Sunday, December 24, 2017

Attribute #24 - Leadership

One of my favorite memories from Weston's growing up years is the letter he received from my mother after he sent her a cassette tape (remember those?) of him singing "I'm Trying to be like Jesus" which at the time was a new Primary song. In the letter she mentioned how the Spirit touched her while listening to the tape and she was so grateful that Weston had sent it to her. That desire and willingness to be like Jesus is what makes Weston such a great leader. I can't express how grateful we are that as the oldest in our family he set such a great example.

Because he earned the Eagle Scout award, excelled in high school and college, served a mission, and married in the temple, his younger brothers wanted to do so as well. And they did.

Weston loves sports, and it's been neat to watch his leadership on his various teams throughout the years as well. I could tell stories of patience, encouragement, grit, endurance, kindness and more, all qualities that contribute to being a great leader.

Leadership: guidance, influence, conducting, showing the way, direction

Psalm 31:3
For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.

He's not only trying to be like Jesus, I think he's succeeding. I may be biased, but Weston has some great examples of his own to follow (look at these fantastic WOWs!) and he's doing a marvelous job with the next generation.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Attribute #23 - Determination

David has always been one determined person. He's excellent at setting goals and then figuring out ways to achieve them. I'm particularly impressed with one New Year's Resolution he made to floss his teeth every single day that year, and he did! I suspect that it's still a daily habit.

Determination takes dedication and diligence and so David has those qualities as well. (Look at that alliteration!) David's smart and learned to read before he started school, but he's never really liked being a student; he'd rather be out doing things. He called it the ten-year plan, but he did graduate from BYU. Then, after a few years, he decided to go back for his master's, which he just completed this month. Congratulations!

In addition to his career aspirations, he and Elizabeth have set some great goals for their family, and I'm fully confident they'll complete everything they set out to do. Anyone who can carry four children up a flight of stairs to bed can conquer the world!

Determination: deciding definitely and firmly; resolution

Moroni 6:3
They took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.

Scriptures and quotes from the prophets and apostles about determination are going to focus on increasing our determination to be obedient and follow God, but that's okay. As we develop our resolution at doing anything, it will help us keep decisions to choose the right always.

Each week we have the opportunity to partake of the sacrament, which is a wonderful time to think about our level of determination and things we can do to increase it, and the fact that he uses this weekly time wisely is something I admire about David. Here's an invitation President Uchtdorf gave to the youth of the church a couple of years ago. I'd encourage you to think of it tomorrow during your worship.

When we prepare for Christmas by pondering its real meaning, we prepare to experience the Christ and His message. May I suggest three things we may want to study, ponder, and apply in this season of preparation.

First, rejoice in the birth of our Savior. We celebrate the birth of the Son of God, the Creator, our Messiah. We rejoice that the King of kings came to earth, was born in a manger, and lived a perfect life. When Jesus was born, the joy in heaven was so great it could not be contained (see Luke 2:8–14).

Second, ponder His influence in our lives today. Christmas is a time for remembering the Son of God and renewing our determination to take upon us His name. It is a time to reassess our lives and examine our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Let this be a time of remembrance, of gratitude, and a time of forgiveness. Let it be a time to ponder the Atonement of Jesus Christ and its meaning for each of us personally. Let it especially be a time of renewal and recommitment to live by the word of God and to obey His commandments. By doing this, we honor Him far more than we ever could with lights, gifts, or parties.

Third, look steadfastly for His coming. While the Christmas season is typically a time for looking back and celebrating the birth of our Lord, it seems to me that it should also be a time of looking to the future. Let us look forward. Let us prepare for that blessed day when He will come again. Let us be as wise as those ancients who watched for His coming.

I pray that during this season and always, we will see the purity of the story of the Savior’s birth and feel sincere gratitude for His life, teachings, and saving sacrifice for us. May this gratitude cause us to renew our determination to follow Him. May it also lead us to draw closer to our family, our church, and our fellowmen. And may we look steadfastly forward to that blessed day when the resurrected Christ will walk the earth again as our Lord, our King, and our blessed Savior.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Attribute #22 - Virtue

Virtue and integrity go well together. I guess that's why Cody and Brad make such a great team. One of the first things that impressed me about Cody was her commitment to choosing the right. In particular she had high standards for what she would watch for entertainment, and she kept and honored them, without making others feel badly for being less strict.

Virtue: moral excellence, righteousness, goodness, uprightness, strength, courage

2 Peter 1:5-7
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

D&C 121:45
Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins
Photo Credit: Walter Rane

Even before it became part of Personal Progress, Cody exemplified this YW Value. Sister Elaine Dalton described virtue like this:

Young women, in a world ever growing in moral pollution, tolerance of evil, exploitation of women, and distortion of roles, you must stand guard of yourself, your family, and all those with whom you associate. You must be guardians of virtue.

What is virtue and what is a guardian? “Virtue is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards. It includes chastity and [moral] purity.” And what is a guardian? A guardian is someone who protects, shields, and defends. Thus, as a guardian of virtue, you will protect, shield, and defend moral purity because the power to create mortal life is a sacred and exalted power and must be safeguarded until you are married. Virtue is a requirement to have the companionship and guidance of the Holy Ghost. You will need that guidance in order to successfully navigate the world in which you live. Being virtuous is a requirement to enter the temple. And it is a requirement to be worthy to stand in the Savior’s presence. You are preparing now for that time.

I am grateful for Cody's example of this attribute of the Savior.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Attribute #21 - Loyalty

We first met Megan when we flew to Utah for Weston's graduation from BYU. At the time they were just dating, but we knew before the weekend was over that they would be married someday, and one of the traits that we recognized in her right away was loyalty.

Megan is loyal to a lot of things - family, friends, church, good health, commitments, etc. She remembers her friends and goes out of her way to spend time with them, and her family as well. That's something I really admire.

Loyalty: faithful allegiance, steadfastness in affection, adherence to commitments or obligations

Alma 38:2-3
"I shall have great joy in you, because of your steadiness and your faithfulness unto God; for as you have commenced in your youth to look to the Lord your God, even so I hope that you will continue in keeping his commandments; for blessed is he that endureth to the end. . .  I have had great joy in thee already, because of thy faithfulness and thy diligence, and thy patience and thy long-suffering among the people of the Zoramites."

The same thing said of Shiblon could be said of Megan! (I couldn't find the word loyalty in the scriptures, but faithfulness is the perfect synonym.)

Of course, faithfulness and loyalty are perfected in our Savior. Recently I've been impressed with the fact that in addition to being our Redeemer and Examplar, Jesus Christ also wants to call us friends.

There's a great description by President Gordon B. Hinckley showing how we can apply this principle in our lives:

Let us live the gospel in our homes. Let there be an honest manifestation of love between husbands and wives, between children and their parents. Control the voice of anger. Be absolutely loyal one to another. Simply "do what is right [and] let the consequence follow." So live that each morning you may kneel in prayer, seeking the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit, as well as its protective power, as you go about your work of the day. So live that each night, before retiring, you may come before the Lord in prayer without shame or embarrassment or the need to plead for forgiveness. I do not hesitate to say that God will bless you if you will do so.

Note: One of these days maybe we'll take a picture of Megan all by herself, but it may be difficult because she's always surrounded by those she loves!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Attribute #20 - Organization

One of the first things we noticed when we met Elizabeth is that she is a planner. And that's a wonderful attribute to have!

Organization: Arranging or forming into a coherent unity or functioning whole; systematic planning; coordination of activities

D&C 88:74
Organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean;

D&C 88:119
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;

When you visit the temple, everything is calm and peaceful and organized. I imagine it was that way when Jesus visited the temple, and I'm grateful that Elizabeth and David attend the temple regularly. I've learned that as I do so, I can bring the feelings of the temple home, and it's much easier to feel organized there.

That doesn't mean it's easy! Organizing a family is hard work, and it involves a lot of the other Christ-like attributes on the list. But it's worth all our efforts.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Elder Carlos E. Aguero:

The price for good things is paid in advance by our patience, humility, and obedience, especially during trials. If you don’t give up during your trials or let frustration and discouragement overcome you, trials will refine you spiritually and prepare you for better things. You will see the fulfillment of beautiful miracles in your life.

It takes organization to pay the price for good things in advance. I'm grateful for Elizabeth's example in this area.

P.S. If you're wondering why this isn't Cody's post, remember we're going from youngest to oldest. Our children got married in oldest to youngest order, but they didn't necessarily select spouses with birthdays close to theirs. Be patient and we'll get to Cody soon!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Attribute #19 - Integrity

While researching integrity, I came across a great conference talk by Carol Thomas: Integrity. She describes how when replying to her daughter's question of what to look for in a future spouse, integrity was the top answer, and she gave this definition:

Integrity means to do what you say you will do; you keep promises to yourself.

I don't know if integrity was on Cody's list, but if it was, she found it in Brad; it's one of the first traits I think of when I think of him. He's given us plenty of examples over the years of how to live with integrity.

I love that we could always (and still can) trust Brad to do what he said he would do. He's kind yet firm; fun-loving and playful yet reverent and respectful. He's a wonderful example to others, a good leader, inclusive and compassionate. He's just authentic, which I think is the epitome of integrity.

Integrity: An unimpaired condition, soundness, incorruptibility; firm adherence to a code of moral conduct; undivided, complete.

D&C 124:15
I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord.

In the talk referenced above, Sister Thomas also said this:

Everyone comes into this world with different levels of integrity. Have you ever wondered what qualified Jesus to be given the role as Savior of the world? He was the Firstborn of the Father, chosen from the beginning. But what really made Him perfect? It was His total dedication and desire to please our Father in Heaven. The Savior was capable of sinning, but His desire for “honesty [was] an armor against temptation” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 134). The Savior said, “I do always those things that please [the Father]” (John 8:29). We know that throughout His life, He consistently made right choices. He had the moral courage to make His actions consistent with His knowledge of right and wrong.

President Hinckley has said: “In all this world there is no substitute for personal integrity. It includes honor. It includes performance. It includes keeping one’s word. It includes doing what is right regardless of the circumstances” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 270).

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught:
Integrity means always doing what is right, regardless of the immediate consequences. It means being righteous from the very depth of our soul, not only in our actions but, more importantly, in our thoughts and in our hearts. Personal integrity implies such trustworthiness that we are incapable of being false to a trust or covenant.

I'm grateful there are men and women in this world who live with integrity, and I'm even more grateful I can find these humble and righteous examples within our family.

P.S. If you need to teach a lesson on integrity to teenagers, there's a great little quiz attached to the Elder Wirthlin article, which I'v added here. I love the reminder to always act as we would if the Savior were next to us. It's a great goal for regular daily living.

Having integrity means being honest, even in the little things. Here’s a quiz to help you see if your integrity is beyond price. Read through each situation. Then think what you should do.
  • You have a test coming up. Others with the same teacher have already taken the exam. They offer to tell you what the questions are.
  • Some of your friends are telling jokes you find offensive.
  • You’ve found a prom dress you really like, but you know it’s immodest.
  • You’ve done something you think you should talk to the bishop about. But you’re afraid of what he’ll think if you tell him.
  • You feel unworthy to take the sacrament, but you’re afraid people will notice if you don’t.
  • You’re supposed to read some lines from a play. But the lines contain swear words.
  • You got home late, and your parents were already asleep. Should you tell them you missed curfew?
  • Some of your friends want you to sluff class with them.
  • You’re walking by some open barrels of candy in the store. It would be easy to take a few “just to see what they taste like.”
  • You promised your mom you’d clean your room before you left. But you’re already late for a movie.

The correct response to each situation can be found by responding to this question: “What would I do if the Savior were here?”

Monday, December 18, 2017

Attribute #18 - Sacrifice

When I think of this wonderful daughter-in-law, I think of sacrifice. The most obvious one is the sacrifices Alicia has made to support Jeff as he finishes his education. Hopefully, the day will soon come when they can trade places in that area. (Just a few more months until graduation!)

I'm glad that he also recognizes Alicia's great example of service and sacrifice:

(Did you catch the reference to the Christmas classic The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?)

Sacrifice: An act of offering; the surrender of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.

Romans 12:1
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Although she doesn't know it, Alicia actually found the quote below for me; it was attached to a post revealing her beautifully prepared classroom, something she had spent weeks turning from a dreary spot into a place where children would be excited to learn.

"We love what we sacrifice for and we sacrifice for what we love." 

Interestingly enough, that quote comes from a Christmas message given in 1988 by Ezra Taft Benson. It's a bit long, but I'd enourage you to read it. It includes the famous quote from Joseph Smith that sacrifice is necessary in order to receive eternal life. It includes President Benson's teaching that God can make more out of our lives than we could on our own. And it includes this:

So I ask you, what can we possibly give to the Lord this Christmastime? Considering all that He has done and is doing for us, there is something that we might give Him in return. Christ’s great gift to us was His life and sacrifice. Should that not then be our small gift to Him—our lives and sacrifices, not only now but in the future?

I'm grateful I have lots of examples to follow of people willing to sacrifice and serve others, and to do it willingly and with a smile. Let's all continue to #LightTheWorld through serving others as we countdown the days to Christmas!

Note: For some reason, I was just reminded of another one of my favorite quotes, one that encourages me to keep pressing forward when life is difficult, and to not give up on trying to be more like the Savior. We know he completed his mission, and I know with his help I can complete mine. 

Jesus’ responsibility as Advocate, Savior, and Redeemer was foredetermined in premortal realms and fulfilled by His Atonement (see Job 19:25–26; Matt. 1:21; Abr. 3:24–27). Our responsibility is to remember, to repent, and to be righteous. (Russell M. Nelson, April 2000 general conference)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Attribute #17 - Encouragement

I've often mentioned that one of Jeff's traits is the ability to make others do things they don't want to do. Fortunately, those things are usually things they ought to be doing, like going to Sunday School class, working in the yard, and obeying the wrestling coach's rules. That's why being a physical therapist is the perfect occupation for him.

Seeing if a gait belt will help his daughter walk. (It didn't.)
Jeff has a talent for making things fun. He has a way with words; his prayers are unique and awesome! He is always serving those around him. He definitely understands and lives encouragement.

Encouragement: Inspiring with courage, spirit or confidence; stimulating by assistance and approval. From the French "put in" plus "heart".

Deuteronomy 3:29
But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him.

Psalm 31:24
Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.

Photo Credit: Simon Dewey
The Savior knows how to encourage us as well. In our generation, it may not be personally, but through the Spirit instead. However, we can feel His love and concern for us, and that can help us develop faith and hope, trust and obedience. I'm grateful for that.

Since it fits well with a Christmas Countdown, I'm including this picture. One way to help motivate people is to create countdown chains, often with inspiring and encouraging quotes. Most people, though, hang them on a wall and not a person!

I am thankful that Jeff follows this counsel, given by Elder S. Dilworth Young, decades before he was even born:

Help is badly needed. All about us are those in need of encouragement, assistance, and help—help of a kind we can all give, not money, but time and attention and personal encouragement.

He brings sunshine into my life, and that's a marvelous blessing!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Attribute #16 - Gentleness

Nicala's a pretty smart and humble person as well; it's part of what makes her perfect for Steven. However, we're not talking about humility today, but gentleness. This may not be the best picture portraying this, but it's the best I have. It takes gentleness to be able to cradle a baby in your arms.

Gentleness: kindness, amiability; free from sternness, harshness or violence; mildness

Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.

As always, the Savior is the perfect example of gentleness. While it's a quality often portrayed in interactions with children, adults appreciate gentleness as well. A few years ago, President Monson linked this quality to Christmas by suggesting it's one of the gifts we give to each other and the Savior.

To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only seek the Spirit of Christ. May we give as the Savior gave. To give of oneself is a holy gift. We give as a remembrance of all the Savior has given. May we also give gifts that have eternal value, along with our gifts that eventually break or are forgotten. How much better the world would be if we all gave gifts of understanding and compassion, of service and friendship, of kindness and gentleness. As the Christmas season envelops us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us in our celebration of the Savior’s birth. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Savior.

Too soon to have pictures of her with her baby, so we'll go with this one instead.
This year on Christmas Day, Nicala will have been a mother for an entire month. I'm sure she's having plenty of practice with gentleness, and will become even more of an expert as her sweet daughter grows.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Attribute #15 - Humility


You probably know Steven's the youngest of our five sons. Because of that, it's likely he had plenty of practice "submitting" to his elders (see scripture below). However, I think he would have developed humility even if he had been the oldest. And all of them turned out to be wonderful men.

Humility: The state of being not proud or arrogant or haughty; deference, humbleness.

1 Peter 5:5
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

I think one reason I picked this attribute for Steven is because he has plenty of reasons to be proud, but he's not. Just as one example, he's smart - smart enough to have been selected valedictorian for his high school graduation.

Our proof that he gave a speech!
He's smart enough to have graduated summa cum laude from BYU earlier this year, and smart enough to have recently started a graduate program for electrical engineering at the University of Michigan. I'm positive he'll be smart enough to finish that doctoral degree!

Like our Savior, though, Steven doesn't go around advertising his brilliance. He is willing to humbly serve others. In fact, I imagine that this post might make him a bit uncomfortable, and I'm a little sorry about that. However, he's the perfect example for humility, and I needed to explain why. He's quiet, unassuming, and willing to share his knowledge with others. He is definitely not haughty or arrogant.

Developing and increasing our humility is a worthy goal, and I'm thankful for the examples I have from those around me.