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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?"

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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

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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

All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience

Two Jehovah's Witnesses came to our door this afternoon. The gentleman at the door (I believe the other person with him was his wife) did most of the talking. He somehow knew that our last name was Valencic and thought perhaps we spoke Croatian. I explained that my ancestors came from present-day Slovenia but most of them spoke Polish. However, my parents and my grandparents spoke only English, except for a few words and phrases in Polish. Abandoning his attempts at speaking Croatian and connecting with us that way, he asked me if I felt like the Hurricane Dorian is God's fault. I told them that I do not blame God for natural disasters and they responded by pointing out that insurance companies call them "acts of God." I observed that there are many archaic terms that we still use but that doesn't change the fact that God is not to be blamed for weather patterns. (If anything, people are, but that gets us into a different topic altogether.) He quickly moved on

With Steadfast Faith in Christ

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I am a collector of quotes. At one point, I had notebooks full of wise and pithy sayings, sprinkled with the humourous and witty. Later in my life I began to collect the quotes on various word document files, but when a computer died, the quotes often died with them. Eventually I stopped recording all of them in one place and started sharing them on social media, usually using Facebook and attaching a hashtag of some sort to help me keep track of them. Now, it turns out that none of these systems are particularly effective in helping me remember, locate, and share quotes. However, I have been able to at least remember the gist of some of the ones that had the greatest impact on me at different times in my life. Here are a few of them: Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the courage to make the right things happen. ~Reverend Peter Marshall (United States Senate Chaplain) Right is right, even if everyone is against it; wrong is wrong, even if every is