddenly these young men find out how easy it is to not be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, or reverent. They mess up. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “This is stupid. I will never do it again.” And then they do it. The guilt is almost unbearable. They don’t dare talk to a bishop. Instead, they hide. They say, “I can’t do this Mormon thing. I’ve tried, and the expectations are just way too high.” So they quit. These young men don’t understand grace.

I know returned missionaries who come home and slip back into bad habits they thought were over. They break promises made before God, angels, and witnesses, and they are convinced there is no hope for them now. They say, “Well, I’ve blown it. There is no use in even trying any more.” Seriously? These young people have spent entire missions teaching people about Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and now they think there is no hope for them? These returned missionaries don’t understand grace.

I know young married couples who find out after the sealing ceremony is over that marriage requires adjustments. The pressures of life mount, and stress starts taking its toll financially, spiritually, and even sexually. Mistakes are made. Walls go up. And pretty soon these husbands and wives are talking with divorce lawyers rather than talking with each other. These couples don’t understand grace. In all of these cases there should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13).

One young man wrote me the following e-mail: “I know God has all power, and I know He will help me if I’m worthy, but I’m just never worthy enough to ask for His help. I want Christ’s grace, but I always find myself stuck in the same self-defeating and impossible position: no work, no grace.” I wrote him back and testified with all my heart that Christ is not waiting at the finish line once we have done “all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). He is with us every step of the way. Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The Savior’s gift of grace to us is not necessarily limited in time to ‘after’ all we can do. We may receive his grace before, during and after the time when we expend our own efforts” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 155).  So grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now. It is not a finishing touch; it is the Finisher’s touch (see Hebrews 12:2).

In twelve days we celebrate Pioneer Day. The first company of Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Their journey was difficult and challenging; still, they sang: Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear; But with joy wend your way. Though hard to you this journey may appear, Grace shall be as your day. [“Come, Come, Ye Saints,” Hymns, 2002, no. 30]  “Grace shall be as your day”—what an interesting phrase. We have all sung it hundreds of times, but have we stopped to consider what it means? “Grace shall be as your day”: grace shall be like a day. As dark as night may become, we can always count on the sun coming up. As dark as our trials, sins, and mistakes may appear, we can always have confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ. Do we earn a sunrise? No. Do we have to be worthy of a chance to begin again? No. We just have to accept these blessings and take advantage of them. As sure as each brand-new day, grace—the enabling power of Jesus Christ—is constant. Faithful pioneers knew they were not alone. The task ahead of them was never as great as the power behind them.


The grace of Christ is sufficient—sufficient to cover our debt, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes. The Book of Mormon teaches us to rely solely on “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we do, we do not discover—as some Christians believe—that Christ requires nothing of us. Rather, we discover the reason He requires so much and the strength to do all He asks (see Philippians 4:13). Grace is not the absence of God’s high expectations. Grace is the presence of God’s power (see Luke 1:37).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said the following: Now may I speak . . . to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. . . .   . . . This feeling of inadequacy is . . . normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. . . .  . . . This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. [CR, October 1976, 14, 16; “Notwithstanding My Weakness,” Ensign, November 1976, 12, 14] With Elder Maxwell, I testify that God’s grace is sufficient. Jesus’ grace is sufficient. It is enough. It is all we need. Oh, young people, don’t quit. Keep trying. Don’t look for escapes and excuses. Look for the Lord and His perfect strength. Don’t search for someone to blame. Search for someone to help you. Seek Christ, and, as you do, I promise you will feel the enabling power we call His amazing grace. I leave this testimony and all of my love—for I do love you. As God is my witness, I love the youth of this church. I believe in you. I’m pulling for you. And I’m not the only one. Parents are pulling for you, leaders are pulling for you, and prophets are pulling for you.  And Jesus is pulling with you. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Porches and Relationships

Time to get back out on the porch for a while. I’m not sure we’ve done ANY “porching” yet this year on the Blog. Shame on MEE! This really is a topic I’m passionate about. There are times when I’m lazy, but mostly it’s just finding time to gather my thoughts. I think most of you can understand the dilemma, right? (I think I hear some shouts of “right!!”).


How would it be if there were someone in your life, an “earthling,” whom you could trust completely. How would it be if this were someone who would say to you, honestly, “You can talk to me about anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. I will always listen to you. I am always on your side. And you can trust me.” How would that feel? If you DO have someone like that, you are blessed! (Even if you don’t realize it). When I ponder about this, it feels like something our Heavenly Father might say. “I’ll always be here. You can talk to Me anytime you need to, anytime you want to.” And YES … He is Someone we can trust COMPLETELY.


My friend Shellie learned a lot about her Heavenly Father from/because of her earthly father. If I had any questions or concerns, I could talk to my dad. He was easy to talk to. I knew my dad meant it when he said I could talk to him anytime about anything, because his actions proved he meant it. He paid attention to everything about me — my actions, my tone of voice, my mood, the words I spoke … and the words I didn’t speak. The closeness between me and my father has been and still is a great source of strength to me. He never tried to solve all of my problems for me. He didn’t jump in and share all his wisdom and ideas. He asked me what my thoughts and feelings were, and what my ideas were for solving my own problems. How I value the conversations I had with him. I know the power that comes when one has truly listened, understood, and shown love. I think that as an only child I have learned well the value of being listened to. My father never did interrupt me, and his mind was never so preoccupied with his own thoughts that there was no room for me. That’s what I loved the most — that there was room for me in his life. Interestingly, in my Patriarchal Blessing there is an indication that I will teach people about communication. 


What a blessing if we can have a relationship with our earthly father which helps us learn something of the love, kindness, and care of our Heavenly Father. Communication with both of them is so important. Without communication – without conversation – how can there be a relationship? And how can a relationship survive if the conversations don’t continue? I don’t think it’s a revelation to any of us (certainly not a surprise) that meaningful conversations can strengthen relationships — with ourselves, with our families, with others, and with God. And our relationships seen to be “intertwined.” A sweet relationship with our Heavenly Father influences all our other relationships. Have you noticed this? Also, our relationship with ourselves — our sense of worth, belonging, and connection — does the same. Have you noticed this too?


I’d like to share a little bit about the relationship we have with ourselves. What kind of “conversations” do you have with yourself? You might want to “listen carefully” during the day today and see what you learn. Do you tend to be positive, or is most of your “self-talk” negative? (If you’re thinking “yes,” I’m sad – that has to be a difficult reality). I know I’m negative with myself a lot, but I’m also sometimes positive. I just “practiced what I was preaching” and discovered that I’m more negative with and about myself than I realized. Yikes! Maybe some of the rest of you will discover the same thing. We’ve got to stop it!


The more I’ve been thinking about it this morning, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that our conversations with ourselves likely has more influence on our conversations and relationships with others than we’re aware of. This is a relationship which we might be neglecting too much. Perhaps a little more time for introspection – for solitude – for pondering and meditating – would teach us and help us in many ways. Even in a busy life there can be some time found for contemplation. Maybe some time to think about how we feel about ourselves will turn out to be exceedingly important and worthwhile. Certainly our feelings about ourselves are healthier and more positive if we can learn to talk to ourselves in healthy and positive ways.


SO: Back on the porch, friends . . . do a little more positive, encouraging, understanding, compassionate talking with yourself. (If you do it out loud, the neighbors might start to do some wondering . . . .)




Below is a sampling of entrees from one of the Washington Post’s most popular annual contests, the Neologism Contest, in which contestants are asked to create new words with various restrictions. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.



Guiltar: A musical instrument whose strings are pulled by your mother.

Eruditz: A philosophy professor who can’t figure out how to work the copying machine.

Skilljoy: The would-be friend who’s a bit better than you at everything.

Sparadigm: A model panhandler.


Nword: Something that gets you in really deep trouble. 

Onisac: A dark, often smoke-filled chamber in which elderly Homo sapiens deposit their nest eggs before dying. 


Errudition: Comical misuse of big words. “Madam, your dress looks positively superfluous on you tonight,” he said with amazing errudition.

Percycution: Giving your child a name he will hate for the rest of his life.



Coughin: A small enclosure designed especially for smokers.


Treadmillstone: The unused home gym that keeps staring at you.

Crapplause: A polite but unenthusiastic expression of approval.


AHA HAHA: When you finally get the joke.


Carecrows: Women who are so devoted to their men that they frighten them away.


Typochondriac: A paranoid proofreader.


Prob-solutely: A definite maybe.

Ignorial: A monument that nobody visits.



Ideas for Saturday

YES! Saturday is a SPECIAL DAY! So I thought I’d share a few SPECIAL IDEAS for making Saturdays (and ALL days) even brighter and better.  HERE WE GO!


Accept the fact that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue!

Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

Drive carefully… It’s not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker…

If you can’t be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

Never buy a car you can’t push.

Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won’t have a leg to stand on.

Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.


Since it’s the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.

The second mouse gets the cheese.

When everything’s coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane!

Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once.

We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

Have an awesome day and know that someone (MEE) has thought about you today.




There’s a magazine which has a weekly contest, and the responses are often SO clever and sometimes hilarious. They ask readers to respond and then choose one or more of the best responses. I decided I’d share a few of them “now and then.” And today is our first day to experience them. Hope some of them make you smile!

Two Texas deer hunters were attacked by a revenge-minded buck, which charged into them, chased them into their truck, and ate their cigarettes. We asked you to please imagine the next instance of animal revenge on humankind, in headline format.  Reindeer Charge Santa $25 Per Carry-on Bag!


People with math anxiety feel actual pain when forced to do difficult numerical problems, according to a study that scanned their brains with MRI machines. We asked you to come up with a medical name for the misery felt by math haters.  Fibromyalgebra – Trig-anosis – Sine Flu

A New Jersey homeowner put up a sign on his lawn reading, “House for sale by owner, because my neighbor’s stupid.” We wondered, what truthful For Sale sign would you put up in front of your home?  House for sale before adult children try to move back in  /  House for sale by owner: We paid more than you will

An archaeologist discovered an Aboriginal cave painting in the Australian outback that was created 28,000 years ago. What line of graffiti might have been found next to it?  Say NO to the wheel  / Only 9,492,798 shopping days until Christmas! / Repent now! The world will end in 27,999 B.C.
After 115 years together, Bibi and Poldi—a mated pair of Galápagos giant tortoises at an Austrian zoo—had a vicious, biting fight and are no longer on speaking terms. We asked you for the last sentence one of them said to the other before the fight began.  I cheered for the hare. / Yeah, that outfit makes you look fat. / Just so you know … you taste like chicken.




I know you don’t have to live away from the country you love and call HOME to deeply appreciate it – but I do know that for me it has made a difference. I have been to all 7 continents, visited at least 34 countries (some for more than just a short “tourist visit”), and lived in Taiwan, Hong Kong (twice), the Philippines (twice), Indonesia, and Nigeria (West Africa). Each time I have returned home to America, I have prayed I would keep my feelings of gratitude fresh – that I would never lose how it felt to come HOME.


This is INDEPENDENCE DAY (although we more common call it “The Fourth of July”). It’s a time when many thing mostly of fireworks or picnics (or “Stadium of Fire!”) or something. I hope we’ll think of independence and liberty, and deep gratitude for those women and men who have fought “here, there, and everywhere” to preserve our liberty, our freedom, our Constitution, our privilege of living in a promised land.


I’m thinking and praying today for those who have no home – for those who are refugees (as many of our forefathers were when they were forced to leave America and head across the Plains to what is now Utah). The Savior was a refugee, fleeing with his family to Egypt during the time when Herod demanded that all little boys two or younger in and around Bethlehem were to be killed. MATTHEW 2:16 – Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. I’m currently reading the Old Testament, and the 600,000 or more Israelites have just left Egypt after 400 years . . . . (I think if the oceans didn’t “divide,” the Israelites could have walked all the way to America in the 40 years they were in the wilderness).


Many who live in almost ANY country in the world have feelings about their HOME similar to my feelings about MY home. I remember being on a ship where several young Indonesian men were helping with our luggage. I was with my Mother, and we felt such love and appreciation for the help we were given. When I found out they were from Indonesia, I began speaking to them in that language. They were “terkesan!” (Amazed). It was as if we were instant friends. As they finished and we were heading to our room, I stood and sang the Indonesian national anthem (and the tears have come even thinking about this). “Indonesia, tana air ku…”  (Indonesia, my homeland, The land where I shed my blood, Right there, I stand To be a guide of my motherland… and so on) We cried together. It was an unforgettable moment. I remember standing in theatres before movies began (yes, we had permission to do that a few times) in Taiwan – everyone stood quietly as the National Anthem was played with scenes and messages on the screen (Chiang Kai Shek was still alive, living in Taipei). And I love the national anthem of the Philippines: “LUPANG HINIRANG.” Bayang magiliw, perlas ng silanganan. Alab ng puso, sa dibdib mo’y buhay. Lupang hinirang, duyan ka ng magiting Sa manlulupig, di ka pasisiil. (Land of the morning, Child of the sun returning, With fervor burning, Thee do our souls adore). And of course there’s “O Canada!!”… I love their anthem! “O Canada! Our home and native land!” . . . . (Yes, I could go on and on, but I’ll let Canada be our “finale”). Today I think of my own homeland and of those who have truly loved America and those who still do. I love my HOME!


When I got back after my first mission (I had served for 2 years), I literally kissed the ground (no… I don’t have a picture….).  So for today I express deep thanks for my HOME, for AMERICA.


GOD BLESS AMERICA – Words and music by Irving Berlin
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. ”
God Bless America, Land that I love.

Stand beside her, and guide her  Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies, To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.


And the hymn we sang in Sacrament meeting yesterday, which also brings deep, deep feelings to my soul: (This is a longer version than most of us are acquainted with)

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL – Words by Katharine Lee Bates, Melody by Samuel Ward

O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties  Above the fruited plain!
America! America!  God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood  From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet  Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat  Across the wilderness!
America! America!  God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,  Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved  In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved And mercy more than life!
America! America!  May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness  And every gain divine!
O beautiful for patriot dream  That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam  Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!  God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood  From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for halcyon skies,  For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties  Above the enameled plain!
America! America!  God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air  And music-hearted sea!
O beautiful for pilgrims feet, Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat  Across the wilderness!
America! America!  God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought  By pilgrim foot and knee!