The Difficult Path vs. Fiery Darts

Recently, while watching the address from our new prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, I jotted down the following thought:

Don’t confuse the difficulty of the path with the fiery darts of the adversary.

I’m not exactly sure what about that presentation brought on this thought. But I know exactly why I thought about it – in the context of my life.

Recently, our family lived in Midway, Utah. If you aren’t familiar with it, Midway is in the Heber Valley – east of Salt Lake City, on the other side of the Wasatch Mountain Range. Midway is about 20 minutes south of Park City. It’s just a beautiful place.

We moved to Midway in late fall, and there was a road that always intrigued me – Pine Canyon Road. It was closed during the winter and wouldn’t be open until at least May – when the snow melted and made the road passable.

I would often take walks through Midway and see this closed road, curious about where it led.

The view of the mountains from Wasatch Mountain State Park in Midway, Utah.

It was late May (around the 27th or 28th that year), when the road was open! I knew, thanks to google maps, that this road would lead me to the tops of the mountains where I could then go on to either Guardsman Pass and Salt Lake County/Sandy or I could go on to Empire Pass and Deer Valley/Park City.

The walk to Park City from my house would be about 14 miles – with an elevation climb of about 4,000 feet. On a Saturday morning in May, I decided I would take a long walk.

The view of the Heber Valley and Deer Creek Reservoir from a random spot on Pine Canyon Road

It was a hard walk. Now, it wasn’t a hike, so I had the advantage of having a path laid out before me. But it was hard. It was all uphill for hours and hours. I had a pack with water. I took plenty of breaks – to catch my breath while admiring the views, the flowers, and the cool air.

Columbine growing on the side of the road
Wasatch Beardtongue
Utah Sweet Vetch
A cabin in an Aspen forest.

I walked, up a mountain, for a few hours when I finally reached a “checkpoint” of sorts. The end of Pine Canyon Road, and a choice to go to either Brighton or Park City. It took forever. I was getting so tired. I had been walking for about 4 hours.

This intersection brought me sweet relief! Only a little way left!!!

At this point in my walk, I still had about 1 mile or so until I got to Empire pass. Then I had a few more hours until I made it to Main Street Park City. Though I was relieved to turn this corner, there was more walking to do. A little over 2 hours of more walking, in fact.

But I took a drink of my water, and I kept on going. I would take a longer break at Empire Pass…

empire pass
The view from Empire Pass.

And I made it.

Though I would still have to keep walking to get to Park City – Main Street, Empire Pass was the summit of my walk. Empire Pass was the real point of the walk. I wanted to get into the mountains.

After hours of walking, I made it to Empire Pass. I sat down on a bench and looked over to Bonanza Flats. I saw snow-capped mountain peaks and smiled. I could look in another direction and see the Heber Valley. I could look in yet another direction and see all of Park City. I was on top of the world. This little walk, though time consuming, was immensely rewarding.

The mountains are a special, peaceful place. Going up to the mountains kind of felt like going to church. It was renewing. It was quiet and contemplative. All of the effort to make it to the top of these mountains was nothing in comparison to the reward of sitting on a bench and looking out to the mountains.

I sat on a bench for about half an hour then made my way down through Deer Valley and on to Park City where I would have Homey pick me up and I would get a ride back home.

Deer Valley


Sometimes I think that life is a lot like a walk up to a mountain pass.

One – It’s there…

Sounds kind of obvious. Yes – the mountain pass is there. And I think that it is there for us. Heavenly Father has created mountains for us to climb. Do we have to? No. But I believe He wants us to dream big. He wants us to see mountain vistas. He wants us to experience the peace of an Aspen forest in late spring, the blue skies that rival the blue wings of birds that flit through the forest. He wants us to admire wildflowers that pop up along roadsides. He wants us to see moose tracks and a line of trees that have been carefully chopped down by a beaver.

The mountains are there. But we have to make the choice to walk up it. He won’t make us. We don’t have to go. In fact, we can choose never to climb a mountain and have a great life.

But some people see the mountains and feel drawn to them. And they’re there. So, it’s good for us to go.

Two – The only views and experiences of the mountains are in the mountains

The thing with mountain top views is that they are in mountain tops. There is no easy way to get there. You have to go up. If the mountain view was in the valley, then it wouldn’t be a mountain top.

It’s important, I think, to make this discernment.

Sometimes, I think that we tend to say that God is testing us – as if He is the jealous God that we have imagined based on our interpretations of the Old Testament. As if he is Lucy, from Charlie Brown.

But I don’t think that’s the way it is. The climb up a mountain – yes it’s a test of our will and strength. But that’s not because God set out to make it hard. It’s because mountain tops are where the views are, and you can’t get around that! If you want to see the view from the top of the mountain, then you just have to climb.

And this is where the point that I mentioned at the beginning of this post comes in.

Don’t confuse the difficulty of the path with the fiery darts of the devil

As I mentioned in the point before, the mountain is there. And the views are there. And I think that Heavenly Father wants us to experience these things that will bring us joy.

So – is the road we must travel up a challenge? Yes! But we shouldn’t confuse ourselves. The upward climb isn’t a fiery dart of the devil. It isn’t a “test” from a jealous God. It is simply the path.

Three – All of that being said, the path is a test, and there ARE fiery darts

It is important to make the distinction between the path and the influences of both the Lord and the adversary. By learning to make this distinction we will be able to stay optimistic and we will have the strength to fight off the fiery darts of the adversary that will try to thwart us from our reward.

Think about Lehi’s dream in 1 Nephi 8. People are walking along a path that will lead to the tree of life.

The path itself is completely inanimate. It is simply the way to our goal.

On the path is the iron rod. It follows the path and provides something that we can hold onto – so that we make it safely to the tree of life – our goal.

This path – it is like the road up the mountain. It goes up and down, around corners. In Lehi’s dream, there are portions of the path that even go through “mists of darkness.” Those mists of darkness are the fiery darts of the adversary. They aren’t the path. These fiery darts are meant to force us into letting go of the iron rod and straying from the path that will lead to the tree of life.

Sometimes, we can be tempted to lose focus. We forget what purpose the path serves. We forget that it is a gift given to us by God to help us get where we want to go. We can be frustrated and wonder why our Heavenly Father is testing us. We might even confuse the path – this wonderful path that leads us to joy and accomplishment – with the fiery darts that are trying to sway us from the path.

When we understand that the road to the mountain pass is the road that the Lord prepared for us to enable our achievement of dreams and joys then we will more readily accept the trials and afflictions that we face – recognizing that they strengthen us and help us to get where the views are worth hundreds and thousands of words – where the air is clean – where we are filled with joy and confidence.


Plutarch and Alma

I came across this quote recently, and I couldn’t help but think of Alma…

Plutarch Knowledge Quote

Before relating this to Alma, I want to just talk about the quote. Plutarch was smart enough to “get stuff.” I mean, a lot of us are that way, right? I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read about health and fitness. I logically “get” many of the concepts I’ve read about.

Yet – even though we “get something” and may even have knowledge, without application what do we really know?

Not only was Plutarch smart enough to “get something” from the words he read, he was smart enough to realize that the words and knowledge he gained was through experiences.

As for me – even though I had read a few books on the damage and problems that sugar causes the body, I never really got it until I had experimented for myself and saw how eating a diet without much sugar affected me. I really needed this experience in order to give meaning to the concepts that I had learned.

Alma the younger understood the power of experiential knowledge. In fact, he extended an invitation to the poor Zoramites that he taught:

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” – Alma 32:27

Alma taught the people the word of God. And he didn’t expect them to believe him just on face value – just because he said to believe. Instead, Alma asked them to experiment on his words. Alma wanted them to try it out for themselves. Alma invited them to have their own experiences so they could gain their own knowledge and faith.

It is interesting to me that we approach nearly every subject this way – except faith. Do we expect to learn a language just by reading about it? No, we go on a foreign exchange program, we take an immersion class, we go to that country, we start studying on a language learning website, we practice saying words in another language.

If we desire to learn Calculus, do we just buy a textbook and peruse it? Probably not. We go through the exercises. We get a calculator, paper, and pencil, and then try to solve the equations.

Yet, for some reason, so many people think that in order to obtain spiritual knowledge, they will sit in church one time and listen to a sermon and get it. Or maybe they think that in order to gain a testimony, they must read through the Bible once without meditating, pondering, and applying the words.

Then, because they haven’t put any thought or effort into their acquisition of spiritual knowledge, they don’t get any spiritual knowledge. Some may even proclaim faith, spirituality, or the scriptures as a fraud because of their own lack of experience.

I haven’t studied Calculus, but I’m not going to claim that Calculus is a farce.

Yes – going to church and studying the scriptures are important parts of obtaining spiritual knowledge, but the crucial key is to experiment and experience the gospel. Then those experiences will give you the knowledge of the word. They will make the scriptures and church even more meaningful.

How have you “experimented” on the word? How have your experiences helped to shape your testimony? If you haven’t experimented on the word of God, what is holding you back?

Protecting Religious Liberty Protects All Liberty

La’ie, Hawai’i Temple

In case you didn’t see the title of this post, you can read it again right now…Protecting and religious liberty will protect all liberty.


First and foremost, we need to understand what liberty actually is.

Here is a list of the definitions of liberty.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 4.47.52 PM

Liberty is more than the “freedom to.” It is also the “freedom from.” This is an important distinction to make.

Freedom to

This is what we usually think of when we think of liberty of freedom. We have the freedom to choose, act, etc. In the gospel, the “freedom to” do something is agency. We are all blessed with agency. God loves and is the great protector of our agency. He doesn’t interfere greatly with our lives, but lets us choose as we will, even if it is something that will not please Him.

I also believe in freedom to choose, speak, think, believe, and exercise faith.

“Freedom to” act is not where freedom and liberty end. It is only the beginning.

Freedom From

As I mentioned earlier, God loves and is the great Protector of our agency. This is why He has given us commandments. Commandments and covenants aren’t arbitrary rules of a power hungry God. Instead, they are the “hacks” that enable us to live lives of liberty.

The commandments will keep us free from addiction, pain, strife, captivity and constraint. When we keep the commandment to forgive others, then our hearts are free from the captivity of anger and revenge. We then are better able to think and act.

In other words, “freedom from” helps to keep us “free to.” We become agents to act rather than be acted upon.

Liberty enables us to act rather than react to circumstances or actions of others. Liberty enables us to live abundant rich lives rather than live lives that may be indulgent but are riddled with addiction.

When we start to understand what liberty is, we naturally want to protect it.

The Constitution Protects Religious Liberty

It seems like people love to say that there is a “separation between church and state” as if religion needs to stay out of the government. The irony is that the first amendment of the constitution was written so that the government would stay out of religion.

In the Bill of Rights, we read:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” – Amendment I, Bill of Rights, The Constitution of the United States of America

These are the first words of the first amendment in the Bill of Rights. Remember that the Constitution wouldn’t have been ratified without the Bill of Rights.

I mean just think about the  phrase – Bill of Rights… These are our RIGHTS!

And according to this amendment, the separation of church and state is all about congress and the government staying out of the business of any church.

Congress can neither make a law to establish religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof. Right now, we are being subjected to a potential loss of this right. Religious rights are being jeopardized.

If our government can create laws that will nullify this first amendment, then what will stop our government from stripping away other rights?


Today, I was blessed to hear the words of a living apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. He spoke on protecting religious freedom. He gave an example from The Book of Mormon. About 90 years before the birth of Christ, on the American continent, a democratic republic was organized by a dying king. King Mosiah didn’t have anyone to pass the kingdom on to (all of his sons were serving missions and refused). He decided to create a system of judges that would govern the land. These judges would be elected by the people.

Today, Elder Holland and quoted the following scripture:

“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.” – Mosiah 29:26-27

This is an oft-quoted scripture, and most Mormons are relatively familiar with it. I believe that it’s true, too. There is safety in democratic practices because usually the majority of the people desire that which is right. Even if we don’t all believe in the same God or religion, most of us believe in the sanctity of life. Most of us believe we should be kind. Most of us think that lying and stealing is wrong.

Most of us, even if we go by different names and religions, still want that which is right.

But things change. And King Mosiah warned that when the majority of the people choose iniquity, then they will be visited with the judgments of God.

As I said, many are familiar with this scripture. Elder Holland recognized this fact, and then invited us to read a related, though less familiar scripture.

This scripture happens about 120 years after King Mosiah had created a democratic system. The people are still being governed by judges, but some changes have happened.

“And it came to pass that in this same year, behold, Nephi delivered up the judgment-seat to a man whose name was Cezoram.

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.” – Helaman 5:1-2

Notice the last phrase in the second verse, “for the laws had become corrupted.”

As I read this and thought about the warning given by King Mosiah, I wondered – what came first? The wicked majority voice or the corruption of laws???

We are at a crossroads now. Activist judges and loud minorities are influencing laws – even laws that will prohibit religious liberty and limit the personal liberties of all who live here. I believe that the majority of people now desire that which is right, but if our laws begin to change, then how will it impact us?

If we elect those who both influence us negatively and limit our liberties, then we may start to see a change. We might witness a majority who choose evil over good.

Again – remember choosing evil over good doesn’t mean everyone is a Christian. It means that we will see more people who choose to cheat others (eg: Wall Street circa 2007???), we will see more people care little about human life and rights (eg: Any war torn country right now!.) When we have a majority that chooses evil over right, we will self destruct. So we must protect our liberties now – our religious liberties, so we can continue to be an innovative, vibrant, and abundant society.

I feel like I need to end this with some kind of advice on how to protect religious liberty. Here are a few ideas. They come from a talk given by the Apostle, Robert D. Hales.

  1. Be informed – Get involved with the community to know what issues could have an impact on religious liberty. I must confess that I haven’t always done this in the past, but I will start now. This is such an obvious place to start.If you are reading this post and thinking that what I’m writing is nonsense, then take a few minutes to inform yourself – find out what is happening in regards to religious liberties. There is no need for anxiety, but becoming educated is crucial for any other kind of action.
  2. In your individual capacity, join with others who share our commitment to religious freedom. – I like this – in your capacity. Today, I’m using my capacity by writing a blog post. You are using your capacity by reading it, and you could even choose to share it. Perhaps your capacity is greater. You could volunteer for a political figure or cause that will support religious freedom. I don’t have that kind of time right now. If you are a mother of young children, your “capacity” might include teaching your children. There is something that each of us can do. Share an article on facebook. Share a quote on Instagram. Donate time or money to a cause that supports religious freedom. Any bit helps. Just do what you can.
  3. Live your life to be a good example of what you believe As Elder Hales said, “How we live our religion is far more important than what we may say about our religion.” Isn’t that the truth?! Becoming informed and getting involved really won’t matter much if you aren’t living right. Does this mean we have to be perfect? No! No one is perfect. But doing our best to live our religion will help to preserve religious liberty because it shows to others precisely why preserving this liberty is so important. We should be the kind of people that others want to live with. 🙂

Thanks for reading this long post. I hope it has been helpful and hopeful to you. I hope that you are inspired to stand fast in the liberties wherewith we have been made free – no matter your religious background. I hope that you will join me in rejoicing in and protecting our precious liberty.

The Atonement: The Beatitudes and the Atonement (1/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

- Matthew 5:3
– Matthew 5:3

As I have read this assignment and the chapter of Matthew 5, I have thought to go through each of the beatitudes listed in Matthew 5. Not only have they taught us how we ought to live, but Christ exemplified them in His life and when He performed the Atonement. I will spend the next several blog posts exploring each of the beatitudes and their relationship with Christ’s Atonement. Hopefully this exercise will teach us more about Christ’s Atonement, and how we can apply the advice He gave in Matthew 5 into our lives.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 5:3

This is the first of the beatitudes taught by Christ.

Poor in Spirit

First of all, it is important to understand what Christ meant by poor in spirit. When we look at the footnotes, we can see that it means “poor in pride,” or humble. In the account of Christ’s visitation to the Nephites, Christ gave the same sermon to the people. (See 3 Nephi 12:3.) There he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This difference implies that we, who are both poor in spirit and willing to come unto Christ will inherit the kingdom of God.

Christ was poor in Spirit. He was humble. He always humbly went to the Lord in everything He did. He uttered prayers of thanks before he fed the five thousand. He did nothing but the will of God.

As I think about the Atonement, I can’t imagine that there is a more humble act that anyone could have performed. He chose to submit to all. In the garden of Gethsemane, he suffered all of the sins of all of mankind. He didn’t have to do this! Not only did He suffer our sins, but he also suffered all of the afflictions and difficulties of mortality. This was not necessarily what he wanted to do – while in the moment. He asked Heavenly Father to remove the cup, but, because of His humility and obedience, chose to fulfill God’s will rather than His own.

Christ didn’t assume that He knew better than God, he simply submitted.

The thing that is important to remember here is that Christ is the King of kings. He is the Lord of lords. He knew and understood His power and relationship with God. He knew that He is the literal Son of God. He created the earth. He is Jehovah. He knew He didn’t have to perform the Atonement, and that, as part God, he would never have to submit to death.

Yet he bled and suffered for our sins even though He had never committed one. He chose to come to this earth in the most meager and humble of circumstances. He didn’t require obeisance or honor from the Pharisees who claimed to be people of God. He humbly proceeded through His life, to the Garden of Gethsemane, and took on our sins.

Furthermore, He agreed to be charged and judged, though falsely, by wicked Priests. He was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and then nailed to the cross and forsaken by His own Father. He descended below all, dying – And Yet He is the King of kings. Lord of lords. Infinite and Eternal.

Imagine someone who lacked the attribute of being poor in Spirit or poor in pride. Would that person ever have agreed to the life that Christ lived? Would they have agreed to the final moments of Christ’s life? Had Christ not been poor in Spirit, I don’t think that He would have submitted to God’s will – which meant submitting to our sins, the priests’s wicked judgement, or death. He would have chosen a vastly different path which would have garnered vastly different results.

Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

We can see that because Christ was poor in Spirit and submitted fully to the will of His father, the Kingdom of Heaven truly is His.

If he hadn’t submitted below all, then He wouldn’t have risen above all either. If Christ wasn’t submissive to God’s will, then He wouldn’t be able to offer healing in His wings. How could Christ be resurrected if he hadn’t died in the first place? Christ couldn’t offer salvation from Sin if He didn’t first take it on.

Because Christ was poor in Spirit, He inherited the Kingdom of God. And, because Christ inherited God’s kingdom, we, too have the opportunity to do so.

Though we cannot ever inherit the Kingdom of Heaven in the same way Christ did, when we are poor in Spirit, we can come unto Christ and covenant with Him. Then, His ultimate act of Humility will combine with our humility – enabling us to become joint heirs with Christ and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s a pretty good deal for us… 🙂

What are you insights and thoughts on being poor in Spirit and the Atonement? How does this beatitude help you understand more about Christ and what He wants us to be?

Families, Apostles, and Testimony – President Henry B. Eyring’s Speech at the Vatican Summit on Marriage

President Eyring, one of the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often known as the Mormons) recently spoke at the Vatican Summit on Marriage.

You can watch his speech here:

I hope you watch this speech!

I believe in the family. I know that my most sublime joys and my most aching pain have come from family. This is because family is important. I can’t think of anything happier than catching my children do things like this:

Sasquatch Playing the Piano

Not only that, but when I think of my greatest heartaches, it usually has to do with a relationship with one of my family members. In fact, this morning, I was on a walk, and I was listening to a song. It was essentially about an alcoholic parent/step-parent. The child/singer seems to express both fear and anger toward the drug of alcohol and the effect that it has had on his family. In one point of the song, he sings a “letter” to his father. It is visceral and angry. I don’t want to get overly personal, but I relate to this song at some level. Listening to it today made me think, once again, of the pains I’ve felt in my life, and how much of these pains could have been avoided if we would just learn to take family more seriously.

I feel like the family is under attack. I know that we have been prepared for this day. In 1995, The First Presidency gave a Proclamation to the World about the Family. At the Vatical Summit on Marriage, President Eyring quoted from the proclamation.

So…I’m writing a lot, but I feel like I’m not getting to my point.

I hope you have watched the speech by now.

There were a few things that really struck me about this speech.

We have been taught the importance of Family. In the Family Proclamation, we learn that Families are ordained of God, we learn of our roles and responsibilities as husbands and wives, we learn how to have a successful family life, and we are warned of the potential problems that come when we violate marriage covenants and destroy the family unit.

Most of our problems can be solved by applying this simple document in our lives.

President Eyring spent a good deal of time talking about meeting his wife. He spoke about how they are different, but because they have been unselfish, they have grown together rather than apart. Their differences do not divide them, instead, the differences unite them the way that a jigsaw puzzle pieces together in a complimentary manner.

President Eyring also spoke about his children and his grandchildren. You could sense the deep love and joy that he feels toward his family. I could relate to the joy and love he expressed. I haven’t been married to my husband as long, nor do I have grandchildren; however, I have felt joy, and I look forward to more joy. I look forward to snuggling grandkids and then sending them back to their parents when they are tired.

The thing is, I realized, in President Eyring, we have a church leader who has lived life. He has been a young father struggling to support his family. He has been a young husband learning to live with his wife. He has experienced the high points and low points of marriage and family. He has both doctrinal knowledge and experiential knowledge.

I feel so grateful to know that he speaks from a lifetime of experience.

I know that I’m not expressing this well. Hopefully you’ve just watched the speech, and you can feel his love for his family. Hopefully you can also feel the comfort that comes from knowing a wise, humble man has been called to help lead this church.

Finally, I was overwhelmed by President Eyring’s final testimony – of Christ.

He bore witness of Christ, and then said, “who’s witness I am.”


We are led by living prophets and apostles. Just like in ancient times, when Christ organized His church with apostles, we have apostles who are witnesses of Christ.

I have had my own experiences with the Savior. I have felt the power of the Atonement in my life. However, I am not a special witness. I haven’t seen Him, nor have I heard his audible voice. Sometimes, it is a little tempting to doubt His existence – even when I have had so many experiences. It is tempting to think that my mind/heart are playing tricks on me. It is tempting to doubt myself!

However, the witness of the prophets and apostles confirms the witness I’ve experienced in my own life. I feel comforted knowing that there are people on this earth who have seen and know the Savior. They know Him as much as any of His contemporary apostles knew Him. It is comforting to know that I don’t need to doubt myself because there are others who have had a witness of the Savior, too. And I feel so grateful to know that I have been blessed to be a part of this church – that is led by the Lord’s chosen servants.

Did you watch the speech? What did you think? Share your thoughts!