New Year’s Resolutions



By Nancy Smyth, Director of Individual and Group Coaching, The Arbinger Institute – 14 Dec 2016


Perhaps there is a better way to make New Year’s resolutions. Each year, people think about making resolutions in order to improve themselves. Perhaps you have already formed yours. Usually resolutions arise from thinking about what we want or need, which is like strategizing and planning a business without having other people in mind. Oftentimes those self-promises we make fade over time. When self-focused, our attention is directed at getting better, changing behavior or attaining something we crave. This way of thinking lacks the whole dimension of motivation and inspiration that could fuel the resolution—our relationship with others. Arbinger proposes that life is lived in relationship—from the most insignificant of projects, or ones that seem totally personal, to projects that impact people globally. When we start to think in terms of our relationship with other people we can begin to see that even a common resolution, like losing weight, is probably not just about me. Perhaps it’s about the energy I will have to engage with others as well as my health not being a worry to other people. When we include a focus on our relationships, we get to see who we are truly being, how we impact others and how we need to change. The solution to growth and change is in discovering our impact on others. If we are going to make resolutions in the familiar form, let’s add a few questions that will carry more inspiration and connection. Consider the following: How will ‘what I want to change’ be for the benefit of others?  How will their life be better when I __________ (fill in the blank)?  How will my relationships improve with this change?  Will this change allow more ease and joy with others?

Here is yet another approach to change that will open up pathways of great understanding and enormous growth this year. Begin without a set plan but commit to being more curious, more open, more present in the moment. If we pay attention, our own internal voice tells us if we are at peace and being responsive to situations and other people or if we are at odds with others. The distinction is palpable. This is when we know if we need a shift in our way of seeing and being. The daily asking of powerful questions can make 2017 an amazing experience for ourselves and others. Each day, consider asking yourself these questions:  Who is the person that needs me to be out of the box, or outward mindset?  What is the smallest thing I can do to shift to a heart at peace?  Who do I need to be or what resistance or image do I need to drop in order to help others get what they need?  How can I champion people in solving seemingly unsolvable problems? Living the answers to these questions will afford the happiness of living for others.

I think you’d enjoy reading/studying some of the blog posts from Arbinger – I find them interesting and thought-provoking.

Here’s what happens to some of us….


OR THIS . . . .



Why I Love the Brethren

Here’s Alice’s talk which I promised to post today.

“WHY I LOVE THE BRETHREN,” ALICE A. WARNER – BYU WOMEN’S CONFERENCE – 1995   (Susette Fletcher Green, Dawn Hall Anderson, and Dlora Hall Dalton, eds., Hearts Knit Together: Talks from the 1995 Women’s Conference, p.21)  Alice A. Warner graduated from Brigham Young University and is president and CEO of an international management consulting firm. Alice served a mission in Taiwan and enjoys her calling as choir director. (There’s a LOT more that could be added, especially since this was over 20 years ago).

Like you, I have had occasion to think about the way Christ governs his Church and the Saints who belong to it. I am not in a position to correct or to preach. I intend simply to offer my testimony, to tell you why I love the Brethren as I do.


History proves over and over the dangers of succumbing to those who desire power over others. The quest for control has brought about the world’s greatest evils in nations, in schools, in homes. These devastating evils have given rise to many prevailing social ideas such as these: Life is what you make it, so take control of your life; you’re in charge. To be happy, be yourself. Honor your own feelings, whatever they may be. You will lose your identity, your true self, if you defer to the authority or direction of others. So assert yourself, defend yourself, stand for yourself.

This is not a new philosophy. Korihor, the great anti-Christ of the Book of Mormon, advocated this position very convincingly  (Alma 30:12-28).  He warned believers not “to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances” (v. 23). He said the priests would try to “usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance” (v. 23). So, he admonished, don’t be taken in by the idea of an atonement-a grand design in which we prosper through obedience, humility, and submission. Instead, Korihor taught, everyone will fare in this life according to his or her own genius and strength; in effect, assert yourself, defend yourself, stand for yourself.

Korihor’s doctrine makes perfect sense in a world without a loving Heavenly Father, a redeeming Savior, or a divine order ordained and authorized by them for the purpose of saving us. But in a world with a Father, a Savior, and their holy Church, bending our will to a higher order will indeed save us, not endanger us.

The Lord’s order is different in nature from any earthly system of governance or authority. This order is reflected in Christ’s relationship to his Father. “For I came down from heaven,” he said, “not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me”  (John 6:38).  In this and other scriptures like it, Christ made clear that he has a will of his own, but his choice-for him a life choice-was to turn his will over to the Father. In other words, then and now his position of authority derives not from the pursuit of power but from the spirit of submissiveness.

This divine order extends to special witnesses, revelators, and seers. Like the Savior’s position with the Father, their position is one of submission and discipleship. They, too, are called upon to say, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt”  (Matt. 26:39).  They have no authority or power independent of their personal willingness to submit, heart and soul, to those who direct and guide them. For this reason, their authority differs fundamentally from all other forms of authority in any institution or society on earth of which I know. Their authority is not born of a quest to dominate; it is a by-product of their quest to obey.


It is easy to minimize the connection between submitting ourselves to Christ and obeying the Brethren. “Christ,” we may say, “was perfect, but the Brethren are just human.”

Many of us are now parents or someday will be. This is a very serious responsibility. The physical and spiritual lives of pure little children are or will be entrusted to us as parents. Perhaps perfection should be a prerequisite for such a lofty undertaking. Suppose that is what our children expected of us. The moment they believed we had made a mistake, they would feel no obligation to honor or sustain us anymore. Furthermore, they would feel compelled to advertise our shortcomings, convincing the other children that they need not obey either. It would be impossible to have a family under such circumstances.1

I was fifteen when I discovered my mother was not perfect. (I gave my dad a slightly longer grace period.) As I get older, I see more clearly their weaknesses and their defects-in part because I share so many of them. Did their humanness make them unworthy parents? Of course not. In fact, that they did what they did for me, in all of their humanness, affirms in my mind that Heavenly Father called them to oversee my upbringing. He upheld them, he taught them, and he compensated for their frailties. PERFECTION IS NOT A PREREQUISITE TO PARENTHOOD.

We may feel inclined to make the Brethren’s perfection a condition of our loyalty, to lay hold upon perceived shortcomings as an excuse for disobedience. On occasion, we may even be tempted to share a morsel of gossip or levy a criticism or spread a rumor that would diminish one of them. Whether the tidbit is true or not (and how would we know anyway?) is irrelevant. For if our hearts are right, we may discover that we are trying to justify our own sins. It’s as though casting doubt on their worthiness relieves us of our obligation to obey. But it doesn’t. Their defects, real or perceived, do not weaken the covenants we have made to follow them.

The Savior himself instituted the plan that authorizes certain human beings to represent him. He who is perfect must have noticed that they aren’t. And still he called them. Far from making the Lord’s plan questionable, this fact-that he anoints human beings to lead us-is a testament of his power to sanctify and to enlarge. That the Brethren do what they do for us, in their humanness, affirms in my mind that the Lord stands by them. He upholds them, he teaches them, and he compensates for their frailties. Perfection is not a prerequisite to ordination.


I have managed a consulting company for the past several years [Arbinger Institute]. Recently, in a reflective moment, I was struck by the virtue and nobility of my extraordinary colleagues. How absurd that I was trying to lead them! Overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy, I considered resigning. Only two days later, I happened upon the following: “We who have been called to lead the church are ordinary men and women with ordinary capacities. . . . Some are disposed to find fault with us; surely that is easy for them to do. But they do not examine us more searchingly than we examine ourselves. . . . We are sorry for our inadequacies, sorry we are not better than we are.”2  I don’t want to trivialize the holy position of the Brethren by comparing it with my own, but it is the closest I can come to identifying, even in a small way, with what they must feel.

How would I feel if the next time I accepted a call, my bishop said, “Now, there are nine million good-hearted people depending upon you, Alice. Your every word and action will be thoroughly scrutinized. They will look to you for guidance about the conduct of their lives. If you make a mistake, it may adversely affect their devotion and faith. And, by the way, I hope you haven’t made any mistakes up to this point in your life-no gold-digging, no careless word, no giving of the slightest offense-or you may be roundly criticized. Your effectiveness in this role will depend upon your humble receptivity to inspiration and revelation. Thus, every choice you make must enhance your worthiness in every way. You will spend the rest of your life working full time under this burden, going where you are asked, when you are asked, doing exactly what you are asked.” What kind of person would the Lord entrust with such a challenge? What kind of person could meet it?


In answer, I would like to share a few stories about the lives of the Brethren. These are sacred stories, and I tell them with reverence.

A few years ago, I worked in a large, high-profile, international company on the East Coast. My boss, the founder and CEO of the company, was brilliant, eccentric, argumentative – and typically impervious to what is spiritually discerned. Twice he had occasion to meet with Elder Henry B. Eyring. After the first meeting, he reported that he had never met such a humble person and that he felt honored to be in Elder Eyring’s presence. He said, “It never occurred to me, Alice, that humility could be impressive.” After the second meeting, he told me in a quiet moment that Henry Eyring’s goodness made him want to be good. Yet, despite a long track record of affecting people in this way, when Elder Eyring was called to the apostleship, he seemed taken by surprise. He told us in his conference address, weeping, that during the hours between his private call and his public sustaining, he had “learned some things about [humility].”3  “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God” (Hebrews 5:4). “And before honour is humility” (Proverbs 15:33).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell performed the marriage of my brother and his wife. He knows neither of them well, yet when he heard years later about their struggle with infertility, he offered to travel to their home to give a priesthood blessing. When asked how he could find time in his heavy schedule to visit distant acquaintances in need, he explained that he was called to minister and was merely fulfilling that call. “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:27).

Elder Marcus Helvécio Martins, the Church’s first black General Authority, was living with his wife in Brazil when plans for the São Paulo temple were announced. Because of his lineage, Elder Martins was not permitted to hold the priesthood at that time. His devoted service to the Church during those years is miraculous to me. But there is more. He and his wife sold their jewelry to contribute to the building of a temple they could not enter. “And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith” (Alma 13:4).

Not many years ago, President Howard W. Hunter lost the use of his legs. The loss, he was told, was permanent. But he felt he could not carry on effectively if he couldn’t walk. So, against advice, he began an intensive rehabilitation program that a family member described to me as physically excruciating. This he did so that he could serve us better and longer. This he did in behalf of our salvation. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls”  (Heb. 13:17).

Can I resist such love for me? Can I criticize such devotion? Must I worry about defending myself in the face of such goodness?


I have noticed that despite clear scriptural warnings about its consequences, Korihor’s beguiling doctrine has a way of sneaking up on us. We get nervous about being in charge of our lives. We worry that followership will strip us of our identity, that submission may rob us of our intellect. Such self- concern draws us away from the warmth of the Lord’s light.

About four months before the end of my mission in Taiwan, I was working in an area where we had many baptisms, many who had committed to baptism, and a promising pool of investigators. I expected to finish my mission in this spot. We had planned a wonderful Christmas Nativity program with the ward members and our many investigators, complete with costumes and readings and music. On the afternoon of December 24, my mission president called. An elder who had developed feelings for a sister missionary had requested a transfer. But, my president explained, Elder William R. Bradford, our area president in Hong Kong, felt that the elder should not leave his important leadership position. So, rather than transfer the elder, he requested that I and another sister switch places. I was to board a train that very evening, unaccompanied, to the most unproductive part of the mission, where I would finish out my service. I was shocked and discouraged. My roommates and companion were downright angry. Our mission president was provincial, they said. And what about Elder Bradford – what was he doing interfering like that? These men marginalize women! Just because we don’t have priesthood callings-does that make us completely interchangeable? What about the ward Christmas program? I was responsible for the music and piano accompaniment. What about my investigators? I couldn’t say good-bye or explain. I would just disappear, and some other sister would step in-as if no one would notice or care! With a heavy and confused heart, I packed my clothes, books, and a copy of our little Nativity script and boarded the train. I didn’t want to feel bitter, but this turn of events was just too much to swallow with a smile on my face.

My new companion and two elders greeted me at the station when I arrived that evening. The first thing they asked was if I knew anything about music. The next day was Christmas, and the branch members wanted to stage a Christmas program like ones they had heard of in the established city wards. But neither they nor the other missionaries had any idea how to do it.

We went immediately to the small branch meeting rooms. All twenty branch members and some investigators were gathered, looking in library books to see what people in Israel wear. But discouragement was setting in, for the Israeli attire didn’t resemble anything they might pick up at the local Chinese clothing market! Drawing on my years as the orchestrator of the Warner family Christmas pageant, I helped the members and investigators round up robes and towels, shepherd canes, and cardboard crowns. Copying the little script I had tucked in my suitcase didn’t take long. We practiced our songs-even learned parts-and on Christmas shared the most worshipful evening of praise and remembrance I have ever experienced. Thus began the best months of my mission and some of the happiest of my life.

It doesn’t always turn out this way; I don’t always so readily see purpose in what I am asked to do. In fact, I have received-and followed-instructions about my life from Church leaders that still don’t make perfect sense to me. But even when I don’t fully understand why the instruction has come or what its consequences might be, I believe that humble obedience is still the right course.

I’ve heard people say, “Well, that’s just blind obedience.” Blind obedience. Those words imply following with no thought, no consideration, no inspiration, no insight. For me, to dismiss obedience as blind is to misunderstand what obedience  is.  Every moment a choice is presented to us: “How will I use my agency in this moment?” When I choose to obey or to submit, I have not blindly abdicated my freedom to choose. Rather, I have used it to choose the Lord.

In my experience, obedience to Church leaders requires more insight, wisdom, and thought than resistance. I obey because I see that there is a Christ who lived to redeem me. I obey because I see that my redemption, from moment to moment, depends upon giving myself to him and to his servants. I obey because I see that there is an atonement and that I stand in need of its purifying power. I obey because I see that this purifying power flows through his divine priesthood order, of which obedience makes me a part. I obey because of what I see, not because of what I am blind to.


It is easy to confuse worldly rhetoric with eternal truths. We may fear that if we obey in meekness and humility, our heads will be kept down, as Korihor said, and the flame of our identity will be snuffed out (see  Alma 30:23).  So we go about trying to create our own light-in the name of individual rights, or intellectualism, or self-assertiveness, or some other cause independent of the great cause of Christ. But the very act of trying to kindle our own light separates us from the Lord’s, convincing us further that there is not enough for us in his divine order.

Here’s how  Isaiah  said it: “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow”  (Isa. 50:11).

Walking in the light of the Lord’s divine order requires that we abandon the security of our own meager flame. President Harold B. Lee taught that to find the Lord’s light, we must walk to the edge of ours and even a few steps into the darkness. We cannot at the same time stand in the flicker of our own willful sparks and bask in the warmth of his magnificent light.

The times in my life when I feel most whole, most liberated, most free, most me, are the times when my whole being is filled with the desire to stand not for myself but for and with the Brethren. I give up only my self-concern, my resistance, and my pride-and they aren’t me. Gentleness, peace, and a willing heart take their place.

When I stand squarely in the light of the Lord’s direction, it’s as though all of my faculties, enhanced by the Spirit, come alive with insight and vision and clarity. There is no longer a distinction between the intellectual and the spiritual. That is the closest I have come to experiencing what Paul calls having “the mind of Christ”  (1 Cor. 2:16).  That is the closest I have come to feeling my body full of the light, pure and penetrating, that comes when my eye is single to him (see  Matt. 6:22).

As Mordecai explained to  Esther  when what she was asked to do seemed too difficult for her, if we refuse to obey, the Lord will find other ways of carrying out his purpose. Our soul, not his work, will suffer. Who knows but what we were come “for such a time as this”  (Esth. 4:14)-a  time of great divisiveness and very tempting ideas, a time when obedience and submissiveness are derided as weak and unthinking, and a time when our salvation will depend upon our willingness to follow anyway. May we not be deceived. May we see and think as clearly as Christ when he yielded his will to his leader. May bending our will to our leaders, those chosen of the Lord and upheld by him, be our quest, and may our hearts be drawn out to them in submission, loyalty, and love.


  1. I am indebted to my friend and colleague Duane Boyce for suggesting this analogy in his article “The Brethren and the Lord: A Letter to My Children,” This People, Fall 1995, 34-46. Both his article and his friendship significantly influenced this essay.
  2. Boyd K. Packer, “Revelation in a Changing World,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 16.
  3. Henry B. Eyring, “Always Remember Him,” Ensign, May 1995, 25.





I might get punished, shouted at, or even fired for doing this, but I can’t seem to help mee-self! I’m posting a shout-out to a friend whom I haven’t seen in way too long: Alice Warner Johnson. I read her article in the December Ensign (shared below) and felt sad that I hadn’t kept in touch with her. The “connection” started many years ago. During my childhood in Cedar City, one of my best friends, Betsy, often had visits from her cousin Susan Lillywhite (and it seems like Susan’s Mother knew my Grandmother Mary Middleton in Calif… but that may be a faulty memory… I have NO “hard drive,” and my brain has only about 3 GB of memory….). I always liked Susan. She was fun to be around and very bright. She eventually married Terry Warner, and what a team! Most of you probably know both of them (Susan was in the general presidency of the Primary, and Terry is an extraordinary, thoughtful soul who has accomplished SO much… he even did some early “Time Out for Women” events). Many years ago, Terry and Susan invited me to come to a Family Home Evening (I think this is something they did frequently – inviting guests to come). They asked me to share experience and feelings about being a missionary in Asia. They have 10 children… I’m not sure how many were present on that evening, but they had a LOT of great questions for me. I loved and respected them very much. And I still do!  And I just have to say that I could not “do justice” to Terry, Susan, Alice, or any other family member. I’m just “skimming along the surface.” (Just so you know).

Their second child is Alice. Amazing Alice. We were in touch for several years. One specific memory I have is when she spoke at the BYU Women’s Conference in 1995 on “Why I Love the Brethren.” (I’ll post that talk tomorrow). I was SO impressed by her message – the content, certainly, but also by her poise in teaching us. I could list a lot of accomplishments for this “accomplished” woman (including her work with the Arbinger Institute, found by her father), but she’s probably already pretty ticked off at me even doing this Blog post . . . .  I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in my 76 years, and there are many whom I regret losing contact with. Alice is in that group – people I wish I’d been able to stay close to because of the lovely, powerful, happifying, thought-provoking influence their friendship brought. Thank you, Alice for being YOU!! And for you readers of this morning’s Blog, here is the article from the December Ensign.

HEAVY TRIALS, TENDER MERCIES – By Alice Warner Johnson – Ensign, December 2016 (The author lives in Idaho, USA)  (And here’s a picture of Paul and Alice)


As one who has had to endure tribulation, I have learned that Heavenly Father can turn our suffering for our good.

After I became partially bedridden with multiple sclerosis (MS), I was asked to speak at a Relief Society meeting on the topic “When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade.” At that point I was no longer able to sing, play the piano or cello, conduct a choir, or even walk—activities that had brought me much joy in the past. However, along with these trials, I have experienced many unexpected blessings. So I altered the title of my talk to reflect what I have learned: “Trust in God That When Life Gives You Sour Lemons, He Will Make for You a Sweet Lemonade.”


My nine siblings and I were raised by faithful parents. My years of growing up, attending college, serving a full-time mission in Taiwan, working in Boston, and preparing for marriage to my husband, Paul, were very happy. By early 1999, we had two children, and Paul was serving as the bishop of our ward.

One morning I awoke with my left eye throbbing. An eye doctor sent me to the local hospital for a scan, which revealed that I had at least 12 cerebral and spinal lesions affecting my nerves. The multiple sclerosis was already widespread.

My husband, my father, and my brother gave me a priesthood blessing, which taught me two significant and unforgettable things. First, Heavenly Father had not inflicted me with this terrible disease. It was simply a consequence of coming to earth in a mortal body to have experiences that would help me grow. Second, I was told that Heavenly Father would not allow anything to happen to me that could not be turned for my good.

Later, in another blessing, I learned that there would be a significant period of time before I would experience the extreme difficulties that accompany my disease. During this period, and against strong medical advice, I gave birth to two more children. When Paul was released as bishop, we sold our home and moved to the Boise area in Idaho.


It was during this period that the crippling effects of MS increased dramatically and, step by step, left me unable to do most things for myself. I had to decide how I was going to meet these challenges.

I began to see that Heavenly Father knew and appreciated our efforts to bring children into the world with a timing that would make it possible for them to know and learn from their mother before she became too infirm. This was just one of the tender mercies of the Lord that were given to me (see Psalm 69:16).

I also came to realize that I was being more than compensated for the loss of my musical abilities. Music—singing, playing, composing, and conducting—had been a joyful cornerstone of my earthly existence that I assumed would continue with me all my life. Instead, my delight in music found expression in my children. They all sing beautifully. Among them there is a flutist, a violinist, a cellist, and a composer and arranger. Several of them play the guitar and the piano. They not only honor and enjoy their musical gifts but also love using them to serve others. Often I have asked myself, “Given the choice between keeping my musical talents and having such talents blossom in my children, which would I choose?” The answer to that question has been made plain to me as my mother-heart has recognized what a sweet gift my children’s musical talents have been to us all.

Beyond the blessings of my children and their music, I have discovered the power—even the glory—of the loving-kindness of others. I have to be lifted, washed, dressed, and fed throughout the day, and many are the precious souls who have come to help me day after day. Family and friends from my past write, call, and travel long distances to visit and assist me. Many of those who have served me are burdened with their own hardships and trials, and yet they have not forgotten me. In their kindness I have seen the Lord’s outstretched hand as He provides to me an overflowing bounty in my seemingly hopeless situation. This reminds me that “after much tribulation come the blessings” (D&C 58:4).


I believe that it is my Heavenly Father who has turned my trials into learning opportunities. I think of those I know and realize that they, too, face difficult challenges. For most of us, life does not unfold as we once imagined that it would. Nevertheless, for those who strive to remain faithful, the challenges that at first appear as sour lemons in our lives will ultimately be turned into the sweetest lemonade—through the loving-kindness of our God.

WHAT A WONDERFUL ARTICLE FROM A WONDERFUL SOUL!  Have you read any of her books?


I’m going to add something else to this “shout-out tribute.” It’s a hymn Alice wrote in 2000. She wrote both the words and the music.


O Lord, who gave they life for me, I come now in humility,

And here my sacrifice impart; A contrite soul, a broken heart.

O may thy love in mercy shine, And bind my sorrowing heart to thine.

Upon the alter here I lay my pride, My hurt, each willful way.

My burden all of sin and care, And in its place thy yoke I’ll bear.

O may thy love my soul refine, And bind my trusting heart to thine.

My heart is full of love for thee Because I know thou first loved me.

Now by that love I’ll seek to live, And freely, like thyself, forgive.

O may thy love my life define, And bind my willing heart to thine.

And as I strive to thus endure With cleaner hand and heart more pure,

In all around I see thy face And feel the bounties of thy grace.

O savior may thy love divine Now bind my grateful heart to thine.


Paul, Alice and children a few years ago


Santa Claus and the Temple


An Apostle Shares What Santa Claus and the Temple Have in Common


By Boyd K. Packer, excerpted from “The Holy Temple” | Nov. 30, 2016

President Packer’s book, The Holy Temple, is a classic of LDS literature that has become one of the most comprehensive and definitive works written about temples. In fact, much of the material found in the Church’s temple preparation pamphlet comes from this inspired book. The following is an excerpt from this book, where President Packer shares insights from John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostle’s and his groundbreaking talk, “Temple Worship.”

The reason the teaching of the gospel ofttimes is so difficult is that ideals in the gospel are such intangible things as faith, repentance, love, humility, reverence, obedience, modesty, and so forth. The dimensions of size and shape and color and texture just do not serve us there. In teaching the gospel we do not re-create the material world around us; we deal with the intangible world within us. It is far easier to re-create the visible, tangible world around us in alphabetical symbols than to re-create the spiritual ideals and have them understood. And yet it can be done, and it can be done most effectively by using symbols. We live in a world of symbols. We know nothing, except by symbols. We make a few marks on a sheet of paper, and we say that they form a word, which stands for love, or hate, or charity, or God or eternity. The marks may not be very beautiful to the eye. No one finds fault with the symbols on the pages of a book because they are not as mighty in their own beauty as the things which they represent. We do not quarrel with the symbol G-O-D because it is not very beautiful, yet represents the majesty of God. We are glad to have symbols, if only the meaning of the symbols is brought home to us. I speak to you tonight; you have not quarreled very much with my manner of delivery, or my choice of words; in following the meaning of the thoughts I have tried to bring home to you, you have forgotten words and manner. There are men who object to Santa Claus, because he does not exist! Such men need spectacles to see that Santa Claus is a symbol; a symbol of the love and joy of Christmas and the Christmas spirit. In the land of my birth there was no Santa Claus, but a little goat was shoved into the room, carrying with it a basket of Christmas toys and gifts. The goat of itself counted for nothing; but the Christmas spirit, which it symbolized, counted for a tremendous lot. We live in a world of symbols. No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand. (“Temple Worship,” page 62.)

If you will go to the temple and remember that the teaching is symbolic you will never go in the proper spirit without coming away with your vision extended, feeling a little more exalted, with your knowledge increased as to things that are spiritual. The teaching plan is superb. It is inspired. The Lord Himself, the Master Teacher, in His own teaching to His disciples taught constantly in parables, a verbal way to represent symbolically things that might otherwise be difficult to understand. He talked of the common experiences drawn from the lives of His disciples, and He told of hens and chickens, birds, flowers, foxes, trees, burglars, highwaymen, sunsets, the rich and the poor, the physician, patching clothes, pulling weeds, sweeping the house, feeding pigs, threshing grain, storing into barns, building houses, hiring help, and dozens of other things. He talked of the mustard seed, of the pearl. He wanted to teach his hearers, so he talked of simple things in a symbolic sense. None of these things is mysterious or obscure, and all of them are symbolic.


CHRISTMAS EVE. I think we’re going to get a bunch of snow today (for a genuine “white Christmas,” but no matter what the weather is like or what’s going on in the world (including some very SAD things), this is the time when we commemorate the birth of the SAVIOR OF THE WORLD… JESUS CHRIST. Oh, what a beautiful thing it is to be reminded of Him – His life, His mission, His atoning sacrifice, His example of all that is good and pure and true and holy. I’m sharing two poems which I’ve loved and pondered for at least 30 years. They may be familiar to you, or perhaps not. Either way, let them add to your thoughts and gratitude on this CHRISTMAS EVE.


SAVIOR   (By Margery S. Stewart)

So should I, Lord, Have hung upon that cross

Which I had fashioned, year on unthinking year,

And felt the nails’ torment,

The bitter burn of thirst

And life’s slow falling loss.

Save that upon a day thou

Didst quietly take my place,

And died, thorned there, between the thieves,

While angels wept

And earth in darkness mourned

The winnowed stillness of thy holy face.

And on what desolate crosses

Men have died

Rejecting thee, thine offer and thy love…

For who is there to listen In that dark. . .

Or be in a lighted instant at his side?

For if the thief could know

He steals to build the beam

On which he will be nailed by and by,

How fiercely he would strive

To find thee past the dark deceptive dream.

The cross, compassionate Lord, was never thine

But composite of all crosses, such as mine.




It is not the heaven that thou promised me,

My Lord, that moves me to love Thee;

Nor is it the hell that I so fear

That moves me to cease sinning against Thee.

Thou movest me, Lord; it moves me to see Thee

Nailed to the cross and despised;

It moves me to see Thy body wounded;

The insults Thou suffered and Thy death move me.

Finally, Thy love moves me so much

That even if there were no heaven,

I should love Thee;

And even if there were no hell

I should fear Thee.

Thou needest not give me a reason to love Thee

For though my present hope were all despair,

As now I love Thee, I should love Thee still.






Today is the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, so I want to share some thoughts and feelings about him. I shared something similar last year, and on my Blog comments yesterday were two which were VERY disturbing and unwelcome. Someone had gone back to what I posted a year ago and made blasphemous comments about Joseph Smith. Ouch! It moved me to re-post some of what I had shared. I love the Prophet Joseph Smith! I feel so thankful for his sacrifices and his willingness to be an instrument in God’s hands for restoring so much that means everything to me. I love it that his birthday is so close to the time when we celebrate the birth of the Savior. The Beloved Son of God, and another of God’s sons who was and is also greatly loved. One early morning I was reading Joseph Smith’s history from The Pearl of Great Price. It’s a story I’ve read many times, and it’s a story I’ve shared with others many, many times. But I wanted to go slowly and pay attention (with no “been there, done that” feelings). As I did, some thoughts came to my mind.  I’ll share them the best I can. Joseph had questions. Perhaps he even had doubts. He was wondering which church he should join. Some family members had joined a church. But he was confused at all the contention. As he described it, those who had been so loving at one moment were the opposite the next (when some of their members began to join other sects). You know what happens. Joseph realizes he lacks wisdom and needs to ask God. I wish I could and would turn that direction more often. I sat really thinking about it. Do I have faith that I’ll receive an answer if I lack wisdom? Do I have enough faith to ask Him? The father of evil tried to keep Joseph from receiving an answer, because he knew it would change everything. EVERYTHING! Maybe sometimes when we feel like asking questions we will feel some opposition, some darkness, some negative influence. I’m so thankful a young boy didn’t give up. I don’t want to give up either. I know we’re all surrounded by those who are no longer believers. I know they dig up negative things about the Prophet Joseph Smith. Once they doubt him, the other dominoes fall—they no longer believe that The Book of Mormon is the word of God. And although they may say they still believe in and follow Christ, how is that possible when HE is the One Who appeared to Joseph, and HE is the One Who has continued to provide guidance and revelation to every Prophet who has followed Joseph. Joseph was told by Moroni that his name “should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” (JS-H 1:33).  I always thought that would happen because of enemies of the Church, enemies of righteousness and of God.  I mourn (I really do mourn) that so many of those who have believed no longer believe, and that they speak evil of the Prophet Joseph Smith.


I’m deeply thankful for how I feel about Joseph Smith.  I love him.  Sometimes when I’m thinking about him and praying about him – thanking Heavenly Father for him and all the others who remained true and faithful at great sacrifice – I have feelings come into my heart. One of the strong ones is this: “Millions shall know Brother Joseph again!” And yes, it is usually accompanied by “Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!”  It is a strong, deep desire of my heart that I can be one of those millions – that when I see him again I will KNOW HIM.  I will know that he IS all that he said he was, that he DID experience ALL that he said he did… that I can look on him with JOY, knowing that I never doubted.  Never.  I love this message which was carved in a hearthstone from the old Solomon Mack home years after Joseph’s birth:  AROUND THIS HEARTHSTONE AND ITS GLOWING FIREPLACE, TWO DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS, 1805, THE SMITH FAMILY WASHED, DRESSED, AND CUDDLED THE FUTURE ORGANIZER OF “GOD’S KINGDOM RESTORED.”




This is a repeat from last year. But FEI convinced me that some of you DID NOT TRY HER RECIPE!! Therefore, she insisted it be posted again (sigh… or make that SNORT!) Fei likes to call it “Piggy Pudding.”  Whatever.  This is being published due to popular demand (and you might be asking “Who demanded this???”).  Fei has guarded this recipe a long time – she said it’s from an OLD “family recipe,” one which has made “HOGS” of many of us through the years.  HERE WE GO!


PIGGY/FIGGY PUDDING INGREDIENTS:  4 cans (No. 2) Figgies in light syrup / One box Figgy sauce / 3 hard-boiled Figgies, unpeeled / 2 dozen diced Figgies / 7 kippered Figgies / 4 pints Figgy juice / 4 small cans Figgy juice concentrate / 1 Tb Figgy extract / 3 boxes chocolate covered Figgies


DIRECTIONS: Remove the chocolate from the chocolate-covered Figgies and mix all the ingredients together.  Boil to a lumpy consistency.  Now remove all of the diced figgies from the mixture.  Toss it all into a large vat (if you don’t have a large enough vat, just turn your bath tub over on its side and use that).  Swish it around.  Let it solidify (and it really WILL solidify!).  Serve to as many as can stand it.  (Caution: This might reverse any tooth-whitening procedure that anyone in your party has undergone)


Good luck . . . and MERRY CHRISTMAS! Love, MEE (And IF you happen to try to make this, you MUST let MEE know!!! And you MUST send PICTURES!!! HA HA HA HA HA)



P.S. If any of you don’t know who Fei is, read about her on the main page of the Blog.  She’s right up there with MEE.  “About Fei.”  MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!




I am one who strongly believes that we need to be conscious of keeping CHRIST in CHRISTMAS. But I also love the sweet magic of Santa, which adds to the love and joy and excitement of Christmas. I ran across this story (which many of you may have seen already) which touched my heart and soul so deeply. I hope you’ll enjoy it too.


This is Santa – Eric Schmitt-Matzen. He shares his love and magical joy in Knoxville, Tennessee.  A columnist (Sam Venable) shared an experience which Santa had. When I read the story, I cried. It touched my heart and soul so deeply. The story begins when Santa got a call after work. “It was a nurse I know at the hospital,” Schmitt-Matzen told the News-Sentinel. “She said there was a very sick 5-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa Claus.” Schmitt-Matzen, whose 300-pound frame and REAL white beard make him a popular Santa in the Knoxville area, got to the hospital in 15 minutes and requested that anyone leave the room if they were about to cry. Here is what happened, as related by this wonderful Santa:  ‘”They say I’m gonna die,’ he told me. “How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?” “I said, ‘Can you do me a big favor?'” “He said, ‘Sure!'” “When you get there, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.” “He said, ‘They will?'” “I said, ‘Sure!'” “He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: ‘Santa, can you help me?'”  “I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”  After the boy’s family realized that he had died, Schmitt-Matzen said he left the hospital and cried all the way home. “I was a basket case for three days. It took me a week or two to stop thinking about it all the time” … “Actually, I thought I might crack up and never be able to play the part again.”  Schmitt-Matzen considered hanging up his red suit, but then he saw some children laughing and playing, and he changed his mind. “It made me realize the role I get to play,” said the part-time Santa. His is a different Christmas story than most of them, but oh how glad I am that he shared it! Bless you, dear Santa! Here’s a huge SHOUT-OUT to you from a very small Blog “out west….”  God bless you!

And here’s a picture of Santa and “Mrs. Claus.”