Monday, July 26, 2010

An Opportunity to Present the Truth ... by Cindy Beck

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, I endured an uncomfortable plane ride home after visiting family. The roar of the jet engines—as well as people continually jostling against me as they walked the aisles—wore on my nerves and I felt frazzled. After what seemed like forever, the pilot announced we were circling Salt Lake City.

At that point, I became aware of a conversation in the seats behind me. Jeff, a young man from the Salt Lake City area, carried on an animated conversation with his seatmate, Laura, and seemed anxious to share his knowledge of the city with her. (Names have been changed.) After Jeff told her about the city’s nightlife, Laura turned the conversation to what it was like living among the Mormons.

My heart warmed when he explained that he didn’t mind living in Utah and had no problems with the members. However, joy turned to unease when Laura asked, “The Mormons have more than one wife, don’t they?”

I had no clue how many Latter-day Saints sat within earshot, but I felt an almost imperceptible increase in the tension around me, and I worried that the conversation would not end well.

Jeff responded with, “Oh yes, there are lots of them with more than one wife.”
He said it with such conviction that my annoyance level immediately skyrocketed and my worn-thin patience abandoned me. I wondered what right he had to speak so authoritatively on an issue about which he obviously knew nothing. I felt like whipping around in the seat and loudly proclaiming to Laura that Jeff had it all wrong

I recognized, however, that harsh words would create tension and drive away the Spirit at a time when I needed it most (see 3 Nephi 11:29). My mind roiled with thoughts of how to handle the situation. If I said something, would it immediately turn into an argument? Would other people feel the need to jump in on both sides of the issue?

On the other hand, I didn’t feel I could ignore the comment and my heart pounded anxiously as their conversation continued on the subject. Mentally bowing my head, I prayed, Please let someone speak up so Laura doesn’t walk out of here believing the Church currently practices plural marriage.

No one did; I realized the responsibility to correct the misconception resided with me and that I needed guidance. Taking a deep, calming breath, I sent a quick prayer for help heavenward. Then I turned around in the seat and faced the couple. “Excuse me. I’m not trying to eavesdrop, but I overheard you mention that the Mormons practice polygamy. I’m LDS, and although the Church did practice it at one time, we don’t anymore. Those engaging in polygamy today are not members but belong to splinter groups that aren’t affiliated with us.”

I waited for the verbal explosion.

A confused look crossed Jeff’s face. “You don’t practice polygamy? Oh, sorry, I thought you did. Aren’t there groups in Utah that do?”

Laura looked at me with interest, rather than the anger and derision I’d expected. I answered Jeff’s question about splinter groups and reiterated again that Latter-day Saints did not engage in the illegal practice of plural marriage.

They both thanked me for the information, and as I turned back around, I recognized the value of seeking the Spirit rather than just giving a knee-jerk reaction to an incorrect comment. I felt grateful for the prompting to take a calming breath before answering, which helped me control my anger and allowed the conversation to flow in a natural, non-confrontational manner. Responding with kindness had also afforded me the chance to learn that Jeff hadn’t intended to misrepresent the church, he simply lacked accurate knowledge.

In the October 2008 Conference, Elder Robert D Hales said, “In 1983, the First Presidency wrote to Church leaders, ‘Opposition may be in itself an opportunity. Among the continuing challenges faced by our missionaries is a lack of interest in religious matters and in our message. These criticisms create . . . interest in the Church. . . . This provides an opportunity [for members] to present the truth to those whose attention is thus directed toward us.’

“We can take advantage of such opportunities in many ways: a kind letter to the editor, a conversation with a friend, a comment on a blog, or a reassuring word to one who has made a disparaging comment. We can answer with love those who have been influenced by misinformation and prejudice—who are ‘kept from the truth because they know not where to find it’ (D&C 123:12). I assure you that to answer our accusers in this way is never weakness. It is Christian courage in action.”1

At the time of the incident, Elder Hales hadn’t yet given his talk in General Conference. However, I can testify to the wisdom of his counsel. It takes bravery to defend the truth as well as self-discipline to do so without anger, but with the help of the Spirit, we can use Christian courage and respond to inaccuracies with loving kindness.

It’s my hope that on that day, Jeff and Laura left the plane with a newfound regard for the church, and that non-members sitting nearby, listening to the conversation, felt the Spirit touch their hearts as well.

1. Robert D. Hales, “Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 72–75.

------© Cindy Beck------

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Discouraging Smoking

A Family Home Evening Lesson on the Word of Wisdom

By Cindy Beck

[As adults, we often assume that the Word of Wisdom is easy for young children to keep. However, our sons and daughters are being exposed to all manner of temptations, including the use of tobacco, at much earlier ages than in the past. Even children in elementary school can experience peer pressure about smoking. For that reason it's beneficial for us, as parents, to take the time to discuss tobacco's harmful effects with them, and to talk about ways to handle the peer pressure they may encounter.]

Song: “Keep the Commandments” (Hymns, #303)

Scripture: D&C 89: 4-9, 18

Quote: “Now is the time to set your life’s goals. Now is the time to set your standards firmly and then hold to them throughout your life.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Decide Now,Friend, May 1985.)

Story: [Before reading the story below aloud, explain to your children that it’s based on a true event in the life of a young, LDS boy whose friend wanted him to try smoking.]

Barkies and Stogies

“Do you want to smoke some barkies and stogies?” asked Chad.

Tyler tilted his head at the question. His blond hair slid into his eyes as he said, “What are those?”

“You know—barkies are those pieces of bark that peel off the aspen trees. You roll them up like a cigarette. Stogies are left over smokes that you find on the ground in parking lots.”

Tyler scrunched his eyebrows together in thought. I want Chad to keep liking me; I want him to be my friend for a long time.

As Tyler tried to figure out what to say, Chad stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans and shrugged his shoulders impatiently. “Well, do you want to or not?”

Crickets chirped in the weedy lot where they’d been playing, and a grasshopper nearby jumped onto a small, purple thistle. Tyler scuffed the ground with the toe of his sneakers, and a dust cloud puffed onto the bottom of his pants. “We’re Mormons,” he finally said.

“So what? I know of a hiding place where we can go, and nobody will know if we do it.” Chad nudged Tyler with his shoulder, as if sharing an important secret.

Tyler swallowed, his mouth tasting dry and his stomach feeling like someone had filled it full of hot air balloons. He wondered if it was because he was afraid to say no or because of the four pancakes he’d wolfed down for breakfast. “We’re not supposed to smoke. Our primary teacher said so."

Chad scowled. “So what! Are you afraid?”

“No, but smoking is bad for you. And it feels crummy.”

Chad looked at Tyler slyly, his brown eyes narrowing. “If you’ve never tried it, how would you know?”

“From camping. One time when I was toasting marshmallows over the campfire, I leaned over and accidentally took a big breath. The smoke went in my mouth and up my nose. It was awful—I coughed so much I almost threw up. And my eyes stung.”

Chad pretended to take a puff on a cigarette, “You’re just making that up because you’re a chicken.”

As Tyler remembered the smoky campfire, he understood why tobacco wasn’t good for people. He straightened his shoulders and thought, I'm not going to break the Word of Wisdom—even if it does mean we're not friends anymore.

“No, Chad. I don’t want to smoke and you shouldn’t either. Heavenly Father said not to. Besides, who would be dumb enough to smoke some old bark off a tree? Or pick up garbage from a parking lot and put it in his mouth?”

Chad’s lips flattened into an angry line and his eyebrows creased. “You’re nothing but a dorky baby. Why don’t you just stay here and cry while I go smoke barkies and stogies?” As he walked away Tyler heard him taunt, “Waaah, waaah, little baby.”

Tyler stood in the vacant lot, watching until his friend turned and ran behind a grove of aspen trees through the block. He felt bad that Chad was going to break the Word of Wisdom and sad that they would no longer be friends, but he also felt good inside. Heavenly Father’s commandments were important and he was glad he said no to smoking.

And on top of that… the rocky feeling in his stomach had disappeared.


Use the following questions as a springboard to discuss the use of tobacco with your children:

What does the Word of Wisdom advise us to avoid? (See D&C 89.)

Is the Word of Wisdom easy to keep?

Will it be harder to keep as you get older?

Do you know anyone your age who thinks smoking looks interesting or fun?

Why do you suppose they think that?

Have you ever accidentally breathed in smoke from a campfire or fireplace? What did it feel like?

If a friend asks you to try smoking, what are some things you can say?

Treats: Indoor S’Mores


* 32 miniature graham crackers or 8 regular size graham crackers, broken in 1/2
* 2 milk chocolate bars, the kind that can be broken into squares
* 8 marshmallows


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Lay 1/2 of the graham crackers on a cookie sheet. Top with chocolate pieces to cover. Use kitchen scissors to snip the marshmallows in 1/2 horizontally if using miniature crackers and place 1/2 a marshmallow on top of each graham cracker. If using regular size crackers use a whole marshmallow.

Bake until the marshmallows are puffed and golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the remaining graham crackers, pressing down slightly to make a sandwich. Serve immediately, while still warm.

Recipe from the

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Secret in the Library ... by Cindy Beck

The retired couple sat in the Ephraim Fourth Ward library, poring over what looked like a set of old records. Why were they there on a weekday and what were they doing?

Photo by William Hoiles, Basking Ridge, NJ, USA

My husband and I are converts. After baptism, we embraced the gospel wholeheartedly, accepted callings and were sealed as a family in the Logan Temple. Following several years of membership, I felt well-versed in the Latter-day Saint culture in Utah. Yet, something unknown was taking place in the ward library that day in the late 1980s.

Curiosity got the better of me. Leaning through the doorway, I greeted the couple. They looked up and smiled. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“Extraction,” the woman replied.

“What’s extraction?”

Her husband explained it consisted of deciphering the names on official documents—birth, marriage, and census records—in order to make them available for genealogy and temple work.

Moving closer, I looked at the information. Warmth flooded through me—the handwriting looked curlicued and old-fashioned, but to my astonishment, I could read it. I knew with a surety I would work on similar documents.

On the drive home, my mind puzzled over the experience. Several callings already occupied my time—could I fit in another?

I can’t do it now, but someday I’ll do name extraction—maybe when I’m retired.

Feeling a bit guilty, I consoled myself with the thought that there was a season and a time for every purpose (see Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Many years passed, and I no longer saw senior couples in the ward library, unraveling the mysteries in those old records. Members of the church still worked on names, but I didn’t know how. It seemed the calling meant for me no longer existed.

The Opportunity Arises

As I rummaged through my church bag during a Sacrament meeting in the fall of 2007, an announcement from the pulpit—about computers and retrieving names from public records—zipped past me. Turning to my husband, I asked, “What did he say?”

“Something about indexing.”

“Yes, I know that. But, what about it? Is indexing the same as extraction? Is it a calling or are they asking for volunteers? Are the names online now?”

Russ shrugged his shoulders and gave a sympathetic look. “Sorry, but I didn’t catch it.”

My chance had come and I’d missed it while searching for a tissue!

It would have been a simple task to ask the bishop about it after the meeting, but suddenly, trepidation entered. Did I really need to take on another church job? What would happen if it required more time than I had available? Uncertain, I let the opportunity pass.

Several weeks later, the phone rang. “Help!” a friend said breathlessly. “Everything on my computer’s screen has turned upside down. I’m working on indexing and don’t know how to get it back to normal.” Then she added in a teasing voice, “The only way I can read the names is by standing on my head.”

I rushed over. We retraced her movements, pushed the right key and the screen returned to normal. Realizing the perfect opportunity sat in front of me, I asked her questions about indexing. She explained that I needed a computer and an Internet connection, and reassured me that the indexing website had tutorials that explained the program. In addition, the stake had a specialist available to help with questions. Finally, for each batch submitted, another indexer interpreted the same names as a crosscheck.

“The best part,” she said, pointing at the graceful, curved writing displayed on the monitor, “is that if you start a batch of names and don’t have time to finish, you can save the information and come back later. You have a whole week to complete a batch and it only takes about half an hour, total.”

She’d convinced me. I could spare half an hour a week. The calling that I’d known for years would be mine was right at my fingertips—and I wasn’t even retired yet.

The Opportunity Slips Away

I went home, sat at the computer and fidgeted. Doubts crept in, causing me to overlook the scriptural promise, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20). Instead, I wondered … what if I couldn’t interpret the writing, or did something wrong and scrambled the records?

Pushing the thought of indexing from my mind, I stood up from the computer, walked away, and went about my daily routine.

Thank goodness for the Spirit’s persistence. The bishopric mentioned the need for volunteers again from the pulpit. A few weeks later, I gathered my courage and went online to FamilySearch Indexing. Once there, I found a site designed so those with minimal computer savvy could excel, and that safeguards prevented mishaps. After creating an ID, a password and reading the tutorials, I wanted to continue. However, it was late in the evening, so I chose to start my first batch on the next free Sunday.

The best laid plans ….

Friday—the late afternoon sun felt unusually warm for the beginning of November. Realizing winter would soon be blowing its icy breath across the landscape, I decided on a bike ride. After enjoying the fresh air for about twenty-five minutes, I headed back. Half a block from home, a slick spot lay in wait. When my front tire hit it, the bike flipped from under me, flinging me to the ground.

Stars exploded in my head as I landed, full force, on my arm and shoulder.

Several hours later, I returned home from the emergency room with a splint-cast on my dominant, right arm. It ran from just below my shoulder down to my elbow, then bent at a ninety-degree angle and continued on to my wrist. I would do no indexing on the upcoming Sunday—or for many weeks thereafter.

It almost seemed like someone didn’t want me to accomplish what the Lord had in mind. I reminded myself that strong opposition often meant you were headed in the right direction.

The Promise is Fulfilled

And now, my dearly beloved, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect (D&C 128:15).

Months later, I’m grateful for that quiet whisper years ago and for the persistence with which the Spirit kept whispering.

A hard to describe feeling floods over me as I work on indexing names from the eastern and southern United States. My heart rejoices when names such as John and Hannah are recognizable. I want to sing when the names of their children—Sally and Columbus—become clear. Someone is waiting for them—to place them on a pedigree chart—and one day that family will be sealed to each other.

Often, the information pops out at me, as if the individuals have waited for centuries and can wait no longer. Other times, the writing looks jumbled and I come up with a name that makes no sense—Rxzlpr or Ascie. When that happens, I send a prayer heavenward and wait for inspiration.

Now I understand what took place in the ward library, so long ago. The secret has unfolded, like a blossom warming in the morning sun. It’s not just about deciphering names in an old book, but about the soft, quiet touch by the Spirit—a touch that creates love for those beyond the veil and connects us all as children of our Heavenly Father.

That’s a secret worth sharing.

------© Cindy Beck, 2010------

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Heart that has Truly Loved ... by Cindy Beck

Photo © Vintage Holiday Crafts

With February being the month for love, I thought I’d post a story I wrote a few years ago and have kept, waiting for the right time to share it. It took shape in my mind when I remembered this ending line from a poem, “As the sunflower turns on her god, when he sets, the same look which she turned when he rose.”

Although the story is based on a true event, the main character’s personality is a figment of my imagination. And yet, every time I read this story that I created, the love between Bessy and her husband, Thomas, touches me, and I wonder if perhaps … just perhaps … “Bessy” sent a hint of the tale my way.

The Heart That Has Truly Loved

Tears streamed down Bessy’s face as she fingered the sharp scissors. Sunlight filtered through the ivy that crept along the window casement, but she neither saw it nor heard the finch that twittered from its nest in the heart-shaped leaves.

A small drop of blood oozed as she pressed harder on the blade with her thumb. “If only I had the courage, I would take these scissors and plunge them into my heart,” she cried. A sob caught in her throat as she glanced wildly about the room. There were no mirrors in the bedroom, no basin of water that would reflect the ugliness that was Bessy Moore.

The muslin in her lap slid to the floor, jolting her back to the task at hand. Wiping the tears from her disfigured face, she picked up the cloth and jabbed in the scissors—jabbed them to start the eyeholes for the mask she would wear for the rest of her life.

A soft knock sounded at the door. “Bessy, please let me come in,” Thomas pleaded.


“It doesn’t matter that you contracted the pox. It’s you that I love, not your face.” He ran his hands through his hair, causing it to stand on end in his distress, and turned the knob on the door. The handle clicked and then stopped. Bessy had turned the lock days before his return from the city.

“Thomas, please go away. I’m not a fit wife. I can no longer stand by your side. I’m a freak. I can’t …” She broke into sobs, and tears rolled down Thomas’ cheeks at the sound.

“I love you more than life itself,” he whispered.

The golden colors of sunset melted against the horizon as he sat at the desk and wrote with the quill pen. The blues of twilight settled on the house, and still he wrote. Finally finished, he folded the paper, climbed the stairs and slid the note under her door. He knocked softly, just once. Then, putting his ear against the door and holding his breath, Thomas listened.

The bed creaked when she arose. Her nightgown swished, almost sounding like a sigh, as Bessy leaned down to pick up the paper. Thomas pressed his ear more firmly against the rough wood while she read aloud the words he’d penned.

Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly today,
Were to change by tomorrow, and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy gifts fading away.
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.

It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And the cheeks unprofaned by a tear,
That the fervor and faith of a soul can be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear,
No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sunflower turns on her god, when he sets,
The same look which she turned when he rose.

The door opened slowly. The muslin rustled as she slipped the mask from her face. Thomas took her in his arms and whispered, “Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art … for my heart, which has truly loved never forgets, and will truly love on to the close.”

Then he took the muslin from her hand, threw it into the hall, and kissed her tears away.

(“Believe Me, if All Those Endearing Young Charms” is believed to have been written by Thomas Moore for his wife, upon finding that she had contracted smallpox and her face had been marred by the disease. Thomas Moore (1779-1852) Irish Melodies)