OPtimism and OPportunity–A discussion on language and living

I love words. Sometimes I even consider myself an amateur linguist. Even though I don’t understand every language, I enjoy making meaningful connections between words that sound or look the same. Some people might call this poetry or prose, or homophones or homonyms, or just suffixes and prefixes.

I call it FUN.

This morning I discovered two words that I had never related before: OPTIMISM and OPPORTUNITY.

Are the similarities of these words a coincidence? I think not.

First of all, both words start with the same two letters: OP.

Whether these spellings are a rule of the English, Greek, Latin or German languages is a discussion for another place and a professional linguist.

Beyond the letter formation, however, the meanings are intertwined: optimism and opportunity are usually found under the same circumstances.

And optimism and opportunity are usually found in the same people.

Optimists put a smile on their face and cheerfully push through difficult circumstances believing that things are going to get better—which they usually do. Those who live their life in this rose-colored world enjoy simple pleasures and everyday happiness that worry worts can only dream about. What a pleasant way to live!

This positive outlook also makes optimists more prone to be opportunists, and actively seek new prospects.

In fact, I’ve observed that people who are willing to take opportunities are usually optimists. They believe that most things will work out. They welcome chances at their doorstep. They are inclined to take a reasonable risk with a smile and assume it will open even more opportunities to them.

Hey! There’s another “op” word—open.

Optimism opens opportunity.

Yes. Having a positive outlook literally gives us more wonderful chances in life. It actually makes living more full and rich and wonderful. All because of attitude.

History teaches that opportunity is a fleeting visitor. I like to think of opportunity as a boat that sails by, and we have only a few minutes to climb aboard and see where the voyage takes us. Optimists readily accept these rides on the H.M.S. Opportunity.

The opposite (yes, “op”), of optimism is pessimism.

A pessimist would let that boat pass by. (Note the two “P” words.)

Pessimists’ negative attitudes make them cower down and peek over the edge to see if that particular ship has sailed so that they no longer need to feel guilty about not climbing on board.

This passing allows the pessimist to say with relief, “See, I told you it would not work out.” When in essence, it may have been a wonderful chance that is now gone.

Pessimists expect the worst and are content to batten down their hatches and do nothing—at all.

It is almost astounding how one situation can be viewed so differently by two different people: Is that ship a wonderful opportunity? Or a reckless accident to be avoided at all costs?

Is the glass half full? Or half empty? Both declarations are absolutely true.

When doors open and chances are offered, pessimists ask, “Why? Why would I risk my current situation for that chance?”

On the other hand, optimists ask, “Why not? Why not expand my view and try something new?”

Pessimists are the boats safe at home in the harbor, yet, as Emerson observed, “that’s not what boats were made for.”

I’m an expert on optimists because my husband is one.

During difficult times he reminds me that things are going to get better. His cheerful attitude often pulls me through slumps.

This optimism also makes him an opportunist. When new chances sail near us, he usually agrees to sail along. I’ve learned through observing his positive paradigm that life is truly full and rich and wonderful. In fact, his optimism and the ensuing opportunities have opened many exciting doors for him and for our family. I’m grateful that he’s had the courage to jump on board, and encourage me to do the same. His “chance taking” has been a blessing to all of us.

What opportunities have you opened your heart to lately? What positive attitude have you adopted during a trying circumstance?

What boats have you courageously boarded to find that they are treasure troves of rich experience?

What cheerful outlook have you chosen that led to solutions and even progress?

Are optimism and opportunity related? I’m sure that somewhere on the English tree of language their branches connect in roots and meanings.

But for this amateur linguist, I’m content to simply conclude that optimism and opportunity aren’t just spelled the same; in living life, they ARE the same.

CHURCH MICE IN THE CHAPEL

Church. For a parent with young children, the word may bring to my mind visions of temper tantrums, Cheerios thrown into the adjacent pew, and, “I have to go potty,” screamed at the wrong moment. Yet those of us who want our children to be honest, upright citizens often make a weekly pilgrimage to a religious service.

When my children were young, I knew that each Sunday I would spend only a few minutes in the chapel until one of my boys acted up and then I would be forced to make a hasty retreat. After many missed meetings (and nearly wanting to give up on Church myself), my husband and I finally decided to ask families with well-behaved children for tips on instilling reverence and respect. Following are some of the ideas we gleaned for teaching children to be church mice in the chapel.

Sit in the front. I originally resisted the idea of sitting at the front of the chapel with small children. Instead, it seemed that sitting in a pew as close to an exit as possible was a safer alternative. The family who shared this tip with us, however, insisted that it really worked, so my husband and I decided to give it a try. The following Sunday we bravely walked to the front of the chapel and sat on the second row. I felt that the entire congregation watched us as we struggled with our small children through that meeting, but we survived! Soon, sitting at the front of the chapel became easier, and now it’s a habit.

We noticed several changes right away. The first change was in us. We were less likely to take our children out of church when they acted up because we didn’t want to make the long journey back through the chapel. Instead, we endured their sudden outbursts of noise or bad behavior. When the children realized we weren’t leaving as readily, the bad moments passed and they quieted down. The second change was in our children. With the podium right in front, they were much more attentive because they could see everything. And, there were no misbehaving children in front of us to imitate.

It is now our regular practice to sit in the front at any event we go to. It’s an act of courage with young children, but it’s definitely worth the risk.

Limit toys and snacks. Initially, I always took a large bag full of treats, books and toys to church. Whenever the children became restless, I would pull a magical “something” out of the bag to keep them quiet for a few more minutes. Soon, however, I noticed that each week they wanted activities bigger and better than the week before. Each Sunday I tried to think of a cool “surprise” I could pull from the bag right at their worst moment to distract them. Then I realized I was playing their game. They expected me to entertain them!

One week, my husband and I decided to leave the diaper bag at home. Guess what? We survived! Our children realized we were not going to entertain them, so they spent their time looking around the chapel or (hooray!) at the speaker. I was amazed how much more relaxed I felt when I didn’t feel the pressure of entertaining my children. Now we let our children bring scriptures and a pencil to church. When they feel bored they mark their scriptures — a good alternative to treats and toys. And, except for a chew toy for the baby and a quiet book for our toddler, our diaper bag is just that — a diaper bag!

Dress up. While Sunday attire has become more and more a thing of the past, it is still helpful to maintain your own family Sabbath dress code. While this may not be the traditional Sunday hats of yesteryear, requiring best dress of your children (button-up shirts and ties for boys, dresses or skirts for girls) will naturally remind children that church is a place for our best behavior.

Practice reverence at home. One Sunday, it occurred to me that perhaps my children couldn’t sit quietly at church because I never expected them to do it at home. I decided that a few practice sessions would be helpful. Each day that week I set the timer for 15 minutes and told the children we were “pretending” to be at church. Then we sat on the couch, reading scripture readers. I demonstrated the behavior I wanted them to portray. I even put on soft church music to listen to. The children loved it! Not only did they learn to sit still, it gave both them and me confidence that they could sit reverently when they wanted to. I knew I could expect it of them at church, because they were reverent at home.

Trade babysitting duties. If you do have a young infant who must be taken out of church often, take turns with your spouse. At least every other week you should have a few reflective moments to yourself during the service.

Never give up! Most parenting problems solve themselves as children grow and mature. Much of the misbehavior children display at church is a result of their age. Don’t despair! Children grow and soon have the ability to understand and display reverence.

Parents may naturally struggle more with their first children as they establish a family standard for reverence. Be consistent with your expectations, and soon older children will model the correct behavior for church, and younger children will easily follow their siblings’ examples. These ideas have worked for us and our growing family. And, I have even had moments of pleasant surprise when my children comment, “Guess what I learned at church today!”

Eight Lessons my Children are Learning at Japanese School

Last year our family moved to Japan. Within just a few days it was obvious that everything was different. And after ten months of Japanese living, I wrote a blog, “Nine lessons I’ve learned from my Japanese Friends.”

We’ve now lived in Okinawa for over a year, and our learning continues as our kids attend public Japanese schools. A few weeks ago my 9-year-old daughter shared, “I’m so glad I go to Japanese school. Otherwise, I would never have learned tumbling on the bars! Or how to paint!”

But artwork and gymnastics are only part of the picture. Here are eight additional lessons our family has learned from our Japanese school experience.

Lesson #1 – Start your day OUTSIDE

Japanese children walk to school each morning…early! When the sun is just up over the horizon, our streets are full of cute kids laden with backpacks and trotting down the road. They get to school on their own, navigating crosswalks, busy narrow streets, and all types of weather. And, they do it without a fuss!

Their return route is the same: over a mile of walking and weaving through fields and neighborhoods on their own, enjoying nature and fresh air.

My own children were tentative at first about the long walk to and from school, but now it’s a regular part of their day. They set out early in rain or shine and get themselves to class. Their independence has made my life so easy! But that’s only one benefit.

We’ve also discovered that starting the morning outside makes kids cheerful! By the time students—including my children—arrive at school, they are breathless and their cheeks are rosy. Their hearts are beating and they are prepared to sit and learn.

The same is true on the return route. My kids come home from school with sweat beads on their foreheads, cheerful chatter on their lips, and a healthy appetite. I love it!

Lesson #2 – Manage your own life

There’s another benefit to starting the school day with a walk: responsibility.

Because Japanese children walk to school, they also manage their own school supplies, and that includes lots of items! Besides the usual pencils and notebooks; elementary students also carry jump ropes, calligraphy sets, swim caps, water bottles, sewing kits, PE clothes, musical instruments, hats, umbrellas, school shoes… The list goes on!

Since the kids all walk, there’s little chance to go back for a forgotten book unless you can run quickly or are willing to be tardy.

When children do forget a school item, they return home and retrieve it by themselves or survive the day without it.

Those without PE clothes wait on the sidelines. A forgotten sewing kit means foregoing home economics class. And missing homework equals a reprimand from the teacher. These consequences are not mean, just natural outcomes.

At first, I worried about my kids and their occasional forgotten items. But soon I came to appreciate the natural consequences. When my daughter forgot her paint set, she sat through art class watching everyone else have the fun. And the next day she triple-checked her supplies so she wouldn’t miss out again! It wasn’t my fault she was unprepared, and as a result, she didn’t whine at me or expect someone else to solve her problem. I’ve seen a conscious change in my kids’ ability to manage their own lives, and I love it!

One morning I found a dropped school handkerchief on the side of the rode. The nearby crossing guard told me to leave it right there, as the owner would surely return eventually. In other words, the general idea is to let children make simple mistakes and be responsible themselves. What a refreshing idea!

Lesson #3 – Change your shoes

“In America, everyone wears one pair of shoes and they walk inside and outside,” expressed my daughter one day. “That’s just so irresponsible!”

I laughed at her comment and her new perspective on filth. But I do agree. Walking inside with outside dirt on your soles isn’t very polite. Japanese people step in and out of shoes as they come in and out of the house, in and out of the bathroom, in and out of a school or business.

But the lesson goes deeper than mud. It’s about caring for something that’s not your own, thinking respectfully about someone else’s space, and doing your part to minimize filth.

Moses was taught by God, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

While schools, homes, and businesses may or may not be holy, the principle is sound: show respect.

Changing shoes is a physical act with internal benefits. It invites visitors to act respectfully toward the place and people. Students revere their teachers and classrooms as places and people of learning. Wearing “school shoes” all day reminds children where they are, and helps them to remember that they are guests.

In my opinion, homes are certainly holy, and taking a moment to “put off thy shoes” is a wonderful custom. Removing shoes is one tradition we will definitely maintain when our time in Japan ends and we return home.

Lesson #4 – Yard work is healthy

Wait…yard work at school? Yes. J

Japanese school children start their day—or spend part of their school day—doing outside physical labor! They use rakes and brooms and gloves and clean the schoolyard.

I love walking past the grounds and seeing students sweeping sidewalks, pulling weeds, raking the ball field, and watering plants. 

Working outside is hard work, especially after a mile-long walk to school—but it’s so fulfilling. Gardening is good, so why not add it to the school curriculum? And putting students in charge of their landscape also adds to the responsibility factor.

Watching the Japanese students do outside chores reminds me that a daily dose of yard work is a healthful choice for anyone!

Lesson #5 – Cleaning is required

Let’s face it: cleaning is a necessity for life! And that’s why I’m grateful and amazed that it is part of the Japanese school day. Every one of my kids—from kindergartener to 8th grader—is required to clean every single day at school. After lunch, students slide all the desks to one side of the room and sweep and mop the floor. Then they slide the desks to the other side and do the same. While some kids are mopping, others are washing windows, wiping desks, and even sweeping and mopping the hallways and stairs.

What about the janitors? There are none. Seriously. Japanese students are the janitors at their school. Every day they learn there, and every day they clean there. In fact, special white “cleaning towels” are required school items that parents send each semester. It’s truly amazing!

But the best part is, cleaning time is recess! When I picked my son up early from kindergarten one day, he was upset because it was right in the middle of cleaning time! He was busy pushing his white mopping towel across the floor with his friends, and I interrupted the fun to take him home. As students clean they talk and laugh and enjoy a break from the rigors of study. Teachers stand by and direct, but kids do the labor.

The students also learn other cleanliness skills. My kids were also formally trained in class in washing their school shoes and PE clothes…by hand. I love it!

And the side benefits? My children are cleaner at home. Their cleaning skills have been being fine-tuned, and they understand the necessity of daily cleaning. That’s a win!

Lesson #6 – Plan your day

Each morning Japanese students write their school schedule in their planners. Actually, they write the schedule for the following day: Tuesday is written on Monday, Wednesday is written on Tuesday, etc.

This written schedule includes classes like science, math, social studies, swimming, home economics, English, cooking, calligraphy, ethics, etc.  Writing ahead of time gives kids a full 24 hours notice about what items should be brought to school the following day. Plus, they can glance at today’s schedule (written yesterday) and remember what the day will hold.

What a great tip for life!

Can you imagine a nation of people who plan their lives 24 hours ahead? This simple habit is an advantage for all ages. And, one trait I hope my children carry with them when we leave Japan.

Lesson #7 – Use your hands

The Japanese school curriculum includes more than bookwork. Carving, sewing, painting and other handicrafts are also included. I’ve been amazed at some of the tools my kids are required to bring: knife carving sets, calligraphy brushes and paints, sewing kits… Teaching kids fine motor skills is important in the Japanese culture. When my children bring home artwork from their Japanese class it’s framable! It’s obvious that they have been taught precise skills, useful for the rest of their lives.

When my 4th grader told me her teacher was asking for students to bring an “extra hand saw” to school the next day, I laughed out loud. I’m fairly certain that managing a classroom of 4th graders each carving out their own wooden decorations with pocket knives and small saws is not approved in the American school system. But I do think we’ve lost something valuable through our over-cautious legal rhetoric.

Kids are talented enough to learn real skills at their age, and the Japanese schools build line-upon-line, grade by grade.

This added emphasis on actual homemaking, painting, wood working, origami, and shop skills are a cultural benefit I absolutely love.

Lesson #8 – Eat your lunch

“My favorite food is squid,” shared my son. “What???” I choked. But he was serious! “We ate it for lunch and I really like it.”

School lunch in Japan is cooked from scratch and served at noon. Large pots of soup, rice, and side dishes are taken to each classroom where students in turn serve bowls for each classmate. After everyone has their food, the teacher invites all to say, “Itadakemasu,” (I humbly partake) before eating.

By noon, kids have a very healthy appetite, so they all dig right in and enjoy!

Once in a while seconds are divvied out from the leftovers in the pot. But even better, students are required to at least try everything, and—in some classrooms—completely finish what they are served.

I love the many lessons learned here: prepare real food, eat what you’re served, take time to give thanks, finish your meal, don’t waste food, and eat together.

At first my kids rushed home from Japanese school “starving” for a bag of chips or a sugary granola bar. But after a few weeks their taste buds changed. Now they genuinely enjoy the healthy meals and are eating like pros: miso soup, tempura, rice, fish, potato balls, all sorts of veggies, rice, mountain roots, rice….

“I ate all my lunch today!” my kindergartener started announcing. He not only eats lunch, but he also enjoys the afternoon snack: a piece of apple, a square of tofu, a sweet potato.

And I’ll always treasure the day my 5th grader shared, “I ate the sweetest orange for dessert today!”

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I love the lessons our kids are learning in Japanese school: health, fitness, personal responsibility, respect, organization, cleanliness, true satisfaction, and real eating. We’ll miss these experiences when the time comes to return to the American school system. But I hope we can maintain the habits we’ve gleaned. Thanks, Japanese friends, for more life-changing lessons.

5 Lessons We’ve Learned in 25 years of Marriage

Last week my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We feel so old! Where has the time gone? We’ve had 10 children, lived in 10 different homes, and raised our family in 3 states and 2 countries. It’s been an adventure, to say the least!

Every story is unique and life isn’t perfect for anyone, but perhaps there are some universal truths that apply to all of us. As we’ve contemplated our years as a couple, we’ve identified certain principles that have become foundational to our family.

For what it’s worth, through the ups and downs and blessings and bumps, here are 5 lessons we’ve learned in 25 years of marriage.

Worship often. For us that means regularly attending Sunday services as well as the temple—a holy edifice we revere as the House of the Lord. But no matter how you choose to believe, putting God first brings definite strength to a marriage. When we make sacrifices and acknowledge deity we are blessed in ways we can’t always understand or foresee. Our family and children and circumstances benefit from the protection and vision of a power higher than our own. We believe that keeping God at the helm of our marriage has given us direction and peace. The sacrifices we make to worship daily and weekly are definitely worth the divine dividends.

Choose children. Consciously choosing to have children and raise a family is like Adam and Eve departing the Garden of Eden: leaving a pattern of ease is difficult, but our eyes are opened and we understand good and evil and see life more clearly. Through experience we come to know what truly matters and spend our time on things that will last. Sure, raising a family is no cakewalk, but it is a true exhibition of the age-old adage that ‘you reap what you sow.’ Effort and experience blossom into eternal blessings. The number of children we bear isn’t what’s vital; it’s the conscious choice that matters. Putting someone’s life above your own brings sweetness to everyday living, even despite the drudgery and exhaustion. And in the end, choosing children brings us joy.

Take opportunities. The greatest regret people have when they grow old is that they didn’t take enough risks! Marriage is the same. Life is full of chances, and we can and should benefit from ventures outside our comfort zone whenever reasonable. The more opportunities we pursue, the more life gives us in return, until our days are full and rich and wonderful.

One theme of our marriage has been, “Why not?” We only live once, and aside from making obviously stupid decisions, we’ve tried to take the road less traveled and accept good risks when they come. Job promotions, service callings, solicitations to move, and even dinner requests keep life interesting and full. Life rarely sends us an invitation more than once, so when a good chance rolls by, take it!

Bloom where you’re planted. This is actually my in-law’s life theme, and we’ve adopted it as a couple, too. Similar to the Boy Scout adage to ‘leave every place better than you found it,’ blooming where you’re planted denotes a level of contentment with our current circumstances and situations. (In comparison to my last point, yes, take opportunities, but don’t waste your days looking over the fence in wishful agony.) As human beings we have the ability to improve the world around us. We can paint walls and fix up homes, even in grey neighborhoods. We can plant gardens and flowers, even in the downtown smog. We can reach out to those around us and make friends, even with a grumpy co-worker or neighbor. We can create temples and palaces and lives no matter where we live.

I’m grateful for a husband who has planted gardens in rocky soil, made friends with neighbors who didn’t wave the first time, and painted and patched surroundings, both temporal and abstract. Making the most of each situation has made life ideal. Realizing that we are creators and have the ability to grow, change, and bloom is liberating.

Choose to Celebrate Life is a choice, tied to our agency. We can literally choose happiness or misery. We can live the life we want to live. We can make choices to pursue the career we want, serve those we wish to serve, have the health we desire, and create and build the deepest stirrings of our hearts. Accepting our agency is exhilarating. The glass is always half full or half empty, really.

In addition to embracing our power to be, we can also purposely and purposefully celebrate the little things in our marriage and homes. Form traditions, give flowers, mark anniversaries, blow out candles, revel in holidays, anticipate milestones, make things special, and go the extra mile to bless our spouse, our children, and those around us. I’m not talking about cutesy living. I’m describing traditions and anticipation that give stability and strength to a marriage. Some of our sweetest moments as a couple have occurred because we planned ahead, took the time, and marked with gratitude what we have and what we have accomplished.

What will the next 25 years bring? God only knows, and I’m sure when we celebrate our fiftieth anniversary we’ll be much older and wiser and have even more adages in our pocket. One thing we know for sure is that the life lessons will continue, both the good and the bad, and we are excited to travel the trail together.

Christmas Collage: Three Ideas to Brighten your Holiday Season

The best part of Christmas is the TRADITIONS! Here are three simple ideas that brighten our season:

-Christmas Cards

-An old Christmas story

-Cinnamon Roll Wreaths (See the traditional roll dough recipe below.)

I hope this collage of ideas makes your season a little bit BRIGHTER and SMOOTHER.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

Traditional Roll Dough (From my mom! I usually quadruple this recipe to make two full sheets of rolls, or four wreaths.)

1 TB yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup shortening or butter

1 tsp salt

3 1/2 cups flour

1 egg

-Soften yeast in warm water.

-Combine milk, sugar, shortening and salt in a saucepan over medium heat while milk scalds. Cool to lukewarm.

-Pour into mixing bowl.

-Add 1 1/2 cups flour and beat well.

-Beat in yeast and egg.

-Gradually add remaining flour to form a soft dough, beating well.

Place in greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover and let rise till double. Shape as desired. Cover and let rise till double on greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes. Makes 2 dozen rolls.

For Cinnamon Roll Wreaths:

Roll dough to 16×8 inch rectangle. Combine 1/4 c sugar, 2 TBS melted butter, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon; spread over dough. Sprinkle with raisins or craisins.

Roll as for jelly roll.

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Place on greased baking sheet in circle/wreath shape.

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Cut rolls nearly through dough and twist out. Let rise rill double. Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes. Glaze with mixture of powdered sugar and milk.

Add a festive bow and enjoy!

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Of Abundance and Apathy – A Tribute to the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Life is easy right now. Most of the people I know have a car (more than one), a phone (more than one), a T.V. (more than one), they often take vacations (more than one) and even own a home (some have more than one).

I don’t personally know anyone going hungry, and even friends of mine who’ve experienced a “downsizing” in their job status are still able to make ends meet and live comfortably. Some would call our current standard of living “the abundant life.” And it is very abundant. However, we must be very careful that the “abundant life” doesn’t become the “apathetic life”.

This month is a good time for a wake-up call.

IMG_3159My wake-up call came when my teenage son excitedly told me one day that he had seen a piece of the Berlin Wall.

“It was behind glass,” he explained. “A real piece of the wall. Imagine that!” I waited for him to finish the story of his museum field trip before I replied.

“Actually, I have a piece of the wall downstairs,” I told him.

“You do?” He didn’t believe me.

“And, you can touch it,” I added. As he eagerly followed me to the basement, I realized that I had never shared with him two important experiences of my youth.

img_3161.jpgVarious circumstances took me to Germany twice as a teenager. The first time was in 1988, to visit Hans Dieter and Inge Wittke, Scouting friends of my dad’s. They lived in a small village near Düsseldorf, West Germany. I stayed with the Wittkes for a month while I practiced my junior high school German skills.

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As active Scouters, they provided an opportunity for me to attend a German Scout camp near Immenhausen for two weeks. Hiking, bicycling, camping, and backpacking through the green fields and hills of West Germany is an experience I will never forget. Continue reading

Chicken Pot Pie – Simple and Yummy

Remember how I said we eat pie EVERY DAY during the autumn time? Well, that’s pretty close to the truth! I often make an ENTIRE MEAL out of two pies: chicken pot pie for the main dish, and a fruit pie for dessert.

One of my favorite things about pie is that kids can help, too! Join me, Naomi, and Eli as we quickly make our favorite yummy chicken pot pie.

Media Myths: An invitation for Latter-day Saints to understand changes within the Boy Scouts of America

This month I had two distinct experiences.

While introducing myself to an international stranger, I mentioned that I lived in Utah, USA.

“Oh, that’s the place where people have lots of wives!” he remarked.

I cringed.

A few days later, a good friend showed up at my door. With tear-filled eyes he said, “I’m so sorry that Scouting is ending.”

I cringed again.

While both of these assumptions—that polygamy is legal in Utah, and that Scouting is ending—are false, they are mingled with truth. Yes, polygamy was prevalent in Utah over 150 years ago. And, the relationship between Scouting and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ending this year. However, the full and entire truth about both of these situations is often misunderstood.

As a lifetime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and as a longtime volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America, I have firsthand experience with painful partial truths. I often refer to these misunderstandings as “media myths.”

People are prone to read a headline and immediately think they comprehend a story. During the past century, both the Church and the BSA have been victims to unfortunate media myths and misconceptions.

Paradoxically, we are currently in a situation—the Church ending its Scouting partnership—with multiple misconceptions about the BSA among Church members.

I wish to directly address the confusion that some of my Latter-day Saint friends have regarding the Boy Scouts of America.

Unfortunately, many Latter-day Saints feel the BSA has undergone “major” foundational changes during the past decade. This assumption is false. Instead, closer observation reveals that the BSA is simply making structural modifications. And, the Church is making—and has already made—similar adjustments!

My goal is to clarify changes the BSA has recently made, and share with Church members why I personally agree with these changes, and why I don’t feel they are causing the end of the LDS-BSA relationship.

Since May 8, 2018 when the Church announced the end of their Scouting partnership, I’ve observed seven common misconceptions about the relationship between the two organizations. I will refer to these misconceptions as “myths,” and have numbered them one through seven, in no particular order.

As all-too-common victims of media madness ourselves, I invite members of the Church to seek the full truth about the Boy Scouts of America.

Please note that what I share is based on my personal opinions. These views are mine and don’t officially represent the Church or the BSA.

Now sit back, smile, and read on.

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Myth #1: The Church is leaving Scouting because the Church no longer supports the BSA.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland clarified this myth when he spoke at the BSA National Annual Meeting in May 2018.

“Right now in the Church there are 4.5 million young people. We have a very large responsibility to a very large Church and it’s getting larger. That’s the arena and the growth that we’re facing. We are obligated for all the right reasons to intentionally reach them around the world.”

“Please know how grateful we are to the BSA. We are friends now and we will be friends forever. In 18 months when our charters are finished, we hope that many LDS youth who wish to do so will still choose to be in Scouting. It is just the charter part that we are separating from. We’re going to stay in close contact. And we are locked arm in arm and hand in hand for the next 18 months. Please keep your shoulder to the wheel. Let me stress again, this isn’t a divorce. It’s growth. We’re not in any way disavowing any of those virtues of Scouting.”

I personally reported on this event and wrote this article, and Elder Holland himself approved the article before it was published on the Latter-day Saint Scouting website. (Read the full article here.)

I’ve often heard Church members whisper that there is “more” to the ending partnership, but I choose to believe an apostle’s explanation. Yes, the Church does need a worldwide youth program. And yes, “We will be friends forever.”

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Myth #2: The Church is leaving Scouting because of girls.

The truth is that the Boy Scouts of America first welcomed girls into many of their programs starting in the 1970s. These coed programs included Exploring, Venturing, Learning for Life, Sea Scouts, and others.

While the Cub Scout and Boy Scout divisions remained male-only programs, they opened their doors to females in 2018 and 2019, respectively. However, girls can still only participate in separate dens and separate troops.

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As a former youth Explorer who loved the outdoor adventure provided by the BSA, I look forward to enrolling my own girls in the high quality Cub Scout and Scouts BSA programs.

Interestingly enough, the Church is also making changes to equalize young men and young women activity programs. For example, the new youth program, Children and Youth, provides a non-gender based outline for personal growth. Boys and girls, young men and young women, are now on an equal plane. In fact, in the announcement during the recent general conference, it was noted that “…ward budgets for youth activities will be divided equitably between the young men and young women according to the number of youth in each organization.”

And, in an interesting twist, while the BSA maintains separate girl and boy dens and troops, the Church often combines males and females in more activities than the BSA, making the Church slightly more lenient in this matter. I have seen Activity Day boys and girls meet together under coed circumstances that would actually violate BSA policy.

Additionally, the Church has made recent changes in temple and baptismal ordinances to more readily involve females and further clarify the value and position of women in the priesthood. These changes in the Church are enlightening!

We should feel the same about parallel changes to equalize opportunities for females in Scouting. It’s exciting that the BSA and the Church are both making similar structural adjustments.

No, girls in Scouting really isn’t new news. Instead, it’s thrilling!

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Myth #3: The Church is leaving Scouting because of transgender youth and adults.

Frankly, this is old news as well. And again, changes the BSA has made to welcome all youth and adults mirror changes in the Church.

A few Church examples of recent inclusiveness include greater emphasis on inviting all to come unto Christ, specific websites to help transgender individuals feel welcome in Latter-day Saint congregations, the Tabernacle Choir performing with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (full story here), and even recent Church policy changes that allow baptisms for children of same-sex couples.

Additionally, consider that Scouts Canada changed their youth and adult leader policies way back in the 1990s, yet the Church kept a partnership with them for over 20 more years. It stands to reason, then, that membership policy changes are not the reason for the end of the LDS-BSA partnership.

These membership adjustments are truly non-issues in both the Church and the BSA, especially in our current social climate.

It is extremely notable, however, that the BSA has not changed their century-old Scout Oath and Scout Law; nor has the Church changed the Ten Commandments, the Articles of Faith, The Living Christ or the Proclamation on the Family. While maintaining their historical and principled foundations, both organizations have opened their arms to all who wish to join and abide by their precepts.

This steadfastness is remarkable and commendable.

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Myth #4: The BSA is going bankrupt.

Members of the Church should fully understand how the media often misconstrues financial facts. I remember a major article splashed across the cover of Time Magazine titled, Mormon, Inc. The article grossly overstated the financial status and goals of the Church. It was misleading and embarrassing.

Likewise, the media has caught wind of financial stress within the BSA, and is having a heyday with them.

In a nutshell, recent changes in state litigation laws now allow unlimited suing ability for abuse victims, literally putting non-profit organizations out of business—a dangerous situation. Instead of focusing on what they do best, the BSA is drowning in litigation costs. This is an unfortunate outcome of our current sue-happy society.

(Read an official statement on the situation by Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh here.)

Since the 1920s, the BSA has kept careful track of child pedophiles and abusers, removing such individuals from their programs. Even a century ago, before records of such people were required, the Boy Scouts of America went above and beyond to track offenders and deny them access to our youth. Strangely enough, these records—once used to protect youth—are now used by greedy litigators to hurt the Boy Scouts of America.

The BSA hasn’t made an official decision yet, but as a non-profit institution they can “restructure” and set aside money specifically for litigation costs and abuse victims, while maintaining funds necessary to run their organization and program. Such an action would require the vote of the BSA National Executive Board. Time will tell what these wise men and women choose to do in this precarious situation.

I am personally afraid for organizations like the Boy Scouts of America—led by honorable people, striving to uphold American values—who are being put out of business by lack of litigation boundaries. Situations such as this should make us fear for our society.

In my opinion, the BSA is not the enemy. Instead, a society without youth who are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind and all the rest is the true nightmare.

Again, the Boy Scouts of America is not going bankrupt. They are considering a “restructure” to save non-profit funds for what the BSA does best—instill character, citizenship, leadership, and fitness in America’s youth.

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Myth #5: The Boy Scouts of America changed its name.

Sigh. The Boy Scouts of America did not change its name. It simply changed the name of one of its many programs. Boy Scouts are now Scouts, BSA. This change is a reflection of the fact that girls can now join girl troops—all (let me be clear) under the umbrella of the Boy Scouts of America.

And, speaking of name changes, Latter-day Saints should be especially empathetic to official names. We were recently asked by our prophet to stop using the terms “Mormon” and “LDS” and focus on our full name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Have we changed our name?

No.

And neither has the Boy Scouts of America.

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Myth #6: Scout leaders endanger our youth.

This is another classic example of media madness. Small truths are being twisted to tell partial truths and hurt good programs.

My kids participate in several different extra curricular activities, and none of them use a Youth Protection program like the BSA. In my opinion (and the statistics support me) kids are safer in Scouting programs than anywhere else.

I prefer sending my children to leaders who have been trained in multiple facets of safety as well as specific youth protection guidelines. I like having two leaders present at each Scouting activity. I choose an organization with leaders who have skill-specific training for outdoor adventure and safety.

The Church is not immune to youth protection issues either. Consider the recent allegations regarding the BYU Honor Code. I actually worked in the Honor Code Office as a student secretary when I was a college Junior. The people in that office were some of the kindest, most honorable individuals I’ve ever worked for. I often think about them during these media madness times, and wonder how they are coping as rumors swirl around their peaceful purposeful office.

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I feel the same about the Scout leaders I know. They are honorable upright citizens who support youth. Paradoxically, these good people are engaged in a battle against them. It’s strange that our society eagerly twists truth and makes good people the enemy.

I invite you to look past the media madness and get to know your local Scouting leaders. I believe you’ll be impressed, too.

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Myth #7 We can’t be involved in both the new Church youth program and Scouting

This is a question each family will decide for themselves.

I personally feel that Scouting will complement, not compete with, the new Church initiative. I believe and am grateful that our youth can still be involved in Scouting while working on personal growth in their Church quorums and classes. Scouting is an effective way to inspire physical, intellectual, spiritual, and social development in youth. For us, Scouting perfectly complements our quest to increase in “wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”

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Scouting has been a bridge for our family to connect with many good people not of our faith who also believe in God, country and family. For us, Scouting is a ministry—an opportunity to meet and serve with incredible people in our community, nation, and world. And an opportunity to follow personal revelation, grow, and bless lives. We have felt an undeniable spirit when we gather with good people in the framework of Scouting. We are working arm in arm with other children of God to prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior. Isn’t this exactly what the Church is encouraging us to do? I think so.

So, now that we’ve discussed the myths, let’s talk about what the BSA IS doing…

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After 109 years, they are still delivering quality programs to youth throughout our nation. They are still providing outdoor adventure opportunities and character building activities under incredibly safe guidelines. They are still training leaders in specific safety and youth leadership. They are still founded on their original Oath of honor to God, country, and family.

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Scouting is still a robust personal development program that teaches First Aid, patriotism, environmental respect, swimming and lifesaving skills, navigational and camping skills, understanding animals and wildlife, financial and personal management, leadership, cooking skills and safe handling of foods, community involvement at the local, national and world levels; internet safety, emergency preparedness, safe water practices…

The list goes on and on!

The BSA has benefited generations of youth, and will continue to bless generations in the decades to come.

Personally, I’m extremely grateful for an organization that teaches character, citizenship, and leadership. I love when youth learn to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

I whole-heartedly applaud and support the Boy Scouts of America. Our family—both boys and girls—plans to be involved for generations to come.

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We will Still be Scouting in 2020, and I hope your family will be, too.

Autumn Time – A Parent’s Pout

12052499_893156100731419_5381880284282719173_o.jpgNo! SUMMER CANNOT BE OVER YET! It absolutely may not end!!! I know I write this exact same column every single year, yet I have these exact same emotions every single year.  August turns into September and then into October long before I am ready to give up July.

“Wait!” I want to shout.  “This mom is just getting into the swing of things. I am finally accustomed to swimming and vacationing and reading without any schedule. I am finally adjusting to meals on the fly and sudden trips to the library. I am acclimated to long, hot, lovely days when flip-flops and shorts will suffice.”

And then, suddenly, those days are over, there is a cool nip in the air, and school has started. It just isn’t fair.

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I’m sorry. I cannot readjust my life that quickly. It is impossible to morph overnight from a summer-silly-fun mom to a September-school-strict mom who puts children to bed at 8 o’clock when the sun is still above the horizon and there is daylight to enjoy! I cannot—in my rightful mind—get little students up at 6am to catch the bus after weeks of summer sleeping in. I cannot suddenly tell my children to put a book down and start their homework. Or come in from the swing set to work on a math assignment. I cannot say goodbye to the marshmallow roasts and hikes in the sunshine and bike rides on the trail.

I cannot.

IMG_5780.jpgNo. Don’t make me admit that there is change in the air. That fall is inevitable. And whatever you do, absolutely, positively do NOT show me an orange-gold pumpkin. Not in the fields, not on the neighbor’s doorstep. Don’t you dare put up Halloween decorations in the stores. I don’t want leaf wreaths or yellowed stalks of grain. Don’t say the word “Jack-o-lantern” or show me a black cat or an apple pie. I only want summer. Pink and orange and green and brilliant summer. Fun, carefree, no-responsibility summer. That’s still me.

Just give me one more week without homework and bus schedules and supply lists. Give me a few more days without lunches to pack and schedules to keep. Let me buy some more time to eat picnics and run through sprinklers. We still have a thousand movies to watch and a million books to read on our summer “to-do” lists. Please…hold back time for this muddled mother.

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But then it happened. Despite my groanings and murmurings and pleadings, the school bus showed up on the first day of school. My children (bless their hearts) were actually happy to put on their new tennis shoes. They donned their fresh backpacks and—swinging their new lunchboxes—said goodbye to me as they left, without even looking over their shoulders. My heart crumbled. I watched them skip down the street and around the corner, and then I walked back into an almost empty house and cleaned up the dishes on my own. I did laundry on my own, and I read a book during the quiet afternoon. I even went outside to harvest some vegetables.

Before I noticed, it was the second week of school. And then the third, and then the fourth. Now, despite my best rantings, the inevitable fall has crept in around me. Geese are flying overhead, caramel scents and smells are everywhere. At first, I ignored it. It was easy to pretend that our pumpkins weren’t ripe and we didn’t need jackets quite yet. I was still in summer mourning.

Then the Saturday soccer games and school field trips started. And (it’s hard to admit) after a few golden days I was delighted with autumn leaves. I actually enjoyed the smell of new pencils and notebooks, and loved the reading homework the teacher sent home.

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This week the air was even cooler and as we ate dinner on the deck (squeezing that last bit of summer from the evening) I looked over and saw golden red in the trees. Halloween costumes became the dinner conversation chatter. “This year I’m going to be Cinderella.” “I’ve waited so long to finally fit the Superman costume.” “My friends and I already planned our trick-or-treating route.” I finally relented.

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“OK!” I called up to the beautiful harvest moon, just rising over the horizon. “I was still enjoying July and August. But I’ll give up. You can take summer and I’ll be happy with fall. I actually do love orange and red and yellow and brown. I’ll be content with lovely jacket Saturdays, with corn at the farmers’ market, and freshly-pressed grape juice and applesauce on my counter. I might eventually feel happy to pull the boots from the shelves and dig the winter coats out of the closet. Ultimately I may even want a good soup on the stove or a fire crackling on the hearth. Sooner than later I will crave crisp apple pies. You win, world. I suppose I really do like all of your changes.”

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Now the orange pumpkins are everywhere. Now the cornstalks are dried and decorating the farm fence. Now there is a sweet nip in the morning air, and we gather a little more closely for family prayer on chilly mornings. It’s time to stop my summer soliloquy. The lazy days of July and August have turned into golden September, and we are—despite my best hesitations—enjoying this season. Our summer sorrows have turned into autumn joys.