Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dancing in the tension: You're doing better than you think you are, and you can do better

I've long been thinking about how often God is found in the tensions we feel in our lives, our doctrine, etc. I wanted to sort through one of those tensions that came across my spiritual and mental space today. This is long and probably rambling, but I'm sorting as I write, so take it all for what it's worth. 


"You worry too much."

These were the kind (and correct) words of a wise and loving person today after Relief Society. It's too hard to try to capture the dynamic of the Relief Society lesson, but if I were to sum up the message we received, it was to not let anxiety drive our actions or thoughts or determinations about our spirituality or about our decisions. The idea was, "Look, if you hold a current temple recommend and you didn't lie to get it and you are trying to be a kind, loving, service-oriented person, then you are doing ok. So stop worrying about this decision or that decision. Live your life. Relax and enjoy the ride a little more."

And boy howdy, is that a message I need. 

I feel like this validates something Elder Bednar taught in General Conference in April.
I have talked with many individuals who question the strength of their personal testimony and underestimate their spiritual capacity because they do not receive frequent, miraculous, or strong impressions. Perhaps as we consider the experiences of Joseph in the Sacred Grove, of Saul on the road to Damascus, and of Alma the Younger, we come to believe something is wrong with or lacking in us if we fall short in our lives of these well-known and spiritually striking examples. If you have had similar thoughts or doubts, please know that you are quite normal. Just keep pressing forward obediently and with faith in the Savior. As you do so, you “cannot go amiss” (D&C 80:3)....
In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives, God requires us to do our best, to act and not be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26), and to trust in Him. We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying—but without absolute assurance—that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with the confidence that God will guide our steps. And we can speak with the assurance that God will inspire our utterances. This is in part the meaning of the scripture that declares, “Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45).

As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord” (
Isaiah 2:52 Nephi 12:5). Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see Alma 5:732:28), and direct and protect you and your family. 

This is something I need to keep pondering on. I sense that there is a lot of healing truth there for many of us. I KNOW there is healing power in those words for me.

But I still struggle with a very real tension that I think exists in all of this.

The scripture that was shared in Relief Society to show how merciful God is to us was from Helaman 10. This is where Nephi is given the sealing power, where he is told that God would give him everything he asked for. I think the message was to show how loving and merciful God is. That He's not limiting blessings He will grant us (the comparison was made to the Aladdin model of three wishes only). And I understand that I don't understand the fullness of God's love and mercy. I know that understanding that more is central to me in my personal journey and particular mortal weaknesses I have.

But there's a caveat to that binding promise that, in my view, is the source of the anxiety many of us (or perhaps I should just say I) feel in the first place: God was able to covenant to grant anything Nephi asked for, because he knew that Nephi would not ask for anything contrary to His will. (I also tend to think this was tied to his calling and keys as a prophet, but I could be mistaken about that.) I don't think most of us are at that point where we (or God) have THAT kind of confidence in our ability to KNOW God's will.

Another scripture was Nephi when he was trying to get the plates from Laban. The notion is the idea of line upon line - that Nephi didn't know what the next steps were.

But there again, he DID lean on the Spirit to guide him. And there again, that is where the anxiety comes for me. Sometimes I simply don't know if the Spirit is guiding me or not. So I don't find the comfort I probably should in these scriptures. They just reinforce the very weakness that gives me anxiety in the first place.

I think this is Elder Bednar's point...that we can grow line upon line in developing and growing in that way, and we can take confidence in the mercy that comes of sincerely trying to do our best. But that isn't the same as having confidence in ourselves to know what we need to do in the first place. And sometimes we do hear about that kind of confidence, and it's hard not to think that I have to be at THAT level to not be anxious about my decisions. We hear, for example, about President Monson's unbending loyalty to the promptings of the Spirit. But I think a good majority of us are still trying to figure out what those promptings are. To me, that seems like a key part of why we are learn to recognize how the Spirit works in our lives.

Also, while I know that the voices in my head that go to self-criticism and fear are not from God, that doesn't mean that I'm always going to make the right choices, nor does it mean that I won't have things I need to work on and improve, even if I'm doing better than I think I am.

The title of this post paraphrases something Sister Beck said in a regional conference a while back. She recognized the trap many of us get into when we doubt and criticize ourselves. I'm learning to challenge those voices and recognize that they don't produce good fruits. But then in the same breath, she also invites us to realize how and where we can do better. And I know that is also true!

Sooooo, how I come to peace with this tension is to realize (or remind myself of) something I know the Spirit has taught me in moments of clarity: God's voice is not one that paints me into a corner of hopelessness. I do think that was probably the main message of the lesson. And I extend to remind myself that His invitations to improve and repent come with a feeling of hope. That doesn't mean His invitations will be comfortable or easy or convenient or even wanted. But they won't leave me feeling despair like the critical, anxious voices in my head do.

I don't worry so much about the final judgment kind of effects of my inability to discern the Spirit in my life. That comes from the confidence I have in the Atonement and in the power of covenants and the reality that God really does know our hearts. I feel confidence in the power grace to cover that gap for me.

But I think the anxiety really comes in worrying about the consequences of dumb choices that come of the whole (very messy) learning-by-experience thing. And that's a whole other kind of fear that requires a deep acceptance of the nature of this mortal existence...something else I'm trying to process.

Something I'll likely explore another day. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beauty Redefined Billboard Campaign

One person -- or in this case, two people (twin sisters) -- can make a difference! I know I'm not alone in being disgusted at all the billboards and other materials (magazines, TV ads, etc. etc. etc.) that objectify women's bodies and communicate the message that worth = looks/weight/size etc.

Lindsay and Lexie Kite, Ph.D. students in Communications, have decided to take action to help give women different messages. This week, twelve billboards are going up along the I-15 corridor in Northern Utah that will be a contrast to the bikini beer ads, the plastic surgery ads, and others that line the freeway.

One of the things I love about what the Kites are doing is that they are teaching media literacy. Too often, people just absorb the messages from the media without looking at them critically, analyzing the dynamics, and challenging falsehoods with which we are bombarded. Once I talked with them, I started realizing how completely saturated our world is with these messages. I also feel more determined to help my children understand the truth about who they are, and how different that truth is from what they hear and see in the culture around them.

To learn more about the Beauty Redefined campaign, see

You can also read an interview I did with the Kite sisters.

And here is a recent news story about the Beauty Redefined billboard campaign.


Monday, July 11, 2011

This is how I approach it

It's time for my midnight snack, and I admit that I've been staring at the bag of unopened Doritos on my table for a while. That, and the chocolate cupcake that my daughter brought home for me from ward choir practice.

But I'm resisting the temptation. It's not because they are bad for me (because we all know they are). No, it's because of how I approach fasting.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints typically fast once a month (usually on the first Sunday of the month). Because of my chronic health issues, fasting is something I can't easily do. We've been counseled to be wise as it relates to fasting and health. But I've struggled with what to do. Do I push myself and fast anyway? Do I just give myself a 'pass' on this one? Do I come up with an alternative "sacrifice"?

For me, the latter made sense. So -- as silly as it may sound -- I don't do treats/snacks/sweets on Sundays. I actually begin this process every Saturday evening and continue it until Monday (which may sound arbitrary, but to me, it makes it feel more deliberate). And since weekends are often family gathering times, there *is* an element of sacrifice to it. (I enjoy joining my family for a good treat!)

More than anything, it's a conscious something to try to remind myself of the law of the fast. It may not be much, but it does help me remember this law and the principles behind it, which include developing self-control, building spiritual strength, and helping the poor. (Along with the process of fasting, we contribute fast offerings every month, which are used to help those in need.)

Do any of you Mormon folk out there have health issues? If you do, what do you do regarding the fast?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My many selves are giving Google+ a +1

I have known for a while that I am a nerd, but this whole Google+ experience has sort of confirmed that for me. I love being part of a test run of this software. Bugs? Bring 'em on! Feedback is the name of the game, and I am a feedback fan. I love watching a business seek it and respond to and implement it. The Google+ people send videos to report on progress, post posts seeking specific input, and share glimpses of what is coming down the pipe (or is it pike? -- could someone settle that for me once and for all?) And I love learning from smart, true tech people...and let me assure you, there are a lot of such people engaging on Google+. Fun. Sometimes I still regret not getting the computer science degree I had originally declared.

My social and networking self is loving circles. LOV.ING. This is a different model from Facebook or LinkedIn -- no glaring "Only add this person if you know this person!!!" kind of message. Don't get me wrong; I think there is definitely a place for such caution, but I've been surprised at how much I enjoy the more open community-building that is happening on Google+. Other people can do my networking for me. I think that part will surprise some people, and, on the down side, it does make it hard to know who is a real possible contact you want to have, and who is just spamming accounts for connection. I still prefer leaning on someone else's recommendations before adding them to my circles.

As a business person, I think this kind of market competition and strategy implementation is a blast to watch. I can't wait to see what Facebook does in response (hint: it will have to be better than one-to-one video capability via Skype). I am anxious to see how Google+ will fit in strategically with  other Google features. I'm chomping at the bit to see how businesses and other organizations will be able to use Google+ (as of now, only individuals are allowed to use Google+).

The strategy, too, of building the anticipation through limited invites and the pretty-public-now field trial has fascinated me. To have this much attention and this many participants before launch is, in my view, brilliant. I also thought this article had some interesting points about how Google+ will be able to be used by professionals in ways other social media tools have not: Google+ Aims for the Professional

And my SEO enthusiast self is really wondering how this could impact the world of search engine dynamics. I've already seen some people report significant differences in their site traffic because of Google+. I'm sure some of that is coming from the novelty of the tool, but I will not be the least bit surprised if that impact also has a shelf life.

Just a few months ago, I couldn't imagine anything pulling people away from the investment they had made on Facebook. If anything will pull people away, Google+ is it. What a surprise? I guess we should have seen it coming.

And who knows what the future will hold?