Surviving a Faith Crisis

I had my own faith crisis a few years ago.

When I found myself with more questions than I had answers, I felt like the earth had fallen out from beneath my feet for a time. But then ultimately I decided to focus and reflect back on some of the answers I had already received in my life, and by doing so, I began to more easily recognize the source of my confusion.

I got through my crisis by looking back and reflecting on the times when the Lord’s guidance was clear and the answers were sure. To be honest, they were few. I was reminded of how quiet, but piercing, unmistakable and true His answers were – something that cannot be duplicated by anything else – and the memory of it was enough to get me through another day.

It was different than a feeling of “wow,” “amazing,” or “empowerment,” “love,” and “light”. Those feel good and expand my soul, and I’d prefer to only feel those things.

But this was deeper than that. It was more like a sobering Alma 36 moment – like the jolt you feel when you suddenly realize you nearly fell asleep at the wheel with your family in the car.

God doesn’t ONLY deliver love and light. Sometimes out of love he also delivers uncomfortable wake-up calls. The God I follow does both, and so I have to be willing to receive both.

Did you know there are other ‘gods’ that would have our devotion? I’m not talking about ‘materialism’ or other worldly distractions, I’m talking about literal spirit beings who love to build their following of worshippers, but who did not CREATE us.

At one time I felt a sharp reprimand – the words delivered to a crowd, but striking me with particular force, “Return to the God of Israel.” It was an odd thought, but it certainly got my attention – I didn’t know I had left. I never intended to, and I didn’t think I had, but it definitely got me thinking and discerning more carefully. Before that, it never dawned on me that there were other so-called ‘gods’ competing for my attention, but there are. Not all promptings that make you feel good and light are from the one true God. Other ‘gods’ promise to lead you to a life of love and freedom, but only One will deliver on his eternal promises, and His is a straight and narrow path.

I had to make a choice and finally declared, “I could be wrong here, but here it is. I CHOOSE to believe.”

Regardless of what we know or don’t know, we have a CHOICE. And I chose to believe.

Afterward I felt a renewed and unexpected confirmation of peace. Unmistakable. Love, light, assurance, all of it. Even “wow”, “amazing”, and “empowerment”. The best feeling, though, was the PEACE – a peace that no other feeling can touch. It’s not grand. It’s not earth shattering. It’s too quiet, too deep, too solid, too sacred. It’s anchoring. But it only came AFTER I made my conscious choice, not before. That’s agency.

That’s the test: we have to study things out in our own mind, come to a conclusion, and then ask God (not Google, not Facebook) if we are right. There are wonderful answers online, but the only kinds of answers that endure faith crises are the ones that come directly from God. (James 1:5)

I don’t need people at church to be a certain way. I don’t even need the sermons at church to say a certain thing, because I can always learn and study true doctrine on my own. People are imperfect and get it wrong all the time. But they get it right a lot of the time, too. They’re trying, and there’s grace. We’re all just doing the best we can.

My relationship with God is personal. I feel that He still wants me there. I go to worship, serve, learn, teach, and most importantly, renew my covenants. Covenants with God are as old as the earth. I wouldn’t dare presume that we’ve evolved so much as a people that they don’t still matter in 2017. There is at least one very real and jealous influence that would love to make us believe otherwise, but the potential consequences of letting go (to me) just aren’t worth the risk.

I trust the Lord’s pace for my understanding.

I choose to stay, and I am at Peace.

“When problems arise and questions come, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you don’t have… I’m not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!”

“Honestly acknowledge your questions and concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe. Be candid about your questions; life is full of them. But please don’t hyperventilate if issues arise that need to be examined. What we know will always trump what we don’t know. So don’t let questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.”

~ Jeffrey R. Holland (emphasis added)

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Talking to teens

An actual message to one of my teenagers who was complaining too much about his responsibilities:

You’re doing so well in so many areas. But it saddens me that you blame dad when you don’t feel like doing your duties.

You’re old enough to govern yourself, so govern yourself or be governed. If you were governing yourself, you would already have plans to be where you’re supposed to be, even if dad wasn’t going, and even if he wasn’t expecting you there.

Freedom isn’t about doing whatever you want, it’s about willfully choosing to do the things that keep you on track to qualify for all the blessings that heaven has to offer. Each right choice increases your freedom. Each poor choice diminishes it. And I’m not talking about “consequences” that are implemented at home. I’m talking about your agency and how you get to use it every day in how you think and what you do.

As you know, we look for every possible reason to give you as much freedom as we (in good conscience) can. When you feel more restrained than you like, I encourage you to notice how good you have it, and be grateful instead of belligerent.

Your attitude (above almost everything else) has the greatest effect on, or is one of the greatest indicators, for what direction your life is headed, for good or for bad. Please, do not grieve me, and please do not disrespect your dad. He asks so little and gives you so much. Either way, you’ll answer to God for how you honor him, and you have so little time with him left.

Make this last year you’re home be one that you have no regrets about. I love you and am so proud of how much you’ve matured. I was impressed with how hard you worked this morning and I recognize you could have put up a much bigger stink than you did. Just pay attention to how you feel when you’re doing the right things, and then notice how much better it feels when you do the right things with a cheerful heart.

It’s a choice, and it will pay you great dividends if you learn that lesson early. Good night.. if you want to talk to me about this more, let’s do it after you get a nap tomorrow.

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My Unsolicited Marriage Advice

A friend wrote me about someone’s failing marriage. She said, “..they knew they were supposed to get married [but it was] before they had an opportunity to fall in love.” And now they are divorcing because they are so wrong for each other.

Well, here’s what I have to say about that:

They married before they had an opportunity to fall in love?

Did they forget that love is not something that happens to them, but something they’re supposed to DO? As if love is a noun, and not a verb.

Marriage is a commitment to learn how to love – it’s a lifelong pursuit, even in the best of marriages! The marriage covenant is what binds us together during those times when we don’t feel loving – it’s the glue that keeps us together until we come to ourselves and try loving each other again—else what is the promise for??

It’s the bond that holds the family unit together during the rough patches when only one of the partners feels like doing his/her part. This is what marriage is – a contract that society is leaving behind.

Sounds like they are expecting a fairy tale to me. All the fairy tale lovers who wake up one day and wonder where the magic went… what they wouldn’t give to have had a sure answer from God about what was right (like these two did).

Even if they had felt the “fall in love” feeling in the beginning, nobody can expect that “fall in love” feeling to last forever. And if they knew it was right before God even without that “feeling”, then what a gift they received. Thereafter, it was simply their opportunity to create the feeling.

To think it needs to be there from the beginning and forever after, let me tell you: that’s truly a fairy tale. This doesn’t mean you can’t feel more and more deeply in love as you go – you should! But you create that fairy tale love by paying a price: by working through challenges, sacrificing for one another, and sharing your life together.

Here’s where too many people get it wrong:

The price for that kind of fairy tale love cannot be paid without challenges to work though, sacrifices to make, and sharing a life while working and sacrificing. So, the sooner you can look at the challenges as a gift, and tenaciously do your best to respond well to them, your love will grow.

No matter what twitter-pated lovebirds feel before having an opportunity to prove their love through hardships, what they feel up front can NEVER compare to the feeling that comes as a reward for letting challenges bring them together instead of apart.

But it takes charity, as described by the apostle Paul in the Bible. If they both had a confirmation that they should marry each other – what a revelation! What knowledge! What a mystery revealed!

But now this:

“…though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

In other words, the revelation of who to marry is worthless if they do not continue on in charity toward each other. But if they do, what love can be built!

Here is the best marriage advice ever given:

“…Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)

Show me a person who lives by this creed, and in time, you will find a person who experiences something more grand, more rewarding, and more everlasting than any fairy-tale love. Yes, even if only ONE of the partners lives by it. Jesus Christ showed this kind of love to the vilest of sinners, never once receiving it to the same degree in return. He is the bridegroom, and showed us by the way he treated the church how we must treat our spouse.

And this kind of love is what changes people.

With this Christ-like love, hearts soften, wounds heal, inadequacies are filled, and injustices are eventually compensated. Yes, it’s a lofty ideal, but it’s worth the life-long effort to achieve it.

The adversary has developed tools that twist reality (movies, books, porn, etc) to confuse us about what we should expect out of marriage. I hope your friend is smart enough to know the difference between reality and fiction. Some people just don’t get it, but I really hope he does.

Love is a choice. It’s something you DO. It’s not something that happens TO YOU …at least not the kind that lasts.

(There is at least one exception to this: the love that Christ has for YOU. That love is freely given, and yours without condition. It is something that can happen TO you, as you allow it. Seek Him. And as you feel it from Him, you’ll more easily have it to give to your spouse and others.)

If only people could take the thousands of dollars normally spent on the wedding, and instead save it to celebrate the marriage after they’ve made it 25-50 years. Oh, what a worthy and deserved celebration that would be!

Rant over.

PS. I understand there are life-threatening circumstances and other situations that warrant divorce. But I also believe it happens too often with situations that do not.

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A Letter to my Children

9/30/2016

Hey older kids,

I just need to get something off my chest, and I’m writing it in a letter so that you can ponder it in private. I don’t want this to become a family conversation, but I want you to be aware, think about how you feel about it, and then prayerfully decide what you can do in your own life to prepare for your future and your family’s future.

As an extended family, we adults are in the middle of a very difficult dilemma with Grandma and Grandpa. They are struggling to make ends meet, especially now that their medications have gone up in price. Ever since their business went from $3000/mo down to about $800/mo, they have needed to ask for help from Aunt T and Uncle K, somewhat regularly, which they have been receiving. They haven’t been asking Uncle S or your Dad (since our setbacks from a few years ago) because they know that it’s already tight for the both of us. However, it IS becoming a burden on the others, so that’s what the family meetings have been about – how we can all share in the burden more.

Everyone is agreeable and willing to help however they can. But there’s a bigger problem at the root, which is not going to go away, but instead get bigger and bigger in the years to come. Our recent pow-wows have been to address the immediate need, but there is no real good plan in place for their long term needs.

There is a real difficulty in the way they think about their finances, and we’re all pretty sure that they’re so set in their ways that it will never change. Emotional attachments are preventing them from seeing resources they already have as opportunities to take better care of themselves. Grandma refuses to pay for her critical diabetes medicine that just tripled in cost, but she’ll keep paying to keep their storage units. In other words, she would rather die than let go of her stuff.

My reason for telling you this is not to make you worry about them or us. We’ve recently started saving 10% every month – a new habit that we finally put in place earlier this year, and so far, so good. I agonize that this was not a habit from the beginning. We always felt two steps behind and could never seem to get in front of it enough to save anything, until the last few years. We didn’t have anyone teaching us how to prepare for the future. There was no Dave Ramsey in our life when you were babies – we’ve always just done the best we knew how, but it wasn’t how it should have been. Our hope is that we’re not too late to get it right. We’re working hard to fix our mistakes, because we don’t want to be a burden on our children. At least with setting aside 10% every month, I feel like we’re doing something right.

Here’s what I want you to know. It’s what I wished I would have known to teach you from the time you were little. You may not feel the concern for your future right now, because you’re young and have a long time before it will bear meaningful fruit, but it’s my hope and prayer that you’ll hear me now and take it to heart.

Uncle E has always been focused on earning as much money as he can – not waiting for the best opportunities, but always staying in motion, earning, saving, working hard, and living as cheaply as he could. He was blessed with a dad who provided him with a good example that way. His dad (Grandpa J) did just that – and saved and worked and focused on building a strong nest egg, so that now he has (I believe) at least a million in the bank, off of which they live only on the interest it earns. So in other words, they are now retired with a never ending flow of money that doesn’t get smaller when they spend it.

On the other hand, your dad’s parents have no savings. They still have to pay rent every month, which can go up, on a luxury apartment plus their storage units. Their cars are falling apart. They can’t afford their medications. Their social security checks are being garnished by the IRS because they went for years without filing their taxes. I think that’s about $50,000 they owe there. They made good money in their business for the last few years, but again didn’t file their taxes for the last four years or so, so the IRS is going to eventually come after them again. Plus, that was self-employment income, so no withholdings, there are going to be hefty self-employment taxes to catch up on.

This kind of thing has been a source of tremendous stress for me over the years, realizing that your Dad and I have to totally do things that we’ve never seen in action, and which he was never taught to do. My mom had the desire to live by the financial principles that Dave Ramsey teaches, but my Dad wasn’t on board and spent the money too freely. So while I got from my mom good ideas, and good self-esteem and a belief that I could accomplish anything, I didn’t get much tactical training on how to handle or manage money either.

Dad has never been inclined to work as hard and as fast as he could for the purpose of accumulating money. His sights were never set on getting ahead – because deep down I think he struggled to believe that he was even capable of doing more than just getting by. You’ll achieve what you believe. I want each of you to believe that you can DO WELL. He has gotten good at trusting God to get us through each week. It’s been a constant exercise of faith, and we have learned how to trust God – because he does come through, but I also believe that God would have us ALL learn to be better stewards, and more profitable producers. We can do better. Our relationship gets strained though, when I try to get us to aim higher. It discourages him instead of motivating him. So I’ve had to stop. I’ve had to find peace with our pace. Saving 10% is the one thing I cling to now, to keep me from getting discouraged at our pace and so instead I choose to be grateful that we’re doing better in that regard than we ever have.

Here’s my plea:

1) Please listen regularly to Dave Ramsey’s shows / podcasts – http://www.daveramsey.com/show/home
At least once a week, if not every day. Pleeeeeeaaaaase. Give your mother some peace of mind, knowing that you’re at least getting the right education that she couldn’t give you. Don’t worry – his shows are funny, motivating, and enlightening, as some of you already know. They will help you think like Uncle E and his dad. My brother has also done well, not as a businessman but as an executive, and I can see now how he got where he is with the same mentality. I don’t know where he got it though – because it didn’t come from my parents.

2) Please save 10% of everything you get. Even if it’s just twenty cents on two dollars. Make it a habit now. When you have something like $300 saved, you can open a savings account with no monthly fees. It feels like a really hard thing, but I promise you it only gets harder the older you get, if it is not viewed as sacred and as untouchable as tithing. What to save for? That was always my question. I never could figure what it was for. Was it for a better car, but then back to zero when it’s spent? Or was it for emergencies? What constituted an emergency, running out of money before the end of the month? That’s why we never saved, because every month had an emergency. Listening to Dave would have helped me figure that piece out. Now we are saving for a very specific purpose, following his baby steps.

3) Follow Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps. Doing this will keep you focused, and remove all the confusion we’ve always lived with. Listen to his podcast to stay motivated and on track. His teachings are from a Christian perspective, and I’ve seen the good that God can do with a person who lives them.

4) Choose a spouse who is willing to live by these principles. On the first date, ask them, “Are you a Dave Ramsey fan?” No, just kidding. But don’t leave the money question to chance. More divorces happen because of money disagreements than almost any other issue. Your dad and I had zero conversations about money, except: “Let’s not go into debt,” and “Let’s have mom stay home from work.” We agree ~ yay! Success. That was the extent of our money discussion before marriage. Not good enough.

5) If you don’t have enough money to do what you need to do, go make some money. Don’t overthink it, just get busy. Believe that there is someone somewhere who will hire you, no matter what your situation is. Don’t waste time. Don’t wait until you need it before you make it. Make more than you need. Save, save, save. If you aren’t making money for a period of time, and that’s part of a master plan, then make that decision on purpose and just understand that it comes with an opportunity cost. Don’t let it just be a default. Let working hard be your default. Learn to enjoy the feeling of earning money just because you can. Do your work well, even if it’s unpleasant work. Don’t avoid unpleasant work. Enjoy being a producer. At the same time, don’t make it an obsession. Just be steady and wise. Save 10% of your money whether it is a little or a lot. If you put the habit in place and follow it religiously, then the Lord will trust you to stick to it and I believe he will open other doors to you in time.

6) Never stop learning. Read books, and learn from mentors who can help you learn how to be successful at whatever you want to be. Feed your mind. Don’t waste time. In the next twenty to thirty years, there is going to be a WIDE CHASM between your peers who did this, and those who did not. Choose now which side of the chasm you want to be on. Choose now whether you want to be in a predicament like ours or like Grandma/pa’s, or if you want to be free to serve and influence, and enjoy your senior years like Grandma/pa J. We have a whole library of books here at the house. I think I own all of Dave Ramsey’s books, and more. Most of the books on our shelves were recommended to us over the years by people who think like Grandpa J, so even though we can’t teach you by example, we’ve spent a fortune on our success library, so please use it.

To sum up, Aunt T and Uncle E have paid off their house and have no debt. He plans to be retired in the next 5 years, living off of interest from his investments. He will be 50 years old. Your dad and I no longer even own a house. We have no debt, but we have a long way to go before we will have a house paid off. In many ways, we’re totally starting over. Twenty-five years late. Aunt T and Uncle E will be more likely available to serve as mission presidents, etc. God didn’t just bless them with money, he honored their work ethic. We’ve worked crazy hard our whole marriage, but without the foundational habits in place; and without the goals and guidance that Dave Ramsey could have given us, we have hardly anything to show for it. It’s depressing. But it is what it is, and because of the atonement, I believe that as we live what we understand now, God can bless us. We are doing the best we know how. We trust him. If there are assignments that he has in mind for us in the future, I’m confident that he will provide a way for us to be prepared for them, even though we’ve been uninformed for so long. We have a good 20-30 years left to work, so it’s not too late for us (according to Dave), but it won’t be as easy as it would have been, had we started at your age.

I just feel like I would be amiss if I didn’t try now to give you the training that you should have received before. I don’t feel like I can talk about it much in person, because it’s a touchy subject and I don’t want anyone feeling like I am disappointed in them for any reason. I just feel such an urgency to give the warning. What you do with it is up to you. I don’t plan on talking about it further. I know that each one of you is already busy trying to figure out what you should be doing. I honor that. I appreciate you! I’m so proud of each of you and what you have accomplished already – you’re so much farther along than your parents were at your age.

Please believe me, I don’t send this to be pushy. It’s only my own conscience that I’m trying to appease. If I at least say it, and send it, then I can rest. Even if you don’t change a thing about what you’re doing, I can rest having sent this. I KNOW that the Lord’s hand is in your life. I see it. I hope you feel it. You’re already on the right track. I just didn’t want to bring this up later when it could be perceived as an attempt to course-correct you. I’m not trying to do that now. This is on my mind today only because of what we’re going through with the extended family, and some conversations I had with them about it today.

I have no plans to follow up and find out if you decide to accept my advice. Whether you do or not won’t affect me, as much as it will affect you and your future family. So at the very least, just please ponder it.

With love and appreciation for who you are, and the tremendous blessing you have been (and are) in my life,

Mom

PS. A couple other points I forgot to mention:

I believe Uncle K and your other Aunt T are close to paying off their house. Uncle K took DaveRamsey’s course before he got married, and Aunt T was raised with the right mentality. She started a home based business, and he works full time for the benefits and steady income, plus he has his side business. They are focused and working hard while their kids are little, with a very specific plan in place.

Everything I’ve learned, taught, and worked into my books and business are the true principles that help with the BELIEF piece. They are all about learning how to set and achieve goals, and building your confidence if you’re not sure you can achieve your goals. This belief piece is critical, because the right mindset directly and literally opens doors. It’s having that “kind of faith, rare indeed” that CAUSES things to happen, when what you need to happen is beyond your direct control. (Boyd K. Packer) I hope that you’ll also take advantage of the materials I’ve created over the years if and when you get discouraged. I have 3 books, a 12-week ecourse, a 3-day bootcamp, and a 12-week home study course. I also have a blog with over 200 articles. If I die, hear me from the dust through these materials 🙂

Dave Ramsey’s materials help you know what goals to set, and what to DO with your money as you earn it. It’s not a contradiction to what I teach; it pairs perfectly and I wish I had had that extra guidance as we were learning and applying the principles we learned from Bob Proctor.

That is all. Love you ~ enjoy conference!

Mom

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