Tag Archives: work

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:


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.

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.

Not Just for Men: My Response to BusinessWeek

BusinessWeek jumped on the “Mormon Moment” bandwagon this week with a story entitled, “God’s MBA’s: Why Mormon Missions Produce Leaders.” I found the article pretty accurate based on what I know of the Church’s missionary program. However, I was disappointed that women were mentioned in the single context of stay-at-home-moms. I’m not surprised that this aspect of Mormon culture receives so much attention. I don’t feel Mormons do a great job of communicating the success of our women and the expectation that they contribute to society in ways outside our immediate families.

I know there are going to be some Mormon readers of this blog who will disagree with my point of view – and that’s OK. In fact, my objective is to represent the difference of opinion that co-exists within our faith and present a perspective missing from the BusinessWeek piece.

I didn’t grow up anywhere near Utah and I didn’t attend a Church-owned college – please don’t misinterpret snark in that comment – I’m merely pointing out the fact that I’ve never lived in a place where Mormons were a majority and I developed my religious convictions independent of Mormonism being the social norm.

I don’t believe that a woman’s responsibility to raise children, as outlined in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, requires that she give up worthwhile goals outside the home, but I admire women who fall on both sides of this issue. My mother stayed home to raise eight children and I absolutely love and adore her for that. On the other hand, I chose to pursue a long-life career and have seen my family and the Church benefit from the talents I develop in the workplace.

For example, the women’s organization in my congregation is blessed with leadership and professional experience across multiple industries including medicine, business, finance, education, research and technology. The entire congregation benefits from the strength and faithful service of intelligent and successful women who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of improvement – in whatever venture they chose. As BusinessWeek points out – we do believe that hard work is an eternal principle and a divine characteristic.

However, contrary to what’s implied in the article, Mormon men are not the only ones who feel that way. God is pleased when we, as women, also use our talents in any capacity for good whether it is at home, at church, in our communities or in business.

Women, do you agree?

Summer Trekking Handcart Style

The local church building I attend has a handcart on display at the entrance to the main meeting hall or chapel.  LDS youth in the Cambridge region are planning a trek in New Hampshire this summer that will involve pulling their food and supplies on handcarts for several miles over a few days.  I participated in a similar trek in Central Wyoming many years ago that took us from Casper to Martin’s Cove.  I and several other peers spent several months prior to the July expedition preparing and planning – we even manufactured the handcarts from basic materials which took a few Saturdays to complete.     Our trek included 3 days of walking for a total of about 35 miles.  Part of it was over the Oregon Trail and included ranch road.  But we also trudged off road through sandy soil.  The days were hot, but the evenings were comfortable and for the first time I didn’t have to guess where the milky-way was under the night sky.  The walking wasn’t too bad, but I grew up in a family that hiked long distances for fun.  We saw rattlesnakes and trail dust.  We cooked some surprisingly good food all in dutch ovens.  Oh . . . and there was latrine detail, but I won’t go into any detail.   Independence rock gave a surprising sense of refuge and perhaps a welcome distraction.  We stayed there on our third night and second to last on the trail.  If I remember correctly we had a Sunday meeting here and all were invited to share their thoughts and feelings about the trek, pioneer heritage and the gospel that had influenced many to cross the central plains and rockies in search of something better.    I’m sure everyone got something different out of the trek.  For sure I felt reverence for the history of those who trekked the same path some 150 years ago sacrificing much for the hope of something better, but I also remember that I enjoyed my time out in the wilderness in the company of a great group of people who came together for this memorial.  The handcart at church brought back a good memory and I’m glad the youth in Cambridge have the opportunity to participate in a trek.  The trek is a great example of the church’s concern for purposeful activities for youth.

Humorous–and Mutual–Misunderstanding

I teach English. I saw this in one of the classrooms at my school as I was walking down the hall. As a Mormon, the top bit caught my eye:

Bless the educated teacher who teaches this to his or her students! I think the Amish are awesome, faithful, and amazing people. Though Mormons and Amish may share many things, I would think that most people know the difference between the two faiths and that neither of them is limited to northeastern United States.

This sort of misunderstanding happens a lot. In my mind, Mormonism is one thing, but to some non-members, it is something very different. We all do it to each other. I know I don’t know nearly enough about Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.

Here’s a typical example of how this plays out:

In my mind being Mormon means thinking about Christ, constantly praying for guidance in life, pondering my relationship with my Heavenly Father, etc. But, some people know Mormons only by stereotypes–some false, some true–that float around in the media and what not.

We believe in Jesus Christ with all our hearts, that we have a direct connection to our Father in Heaven, that we can pray for guidance and help, that the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets, that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father knows and loves us each personally, no matter who we are. From an Amish man plowing a field to an enlightened Muslim imam preaching in a mosque, God loves each of us. This is the meat of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, Mormons abstain from alcohol and cigarettes; we stay away from non-marital sexual relationships; we give 10% of our income to the church for humanitarian assistance and church maintenance. We are peculiar in many ways, but our belief in Jesus Christ is the absolute foundation of our faith. I testify of that!

To those of you non-Mormon readers, I do apologize for any over-generalizations about your religion, culture, etc. that I’ve made. It’s easy to do as humans. Anyone of other faiths experience this type of situation?

Shout Out (to all you that still practice your religious traditions)!

Yesterday I took my brother over to see my favorite building on our campus:  The Class of 1959 Chapel.  It’s a non-denominational little modern church built kind of like a seashell with nothing but concrete walls and bamboo chairs inside, and an occasional set of prisms, if you catch it when the sun’s just right.

At the front there’s a tiny alter and after exploring I found that the front of it contains bits of pieces of several different religions:  I think there’s some sacrament trays, bells, some sort of Jewish cloth, some stuff I’m not even really sure what it’s for, and a prayer rug.

My brother started telling me about his co-worker friend who, even at work, takes time out five times a day to find a clean, quiet place to lay his prayer rug.  My brother absolutely loves to see him do this.  We started talking about how rare it is that people our age actually do their religious things on a daily or even weekly basis, and we realized that we are very few in numbers.

If you pray, are sacrificing something for Lent, study your scriptures, keep your Sabbath Day holy, plan to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, practice your religion’s dietary norms, meditate, or go to church meetings, we join you!  And we think you’re really cool, too!

Bringing faith to work

It may not be popular to discuss religious matters at work, but the truth is I think about my beliefs all the time while I’m working. One of the most noteworthy lessons I carry with me from church to work is the importance of opposition and hard work in growing as a person. In both a spiritual and professional sense, I strive everyday to be a little bit better.

As I grow in my career, I’m constantly reminded that progression is an eternal principle. Developing new management, communication and teamwork skills requires an honest and perpetual assessment of my current understanding as well as sustained effort to refine, enhance and expand it. Effectively executing new knowledge is a personal indicator that I’ve truly experienced internal growth because behavior is the fruit of change, not the change itself.

My parents raised our family to appreciate challenges and responsibility as opportunities to increase our understanding and realize additional truth. I still discuss these ideas with my friends and colleagues as we share future plans and professional ambitions. I am grateful that progress is part of God’s eternal plan. With absolute resolve, I have reason to aspire.