Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Simple Witness

Yesterday evening, I left work to go to a local business meeting in downtown Sacramento. As I left, I opened my phone to turn on music and immediately felt a prompting to put the scriptures on instead. I resisted for a moment, until a stronger voice and feeling urged me to put the scriptures on again. Thankfully I heeded that feeling.

I am reading in 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon and had just started the book from the beginning. Honestly, after a full day of work, my mind was pretty distracted and I missed most of what was being said. But at about halfway through 1 Nephi  2, my attention rested on the scriptures being streamed through my car speakers just as verses 13 and 14 were read. They read:

13 Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.

 14 And it came to pass that my father did speak unto them in the valley of Lemuel, with power, being filled with the Spirit, until their frames did shake before him. And he did confound them, that they durst not utter against him; wherefore, they did as he commanded them.
As I heard verse 14 and the description of the power with which Lehi spoke, it was like that power reached through time and truly affected me. I could feel the very power of it myself. The Spirit rested on me as I drove and told me that what I heard was true, that The Book of Mormon is true.

I am always grateful for any witness to the truthfulness of the Gospel of Christ, and I feel especially grateful for this one because it was unexpected, because I had overcome the urge to ignore the prompting to listen, and because it was a direct blessing for my obedience to the Spirit. But most of all, because I have prayed for further witness and strengthening of my testimony of this book.
I do know that The Book of Mormon is true. I am grateful for the wisdom, the truth, and the peace that is contained in that book and how it has helped me so many times find answers to my struggles and questions. It truly testifies of Christ and His gospel.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Yesterday, as I was leaving work, there was a woman sitting on the stairs leading up to the street. I said hello and gave a standard, "how's it going?"

She was obviously homeless, but in a Marin County, CA kind of way. She was in a bright pink workout shirt and workout leggings. She was finishing up a small cup of yogurt. And her backpack was pretty nice. She didn't have all the accumulation of stuff someone surviving on the streets usually has. But it was obvious. She was missing her to front teeth, wasn't very clean, and seemed quite distressed or at least down, which matched her answer to me...

"not very good."

You can't walk past that.

I stopped, asked what was wrong and as I tried to assess her condition, asked further questions about her situation.

She had some bruises and cuts. When I asked about them, she said a large man had stolen her bike. Forced it from her in a rough way.

I asked if there was anything I could do to help and made a few suggestions. I was unsure of what to do, really. It is a big problem.

She told me she would love a drink. So I invited her to come with me to the gas station next door and I bought a tin of altoids for me and the drink of her choice... A red bull. She asked if that was ok.. I said it was.

Then, I wished her luck and we parted ways, with me feeling pretty good about myself.

As  I got into my car to commute home, I smiled and thought, "good job. That's something Christ would have done." It may not have been much, but I showed compassion.

Then a still small voice said to me, "what was her name?"

I didn't know. And I hadn't asked. Nor had I offered mine to her.

I hadn't even given her the dignity of being a real person. She was something to feel good about,  a problem to solve.

I felt great sorrow as I drove, realizing that Christ would have asked for her name.

This is the world. We do good deeds without often giving dignity to others.  We create systems that remove us from what is most important and critical to serving others... Them.  We remove the names and call it welfare or Medicaid or whatever else.

I wish I had asked for her name and shared myself with her and not just my money.

I wish I knew her name.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Power of the Priesthood

On May 13th 2015, at 8:52 pm, my sixth child was born. Hannah Minerva Clark. I have been privileged to attend all the births of my children. Each one has been an amazing experience, and I have been moved deeply each time by the sacredness of the process and moment of birth. However, this last and final birth for our family was perhaps the most profound and spiritual experience of them all. It was during Hannah's birth that I observed and learned a deeply important lesson about the priesthood and the role of women.

Hannah's birth was the first one we had outside of Utah and away from any family. We've usually had a member of our family (my mother, my sister, etc) come be with us during labor, supporting and assisting my wife. This time, we invited two people from our local Church ward (congregation) to assist. 

One was our friend, Laurel Nielson. Laurel is not only a fabulous friend and person, but she is a nurse in the same place where we gave birth  - and works in the NICU for infants, etc. So she could provide the medical expertise and familiarity of the other nurses and processes that we wanted. It was awesome having her there. She personally knew all the nurses and doctors, could talk us through any procedures, and has a ton of experience in this environment. Laurel is likewise, an amazing neighbor who is always helping out and serving others with a warmth that is comforting. She is also the mother of one of the young men that I teach and lead in the Young Men's organization at Church.

The other person we invited was Allyson Nielsen (different last name - not related). Allyson is the wife of my friend and workout partner, Ben. Allyson and Amy have become friends over the past year. She has a lot of knowledge about child-birthing from a natural perspective and recently had a child of her own (about 6 months ago - her second). Allyson referred us to some great materials to study as we went into this experience. Amy wanted to do this one natural as possible and she spent a lot of time reading and researching and practicing. I was even convinced to read a "Hypno-birthing" book. Allyson wants to get more into being a doula and assisting with child-birthing, so we invited her to come assist.

We felt the combination of those two women would be a perfect combo to help us do this birth naturally. And we were definitely right. They were indeed an awesome pair for us.

Amy's water broke at about 6:30 am and because she was Group B Strep positive, we made our way to the hospital by 10:30 am, even though no labor had begun. We waited patiently through the day, with Laurel spending a lot of it with us. During this time I was able to give Amy a priesthood blessing in the room. We continued to wait until about 4:30 pm without any real progress with labor. At that point we decided it would be ok to try a bit of pitocin. That worked. Within a short time, Amy began to go into labor. Allyson came over at about 7:30 pm joining us just after Amy was checked (she was a 4). At this time, Allyson and Laurel took control, supporting Amy through each contraction - helping her breath and change positions as needed, providing counter-pressure, encouragement, and comfort.

As the labor progressed and contractions got deeper and harder, Amy was able to lean on these two women and draw on them for mental and physical strength and relief. By 8:30 pm, Amy was ready to push and after a quick check it was confirmed she was indeed ready. The contractions by this time were at their worse and Amy was working through them with a lot of pain. As the doctor was brought in and preparations were made for the delivery, I stood back watching the scene with a pounding heart. As I watched this unfold, the Spirit of God came into the room and filled me. I was immediately full of gratitude and amazement for this woman I have the privilege to call my wife. I was struck with such a vision and awe concerning the birth of our child. It was truly a vision and opening of my mind and heart.

At this time, I looked at the scene before me and saw these two women, our friends, one on each side, holding Amy with their hands and leaning in to talk to and help Amy with each moment. Laurel was weeping as she spoke to my wife. The Spirit was so strong. Then my eyes were opened to what I truly beheld...

I have been a witness to, and have participated  in many priesthood blessings and ordinances in my life. I have felt the power of God as I have placed my hands on the heads of others or watched and listened as I witnessed others do so. I know the depth and strength of power that is manifest in those times and the miracles it can produce. And here I was seeing in my eyes these two women with their hands literally on my wife, blessing her - not with "the priesthood", but with their love, their faith, and the power of the Spirit, which they felt and held as they administered to Amy.

I am witness to say that I have never, in my life, felt or witnessed any greater power than I did then. There was so much dignity in that love and caring that they showed. There was empathy and charity in the touch, the word, and a sharing that I don't understand. It was every much as powerful and meaningful as any blessing I have ever witnessed. There was a deep symbolism and real meaning in what I watched, and I learned as much about the Priesthood as I ever have in any previous moment.

If those who hold the Priesthood could administer with such selfless love and affection as those women showed Amy that night, there would truly be power beyond any we have known before. The dignity and intent and love shown in their actions were such beacons of power!

 And Amy....Amy...

Amy was the resulting miracle. To have watched her was to witness something of strength that I have never known. It was truly inspiring. I have thought about it many many times in the days since.

I do not think I need to say much more or explain all that I felt and learned that night. Just that the question of the Priesthood, the role of Women, and my own responsibility as a Priesthood holder all became very clear to me. Men, these women are the best part of our Priesthood and perhaps similar to how the lesser Priesthood (Aaronic Priesthood) is to the greater Priesthood (Melchizedek Priesthood), what they posses may yet be a higher level than we know. After all, the law of Moses had its higher and fulfilling law. Perhaps when we operate the Priesthood on a level of pure love and faith, we will also experience the fulfilling of the Priesthood, truly, and the ascension to its true power and purpose. It is something to strive for. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What Kind of Friend

I've realized over the years that there is no one kind of friend. In fact, I am still not sure I know what a friend really is because just when I call someone my friend based on some definition I've come up with, they go and violate that definition. Trouble is, I still want to call them a friend, so sometimes I change my definition.

I guess what I've come to understand is that each of my "friends" is a friend in a different way - and I like it that way.

The reality is that the definition of what a friend is really matters very little. After all, friendship is just some name we put on some temporary, minimum level of connection that happens in a relationship we have set for a specific person for a specific time period. I mean, isn't it?

And then there was Facebook...

Gosh, Facebook really messed with the word, "friend" - or was that us when we "accepted" people as our "friends" on facebook? Suddenly, this weird social medium presented us with a new way of thinking and questioning what we really don't feel comfortable questioning...what a "friend" actually is.

It's weird, cause I think over the years, I let my expectations of my definition of friendship actually somewhat define my actual friendships. Anyone else do that?

We upgrade or downgrade friendships until they are "best friends" or acquaintances.

Sometimes we even move people completely out of our friendships and life slowly or quickly, unrealized or painfully. It's the, they never call me, they didn't get me a gift for my birthday, they never initiate doing something together, they hung out with someone else, they never have time anymore, and on and on and on. And it can feel terrible. The separation from those we care about is so hard. It is a sense of loss. Especially if we shared special moments/experiences with them. They take a bit of that memory with them - the other half that they shared in, cause the memory couldn't have happened without them. And we miss it.

But life sometimes just works that way. We come in and out of each others' lives. We change or we stay the same and honestly you know we really all do some of both - staying the same and changing. And at times, the same and the changes separate us. I feel like I have lost a lot of friends over the years. But yet, I can't think of really any that I don't personally still wish were my friend. And I can't think of any that I don't still care about - even if from a distance or in a simple, quiet memory.

Most of the time, I think it's my fault. Do you feel the same? I am beginning to believe almost everyone feels that. I wonder if some of my "former friends" think that I am not their friend anymore  - as if I left them. I might have. I don't know. I don't think I try to do that. I value the connections too much. But the expectations. Man, those things are tricky. I'm sorry if I put too many expectations on my friends - and I'm sorry to myself for punishing myself by doing that. It's not like we had a stated contract that you must fulfill and if not, then we can't be "friends". It's just we expect certain behaviors to meet that minimum qualification of "friend". When that isn't met, we feel like it's not the same thing anymore - and suddenly or maybe slowly...we aren't friends anymore.

Man, it's complex, right? It's driven by our intense need to connect, to reunite, to unify. It's also driven by our intense need to protect and to feel safe.

So I was thinking...maybe my friends don't know how I feel about them, about my expectations, about my desires to connect and stay connected - and at what level. And maybe they don't know what kind of expectations they can have for me.

The thought coming to me, however, is that maybe the time has come to change my definition of friend forever. So I think I've maybe decided (like that certainty? haha) that a friend is only something I CAN BE, not something someone else can be to me. I don't know, maybe that is crazy talk!?  I guess I think that is what I can control, and I don't think I can disappointed by the results. But then, I don't know that I know how to be a "friend" to others very well. Wow, what a looping thought process...sorry.

Anyway, I'm probably not a great friend based on the expectations of others. But I know how I feel. So here is just 10 things to know about what kind of friend I am...

I am the type of friend that...

1) will buy and read your book if you write one (I'll read it even if I don't have to buy it).
2) will tell you honestly what I think of your book (sometimes even if you don't want to know - sorry)
3) will answer the phone at any hour of the night and never feel upset about it.
4) wants to be your hero and help you in your time of need.
5) wants to be your go-to-guy for knowledge, advice, hookups, etc. I want to be that guy you call when you need something and don't know where to go.
6) will get up at 5:40am every day so I can exercise with you because we both need it.
7) will talk your ear off
8) will talk about a million ideas and at some point try to convince you to do one of them (trust me, I can be convincing, so be careful)
9) Never shies about giving an opinion, but will research things deeply for you and give you an academic approach to things as well - I'm a pretty good devil's advocate.
10) Will brag about you, love you, and admire you more than I ever deserve back. I have a terrible habit of being very proud of my "friends" and like to brag about them.

I liked writing that. It's a good exercise in, well, I don't know. It just felt good.

Just know, my "friends", that I crave connection. You can call, email, or just think of me and I'll be thrilled. I love you all in ways I should probably tell you sometime (whoever is reading and those who I wish were reading - which is everyone...haha).

Maybe a friend is someone I want to be - and that means at least a part of all of you. Each of you has something about you that I like and want to posses as a part of myself, so making friends is about trying to improve myself by adding you as the pieces of my life that I can't be right now. And that is never the same. Because I lack a lot that I want to be, I need your connection, your influence, your friendship. I hope you feel the same about me, but even if you don't, I might still brag about you and call you my friend - cause in the awesomest, cheesiest way, you kind of complete me. Amazing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Struggling with the Sword

In one state last year, more than 2,700 people were killed in alcohol related accidents. If they had been gun related deaths, there would be more outrage.

It seems every day I see reactions that are completely inconsistent and even hypocritical. It astounds me how limited our love and humanity can be - how narrow our definition of it is, and how slow we have become to forgive.

Why is it that we have such selective care for human life? I am convinced that we have become more concerned with our own feelings than we have with what is right and good. A sad existence. An ancient prophet described such a situation...

"And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives." - Mormon 2:14

When I ponder the situation in Ferguson and other recent incidents across the world, I realize that many are indeed struggling "with the sword" instead of coming to Christ with broken hearts and contrite spirits. Our swords today are our angry words, violence, and hatred often displayed - even done often under the guise of humanity and love.  But it is too often a facade and when it comes time to apply the same "love and humanity" to other situations, we have no willingness or energy left to give.

No, too often only the popular, the wave of popular opinion or the media stoked flames of a single incident are what brings out "humanity" out and we fight in the name of love without any true love behind it. In some ways, "love" has become a new weapon - a new label for anger and bitterness and "righteous fury" that has little in common with real love.

In the New Testament, it says,

"If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" 1 John 4: 20

This is as relevant today as it has ever been.

I hope we can lay down our own swords and find a way to have compassion and love through the bridling of passions and contrite spirits.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Engaging with the Gospel

I think the most powerful thing Satan can do is to get us to “like” the Gospel of Christ without having a real relationship with it.

There are certainly times in my own life that I treat the Gospel like a Facebook page of someone I admire. I like it, but let it do all the work. I wait for that page to post stuff, and if I’m lucky, I might see it come across in my Facebook feed.  If it’s something good, I read it or watch it and like it, and if really good, I might share it. For example, Church on Sunday can sometimes feel like a post in my life. I’m never disappointed by it coming and I often “like” it. But do I engage with it? And then during the week, do I continue to engage with the Gospel in a way that builds a real relationship? Or am I just a passive “fan”?

This was on my mind a lot today. As I pondered this, I also extended the thought to my relationship with my Savior. Am I a “fan”? Or am I truly engaged in a relationship with Him?  Am I just watching His “posting” in my life, or am I also reaching out to him in active prayer and repentance and service? If I were to evaluate my relationship with God, Christ, and the Gospel in general, where would I put myself?

When I post things on Facebook, I have a few solid people who are awesome at commenting and liking and sharing on a consistent basis. I really appreciate that. However, I also have some friends who I (sorry) forget that we are even connected – because we both never seem to engage in anything beyond being “friends” and watching without engaging. And some of them seem to never login anymore.

This is understandable with social media, but with Christ and with the Gospel I can’t afford to not engage.

For example, if you aren’t engaged with your favorite brand online, how would you know when the sales promotions are and how to take advantage of them? How would you be updated on things? You would only passively. Have you ever bought something and then later realized that had you done some research or even just paid attention to things, that you would have seen a promotion on that thing – but instead you missed it?! I have. Not a great feeling.

Our Father in Heaven is always trying to feed us information. Do we “hide” it, “unfollow” it, or just plain not log in? Do we passively wait for God to send us a message through trials and difficulty? Or do we actively seek Him out and engage?

As I have pondered this about myself, I realize that I have a long ways to go to feel like I really, truly engage with the Gospel enough to take advantage of all the opportunity it provides me. So tonight I write this in gratitude for having this thought being “posted” in my heart today and for the Lord engaging with me through the Spirit. Now, I share it with you.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Most Exquisite

This is the thought on my mind tonight:

There is no greater reward and nothing so exquisite as the joy of togetherness. It is the reward of the highest covenant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - indeed even the real promise of the Abrahamic Covenant. 

There is then, by necessary opposition, no greater punishment and nothing so excruciating as loneliness and being disconnected. This is the real battle of our world.

From my experience, one of the loneliest experiences is that of the guilt and shame that comes from feeling like you've disappointed those whom you most want to make proud - in a way that makes you feel disconnected from them and their love.

If you have a loved one who might be feeling that, I urge you to remember how lonely your disappointment will feel to them. Then work to reconnect through understanding and love.

Sometimes the biggest struggle for someone isn't the things they do wrong and their consequences. In fact, often those things are done when the person isn't in a state of mind or place that is very rational or well - especially if they struggle with mental illness/disability of some kind.  No, the toughest part can be dealing with the constant disappointment that others show to them. It's the double punishment of the deed and the separation from love and acceptance - the struggle of never feeling like you are ok. Sometimes they just need to feel like they are ok.

This doesn't mean looking past errors or wrong doing. It doesn't mean dropping consequences. But how you deal with those is critical. So please, just remember that you trying to fix or punish or correct, if done poorly, can carry it's own worst punishment.

I know of both the exquisite joy and beauty of our Savior's love and merciful hand and the joy of togetherness through love and acceptance from both my Savior and my wife and my children. I also know the excruciating pain and trial of loneliness and despair. Even Christ only spoke out once about his pain - at the moment of his feeling forsaken - left alone - by His father. I hope we take these thoughts into consideration.

God himself says it best:

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
 42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
 43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
 44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
 45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-45