It wasn't very long, and I don't remember much of what it said. But what my grandfather wrote at the end has stayed with me. He essentially wrote, "I don't know if anything I've said is helpful, but if it is, keep it. Throw the rest away."
In the ensuing years, I've marveled at the wisdom my grandfather gave me in such a compact package. It's part of the heritage I've received from all my grandparents. All have passed on, but their contributions to me remain with me. And it's those contributions that fill my heart with gratitude as I remember grandparents.
Remember the paternal
His wife a real Nosy Nellie, but she also had a kindness of her own while insisting others adopt a vigorous work ethic. She died of cancer while I was on my mission, but I had a special experience at the time through which I understood that she had moved to a better place.
Remember the maternal
I never knew my mother's father — at least not in this life — because he died while my mother served her mission. But I've had a special experience through which I've come to "know" him in a real and connected way.
He lived as a sharecropper growing some soybeans but mostly tobacco. His neighbors could never understand how my grandfather could be a Latter-day Saint and grow tobacco for a living. When asked about it, my grandfather would reply, "I don't smoke it or chew it. I just grow it." He was a down-to-earth, simple man who believed in hard work and worked hard with his own hands to support a growing family.
His wife was the only woman I've ever known who cooked better than my mother. Apologies to my other grandmother, who never would have tolerated something like that said in her presence, but it's true. She was also one of the kindest people I've ever known. The summers my brother and I spent on her farm are among my most cherished childhood memories.
Pay it forward
I've got so many memories flooding my mind now that I can't possibly describe them all in this monologue. But these memories form the bulk of the heritage my grandparents bequeathed me, a heritage I carry with me to this day and hope one day to bestow upon the children I still hope to have.
It's little wonder then why we have a day to commemorate the contribution of grandparents. What is a wonder is why the holiday isn't more well known. Everyone knows about Mother's Day and Father's Day. But I didn't know about Grandparents' Day before this year.
This Sunday, let's remember grandparents. What legacy have your grandparents left you? What memories of them influence you today? If they're still here, take some time on Sunday to thank your grandparents for whatever positive difference they made in your life. And if they're not, then do as I'm doing and reflect on the difference they made.
Either way, when you remember grandparents, you keep them alive in your heart. You carry the heritage they left behind, making it easier to leave that heritage to those who live after you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Careful versus cautious
Sister Craven begins by describing a sign she once saw advertising happiness for only $15. Of course, the sign was deceptive. The trinkets and souvenirs offered in exchange for that $15 could never bring the true happiness each of us yearns to have.
Sister Craven’s experience describes how many of us are similarly deceived. A casual approach to spirituality may seem inviting and even appropriate. But only by being careful with our covenants and obeying them with exactness can we hope to yield the true joy we seek.
Sister Craven explains,
What a magnificent insight! Sister Craven continues,
The amount of joy we receive from covenant living is in direct proportion to the care and attention we give in living those covenants with exactness. We can unleash true power in our spiritual lives when we reject a casual approach for a careful one.
I remember on my mission hearing my leaders advocate obedience with exactness. What fascinated me as I heard Sister Craven repeat that idea was the thought of expanding that attention to every aspect of our lives. If being careful with our spiritual lives can yield great power, how much more power would being that careful with every aspect of our lives bring?
What would happen if we were just as careful with those who matter most to us? Think for a minute about the people who mean the most to you. Of course, others will always have their own agency, but how much more enjoyable would those relationships be if we exercised great care in the details of those relationships?
And what would happen if we exercised great care with our mind? If we were more insistent on having certain standards for the books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, and the other forms of media that we consume, how much more pure, powerful joy would sweep into our lives? What if we were more careful with improving ourselves — taking a class, learning a new skill, or improving some aspect of our character? What increase in joy would come from that?
How much more power could we procure if we were truly careful with our body? Too many of us are quite casual when it comes to diet and exercise. Too many of us aren’t very careful with personal finances. Too many of us take a casual approach to our careers by allowing the here and now demands of our job to overwhelm any notion of career direction. How much better would we feel about ourselves and our lives if we exercised greater care towards our body?
Act with order and diligence
If you stop to think about all this for a moment, you may conclude as I did. Exercising great care in any one area is work. When you extend that work to every area of your life, the task can quickly feel overwhelming.
The Apostle Paul counseled, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). King Benjamin taught his people similarly. “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).
In other words, we don’t need to be perfect today. But we do need to exercise care by doing something every day to move towards personal improvement. As we exchange our casual approaches to every aspect of life for more careful ones, we will reap a harvest of joy and power from the seeds we have sown daily. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Hold them closer
Lately we’ve been discussing the challenges of LDS dating. We can more easily overcome these challenges when we understand the different stages of the journey (for example, that there are two kinds of dating), when we choose to be where we are, when we apply dating standards and not marriage standards to dates, and when we respectfully tell the truth despite what others think of us.
Yet even after embracing all of these concepts, dating can still feel like an emotional roller coaster. That’s just how it is. You can’t have great reward without encountering great risk. And sometimes that will leave your heart in pieces.
That’s why we all need a personal circle, a group of people who sincerely care about us and will support us when we need it. I’ve written before about the need for singles groups to forsake the activity club, reject the dating forum, and become a support network. I’ve also discussed how stakes and wards can play a larger role in supporting LDS singles. I still believe in all that.
I also believe you shouldn’t wait for others to fill needs you have today. Own your life. Find your own personal circle. And when you hold the family and friends you need a little closer, you’ll find angels have joined in for a group hug.
Know who’s in
As disciples of Christ, we should always seek to help those around us. But that doesn’t mean we need to develop a deep friendship with everyone around us. Partnering with the Lord can help you know who should be what in your life.
Because we gain our sense of normal from those around us, we need to be very cautious about who we admit into our personal circle. That’s where partnering with the Lord can help. He knows the influence we need to live our best life. He also knows who can best exert that influence upon us.
Just as important as including the right people in your personal circle is excluding the wrong people. And sometimes you’ll be related to them. Excluding people from your personal circle doesn’t mean turning your back on them forever. It just means being very cautious about what time you do spend with them.
Once we know who’s in our personal circle, we should make regular deposits into their emotional bank accounts. We should never take these people for granted. And yet, too often we do.
I recall being at home for the holidays towards the conclusion of my graduate school program. My relationship with my major professor had deteriorated substantially. I knew I’d be charged for another semester unless I could complete my thesis and successfully defend it before the new semester started.
As we knelt in prayer before my return to campus, my mother pled with the Lord to help me finish my program. I didn’t think much about that at the time. But not long after returning, my deteriorated relationship with my major professor worsened to a breaking point.
As I walked towards my major professor’s office to quit, the memory of my mother praying for me filled my mind. I suddenly felt a strengthened resolve to keep going. I finished my degree program soon thereafter.
In the years since, that advanced degree has greatly blessed my life financially, occupationally, and socially. I have friends I wouldn’t otherwise have. And it’s all due to my mother’s prayer. Clearly my mother is inside my personal circle, and I make regular deposits into her emotional bank account.
Find the means
Of course, we can’t deposit love in others’ emotional bank accounts without the means to do so. Determine what means you need so you can maintain those important relationships inside your personal circle.
Sometimes that means sacrifice. I could just text or call my mother, but I always make time to visit her in person. Sometimes being with her in person is itself the emotional deposit.
Some have argued I should move on with my life. I don’t entirely disagree with that. But I don’t want to forfeit the opportunity to make more memories with my mother while she’s still cogent. Forsaking those opportunities will bring me regret for the rest of my life. I’d rather not live with that.
Make the changes you need to make to have the personal circle you need to have. Then make regular deposits into the emotional bank accounts of each one in your circle. When you hold the people you love a little closer, you will find angels have joined in for a group hug. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Clear the space
This year I made living my best life my only goal for the year. When you think about it, that could easily break down into many smaller goals. I haven’t gone too far down that rabbit hole, though, because I think part of living your best life is just keeping things simple.
I think another part of living your best life is making sure you put first things first. How can you live your best life if you aren’t giving attention to what matters most? My thoughts lately have dwelt on this particular aspect, mostly because I’ve been working so much. I understand my reasons, but I also understand those reasons don’t justify the lack of attention to things that matter most.
One of my priorities should be family history. I know I need to do more to hasten this work, but that won’t happen if I don’t dedicate the time for it and then stick to that plan. I have the plan, but it’s the sticking part that gives me trouble.
Fortunately, repentance is part of our Heavenly Father’s plan for us. And this week provides the perfect opportunity to get on the right track. RootsTech is here again.
Make the time
Every February the world’s largest family history conference convenes in Salt Lake. I spoke about RootsTech last year. Actually, I think I talked about RootsTech the year before that as well. I’ve looked forward to RootsTech in years past for the time with my father.
This year neither one of us are in Salt Lake, but we can still spend time together around RootsTech. Selected sessions at the conference are streamed live over the Internet. Just go to the RootsTech home page to watch those sessions live. There’s also a live streaming schedule if you want to know in advance what sessions will be broadcast.
And if you miss a session you want to see, don’t worry. Recordings of the sessions will be available for a limited time afterwards on the RootsTech website. I appreciate that because one of the live streaming sessions that interests me will start while I’m teaching class.
I did make arrangements to cover my other teaching responsibilities so I could have the time to spend with my dad. And I’ve been looking forward to it. I do want to spend time with my dad, yes. I do want to get more involved in family history work, yes. I do want to put more first things first, yes. But honestly, there’s one reason why I’ve been looking forward to this that I feel more than spending time with my father. I’m not exactly proud to admit it, but it’s true all the same.
I need a break from the busyness of my work to get back on track with my priorities and restore a sense of balance to my life.
Make the opportunity
I didn’t wait for the opportunity to be handed to me. I believe in owning my life, so I made my own opportunity. RootsTech happening at the same time just makes it more convenient.
The time I spend with my father will be a highlight for me. But so will Family Discovery Day, a special part of RootsTech which the Church organizes to engage more Latter-day Saints in family history work.
I remember the last time I attended RootsTech in Salt Lake. The surge of attendance because of Family Discovery Day was huge. I didn’t attend any of the events connected with it because there were other sessions that piqued my interest more. But the huge turnout for Family Discovery Day did get me curious.
I’m not in Salt Lake this year. But I still plan on participating in Family Discovery Day. And this year the event will begin with a very special treat. President Russell M. Nelson and his wife Wendy will be the keynote speakers.
Just like RootsTech, Family Discovery Day will be streamed live across the Internet. You can find it on the Church website starting Saturday at 1 PM MST. And sessions will be recorded and posted for later access if you can’t make it.
Make the priority
I’ve been looking forward to this week. I need to regain my balance, and I know I’ll enjoy the time with my father. But I also know I need to be more involved in family history work than I have been. RootsTech and Family Discovery Day provide excellent pathways for repentance.
Your best life includes balanced attention to priorities and everyday responsibilities. Partner with the Lord to decide what your priorities should be. Then clear the space you need to put those priorities first and bring balance to your life. When you do, you’ll have more joy in your journey.
Embrace the work
Last week I discussed our need as LDS singles to make conscious choices to nourish ourselves. We need to fortify ourselves against the storms of life that will surely beat upon us — and not because we’re single (although being single in a family-centered culture is its own special trial) but because we’re eternal beings having a mortal experience.
I discussed in some detail the four aspects of ourselves (the spirit, the heart, the mind, and the body) requiring nourishment. For some reason, the idea of nourishing our heart through family history work impresses me particularly. Maybe it’s just the idea I should be nourishing my heart this way.
I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I need to do more in that area. That’s pretty easy to say about anything, though, true as it may be.
Maybe it’s because this time of year I normally have a trip with my dad. That annual tradition we started not that long ago petered out this year. That meant we didn’t get to spend the quality time together we anticipated.
Maybe it’s because RootsTech 2016 just took place last week, and I didn’t get to go. Missing that annual jaunt to the hive nest of Mormondom wouldn’t be so disappointing if it weren’t for what I would be missing with it. Attending the largest family history conference in the world fills the air with a certain excitement. And the presentations in the past have been outstanding. One of them gave birth to Joy In The Journey Radio.
Seeking quality time
RootsTech has traditionally offered a wide spread of session offerings to cater to many family-history-related interests, providing my father and I with some quality father-son time. We have some overlapping interests but many diverse interests.
So we would share our lists of the sessions we wanted to attend. Often only one of us would attend a session interesting us both in order to allow the other to attend another session. We would then swap notes later in the evening while partaking of the downtown Salt Lake dining scene.
That’s part of the excitement I missed this year. I’ve always believed that family history, a work done for families, should be done by families. Attending RootsTech with my dad and engaging in discussions resulting from the presentations we each saw made being a part of that work more alive to me. And just having that time with my dad made it all the more special.
Missing the tradition
RootsTech 2016 happened, but not for my dad and I. We ended up not going this year. Looking at the offerings, I didn’t feel any special pull to attend the sessions. Many of their offerings seemed pared down in comparison with past years.
I also knew my mother (who no longer drives) would be more likely to let my dad go if I were to stay home with her in case she needed anything. So I volunteered to stay home. It was just as well because I had tons of work I ended up taking vacation in order to complete.
But the final word from my mother didn’t allow my father to go out of town and leave her. So my dad didn’t get to go either. I thought perhaps we might watch some of the sessions online. RootsTech broadcasts parts of the conference via live streaming on their website. I didn’t get to watch anything, though, as I had too much work calling my name.
Following the promptings
Replaying these memories, I realize what’s working inside of me. Partly it’s a longing for the anticipated yet absent quality time with my dad. I need to make some arrangements to do something else with my dad to compensate.
But it’s also the spirit of Elijah. For some reason, I need to increase my participation in this work. The Lord has promised added protective power to those who participate in this work, and perhaps this is why I’m prompted in this direction. It could very well be something else. I don’t know. And I don’t have to know to follow the promptings.
Family history work is for everyone. We LDS singles should be a part of this work. However the Spirit prompts you to participate, follow those promptings. The Lord is trying to bless us, and as we follow the promptings He provides, we can have joy in our journey regardless of our circumstances.
Aligning with my previous encouragement to own your life, I believe the life best lived is the life fully lived, regardless of your circumstances. That’s why on occasion I’ll be dedicating a post on this blog to one of the four main life areas that I call the spirit, the heart, the mind, and the body.
Today I’m going straight to the heart, and I’m not talking Bryan Adams. I’m talking Schoolhouse Rock, or Schoolhouse Rock Live! to be more precise.
The heart deals with the social aspect of life and especially the relationships we have with other people in our lives. I regularly make time every so often to give attention to the important relationships in my life. A couple of weeks ago, I thought it'd be good to do something with my sister and her oldest boy. They live by Boise, so I took my four-year-old nephew and my sister to see the Musical Theater of Idaho production of Schoolhouse Rock Live!
What I thought of the show
You can read a more expansive critique of Schoolhouse Rock Live! on my personal website. But here’s some highlights if that's not your deal.
There was no real story. The play is simply a string of loosely connected Schoolhouse Rock songs. Normally I would find that unforgivable. In this case, I have so many fond memories of eagerly anticipating and then enjoying my childhood Saturday morning ritual [yes, I know that totally dates me] that I find myself overlooking a very glaring defect.
Apparently most of the audience had similar memories. I estimated about 100 (possibly 120 but no more) people in the makeshift auditorium. And (surprising to me) no more than 10, including my nephew, were children. But it was also a Thursday showing. That may have had something to do with it.
Yes, the auditorium was very makeshift. Two portable loudspeakers sat at each side of a rectangular opening in a school gymnasium with a slanted roof of corrugated sheet metal.
My nephew's experience
My nephew sat with me and his mother. Occasionally I would look over at him to see if he was enjoying the show. He had trouble seeing the stage during the first half. During the intermission, I took a walk with him to get his wiggles out of him. When we got back to our seats, I offered to move over so that he could have my seat. He saw the stage much better and seemed to enjoy himself more.
I also tried to get him involved by clapping with the music and performing hand gestures when appropriate. He seemed a little slow to follow along, but eventually he got into the spirit. As we left the building after the performance, he wanted to hold my hand so he didn’t slip on the icy parking lot. He thanked me along with his mother as he got into the car. I think enjoyed his evening even though he didn’t get one of the huge cookies he wanted during intermission.
Make time for relationships that matter
It wasn’t a huge thing, but when it comes to relationships with the people that matter most, it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be real and often.
What relationships in your life matter most to you? Don’t focus so much on the one relationship you don’t have that you overlook the relationships you do have. Find a way to spend some quality time with one person in your life. That could be a sibling, a parent, a grandparent, a cousin, or a good friend. Whatever it is, take action to make that relationship stronger. Life is much richer when filled with strong, loving relationships.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show and podcast to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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