Thursday, October 18, 2012

Overcoming a Pornography Addiction

The following comes from a brother in the ward who has struggled with a pornography addiction.  He recounts his story and how it has damaged his relationship with his spouse. He also offers some advice to those who are struggling as he is. I appreciate his willingness to share his experiences for the benefit of other ward members. 

Though he does not reveal his name you should know that the challenge of pornography addiction is not uncommon and his feelings are very much in line with what other men have shared with me. I appreciate his desire to share his story in hopes of preventing another man from making the choices he has made. 

Shortly you will read about a longing to go back and make different choices. You will read about the regret of missed opportunities. Finally you will read about a man whose heart is broken as he comes to grips with the damage he has caused to his marriage. I know, because I am working with this couple, that they are well on their way to restoring hope and healing the damage that has been caused. I have full confidence that their marriage will last, it will grow, and they will do great things in the community, the church, and with their children. I hope you find this account uplifting, encouraging and if you too struggle with an addiction as proof that you can overcome too. 

"I never meant for life to be this way. If I would have known to what extent pornography would destroy my life, I like to believe that I would have ran as far and as fast away from it as possible. But I didn’t, and now what my life could have been is gone.

When I first saw a pornographic image I was about nine or ten years old. I was at a friend’s house who was a few years older than me and we use to spend a lot of time together. One day he told me that the wanted to show me something on the internet he found. It was pornography. At first I was disgusted, I knew instantly that there was something wrong about what I was seeing but for some reason, despite all inclinations otherwise, I kept looking. That first time I felt a sense of euphoria that I had never felt before, it was as if something had taken control of my brain and made me feel like I was on a cloud. I was hooked, but I didn’t know it. I started seeking it out at home when my parents and siblings weren’t home. I remember running home from school in order to get there before everyone else arrived and then indulging in whatever pornography I could find with a click of a mouse. This went on everyday for years. I can scarcely remember a day in my youth that I did not view pornography. I was very careful about covering my tracks, I came to understand all of the intricacies of a search engine, search history’s, cookies, temporary internet files even router configurations. I knew exactly how to make it so that if anyone ever logged in to the computer, they would never have any idea that I was viewing pornography. I remember one time when I must have visited a site that installed a virus on our home computer. My Mom logged in one day only to find some pornographic pop-ups all over the screen. She was horrified and quite shaken, I still remember to this day her tears as she described to me how awful it was to have seen those images. My Mom hesitantly asked me if I had seen any of that. I passionately responded that I had never ever seen pornography, that it was one of my friends who must have used me to view pornography on our computer.  I told my Mom that I would find out who it was and have him confess so that it could all get cleared up. I framed one of my friends because I couldn’t face telling my Mom it was me. I was never allowed to see that friend ever again, I don’t think to this day he understands why our friendship fell apart. After that incidence I was a lot more careful, I think I even considered stopping to look at pornography because I saw how much it hurt my Mom. It didn’t matter though, I was hooked, it was the only thing that got me through hard teenage years and I couldn’t stop.

When I was 14 years old my addictive behavior was still rampant. My parents never suspected anything, I was a straight A student, was always on the honor roll, was in the school band, was playing club soccer and basketball but more than anything, I was spent hours upon hours playing video games. My parents were somewhat grateful, they would always say that they would rather have me at home playing video games then out with my friends drinking and doing drugs. I rationalized that my pornography addiction was much better than my friends that were drinking and doing drugs, at least, I would say to myself, at least I’m not hurting anyone else. How wrong and foolish I was to think that I was only hurting myself. That same year I found myself getting in to a new video game called World of Warcraft. The premise of this game is to have players build up a virtual character in a virtual world. This game for me as a chubby, nerdy teenage boy was like a whole new drug to sink my time into. I began to play this game for easily over 8 hours a day, sometimes even up to 12. My pornography addiction began to become more and more intense. My days would consist of playing World of Warcraft and at any time that I found myself frustrated I would turn to pornography for instant relief. I found myself losing interest in school, sports and especially the church. Yet I paid careful attention to keeping up my appearances. Leaders at church thought that I was a shining example to the rest of the young men, I was known for being the kid who would deliver “powerful” talks and was near perfect. I was the success story of the ward: the part member family kid who was living the Gospel the way it should always be lived. But more than all, I was a great liar. I knew exactly what to say and how to say it, I almost had a sick sense of pleasure in being able to persuade people to think like I did, or at least to think that I had it all together. As I think about that young man I can’t help but feel sick to my stomach. Truly, I was past feeling, I was so very lost.

I was 17 when my addiction took a turn for the worse when my Dad insisted that I have a computer in my room. I was elated at the prospect because that meant that I could distance myself away from everyone around me even more. It meant that I wouldn’t have to look over my shoulder when I was destroying my mind with porn. It also meant that I could play my video games as much as I wanted. I was a senior in high school by that time. I had long shaggy curls, acne, would always overeat and therefore was significantly overweight and wore the same baggy shorts or jeans with a t-shirt almost every day. I was always at odds with all of my family, I never had anything nice to say. I was angry almost all the time, any little thing could set me off. I would have screaming matches with my Mom and Dad quite often. One time it even came to blows with my Dad. I would swat my sisters if they ever bothered me. I hated the world around me and I think more than anything I had a profound hate… for me. Senior year I had a crush on a girl who didn’t love me back. I saw that she liked guys who drank and smoked and partied on the weekends. One night at one of my friends houses I saw that his parents had alcohol in the pantry. I was depressed that this girl had seemingly denied my existence. Because of this and my lack of self-esteem, I began to drink. It opened up a whole new world of “adventures” for me, all my friends were drinking and I found myself accepted by a new group of friends that I felt truly understood who I was. I never drank for the sake of drinking, I drank to get drunk… completely drunk. The drinking then led to drugs, specifically marijuana. More often then not they were used in conjuction. I remember spending these days in a substance filled daze. My parents, the entire time, had no idea what was going on. Just like pornography, I was very very good at covering my tracks. During these times I decided that I would apply to BYU because it seemed like the easiest school to get into. I lied my way through all of the worthiness interviews and cheated my way through seminary. I had elected to do “home-study” and all I did was do passable work for a teacher who was more bent on getting me to BYU then trying to be strict with me on seminary. I failed to become an Eagle Scout because I lost all interest for scouting, this has been one of my greatest regrets and failures.

The day I got into BYU I was elated, at the same time I was informed that once I was accepted to BYU, as long as I passed my required classes in high school, nothing would alter my acceptance. I took this bit of information as a free pass to literally do nothing in school. I took the easiest classes, and spent only the time that was necessary to pass with a C-. All I lived for was World of Warcraft, drinking, drugs and my full blown pornography addiction. During these times it was not uncommon to be indulging in pornography at least 3 to 5 times a day.  My activity in the church during those days was the bare minimum. I never attended activities and did the very least that I could all the while maintaining appearances for the rich and well connected families in my ward. In my mind, life was good.

One night, as my friend dropped me off after a heavy day of partying, I felt a crippling sense of hopelessness. It was about 6 months after I had started this new party life of mine that this happened. I remember, in my drunk and drugged daze, making my way to our local park and breaking down crying on a hillside. I lied there on the grass looking up at the stars and wondering what had become of my life, wondering what I stood for, wondering if God even knew what I was doing. I thought of all the times I told myself that I would never drink, I would never do drugs. I remember trying to pray but nothing came out. I remember falling asleep and forgetting all about it.

In this new life I also committed some terrible sexual sins. It seemed to be part of the process. I found myself to be attractive to some girls at these parties that I went to. I took advantage of these situations and did things all in the name of “fun.” I never had feelings for any of these girls, it was carnal, and we both knew it. There were no expectations, no relationships, there was no caring, no love. Pornography had in large part dictated my carnal desires for these girls. It brought me to do things that were abominable. Yet for some reason, despite all of this I remained a virgin. Or at least, I remained what would be considered a virgin to the world. I was by no means pure in the sight of God.

I remember having my last drink of alcohol, my last cigarette and my last joint before going off to BYU. I remember laughing with my friends saying that maybe this was a good thing, that I needed to be a sober Mormon for a bit that maybe that would straighten me out. For some reason the thought of being sober comforted me, but it was quickly replaced my a hopelessness that that could never be.

When I arrived at BYU I saw thousands of young men and woman who looked healthy and happy. They looked so clean and pure at first I didn’t know quite what to make of it. There I was, an overweight addict stepping in to an environment full of confident young people that seemed to have their heads on straight. I remember that my first reaction to this new environment was that of anger, I dismissed all of these people as being “orthodox crazy Mormons,” I immediately labeled them as judgmental and self-righteous. I took care to stay away from as many people as I could and there in my dorm room when my roommate was out, I would continue to indulge in pornography. I tried to seek out the same crowds that I had known back in my senior year of high school. I found very little people like that. I was already depressed but I found myself sinking in even more acute depression.

Then life took an interesting turn, I was called as Elder’s Quorum President of my ward. Of course, I had lied my way through all of the interviews when I arrived to BYU but I had made sure to infer that I was not fit for any calling or position. I was called as EQP and an overwhelming sense of guilt crept up in me. I was not about to blow my cover so I went through the motions of doing everything I could to keep up appearances. Nonetheless, I hated the fact that I was given this responsibility, I tried to pray about things but it seemed that nothing ever worked. I felt that I was even more lost than I could possible imagine. One night I was at a dance party with a crowd that was a bit rougher than the average BYU student. I remember telling some people all about the things I’d done in an attempt to be accepted and viewed as cool guy. Then, my first counselor in my Elder’s Quorum Presidency, who I had chosen most likely because I could relate to him, called me out in front of everyone at the party. He called me a hypocrite for being the EQP and then telling the world about my riotous life. He called me a liar. I was furious when he said that, we were on the verge of fighting and then something deep inside me told me to walk away, not only to walk away but to run away. That’s what I did. I ran, then got tired and walked. It started to rain and I was freezing. Yet, my walk back was a turning point for me. As I walked back alone in the dark freezing rain my hopelessness and depression seemed to well up inside me and burst. I was tired of living my life of lies, I was tired of drinking, smoking and pornography, I was tired of lying to my friends and family, I was tired of hating myself and I was tired of not knowing who God was. I was crushed, I was broken. I rushed back to my dorm room and grabbed my Book of Mormon and ran to the BYU bell tower. There I read and prayed with what seemed to be all my heart. I read and prayed and asked God to stop the rain. I asked God to show me a sign that he was there. The rain didn’t stop.

For the next month I read the Book of Mormon and prayed with a new determination that I didn’t even know existed. I cried a lot, I seemed broken. In my mind, I wondered if God could ever forgive such a rotten case such as me. I didn’t have much hope that he could, but I was bent on trying.

One night, alone in my dorm room I had read the Book of Mormon and was getting on my knees to pray. That night, something felt different. I felt truly sorry for all the things that I had done. My heart was utterly shattered, and I turned to God for answers. The experience that I had is too sacred to share on paper. It is the moment that has defined my life. It is the turning point of my life. I received the most powerful witness of my life that God was indeed there for me, I felt that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of God, I felt that the Book of Mormon was true, and more than anything… I felt forgiven.

At that time I had no desire to ever commit sin again. I rejoiced in God, I rejoiced in the scriptures. It seemed that for the first time in my life I was truly reading the word of God. I applied it to my life. I had never been happier in my entire life. My prayers were real, I felt God near. Pornography was disgusting to me and I stayed away from it completely. Yet, I felt a constant need to talk to my Bishop but I never did. Only two or three months after this life changing experience I felt back into pornography. I had never been so devastated in my life because for the first time I knew with perfect clarity that what I had done was devastatingly wrong. I had disappointed God, and the hurt that this caused was so great. I fell back into the all consuming cycle of pornography. I rationalize that God would forgive me again. I rationalized that no one had to know. And that is how I left on my mission.

I was at the MTC for only one month and the guilt of everything I had done consumed me. I spoke to my priesthood leaders at the MTC and was sent home. I had done what was right, I confessed my sins. Now was my time to forsake them. Though this experience was the most difficult in my entire life I look back and see that I grew more from this than anything else. I wanted to make things right and I did everything I possibly could to make it right. I worked hard. I prayed hard. And I went back out.

My mission was without question the most incredible two years of my life. I was free from sin, completely devoted to the Lord’s work and more than anything, I was truly happy. I love my mission. I love all the people I served. I felt clean and worthy for the first time in my life, I felt guided by the Spirit. I felt whole.
When I returned from my mission I was committed to living the truths that I had come to know so profoundly. I was only back for maybe a month and I viewed pornography. Again, I felt back into a vicious cycle. When I returned to BYU, a fresh return missionary with a pornography addiction, I don’t think I had ever felt so depressed in my life. I hated myself and what I was doing more than ever, but this time around I decided to do something about it right away. I spoke to priesthood leaders and I did all that I could to curb this addiction. I saw progress but it didn’t last for long. I dated but I never had any hope in ever marrying anyone, what kind of girl would ever want to marry a porn addict like me?

A year passed by and I met a girl that I fell madly in love with. The feeling was mutual and we began to date quite steadily. Because of my pornography addiction I pushed her into doing things that were not meant to be expressed before marriage. I feel responsible for some terrible sins that I caused us to commit. My pornography addiction continued but she thought it was in the past. I told her that it was my present and it devastated her more than anything I had ever said or done. I told her it would never happen again. It did. It devastated her even further. Because of a variety of bad reasons we decided not to confess our sexual transgression and instead got married in the temple unworthily. What was supposed to be a happy occasion was one of great remorse and guilt for us.

Just a few months after we were married I fell back into pornography. My wife turns to hurting herself to numb the pain she is feeling. She doesn’t trust me, she is afraid of me constantly, she cries herself to sleep often. She thinks she is ugly and dismisses anything I say to tell her that she’s beautiful. If you knew her you would know that’s so far from the truth, she is the most gorgeous girl in the world. But because of my pornography addiction, she feels ugly and worthless.

We now have confessed our sins and are working with a bishop to get salvage what’s left of our marriage and our lives. Pornography has almost ruined our marriage and our lives. Despite all this I know to my very core that pornography will no longer be a part of our lives. I know this because the Lord lives and His Atonement is real. I know this because I love my wife too much to see her go. I know this because I am doing everything possible to not put myself in a situation to be tempted and succumb to those temptations. Everything changes here and now. No more will pornography destroy the beauties of life around me. The Atonement of Jesus Christ has overcome all of this, I either tap into this great power or watch everything I love crumble around me. The choice is ours to make and no the way isn’t easy but it was never meant to be easy. I know God’s love can overcome this, I know that one day my wife will trust me again. I know that we can be happy together one day.

It was never meant to be this way, but there is always a better brighter way. I am choosing that way, and with God’s help, and sweet forgiveness that way will be here to stay. I will never have to write another chapter about pornography again. The chapters of our lives will be filled with happiness, it will be filled with everything that God has intended for us.

Learn from my experience. Please do something about your pornography problem right now. Don’t let it come to this. The Lord will bless you in your trials, let him lift you up."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Some Recent Bishop Experiences

The following two experiences happened in the last month. I wrote them down at the time and today reread them. I thought they were general enough that I could share them here. They might even be as faith promoting for those who read them as they were for me.

Experience from my journal #1

"There are times when it becomes very clear to me that I truly have been given the mantle of Bishop. Today while sitting on the stand during sacrament meeting, I noticed a brother seated near the back of the chapel. He was dressed appropriately and by all outward appearances a good faithful member of the church. In spite of him looking like he fit in, I had an immediate and clear impression that there was something wrong with him, not in the sense that I thought he had unconfessed sin, which is an impression that I have had about other ward members, but in the sense that "he was dangerous". The impression was so strong that it startled me. Over the next 10 minutes, I continually had the impression to look at the brother, I didn't know who he was. He appeared to be engaged in having friendly conversations with those around him, he was even making faces and waving at the children near him. There was a member of the stake presidency seated on the stand with me. I sent him a text explaining what I had felt and asked what he thought I should do. He replied "do what the spirit is telling you". I replied "I don't know what the spirit is telling me, it's just warning me about this new brother". Sacrament passed and as it came to a conclusion the promptings were still there warning me of the "danger of this man". I suggested to my first counselor that between the two of us, we would get down off the stand, keep an eye on him and follow him wherever he went. Unfortunately as is often the case with trying to get down of the stand to talk to a specific individual, both our ways were obstructed by various ward members. By the time we reached the back, he was gone. At first I thought maybe I was just imagining things, then I was approached by a member of the ward who shared a very disheartening encounter they had just had with him. I knew immediately again that what I had been feeling was from the Spirit and we began an immediate and earnest search to find him. Throughout the rest of the day, he would leave the building, visit other ward buildings return to our ward building etc. all in a search as we came to find out to take advantage of the innocent. The police eventually became involved and were able to find him. In conclusion... I have never experienced the Spirit warning me as the Bishop that someone who looked faithful was actually very dangerous. I will do my best in the future to not doubt these promptings if they come again. I am also grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who through a Bishop provided the means of protecting the innocent while maintaining the dignity of the Sunday meetings. Everything that transpired was done quickly, effectively and with dignity in relative quiet."

Experience from my journal #2:
"This evening in a disciplinary council, again I felt the clear and undeniable influence of the Spirit upon one who is the Bishop while sharing the outcome and decision of the council, my mind was flooded with one phrase after the other. One scripture after the other... Some of the scriptures I couldn't remember the verse, but I was able to quote it word for word. A couple of verses did come to mind and I went and read those to the individual. Over about a 5 minute period, the majority of what I was counseling this individual was word for word straight from the Spirit. I know I was not manufacturing those sentences, I know I was not coming up with those scriptural chains. I was quite conscious of this fact.It was both startling to me and amazingly sweet. I kept saying the words that were coming and then it ended. I could still feel the Spirit, but the clear words and scriptures had stopped. Afterwards I found myself marveling at the experience and longing for it to continue. The experience of receiving pure revelation from the Spirit in real time is amazing. This too shows me that in spite of me being just an ordinary guy, the call of a Bishop provides a unique conduit between heaven and earth. I am tired and ready for bed. Amen."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Influence of Righteous Women

Second Counselor in the First Presidency

The Influence of Righteous Women
The scriptures give us names of several women who have blessed individuals and generations with their spiritual gifts. Eve, the mother of all living; Sarah; Rebekah; Rachel; Martha; Elisabeth; and Mary, the mother of our Savior, will always be honored and remembered. The scriptures also mention women whose names are unknown to us but who bless our lives through their examples and teachings, like the woman of Samaria whom Jesus met at the well of Sychar (see John 4), the ideal wife and mother described in Proverbs 31, and the faithful woman who was made whole just by touching the Savior’s clothes (see Mark 5:25–34).

As we look at the history of this earth and at the history of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, it becomes obvious that women hold a special place in our Father’s plan for the eternal happiness and well-being of His children.

I hope that my dear sisters throughout the world—grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and friends—never underestimate the power of their influence for good, especially in the lives of our precious children and youth!

President Heber J. Grant (1856–1945) said, “Without the devotion and absolute testimony of the living God in the hearts of our mothers, this Church would die.” 1 And the writer of Proverbs said, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled the women of the Church:

It is so tremendously important that the women of the Church stand strong and immovable for that which is correct and proper under the plan of the Lord. …

“We call upon the women of the Church to stand together for righteousness. They must begin in their own homes. They can teach it in their classes. They can voice it in their communities.” 2

There is a saying that big gates move on small hinges. Sisters, your example in seemingly small things will make a big difference in the lives of our young people. The way you dress and groom yourselves, the way you talk, the way you pray, the way you testify, the way you live every day will make the difference. This includes which TV shows you watch, which music you prefer, and how you use the Internet. If you love to go to the temple, the young people who value your example will also love to go. If you adapt your wardrobe to the temple garment and not the other way around, they will know what you consider important, and they will learn from you.

You are marvelous sisters and great examples. Our youth are blessed by you, and the Lord loves you for that.

An Example of Faith
Let me share some thoughts about Sister Carmen Reich, my mother-in-law, who was truly an elect lady. She embraced the gospel in a most difficult and dark time of her life, and she liberated herself from grief and sorrow.

As a young woman—a widow and the mother of two young girls—she freed herself from a world of old traditions and moved into a world of great spirituality. She embraced the teachings of the gospel, with its intellectual and spiritual power, on a fast track. When the missionaries gave her the Book of Mormon and invited her to read the verses they had marked, she read the whole book within only a few days. She learned things beyond the understanding of her peers because she learned them by the Spirit of God. She was the humblest of the humble, the wisest of the wise, because she was willing and pure enough to believe when God had spoken.

She was baptized on November 7, 1954. Only a few weeks after her baptism, she was asked by the missionary who baptized her to write her testimony. The missionary wanted to use her testimony in his teaching to help others feel the true spirit of conversion. Fortunately, the missionary kept the handwritten original for more than 40 years, and then he returned it to her as a very special and loving gift.

A Testimony Born of the Spirit
Let me share with you parts of her written testimony. Please keep in mind that she wrote these words only a few weeks after hearing about the gospel. Before the missionaries came, she had never heard anything about the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, or Mormons in general. In 1954 there were no temples outside the continental United States, except in Canada and Hawaii.

This is the English translation of Sister Reich’s handwritten testimony:

“Special characteristics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are not present in other religious communities include, above all, modern revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

The Book of Mormon in its clear and pure language is next, with all the instructions and promises for the Church of Jesus Christ; it is truly a second witness, together with the Bible, that Jesus Christ lives.

“Bound together by faith in a personal God, that is, God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Ghost, who facilitates prayer and also influences personally.

“Also, faith in the premortal life, the preexistence, the purpose of our earthly life, and our life after death is so valuable for us and especially interesting and informative. It is clearly laid out, and our lives receive new meaning and direction.

“The Church has given us the Word of Wisdom as a guide to keep body and spirit in the most perfect shape possible to realize our desire and goal. So we keep our bodies healthy and improve them. All this from the knowledge that we will take them up again after death in the same form.

“Totally new to me, of course, is temple work with its many sacred ordinances, having families together forever. All this was given through revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith.”

Carmen Reich, my dear mother-in-law, passed away in 2000 at age 83.

A Unique Feminine Identity
The lives of women in the Church are a powerful witness that spiritual gifts, promises, and blessings of the Lord are given to all those who qualify, “that all may be benefited” (D&C 46:9; see verses 9–26). The doctrines of the restored gospel create a wonderful and “unique feminine identity that encourages women to develop their abilities” as true and literal daughters of God. 3 Through serving in the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary organizations—not to mention their private acts of love and service—women have always played and will always play an important part in helping “bring forth and establish the cause of Zion” (D&C 6:6). They care for the poor and the sick; serve proselytizing, welfare, humanitarian, and other missions; teach children, youth, and adults; and contribute to the temporal and spiritual welfare of the Saints in many other ways.

Because their potential for good is so great and their gifts so diverse, women may find themselves in roles that vary with their circumstances in life. Some women, in fact, must fill many roles simultaneously. For this reason, Latter-day Saint women are encouraged to acquire an education and training that will qualify them both for homemaking and raising a righteous family and for earning a living outside the home if the occasion requires.

We are living in a great season for all women in the Church. Sisters, you are an essential part of our Heavenly Father’s plan for eternal happiness; you are endowed with a divine birthright. You are the real builders of nations wherever you live, because strong homes of love and peace will bring security to any nation. I hope you understand that, and I hope the men of the Church understand it too.

What you sisters do today will determine how the principles of the restored gospel can influence the nations of the world tomorrow. It will determine how these heavenly rays of the gospel will light every land in the future. 4

Though we often speak of the influence of women on future generations, please do not underestimate the influence you can have today. President David O. McKay (1873–1970) said that the principal reason the Church was organized is “to make life sweet today, to give contentment to the heart today, to bring salvation today. …

“Some of us look forward to a time in the future—salvation and exaltation in the world to come—but today is part of eternity.” 5

Blessings beyond Imagining
As you live up to this mission, in whatever life circumstance you find yourself—as a wife, as a mother, as a single mother, as a divorced woman, as a widowed or a single woman—the Lord our God will open up responsibilities and blessings far beyond your ability to imagine.

May I invite you to rise to the great potential within you. But don’t reach beyond your capacity. Don’t set goals beyond your capacity to achieve. Don’t feel guilty or dwell on thoughts of failure. Don’t compare yourself with others. Do the best you can, and the Lord will provide the rest. Have faith and confidence in Him, and you will see miracles happen in your life and the lives of your loved ones. The virtue of your own life will be a light to those who sit in darkness, because you are a living witness of the fulness of the gospel (see D&C 45:28). Wherever you have been planted on this beautiful but often troubled earth of ours, you can be the one to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5).

My dear sisters, as you live your daily life with all its blessings and challenges, let me assure you that the Lord loves you. He knows you. He listens to your prayers, and He answers those prayers, wherever on this world you may be. He wants you to succeed in this life and in eternity.

Brethren, I pray that we as priesthood holders—as husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, and friends of these choice women—may see them as the Lord sees them, as daughters of God with limitless potential to influence the world for good.

In the early days of the Restoration, the Lord spoke to Emma Smith through her husband, the Prophet Joseph Smith, giving her instructions and blessings: “[Be] faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me. … Thou needest not fear. … Thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better. … Lift up thy heart and rejoice. … And a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive” (D&C 25:2, 9, 10, 13, 15).

Of this revelation, the Lord declared, “This is my voice unto all” (verse 16).

Later, the Prophet Joseph Smith told the sisters, “If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.” 6

Of these truths I testify, and I extend to you my love and my blessing as an Apostle of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.


  1. Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 151.
  2. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Standing Strong and Immovable,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 10, 2004, 20.
  3. “Women, Roles of: Historical and Sociological Development,” in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. (1992), 4:1574.
  4. See “Hark, All Ye Nations!” Hymns, no. 264.
  5. David O. McKay, Pathways to Happiness, comp. Llewelyn R. McKay (1957), 291–92.
  6. History of the Church, 4:605.

Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

A pleasant young man in his early 20s sat across from me. He had an engaging smile, although he didn’t smile often during our talk. What drew me in was the pain in his eyes.

“I don’t know if I should remain a member of the Church,” he said. “I don’t think I’m worthy.”

“Why wouldn’t you be worthy?” I asked.

“I’m gay.”

I suppose he thought I would be startled. I wasn’t. “And … ?” I inquired.

A flicker of relief crossed his face as he sensed my continued interest. “I’m not attracted to women. I’m attracted to men. I’ve tried to ignore these feelings or change them, but …”

He sighed. “Why am I this way? The feelings are very real.”

I paused, then said, “I need a little more information before advising you. You see, same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is—just as it would be with heterosexual feelings. Do you violate the law of chastity?”

He shook his head. “No, I don’t.”

This time I was relieved. “Thank you for wanting to deal with this,” I said. “It takes courage to talk about it, and I honor you for keeping yourself clean.

As for why you feel as you do, I can’t answer that question. A number of factors may be involved, and they can be as different as people are different. Some things, including the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life. But knowing why you feel as you do isn’t as important as knowing you have not transgressed. If your life is in harmony with the commandments, then you are worthy to serve in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with the members, attend the temple, and receive all the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement.

He sat up a little straighter. I continued, “You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you.

“What’s more, I love you. My Brethren among the General Authorities love you. I’m reminded of a comment President Boyd K. Packer made in speaking to those with same-gender attraction. ‘We do not reject you,’ he said. ‘… We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you.’” 1

We talked for another 30 minutes or so. Knowing I could not be a personal counselor to him, I directed him to his local priesthood leaders. Then we parted. I thought I detected a look of hope in his eyes that had not been there before. Although he yet faced challenges to work through—or simply endure—I had a feeling he would handle them well.

God Loveth His Children
When an angel asked Nephi a question about God, Nephi answered, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17). I too affirm that God loves all His children and acknowledge that many questions, including some related to same-gender attraction, must await a future answer, perhaps in the next life.

Unfortunately, some people believe they have all the answers now and declare their opinions far and wide. Fortunately, such people do not speak for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Although I believe members are eager to extend compassion to those different from themselves, it is human nature that when confronted with a situation we don’t understand, we tend to withdraw. This is particularly true of same-gender attraction. We have so little reliable information about it that those wanting to help are left feeling a bit unsteady. Admitting my own inadequacy in this regard but wanting to assist, let me offer some suggestions to help those who have loved ones or friends who are attracted to the same gender.

Our Father’s Plan of Happiness
First, let’s be absolutely clear on what God wants for each of us. He wants us to have all of the blessings of eternal life. He wants us to become like Him. To help us do that, He has given us a plan. This plan is based on eternal truths and is not altered according to the social trends of the day.

At the heart of this plan is the begetting of children, one of the crucial reasons Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden (see 2 Nephi 2:19–25; Moses 5:10–12). They were commanded to “be fruitful, and multiply” (Moses 2:28), and they chose to keep that commandment. We are to follow them in marrying and providing physical bodies for Heavenly Father’s spirit children. Obviously, a same-gender relationship is inconsistent with this plan.

For various reasons, marriage and children are not immediately available to all. Perhaps no offer of marriage is forthcoming. Perhaps even after marriage there is an inability to have children. Or perhaps there is no present attraction to the opposite gender. Whatever the reason, God’s richest blessings will eventually be available to all of His children if they are clean and faithful.

Through the exercise of faith, individual effort, and reliance upon the power of the Atonement, some may overcome same-gender attraction in mortality and marry. Others, however, may never be free of same-gender attraction in this life.

As fellow Church members, families, and friends, we need to recognize that those attracted to the same gender face some unique restrictions regarding expression of their feelings. While same-gender attraction is real, there must be no physical expression of this attraction. The desire for physical gratification does not authorize immorality by anyone. Such feelings can be powerful, but they are never so strong as to deprive anyone of the freedom to choose worthy conduct.

In saying this, let me make it clear that attractions alone, troublesome as they may be, do not make one unworthy. The First Presidency has stated, “There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior.” 2 If you do not act on temptations, you have not transgressed.

The failure to see that distinction sometimes leads to despair. I ache for those who do not understand that every blessing offered by God is available to anyone who obeys the laws upon which those blessings are predicated (see D&C 130:20–21). No one who lives the gospel should despair. Hope and peace come from the Comforter, and the answer to despair is to invite the Holy Ghost into our lives.

Ways to Help
Let’s assume you are the family member or friend of someone with same-gender attraction who comes to you for help. What do you say? What do you do?

I’d begin by recognizing the courage that brought your son, daughter, sibling, or friend to you. I’d recognize the trust that person has extended. Discussing the issue with someone of trust is a healthy first step to dealing with confusing feelings, and it is imperative that these first steps be met with compassion.

Next, if you are a parent of one with same-gender attraction, don’t assume you are the reason for those feelings. No one, including the one struggling, should try to shoulder blame. Nor should anyone place blame on another—including God. Walk by faith, and help your loved one deal the best he or she can with this challenge.

In doing so, recognize that marriage is not an all-purpose solution. Same-gender attractions run deep, and trying to force a heterosexual relationship is not likely to change them. We are all thrilled when some who struggle with these feelings are able to marry, raise children, and achieve family happiness. But other attempts have resulted in broken hearts and broken homes.

Above all, keep your lines of communication open. Open communication between parents and children is a clear expression of love, and pure love, generously expressed, can transform family ties. But love for a family member does not extend to condoning unrighteous behavior. Your children are welcome to stay in your home, of course, but you have every right to exclude from your dwelling any behavior that offends the Spirit of the Lord.

The Garden Principle
Next, consider a principle learned in gardening. Someone said that if we plant a garden with good seed, there will not be so much need of the hoe. Likewise, if we fill our lives with spiritual nourishment, we can more easily gain control over inclinations. This means creating a positive environment in our homes in which the Spirit is abundantly evident. A positive environment includes consistent private and public worship, prayer, fasting, scripture reading, service, and exposure to uplifting conversation, music, literature, and other media.

This same environment extends to experiences at church. Some with same-gender attractions have unresolved fears and are offended at church when no offense is intended. On the other hand, some members exclude from their circle of fellowship those who are different. When our actions or words discourage someone from taking full advantage of Church membership, we fail them—and the Lord. The Church is made stronger as we include every member and strengthen one another in service and love (see D&C 84:110).

You may feel prompted to encourage the one you are trying to help to visit with a priesthood leader who holds the keys of inspired counsel. Please do so, knowing that the First Presidency has asked Church leaders to discuss these matters confidentially and in a spirit of Christlike love. 3

In the Lord’s Hands
Not long ago I received a letter from a man in his early 30s who struggles with same-gender attraction. His struggle has not been easy, and he has not yet married. But, he wrote, “the Lord has helped me face my current circumstances, and I am content to do my best and leave my life in His hands.”

I weep with admiration and respect at the faith and courage of such a man who is living with a challenge I have never faced. I love him and the thousands like him, male or female, who “fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12). I commend his attitude to all who struggle with—or who are helping others who struggle with—same-gender attraction.


  1. “Ye Are the Temple of God,” Liahona, Jan. 2001, 87; Ensign, Nov. 2000, 74.
  2. First Presidency letter, Nov. 14, 1991.
  3. See First Presidency letter, Nov. 14, 1991.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

LDS Women Are Incredible

LDS Women Are Incredible!
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Much of what we accomplish in the Church is due to the selfless service of women.
Author and historian Wallace Stegner wrote about the Mormon migration and gathering to the Salt Lake Valley. He did not accept our faith and in many ways was critical; nevertheless, he was impressed with the devotion and heroism of our early Church members, especially the women. He stated, “Their women were incredible.”1 I echo that sentiment today. Our Latter-day Saint women are incredible!

God placed within women divine qualities of strength, virtue, love, and the willingness to sacrifice to raise future generations of His spirit children.

A recent United States study asserts that women of all faiths “believe more fervently in God” and attend more religious services than men do. “By virtually every measure they are more religious.”2

I was not surprised by this result, particularly as I reflected on the preeminent role of families and women in our faith. Our doctrine is clear: Women are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves them. Wives are equal to their husbands. Marriage requires a full partnership where wives and husbands work side by side to meet the needs of the family.3

We know there are many challenges for women, including those striving to live the gospel.

Heritage of Pioneer Sisters
A predominant attribute in the lives of our pioneer ancestors is the faith of the sisters. Women by divine nature have the greater gift and responsibility for home and children and nurturing there and in other settings. In light of this, the faith of the sisters in being willing to leave their homes to cross the plains for the unknown was inspiring. If one had to characterize their most significant attribute, it would be their unwavering faith in the restored gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The heroic accounts of what these pioneer women sacrificed and accomplished as they crossed the plains is a priceless legacy to the Church. I am moved by the account of Elizabeth Jackson, whose husband Aaron died after the last crossing of the Platte River with the Martin handcart company. She wrote:

“I will not attempt to describe my feelings at finding myself thus left a widow with three children, under such excruciating circumstances. … I believe … that my sufferings for the Gospel’s sake will be sanctified unto me for my good. …

“I [appealed] to the Lord, … He who had promised to be a husband to the widow, and a father to the fatherless. I appealed to him and he came to my aid.”4

Elizabeth said she was writing the history on behalf of those who passed through like scenes with the hope that posterity would be willing to suffer and sacrifice all things for the kingdom of God.5

Women in the Church Today Are Strong and Valiant
I believe the women of the Church today meet that challenge and are every bit as strong and faithful. The priesthood leadership of this Church at all levels gratefully acknowledges the service, sacrifice, commitment, and contribution of the sisters.

Much of what we accomplish in the Church is due to the selfless service of women. Whether in the Church or in the home, it is a beautiful thing to see the priesthood and the Relief Society work in perfect harmony. Such a relationship is like a well-tuned orchestra, and the resulting symphony inspires all of us.

When I was recently assigned to a conference in the Mission Viejo California Stake, I was touched by an account of their four-stake New Year’s Eve youth dance. Following the dance, a purse was found with no outside identification. I share with you part of what Sister Monica Sedgwick, the Young Women president in the Laguna Niguel stake, recorded: “We didn’t want to pry; this was someone’s personal stuff! So we gingerly opened it and grabbed the first thing that was on top—hopefully, it would identify her. It did, but in another way—it was a For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. Wow! This told us something about her. Then we reached in for the next item, a little notebook. Surely this would give us answers, but not the kind we were expecting. The first page was a list of favorite scriptures. There were five more pages of carefully written scriptures and personal notes.”

The sisters immediately wanted to meet this stalwart young woman. They returned to that purse to identify its owner. They pulled out some breath mints, soap, lotion, and a brush. I loved their comments: “Oh, good things come out of her mouth; she has clean and soft hands; and she takes care of herself.”

They eagerly awaited the next treasure. Out came a clever little homemade coin purse made from a cardboard juice carton, and there was some money in a zippered pocket. They exclaimed, “Ahh, she’s creative and prepared!” They felt like little children on Christmas morning. What they pulled out next surprised them even more: a recipe for Black Forest chocolate cake and a note to make the cake for a friend’s birthday. They almost screamed, “She’s a HOMEMAKER! Thoughtful and service minded.” Then, yes, finally some identification. The youth leaders said they felt greatly blessed “to observe the quiet example of a young lady living the gospel.”6

This account illustrates the commitment of our young women to Church standards.7 It is also an example of caring, interested, dedicated Young Women leaders all over the world. They are incredible!

Sisters have key roles in the Church, in family life, and as individuals that are essential in Heavenly Father’s plan. Many of these responsibilities do not provide economic compensation but do provide satisfaction and are eternally significant. Recently a delightful and very capable woman on a newspaper editorial board asked for a description of the role of women in the Church. It was explained that all of the leaders in our congregations are unpaid. She interrupted to say her interest had diminished significantly. She said, “I don’t believe women need any more unpaid jobs.”

We pointed out that the most important organization on earth is the family, where “fathers and mothers are … equal partners.”8 Neither one is financially compensated, but the blessings are beyond description. We of course told her about the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary organizations that are guided by women presidents. We noted that from our earliest history both men and women pray, perform the music, give the sermons, and sing in the choir, even in sacrament meeting, our most sacred meeting.

The recent highly acclaimed book American Grace reported on women in many faiths. It noted that Latter-day Saint women are unique in being overwhelmingly satisfied with their role in Church leadership.9 Furthermore, Latter-day Saints as a whole, men and women, have the strongest attachment to their faith of any of the religions studied.10

Our women are not incredible because they have managed to avoid the difficulties of life—quite the opposite. They are incredible because of the way they face the trials of life. Despite the challenges and tests life has to offer—from marriage or lack of marriage, children’s choices, poor health, lack of opportunities, and many other problems—they remain remarkably strong and immovable and true to the faith. Our sisters throughout the Church consistently “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”11

One Relief Society president who acknowledged this extraordinary service said, “Even when the sisters serve, they are thinking, ‘If only I could have done more!’” Though they are not perfect and all face individual struggles, their faith in a loving Father in Heaven and the assurance of the atoning sacrifice of the Savior permeates their lives.

Role of Sisters in the Church
During the last three years, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have sought guidance, inspiration, and revelation as we have counseled with priesthood and auxiliary leaders and worked on the new Church handbooks. In this process I have experienced feelings of overwhelming appreciation for the essential role that sisters, both married and single, have historically played and now play both in the family and in the Church.

All members of the Church of Jesus Christ are “to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.”12 “[The] work of salvation includes member missionary work, convert retention, activation of less-active members, temple and family history work, … teaching the gospel,”13 and caring for the poor and needy.14 This is administered primarily through the ward council.15

Specifically, it is intended in the new handbooks that bishops, sensitive to existing demands, will delegate more responsibilities. Members need to recognize that the bishop has been instructed to delegate. Members need to sustain and support him as he follows this counsel. This will allow the bishop to spend more time with the youth, young single adults, and his own family. He will delegate other important responsibilities to priesthood leaders, presidents of auxiliaries, and individual men and women. In the Church the role of women in the home is highly respected.16 When the mother receives a Church calling that requires significant time, the father will often be given a less-demanding calling in order to maintain balance in the lives of the family.

Several years ago I attended a stake conference in Tonga. Sunday morning the three front rows of the chapel were filled with men between 26 and 35 years of age. I assumed they were a men’s choir. But when the business of the conference was conducted, each of these men, 63 in total, stood up as their names were read and were sustained for ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood. I was both pleased and stunned.

After the session I asked President Mateaki, the stake president, how this miracle had been accomplished. He told me that in a stake council meeting reactivation was being discussed. His stake Relief Society president, Sister Leinata Va’enuku, asked if it would be appropriate for her to say something. As she spoke, the Spirit confirmed to the president that what she was suggesting was true. She explained that there were large numbers of wonderful young men in their late 20s and 30s in their stake who had not served missions. She said many of them knew they had disappointed bishops and priesthood leaders who had strongly encouraged them to serve a mission, and they now felt like second-class members of the Church. She pointed out that these young men were beyond missionary age. She expressed her love and concern for them. She explained that all of the saving ordinances were still available to them and the focus should be on priesthood ordinations and the ordinances of the temple. She noted that while some of these young men were still single, the majority of them had married wonderful women—some active, some inactive, and some not members.

After thorough discussion in the stake council, it was decided that the men of the priesthood and the women of the Relief Society would reach out to rescue these men and their wives, while the bishops spent more of their time with the young men and young women in the wards. Those involved in the rescue focused primarily on preparing them for the priesthood, eternal marriage, and the saving ordinances of the temple. During the next two years, almost all of the 63 men who had been sustained to the Melchizedek Priesthood at the conference I attended were endowed in the temple and had their spouses sealed to them. This account is but one example of how critical our sisters are in the work of salvation in our wards and stakes and how they facilitate revelation, especially in family and Church councils.17

Role of Sisters in the Family
We recognize that there are enormous forces arrayed against women and families. Recent studies find there is deterioration in devotion to marriage, with a decrease in the number of adults being married.18 For some, marriage and family are becoming “a menu choice rather than the central organizing principle of our society.”19 Women are confronted with many options and need to prayerfully consider the choices they make and how those choices affect the family.

When I was in New Zealand last year, I read in an Auckland newspaper of women, not of our faith, struggling with these issues. One mother said she realized that in her case, her choice about whether to work or stay home was about a new carpet and a second car that she didn’t really need. Another woman, however, felt “the biggest enemy of a happy family life was not paid work—it was television.” She said that families are TV rich and family-time poor.20

These are very emotional, personal decisions, but there are two principles that we should always keep in mind. First, no woman should ever feel the need to apologize or feel that her contribution is less significant because she is devoting her primary efforts to raising and nurturing children. Nothing could be more significant in our Father in Heaven’s plan. Second, we should all be careful not to be judgmental or assume that sisters are less valiant if the decision is made to work outside the home. We rarely understand or fully appreciate people’s circumstances. Husbands and wives should prayerfully counsel together, understanding they are accountable to God for their decisions.

You devoted sisters who are single parents for whatever reason, our hearts reach out to you with appreciation. Prophets have made it clear “that many hands stand ready to help you. The Lord is not unmindful of you. Neither is His Church.”21 I would hope that Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents.

You valiant and faithful single sisters, please know that we love and appreciate you, and we assure you that no eternal blessing will be withheld from you.

The remarkable pioneer woman Emily H. Woodmansee penned the text of the hymn “As Sisters in Zion.” She correctly asserts that the “errand of angels is given to women.”22 This has been described as “nothing less than to do the direct and immediate bidding of our Father in Heaven, and ‘this is a gift that … sisters … claim.’”23

Dear sisters, we love and admire you. We appreciate your service in the Lord’s kingdom. You are incredible! I express particular appreciation for the women in my life. I testify of the reality of the Atonement, the divinity of the Savior, and the Restoration of His Church, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1. Wallace Stegner, The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail (1971), 13.
  2. Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (2010), 233.
  3. See Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), 1.3.1; see also Moses 5:1, 4, 12, 27.
  4. In Andrew D. Olsen, The Price We Paid: The Extraordinary Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Pioneers (2006), 445.
  5. See “Leaves from the Life of Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson Kingsford,” Utah State Historical Society, Manuscript A 719; in “Remembering the Rescue,” Ensign, Aug. 1997, 47.
  6. Combined and shortened from an e-mail written by Monica Sedgwick, stake Young Women president of the Laguna Niguel California Stake, and a talk given by Leslie Mortensen, stake Young Women president of the Mission Viejo California Stake.
  7. In an article titled “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?” (Wall Street Journal, Mar. 19–20, 2011, C3), a thoughtful Jewish mother advocates for dress standards and modesty and acknowledges the example of Mormon women.
  8. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129.
  9. See Putnam and Campbell, American Grace, 244–45.
  10. See Putnam and Campbell, American Grace, 504.
  11. Doctrine and Covenants 81:5; see also Mosiah 4:26.
  12. Doctrine and Covenants 138:56.
  13. Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), page 22.
  14. See Handbook 2, 6.1.
  15. See Handbook 2, 4.5.
  16. See Emily Matchar, “Why I Can’t Stop Reading Mormon Housewife Blogs,” This self-described feminist and atheist acknowledges this respect and says she is addicted to reading Mormon housewife blogs.
  17. From conversations with Nuku’alofa Tonga Ha’akame Stake president Lehonitai Mateaki (who subsequently served as president of the Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Mission) and stake Relief Society president Leinata Va’enuku.
  18. See D’Vera Cohn and Richard Fry, “Women, Men, and the New Economics of Marriage,” Pew Research Center, Social and Demographic Trends, The number of children being born has also decreased significantly in many countries. This has been called the demographic winter.
  19. “A Troubling Marriage Trend,” Deseret News, Nov. 22, 2010, A14, quoting a report on
  20. See Simon Collins, “Put Family before Moneymaking Is Message from Festival,” New Zealand Herald, Feb. 1, 2010, A2.
  21. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 69; see also Spencer W. Kimball, “Our Sisters in the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 48–49.
  22. “As Sisters in Zion,” Hymns, no. 309.
  23. Karen Lynn Davidson, Our Latter-Day Hymns: The Stories and the Messages, rev. ed. (2009), 338–39.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Greed, Selfishness, and Overindulgence

Of the Presidency of the Seventy

I am confident that we will literally be called upon to make an accounting before God concerning how we have used [our resources] to bless lives and build the kingdom.

They say the gospel is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comforted. My purpose today is to speak to the comforted: the rich, the poor, and all of us in between.

The Lord has said, “Wo unto you rich men, … for your riches will canker your souls.” He has also said, “Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, … [and] whose eyes are full of greediness.” 1

Many of you probably have heard this little prayer somebody wrote:

“Dear God,

“So far today I have done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overly indulgent. But in a few minutes, Lord, I am going to get out of bed, and from then on, I am probably going to need a lot more help.”

When it comes to overcoming being greedy, selfish, and overly indulgent, we all need a lot more help. In his candid manner, President Brigham Young said: “The worst fear … I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church. … My greater fear … is that they cannot stand wealth.” 2

Our prosperity brings some real challenges because many are getting rich, more of us are waxing fat, and as a result of greed, selfishness, and overindulgence, we could lose the Spirit and literally kick ourselves out of the Church.

Money and material things are on the minds of almost everyone. As Morris Chalfant wrote: “The great [question] of the twentieth century is, ‘How can I acquire wealth?’ No question occupies a larger place in the minds and … hearts of … people today than this. … This is true of men in every station and in every walk of life.” 3

Money in and of itself is not an evil, but as Paul taught Timothy, it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. 4 There are some of the wealthy who deal with their prosperity very well using their resources to bless others and build the kingdom. For many, however, wealth presents major difficulties.

As we deal with the materialism that threatens us, here are four suggestions for each of us to consider:

First, we should not confuse wants with needs.

My mother taught me an important lesson along these lines. For many years my father had a practice of trading for a new car every year. Then, shortly after World War II when grain prices increased, we were surprised one day when Dad drove home in a more expensive car.

One morning my mother asked, “How much more did the new car cost than the other one?”

When Dad told her, my mother said, “Well, the other car has always been able to get me where I need to go. I think we ought to give the difference to someone who needs it more than we do.”

And so it was. The next year Dad returned to the less-expensive cars, and they continued their generous ways.

If we are not careful, it is easy for our wants to become needs. Remember the line “There, there, little luxury, don’t you cry. You’ll be a necessity by and by.

Second, we should avoid spoiling children by giving them too much.

In our day, many children grow up with distorted values because we as parents overindulge them. Whether you are well-to-do or, like most of us, of more modest means, we as parents often attempt to provide children with almost everything they want thus taking away from them the blessing of anticipating, of longing for something they do not have. One of the most important things we can teach our children is to deny themselves. Instant gratification generally makes for weak people. How many truly great individuals do you know who never had to struggle?

Elder Maxwell has voiced this concern when he said: “A few of our wonderful youth and young adults in the Church are unstretched. They have almost a free pass. Perks are provided, including cars complete with fuel and insurance—all paid for by parents who sometimes listen in vain for a few courteous and appreciative words. What is thus taken for granted … tends to underwrite selfishness and a sense of entitlement.” 5

A wise young mother said: “I choose not to give our children what I can afford to give them. I hold back for their sake.”

In the words of Fred Gosman, “Children who always get what they want will want as long as they live.” 6 And somewhere along the line it is important for the character development of our children to learn that “the earth still revolves around the sun” and not around them. 7 Rather, we should train our children to ask themselves the question, How is the world a better place because they are in it?

We live in a world of entertainment in full color with a lot of fast action, a world in which many children grow up thinking that if it isn’t fun, it is boring and not worthwhile. Even in family activities, we need to strike a balance between play and work. Some of my most memorable experiences while growing up centered around family activities: learning how to shingle a roof, build a fence, or working in the garden. Rather than being all work and no play, for many of our children it is almost all play and very little work.

As a consequence of overindulgence, many children leave homes ill-prepared to meet the real world. President Hinckley said: “Of course, we need to earn a living. The Lord told Adam that in the sweat of his face should he eat bread all the days of his life. It is important that we qualify ourselves to be self-reliant, particularly that every young man at the time of marriage be ready and able to assume the responsibilities of providing for his companion and for the children who may come to that home.” 8

All too many enter marriage who have never learned to cook, sew, or develop other important life skills. Ignorance of these needed skills, along with the lack of understanding of the management of money, sow the seeds for many failures in our children’s marriages.

I fear that in many cases we are rearing children who are slaves to expensive fads and fashions. Remember the scripture, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” 9 How do we determine where our treasure is? To do so, we need to evaluate the amount of time, money, and thought we devote to something. Might it not be well to evaluate how much focus we place on shopping and spending?

This does not mean that our children should not dress in some of the appropriate clothing that is in fashion because that can be very important to them. But they don’t need a closet full. As members of the Church, we have a responsibility to present ourselves in a well-groomed, attractive, and modest manner. With good planning, this can be done without being driven to spend extravagantly on our clothing.

More than 10 times, the prophets in the Book of Mormon warn us about the problems of pride related to the nature of our clothing. Here is one example of them: “And it came to pass … that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen. … in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel.” 10

We would do well if in all these areas of material things we and our children would follow the oft-quoted motto of our pioneer forebears to “fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

Third, as we have heard so often, live modestly and avoid debt as if it were a plague.

President Hinckley recently reminded us of President Heber J. Grant’s statement: “If there is any one thing that will bring peace and contentment into the human heart, and into the family, it is to live within our means, and if there is any one thing that is grinding, and discouraging and disheartening it is to have debts and obligations that one cannot meet.” 11

Samuel Johnson said, “Do not accustom yourself to consider debt as an inconvenience, you will find it [to be] a calamity.

How much house do we really need to accommodate our family comfortably? We should not endanger ourselves either spiritually or economically by acquiring homes which are ostentatious, feed our vanity, and go far beyond our needs.

If we are to be self-reliant and in a position to share, obviously we must acquire some resources. If we live within our means and avoid debt, resources can be accumulated. There are those with average incomes who, over a lifetime, do amass some means, and there are those who receive large salaries who do not. What is the difference? It is simply spending less than they receive, saving along the way, and taking advantage of the power of compound interest.

Financial consultants indicate that “most people have it all wrong about wealth. … Wealth is not the same as income. If you make a good income each year and spend it all, you are not getting wealthier. You are just living high. Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend.” 12

Finally, be generous in giving and sharing with others.

The more our hearts and minds are turned to assisting others less fortunate than we, the more we will avoid the spiritually cankering effects that result from greed, selfishness, and overindulgence. Our resources are a stewardship, not our possessions. I am confident that we will literally be called upon to make an accounting before God concerning how we have used them to bless lives and build the kingdom.

The prophet Jacob provides us with some excellent counsel about how riches can be acquired and for what they should be used:

“But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them … for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.” 13

In addition to paying an honest tithing, we should be generous in assisting the poor. How much should we give? I appreciate the thought of C. S. Lewis on this subject. He said: “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. … If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, … they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.” 14

There are many worthy individuals and causes to which we might contribute. We should give generously to the fast offering and humanitarian funds of the Church. And, if we desire our families to live lives of depth and meaning, we must have the courage to examine honestly where our treasures lie and avoid the pitfalls that result from greed, selfishness, and overindulgence.

Let us each remember:

First: Not to confuse wants with needs.
• Second: Avoid spoiling our children.
• Third: Live modestly and avoid debt.
• Fourth: Be generous in giving to others.
Giving really is at the heart of our faith. At this Easter time, we again commemorate that “God [our Heavenly Father] so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,” 15 who came to the earth and could have possessed any material thing but rather chose to give to all of us an example of a simple life free from any shade of greed, selfishness, or overindulgence. May we strive daily to live more like He lived, the ultimate example of a life of depth and meaning.

I testify that Jesus is the Christ, this is His Church led by living prophets, and His tomb was literally empty on that third day. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.