EFY Panel Discussion: EXTRA CREDIT

high-school-students-in-classroom-raising-hands-czjyaj6n

Confession time: I have a love / hate relationship with the EFY Q&A Panel.

I LOVE that we get to set aside pre-planned material and just open up and talk about the questions the youth have (no matter how silly or awkward some of them are!)

I HATE that we only have 1 hour to do it all! Seriously, like, give me another half-day to just do Q+A sessions with the kids, and I’d be one happy camper. In fact, one of my favorite EFY sessions was in rained-out San Antonio, TX. The whole afternoon class schedule was thrown out the window (and in to the swampy, flooded out campus) and we extended the Q+A panel to almost 3 hours. It was fantastic.

So today we’re going to try to do just that: answer some of the untouched questions the youth submitted during our Q+A panel during session Provo 11C  (August 3-6, 2015).

And I’ve got my sweet wife Megan...honey, come say ‘Hi’ to the nice Internet people

MeganHey, what’s up everybody?:-)

…to help me share thoughts, stories, scriptures and insights. We hope this will be helpful!

Disclaimer: These are all real questions submitted by EFY attendees that were NOT answered during the regular Q&A panel.

Okay, let’s dive right in. Time to earn some Extra Credit!

[nextpage title=”How can I best give my will to God?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”How can I best give my will to God?”[/pullquote]

So, one of the things I’m reminded of is a quote from Neal A. Maxwell that said the “submission of one’s will is the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar.” Because everything else, skills, money, physical possessions, whatever…likely came about because of God’s hand in some way. So that’s not what He wants – He doesn’t want money. (It’s like with the Law of Tithing…it’s not about money, it’s about faith.)  So when it comes to giving your will to God, the short answer is ‘Do what He wants you to do.’

But I think the longer answer is ‘Act the way He wants you to Act’, which is loving one another.  So that means we each have to go out and figure out what that means for us…HOW do we go out and show that love for one another? If I want to put my will in God’s hands, then I’m going to go around showing love for others in any way I can.

(Megan’s responses will be italicized from here on…)

After I received my patriarchal blessing, I had a better perspective of how God sees me, what He wants me to have, and I feel like I use that Patriarchal blessing as a reference point that I come back to over and again. I’ll go through phases where I’m learning and struggling, so I’ll go back and read it and go ‘Ah, well, He talked about how I would struggle with THIS and it would bring me closer to the savior’ Having that Blessing was a way for me to understand God’s will for me. It’s not that His will was a laundry list…a checkoff list of things to do. 

Yup. Checkoff lists are just a silly thing we’ve invented to give us the illusion of progress. 😀

But God allows us to make lists of things we think we need to do. But if we list those things, and they’re in line with what God wants us to do, we’ll find that as we check them off we’ll become a more kind, more unselfish person because of those experiences He wants us to go through. 

So you’re saying we do the things He wants us to do, because that will help us become the kind of person He wants us to become? 

Yes. And I don’t think God has a straight, simple list of all the things that He wants you to do. SOMETIMES He’ll give you a prompting of a very specific thing He wants you to do – call this friend right now, leave this person a Book of Mormon – but those are exceptions to normal life. The things we learn on Sunday are about being kind to others, looking out for your fellow brothers and sisters.

So that Patriarchal Blessing will give you a good starting point, but God then wants you to use your agency to figure out what’s next. So when you’re down on your knees asking “God, what do you want me to do?”, He’ll probably say “Get up and go do the things I’ve taught you.”

Like He’s saying “I’ve already given you the answer! You KNOW what you’re suppose to be doing! Now get up and go do it! And if you’re not sure, well, just look around and go find someone to help!”

Yup. If you’re stuck, look outside yourself and you’ll find that He’s given you lots of answers. It’s the old quote of ‘Pray as if everything depended on God but work as if everything depended on you.’

[nextpage title=”What if you know who you want to marry but aren’t old enough?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”What if you already know who you want to marry, but you’re not at the point (or age) in life where you can actually do it?”[/pullquote]

Patience is hard. You spend the first 20 years of your life, trying to make your life go faster. ‘I can’t WAIT until I’m 19, 20, 21…24!’ Well, if you already ‘know’ and you’re not at that age, then stay together (if that makes you happy)…and just wait!

But also, you might find (much to your disbelief) that as you get older this person may not be as attractive to you anymore. 

So, wait, you’re saying that you might be a different person in the future than you are right now?

🙂 Yah. If this person is really that good for you, they will allow you to grow and change over the next several years, like you are MEANT to. You are meant to mature and to change and to experience hard stuff.

So I’m reminded of something you said to me when we were first married and we were having a rough spot in our marriage. I was feeling very frustrated and down on myself that I wasn’t good enough for you – I was upset that I was causing the rough patches. You had reassured me by saying that you didn’t only marry me for I was, but for who I was capable of becoming.

Huh! That’s a very insightful thing for me to say! 🙂

Yah. I thought it was too. 🙂 I remember thinking, well…i was honestly kind of taken aback. I was thinking ‘What are you saying, that who I am now isn’t good enough for you?’

Nope, that’s not what I was saying. What I meant was that yes, I love you for who you are NOW, but I also love you because I know you’re going to grow and change and you’ll become someone even better. 

Yah, so I think that’s the challenge of relationships: humans are going to evolve and become new beings every 4-5 years or so. Tastes are going to change, habits are going to change, interests will change, your circumstances around you will change and those will also further change your habits and interests.

So one final thing I’d say about this is the fact that (and I don’t have the raw numbers in front of me) but I read somewhere that 70-90% of high school relationships don’t last past a couple of years out of high school. 

Oh yah. There is SO much more world to experience and so many more people to meet. High school can be a very closed system, a closed bubble. 

Learning how to deal with ‘being in love’ is a good thing, a normal thing, AND…

…and it’s really okay to love more than once. 

Yup. That’s a hard thing to learn how to love more than one person. But love will come and go.

[nextpage title=”If God is all-knowing, how do we have agency?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”If God is all-knowing, and knows each one of us, where is it our choice, if He knows exactly what we have to do to stay strong?”[/pullquote]

Good question…this whole idea of Free Agency and how it overlaps with God’s Omnipotence.

Dang, we talked about this other night! We should have been recording that!

I remember this coming up when I was in Priest’s Quorum. A kid asked ‘Well, if God already knows everything we’re going to do in our lives, why do I have to do anything? Why can’t I just sit back and let him reward me if He already knows everything I’m going to do? Can’t He just hand out the rewards for things I’m going to do right and punishments for things I’m going to do wrong? Can’t He just give out the consequences of my choices, both good and bad, without me actually having to make the choices?”

But then those consequences, good or bad, would seem unjustified.

How do you mean?

If God were to just hand out good or bad consequences, regardless…

Like if I were to just wake up one day and have a big old pile of blessings with a note from God saying “Good job on that good choice you’re going to make 5 years from now!” Or a heaping pile of negative consequences “BOOM, you’re welcome!”

…I would be all “wait a minute! Let ME choose!”

I think the part of the reason why it’s so important that we actually make the choice BEFORE the consequence is because of the transformative effect it has on our soul as we actually make the choice.

Because then we have to own the consequence, whether it’s good or bad. 

And it’s probably a good idea to reframe this idea of God’s Omnipotence. Perhaps it’s more like, because God knows us all so well, He knows that if we’re placed in certain situations we’ll respond certain ways.

When I was a kid and would go grocery shopping with my mom, she had 6 kids at the time, hanging off the cart and walking through Smith’s or Maceys. And my brother and I would be sneaking around, trying to hide a pack of Oreos under the broccoli or stealthily replace the generic brand of cereal with the expensive name brand stuff. Or we’d just wander off because we were bored and Mom just knew that if she ever couldn’t find us, we’d inevitably turn up at the video games that used to sit in the entrance. It hit a point where she didn’t even have to ask where we were – if Sam and Ben were lost, they’d turn up at the video games.

So I think that’s probably how it works; it’s like He knows that if Johnny’s friend offers him a beer at a party, Johnny’s gonna say know, ‘cuz that’s the kind of kid Johnny is.

So God’s omnipotence of who we are and our character doesn’t interfere with our decisions, any more than a coach on the sidelines of a game interferes with his players. He knows their training and preparation, but his knowledge doesn’t play the game for them…they still have to play the game. He just has to watch and let them do what they do.

Just because Heavenly Father knows that He wanted me to be married in the temple and have a family and have children…it’s like, those are things that a good parent wants for their child…but He didn’t FORCE me to do those things. I was making my own decisions that were inline with what He ultimately wanted for me, so He let me figure it out on my own. 

Yup. That’s a tough one. Okay, on to the next one!

[nextpage title=”How many guys has Sister Bernards dated?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”How many guys has Sister Bernards dated?”[/pullquote]

….Really?!?

😀 Dunh dunh dunh…can you count that high?

Whatever! Wait…do you mean just ‘gone out on a date with’ or ‘dated like a boyfriend?’

Let’s do both!

Heh…okay. Um….

[she’s silently counting…]

Holy cow, those have got to be some big numbers…um..

Babe, it’s really not, it’s just that I haven’t thought about these guys in years.

I know, I know, I’m just teasing…

You’d BETTER be teasing…

I’m mostly teasing…

[still counting…]

We’ll give you a minute here.

Okay, it’s probably about 12. 

So, guys you’ve dated and boyfriends together? 12. Hey, that’s pretty good. Is that high school and college?

Yes. And how many of those were actual ‘boyfriends’? 2.

So 10 guys dated and 2 of them actual boyfriends.

1 in High School, 1 in College…adn the 1 in College ended really abruptly and I was really confused. Like, I was all ‘God, why did that end? I was doing everything right…it doesn’t make any sense’ and I was soooooo frustrated.  I was doing everything right, and it was like somebody just shut the door on me and I was like “I’m so done. I don’t want to do this any more…”

Stupid boys!

Yes, and that was at the end of September of the school year. And I was like ‘Whatever…you boys can go fall off a cliff. And then I met Ben about 8 weeks later… :-D’

YEAAAAAAHHHHH!

Yeah, …but then about 4 weeks after we meet and start stating, you wanted to have the old DTR…

But we GOTTA have the DTR!

NO, we don’t have to ‘Define The Relationship’ just yet! 

But we gotta figure out where we’re going! And I wasn’t gonna slam no doors on you…

Yah, but you were moving WAAY too fast for me. 😀

It’s ‘cuz you were really cute!

K. Do I have to answer the question too?

Only if you’re up for it!

Okay, well it’s a really easy answer: the number is 3.

3?!?!

Yah. I had 3 girlfriends, and never went on any 1:1 dates with someone who wasn’t my girlfriend.

ROFL. Man, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t know that when we got married! 

What!?

No no no…think of it this way. You’re a really nice guy…

LOL, I had NO game!

Yeah, I’d say that you’re a nice guy, but when it comes to pickup lines…you are left wanting…let’s put it nicely. 🙂 You have no game!

DUDE, my pickup lines are AWESOME….in their cheesiness!

What I mean is, it can sometimes make people worried when they find out ‘Wait, you’ve ONLY dated or had experience 3 different people?’

Well….I had very discerning tastes! LOL…either that or I had no game!

Heh…what I’m wanting the EFY kids to understand is that God is saying to them “I want you to get out there and date and experience STUFF. Get out there. There is SO MUCH good out there to experience.”  I know it’s not looked well upon by high school kids when you date a lot of people…they’re like “ugh, that trashy girl who just dates so much and hooks up with everybody…” sometimes that’s a really negative thing.

He’s a playaaa!

Yah, but when at some point you realize that you can determine your OWN social groups, who you hang with, and dating a LOT of people gives you a wide range of experience. Maybe sometime you’ll be crushing on some big dreamy hunk, thinking you’d just die happy if he asked you out, only to discover over a slice of pizza together that you have nothing in common…and you’re all “Ah…note to self. I like his type, but he’s not for me.” So you can just cut him loose and move on. 

Nice! So…uh, a little bit of clarification on my end…some justification

Oh, oh, what…really?

I actually had SOME game. 🙂 So there were a couple of different groups of kids that I’d hang out with. We wouldn’t always go out on ‘dates’, but we’d just go hang out together in a big group. Mixture of guys and girls, I was friends with all of them, most of us were in marching band together…’cuz that’s where the cool kids were in our school (or at least, that’s what we told ourselves. 😉 ), and so I knew plenty of girls. But in my own syrupy romantic mind, the only time I wanted to go on a ‘date’ with someone is if I were seriously dating them. I figured ‘what’s the point of wasting money on someone else’s future girlfriend?’ And I don’t know if that was the best attitude to have at the time, but we’d just go out as groups to movies and do all kinds of fun stuff together. But if it was me 1:1 with a girl I was dating, it was with a girl I thought I was “in love with.”

Okay, but pause. (Ahem). My dear EFY kids – please be reminded that you don’t have to be in love with someone in order to date them. 

WHAT?!? 🙂

Yah, like, that’s gonna make me gag to just think about it. 

Yah, if I were to go back and do it all over again, I think I would probably…

date someone just to get to know them better? Because you like them and think you have a lot in common, and you notice that when you hang out you consistently have a fun time together? 

…yup. That. All of that.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in LOVE with that person. 

Yup. A lot of my own dating needs came from emptiness in my own family, so I needed something to fill that void. I found ‘belonging’ with other girls. But now that I look back on it, I realize that I didn’t need the girlfriend to fill that…I needed to find out who I was first, and to rely on myself and figure myself out, and then I could worry about being in love with someone later.

Okay, let’s switch gears…you ready for something else?

YES. 

Okay, next question.

12 guys?!! Really?!?

Dude…:-D

[nextpage title=”My dad isn’t a member and he wants proof before he believes”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”My dad isn’t a member of the Church. He thinks that if he’s going to believe in something, he needs proof. What is the best thing for me to use?”[/pullquote]

Well, with your words (most often) you’re not going to convince someone. Convincing them will come in their own mind, with their own thoughts. YOU are not going to convince your dad the Church is true. 

Right. Because it’s the Spirit that convinces and converts people.

Yup. So how are you going to bring the Spirit in to your home? By being respectful, by being supportive, by being interested in your dad, cultivating a relationship with him that is strong, fun, based on good experiences. Your dad, not believing in the Church, would benefit more from your consistent respect and love than probably anything else. Your own good example with your siblings and other family members will teach him more than your words would ever convey. 

Yah, I’d totally agree. Proof that the Church is “true”…I mean, that’s such a loaded question. It begs the question “What constitutes ‘proof’? And what do we mean when we say the Church is ‘true’?” What is “true”? Do we mean that it’s ‘perfect’? Or that it’s ‘flawless’?

Hah. Nope. And nope. 

Do we mean that if this is God’s Church it will never have any problems or the leaders will never make any mistakes?

Nope. 

There’s an old saying “the proof is in the pudding”. Well, the full proverb says “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”…meaning you have to actually taste it. If you really wanna know if the Chef was a good cook, you can’t just look at it, take someone’s word for it…you have to taste it.

Yup. The ‘proof’ is in our lives.

The ‘proof’ of the Church being true is not going be found in things like handling Gold Plates. Because there are people who DID handle the Gold Plates…and they didn’t have a long lasting conversion. The ‘proof’ of the Church being ‘true’ is not found in seeing a picture of the Seer Stone which was just released. The ‘proof’ is not going to be found by seeing an angel or a vision…because there are plenty of people in the scriptures who did just that, yet didn’t convert. But if a person is living the principles of the Gospel consistently, if they are acting as a Disciple of Christ, if they are putting in to practice the Doctrines of Salvation, and if they have become transformed by it and are treating other people the way Christ would…THAT is the living embodiment of the proof that these are ‘true’ principles.

That kind of person, who lives these doctrines, is a believable person. You would believe them because you have watched them and spent time with them. You’re not going to believe them just because they say ‘Let me bear my testimony at you’. 

You can’t just take your own testimony and lob it at them as a hand grenade and think that the Spirit will just explode in their heart and convince them…especially if your follow-up actions don’t align with your words. If a person wants to find the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they will find it in the lives of the people who live it. 

I love the example from Alma 32 where he says ‘put an experiment on the word’. Try it. Even if you have just a particle of faith, try it. And if you consistently nourish it with great care, it will begin to enlighten your understanding, beginneth to grown, enlarge your soul and it will become delicious to you. So if you have a family member who doesn’t believe? That’s fine. Put the Gospel in to practice and let them see the fruits of the Spirit in your life. And then put it in God’s hands: you can’t make them your project, you can’t set a deadline for them, you can’t ‘fix a date’ for them. You just have to say ‘God, I’m going to live this gospel and trust in your timing’, and whatever needs to happen for them will happen.

[nextpage title=”How should we date girls?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”How should we date girls when we are 16?”[/pullquote]

I would say “Very carefully, properly bathed, and with minimal cologne.” 😀

YES. Give yourself 1 spray…3 feet away from the body.

Yup. Pro tip for the guys…don’t spray it straight on. You puff it in to the air, and step into the cloud, then wave it around with your hands.

Seriously though. I would say that at 16 years old, you should get your buddies together…guys and girls…and just go off and do fun stuff!

With no parents! 😀

Sure. I mean, some folks will insist on being at the home when you are all home together. 

Yup. If you’re going to set the house on fire, make sure Mom and Dad are home! 😀

But when you’re still in high school, dating is just meant to be fun and casual. I was also envious of the guys and kids at dances who were having the most fun and had the guts to ask, like, 20 different people to slow dance. I always wished I had that kind of confidence, because it looked like such a blast. 

Yup, I always thought those who dated and danced a ton with others were able to do it just because they were ‘popular’, but now I realize it’s because they were confident in themselves. It doesn’t mean that they weren’t scared, but just that they had the courage to overcome their fears and have fun anyways.

Now, I’m not sure if this person (who asked the question) meant “How should we date: solo or group? As in, is it allowed?” So, Church policy is YES, you can go on solo dates! (And I say ‘policy’ here because it’s not a commandment…you’re not going to have to repent if you don’t follow this policy…) There are Church policies, family policies (like I knew kids who couldn’t solo date until 17 or 18, or could only group date if the guy:girl ratio was odd numbered…), so however you do it..just remember that whatever policies and rules people have in place is because they just want what’s best for you. They want you to not get hurt.

Time and experience have shown that teenagers, generally speaking, aren’t terribly bright when it comes to being in groups. Stupid decisions tend to come out when in big groups; the bigger the group, the stupider the decision.

Like, with more people around you, you’re more willing to take risks. 

Yah, because it’s fun to do stupid stuff and take risks. I mean, that’s why we have Boy Scouts, right? 🙂 You get out, do stupid stuff, and earn merit badges for it!

But when you’re dating, you should keep an eye on your intentions for that date. Are you doing it because you want them to know that you’re crushing on them? Or you just want to show off to your buddies and you don’t really care? 

[nextpage title=”How do I explain the gospel to an atheist friend?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”How do I explain the Gospel to an atheist friend?”[/pullquote]

Heh. See the question about “How do I convince my dad who wants proof?” If your atheist friend doesn’t want to believe, then maybe it’s not even a question or argument or discussion worth having…because you’re not going to convince them.”

If they’re asking you “Why ARE you Mormon? Why do you do it?” A lot of my times in dealing with kids in classes at EFY, we’ll find that many kids finally work up the courage to admit that they’re only Mormon because their parents expect them to be, not because they choose to be. So when you’re a teenager and standing on the verge of becoming a legal adult, you start asking yourself “Okay, why AM I doing this? What do I really believe? Why am I actually here at Church?” Which is a FABULOUS thing to ask – I think it’s what God wants. I don’t think He wants people in this Church just for tradition, or just because their parents told them to. He wants people here because they CHOOSE to do it.

So if you were to answer your own question to “Why AM I doing this?” those would be the answers I’d share with a friend.

Last night we were at a dinner party and a lady next to me asked me that same question – ‘why do you guys choose to believe? Can’t you be a good person without Mormonism?’ And I thought about it for a moment and I said “Yup. I have friends and family members who felt like they don’t need the Church and that works for them. But the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ give me a chance to become not just a good person, but a better one. And they help me become a better person faster. They help me become the kind of dad I want to be. The policies and programs of the Church give me opportunities to put those principles into action. It lets me practice what I preach. It helps me become a better person.

If your atheist friend is trying to convince you that your faith has no substance, I would hope that you’d have the self-confidence and the guts to say ‘You know, I think you’re a great person, but I don’t appreciate you trying to shake my faith. I’m trying to make this faith my own. I’d hope you’d be respectful enough to just leave this topic alone because your friendship is really important to me.

And if this person is a really good friend, they hopefully wouldn’t even get to this point and they’d know you and would accept you for who you are.

And if this person ISN’T your really good friend, maybe you could say something like “You know, I know you’re a good person, but I can tell you’re trying to start an argument and I don’t want to argue this with you. My faith and Church are important to me.”

Exactly. Your friendship and faith can exist at the sometime; you don’t have to believe the same thing to be friends.

[nextpage title=”Who is your favorite Apostle?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”Who is your favorite Apostle?”[/pullquote]

I would say Elder Bednar

CALLED IT! 🙂

OH YEAH? Well who’s my 2nd favorite? 

uh…oh shoot. Holland?

Nope, he’s my 3rd.

THIRD?

Yah. #2 is Elder Eyring. So often his talks just resonate with me in a personal way. Often when I hear others speak I think “huh, that was good, maybe I’ll use that sometime”, but it doesn’t feel like it resonated with me. I love Elder Bednar because of his fantastic metaphors. Go back and look up his talk about Pickles, or Spiritual Traction. Plus Elder Bednar was president of Ricks College right before it became BYU Idaho, so I got to hear him speak a lot at devotionals and firesides and I really admired the way he conducted meetings. He wanted to interact with us as college students and he valued our lives and what we had to say. So I felt some connection to him. 

Awesome. I’d say my #1 is Elder Holland. You just know that when he stands up, everyone’s gonna be all ‘Look out, here come the big guns.’ Might as well just drop the mic and let him do his thing. But I like him because his performance art of speaking really resonates with me as a speaker as well.

I also really love Elder Cook, because before he was an Apostle he was a 70 and he toured our mission. For whatever reason I was chosen to be his translator, so I followed him around and whispered english in his ear during the meetings. And we took selfies together and that was my claim to fame when he became an Apostle.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”What do tell my friend if he says if he doesn’t know what would change from converting to Mormonism ?”[/pullquote]

Ah. That old question of “What would I need to change if I became Mormon? What if I’m already a good person?” One time we were at a musical concert to see Gladys Knight and the Saints Unified Voices choir. These concerts are used as missionary opportunities and you’d get lots of investigators, lots of fans, and I remember walking through the line and noticing a couple in front of us. The Dude in this couple wasn’t a Mormon, and one of the Ushers recognized him. The Usher was chatting with the Dude about him meeting with the Missionaries, and the Usher jokingly said “Gotta be careful with those discussions…that’s how they’ll get you and change you!” The Dude’s Wife got annoyed at this comment and said “Change him how…from an Already Good Person to Still a Good Person?!”

Heh…it got kind of awkward. The Usher meant well, but the Dude’s Wife was justified in being annoyed that some people think that non-Mormons are somehow perpetually deficient…and that they won’t be ‘fixed’ until the convert; there’s an unspoken implication that what you have or who you are is not enough.

And nobody wants to feel that way. 

I think most people out there are already good decent people, and for a lot of them, no major changes in their lives are necessary. Sometimes we, unfortunately, come across with a bit of a superiority complex.

So to answer this friend’s question as to what would change if they joined the Church? Well, if they’re already a good decent person, probably not a lot! If they’re already on a path like Christ – respecting and kind to others, charitable and forgiving, sacrificing of themselves – then not a lot would already change in their behavior.

But perhaps, in teaching this friend, you could find a way to say ‘Well, if you’re interested in the Church, just come and see. I won’t tell you how we’ll change you, but we do things differently and people find a lot of fulfillment in this faith. If you come and see you may feel something, and find something, that you never knew existed before.’ We don’t want people to feel that they aren’t good enough. 

It also makes me think of President Hinckley’s quote: “We do not ask you to throw away what is good or abandon your old traditions. Bring everything with you that is good and let’s see if we can add to it.” That’s an empowering and validating approach with your friend, because it shows that you approve of them, care about them, and if they want to come see you’ll be right there for them. 

[nextpage title=”My brother left the Church. How do I help him feel the Spirit?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”My brother left the Church. I want to know what I can do to help him feel the Spirit again? I don’t want to force him to do anything…”[/pullquote]

Well, that’s got to be really hard for your family. That’s not fun at all. 

Yah, we’ve dealt with this in our family, both on my side and Megan’s side. We totally know what this feels like.

It’s an interesting worded question. You couldn’t ‘force’ him to feel the Spirit, even if you tried. We can’t force people to be good. This is similar to that question about how to help the dad – if YOU can have self-control, if you can live the principles of the Gospel, it will bring in to your life love, light, and the Spirit. It will come in to your life in the way you reach out to your brother and develop a strong bond and deep family connection. 

There’s a family in my ward who had a son who left the Church (right before he was supposed to leave on a mission) and it really shocked them as a family. But they came to themselves and “Look, we are family first, and Church-members second.” They needed to teach their kids that their love and bond existed independent of their faith, and regardless of the path that each was taking. They weren’t going to be kind and charitable to each other just because they all happened to go to the same Church; they were family, they were blood, and that’s more important than anything. I mean, isn’t that what our own God did for us? He loves every single one of us…

…as varied and diverse and stubborn as we all are. 

Yup. You look at how many people are in the Church, when compared to the rest of the World…and we make up barely 1% of the population. And He loves the rest of the 99% just as much as He loves us.

So to answer this question – how do you help him feel the Spirit? Well, you live the Gospel. You read the scriptures…study them, so you can know them, so you can live them. You make covenant-keeping life a priority. You make living a charitable, peaceable life, like Christ and His prophets have taught, a priority.

And you keep praying for your brother, and that YOUR heart will still be open towards him. 

One of the kindest things I’ve ever heard was recently when a brother notified the rest of the family that he and his little clan of kids weren’t going to be doing the whole Church thing anymore. And my totally awesome wife wrote him a personal letter that basically said “That doesn’t change anything about how I feel about you,” remind them that our love for him and his family was forever and it didn’t matter what they did.

[nextpage title=”What are the best LDS pickup lines?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”What are the best LDS pickup lines?”[/pullquote]

Oh Ben, it’s YOUR forte! 

Oh well apparently it’s NOT my forte as I have NO game! (Pssshhh…3 to 12…are you kidding me?) I would say that since YOU have so much dating experience over there, YOU’VE heard a lot of these!

You know, honestly, I wouldn’t have guessed that your dating numbers would have been that low…

Huh. 🙂 Yah, so, did any guys actually say these to you?

Nope. It’s not a real thing. 

Yah, people would do these just to be funny on YikYak or Snapchat or whatever, just to get a laugh. Us guys would just say stuff like ‘Hey baby, wanna hold the priesthood?’

…ugh…that’s the one we always heard.

But if a girl didn’t want us putting an arm around her, she’d say something like “My body is a temple and YOU don’t have a recommend!”

[nextpage title=”How do I best prepare for a mission?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”How do you best prepare for a mission?”[/pullquote]

Wow, that’s a good question…with a long list of answers.

Financially prepare? Get a job and earn money. I believe it costs about $500 / month to be a missionary, and that’s after spending about $2,000 or so on supplies.

Emotionally prepare? Turn your phones off, learn how to interact with people face to face. Practice getting out and serving. A great way to do this is to serve a “mini mission”, acting like a 3rd elder in a companionship for a few days or weeks at a time.(Ask your Bishop or Stake President.) Or go on splits with the missionaries.

Splits are great. It helps you learn that the missionaries really do visit people everywhere in your town. 

Spiritually prepare? You gotta read the Book of Mormon, cover to cover. A good goal is to get through it at least twice before your mission, and at least 3-4 times through while serving. The more you read it, the more you’ll know it, and the better you’ll be able to teach it. (Spoiler alert: if the first time you read the Book of Mormon is when you hit the MTC, you’ll be behind a bit.)

You’re already going to have so much other stuff to study there, especially if you’re going foreign speaking. Lots of culture shock to deal with, so don’t be behind in your knowledge of and understanding of the Book of Mormon. 

One time we had a missionary visiting us at our home for dinner, and as I was sharing scriptures that night, he was underlining things in the Book that he’d never heard before…because he’d never read it through before his mission. (Now, I don’t know his whole back story…maybe he was a new convert or came from an inactive family or whatever, so I’m not judging him…but I was surprised to see this and just wondered ‘how you can teach this if you haven’t read this yourself?) So make sure you’ve read through the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, New Testament, Pearl of Great Price, and Old Testament, in that order.

Physically prepare? You need to know the schedule of a missionary, getting up early, going to bed early. Transitions are hard. Like when you go from summer break to early morning seminary at the beginning of the year. Imagine if 6 months before your papers are in you were actually living the schedule? You’d have such an easy transition. 

I liked to tell my seminary kids that as soon as they get their mission call, they should start living the mission rules (well, most of them.) Getting up early, certain amount of scripture study. Be able to know how to do your own laundry, cook for yourself, change a bike tire or car tire, do your own finances, improvise a lesson or talk with a 5 minute warning, stand up and share a discourse on something new and interesting you’ve studied that day. It’s all things you need to practice and learn.

Whip out Preach My Gospel and start preparing with it early. 

It would be so awesome if by the time you hit the MTC it’s more of a continuation of something you’ve ALREADY been doing, rather than the commencement of something you’ve NEVER been doing. 

[nextpage title=”How did people repent before the Atonement?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”How did people repent if the Atonement hadn’t been performed yet?”[/pullquote]

I think it’s pretty simple – they looked forward to the Atonement in the same way that we look backward to the Atonement. The Atonement is the center of the mirror, so to speak, and everything looked forward or backward to it.

Another thing to remember is that, based on our understanding of ancient scripture, not a lot of people in olden times viewed the Atonement the same way we do. Their understanding of how forgiveness is granted is very different than how we view it (primitive rituals, sacrificial animals, etc.). Very few early civilizations had a Jesus Christ-Centric view of the world like modern-day Christianity. But those who DID were able to connect the meaning behind the sacrificial animal to the promised Atonement that would happen in the future. They had faith in it looking forwards in the same way we have faith in it looking backwards.

[nextpage title=”Was Jesus the Beloved Son in the Pre-Mortal World?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”Was Jesus the Beloved Son during the Premortal world? And did He know that God was going to choose Him to be the perfect example?”[/pullquote]

I don’t know whether it was ‘necessary’ that Jesus be the Beloved Son in the Pre-Mortal World. But I think I’ve read things from the Brethren that indicate Jesus was likely several ‘spiritual levels’ above us in the beginning.

I think the short answer to this is ‘we don’t know’ – ‘cuz it’s the pre-mortal life, right? We’ve forgotten a lot of that. But I think it makes sense that the term ‘Only Begotten Son’ is more of a title or position that was granted to a particular person who was most in line with God’s own will and desires. As it became evident that Jesus was most in line with what God wanted, he received that position of honor. I believe it’s in the Pearl of Great Price where it says Satan would yell “will be thine Only Begotten Son…give ME thine honor!” He wanted the title as if it were a position of authority. But Christ would be the humble, obedient Son who said that the ‘glory’ belongs to the Father and those who earn it but don’t want to seek it out…which is exactly how he was qualified to get it.

[nextpage title=”What qualities do boys look for?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”What qualities do boys look for in future companion?”[/pullquote]

The right kind of boys will look for…ugh…this is a really wide, open question! 🙂 If I were to narrow it, I would want whoever asked this to understand something about girls. Yes, we are trying to attract guys by being beautiful and pretty and funny and we care what they think of us. But what you REALLY need to do is simply find the guys who fit what and who you naturally are, not who you are TRYING to be. You want to find a person who would be a good pair with you. (There are just too many generalities to list all the good qualities that are out there.) One of the reasons we should be dating is to find someone who compliments who YOU are. Don’t just go looking for someone who is ALWAYS funny – because maybe you’ll learn that that person is just being funny as a way of deflecting their insecurity or something like that. 

I think when it comes to dating and finding the best characteristics, you need to find those that will complement your own, the kind of person who fits well with yourself.

That’s good stuff babe. My take on it is simple – we’re looking for the 4 C’s (and these are not in any particular order: gotta be Cute, gotta be Cool, gotta be able to Cook, and gotta be Celestial. 😀

HA! I think he just whipped those out off the top of his head…

Yah I did, but they’re still kinda true, right?

They are true, yes…but you DIDN’T marry someone who was ‘celestial’ right away. Yes, I was a good person, but I was really ignorant and not very mature.

Well a person who is Celestial may not be mature, because everyone is young and inexperienced. But a ‘Celestial’ person is someone who is aiming for the Celestial kingdom.

Ok good, thank you for clarifying! Because I’m not perfect!

Yah, but you’re Cute, you’re Cool, you can Cook…

…and we Complement each other! 

and we Compliment each other. 😀

[nextpage title=”When did you truly convert and believe?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”Some are all born into the Church and others later convert. When did YOU truly convert and believe?”[/pullquote]

This is a great questions.

It makes the distinction between just a ‘Church-going Mormon’ and a ‘converted Mormon’. 

Yup. They’re not the same thing. There are a lot of people who go but don’t believe.

Well, maybe they go but they’re not just fully converted yet. They are filling callings, they’re serving others, and at that point in their life, maybe they’re just not converted yet. They’re on a journey, on their own spiritual path…and that’s just fine. 

The interesting thing about conversion is that some people think of it as if it were a ‘light switch’ moment…when all of a sudden everything gets flipped on and they say “this the day when I believe”, or “this is the day I got my testimony” or “this is the day when it all made sense to me”. Some people’s testimony happens like a spark plug – all of a sudden. But other people it’s slow like a sunrise – the light grows gradually, because you’ve been living it day after day after day. 

You’ve been accumulating light, spiritually, and then you look around and say ‘Of course! I feel so good when I live like this! Of COURSE this is true!’

So I can remember a handful of experiences that happened in high school…spiritual highlights…that I use as ‘anchor points’ of when I felt a super strong emotional reaction. I think that was me feeling the Spirit…like, this was serious, this is real. I had half a dozen of those all throughout high school, and taken all together, they added up to me feeling the Spirit and understanding the Gospel.

But as far as ‘when’ did I become converted? I think it’s an ongoing thing – I’m still slowly becoming converted to different aspects of the Gospel at different times. Going on a mission helped me become more converted. Becoming a dad helped me become more converted. Become a teacher at EFY helped me become more converted. So for me, there was no one singular point where I could say “Yah, that was it.” But I think the common thread in all those experiences was that when I was focused on teaching the Gospel to others are the times when I felt closest to God – that’s when my conversion feels the most real, when I’m helping others learn it. Because that’s when I learn it too.

I would agree with the idea that conversion is a continual process. For example, I didn’t understand the importance of Charity, or not judging people, when I was younger. I have since really learned a lot about withholding judgment and just showing people love. So I think Heavenly Father allows us to really learn something, become converted over time, for some lessons to really stick…but that doesn’t mean that I’m always good 24/7 at being charitable. I’m just growing in that ability. 

I DO have a really personal experience, like a ‘light-bulb’ moment, of praying to know whether the Book of Mormon was true. 

Really?

Yah. My freshman year of college. First time away from home for a long period of time. I decided I would read the Book of Mormon, on my own, all the way through. So I would get up early every day and read before class, before my roommates were awake, while the apartment was all quiet. 

That’s really cool.

It was a really powerful experience that I don’t think …in fact, I KNOW that almost all the prayers I’ve asked for in my life were not answered this way. But this time I felt this strong, warm, comforting feeling, with a thought that said “Megan, you KNOW this is true.” It was really a beautiful experience that was so strong, it’s still with me almost 20 years later.

Now there have been other things that I’ve prayed for that don’t get answers like that yet. So time passes and I struggle and I grow and I get slow answers instead. And those slow answers aren’t easy to recall or to remember, so that’s why God asks us to write things down – keep a journal, keep a diary, whatever. I think it’s good to go into old notebooks and look at that and remember how sometimes answers take MONTHS. I’ll read through my old notes and think “Wow, that answer took forEVER to come! Man, some things just really take a while.”

So I hope that all the kids understand that sometimes God will just give you the answer – BOOM, and flip the switch. But other times He’ll test you…like a sunrise. It may take an hour for the sun to come up and over the horizon. And maybe that ‘hour’ in spiritual terms could be months, or years. (And that’s another reason we say to never give up on those family members or friends who are struggling with the Gospel – because sometimes that spiritual daylight can take ‘hours’ / months / years, to break through the clouds of struggle and doubt that people deal with. God isn’t giving up on them, and neither should you. Because spiritual answers just take time.

Awesome.

[nextpage title=”How can forgive myself for sins and move forward?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”How can I forgive myself for sins and move forward?”[/pullquote]

Man, this one can be hard. Sometimes teens have such a hard time forgiving themselves and moving on. I think this is partly because they have a lot of expectations set of them. Lots of times you’ll hear parents and leaders with high expectations of their kids, and kids will be talking about how they feel the pressure to be perfect, to do everything right. So when they do something wrong, they have this grave sense of disappointment that just bounces around in their minds, echoing over and over that they’ve let people down. And they don’t want to discount their mistakes and pretend that it’s not that big of a deal, so they don’t let themselves off too easily. It’s like we think that we’re ‘supposed’ to feel bad for a certain amount of time when we do things wrong, before we’re allowed to let it go – as if there’s a certain Quota of Misery we’re required to fill, and only once we’ve filled up that Misery Quota are we allowed to let it go. I wish I knew what that Misery Quota was… 🙂

Ben, what’s the quote about when we’re at the end of our life, and we meet the Savior, and it comes to balancing the scales of mercy and justice?

Oh…how as an Advocate He will ask for the greatest possible reward and the least possible punishment?

Yah. As a teenager I didn’t understand that. I’ve had many, many times where that replay reel of mistakes I’ve done just kept playing. Heck, even things I’ve spoken to my Bishop about, but I didn’t know where that Misery Quota was, so I just kept feeling sorry over and over again, and I just kept playing that replay reel over again. And it never helped. It just made me feel worse. I wonder if it was one of the Adversary’s tools to keep me from moving forward in the Gospel. Like he was there poking me in the back, saying “Hey! Don’t you forget about what you did wrong! I want you to know that you were really bad and you knew better!” And it doesn’t help!

I think when that guilt and shame keeps piling on top of us, and we allow it to keep growing…when we realize that it’s preventing us from improving and moving forward, that’s a signal that we’ve gone too far. That’s when we’re denying the power of the Atonement, not allowing the healing to take place, and wallowing in the self-misery and discouragement, instead of letting go of the burden.

Yes, Christ wants us to feel sorry for our sins, but only to the point where it motivates us to do better and not repeat the same mistake and to change for the good. It’s what the scriptures refer to as ‘Godly Sorrow’. In the New Testament, Paul actually says that ‘godly sorrow’ works towards our salvation…to our improvement.

Beating yourself over the head does not move you forward in improvement. 

This is the interesting paradox of being a Christian. Yes, we should feel sorry for our sins, and bad for our mistakes – but not so much that we’re unable to move forward and improve upon them. And once we move forward, we are allowed to let go of the pain and we are allowed to feel better about it. Sometimes people think that they’re not allowed to feel better about until they talk to their Bishop about it. And if that’s what you need, then fine, go talk to the Bishop about it.

This is part of the difference between Guilt and Shame …Godly Sorrow and Worldly Sorrow. Godly Sorrow says I did something wrong, so let’s repent and do something better and let it go. Whereas Worldly Sorrow, or sorrow of the damned, sorrowing for the sins of the world…that’s where we feel ashamed, like we’re not good enough, like God’s not going to love us, like we’re not worthy…and it keeps us down instead of lifting us up.

I would also add in here that going to talk to your Bishop can be a very liberating thing. I had a Bishop once that told me “You’ve obviously beat yourself up about this one thing for a long time. You’ve held on to this burden…but you can be free of it now.” It was a very liberating experience to understand more fully that I could let go. Going through the whole repentance process means I can be healed and Heavenly Father wants us to let it go. Your Bishop is someone that can help you do it. You don’t need to be afraid of him. He’s there to help everybody in that ward. He’s Heavenly Father’s servant, and he’s there to help YOU. 

I had a very wise bishop one time who said “I only wish people knew how much I want to help them. I only wish they wouldn’t be afraid to come talk to me. Because there’s nothing I enjoy more than helping them put their burdens at Christ’s feet and to walk away carefree and happy.” That was the thing he just loved doing – counseling them and helping them build a relationship with Christ.

So if you need to go talk to your Bishop, just shoot him a text. Most bishops nowadays are pretty cool about that – shoot him a text, or his Executive Secretary, and just say ‘Hey, could we talk some time this week?’ and that’s all you have to say. Just go from there and they’ll be fine.

Okay, we’re coming to the end. You’ve done a really good job on this, by the way, babe. This has been good!

I’ve enjoyed it! It’s been really nice to plumb the depths of the things that I remember being important to me as a teenager…things I didn’t understand, things I wanted to know. You guys have asked some fantastic questions. It’s been really enjoyable to discuss this. 

Yah, this has been really cool. I love hearing your answers, too. I kind of like you! 🙂

Heh. Good. I kinda like you too. 😀

[nextpage title=”What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?”]

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#1963b5″ class=”” size=”20″]”What is the scariest thing you’ve done?”[/pullquote]

Gah…I don’t have a ready answer…I weigh risk really carefully. Hmm…gonna have to think. 

Up to now, I think one of the scariest thing I did was running the Tough Mudder course in Tahoe completely solo. That electro-shock therapy, man. There was something for every phobia there…just had to conquer it and do it.

The second most scary thing I ever did was asking for my wife’s hand in marriage from her dad.

Hah! You psyched yourself out – my dad is so nice!

I know! He’s totally chill! But that night when I came drop off some dishes I’d brought back and made small talk for half an hour…and finally he’s all “uh…I’m going inside now. Thanks for coming over…” and I was all “Wait! One final question….um…can…I …uh…canImarryyourdaughter?” Heh. That was pretty scary. I was glad he said  yes.

Heh. Hmm…I can’t come up with something super terrifying. But we did do team building exercises in high school – a high-adventure ropes course. I was with people I didn’t know very well. It was raining, out in a redwood forest. Lots of problem solving and stuff. But the last obstacle you had to confront was climbing up a ladder on the side of a tree and at the top was a tiny little platform…and suspended from a branch of another tree was a trapeze bar (and we had a harness on…). So you had to ask yourself whether you had the guts to jump and grab the trapeze and swing out. I just remember thinking “My mom loves me and I can do this!!!” I think jumped and I missed it…I didn’t jump hard enough. I slapped it and fell but was caught by the harness. I remember hearing myself scream as I fell and everything went black and I’m all crying as they lower me down. It was rather traumatic. 

There you go kids. Just remember: my mom loves me, and I can do this!

Well, it looks like that’s all the time we had for today. Thanks again for your questions, and we hope this was helpful! We’ll see you again next time!

See you guys!

 

Posted in EFY 2105, EFY, Firesides, & Youth Conference, Writings and tagged , .

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