Tag Archives: service

The Cycle of Good

nextdoormormon 1

Guest post by Eric Maughan

One of my favorite Bible verses is Acts 10:38, which says that Christ “went about doing good.” I often think of the effect his service had on the people around him, how all those acts of goodness must have influenced their behavior. It’s hard to see someone doing a good thing and not want to do something good yourself. This “cycle of good”—being helped and then helping others—is one of the great things about the world we live in.

Sometimes the cycle of good is born out of tragedy. In 2009, twenty-seven-year-old John Jones was exploring a cave in northern Utah when he got stuck upside down. After more than twenty-four hours of fighting and valiant efforts by rescuers, John passed away, leaving his pregnant widow and thirteen-month-old daughter. Amidst the tragedy, John’s brother-in-law and I saw an opportunity to help others, and we organized a cross-country bicycle ride to raise money for young widows and their children, like John’s young family. Since he had lived his life serving and helping people, we were inspired by John’s actions and wanted to help inspire others.

We set out to help and inspire others, but as we made our way across the country we were instead the recipients of countless acts of people “doing good” like Christ did. An example of this was a man named Doug, who offered to let us spend the night at his home in North Carolina. We needed to take a ferry to get there, but we missed the last ferry that would have allowed us to safely bike to Doug’s house before sunset.  We called Doug and told him we would just sleep in our tents when we got off the ferry, but he said he would be happy to come pick us up with his truck and trailer. When we thanked him profusely, he told us a story about a time when he had been the one in need of help.

Doug was taking a group of youth up a canyon when their trailer got a flat tire. Fortunately, this occurred close to a house where a man had a spare that was a perfect match. The homeowner gave Doug a hand and sent him on his way without accepting any sort of compensation. Doug said that he promised himself then to lend a hand whenever he could, which was why he came out to pick us up.

I have 4,000 miles worth of stories of the “cycle of good” in action. I noticed while we were biking that some people thought we were trying to “[go] about doing good” in our own small way, and I hope that inspired them to do good as well. I try to remember every day the people that have gone out of their way to help me, and those that still do, and I try to pass those acts of kindness on as the “cycle of good” continues.

Teaching Our Children to Love God

By Guest Blogger Angee Duvall

Thanx for having me today! (Yes, I spell thanks with an “x.”) I’m so excited to be here today sharing some thoughts dear to my heart! Let me take a moment to introduce myself.

Hi! I’m Angee. I’m a former elementary/preschool teacher turned stay-at-home mom. I’ve been married for eleven years to a pretty incredible man. We have three adorable children, ages eight and under, who keep us busy and happy. In my “spare” time I blog about activity ideas to do with children. And yes, I’m Mormon.

Since teaching and motherhood are so deeply a part of my life, I get asked a lot, “What is the most important thing you can teach children?” This is something I’ve thought about a lot, and every time, my answer comes down to one basic truth:

LOVE GOD

If I can teach my children to love God, then all other lessons should fall into place. They would naturally be compassionate towards others. They would naturally see their own worth. They would naturally find joy in life. They would naturally serve. They would naturally find a purpose in living.

Sometimes I get asked what top three things that I teach my children. If I could break that general concept down into a more specific list, these are the top three things I’m striving to teach my children (in no particular order):

1. Serve others. I want my children to find the joy that comes from service. My husband and I try to involve our children in all aspects of our own service. We involve them in making and delivering a meal for a family who just had a baby. We involve them in shoveling snow from our homebound neighbor’s driveway. We also try to teach them that service doesn’t have to be big. It can be as simple as playing with another kid on the playground who has no one to play with, or smiling at someone who is sad. And we are always sure to point out how the other people looked when we served them and how we feel in our own hearts. Just last week, as we pulled into Walmart on a snowy evening, my five-year-old daughter said, “Mom, do you remember last year when we brought hot chocolate to the [Salvation Army] bell ringers? Yeah. That made me happy.” Warm my heart. That’s what it’s all about!

2. Work hard. I want my children to learn the value of hard work; that work is a part of life. There is deep satisfaction in working. I want them to always do their very best and put their heart and soul into everything they do. I want them to know their work is needed in our home now (that we won’t have dishes to eat dinner on without their help) and in society in the future.

3. Be happy. Most importantly, I want my children to learn to be happy. I want them to smile and laugh and find the good in their lives. Each person in our family keeps a gratitude journal that we write in daily. By focusing on the things that made us happy each day, we have found a deep level of peace. We love to make memories as a family, and you’ll find our home full of laughter.

Now you tell me: What is the most important thing you can teach your children?

We Are Children of God

By Guest Blogger Chelsea Slade

In the course of my training as a medical student, I have seen many difficult situations. I have seen a sixteen-year-old girl die of tuberculosis; I have heard the mourning wails of a wife when her husband’s heart monitor went flat and his last breath was drawn; I have held a premature baby no larger than a frog shortly after he died, and felt the warmth gently pass from his tiny body. I have taken families to see their loved one in the hospital morgue. I have been the one to say, “You have cancer,” and the one to say, “Your cancer has returned, and there is very little we can do.” I have seen families pulled apart by their son and brother’s fits of psychosis and aggression. I have seen a man so tormented by his belief that he was the Anti-Christ that it drove him to try to end his own life. I have tried to comfort a woman so plagued by the memory of the abortion her mother forced her to have at age seventeen that she throws herself into a wall until she loses consciousness. I have seen children who spend their entire preschool and elementary years fed through a tube through their belly wall directly into their stomach, never knowing what it is to taste ice cream or cold lemonade on a hot summer day. I have seen a seven-year-old boy’s body wither away, ravaged by the ravenous cancer in his kidney. I have shared with an expectant mother the realization that the mass on her prenatal ultrasound is a terrible cancer that will likely take her baby’s life soon after she is born.

Perhaps the most difficult encounters I have faced—the ones that wrench my heart into a tangled mess and leave me in tears—were the several women I met while working in a psychiatric hospital, who believed beyond any convincing that they were worthless. These were beautiful women, most of them mothers, who could not, even with long hours of coaching, name anything they truly liked about themselves. They saw themselves as fat, ignorant, stupid, deserving to die, worthless, and disgusting. Many of them had toxic family members who reinforced those beliefs, or heard voices telling them these things over and over, every day of their lives. Suicide seemed the only way to escape the harsh judgments that surrounded them. They had all tried several times.

When I found myself in conversation with these women, I wanted to gather them up in a huge hug and say, “But you are a daughter of God. You are a holy, beloved child of our Heavenly Father, and that makes you beautiful and valuable—no matter what the voices or your family can say.” I knew, from my faith in what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had taught me, that each of these women was a precious spiritual being with intrinsic worth and beauty. If only I could have shown them!

But the medical profession is strict. An outside observer to that conversation would see a student doctor, in a position of authority, proselytizing and preaching to a vulnerable and victimized psychiatric patient. So I had to check myself and limit the profession of my beliefs and my pain for these beautiful women, to saying, “I don’t believe you’re worthless. I could name a hundred wonderful things about you.” I worked so hard to help each daughter of God come to her own realization that she did have value and that life was worth living, while keeping explicit religious doctrine out of the conversation.

When I left that hospital, there had been only one suicide attempt among these women for a month. I don’t know that my words and love had any lasting effect on how these daughters of God will view themselves. But I came out with further solidification of my knowledge that our Heavenly Father does love us each as his children. I hope I will be able to subtly but powerfully bring that message to all the hopeless that I will touch as a doctor.

Three Ways To Keep Your Cool In An Existential Crisis

calm like sunlight through a window

At some point this may have happened to you. You’re in transit somewhere, maybe on a bus to work and playing Angry Birds on your smartphone, maybe driving to school and thinking about anything but class, maybe on a run with headphones in, listening to Adele. And then it hits you, mid-angry-bird-arc across the screen, mid-commute, mid-‘we-could-have-had-it-all’ at full volume: you think to yourself, “What am I doing with my life?!” This thought comes in different versions, like “what is the purpose of my life?,” “what am I going to do after I graduate?,” “I’m not in a job I love,” and “what is the meaning of life?” (although the last one is considered so cliché in American culture that we leave it as a non-vocal, internalized question).This is what I call an existential crisis. It happens to everyone, for some more often than others. To mitigate the negative effects of an existential crisis and to find the real meaning in life, I take a few actions.

 1. I realize that not knowing my full purpose or path doesn’t mean I don’t have one. God has a purpose for us that will bring us the most joy, and that purpose is to enable us to enjoy all his blessings. The scripture that goes along with this comes from a prophet named Mormon. He says, “…I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.” Words of Mormon 1:7.  Whether or not you know the specifics, you have a purpose and path for your life.

 2. I talk to God about it. Prayer is a conversation with God. You’re not going to just ramble on, though, because you aren’t going to him just to chat. You’ve got a question (you know, that existential question about the meaning of your life). Talk to God and tell him your situation: you don’t know what to do next or what your real purpose is. God promises “ask and ye shall receive,” but you can’t just pray once, with the attitude “God I’m here to get what I want from you as fast as possible and then I don’t plan to talk to you again until my next existential crisis.” You have to form a good relationship. After all, God isn’t a robot. He’s our father. Believe it or not, he wants us to grow and wants to lead us to the right answer thoughtfully so we can truly incorporate it. You have to be consistent, not because you have to prove to God that you really mean it (he knows; after all, I’m pretty sure he reads minds). You are proving to yourself that you mean it. The more you work for an honest desire, the more you will value the gift. Nephi, the first prophet to speak in the Book of Mormon, says, “I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh… my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee” 2 Nephi 4:35

Action item: Talk to God right now – try it now while you’re thinking about it.

 3. I strive to be interdependent.As much as you think you can find purpose in isolation, purpose just doesn’t work that way. Somehow the magical ingredient that you need is another person or people, and it always involves making their lives better. Consider God’s purpose for a second: “His work and glory – the purpose for this magnificent universe – is to save and exalt mankind” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, You Matter to Him. Helping and working with others is one part of every human being’s purpose and the key to finding the specifics of your individual purpose.

Action item: Write down the name of one person you know. Next to their name write down one thing you will do to make his or her life better before you go to sleep tomorrow.

Guest Post: What do Mormons look like?

My boss sometimes asks me, “Is that person a Mormon? He looks like a Mormon!” I always agree with him. Mormons do not have any visible identifiers, yet somehow people recognize Mormons. What does a Mormon look like?

Mormons come in all shapes and sizes, but there are certain attributes most Mormons share. We are encouraged to dress modestly, be clean, and be well-groomed.  However, there is more to the Mormon look than external decoration. We embrace internal principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ that affect the way we look physically.

Mormons are obedient. We strive to follow all of God’s commandments. We are honest in all of our dealings and we endeavor to live what we believe all the time. It brings us happiness and helps us have the Holy Ghost in our lives. Mormons are also obedient to the laws of the land and try to be good citizens. People can see how Mormons look honest on the outside and can sense truth and goodness.

Mormons are givers. They give 10% of their income in tithing. They dedicate their time and resources to serve missions, serve in church callings, and serve their neighbors. We believe in doing good to all men. When you see a Mormon, they are respectful and even helpful to others.

Mormons are seekers.  “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, [Mormons] seek after these things [1].”  We seek after joy (2 Ne 2:25) in this life and eternally. Part of that joy is engaging in good activities and conversation. Not every Mormon likes the same activities, but the way we go about our activities usually gives us away in a crowd.

Mormons are repentant. No one is perfectly obedient but through the atonement of Jesus Christ we can be clean from our sins. This makes a huge difference in appearance as we are not weighed down by guilt or dulled by compromises with sin. It makes our appearance lighter and even happier. Mormons appear clean.

The outward appearance of Mormons is often described as the light of Christ that is apparent in everyone striving to live good, truth seeking lives. I believe that Mormons are recognizable because they carry this light by living gospel principles like obedience, repentance, and service. The attributes listed are some of my ideas. What do you think makes Mormons recognizable?

written by: Brooke, an adventurous newly wed Mormon from Utah living in Boston who loves videography and exploring New England.

Instant Community

A few weeks ago, I was driving home from running Saturday morning errands when I started to feel some abdominal pain. Over the course of the twenty minute drive, I went from, “I’ll just go home and rest,” to, “PAIN! HURTS! SWEATING PROFUSELY! NAUSEA!”

Long story short, I drove straight to the ER, where the doctors diagnosed me with appendicitis. Arriving to the ER at 10:30 a.m., I was in surgery by 3:00 p.m. An appendectomy is not exactly what the 6th day of Christmas ordered, and I was pretty nervous and frustrated about the flights and days of work I would surely miss over the next week.

Between my arrival and the surgery, I could have been very alone and scared were it not for several church members who showed up at the hospital. Turns out, my mother in Texas had called my friend from church in Boston, who called the relief society president, who called the bishop, who called my home teachers, all of whom came to wish me well before the surgery*.

(*relief society president = leader of women in each congregation. bishop = leader of the congregation. home teachers = each person or family has two individuals assigned to check up on them and visit them at least once a month)

One purpose of the visits was to receive a priesthood blessing of comfort and health, a common practice in the Mormon church. We closed the curtain of my ER room while my bishop and home teachers laid their hands upon my head and gave me a priesthood blessing that I would be healthy, calm, and safe. There, in a dreary hospital room, these men called upon the power of God to give one of His daughters much-needed peace.

During the terrible night after the surgery, more church members showed up and kept me company as the effects of anesthesia took an uncomfortable hold. The next day, even more church members came to visit me in the hospital. I never once felt alone. Rather, I was reminded of how much church members deeply care for one another.

The nurses and doctors kept commenting on the continuous stream of visitors, saying things like, “wow, you are really popular,” and, “where are all these people coming from?” This phenomenon isn’t new to me. Growing up, my mom always visited church members in hospitals and cooked meals for families who needed support. My dad was always ready to give priesthood blessings, and many times would do so at all hours of the night.

The sense of love and community is one of the many things I treasure as a Mormon. From Cairo to London to Boston, members in my congregations cared for and supported one another with sincere Christian love. The Mormon ward (or congregation) system is truly inspired. The community is not just a social structure, but also an instant family where members strive (we’re all human after all) to selflessly serve one another.

Do you run this Church?

I was pleased when my post on General Conference led to a conversation with a good friend who gave me a fresh perspective on my own church leadership.  Among other things, she kindly observed that it was nice that our leaders were able to speak to us in a televised fashion every six months.  It had never occurred to me that this was unusual until my friend pointed this out, and I was led to ponder on some of the other ways that the church leadership is unique.  One of these differences is that of a lay ministry, which is not very common today, and moreover, it parallels the one that Christ had set up when he was here on the earth about two thousand years ago.

When Jesus walked along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he saw fishermen working on their boats and he called out to them. His simple words, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew. 4:19) were taken seriously by his apostles, and they dropped what they were doing and followed him.  These men walked with Jesus, taught with Jesus, and administered with Jesus.   They never asked how much such a living would gain or if there were any health or dental benefits included.  I assume that they did it because they felt that it was the right thing to do.  It was not an easy, luxurious lifestyle they led, but they were often the first to witness miracles performed by Jesus, and to come to know personally that he was the Savior of all mankind.

Today, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there are prophets, apostles and other church leaders who travel all over the world, from Boston to Kenya, from Alaska to Australia, teaching and administrating to everyone, not just members of the Church.  They receive no income from this work because they don’t see it as work.  At the local levels, individuals who are old enough are asked to serve in one capacity or another, whether as teachers, speakers, sacrament blessers and/or passers (the list goes on and on), and no one draws a salary.  So why do we do it? Why put in your time, money, efforts and talents towards something without remuneration?  I’d like to hope that everyone gains something, but perhaps not monetarily.

As the Bible teaches us, there are countless blessings in store for those who comes when Jesus beckons. It’s this idea that we are all helping each other, so that we can come closer to the Savior and become more like him.  Our lay clergy helps remind me that I don’t have to be a professional or divinity school graduate to help build the Kingdom. Who runs this church?  We all do!

Hearts Knit Together

I’m totally panicked. It’s hard to get air. I’m on the passenger side of a car that’s barreling down the road to Urgent Care. I need my husband to breathe with me, “Out through your mouth. In through your nose.”

In the end, it doesn’t look too serious. Aside from one scary night, I’m doing fine. But this experience reminded me of what it means to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Loaves of BreadAs Lindsey explained earlier, being Mormon means more than just attending church on Sunday. It’s about being part of a community. When we become a member of the church, we promise to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” We seek to have “one eye, having one faith and one baptism” and have our “hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:8-9, 21).

During the week I saw this in action. I was given rides to where I needed to go. Somebody cleaned up our garden plot. And two women offered to bring me and my husband dinner on the same night. That made me laugh. I’m not sick, I don’t have kids, and my husband is perfectly capable of cooking dinner (and does regularly). Food is just one way Mormons show love and support. And you know, it works.

Mormon Missionaries

On Sunday we had the full-time missionaries over.  When we asked them how things were going they really brightened up and told us about a family they just started teaching. They said in their first lesson with this family they talked about prayer because no one in the family had ever prayed before. They shared with us what a powerful experience it was for them to watch this family pray for the first time and how happy it made them that the family had a good experience praying together.

I think often people are kind of scared of the full-time missionaries or think of them as aggressive preachers.  I wanted to share this moment we had with the missionaries to just display the attitude of most of the full time missionaries. Most of them just want to help people be happy. They get excited when they see people coming closer to God because they know it will help them find happiness. Missionaries go around teaching the gospel as a way of helping people.

Not everyone is going to be interested in what the missionaries have to say and trust me, they know that, but they try to reach and talk to as many people as possible so that hopefully they can find the people that are interested or who are looking for more out of life. I very much respect and admire the full time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Generally, missionaries are 19-23 years old. They leave home for two years and work every day from 6:30am-10:30pm. They often have to learn a new language or be immersed in a new culture with very little training. They face rejection daily and quite frankly serving a full-time LDS mission is just plain hard. But, the vast majority will tell you that it is worth it because they were able to help bring even just a few people closer to Christ. That takes guts, courage and strength. I’m really glad to be a part of church that cares so much about those searching for more truth.

God Fearing Fathers

This week is Father’s Day. I’ve talked a lot about motherhood and family in general but I haven’t really talked about fatherhood that much. Naturally I would talk about motherhood because I am a mother and also my faith has helped form my views and opinions on motherhood. From the outside it may appear that the Mormon Church likes to focus in on motherhood and kind of lets fathers off the hook. This is not true.

My dad and my own husband are pretty stellar guys. Social pressures tell these two men in particular (they are both in the finance industry) that they should dedicate 100% of their lives to their careers. For my husband, who is at the beginning of his career, he really has to work hard. His job is incredibly demanding, he works long hours, travels frequently, and work stress is his constant companion. Social pressures also tell him now is not the time for family and that he should be focusing on himself.

My dad, who is, we’ll just say, not at the beginning of his career, has social pressures to live a lavish, indulgent life style. He has earned his place in the world through hard work and determination and he should just be able to relax and reward himself.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormon Church) teaches its fathers and husbands something vastly different. Life is about service to others. Service to family, to neighbors, to congregation members, and to God. At no time in a man’s life is it a time to be selfish.

My husband works hard at work, he makes time and gives energy to his family, he dedicates time to God and to service in our Church and I believe that God is blessing his life for it.  My father has chosen a life of service in our church and community rather than an indulgent life. God requires a lot of both men and women, but he always blesses our lives in return.

Here’s to my husband, the daddy of our little boy, and to my father, daddy to 5 grown children and grandpa to 4 grandchildren (as well as to all the other fathers out there striving to focus on family). Fatherhood is not easy, especially when you try to balance it with career, thanks for all you do. Your families notice your hard work and dedication and so does God.