• Quote of the Day

    “Surely the reason Christ said, ‘Father, forgive them,’ was because even in that terrible hour He knew that this was the message He had come through all eternity to deliver.”
    —Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Making Church Magazines

This month’s Ensign and Liahona contain an article that pulls back the curtain on how the Church magazines are created. Although it is titled “Making Church Magazines,” the article really ought to be called “Making the Liahona,” since it focuses so much on the cycles, deadlines, and processes for that particular publication.

As dry and boring as this article is, it does shed some light on the internal processes governing the magazines’ production. In addition, it explains how members can contribute articles and, perhaps more interestingly, what kinds of articles they should contribute. In a sidebar, the article says:

“You can send us manuscripts on almost any topic, but you will probably notice that articles teaching the meaning of doctrine or the meaning of scriptures are usually written by General Authorities.

“Your best opportunity to contribute to the magazines will be to write about your own spiritual insights or experiences. When you write about what you know and have experienced, your writing carries the weight of truth and authenticity. Please remember that what you write needs to be applicable in principle to readers in many nations and cultures.”

So there you have it. The reason the Church magazines rejected your deeply insightful treatise on the doctrine of premortal agency is because they would rather publish General Authorities on such matters. You would do better to write about the time your CTR ring saved your life. So get cracking. The magazines need you.

Pearl of Great Price Sudoku

Pearl of Great Price SudokuThe New Era has posted an online version of the Sudoku puzzle from the July issue. Instead of numbers, this puzzle uses words from Moses 1:39. When you finish the puzzle, you’ll probably know that scripture pretty well if you don’t already. This is intended to be something fun for the younger set, but regardless of your age, you may find yourself determined to solve it once you’ve started. Have a go, and let me know how you do.

Mormonad Gallery

Mormonad GalleryThe New Era’s Web site now has a link to a gallery of Mormonads arranged by topic. This is a convenient way to browse through them in order to find a particular Mormonad for a lesson, a desktop wallpaper, or simply a trip down memory lane. (Some of the very earliest ones are quite funky, in my opinion.)

Over the years these ads have been hit-and-miss, and many of them come with a heaping helping of extra cheese, but there’s no denying that they have become part of the collective cultural experience for many people in the Church. We all have our favorites, and many of them stand out because of their clever imagery, word association, or simple and often personal gospel messages. So check out the gallery, and enjoy.

Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet

July 2008 EnsignThis month the Ensign has reprinted Elder M. Russell Ballard’s now-famous address at BYU–Hawaii last December, titled “Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet.” After Elder Ballard gave this address, there was a great deal of discussion about it in the bloggernacle, as well as a fair amount of self-congratulatory back-patting. So, for those who missed it the first time, I would simply like to highlight the things Elder Ballard warned us against when we “join the conversation” about the Church on the Internet.

  • “Discussions focused on questioning, debating, and doubting gospel principles do little to build the kingdom of God.”
  • “There is no need to argue or contend with others regarding our beliefs.”
  • “There is no need to become defensive or belligerent.”

So what should we do? Elder Ballard says, “We simply need to have a conversation, as friends in the same room would have, always guided by the prompting of the Spirit and constantly remembering the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, which reminds us of how precious are the children of our Father in Heaven.”

Wise words. We would all do well to heed them.

The Exquisite Joy of Repentance

It’s a tale we’ve all heard (or lived) before: a person drifts away from the Church, thinks she’s happy, discovers she really isn’t, and resists the notion that the gospel is what’s missing. Some people who go through this cycle never do come back. But in this month’s Ensign, a woman tells the story of how she eventually did come back after 15 years of drifting.

In “The Exquisite Joy of Repentance,” the author, Peggy Ollerton Archuleta, says, “I had grown tired of my lifestyle. … However, returning to church was not something I was considering; I didn’t think I needed the gospel to be happy or to be spiritually healthy. Instead, I turned to self-help books.”

After hitting a dead-end down the blind alley of worldly wisdom, she turned to her family, who gave her what she needed in a tactful and loving way. She was not offended by their gesture and eventually found in the gospel the happiness she was looking for.

She offers five lessons she learned from her experience:

  • No one is immune from making poor choices.
  • We must constantly evaluate where we stand.
  • Our testimonies are not contingent on others.
  • We can live the gospel thoughtfully and genuinely.
  • Happiness comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I think Sister Archuleta has much to teach all of us, both those who are active in the Church and those who are not. For instance, she says, “The strength of my testimony does not depend on the kindness of the members of my ward or the warmth of my bishop.” We all know this to be true in an academic sense, but in practice we often ignore it.

Another impressive thing about Sister Archuleta’s story is that she ties her return to happiness to her repentance. In my experience, many people are too proud to make that connection on their own.

In the end, this article makes me ask myself what I can do for those around me who may be in the same situation the author was in. What do you think?

Do-Over Companions

An article in this month’s New Era may be of interest to anyone who has been on a mission and had a companion that he or she didn’t get along with very well. In “Do-Over Companions,” the author, Devon Black, recalls his “bitter and contentious” time with a missionary companion. He is reviewing his journal entries some months later (an interesting point in itself, though he doesn’t expand on it), and he reflects on what happened, particularly his own behavior. His self-examination leads him to see his former companion in a different light, so he decides to do something to make things right. And, of course, a New Era article ensues.

I wonder how many returned missionaries could tell similar stories of former companions. A mission certainly is a crucible of experience in many areas, including interpersonal relationships. This article shows how one young man learned to develop a more mature outlook on his relationship with a fellow missionary he thought he had nothing in common with.

We can apply what he learned to our relationships with many others, particularly those we associate with in the Church. We’re all striving to be disciples of Christ, and the Lord has told us to “be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). I believe that all of us, myself included (or especially), could put forth a little more effort in this regard.

Cultivating Sensitivity to Others

I sincerely hope that everyone in the bloggernacle has a look at the article “Cultivating Sensitivity to Others” in this month’s Ensign. The author, Andrea Worthington Snarr, begins by recounting an episode in which she received an anonymous letter with parenting tips. She says:

“Photocopied articles explained how to say no to children and outlined the social ills resulting from parents’ failures.

“Obviously, the sender had noticed our son’s difficulties. What the sender apparently did not know, however, is that our son has a neurological condition related to autism.”

She then explains the lengths she and her husband had gone to to help their son and describes the hurt she felt because of this letter. The lesson she learned was that “loving others includes striving to understand and be sensitive to their unique situations.”

Sister Snarr also shares stories of others who felt the sting of insensitivity: a young single woman who was made to feel out of place because of her singleness, a divorced man who felt in visible and no longer included in the ward, and an infertile couple who “received counsel from a member of their bishopric not to put off having a family in order to accumulate wealth and enjoy ‘a few of the good things in life.’”

According to this article, we should increase our awareness of others’ situations, avoid assumptions about them and the way they are living, extend respect to all around us, and show kindness to others (including not gossiping). By the same token, if we experience insensitivity from others, we should resist taking offense.

On important note from this article is that it often only takes one good, kind friend to overcome much of the sorrow that insensitivity can cause. We should all strive to be that friend to anyone around us we may know of who has difficulties. As Sister Snarr concludes, “We can unify our wards and branches by supporting each other and cheering each other on instead of being accomplices to divisiveness.”

I think everyone can think of examples in his or her own ward of the situations described in this article. I know I can. I hope I can always be a friend and support rather than a potential hindrance to someone’s spiritual growth and well-being.

The Spiritual Component of Healing

It’s rare that the Church magazines publish an article by an emeritus General Authority, and it’s even rarer that they would publish a second or third article by the same emeritus General Authority. For this reason, it’s remarkable to see in this month’s Ensign the article “The Spiritual Component of Healing” by Elder Alexander B. Morrison. (His last article, “Myths about Mental Illness,” was published in October 2005.)

Reading Elder Morrison’s words on topics such as this is always a treat. In this article, he challenges some of our conceptions of what healing entails and what the role of suffering is in our lives. Here are some of his assertions:

  • Priesthood holders who give healing blessings are subject to the will of God.
  • The gift of healing is manifested in different ways. It could be permanent relief from suffering, or it could be “added strength, understanding, patience, and compassion.”
  • Medicine and faith do not conflict. Faith to be healed often includes faith to seek professional help, and “faith” is not a substitute for prescribed medication.
  • Faith is a prerequisite of the spiritual component of healing and brings peace, which persists “even if the medical, psychological, or social dimensions of illness—be they physical or mental in origin—remain as a ‘thorn in the flesh.’”
  • “There is no intrinsic value in suffering in and of itself. … To suffering we must add compassion, empathy, patience, humility, and a willingness to submit our will to that of God.”

The entire article is well worth reading. It made me reflect on my own experiences with healing. I remember giving blessings on my mission in which I was prompted to tell people to heed medical advice, as well as ones in which I was prompted to tell people that they would have strength to endure their afflictions, including some they had not yet  begun to suffer.

In any event, I find Elder Morrison’s words to ring true. What do you think?

Latter-day Prophets Song

This month’s Friend magazine has something we’ve all been waiting for: the update of the song “Latter-day Prophets.” Now with President Monson! You can download the sheet music here. Enjoy.

Making Time to Be Holy

Ensign, June 2008If you were to make a list of the most bustling cities in the world, I imagine that Hong Kong would appear somewhere in the top 10 or 20. So not only does the cover article in this month’s Ensign go to Hong Kong to discuss rising above life’s stresses, but it is also based on interviews with members a demographic group that, arguably, has some of the highest stress levels: young single adults. In “Making Time to Be Holy,” these young people give some pretty good advice on how to maintain a sense of sacredness and spirituality in our lives. They really do have a lesson to teach us all about sacrifice and centering our lives on the Savior. As one of them says, “To become holy, we must sacrifice our will, our desires.” And another: “We would receive more blessings if we were more willing to obey.” Read the article, and see what you think about their solutions to stress.