Who Am I? On Iconography, Faith, and Self-Identity

In one of the great classic works of French literature, the author Victor Hugo tells the story of Jean Valjean, a man who spent nineteen years in prison, growing angrier and more filled with hate toward the world with each passing day. The first five years were for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving family, but then he suffered for fourteen additional years for attempting to run away. The story of Les Misérables follows his journey from his release from prison on parole to a life of service, sacrifice, love, mercy, grace, and, ultimately, redemption. In the musical adaptation of this story, a pivotal moment takes place early in the story when Jean Valjean, who had been gifted a meal and safe shelter for the night from a kindly bishop, gives in to temptation, steals the bishop’s silverware and runs off, only to be captured by the local constables. Valjean claims that the silver was given as a gift from the bishop but the police, not believing the words of a crimina

That We May Be Made Perfect In One

Almost exactly 38 years ago today, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave his final public address to the membership of the Church. In this talk, which he titled The Purifying Power of Gethsemane , he made this declaration: I feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. His atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity. It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative. Through it are brought to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Through it, all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment. And through it, all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are tru

Thoughts On Seminary

I was called to be an early morning Seminary teacher in May 2019. At the time, I had just two students: a sophomore, and a junior. Because both students would have had to go past my house to get to the church, where Seminary had previously been held, I decided to have class in my living room, instead. By late November of that year, our class doubled with the arrival of a brother and sister who had moved in from another state. Harnessing the power of Google Meets and Zoom, the siblings joined our class remotely while the two boys continued to come to my house. Little did any of us know at the time that this foray into a hybrid model of Seminary would eventually turn into nearly a year and a half of what we lovingly came to call Zoominary! With the halt of in-person church gatherings in March of 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our class increased in size again as two more students joined us from their homes. In August 2020, the size of our Zoominary class grew again as we

When Will It End?

I was born on January 26, 1983. What follows is a list of school shootings in the United States in my lifetime that have resulted in the deaths of at least five students and/or teachers. January 17, 1989. Cleveland Elementary School, Stockton, California. 6 dead. 32 injured. November 1, 1991. University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa. 6 dead. 1 injured. March 24, 1998. Westside Middle School, Craighead County, Arkansas. 5 dead. 10 injured. April 20, 1999. Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado. 15 dead. 21 injured. (This was the first such major event in my lifetime with double-digit fatalities. It would not be the last.) March 21, 2005. Red Lake Senior High School, Red Lake, Minnesota. 10 dead. 7 injured. October 2, 2006. West Nickel Mines School, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. 6 dead. 5 injured. April 16, 2007. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, Virginia. 33 dead. 23 injured. February 14, 2008. Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois. 6

"Lord, Is It I?"

Toward the end of His mortal ministry, Jesus Christ gathered with His chosen apostles to participate in the Passover Feast. During this meal, which would come to be known as the Last Supper, Christ declared, “Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” Matthew records the disciples' response to this statement: ”And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, ‘Lord, is it I?’” From time to time, I have found myself asking this same question in response to prophetic calls admonitions: “Lord, is it I?” This has been particularly true of the calls to beware of pride–something that has happened in General Conference at least 27 times over the last 39 years of my life. President Ezra Taft Benson warned of the danger of pride nearly 33 years ago when he taught: Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. (See Mosiah 3:11 ; 3 Ne. 6:18 .) In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always consider

The Blessings of Education

In 1833, the Lord declared through His prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr, that “the glory of God is intelligence” ( D&C 93:36 ). A decade later, he explained that “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life... will rise with us in the resurrection [a]nd [that] if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” ( D&C 130:18-19 ). More than 150 years later, President Gordon B. Hinckley said this to a worldwide audience of youth and young adults: “The Lord wants you to educate your minds and hands, whatever your chosen field. Whether it be repairing refrigerators, or the work of a skilled surgeon, you must train yourselves. Seek for the best schooling available. Become a workman of integrity in the world that lies ahead of you. I repeat, you will bring honor to the Church and you will be generously blessed because of that training” ( A Prophet’s Counse

And This Is Life Eternal

Many of you know that I am a professional educator. I work in the Freeport School District as the Curriculum Coordinator for 21st Century Teaching and Learning. Whenever I have the opportunity to share this with others upon meeting them for the first time, one of the first questions I get is, “Is that your real hair?” Apparently, there are things people care about more than know what it means to coordinate the teaching and learning efforts of an entire century. (The answer, by the way, is yes, this is my real hair; no, I don’t dye it; yes, it really is this curly; and no, you cannot touch it to see if it is actually a wig.)  Once I am able to get the discussion about my amazing naturally curly hair out of the way, we get back to the question of what it is I actually do. My favourite way to describe my job is that I am a teacher of teachers and that my main responsibility is to get them to put away the worksheets and step away from the PowerPoint so that they can engage their student