Monday, May 7, 2012

Too Vague

I've decided to discontinue this blog, as it's subject matter is too vague, and start a new one focused on the topics that seem to be most interesting - those about Mormonism. My new blog is at

Hope to see you there!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Challenge of Money

It is very common to have an unhealthy relationship with one's money. Money can symbolize desirable things for many people - security, power, freedom, desirability, etc. However, if it symbolizes anything, chances are, your relationship with money is unhealthy and may be intertwined with psychological issues you may need to work out. Even if it does not symbolize anything, it often plays too central a role in our lives.

Money is a tool - a very essential tool. American society as we know it is made possible by this tool. Insufficient reserves can ruin lives, as can an over-abundance. Lives can also be made pleasant by reasonable use. Despite its central role and power to affect our lives, it is still just a tool. The thing that makes the most difference in our lives is not the quantity we have, but how we use what we have. Yet, many people find their lives are centered around the accrual of money, and it ends up as a source of stress.

The key to happiness where money is involved is not to become attached to it. "The love of money is the root of all evil." (1 Tim. 6:10) We need to be grateful for what we have. We need to recognize that money does not change the quality of our character to make us better than those with less. We also need to recognize that there is always someone less fortunate than ourselves whom we can help. When we become generous with whatever it is we have, we have conquered the challenge of money.

That is really the key to happiness where money is concerned. Learn to be as generous as you can responsibly be with your money. You can begin by buying lunch for a friend, on occasion - you can even set up an arrangement where you take turns doing so, as long as you don't keep track of how much you spend. Here are some more ideas.

  • Buy a gift that is a little more expensive than you think the occasion warrants. 
  • Start choosing your stores based on which businesses you want to support rather than the lowest prices. 
  • Tip generously. 
  • Send money to one of the many charities that sends you "junk mail."
  • Get your car washed by the kids doing a school fundraiser.
  • Invite friends over for dinner.
It is very important to be responsible. My church goes so far as to discourage any debt except to purchase a home, or get an education. It also encourages us to have a year's worth of liquid assets in case of hard times. You may not have a dollar to spare this month. Everyone's situation is different. There are often real limits to how generous we can afford to be. However, setting arbitrary limitations on your generosity is counterproductive to generosity by definition. If you say, "once I have paid off my student loans, I will donate to x," or "once our savings reaches x thousand, we can support y," or "I will give $x per month," when you have room in your budget to give more, these will only give you excuses NOT to be generous.

It is ok for your generosity to hurt you a little financially. Inevitably the positive benefits will outweigh the negative effects. If you are married, just be sure that you and your spouse are on the same page. Being generous will usually improve marital relationships, but not if one individual does not want to be generous. They may need to be encouraged through small things, first. Hurting your own finances is one thing, hurting your family or your relationship with your spouse is something else entirely. 

"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; and ye will 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." (Jacob 2:18-19)

Cultivating the habit of generosity will remove much of the stress associated with money, and will improve your personal relationships and will make you generally happier.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Forget Me Not

This talk, given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in General Relief Society Meeting this past weekend is very much in line with the general subject of this blog.

I tend to find myself challenged by the first and fourth suggestions. It is easy to forget some things when you are focused on others.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jesus and the Rich Man

Our lesson in Sunday school today was about the story of Jesus and the rich man, along with a few other like-themed parables. For convenience, here is the story:

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)

So, the obvious question is, "What does this mean for us?" It was taken for granted that it does not apply directly and literally. I agree that it does not, but was uncomfortable sweeping that possibility under the rug. I don't know whether it was because nobody has suggested it might apply to us before or whether we're all afraid it might apply to us, but it seemed to me a little like the 800 lb gorilla in the room.

The discussion turned toward a discussion of being "willing to give up" whatever riches or other opportunities or privileges we might have for the sake of the gospel. This was a rather unfulfilling answer to me.

It wasn't until the teacher had said last comment and picked on someone else that I had my epiphany. The problem is that we are looking at the problem from the perspective of the rich man. We want to ask for instruction and to be told what to do. We need to turn around and look at the problem from the perspective of the Master. He has already given us the instruction.

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; (D&C 58:26-27)

Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.

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; and ye will 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. (Jacob 2:17-19 emphasis added)

To put it in my own words, we need to treat our resources not as something which we can make available for the Lord's work, if we are asked, but as means whereby we can (and hopefully do) accomplish his work. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we claim to follow him. If our pursuit of wealth is for any other reason than to serve him, can we truly say that we are his disciples?

I am resolving to do more with what I have.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Thankful for Thanksgiving!

Maybe it's the fact that I've had a really crazy week, month and year, but I find myself looking forward to tomorrow with unusual anticipation. I am approaching tomorrow as an opportunity to really celebrate what we have, and I feel very blessed to have everything that we need and much more.

Yes, I know that is the point of Thanksgiving, but I think this may be the first time I've actually started thinking about it that way. It has always been about being with family and having good food, and our gratitude was saved for the 5 minutes spent as we went around the table saying what we were grateful for.

I think I really just came to these thoughts as I was doing some preparation tonight. I considered whether or not to pull out the china. At first I decided to because, "it's a special occasion," but then, as I thought about it more, I realized that the beautiful things we have could easily become, for me, a symbol of the blessings we have been given. It's at that point that I started pulling out the best pieces of everything we have.

So, I guess you could say I've found the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, as we prepare and attempt to eat a week's worth of delicious food, I will pour out my heart in gratitude for my cup as overflowing as the table.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Being a Better Person

One of the things I like about my church is that it makes me a better person. When I mentioned this to my wife, she said, "you're already a good person." Not being a member of my church, I think at least some of that comment from her is an opinion that I don't need the church. Having been a member my whole life, it is a little hard for me to speculate what I would be like without it. However, when the ultimate goal is to be like Christ, being what others perceive as a good person is not enough.

It would be easy for me, if I did not believe the way I do, to justify many of my - shall we say 'un-Christ-like' - behaviors by claiming they do not hurt anyone, or even that nobody would ever know. However, because I truly believe we are accountable to God for our thoughts, words and deeds, and also that I have been taught His will as being opposed to certain behaviors, I cannot justify myself with regard to those behaviors. I must try to do better.

I am grateful for these beliefs, as I want to be more like Christ. Without my faith in these principles and in the divinity of Christ himself, my reasons to stretch myself and try to be better would go away. I am already a good person. I am happy with my life. I do what I can to help those around me. The natural inclination is to say, "surely, this is good enough. Nobody is perfect," and leave it at that. However, I have been given the gift of a perfect standard which, although unattainable in this life, provides direction and motivation for going beyond good enough.

I was considering listing some of the areas where I trip up, which are incongruous with my goals of being more Christ-like. However, I fear that would be more distracting than helpful to readers. Let's just say I am nowhere near being worthy of comparing myself to Him. It takes daily effort to put these failings behind me and use the forgiveness available through His Atonement, and to look forward.

I will note one thing, which is I am inclined toward laziness, a fairly common human trait. When not combated with something to motivate me, I would slip into bad habits and vices even more than I do now - because they would be comfortable. It is uncomfortable to strive for daily change for the better. I would not do it without the motivation given by my faith.

This motivation to be better is something I cannot provide for myself. I need direction and reminders I get in church. I need the opportunity to serve. I need the encouragement I get from seeing the other members also trying to be better. I need my church. I need my Savior.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Safety for the Soul

I really don't intend for this blog to be all about my religion. However, it is an important part of my life and has been a good guide to happiness in many ways.

The LDS church recently had General Conference which is broadcast worldwide from the headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. At the final session, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles used his time to testify of the Book of Mormon. As I listened to him speak, I thought it was the most powerful witness for the BoM that I have heard in modern times.

Safety for the Soul