what did I do wrong

“What Did I Do Wrong?”


Over the course of my lifetime I have held private interviews with thousands of members of the church. Common among almost all has been the sharing of challenges and trials that have tested their faith. Some seemed to gain strength from them, while others faith seemed to falter. I am not totally sure why some seemed to whether the storms while others started to drown, but I think some of it has to do with the understanding of the plan of salvation. I read a statement by H. Wallace Goddard on this subject which I found interesting. He said:

“Latter-day Saints may be especially vulnerable to the rosy world view. We expect to be blessed for doing what is right. Then the sky falls. We don’t marry. Or our made-in-heaven marriage falls apart. Our children stray. Our careers flounder. We ask, “ What did I do wrong?” “Didn’t I have enough faith?” “Is God mad at me?” “Is the ‘good news’ really a deception?” It turns out that doing good does not guarantee a life of contentment and fulfilled dreams. We may be blessed for our efforts with the gift of serenity—or with new challenges. God will provide precisely the experiences that can lead us to greater faith and a closer relationship with Him…The rosy assumption does not hold up very well when we look at the lives of saints. Suffering Job. Joseph Smith. Jeremiah. Adam. Spencer W. Kimball. Jesus. These are good people who gave life their best and still got pummeled.”(The Lesson of the Washing Machine Hose).

The plan of salvation includes agency and the resulting consequences of that great gift. The use of that agency by man has a ripple effect as “no man is an island.” When you add the consequences of “the fall” which introduced death and sin into the world, we can sometimes feel that we are surrounded on all sides with peril. But by having a vision of the eternal nature of life, we can make better decisions that ultimately lead to happiness.

I think all of us know individuals who live difficult lives but end up using their challenges as a way to inspire and bless the lives of others. I think these people come to a realization that they are of value and worth, regardless of their circumstances in life. We can become “bitter” at life’s trials, or we can try to understand that part of the “plan” is learning to overcome “bitterness” and develop attributes of Christ.

“What did I do wrong?” is a question that has its answer packaged in the plan of happiness designed by our Heavenly Father. By understanding that, we find that nothing is ‘going wrong’ in our life. It is just according to plan!

Jesus boat

The Jesus Boat


The weather is an unpredictable thing. It is only in modern times that we even have the scientific ability to make educated guesses as to the coming week’s climate and precipitation. Through the miracle of satellites, not only are we able to reasonably predict the weather, but we are able to protect ourselves against perilous storms that might injure or even kill us. We stay indoors when a lightning storm is approaching. We cancel activities and stay off the roads when heavy snow is forecast and we stay off the water when rains and heavy winds are predicted. Over the centuries many a soul has lost his or her life to the unforeseen perils of mother-nature. History is replete with such tragedies!

So oft-times we forget how those of old must have felt when a storm quickly arose and threatened their very lives. Without the modern-day weatherman as their guide, many a person lost their life in such circumstances. Saint Mark tells an interesting story as recorded in his gospel.

“…and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And…they took him even as he was in the ship…And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we parish? And he arose, an rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? (Mark 4: 34-40).

The “Master” in this story is, of course, Jesus Christ.  Now I have never been in a sinking boat before, but I might imagine that it is quite frightening. And although it is easily understood why the disciples were fearful, have we ever studied out in our minds what the Savior was trying to teach them when he responded back to them, “Why are ye so fearful, how is it that ye have no faith?” (vs. 40). Faith? Faith in what? I believe the Savior was teaching them that when they were with him, they were safe. If he was in the boat, nothing was going to happen because He was the Son of God. He was asking them why they didn’t have faith in Him and His divine calling! In essence, He was asking them why they doubted him!

Perhaps we lose sight of this great lesson and get lost in the story line. Yes, the Savior calmed the seas and the wind. The disciples were so impressed they said to one another, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41). It was impressive to say the least. But of more import was the message that he delivered verbally that in Him was found safety. No manner of storm would overthrow them if they had faith in His divine power. When we board the “Jesus boat”, making Him our companion wherever we go, we will be safe. He has the power to calm the storms and winds that rage against us. He will be there when all seems lost and the very waters of life become turbulent and threaten to throw us overboard. Hold tight and stay on board, He will not let us drown! Remember His words, “Why are you so fearful, how is it that ye have no faith?”



Patience: A Precious And Rare Virtue


One of the great blessings afforded to us by living in modern times is the ability to be able to not only read inspiring messages that come from the Lord’s servants, but technology now allows us to hear their voices, see their faces, and feel of their spirit again and again as they deliver words of wisdom and counsel. Adherence to their words can lead us to a richer and more meaningful life. Thus it behooves us to go back from time to time, and revisit messages that they have delivered in General Conference sessions. Sometimes we find, that messages delivered several years ago which didn’t strike a chord in our hearts, now does. Perhaps our circumstances have changed, or experiences and new challenges have arisen in our lives. How wonderful it is that both the written and spoken words are now recorded for our benefit. We need to remember to re-visit the texts of conferences past. We will always find something of value.

Such was the case the other night as I re-read the words of a talk given by President Dieter Uchtdorf in the priesthood session of April, 2010 General Conference. He spoke on patience and it’s virtues and importance in our lives. I well remember the story he told that night of a Stanford University study regarding children and marshmallows. For many, including myself, stories can easily be remembered. What is sometimes forgotten is the message of the story. As I reread the talk I was less impressed with the story and more impressed with the overall message. I share a part of it with you.

“Patience—the ability to put our desires on hold for a time—is a precious and rare virtue. We want what we want, and we want it now. Therefore, the very idea of patience may seem unpleasant and, at times, bitter. Nevertheless, without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace”

Then he gave this counsel:

“I learned that patience was far more than simply waiting for something to happen—patience required actively working toward worthwhile goals and not getting discouraged when results didn’t appear instantly or without effort. There is an important concept here: patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!” (“Continue in Patience”, April, GC, 2010)

The words of President Uchtdorf that struck a chord with me is the part about being “active” in our patience. I guess I never thought that being patient was an action trait to have. But I now understand that it can be, if applied properly in my life. “Patience is not passive resignation” he said. That’s an outstanding thought.

All of us are “waiting” for something, because it seems that when that “something” finally arrives, another “something” is still on our “waiting” list. And the list is always changing and rearranging. But one thing is for sure, the list is never empty. I’m sure that no matter how old you get in this life, the need to patiently wait for “something” always exists, even if that “something” is death itself. I conclude with some final words from President Uchtdorf. He said:

“Patience is a godly attribute that can heal souls, unlock treasures of knowledge and understanding, and transform ordinary men and women into saints and angels. Patience is truly a fruit of the Spirit”


The Music Of Still Being Brethren In The Spoken Word


” And now it came to pass that as Alma was journeying… behold, to his astonishment, he met with the sons of Mosiah journeying towards the land of Zarahemla…Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently…And they had been teaching the word of God… yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God…” (Alma 17: 1-2, 4)

I felt like Alma several years ago when I visited with one of my favorite companion from my mission days, Lloyd Newell. I met and had dinner with his wife and four children. He has a lovely family! It had been over 30 years since he and I returned home from our full-time missions.  The missionary stories were flying, some true, some were embellished, still others I’m sure, were a figment of our imaginations. He brought out pictures of the mission. One he showed me was a professional photograph of he and I when we served together in the mission office. Such memories! It was a thing of great joy knowing that after several decades we both still held firm testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a reunion of two missionaries that had labored together those many years ago on the streets of Argentina. We talked, we laughed, and we spoke of our heartfelt feelings for the gospel till 2am. He spoke of his experiences working with the brethren through his calling with “Music and the Spoken Word”, which he has been doing for over twenty years. Most don’t know that it is a calling. I spoke of my service in ecclesiastical callings and the joy found therein. We both expressed concern for our families and the state of the world. We both agreed that the gospel is the answer to the problems that plague our society.

Upon leaving we walked together to my car and we told each other to keep in touch. As we walked I was struck by the passage of time. It seemed like yesterday that both he and I were traveling across Argentina together. We were both young and inexperienced, and also excited for the future. I think he would join me in saying that we have found that true happiness is found in obedience to the principles of the restored gospel. By abiding by its precepts family life is enhanced, marriage is improved, and your perspective on this life is enriched. A true fountain of blessings! I am not unique in the experience I had in meeting up with my old missionary companion. I am sure such glorious reunions go on all the time. There is something quite special about reunions that occur when those who had labored hard and long under the hot sun meet for a quite moment of repose. I know I felt that way when Lloyd and I met together that night. I am also confident that such reunions occur on the other side of the veil. The most glorious hopefully will be the moment when one can hear from the lips of the Savior, “Well done they good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matthew 25:21)

As I drove away and watched him disappear in my rearview mirror, I reflected upon how our lives had gone different directions, but down the same path. “Therefore they separated themselves one from another, and went forth among them, every man alone, according to the word and power of God which was given unto him.” (Alma 17:17) We had separated ourselves, but it was glorious for us to share after all these years,  the music of still being brethren in the spoken word!


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