While I was exploring the University of Texas at Austin this July, I discovered a statue and a plaque that were quiet interesting to me. The plaque was at the base of a statue of a father and mother holding their young child. They are looking upward together. They are striving for a better world and teaching their child to do the same. The plaque reads,
“The family is the foundation upon which the world of business is built, and it is a vital force in the local, state and national economy.”
The statue is by Michigan native Charles Umlauf who worked at UT Austin as a sculpture instructor. His works can be seen across America from the Smithsonian and New York city to Central Texas. I believe that Mr. Umlauf catches the essence of the importance of the family in this simple statement and with his statue. The family is not simply an old tradition, it is the fundamental building block of society. Without a family with a mother and a father to teach them, children grow up with a skewed sense of their place in society. They struggle to understand their civic duty and they have more difficulty becoming a contributing citizen. It is important that our society preserve this fundamental unit. If this unit crumbles or if it is forcibly replaced by a government or social activists, the very fundamental part of our free society will disappear and we will be left to stumble in the dark.
So I don’t usually share personal things on my blog but I’m getting married next month and I wanted to share my story. I’m marrying the lovely Sarah Huggard on 13 May and I am so excited! She is the most wonderful girl in the world and I am so blessed that she is willing to marry me. We have so much in common and look forward to long life together.
It all started on Valentine’s Day 2009. We were both in the BYU Concert Choir, and we had both gone of up to SLC to watch the BYU Men’s Chorus have master class with the King’s Singers. Sarah kind of had her eye on this tall, blue-eyed baritone, and although we hadn’t talked much before, we sat together during the master class. Sarah said, “I got kind of excited inside, but I tried to not let it show too much.”
The next week Adam asked Sarah out on their first official date. Sarah was surprised that Adam asked her! It was a group date to the Space Center (where they do simulated space missions that make you feel like you’re part of a Star Trek movie). For the next two months or so, we went on a few dates, hung out some, and saw each other a lot in choir.
At the end of April, Sarah mustered up all the courage she had and asked Adam on a date to the BYU Singers’ Bon Voyage concert. Thankfully Adam said yes, and we had a grand time. At the end of the date, Adam asked if he could be “blunt”, which Sarah found rather refreshing. He told Sarah that he liked her, but he just wasn’t ready to start any sort of relationship right then.
Despite this conversation, Sarah’s mind was spinning when Adam asked asked her on a date four days later. Over the course of the next six weeks, we went on seven dates and hung out on the side. Finally, in June, we decided to start dating exclusively.
“The next two months were so enjoyable,” Sarah said. “I hadn’t ever had a boyfriend, and Adam was incredible. He was kind, proactive, intelligent, talented, a hard worker, sensitive to the Spirit, living the best he could, and attractive besides! I couldn’t figure out how a guy like him ever wanted to date me.”
For whatever reason (that Adam still can’t figure out), Adam broke up with Sarah in August. We still wanted to be friends, but heaven knows how often that works out with ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends. Adam was a confused mess and Sarah was heartbroken, but with time and the power of the atonement, she was able to accept what had happened and fully heal. The hard part was that we lived in the same apartment complex, and once school started, we saw each other in choir every day again. We had to get used to seeing each other often but not interacting like we had been able to do before.
In November, Sarah started to seriously consider serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By December, she started the application papers, but she felt like she should wait until January or April of 2011 to serve, so she decided to put the application away for a year or so.
Adam started to get wind of all this mission talk through the magic of facebook (ahh, facebook). He got a bit nervous with all the talk and decided that he’d better figure out what was going on. He sent Sarah a message out of the blue that went something like this:
Sarah, I saw that there’s mission talk on your wall. Have you started your papers? Just curious, Adam
Sarah: “Wait, what? I was so confused. There was no way that Adam could have noticed mission talk on my wall without committing the crime of facebook stalking. Suuuuuuuuure he was ‘just curious.'” As confused as she was, she replied and told him that she had started her papers but that she was waiting for a year or so before she left. You can imagine how that made Adam start to think. He had already started considering trying to date Sarah again, and hearing this news took that feeling to a whole new level.
About this time, almost every guy Sarah knew decided to get back in contact with her and/or ask her on a date. One day after choir, Adam followed Sarah to the library. Along the way it seemed like she talked with 100 boys and Adam got more and more nervous. He stopped Sarah in the library and asked if he could take her out on Friday, but she already had a date for that night. He settled for Saturday.
Sarah’s head was spinning, but she tried to tell herself that Adam was just asking her out because we were friends. She told herself to not make a big deal out of it. Adam, meantime, was ecstatic! He had gotten up the courage to ask her again and it felt really good that she had accepted.
The date was so enjoyable! We went to Café Rio, Opera Scenes at BYU, and to an ice cream shop. We were able to talk like old times and just enjoy each others’ company. At the end of the date, Adam asked Sarah if he could take her out the next weekend, and she, completely surprised, told him, “Suuuuuuuuuure.” When she seemed to accept so readily, he also asked if she wanted to run up to his grandparents’ house in Salt Lake with him the next day, Sunday, and she agreed to go with him. Adam just thought, “Wow things were going great!”
Sarah’s head was still spinning. It seemed like Adam was interested in starting things up again, but she didn’t like being confused. She didn’t want to risk getting her heart broken again. She said, “I knew that I needed to ask Adam what he was up to.”
On the drive home from Adam’s grandparents’ house, she mustered up her courage again and said to Adam, “I’m sorry if this is a little blunt or awkward, but I’m confused, Adam. What are your intentions?” He chuckled and replied, “Well, I have intentions.” He went on to explain that he had realized a lot of things over the past several months, and he wanted to date Sarah again. When he asked Sarah what she thought about that, she said, “Well, I’d love to date you again, but honestly, I’m scared. I don’t want to get my heart broken again.” Adam bravely said, “I don’t want to manipulate you at all, but I can’t see me wanting to break up with you again.” …in other words, he was in it for the long run.
Sarah knew she needed to ponder seriously about what she wanted to do—and about what was the right thing to do. She brought up some of her concerns with Adam about dating him again, and she decided to let him know by our date on Saturday if she would date him again. Adam thought that was fine and was overjoyed that she even would consider dating him again. He thought that a week was really quick and would have been willing to wait much longer to let Sarah feel comfortable again.
Well . . . the whole one week thing didn’t work out so great.
Since we have choir together, we saw each other every day, and we talked every day after class. Sarah even went over to Adam’s apartment twice and talked to him. She could see that Adam was sincere in word and deed. After pondering and praying a great deal, she realized that she really wanted to date him, and she felt like it was the right thing to do, too! Adam was so excited when Sarah finally told him (on Wednesday mind you and not on Saturday), and Sarah was excited too. 🙂
That Saturday (so two weeks after our first date the second time around), we had a choir concert in SLC. We were holding hands at the concert and got some slightly confused looks from the choir who had no idea that we were dating. After the concert, we went to Marie Callender’s for pie with his parents, and Adam surprised Sarah with a lovely bouquet of flowers. We chitchatted on the way back to Sarah’s home and marveled at how our time apart had helped us.
On this drive, Adam bravely brought up a risky topic: “So, if this were to go long-term…….have you thought about timing at all?” Sarah told him, “Yes….” (Sarah said, “I’m surprised I could even get the word out of my mouth! You see—Adam has an internship in Austin from May to August, and we both knew that we were in it for the long run…so if we wanted to get married soon, it would have to be in May, before going to Austin, or in August, after being apart all summer, after Adam’s internship, and right before school started. That was no bueno.”)
Through the course of our conversation, we realized that we wanted to get married—and in May. From that point we were “unofficially engaged” and decided to tell only our parents.
Three days later, Adam asked Sarah’s dad for his permission. Wednesday, we went ring shopping. Friday, we had a splendid date. That evening, Adam said, “I have something to show you, but it has to be in the morning…like early. Can I pick you up around 6:40?” Sarah, mostly unaware of what was going on, told him yes.
All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Adam picked Sarah up in the morning, and we drove to the Mt. Timpanogos Temple. We walked over to the east side of the temple grounds and had a lovely talk about all sorts of things, particularly about covenants, while watching a beautiful sunrise come over the mountain. After the sun rose, Adam had Sarah sit down on a bench. He knelt down, said some wonderfully romantic things, and asked her to marry him. 🙂 Sarah ecstatically replied, “Yes!!!””
I am thrilled beyond belief! It is miracle to me that everything has worked out so perfectly. Adam is the man of my dreams and more, and I’m so excited that he and I get to spend eternity together. We have been truly, abundantly blessed.” — Sarah
“I am the most blessed man in the world. I’m so happy that Sarah would even give me the time of day let alone want to marry me. I love her and I am excited to spend eternity with her. She is the most gorgeous girl in the world! She has prepared herself in the right ways to be a righteous wife and mother in Zion and for that I will be eternally grateful.” — Adam
What does it really mean to be a man? The modern world expects a man who is focused on himself, on career, and on worldly success. The man of today is not expected by society to excel or to have ambition. The modern man must be in peak physical condition and it is acceptable that these “men” be immoral in their personal and intimate relationships. These worldly expectations are not, however, what the Lord expects of us, all of us on this planet, as His children. The following is meant to explore the traits needed by modern men to become modern men of God. Please feel free to express your thoughts and feelings in comments below.
In this video, Elder Christofferson, an apostle of Jesus Christ, shares a story about his father and mother.
“What characteristics of Elder Christofferson’s father exemplify manhood?”
“What does it mean to be a men in the eyes of our Father in Heaven?”
In the same talk as shown in the above video, Elder Christofferson said the following:
“What does this quote tell us about the need to become such a man?”
Now that we’ve thought about what the traits of a God-like man are, how are we supposed to attain those traits? We can’t simply decide one morning that we’re going to be loving or patient or considerate of others. We need to know what the actual actions we should take are to help us access the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and make these traits a part of our character. We can learn a lot from the example of Nephi in the Book of Mormon. In 1 Nephi 2:16, Nephi describes himself as “exceedingly young” and “large in stature.” Compare this with the description he gives of himself in 1 Nephi 4:31 “I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much strength of the Lord.” What happens in the two intervening chapters that allows Nephi to change from describing himself essentially as a boy to describing himself as having become a man? A careful examination of several of the verses in these chapters will help to illuminate the character and actions of Nephi that led to this change into a man of god.
Nephi begins his progression in 1 Nephi 2:16. Nephi says that he had “great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” The important things to take away from this verse are that Nephi had great desire and that he acted on that desire by not only praying but by crying unto the Lord. It is also important to note that he allowed his heart to be softened by the Lord. Having a soft heart is not what the world expects of its men, but it is absolutely what the Lord requires of men that can serve Him. Nephi also believes the words of his father who in addition to being his father is also his priesthood leader and prophetic leader. The result of this is that he is not rebellious. Not being rebellious doesn’t mean that he strictly or blindly conformed to a specific regimen of tasks but rather that he was willing to accept these tasks on faith and follow through to see the results. The overarching principle of the gospel that Nephi is demonstrating is faith, faith in Jesus Christ.
Nephi continues to demonstrate his faith in 1 Nephi 2:17-18. In these verses he shares his testimony of what he has experienced with his brothers. He first shares this with his brother Sam who believes what he says. He then shares it with Laman and Lemuel who characteristically reject the testimony of Nephi. Although they reject his teachings, Nephi is undeterred and continues to pray for his brothers because he is “grieved because of the hardness of their hearts.”
As Nephi continues to gain and exercise faith in Jesus Christ, he begins to have trials of his faith. The first trial comes in 1 Nephi 3:1-4 where he is commanded of the Lord, through his father and prophet Lehi, to return to Jerusalem to get the brass plates, their scriptures. At first brush this may seem like a very easy thing for Nephi because of where he already was in his spiritual progression. However, how often do we as children of God who are entitled to personal revelation decide not to follow the direction of our leaders thinking that we know better because of our own spirituality. It takes great courage on the part of Nephi to accept this commandment even when he was personally receiving great divine revelation at the same time.
Nephi does follow the direction given through his leaders. He travels to Jerusalem and asks Laban, the caretaker of the plates, if he will give the plates to himself, Nephi, and his brothers. Nephi and his brothers are thrown out of Laban’s house and accused of being thieves. Nephi, is still undeterred. He quickly decides to go to their fathers house and get the gold they left behind and attempt to buy the records from Laban. This attempt also fails and Laban steals their belongings and throws them out again. It would be easy at this point for Nephi to give up and decide that all that could be done had been done. His brothers do, in fact, give up and start to beat Nephi in a cave. An angel appears to them and tells them to stop but as soon as the angel leaves the brothers are back to their bickering and complaining. How difficult would this be do endure? Nephi had done his best and failed twice and even after an angel appears his brethren still do not support him. Even in this extreme trial of faith, Nephi comes through and decides to try again.
What gives Nephi the strength to go on at this point? What reasons does he give his brothers for having this type of faith? What does this have to do with scripture study? (1 Nephi 4:1-3)
After going back to Jerusalem, Nephi is told by the Lord to kill Laban who he finds drunk in the streets. Nephi reluctantly follows this command and obtains the record. The trial of faith is complete and Nephi has become a man. The pattern Nephi teaches us in these chapters is important to note. First he has desires, he is obedient, and he prays. After this he willingly accepts the trials of his faith not once, not twice, but as many times as it takes for the needed results to be obtained. Gordon B. Hinckley, a prophet of the Lord, describes again the traits that are obtained by following such a pattern.
I know that becoming men of God is possible through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This faith can be cultivated by diligent study of the Book of Mormon and other scriptures. I know that the Book of Mormon has a power in it that will come to us as soon as we begin a serious study of it. I also know that Christ lives and that he loves us. We are children of God and he will bless us as men as we strive to attain manhood as He expects us to.
Today is thanksgiving and I felt like I should depart from my typical political posts and talk about some of the things that I am grateful for. First and foremost I am grateful that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am grateful for the knowledge that I have that I am a child of God and that because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ I can repent and return to live with God. I’m grateful for the prophet Joseph Smith and for his courage and example. I’m grateful for the restoration of the gospel through him and for the added knowledge this brings to my life about my purpose on this earth and about the importance of family.
I am grateful for my family, for the love and friendship that we have and for the little troubles we have that keep life interesting! I’m grateful for my awesome friends and roommates and for the support they give to me. I am surrounded by some of the best people in the world and their examples are a great blessing in my life.
I’m grateful to be getting an education. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have an education. I think its often easy to take education for granted because it is so readily available to all of us. I’m grateful to know how to read and write. I’m also grateful that I’ve been blessed to have a good mind so that I can understand and reason about interesting things.
I’m grateful also to be a citizen of this great country. I know that I often talk about the things that we do wrong but it is a great blessing to live in a country where we have the freedom to speak our minds. I’m grateful for the freedom to worship the way that I want and the freedom to pursue my goals in life. I’m grateful for the heroes and patriots that founded America and for those that continue to defend her today. I am grateful for their examples of unselfish service and sacrifice for freedom.
I hope that today, as we eat dinners and spend time with family, that we will all reflect on the many, many blessings that we have. What are you thankful for?
The following is an essay by Hyrum Arnesen, my brother, which won first place in the “America’s Freedom Festival at Provo” essay contest.
No civilization in history has succeeded in maintaining itself. Each one has risen to power, become prosperous, and eventually declined, falling into decay. Can any country escape this fateful cycle? Yes! The Founding Fathers understood the reasons for the downfall of civilizations. They warned the Americans about these dangers, teaching them how they could maintain their freedom. Their formula for freedom included strong families, a willingness to sacrifice, and a strong reliance in God. Building on this foundation will keep our country strong.
For our country to stay strong, its people must be strong. They must be a virtuous, well-taught people if they are to carry on the tradition of freedom in this country. Good families build good people. The teaching in the home cannot be rivaled by any other organization. The Founding Fathers understood this principle. John Adams wrote, “The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families…. How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers?” John and Abigail Adams exemplified the strength of a good family. While John was away in Congress, Abigail wrote constantly to him, supporting him, encouraging him, and prodding him to keep working in his trying circumstances. She helped to shape his ideas about freedom, as he shaped the country’s ideas about freedom. Today, when children learn in their homes about the heritage of freedom in our country, they can fight for it with strength and power.
America was founded on immense sacrifice. Soldiers bled, froze, and suffered extreme trials. Civilians’ homes were burned or used as stables, livestock was scattered, and food was destroyed or used by the British. However, these people were glad to sacrifice for freedom, for “liberty must at all hazards be supported…at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.” The Americans were fierce for freedom. They would not, for any reward, give it up. The soldiers at Valley Forge could have deserted, but instead, they endured their trials knowing that “they that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” This heritage of sacrifice continues today. During the Vietnam war a captured American soldier, carefully stitched an American flag from the threads of his own clothing. When the flag was discovered, it was destroyed and he was severely beaten. Undaunted, as soon as he recovered, he started stitching a new flag—the flag that represented freedom, his country, and his willingness to sacrifice for both.
Throughout all their trials, the Americans maintained a firm reliance on divine providence, trusting that God would help them. This reliance is as vital today as it was then. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.” Similarly, George Washington clarified why America needs a strong reliance on God. He said, “The foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; …the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” Our government, our country cannot stand without a firm reliance in God. This country was founded with His aid. It cannot survive without it. We cannot maintain our freedom if we foolishly throw away our Christian morals and principles. As John Adams said, “Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.”
Following these principles of strong families, sacrifice for freedom, and a firm reliance in God will give America strength. Without these principles, America will decline and fall into decay. With these principles, freedom will be protected and America will remain strong. Strong families create strong individuals, sacrifice protects hard-fought liberty, and a firm reliance in God ensures divine intervention in our behalf. The fateful cycle of civilization is broken and America endures in freedom.
This last week and a half I’ve wanted several times to sit down and write about how things in this country need to change. I’ve wanted to point out what we’re doing wrong and point a blaming finger at those who seem to be responsible. I’ve decided, however, that this week none of that really is going to help. I want to present what I believe to be the answer to the problems that face us as a nation, us individually, and us as communities. What is this answer? It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon, a scriptural record of the people of ancient America, describes a people that had similar problems to those that we face. Their government was corrupt, their financial system often came into collapse, there were class distinctions and warfare between ideologically different parties. In the midst of this trouble, however, there was a 400 year period in which these problems disappeared. They disappeared because the entire population believed in and followed the teachings of Jesus Christ the Son of God. The record describes the state of these people as follows:
“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor rumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God” (4 Nephi 1:15-16).
You may think, “It must have been a very complicated process to achieve that level of peace and happiness.” It is not, however, complicated at all. To follow Jesus Christ and thereby attain these blessings is simple. All He asks of us is that we follow His commandments and His gospel. This consists simply of having faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of our sins, being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. I know and testify that any person who follows these simple steps, as outlined and taught in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon, will have peace in their lives and will have the blessings of God even in the midst of these troubling times. I know that we are the literal children of God and that he lives.