08 January 2012


So there we are standing on the edge of going forward in serving the Lord. Either facing down a crowd of mocking photography chairmen or facing down the Children of Israel. We each have a mission; something the Lord needs us to accomplish. And despite our fears, the Lord has promised us that he will “be with [us] withersoever [we] go.”

Some of my favorite scriptures are ones where the Lord does exactly as He promises Joshua and is big and strong and fights battles to save his children.

I love the story of Gideon and the battle of Midian. Gideon and the children of Israel were being bullied by the Midianites. An angel appeared to Gideon and said “go in thy might and thou shalt save Israel from the Midianites.” Gideon pointed out that he was poor and that he was the least in his father’s house. The Lord said “surely I will be with thee and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.”

Gideon somehow gathered a huge army together. But the Lord had other plans. The Lord told Gideon to weed out his army; twice. First the Lord told Gideon to let everyone go who didn’t want to be a soldier in that battle. 22,000 men packed up and went home. Then, the Lord said, have all your soldiers drink water at this river. The ones who drink this certain way, send home. The others you can keep.

So in the end, Gideon was to try to best this gigantic army of Midian, an army that was referred to as grasshoppers for multitude who’s camels were without number as the sand by the seaside. Gideon was going to go after this army with only 300 guys. Because the Lord wanted to show Israel that they didn’t win battles or wars because of their own strength. He wanted to show them (by using impossible odds) that they would win because He was going to win it for them.

So the Lord had Gideon give every man a trumpet, an empty pitcher and a lamp to go inside the pitcher. Gideon said we’re going to surround this valley of Midianites and when I blow my trumpet, you all blow your trumpets and yell “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” And then break the pitcher to expose the light. So, in the middle of the night, all three-hundred men simultaneously blew their trumpets, broke their pitchers, held the lamps up and shouted “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.”

Then the tiny army of Gideon just stood there. The Midianites, awakened and terrified, ran and cried and fled and in their confusion nearly wiped themselves out with their own swords.

The Lord will help us. He will help us against impossible odds. David and Goliath odds. He will help us accomplish whatever mission he has requested of us. I read President Hinkley’s biography and was impressed that he accomplished so much. He didn’t stew and stress at the prospect of something scary. He didn’t hide under the covers. He got his things together and started to march out across his river Jordan. President Hinkley’s biography is entitled Go Forward With Faith.

May we all remember to be strong and of a good courage. To be not afraid, neither be dismayed. For the Lord our God is with us, everywhere we go.

10 January 2010



So there's Joshua standing on the banks of the River Jordan probably riddled with fear about what he's got to do. He's got to take over Moses's job as leader of the Children of Israel. He's had an insider's view of what that job entails and he's probably scared to death. And for his first big task on the job, he's got to take the entire lot of Israel across the river Jordan to inhabit the Promised Land.

Regardless of his fears, Joshua receives beautiful council from the Lord to “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

I like that even though Joshua was pretty close to the Lord and had been mentored by Moses for years, he STILL needed to have the Lord tell him repeatedly to “be strong and of a good courage.”

I think we need to hear it repeatedly too. We need to remember that the Lord has promised to “go before our face” that He will be “on our right hand and on our left and that his angels will be round about [us] to bear [us] up.”

We can rely on his Spirit to help us remember these things when we feel fearful and weak.

When I was an advertising student in Pasadena, CA, we had a combined project with a photography class. We were assigned to art direct a photo essay showing two disparate groups. Our group chose something like square-dancers and surfers. Another group in the class decided to photograph East-LA gangsters and Mormons. Everyone laughed at the contrast. I smiled too and thought it would be a visually compelling project. But then the photo department chairman started saying disparaging things about members of the church. He gave examples of photos they should take showing Mormons in a derogatory manner. I wanted to run and hide.

I prayed for help; I knew I needed to speak up. All the students in my department knew I was Mormon. My teacher knew I was Mormon. She looked embarrassed by the photo chairman’s comments. She looked at me and I prayed some more. And this great idea came into my mind. I raised my hand and said, “yes, I really like this idea of shooting the combination of Mormons and gangsters. I am Mormon and I would love to talk with you more about my church.” (The photo chairman blanched.) I said, “It will be a great project. In fact, if you’d like to get fantastic photos, there is a visitor’s center behind that large Mormon temple on Santa Monica Boulevard. You can get shots of that temple from the visitor’s center side without getting run over by cars. There are people there who will spend all day with you. They will answer your questions, they will let you photograph them, they might even feed you lunch.”

After the class I was bombarded by the group. They wanted the address of the visitor’s center. They were so fired up. They all knew someone who knew gangsters they could photograph, but they had been worried about finding Mormons. The end result was a gorgeous photo essay. Little old temple workers in their white suits standing in front of the Los Angeles Temple looking confidently at the viewer. A family that had been sealed together posed. The photos were stunning. None of them were in the derogatory light the photo chairman had suggested. It was wonderful. During the final critique my teacher asked me to comment on the project. The photo chairman wouldn’t look at me (in fact, years later, he will still avoid eye contact.) I thanked the group for going to the source to represent The Church. They had gone to east LA for the gangster part and participated in a BBQ with some cousin’s cousin’s gang. The gang photos were authentic and gorgeous. Same with the Mormons. I thanked them for showing an authentic portrait of Mormons, rather than a caricature. It was a great opportunity.

It wasn’t nearly as big a deal as leading an entire nation into a new land, but, I felt strengthened to know what to say. I had wanted to run and hide, just like Joshua might have wanted to run and hide. But the Lord needs each of us to act where we are. He needs each of us to go forward in our mission, whatever that may be.

Joshua’s mission was to cross the river Jordan and to obtain the promised land. It would not be easy. But the Lord would be with him “whithersoever” he went.

What is your mission? What does the Lord want you and I to do? On which river bank do we stand, wringing our hands in fear and dismay?

continues in PART THREE

27 December 2009



I was asked recently to speak on Courage. More specifically, I was asked to speak on the 2010 Young Women Young Men Mutual Theme:

“Be strong and of a good courage. Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9)

It is ironic that I would be asked to speak on courage given my speaking history. When I was 14, I attended a youth conference. The following Sunday, my bishop called me out of the audience to comment on my youth conference experience. I went up to the stand and stood at the pulpit and looked out at the ward. I kept standing there, not saying a word, for long enough that my friend got up out of her chair, walked up to the stand and gave a glowing report of youth conference. After she spoke, she looked at me and said, “do you have anything to add?” I shook my head no and went back to my seat.

So courage and speaking have not always gone hand-in-hand for me.

Although, because of my fears and history, speaking on courage was a perfect opportunity for me. In fact, being in a situation that required me to lean on the Lord as Joshua did, was another opportunity for the Lord to show He was “with [me] withersoever [I went].”

I love this scripture! I love to think about Joshua. Moses was the leader and Joshua was the helper for 40 years all the way from escaping Egypt to the Jordan River. I love to be the helper; I find it way more fun to help all you can rather than to lead, to hear complaints and to be responsible.

So at this point in Joshua's story, Moses has died and the Lord spoke to Joshua and told him to “go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give them.” This was the promised land that they had been awaiting for 40 years. This was everything Moses had worked for and that Joshua had helped him work toward.

Can you imagine the intimidation and fear Joshua must have had at this time as he stood there looking out over the river Jordan? Joshua was the new leader. His mentor was gone. And the Lord wanted him to start his new job by taking on this monstrous task.

There were so many unknowns. Joshua didn't know for sure what awaited him and the Children of Israel in the promised land. Would there be a war? Would his people die? Would his people revolt against him? Would he die? And if the children of Israel were anything like my family, maybe just getting them gathered together and ready to march was daunting enough.

The Lord's words to Joshua are beautiful, comforting and one of the best locker-room pep talks one could have:

“There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage...”

He promised Joshua that if he meditated on the word of the Lord and observed to do all therein, that Joshua's way would be propserous and that he would have success. Then the Lord reiterated:

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

I think I could do just about anything after a pep-rally like that. We too have been promised that the Lord will be with us, if we keep His commandments and if we exercise faith in Him.

continues in PART TWO

13 December 2009


Great idea for the upcoming holiday break: most Young Women are going to have a two-week break from school starting this Friday. These two weeks present an excellent opportunity to embark on Good Works Value Experience number 2:

Service is an essential principle of family living. Help plan your family’s menus, obtain the food, and prepare part of the meals for two weeks. During that time help your family gather to share mealtimes. Report to your class what you have learned.

Perfect timing to have a little more flex-time to spend on a two-week project. Plus, wonderful opportunity for the Young Women to learn traditional family holiday favorites as part of their service experience.

10 November 2009


A friend of mine is a brand-new gung-ho Laurel advisor. Last week, a young woman in her Laurel class had a big end-of-season playoff game. It would be, quite possibly, the last game this Laurel would play in uniform and the culmination of four years of hard work and perserverance for this Young Woman. She was the team captain and had been an integral part in leading her team to an unexpected playoff berth.

My friend had committed to go to the game and bring a cheering section made up of other young women in the ward. The day before the game, right after she finished texting the young women to coordinate the details, she felt the chills and fever of the flu. She immediately dropped to her knees to plead with Heavenly Father, asking Him to please not let her be sick and to have to cancel on this wonderful Laurel. She reminded the Lord that the support of the other young women plus their leader would be of great worth to the Laurel. She pleaded that if it were possible, could she be well enough to attend the game, to shuttle the other young women and to cheer on their athlete. The Laurel advisor's flu symptoms quickly got worse. She took some tylenol and went to bed. She had fever, chills, aches, runny nose; the works. But for only four hours. The next day, my friend was well and was at that playoff game with her young women cheering section.

I learned a lot from my friend's experience–like why do I sometimes forget to ask for the Lord's help in my efforts to serve Him. Maybe I think He will answer, "no". But there's a good chance He'll say, "yes." He knows our needs. He knows the needs of the young women we serve. He has promised that all things work together for good to them that love God. We love Him and we love our young women. We should take Him up on His promises and trust in Him as we serve in our callings.

29 October 2009

A Virtuous Life—Step by Step

Have you accepted the challenge from the Young Women general presidency? Has your Young Women's group taken it on?

I love this. And I am in.

"Daily habits of righteous behavior will also help you to continually hold fast to the rod. As a Young Women general presidency we have invited all of the young women in the world to develop three daily habits:

First, pray to your Father in Heaven, morning and night, every day.

Second, read the Book of Mormon for at least five minutes every day.

And third, smile! Why? We have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which brings us true happiness." Mary N. Cook, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency.

There's even an independent facebook group and a blog with encouragement for The Challenge. (They've expanded on the original invitation.)

24 October 2009


One way to accomplish big things is to divide the large goal into small daily tasks. Like eating an elephant; in tiny bite-sized pieces.
I could do better at this. I prefer to eat my elephants all in one sitting, resulting in massive distress, illness, and neglect of other areas in my life. Shortly after finishing the first elephant, I turn to one of those neglected areas and eat that elephant (all @ once.) Again, at the expense of all else. It's a terrible cycle. And results in a messy house, car, schedule and attitude.

So I'm trying to work on cutting the job into smaller portions and eating only a few pieces at a time. Like scripture study. Better to pour tiny drops of oil into my lamp every day than to try to drown the lamp with six cups of oil on a Sunday afternoon. And better to work two hours a week on an upcoming Leadership Training Meeting than to cram ten hours into the day before the ladies arrive.

I think it's a divine principle to work day by day to accomplish something big. Look @ gardening. And parenting. It will take me a while to get used to it. But I think I'm going to enjoy eating lots of small meals.