Apr 30, 2016

Admitting you're wrong

By Cassie Shiels

We all have these grand story ideas. Admit it; I know you do. And we think we have them all figured out. Many times we do and it's all great, but sometimes we get it written and then look at it and say it's all wrong, or the ending isn't right. At that point we have two choices.

Do we #1 say oh well its good enough, or #2 pull up our big girl pants and hit the delete button?

YIKES! I know its never fun to lose words on a story. It's such fun thing to see that word count hit 20,000 or 50,00 or more. Who in their right mind would delete a handful of pages? Those who want to get it right.

I ran into this problem with my current WIP. I had it all written the way I had planned it, but then the ending wasn't right. It was fine, maybe no one else would feel like I did that it wasn't right. Maybe, others would like it how it was, but for me, it just didn't feel right. I had to decided something then. Keep it the way it was or hit delete.

Well I chose the right choice, I think. It's hard admitting you're wrong even if it means sacrificing some word count. I'll admit it hurt drawing a big X on 15 pages and even more when a few more went after that, but it's worth it. I am still working on the new ending but I already know I made the right choice. So even thought it was hard, it was worth it.

For those who are nervous about it, don't delete it forever, keep a copy to refer to if you need to, but do it if your story needs it. Your future self will thank you!

Apr 28, 2016

Facing My Own Lion's Den

by Kari Diane Pike

Eight months ago I never dreamed that I would say this: I love teaching early morning seminary. I spent the first six months scared out of my mind. I fretted over every little detail in the lesson manual and spent countless hours trying to "memorize" the content. Every now and then I felt somewhat successful, but the energy in the classroom more often than not could only be described as "ennui." I told myself at the end of each lesson, that at least I wasn't being ripped into pieces!

Discouragement set in and I was ready to give up. But quiet inspiration came to me during an early morning seminary inservice meeting. I realized that I spent too much energy worrying about how the students perceived my teaching abilities and not enough time asking Heavenly Father about what the students most needed to hear and learn. There is not enough time each morning to discuss every single principle presented in the lesson manual. I have the responsibility to discern the best use of that time to strengthen testimonies and help prepare these amazing youth for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Last week we studied Daniel 6-12. I knew the student's were familiar with the story of Daniel and the lions' den and I prayed about how to help them apply it to their lives today. I studied the material in the lesson manual. I read the passages in the Bible. The night before class though, nothing stood out to me. When I entered the classroom that morning I still struggled to know how I could make the lesson more meaningful to the class. Minutes before class was to begin, I decided to test the projector and play a video clip suggested in the manual. The story tells about an experience that Joseph F. Smith had on his way home from his first mission to Hawaii.
 One evening a group of "drunken men rode into the camp threatening to kill any 'Mormons' that came within their path." Instead of running and hiding [as others had done] Joseph thought, "Why should I run from these fellows?" He boldly marched up to the campfire where one of the men angrily demanded,  'Are you a Mormon?' Joseph looked the man in the eye and said, 'Yes, siree; dyed in the wool; true blue, through and through.' Joseph's response completely disarmed the belligerent man who then shook Joseph's hand and said: 'Well, you are the [blankety-blank] pleasantest man I ever met! Shake hands, young fellow, I am glad to see a man that stands up for his convictions," (Life of Joseph F. Smith comp. Joseph Fielding Smith, [1938], 187-89)."
I turned to Daniel 6:3 and reread the words there that describe Daniel as being preferred above the presidents and princes, because "an excellent spirit was in him." While these passages have always taught me about being faithful in all circumstances, that morning I learned another principle - one that I knew the students could identify with and apply to their own circumstances as well. Being faithful includes choosing to be happy and developing a cheerful countenance - responding to people in such a way that they feel the Spirit and Heavenly Father's love for them when they are around me.

I asked the class, "Think of someone in your life who you really enjoy being around. Why do you like being with them? What do they do or say that makes you want to be around them?" All of the students could think of at least one person like that. Then I asked, "What made Daniel so special? And what would have happened if Joseph F. Smith had chosen to respond to the ruffian rudely?"

We had a great discussion about the pressure the students get from friends to do things that would break the commandments and go against the standards the Lord wants them to keep. They have a choice to respond with patience and kindness or to be rude and aggressive. What kind of person did they want to become?

We also talked about how this didn't mean we had to put on a happy face every minute of every day. Everyone has times when we feel sad or discouraged. That's part of life. But Heavenly Father wants us to know we can be happy and set a good example even when we face our own metaphorical lions or drunken ruffians. By not being afraid to show our obedience to the Lord, we can help others develop a desire to know more about Him so that they too can experience peace and joy.

Did I mention how much I love teaching early morning seminary?

Life is magnificent.


Apr 26, 2016

Today's Happy Sayings

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

Sometimes I need to read cheerful or cheerfully funny sayings. Often, I find them on Facebook. Today is such a day, so here goes. (NOTE: I may correct or add punctuation, or fix spelling errors.)

"Each time you read a book, a tree smiles, knowing there's Life after Death."

"After all, tomorrow is another day." ~Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

"You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are." ~Lewis Carroll

"I'm having people over to stare at their phones later, if you want to come by..." ~John Hammer, Facebook

"In 1981, a pediatrician saved the life of a 3.2-pound premature baby boy by working around the clock to beat the odds & stabilize him. In 2011, the pediatrician was pinned inside a burning vehicle after a car collision, but was saved by the premature baby, who had grown up to become a paramedic." ~Easy 93.1 Facebook meme

What upbeat sayings did you read today?

Apr 23, 2016

Writing Tip #8 by the WWD

by Cindy R. Williams

Writing Tip #8

Always keep a notebook with you. Jot down names you come across for future characters and plot ideas.

When you are having a plot or character issue, often the answer will come when you are doing other things. Don't let it drift away, thinking you will remember it. You may have super powers of "Elephant-like memory", but most of us have more of the "water down the drain memory."

Someone asked me to give them some writing tips. This sure got me thinking. Hmmm . . . I could go online and find some for them. I could peruse my many books on writing and share. Then I realized that I have a few things that have come to me through the school of hard knocks. So I dug deep and came up with these. I call myself  the "WWD--Writer With Desire".  I will post them throughout the year.

Apr 19, 2016

The Allegory of the Olive Tree

by Terri Wagner

Somehow I seem to get stuck with the tough lessons like the whole olive tree allegory Jacob recorded and Mormon included in Jacob 5. I did a ton of research and found a tiny miracle in the form of a free online book from the Neal A Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholars. There are several articles there that lay out a wonderful study of this important allegory. As always I remind the class that the BOM is for us, so what are the lessons we are to learn from this allegory.

We came up with the following: • Christ loves ALL of the vineyard, all his children therefore good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people, we are all his children and choices make things both bitter and sweet for all of us at different times in our lives. Christ “pruned” everywhere in the vineyard not one spot was left untouched by the master gardener’s hands • Doesn’t matter where you live gospel fruit can flourish • Before the Second Coming, there will be a process in place for all to produce good fruit (for the Millennium), a slow and steady removal of those producing bad fruit and a nourishing of those producing good fruit until there is no more good and evil but only good • This process is both with whole groups of people and with individuals • The conversional process is an individual weeding out of your personal “bad” fruit and a strengthening of your “good” fruit • Part of the pruning process is the reading of scriptures and prayer these two pillars of the gospel can keep you in line with the principles and revelations given by our living prophet. Jacob warns us that by taking this lightly we can be “cut down and “pruned out” or rather as we would put it lose our way spiritually. • Examples of nourishment to a whole group is when the Israelies defied God and demanded a king much to their regret; individually, we have been given the Word of Wisdom that started as a recommendation and is now part of the temple recommend to access your commitment to the gospel • To bring us to where the Nephites once were, a society so filled with love toward one another there was no poor, no sorrow, no hate, no war, no torture, etc. to usher in the Millennium • Chirst in the allegory and in our time has repeatedly assured us the church the living prophet will never lead us astray, there will no wholesale apostasy as there was before, keep your eyes and ears on the brethren • The laboring or missionary work will not be after the pattern of the world • Ultimately the allegory is about being reconciled to Christ through the atonement. The process is surprisingly simple

As aside I discovered there are olive trees in Israel that are 1,800 years old.

Apr 16, 2016

Writing mom

I Know that a lot of us are mothers and writers.  And sometimes it's rather hard balancing both.  I know since I had my new baby last month it is made it very hard for me to write. How do they do it I often wonder?  These great writers who I look up to who are also mothers. I know I'm still trying to figure it out. There are a couple things I've recently learned.
I may not always be able to sit at my desk and write for an hour or two in the evening if I want to  but I can write at my kitchen counter while the macaroni and cheese boils.  I can nurse my baby to sleep and very carefully pull my work in progress over and try to get a page or two.  And if I choose to do some editing while my children are running around and playing I might also end up traceing their hands on my paper, or give them a corner of my page to color on. And it's okay if it's like that for now. As mothers we have to find a way to make it work. To find the balance. I know I am still figuring it out and through trial and error I expect to figure it out.
Then I also have to keep in mind that as they grow older things will change. Later on I might be able to sit at my desk and write for an hour or two and that will be awesome! But I might miss drying little hands on my Works in progress.  I might be able to being evening writer right now, but when they become teenagers I might have to change that to the morning. Who knows! All I know is that if we want to be writers and mothers we will figure it out.

Apr 14, 2016

A Lesson from a Pair of Chopsticks

by Kari Diane Pike

The best perk from teaching early morning seminary: witnessing the light turn on in the eyes of the students when the Spirit testifies to the truth of a particular doctrine or principle. A-ma-zing!

Tuesday gifted me with one of those magnificent moments. The fact that the lesson we learned came about kind of "accidentally on purpose" made the experience even more poignant for me.

So here's what happened:

I try really hard to begin seminary right at 6:00 a.m. Sometimes (most of the time lately) that means I find myself singing a solo during the opening hymn. Most of the students walk in before the song ends. One of them gives the opening prayer and we get on with the lesson. Tuesday, the lesson focused on Ezekiel 37. The manual gave three principles to focus on: 1) "Jesus Christ has the power to resurrect us and when we are resurrected, our bodies will be made whole again." 2) The Bible and the Book of Mormon come together as witnesses that Jesus Christ is our Savior." and 3) Making and keeping temple covenants will enable us to become sanctified by the Lord."

The third principle really stood out to me.  I had a touching story to share about eternal families. I have a strong testimony of the blessings of making and keeping temple covenants. As I further prepared the materials, one of the object lessons suggested called for bringing two sticks to represent the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph. I didn't have any sticks, but I had a thought to grab a couple of chopsticks. I threw them in my bag along with the lesson plan and I was set to go.

Before class began, I wrote the lesson objectives on the board. While doing so, I felt impressed to shift my focus from principle #3 to #2. Many of these young men and women are preparing to serve full time missions and I assumed that was the reason for that prompting. We progressed through the lesson and I called two students, Karl and Leslie, up to the front of the class. I handed each of them a chopstick and asked them to tell me how they could bless the life of another person with that stick.

A student across the room declared, "Karl! you're a wizard!" The class laughed and bantered back and forth for a minute. I felt impressed to stand aside and let them work on the problem.

Karl grinned and pointed the chopstick at the class. A few ideas were tossed around, like using the stick to start a fire and keep someone warm. Finally, Karl said, "Well, I could try to feed somebody."

Leslie held up her stick. "No you couldn't! Well, you could, but it would be hard. You have to have two!" I instructed Karl to hand his chopstick to Leslie.

That's when I saw the light go on in Leslie's eyes. She looked at the chopsticks more carefully, lightly running her fingers over the Chinese script stamped in red along the edge. "Where did you get these. They are really cool." She looked up at me. "But you have to use the chopsticks together...just like the Bible and the Book of Mormon work better together."

Karl and Leslie sat down and I handed out strips of paper with phrases from Ezekiel 37: 15-17 - their new scripture mastery for the day. Once the class place the papers in the correct order, we read it together:

 ¶The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying,Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stickand write upon it, For Judahand for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Josephthe stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.

I bore my testimony that I know the Bible and the Book of Mormon are God's words to us through His prophets. I challenged the students to feast on the words of Christ every single day. Class ended far too quickly. I wish we could have studied this principle more deeply. But perhaps I  was the one that needed it more right now. The more I study, the more in awe I am of and by the spiritual power I feel as I study the scriptures - both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I have this growing desire to study Hebrew and the Jewish culture so that I can better understand the words and analogies. It is true that understanding content and context gives greater insight into what the words are trying to convey. And then there's the witness of the Holy Spirit - the opening of my eyes and the enlightening of my mind that come to me as I prepare myself to receive such knowledge.

Since my study of the Old Testament this year, I see things in the Book of Mormon from a different perspective. I have a better understanding of where Lehi and Nephi came from and the challenges they faced as they and their families fled from Jerusalem and were lead by the Lord to the New World.

The Old Testament contains the preparatory gospel. The Book of Mormon teaches the fullness of the everlasting gospel (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine). Doctrine and Covenants 20:9 tells us that the Book of Mormon contains "the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also." The Old Testament gives us wonderful lessons from the Lord's ancient prophets and the Book of Mormon clarifies the relevant passages of the Bible where "plain and precious truths" have been removed or misinterpreted during translation.

These "sticks" brought together help us feast on the teachings of the gospel - like using chopsticks. In a devotional address at BYU in July of 1986, Bruce L. Brown shared thoughts on how the Bible prophesies of the scattering of Israel and its eventual gathering. The Book of Mormon teaches us about the Savior appearing to some of those people scattered as Babylon defeated Israel and Judah - such as the descendants of the prophet Lehi and Mulek who escaped captivity in Babylon.

Zechariah 10: 6,8:
I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them. ...I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them.
After Leslie returned to her seat, she kept whispering to the girls on either side of her. She held the chopsticks in her hand and expressed her testimony through one simple word. "Brilliant!"

I agree. The light of the gospel is brilliant. The witness of the Holy Spirit to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ is brilliant. That brilliance shines in the eyes of my seminary students. Witnessing that brilliance is the best perk ever.

Life is magnificent...a-ma-zing...and brilliant.


Apr 12, 2016

Yeah, I know, it's my day

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

I know I missed my turn last time. I'm in danger of missing it again, if I don't get over this muddled mind about writing. I hate getting writer's block.

I'll share a couple of random thoughts from today's Facebook memes.

"In life, it's important to know when to stop arguing with people - and simply let them be wrong."

"When you have to start compromising yourself or your morals for the people around you, it's probably time to change the people around you."
~Robert Whitelaw

"If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it."
~Ruthie Lindsey

"If you don't know the difference between 'there,' 'their,' and 'they're' than your a idiot."
~Angry Drunk

"It isn't as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don't worry. I say that to myself every morning."
~Gordon B. Hinckley

Now that's better! Maybe I'll make it though this week after all.

Apr 9, 2016

Writing Tip #7 by the WWD

by Cindy R. Williams

(The boss of the blog said we need to put our picture up on each blog--I think I have this right, so here it is. Happy and sassy!)

Writing Tip #7 by the WWD


How rude you say? Not if being lazy is used as an excuse to not write. I know an author who is a Stake President in his spare time and his daytime job is as a judge in Arizona. He had an idea for a book he wanted to write, but had NO TIME. Do you know what he did? He got up at four in the morning instead of six, for a year in order to crank it out. Now that is what I call NOT LAZY! 
I sure don't want to get up at four to write, however, I do want to take my own writing more seriously and follow a good daily schedule to write more. What do you do to get your writing done?

Someone asked me to give them some writing tips. This sure got me thinking. Hmmm . . . I could go online and find some for them. I could peruse my many books on writing and share. Then I realized that I have a few things that have come to me through the school of hard knocks. So I dug deep and came up with these. I call myself  the "WWD--Writer With Desire".  I will post them throughout the year.

Apr 5, 2016

The Grammar Police

by Terri Wagner

Just for fun go test your grammar skills. So far I seem to be mastery level. I'm into all of this because I decided to take the GRE to start the master's degree route. and yes I have test phobia. Exam English

Apr 2, 2016

Hurray for general confrence

I had a great time Saturday watching General Conference. I hope many of you had an enjoyable conference weekend as well. Its a good thing to take a step back from the normal chaos of life to relax and work on our spiritual side of life. I have little kids so I don't get to hear as much as I would wish but I think its good we were all there.
I have wondered more then once what it would be like to write a talk like they do. How in the world do they handle that pressure? This is a major talk, something that will be said to millions not just on TV but also printed in the Engine. I know help for above and inspiration has to play a huge role, but also word choice. Every word is being scrutinized for deep meaning. It just amazes me. I don't think I could do it. But I like the idea of using this as a writing exercise.
So for those who want to try here is a suggestion. Write down what you feel would be a spiritual message you wish to share with others. It can include but doesn't have to the following. The story of the experience that taught you this message you wish to share, scriptures, quotes, and your testimony. You don't ever have to share this if you don't want to it can just be a journal entry, but search your mind for something that has deeply touched you or made a change in your life, and write about it.