Sunday, November 15, 2015

Building The Kingdom Through Strengthening Family Relationships

Building The Kingdom Through Strengthening Family Relationships
We were sitting in PEC meeting a couple of weeks ago and things were going pretty good.  All of the sudden Bishop threw us a pretty major curve ball.  He said they had decided to change the 5th Sunday combined meeting to the 3rd Sunday because with Thanksgiving coming up it seemed better to have the combined relief society/priesthood meeting this week when more people would be in town.  That part made sense of course but, then the curve ball..He said he'd like for the presidents to teach the lesson instead of the bishopric this time around.  And the cherry on top was he wanted us to base the lesson on the topic Elder Bednar had laid out in his training to the general authorities regarding Sabbath Day observance but, his portion centered on the importance of eternal families.
I don't know what the look on my face looked like but, I can guess it looked something similar to Carrie's and Josh's.  I don't know exactly what they were thinking but, all I know is what was going through my head as I sat there trying to emulate Bishop's poker face (which is impossible to do, by the way).

I was sitting there thinking "Say what??  You're telling me you want US three, a mid-single guy, a mid-single girl, and the divorced guy to get up in front of a gym full of unmarried mid-singles who most all have wanted to and thought they would have a spouse and families by now and talk to them about the eternal importance of having their own families?"  It was like, "What did we ever do to you Bishop??"

So anyway, after church that day, Carrie, Josh and I met to try and figure out how we were going to go about this lesson since it can be such a touchy subject.  I confided in them and admitted that because of my own personal circumstances, being a divorced father with 2 beautiful children that I love with all my heart that this was going to be a particularly difficult lesson for me to participate in.  And here's why:

Elder Bednar's segment that we based our lesson off of starts with him by saying "The basic purpose of ALL we teach and all we do in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is to make available the priesthood authority and gospel ordinances and covenants that enable a man and a woman and their children to be sealed together and happy at home.  Period.  Exclamation point.  End of sentence.  That's it."  He goes on to recite President Packer having taught "Our ultimate to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in and an eternal marriage, linked to their generations, and assured of exaltation in the presence of our Heavenly Father"

It was a daunting task to think about speaking on a subject such as this because it is a beautiful and absolutely correct ideal, but, it's not an ideal I've thus far been able to live up to yet.  I was sealed for time and all eternity at one point, and for the most part fit into this happy little ideal, but I no longer do.  In it's place I have a sealing cancellation and my little family has a very different dynamic.  Elder Bednar went on to again re-emphasize the importance of marriage between a man and a woman and the sealing tho their children.  He then introduced the term Multi-Generational Families.  Here's a diagram that illustrates what he means by that.

It's a simple pattern and it's obvious why it's so important.  Children and Converts are baptized and press forward living faithful lives and come to a point where they receive additional ordinances including sealing to spouse.  Then the couple are blessed with children and the pattern continues.  This pattern is "a source of spiritual strength and continuity".  Once again, this is a beautiful and correct ideal to strive for.  There is a song I'd like to play for you that to me encapsulates this concept really well.  As it so happens, this song has always reminded me of my beautiful daughter Eden who I'm lucky enough to have here with me today along with my son, Collin.
To me, this song really touches my heart.  And it really is so true.  I've turned around and Eden was two.  I've turned around and she was four.  I've turned around and she's a young girl and it won't be long before she's walking out the door.  For us in this room, we turned around and we were two, turned around and we were four, turned around and walked out the door.  And then we turned around several more times and the next thing we know we find ourselves in a mid-singles ward wondering what in the world happened?!  I will say it again, Elder Bednar's Multi-Generational concept and even this song is a beautiful and correct ideal.  More often then not though, there is a discrepancy in the Church's ideal and the realities most of us experience.  Heavenly Father's plan is perfect but, His children aren't.  That brings us to another song which is one of my favorites that have ever been written.  Please listen carefully to the words of the song, I'm sure most of you know it by heart, but, listen again anyway.  And also pay close attention to Elder Eyring's words. 

"Whether the family will be  together depends on the choices each family member makes."  That statement leads back to Elder Bednar's diagram of Multi-Generational Families.

Elder Bednar says "The biggest losses are between baptism and receiving the endowment.  And of all the things that we know of all the reasons that contribute to that rupture first, foremost, and most powerful is weak gospel teaching and modeling in the home."

 It was interesting to hear Elder Bednar's choice of the word "rupture".  Back when I was still married, we were expecting our first baby.  My then wife was only 8-10 weeks pregnant.  I had a 4plex in Ohio I was purchasing and I was flying out there to close on it.  My route took me from Salt Lake to Las Vegas and from there I was to head to Ohio.  When I landed in Las Vegas I got a voicemail from my father in law saying Shannon's appendix had ruptured and she was being rushed to the hospital.  When I called and talked to him he told me the doctor said it was a severe rupture and it had leaked all over her insides and they'd obviously have to operate to remove her appendix.  He was fairly confident she'd be ok but, it was basically a coin toss whether or not we'd lose the baby.  I booked the next plane back to SLC.  It's a short flight but, it was the longest flight I've ever taken.  And the drive back to Provo was even longer.  I prayed and begged Heavenly Father the whole way back that mom and baby would be ok.  He answered that prayer and blessed us with the most wonderful son I could've ever hoped for.  And 4 years later we were blessed with the most beautiful little girl I've ever seen.

Brothers and sisters. this is why I told Carrie and Josh this would be such a hard topic for me to discuss.  My own personal rupture didn't occur between A and B.  It came after D.  So when he talks about "weak gospel teaching and poor modeling in the home" it kinda rips my heart out because I'm obviously not there in the home.  And I'm not alone.  There are others here in similar situations or situations that aren't similar but, are still extremely difficult to deal with.

But, as I was talking with Carrie and Josh, a very special, very specific thought entered my mind.  It was "So what?"  It wasn't an insensitive "So what?"  It was a kind and encouraging "So what can you and what are you going to do about it?" It came directed to me personally but, to all of us broadly at the same time.

I've had many conversations with people in our ward and outside our ward who are in the same boat we're in.  I've heard people say, and I've thought many times myself when I attended a family ward "They don't know what to do with me." Well, guess what?  The Lord knows what to do with us and so do I.  None of us are inexperienced greenhorns anymore.  By our experiences over the years Heavenly Father has taught and molded us to be in positions to help His children who are in need where others may not be able to.  What I believe Heavenly Father would do with us is mobilize ourselves in strengthening our families.  Whether we've had ruptures in our immediate family or extended family.  Or haven't had an opportunity to form our own family yet, We all still have family. 

There several stories in the scriptures where God's people toiled in the wilderness.  It took Nephi's family 8 years in the wilderness before they came to the waters where they then built the ship to go to the promise land.  Moses and his crew wandered around for 40 years! Surely even the most faithful amongst them had to wonder why at some point.  Waiting and struggling and trying and failing and trying again is how God prepares us to be instruments in His hands.  Instruments that can be used to help and heal the ruptures that are all around us.  Just like the surgeon who removed my kids' mom's ruptured appendix and sewed her up and thereby saved her and my son, it was his training, experience, willingness and availability that made it possible.

Heavenly Father can and will use us to help heal those of our family members in need of healing.  The extent of our effect in helping the Lord heal those ruptures is merely limited by our willingness to exert ourselves and participate in that work of healing.

Two vital miracles will take place as we take our eyes off of our own struggles to help another.  1.) We will become as our Savior is-The Great Physician, He will heal them through us and our own personal burdens will be lifted.  And 2.) Father will ingrain our efforts into us that will eventually be applied in our own families when we become husbands/wives, fathers/mothers which will better arm us in preventing future ruptures within our own family units that WILL eventually come!

I testify that what Elder M Russell Ballard said is true: "Through your faith and personal righteousness in keeping the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ, you can qualify for all of the blessings our Heavenly Father has promised to His obedient children.  Some of you may not have an opportunity in mortality to fulfill every righteous desire of your heart.  But, you can be certain that no eternal blessing will be denied you if you remain faithful and live the principles of the gospel throughout your earthly life."

Even if our circumstances aren't ideal.  I know we can have a uplifting and positive effect on our families.  They do listen.  They do watch us.  As an example, one thing I've tried to instill in my kids is the resolution to never ever give up.  It was so funny, one day we were driving in the car and it was just kinda quiet.  Out of the blue, I heard Eden talking under her breath seemingly to herself and she said in this determined little voice "Petersens never quit."  Another time we were driving and I was on a business call that didn't go well at all.  Collin didn't hear everything that was said but, he must've caught enough of it to know I was really disappointed and discouraged.  After I hung up, he said "Dad, that didn't go so well did it?"  I said, "not like I'd hoped."  And he said "Dad, everything's going to be alright.  Do you know why?"  I said why?  And he said "Because we get back up.  That's what Petersen's do."  Little moments like that are tender mercies to me.  They ended up lifting me up with the very principles I've tried to teach them simultaneously giving me a little evidence that I can still make an impact on their lives even though our circumstances are what they are.

I believe we have so much to give.  Why wait? Let's give our all.  Let's bless our families.  Let's practice now what we will want to teach our future children.  Let's find ways to help our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, whoever needs healing.  As we do so our the Savior's atonement will take effect which makes possible for our own wounds to heal.  Our own burdens will be lightened.  He who is The greatest of all asked of his disciples and He asks us now, "Feed my sheep."  "Feed my lambs."  I say we do it.

Things to tell kids: Be good.  Make good choices. Be kind to everyone.  Love and listen to your mother.  Please always know that I love you more than all the stars.  But, even more important than that, Heavenly Father loved you first and His love for you is perfect. The Savior was left completely and utterly alone in the Garden of Gethsemane so we'll never have to be.  I love each and every one of you.

I support and love our Bishopric.  And Bishop, I'm sorry about your ribs.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Music-One of my life's great passions
Music-One of my life's greatest trials

Music has been one of my passions as far back as I can remember.  Several of my earliest memories involve music. One of those memories is being held by my beautiful mother on the inside of her robe on a night I was cold and scared.  I remember feeling safe and loved as she sang to me "Addy boy I love you so, your happy smiling face, it's such a joy to look at, it makes home a lovely place."  Another early early memory I have is Dad playing the piano in the front room when he came home from work. My brothers and older sister would run round and round in circles while he played  "The 12th Street Rag" till we'd fall over laughing having the time of our lives.  I honestly think one of the main reasons those memories stuck is because they were associated with music.  Music has a powerful, lasting effect on the brain when it comes to memories, as I've come to experience first hand.

Music has been my choice of entertainment for quite a while.  I'd much rather listen to music than watch TV any day of the week.  The range of music I like is about as broad as it can get.  I suppose I love music for the same reasons most people love their music.  One particular reason being- we connect with it.  We can relate to songs/lyrics/music in ways that we otherwise would have an impossible time expressing on our own. Have you ever come across a song that depicts exactly how you "feel" at a particular point in you life?  I have.  Many many times.  Often times for the good but, if I'm being honest, more often for the bad.  I came to a point in my own life where I felt like I had to admit to myself that music has a much greater impact on me than I heretofore had been willing to recognize.

Prior to this blog, I haven't shared very much with very many people about the details of my of life.  As I've mentions before in earlier posts, the reason being is I haven't wanted to be a rain cloud in anyone else's life.  I've been trying to work things out and improve things in my life lately.  But, I still have felt pretty battered and bean for a while now. And one of the major truths that I've had to own up to is that music must contribute to the perpetuation of those feelings.  I realized that the vast majority of what I have gravitated towards (even though my love for music spans all genres, except Mariachi bands) tends to be angry.  It's loud.  It's hopeless.  It numbs me.  The lyrics often times are pain-filled, dripping with regret..tormented. When it wasn't angry and tormented, my music was often flippant and defiant, even vulgar.  I feel like the music itself conveys the inner battle that seems to be constantly raging inside of me in a way that words alone otherwise couldn't adequately portray.

As I look back on my life, as of late, the only way I'd been able to describe it is it's adequately resembled a train wreck.  Broken marriage.  Broken business endeavors.  Broken promises.  Broken hearts.  At least in my heart and mind, I have felt like someone who has been ran over by a train that's laying in an intensive care unit fighting for their life.  I have noticed that music can calm, soothe and even help heal a troubled heart.  Or it can be exactly like formaldehyde preserving a dead body.  It has the capability to preserve all the hurt and pain that the lyrics and rhythms relate to in the very first place.  I would be willing to bet my life that music truly does have the power to "preserve our minds".  Whether that be for better or worse.  I guess the bottom line is, I have been doing everything I can to clean up my "train wreck".  I've got so much that I'm working to correct in my life. And the truth is, I haven't been able to do it with a steady stream of formaldehyde to my brain. 

"Daddy, I'm scared"

Growing up I really didn't have a problem with music.  For the most part it back then, my music consumption was fairly tame.  It was more after my mission that my preferences started to sway.  The first time I really realized that music can be a dangerous tool of the adversary was when I went on a road trip to Indiana with some friends.  I had fallen asleep in the car (something I rarely do).  I remember being out cold and all of the sudden the song "Last Resort" from Papa Roach came on.  It was like someone jammed a syringe full of nor-epinephrine straight into my heart.  I woke up instantly feeling completely jacked.  The adrenaline rush was crazy and the instant rage I felt made no sense, and the scary part was, it felt good.  I remember having a distinct impression all those years ago that the chord pattern used in that song (it's also used in Greenday's "Brain Stew") and the lyrics written had the potential to destroy me.  What is so sad is that even after having that impression, the decisions I've made over the years have put me in a position where that song has almost become the anthem of my life.

I've gone back and forth on whether to post a couple of songs that I've related to for so long or not.  I don't want to perpetuate the distribution of destructive media.  Nor do I want to introduce poison to others.  But, I've decided to post a couple for the purpose of giving a glimpse of what it's felt like on the inside of my mind and by so doing, give a very stark warning that listening to music like these examples only numbs the heart and blinds the mind.  I say in advance that they are offensive.

Here's the one I woke up to on my road trip and had subsequently been a mainstay in what could describe how I've felt inside.  I'll say it again.  It is loud and offensive.

Here's one that a person looking at me on the street or even people who know me really well would be blown away to know that I've ever even heard this song let alone know every single word by heart and have related to it for years and years.

Being able to relate to these songs and a 1000 others just like them for so long, is it any wonder I know what it feels like to sit in a parked car at night with a loaded .45 in my hand trying to decided if I should do the world a favor by pulling the trigger?

A couple of years ago Collin and Eden were at my place.  We always listen to music together.  Of course I never play angry/tormented stuff like this around them. Instead it's fun, beautiful, uplifting songs.  But, one day this next song came on because we were listening to a "recently played" play list.  "Erase My Scars" happened to be one of my "fight" songs.  I related so deeply to this one because it purveys the feelings I felt inside as I've wanted so bad to change once and for all but, couldn't seem to because I was so broken inside.  The lyrics were so similar to the many conversations I'd have back and forth with myself in my head.

When this song began, Eden's response hit me between my eye's and seared into my heart forever.  I was standing a couple feet away and she look at me as her big beautiful eyes became huge, riddled with a terrified look.  She took a couple of steps toward me and put her arms around my leg, looked up at me and in the saddest tone said "Daddy, I'm scared."  She was terrified.  I could feel her little heart pounding on my leg.  The happy, joyful atmosphere we had was instantly replaced with darkness merely by the intro to that song.  Music (one of the biggest parts of my life), listened to by her daddy when he's all by himself and it absolutely terrified her.  It was then that I recognized on a very personal level that yes indeed, the effects of music  are far reaching and run deep.

The crazy thing is those 3 songs were on the exact same playlist as the last two I'm going to put up. "Erase My Scars" came on right after this song that we were previously listening to by Celtic Women called "Over The Rainbow."

I can relate to beautiful music too.  Even in my darkest moments, there have always been beautiful things in my life. As it so happens, even including the hardest period of my life, the all-time most listened to song in my iTunes library is the song "Come Thou Fount" performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  There is no song written on earth I can relate to more than this one.  Sadly, "Last Resort" by Papa Roach is a close close second.  I'm going to add the lyrics below the video because they are so powerful.  Read along as the song plays.  You'll see what I mean.

                                        Come, thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace.
                                        Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
                                        Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by flaming tongues above;
                                        Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.

                                        Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I come,
                                        And I hope by thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home.
                                        Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.
                                        Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

                                        Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God.
                                        He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.
                                        Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.
                                        Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

                                        O to grace, how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be!
                                        Let thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee.
                                        Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.
                                        Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.
                                        Seal it for thy courts above.

Like I mentioned earlier, the ironic thing is everyone of these songs were on the exact same play list.  Anybody else see a massive contradiction there?  Welcome to my world of inner conflict.  I'd listen to this playlist throughout any given day and it didn't matter if I was at work, at the gym or before I went to bed at night.  I'd find myself with teeth clinched, eyes closed tight, tears streaming down my cheeks because I hated knowing I could relate to so much that was so hopeless.  Then songs like "Over the Rainbow" would come on and the tears would continue to flow because the beauty exuded by that song conveys the beauty to me of the love I feel for my kids.  Then "Come Thou Fount" would come on and I'd curl up in a ball because I am so "prone to wander" but, I don't want to be.  I want to be better.

Music is like so many of the adversary's other tools.  He hijacks that which is inherently good and mutates it into a virus that destroys as it spreads.  Music can lure us into a cyclical pattern that feeds off itself and progressively leads us into a mist of darkness.  The more you relate, the more you listen.  The more you listen, the more you relate. And so it goes.  A little boy listening to his beautiful mother in adoration as she sings to him to soothe his fears, over time eventually evolves into a grown, broken man who's contemplating "cut(ting) my life into pieces" as he sit's with a loaded .45 in his hand- "That' right trigger in between my eyes".  No.  I do not believe it is mere coincidence.  I do not believe there's no correlation between where I've been and the music I've let enter my brain.  Music in not just "entertainment". There's no good excuse to listen to poison.  I don't care if it is a good "lifting song" as I told myself so many times.  Fact is, a song through your ears can have as damaging effects on a person's well being as an image through your eyes, a sensation through your skin or a substance injected/snorted/inhaled/swallowed.

And that brings me to the whole purpose of this post in the first place.  With Eden's terrified look when that song came on, I recognized the need to extricate the IVs that have been pumping my soul full of formaldehyde for way too long.  I just hadn't had the courage to let go of my death grip.  Because, after all, in my loneliness over the years, most of the time, my music had been the only thing to keep me company.  Letting go of the music felt like letting go of lifelong friends who been through what I'd been through.  Faulty thinking, I know.  A thought process I'm trying to rectify.  Over the last couple of months I finally made the decision remove it from my life.  I believe as I remove one of the major sources of conflict for me in music, how can't that help me heal?  How can't I not finally move forward if I let go of the very chains that tie me to hurtful and destructive feeling of the past?  How can that not help me to have the added strength to let go of other life sucking influences in my life?

In other words, I need a new soundtrack to my life.  One with a consistently positive message.  I need to trade the lyrics of my past life in once and for all.  I'd like to ask anyone who might read this to comment or private message me any and all recommendations of good wholesome music that you'd care to share with me.  As I've emptied and deleted destructive songs from my iTunes, Pandora, Grooveshark, Spotify, Slacker Radio accounts, I'm left with a pretty big void since music is such a large part of my life and so much of it gravitated toward the angry.  I have a lot of good music but, I want to continue to fill that void that's been left by removing all the bad stuff with more great music. Your input would be most welcome and I thank any in advance who want to send recommendations my way.  I'm done with formaldehyde.  I'm done.  And I'm hopeful that any of my friends or family or anyone else who read this might take an inventory of the music you listen to and have an honest conversation with yourself on what type of influence your music brings into your life and home.  Presumably small things can have such unpresumably large consequences.

*And for the record, because I don't want to worry anybody- The sitting-in-the-car-contemplating-having-a-bullet-for-dinner incident was over 5 years ago.  I came to the conclusion that following through with something like that, my problems would be immediately waiting for me on the other side.  I would've just exponentially compounded my problems and dramatically reduced my ability to solve any of them and hurt a lot of people in the process.  So no need to worry.  I'm never going back to that place again.  I'm here to fight another day and as far as I'm concerned, will be for a long long time.  I'm going to go out of this life just how I came in-kicking and screaming.  Hopefully, with your help, there'll be an epic soundtrack in the background.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Letter from my 45 year old self

Hey Adam,

I figured it was time again to drop you a line and give you another update on how you're doing.  You made the decision in early 2014 to make some big needed changes.  You're actually off to a pretty decent start but, I have some advice that will help in solidifying your resolve in sticking with the decisions you've made once and for all.

You already are painfully aware that you've got to gain better control of your mind, body and spirit.   So I'm going give you some keys in each area on how you should go about that.


Your mind has been too polluted for too long by nefarious influences that have literally altered your decision making ability.  The 3 biggest things that you've struggled with numb you to the Spirit and make it far too easy for the adversary to cloud your mind.
  1. The first one is obvious.  Porn-It's reared it's ugly head ever since you were 7 years old.  It has caused enough damage in your life to last a hundred lifetimes.  I'm here to tell you today that you do overcome it once and for all.  You do learn how to convert this horrid plague in your life into one of the most powerful growing experiences you'll ever have.  Continue doing the positive things you're already doing to overcome this but, in addition, I'm telling you to get in touch with the group called Lifestar. They have an out-patient sex/porn addiction recovery program and I want you to do whatever it takes to get enrolled in it.  It's expensive but, as you know, you can only "white knuckle" it for so long.  Porn never has been the problem, only a symptom of underlying problems that run a lot deeper.  As you get professional help and continue working with your priesthood leaders, you do come off conqueror.  
  2. The second one is Music.  Over the last several months you've cleaned your selection up considerably.  Once again, it's a good start but, go back through and cut loose anything else in your library that would bring back memories of the past that don't belong in your present.
  3. The third thing that you struggle with that hurts you tremendously is the way you talk to yourself.  You are not worthless.  You are not hopeless.  You are not a lost cause.  You are a son of Heavenly Father and it's time for you to embrace that reality and let everything else go.  How often do you remind Collin and Eden to be kind to each other, to everyone they meet,  and to themselves?  It's time for you to be kind to yourself too.  You would never speak to another person on earth with the venom you've spoken to yourself with over the course of your lifetime. Be kind to yourself for a change.  It's not possible to be in much of a position to "fight the good fight" if you're preoccupied punching yourself in the face or kicking yourself while you're down.
There's another thing that I want you to do that will help you reverse the damage to your brain that's been caused over the last many years.  You need to go back to school.  Don't worry!  I'm not telling you to do it for career purposes. You're chosen career path can hold it's own.  It's for the sole purpose of putting yourself in a position that will force you to exercise your mind on a more regular basis again. I think you'll actually like it too.  Utah Valley University has a really reputable flight program.  I want you to enroll in UVU's flight school and get your pilot's license.  You will soon find that flying is actually as wonderful to you as scuba diving is.  Learning to fly will give you an opportunity to put your mind to work in an academic environment with the added benefit of learning something you actually care about. All the while rewiring your beat up grey matter.  You already know you have a knack for meeting the right people at the right time.  It's no accident the Director of Aviation's son played on the same soccer team as Collin and you met him after you'd been considering the idea for months and he invited you over.  Get on that!


You've gotten pretty lucky with the body you have.  In all reality, with the way you've treated it, you should be all sorts of fat, sick, and out of shape.  It is long overdue and the time is now for you to be very intentional about how you take care of yourself.  There are 3 things I want you to do with regards to your physical body.

  1. Get professional help with your nutrition.  Your diet stinks Petersen.  Yeah I get it, right now you're single. You hate cooking.  You don't even own a pot or a pan.  Boo freakin hoo.  Life's tough.  It's time for you to figure it out Janet!  You have one body and it's your responsibility to take care of it.  Every facet of your life will improve as you learn to put the right types of food into your body.
  2. Increase the intensity of your workouts.   I want you to get professional help alongside your nutrition and mental therapy for your physical training.  Do what it takes to find and afford a trainer to help you focus your workouts. Do this for the next several months which will prepare you for number 3.
  3. There is a gym in Salt Lake City called Gym Jones.  It's a private gym and they hand pick their clients. They are more than a little hardcore.  They proclaim that they train till "Physical and psychological breakdowns occur."  You need to make getting accepted into Gym Jones a priority.  You are in need of being physically and psychologically broken down.  As you master your body in a physical sense, you acquire the self discipline you so desperately need in all areas of your life.


Adam, as you've worked with your Priesthood leaders, especially President Haden, you've come to the realization of how merciful Heavenly Father has been to you.  He has extended a measure of mercy you weren't expecting nor deserving of.  It is vital that you always remember and keep this awareness close to your heart and at the fore front of your mind.  There are a couple of things I want you to do to ensure your spiritual well-being will stay in tact from here on out.

  1. You are so close to getting your temple recommend back.  You actually get it back in the summer of 2014. Once you get it back, guard it with your life.  Hang on to what it represents and never ever let it go again.  It will be important for you to become an ordinance worker at the temple as soon as you're permitted.  This will be a great strength to you.  It's advice you'll recall that was given to you by your dad a long time ago that you haven't gotten around to following yet.  Get around to it.  It blesses your life immensely and gives you an added measure of resolve and perspective that you couldn't otherwise have.
  2. You have come to some very important realizations about yourself over the last several months. Adam, you are a tantrum thrower.  A big fat baby that pitches a fit every time things don't go the way you feel they should. Remember the pattern you've discovered:
    1. You start out with good intentions, you try and align your will with God's.
    2. When things don't go the way you'd expected or hoped, you don't understand.
    3. If you can't come to an understanding, you become frustrated and then angry.
    4. When you become angry, you lose the influence of the Spirit.
    5. When you lose the Spirit, it doesn't take long before you're trying to find anyway possible to numb the hurt and pain that comes with the perceived "rejection" of good, sincere desires that "never have ever been good enough".
    6. And when that mind set takes over, you inevitably find yourself at the bottom of a proverbial cliff smashed up all over the rocks, bleeding from both ears.
Coming to this very important realization proves to be a pivotal milestone in your life.  Because of your recognition to this tendency, you go on to overcome it.  Over the months and years to come, you will continue to have opportunities where you will be tempted to revert to your tantrum throwing tendencies. When those times come, remember the good things you have become but, never forget the consequences of where you've been.  Remember that the topic of humility appears in your patriarchal blessing 4 separate times. There're obvious reasons for that-you need to be more humble and submissive when things don't go how you feel they should.  It's time to replace your dependence on yourself with total dependence on Heavenly Father.  It's time to trade your past habit of tripping and flying off a cliff in for the ability to trip and stumble, and then get right back up and keep going.  

There are a few other things I'd like to tell you, just to give you a little encouragement because, even though you are making a lot of really good progress lately, you still have a lot of disappointment and heartache you're working your way through.

Professional Life

As far as your professional endeavors go, let's just say, even with the imagination you've had all your life, you'd be blown away with what all transpires over the next ten years.  You and Brian prove that it is possible to rise from the ashes and build something incredible and valuable out of little more than undying determination and the stubborn refusal to ever quit.  Kennedy Petersen Holdings, Inc. and all of it's subsidiaries grow into a force to be reckoned with. As a side-note, there's a second reason why I advised you to get your pilots licence.  You'll need it if you want to be able to fly the planes in KPH's ownership. Yes, I said plane(S), as in plural.  It takes you almost 25 years from when you started but, you do fulfill the goal of owning a private jet and other planes.  I feel it's important to warn you that the next 10 years get extremely crazy.  You think the last ten have been nuts?  Basically, everything you've been through over the last decade have been preparing you for the craziness to come.  Luckily this next round, there is much more happiness and satisfaction associated with your absolutely abnormal life.  All I can say is, you better hang on for dear life because the ride gets WILD.


You decided 2 months ago to put yourself in a self-imposed dating hiatus for 6 months.  Continue with this.  It was a wise idea.  Build your foundation.  Stay off of dating apps like Tinder and things like it for now.  You already know what you want.  It'll be important for you to focus on being the best possible you you can be because if your foundation isn't solid, you'll never be able to build anything beautiful and lasting with someone in the future.  The good news is, you do find happiness Adam.  Remember back in 2012 when you were talking with Bishop Taylor?  You asked him if he thought it was possible for you to feel in this lifetime, happiness that was opposite to the hell and pain that you've been through. He told you that he had the strongest impression to tell you that yes, in fact, you will experience in this lifetime, joy and happiness that will be on the opposite end of the spectrum in comparison to your pain.

It's no secret to you that your heart has taken a beating this year.  But, as time goes on, you'll see that things have a way of working themselves out.  You will be married again Adam.  You will have the chance to be a husband and father again.  You treat her like the queen she is and she loves you for who you are.  You are so incredibly lucky to have her but, the crazy thing is, (even though it may be hard for you to believe this right now) she's actually lucky to have you too.  You sure aren't perfect but, you cherish her.  You take care of her.  You're aware and protective of her feelings.  You don't make the same unfortunate mistakes you made the first time around.  And you're a worthy priesthood holder that tries his best to guide your family in the way God would have you.  What's beautiful too is, even after all these years, you two can't get enough of each other.  It probably makes people want to gag come to think of it.  She's your very dearest friend and you do everything together.  When there's time you're not together, you wish you were.  Most important, you're as good to each other as you are for each other.

I just want you to know that life is truly beautiful.  There are so many good things in your life where your'e at now and so many good things on their way.  Being happy is a wonderful reality made possible by the gift of agency.  You can choose to be happy every single day of your life.  So choose it.  You prayed a couple of weeks ago on the top of Mount Timpanogos . You poured your heart out and after asked Heavenly Father if He had anything He wanted to tell you.  As you go forward in life, always remember the simple yet powerful thoughts that came to your mind.  "Go forth in faith." and "Trust in the Lord...and His timing."  The past is over! The future is bright!  Work your heart out in the present and keep your vision focused on what is truly important.  As you do, you will be blessed with peace.  It's time for me to go but, before I do, I have a favor to ask, please hug the crap out of Collin and Eden for me.  Savor this time while they're young because they only grow faster from here on out.



P.S.  That was no accident.  Yes Adam, love yourself.  Learn to love yourself.

P.P.S Get your passport renewed.  You're going to need it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"Your heart was created to be broken"

Over the last several years I've had what seems to me, all too many opportunities to experience what it feels like to have my heart shatter into a thousand pieces.  Heartache has become a constant companion to me on an often very lonely road.  As I've wandered that lonely road, I've frequently wondered why this life incessantly feels as though I'm treading it barefoot with shards of broken glass strewn across my path.

I'm not going to use this post as a whine fest for all the occurrences that have led me to feel the cumulative heartache that I do.  I do, however, feel the desire to share an experience that happened rather recently because although immensely painful and personal, it has opened the doors for me in gaining some extremely humbling insight as to why our hearts are allowed to hurt as much as the do throughout our sojourn on this earth.  As always, out of respect for the privacy of others involved, I'll keep the details to a minimum. 

The Back Story

I've been divorced now for over 4 years.  I want more than anything to belong to a family again.  Of course, I have Collin and Eden and we are a family and always will be.  My love for them is immeasurable and continues to grow every single day.  But, there is obviously something missing in our family setup.  Their dad is a bachelor that doesn't have anyone to love and no one who loves him either.  I've had conversations with my kids over the years, conversations I never ever would've anticipated having with my children.  Conversations about dating, crushes, hopes for relationship potential and now, broken hearts.  Both Collin and Eden in their own little ways, on multiple occasions, have expressed anxieties that I will always be alone.  Their mom got remarried and moved on years ago and they worry because I'm still alone.  It pains me that on my account, my kids, who are so little, have thoughts like this even cross their minds, let alone spend time worrying about them.

Truth be told, I've worried the same thing for a long time.  I've questioned my self-worth in every facet of my life but, especially I've questioned my ability to be a good husband and partner- One worth keeping around for a lifetime let alone eternity.  I can't begin to count how many times I've contemplated how terrified I'd be for poor little Eden if she ever brought home a guy like me one day.  It's pretty difficult to have much of a desire to want to get out there and date with serious intent and move on when I've felt the way I do about myself.  On top of my lack of confidence in this regard and my disdain for the thought of ever hurting someone I love again, I have also developed an unhealthy fear of getting in to a situation where there'd be the lingering possibility of me being left for the second time.

As a natural consequence to pain/fear, my subconscious over the years got to work building the walls around my heart as thick and fortified as possible.  Surround those walls with a moat with lava and I'd be nice and protected, right?  I suppose I unintentionally accepted the fallacy that if you don't allow anyone or anything in close to you then the potential of getting your heart broken is reduced.  I actually still believe there is some truth to that mentality but, it's most certainly flawed thinking at best.  And what a loveless, meaningless, miserable way to live!

Naturally, since this is my story, it wouldn't be complete without sprinkling a little complexity into the mix.  So, as time went on, I found myself torn between my fears and the hell that is loneliness.  I didn't want to be alone but, I didn't want to set myself up to get hurt by letting someone in either.  Conversely, I didn't want to hurt anyone else ever again but, I did want a second chance to be someone's one and only sweetheart.  But, by letting someone in, potentially hurting them would once more be a real possibility (the thought of which makes me physically ill).  So, the battles between my do-the-world-a-favor-and-stay-in-your-hole mentality and my longing to feel purpose and belonging raged on.  I guess I got to the point where my emotions wore out from the constant struggle and finally decided to call a truce and the compromise would be-I could come out of my hermit hole and start dating, just as long as I agreed to keep everyone outside on the perimeter beyond the moat with lava.  That way, if I kept everyone outside the walls and left as much emotion out of things as possible, I wouldn't get hurt.  They wouldn't get hurt.  And I wouldn't have to be totally alone all the time.  At the time, it seemed like a reasonable compromise.  Turns out, it was a disastrous lie I was telling myself.  It wasn't a set up that prevented people from getting hurt, it was a recipe that ensured everyone I came in contact with WOULD get hurt.  By operating this way, (however inadvertently) I was committing emotional suicide and ended up slitting the throat of my ability to love.  I could literally feel my soul's capability to love passing away.

That leads to December 2013 thru the beginning of January 2014.  Right as I was beginning to fear that my capacity to love had all but, bled entirely out, I was completely blindsided by (just like George Straight sang in his song "Out of the Blue Clear Sky") someone who entered my life.  She was the most beautiful woman inside and out I'd ever met in my 35 years of being alive.  I had never experienced a connection with somebody that was so special.  To my astonishment, she came into my world and completely leveled the walls I had spent so long building around my heart.  I didn't "let her in".  I didn't have to.  Without any permission from me, she innately walked straight through all my defenses and touched my ice cold, broken heart.  Through my interaction with her, I learned very quickly that my heart wasn't broken beyond repair.  I was still capable of feeling.  Still capable of healing.  Still capable of loving.

Through our association I also quickly came to the harsh realization that the "truce" my fears and loneliness had made and my resulting behavior was all wrong and I need it to end instantly.  That harsh realization carried with it the intense distress that comes when you've got all the things in your life that you know you've got to change glaring you squarely in the face, taunting you.  Yet, because of the gentle miracle that this girl has so unexpectedly become in my life, I felt hope that I can't remember ever feeling before.  Not only did I feel like it was possible for me to love once again, she did for me the impossible- She also made me feel like I was a person that was worth loving, a person that was worth standing beside-a belief that had died inside me a long long time ago.  She was so caring, so nonjudgmental, so supportive, and I felt the combination of our personalites was special in an unparallelled way.  In essence, because of who she is and how we were together, I can say I experienced for the first time in my life what it's like to not just have a crush but, to be truly smitten.

I was scared but, hopeful.  So thankful yet, so undeserving.  I was in utter disbelief yet, revitalized with the prospects of what the future might hold.  And then like a fleeting early morning dream, just as quickly as she came into my life, she was gone again.  The most wonderful relationship experience I've ever had in my life and it was over as fast as it began.  So, there I was, standing helpless with my freshly exposed vulnerable heart, surrounded by nothing more than the remnants of the walls that "protected" me for so long and I found myself, once again, entirely alone.  What seemed like a heavenly dream transformed into my saddest nightmare.  Unfortunately, yet another nightmare in my life I don't ever get to wake up from.

Throughout my life I've learned what most everyone else learns as well: Heart break comes in all sorts of varieties.  The reason this experience has been so painful to me is because of a couple of reasons.  First is because of the rarity of the connection that was there between us.  I'm not brave enough or delusional enough to fabricate in my mind the connection that was there.  We both felt it and both acknowledged it.  So to go from not ever experiencing that before to having experienced it to experiencing it go away, it's introduced me to a whole new level of heartache.  The second reason this experience has been so painful is because it has the common thread that seems to dog me in almost every instance of heart break and disappointment I experience-the reason is me.  I'm human.  I make mistakes.  As a result, I carry with me the weight of knowing that I may very well have lost what could've been the best thing ever to enter my life because of the simple fact that I hadn't been living in a way that would've rendered me prepared. 

Collin and Eden are not only unfairly adorable and hilarious, they are very perceptive.  They could tell there was a change in me when I met this girl.  It's hard because I do everything I can to protect those two little angels from as much of my mess as possible.  But, I'm also a horrible faker.  They ask how things are going with her because they are genuinely concerned about my happiness and well being.  I don't want to give them reason to worry about me when things aren't going well so I try and keep things fairly vague and very age appropriate.  They aren't stupid though and can read me like a book.  Earlier last week Eden, knowing I hadn't heard from her in a while, asked me if I miss her (meaning this girl).  I said that I do.  Not long after that, Eden came back and gave me a picture she had drawn of her complete with her "long pretty dark brown hair" so I could "look at the picture and wouldn't have to miss her as bad."  Remember, this is coming from a 5 year old.  Collin being Collin-the ever optimist will try and lift me up with all the positive possibilities: "Don't worry dad, I'm sure she just probably doesn't have reception."  Or " Maybe she can't message you cause her WiFi is down."  "One of her kids was probably playing with her phone and dropped it in the toilet or something."  It completely blows knowing that as much as I wish that any one of those were the case, the reality is, the reasons she's gone away is because I'm me and somehow managed to screw things up alfreakinready.  How exactly does a dad tell THAT to his son who, for the moment, looks up to him?  Of course, in an effort to not worry them, I put on my brave face when we're together but, right behind my stiff upper lip are my eyes which can't hide the sadness.

Eden's drawing complete with her "long pretty dark brown hair"

As a side note, I have had sleeping problems ever since I turned 17 years old.  As a result, many of my sleepless nights are spent thinking.  I can't say that the time spent thinking is always a good thing, especially when I'm hurting.  For me personally, a broken heart and late late nights are a breeding ground for destructive thinking.  With so much time alone in the darkness it's almost a guarantee I'm in for a self-inflicted flogging because time to dwell on mistakes spawn regret.  Regret spawns intense pain.  Being all too aware that I'm the cause of pain in the first place breeds self-loathing.  Self-loathing obligates me to punish myself over and over for all the things I've ever done wrong.

Anyway, the last few weeks have been particularly hard on my heart.  A couple of weeks ago I was laying in my bed and everything just hurt so bad.  I laid there wishing she could know how much she meant to me.  I laid there wishing it would somehow matter even if she did.  I laid there tormented by the fact that my stupidity is always why I lose the greatest things in my life.  As the agony of it all bordered on the unbearable, I could feel my body once again curling up to the all-too-familiar fetal position I find myself in as I tried unsuccessfully to hold back the tears.  I laid there so hurt that God would allow her to come into my life knowing I wasn't ready for her.

While I laid there hurting like hell and the intensity of my own heartache almost to great to bear, my mind began to drift from my pain as I thought of all the other people I care about who are currently experiencing heartbreak as well.  I thought of my dear cousin who just lost a baby boy at child birth. 
I thought abut the several friends I have right now that have been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  I thought of the wonderful women in my life that want nothing more than to get married and have a family yet, they remain single year after year as the clock ticks on.  I thought of the couples that I know that ache to be parents yet, for whatever reason aren't able to have kids.  I thought of the injustice that abuse is and all of it's vile forms that seem to be so prevalent in this world.  Many people I know and love have been required to endure it and to endure it by those that were supposed to love and protect them, many from the age of innocence.  The heartache and distress that comes with job loss, hunger, bulling, disappointment, failed marriages, betrayal, addiction, war, death...The list just spiraled and spiraled until I thought I was going to be swallowed up in the agony and my lack of understanding for the purpose of it all...

The Lessons I'm learning

With the intensity of the the heartache reaching a fever pitch, I weakly cried out in my mind "Why Father?  Why so much pain and heartache?!?"  I normally don't feel like I get answers to my prayers very often at all and it's even rarer that I get what I feel are immediate answers to my prayers.  Especially to the (usually) useless question of why?  But, as soon as I asked, the thought came into my head and it was very simple and clear-"Your heart was created to be broken."  Feeling even more defeated after hearing this in my mind than I was before, I asked "But, why??  Please Heavenly Father, why?!"  The next thought that came was just as clear and simple as the first and it said-"Because Adam, I love you."  The response caught me off guard and it actually stung.  It was like lemon juice on hole that was left in my bleeding heart.  It was too simple.  I didn't understand.  I confess, when I'm hurting inside and when I'm sad and angry I can be more than a little indignant, ESPECIALLY when I just don't understand.  The thought was too poignant and it caused me to actually retort audibly and incredulously "You what?!?"  Immediately the scripture came into my mind in the form of a firm but, gentle rebuke that says "...My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than you ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."  (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Then the thought came again with a clarifying variation-"Your heart was created to be broken because I love you PERFECTLY and therefore must allow it."
My heart began to soften ever so slightly as I contemplated the implications of what this would really mean if true.  The feelings I had when these thoughts were flowing through me were some of the strongest and clearest feelings I've ever felt and I do believe they are true.  Over the next several days my thoughts turned to my Savior and I thought of His life.  He is the Son of the Living Father.  The only One to ever walk the earth without committing a single sin.  He was the only one that Justice had no claim over.  I thought of all the pain and anguish He was permitted to suffer notwithstanding His divine innocence.  Being as hard on myself as I am coupled with my perpetually flawed thinking, I can easily see why I'd have to suffer.  I make mistakes.  By my disobedience I bring upon myself the majority of the heartache I experience.  Why shouldn't I have to suffer for it?  But, why the Savior of the world?  Why couldn't we just suffer for our own sins and leave Him out of it?  The answer to that question is very primary and pretty simple.  The fact that each and every on of us makes mistakes disqualifies us to overcome our sins on our own.   There is no way back but, through Jesus Christ.

I thought of the Savior of the world and what it must've been like for Him to enter the Garden of Gethsemane.  I don't pretend to know anything about anything but, I do not suppose Jesus was able to fully comprehend the gravity of what He was going to be required to experience by performing the atonement until it was upon Him, because although divine He, like us, was in a mortal state.  It breaks my heart to read the account in Matthew 26.  He gives such a perfect example, an example I fall so far short of following.  When Christ, the greatest of all, came face to face with the impending agony of what He was to suffer through, it says: "Then saith he unto them (meaning his disciples), My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here and watch with me." (Matthew 26:38) As the gravity of what was at stake fully began to sink in and with what I'd argue to be the heaviest heart in the history of mankind, He prayed and asked the Lord "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but, as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39) I can't even fathom the heartache He'd have to be feeling to cause The Son of God to humbly beg the Father to allow Him to not have to pass through the impending hell that was glaring Him squarely in the face.  There are so many times in my life where I've felt like this in my own finite way-where I desire and beg Father to remove the tough times I'm up against.  I suppose the major difference (which is massive) is I don't do a good job of following it up with the sincere willingness to put Father's will before my own like the Savior did.

The fact is, Heavenly Father had to answer His Beloved Son with a no to His plea and allow Him to go on to suffer for the sins and pains of all His other children.  As a father, I can't even breathe when thinking the thought of intentionally allowing my sweet Collin to suffer without intervening if at all possible.  However, Father is perfect and by allowing the Savior to suffer as He did, He established through Christ the Divine Process that we are all to follow if we are to return and live with Him again someday.

As I've reflected on the multiple stalwart followers of Christ, it's become rather apparent that no matter how righteous and noble someone is or was, they have all had their share of heartache in this life.  In the very first verse of The Book of Mormon Nephi acknowledges he had "seen many afflictions in the course of my days" (1 Nephi 1:1).  Later in the book of Nephi we learn that Nephi's parents Lehi and Sariah suffered so much because of their rebellious children that "they were brought down, yea, even upon their sick-beds." (1 Nephi 18:17) - Literally to the point where they were heartsick "Because of their grief and much sorrow, and the iniquity of my brethren, they were brought even to be carried out of this time to meet their God; yea, their grey hairs were about to be brought down to lie low in the dust; yea, even they were near to be cast with sorrow into a watery grave." (1 Nephi 18:18)  What a horrid way to go.  To be so heartbroken because of the disobedience
of adult wayward children that their aged physical bodies finally died because of it.  And what did Lehi and his wife Sariah ever do besides do their best to follow the commandments of the Lord?  And yet, that was  how it ended for them, to die of a broken heart.

Another example that leaps out to me of seemingly unjust, incomprehensible, unneeded suffering is when Joseph Smith and several of his companions were held prisoner at Liberty Jail in Missouri during the winter of 1838-39.  He was being held by evil men that wanted to see the Mormons exterminated.  While in prison, Joseph and the others were starved, poisoned, deprived of sufficient blankets to keep warn, forced to live in their own filth and compelled to endure constant blasphemy and ridicule by guards that were inspired by the devil himself.  Joseph wrote "Pen, or tongue, or angels could not adequately describe the malice of hell" that they suffered there.

On top of the physical suffering that he was forced to endure, my heart can't help but, ache when I think of the suffering he must've been going through on the inside of his mind and heart.  He had to have been worried sick about his wife Emma and their children.  I happen to know what it feels like to be away from my kids for months on end, uncertain if and when I'd see them again and it's bitter, absolute heartbreak.  Joseph loved and cared deeply for the members of the church who had sacrificed so much.  He had to ache for them knowing the confusion they must've been in with their leader gone from their mists.  How desperately helpless must he have felt!  How could Joseph not have felt abandoned in such a dire environment as the days and months dragged on and on and on?  I believe it's safe to say that he did feel abandoned because in the Doctrine and Covenants it's recorded that he pleads with the Lord for the suffering Saints-"O God, where art thou?  And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?  How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?" (D&C 121:1-2) I have felt so abandon on multiple occasions in my life and I know I'm not the only one of my loved ones/friends who have felt that way.

The next chapter in The Doctrine and Covenants is the Lord's powerful response to Joseph's plea for help and understanding.  Since my mission in Mongolia, it has been to me, some of the most powerful words ever recorded.  Joseph is told in chapter 122 verse 1 that "hell shall rage against thee."  After which the Lord continues to paint a very bleak picture:

Vs. 5- If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;

Vs. 6- If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;

Vs. 7-And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

And then the Lord asks the most important question I could ever ask myself, especially when I'm dying inside from a broken heart:

Vs. 8-The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

Vs. 9-Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.

Joseph in Liberty Jail

 I would never pretend to be able to relate to the hell that Joseph went through in the basement of the jail at Liberty.  All I've got to go on are the personal prisons I've found myself in throughout my life.  I can relate to the wording in the proceeding verses from D&C.  In particular the part that says "...if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee..".  That's exactly how I felt the first time a business failure went south and I was left unable to provide for my family.  That's exactly how I felt multiple times throughout my marriage to Shannon when I failed to be the husband I should've been and succumbed to addictive tendencies that were forge early on in my childhood.  That's exactly how I felt when I laid sobbing uncontrollably on my bedroom floor when I realized the pain I had caused Shannon and the realization that my temple marriage was over and that I was nothing more than a contributing statistic to the broken home column on the adversary's scorecard.  That's exactly how I feel currently now that I've had the most amazing woman I've ever met come into my life just long enough to lose her too; knowing that the loss is due solely to the fact that I wasn't ready to be for her what she is so deserving of.

I know everyone has experiences throughout their lives where they feel like the jaws of hell are going to swallow them up.  As I think of the term "swallowing up" it reminds me of a near drowning experience I had when I was a teen.   It also reminds me of a story from the New Testament when Christ came unto His disciples while they were at sea and He walked on water.  At first they were frightened because they thought it was a spirit walking on the rough waters toward them.  In Matthew 14 we read that Jesus "spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid."  Peter in an attempt to verify that it was in fact Jesus answered back that if it really "be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water."  Of course the Savior extended the simple invitation to "Come."  I don't know if Peter knew how to swim or not but, (I kind of doubt he'd be eager to swim in the raging waters anyway even if he could swim) he descended with enough confidence in the Savior that he exited the boat and "walked on the water, to go to Jesus."  But, when he saw the waves and felt the boisterous winds, Peter's faith was replaced with fear and he began to sink.  Once again, I do not pretend to know what was going though Peter's mind and heart as he began to sink.   I do however, know by the near drowning experience of my own that I mentioned earlier, what was going through my mind and heart when I was going down.

My family and I went to Yellowstone National Park when I was 14-15 years old.  There's a beautiful river with a section called "The Fire Hole" that is known as a perfect place to float down in tubes or just on your own.  We'd jump in at this upper area that had water falls and minor rapids that would briskly wash us down one of the most fascinating places I've ever seen because there were shear cliffs on both sides of the river that had been cut out over years and years of water wearing the rock away.  Because of that, the river in this particular stretch was very narrow but, also very deep.  40 feet deep in some spots.  On the surface, the water didn't seem threatening at all, unlike it did for Peter.  On my 5th or 6th run I was floating down and my Aqua Socks kept coming off.  Not wanting to lose them and go barefoot I'd go under water and try and adjust them back on.  For whatever reason, I couldn't get on of them to stay on and as it turns out, I'm negatively buoyant (a term that I learned in scuba diving that means I sink like a rock).  So, the longer I spent fussing with my shoe trying to get it back on, the deeper I sank in the river.  I had sunk about 10-12 feet before I realized what was happening.  I got caught in an undercurrent and no matter what I did or how hard I swam, I couldn't break free.  First fear, and then utter terror permeated my mind as I thrashed and thrashed trying to break through the undercurrent back into the calmer, slower moving water above but, I couldn't do it. 

I don't know how long I was under for but, enough time passed I remember that everything began to get very calm and peaceful-not something you want to be feeling when you've been underwater for who knows how long because it means things in the body are starting to shut down.  I remember things started getting really bright and fuzzy.  I had the distinct impression come to my mind "Adam, you've got to move or you're not going to make it."  It wasn't an overly panicked thought.  It was a gentle but, firm admonition (one that resembled the tone of the thoughts I had a few weeks ago, now that I think about it) and it gave me the added strength I needed to exert one final effort to swim with all I had to break free from the undercurrent.  When I reached the surface, there was a person standing there that saw me struggling who extended their arm out to me and dragged me to the edge.

Where we'd jump in

Where I just about didn't make it

I don't know how Peter felt when his faith failed him and he started going down.  I wonder if it was anything similar to the utter terror I felt as I realized I was caught 12 feet below the surface in that raging undercurrent.  The feelings of drowning actually resemble almost identically to me what broken hearts and broken dreams feel like.  The inability to breathe.  The pain in my chest.  The darkness.  The fear.  The inability to see clearly.  The panic.  The confusion.  How difficult it is to hear when my life is buried by water/sorrow.  It's all the same.  Seeings how I've experienced both a broken heart and nearly drowning, the only real difference I can say I see between the two is drowning takes only a few minutes before the brain starts to shut down and replaces terror and panic with calm and peaceful fuzzy feelings whereas a broken hearted individual has to live with those tortuous emotions indefinitely...or do we? 

As soon as Peter began to go under he "cried, saying, Lord, save me."  "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Matthew 14:30-31)  How long have I spent in my life drowning in the undercurrents of sorrow from my mistakes and the resulting broken hearts (self-inflicted or not) because of my doubt and lack of faith, when if I would've just looked up, I would've seen the Savior's outstretched arm.  His arm that is "immediately" prepared and eager to rescue me from the jaws of hell, from raging waters, from broken hearts, or even rescue me even from myself-if I'm only willing.

The Divine Process

I again pose the question: So why the pain?  The Divine Process exemplified by the Savior included suffering.  I've had a few thoughts that have helped me to begin to understand why we might be required to endure as much of it as we do.  Before we ever came to this earth we lived in the presence of Heavenly Father in an atmosphere (for us) of limited perfection.  We have to have experienced an element of immeasurable happiness because we were with Him and at that point we were flawless.  Flawless, NOT to be mistaken with perfected like our Father in Heaven.  We weren't like him because of our ignorance/lack of experience and because of the fact that we didn't have a perfected resurrected body like He does.  The only way to become like Him required we be put in an environment  where we could gain a body and learn the opposite of what we already knew.  Pain and suffering are opposite to the happiness and joy we experienced while in His presence and therefore are prerequisite to becoming perfect like He is.  The suffering we experience here in this life serves more than one purpose.  One of the reasons we're called to go through what we are is so we can learn opposition in all things.  By being in a fallen state, how much more will we be able to appreciate being like our Heavenly Father when our understanding is so much greater by virtue of our own personal experience.  Remember: "And above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee...all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."

The pattern and key of the Law of Happiness was shown to us by our Savior: Subvert our own natural instincts and desires and submit to the will of an omniscient Father in Heaven that loves us perfectly.  In Mosiah 3:19 it says "For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his Father."
Our Savior did exactly that and suffered the atonement so He could "loose the bands of death" and so He could "take upon him their (our) infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:12) In order to be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually capable on every level to know how to succor us, it was required that He suffered exactly what we individually suffer on a person by person basis.  It was required that His heart broke. According the James E. Talmage in "Jesus The Christ" Jesus' heart literally burst on the cross.  No man took the Savior's life, He gave it up freely and only after His divine purpose was fulfilled.  But, nevertheless, after He commended His spirit to the Father, his heart ruptured and He gave up the ghost. 

Our privilege is to strive to become like our Savior.  We always fall short but, we learn in Ether 12:27  "If men come unto me I will show them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."  As we strive to emulate Christ's example we participate in a cyclical pattern.  Suffering gives us experience and the opportunity to go through our own personal "Gethsemane(s)" which opens the pathway to becoming more Christ like.  We can take the knowledge we garner from the suffering we endure though our experience and do what Jesus would hope we would do-be willing to "bear one another's burdens, that they may be light; ...willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort" (Mosiah 18:8-9).  

How on earth would we be able to become Christ like and do any of those things if we didn't have circumstances that required us to hurt and thereby give us the capacity to feel for others (like He did for us) as a result of our own pain and suffering?  How would we be relate to our Savior in our own miniscule way if we were denied the experiences that cause our hearts to break?  How could we appreciate anything we've been so abundantly been blessed with if we didn't have the opposite of which to contrast it to?

The longer I live, the less I really know.  But, I do know what I believe.  I believe Christ didn't suffer what He suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross at Golgotha for Himself.  He was perfect.  He suffered for you and I and so the Father's "work and glory" could come to pass which is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39)  His "work and glory" cannot possibly include leaving us alone to suffer broken hearted on our own like He was left alone to suffer for the sins and pains of the world while His apostles slept.  Even the Father saw fit to withdraw Himself from our Savior in His most desperate hour as He hung on the cross not only in the physical agony induced by the crucifixion but,  as He was also revisited by the unspeakable torment of the atonement He performed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before; left to do so utterly and truly alone.  I cannot comprehend the torment either of them felt as Christ had to experience the epitome of loneliness while Father experienced the agony of withdrawing from His beloved and only begotten son in the flesh.  The Father  permitted it because of His perfect love for each of us collectively but, also absolutely because of His perfect love for us individually. 

I believe that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are aware of us.  I believe the Savior had to go it alone so we wouldn't have to.  His arm is outstretched.  His love is perfect.  His love is real.  As I sit here and make this feeble attempt to express my feelings, I have an overwhelming feeling that yes, for a divine purpose in Him, "Your heart was created to be broken." but, I also now feel with every piece of this broken heart of mine that "You're heart is permitted to be broken so I can (and will) heal it."  We can answer the invitation Christ extended to Peter to "Come."  We can answer the invitation The Savior extended to all of us:"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)  The only thing He asks in return is for us to "..offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit." (3 Nephi 9:20)  Each of us can offer up our broken hearts to Him and allow Him to heal us rather than allowing the hurt to harden our hearts like I have done for so many years.  And if we do, I believe the promise of peace to Joseph in the basement of Liberty Jail applies equally to us where the Father said "Peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.  And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high".  (D&C 121:7-8)  And in the meantime, I believe he will lighten our burdens if we but, ask.  In His infinite mercy God bestowed upon us our free agency.  With that agency we have the ability to chose for ourselves what we are as we experience the Refiner's Fire:  Am I dross that's to be burnt up? or Am I the mold able, precious, purified metal in the hands of the Master?

I believe in the Miracle of all miracles that made the miracle of broken hearts being healed a reality.  No hope is too dashed; no dream too crushed.  No heart is too broken; no person too shattered.  The Lord lives.  He loves us..including you..including even me. I believe that because in this moment, I can feel it.

I hope that by some miracle my path will one day cross hers again.  Whether or not it does, I am living my life as to be ready, for once in my life.  I've made a lot of progress the last couple of months in many areas of my life and in my ways of thinking. Irregardless if anything happens in the future, I'll be forever thankful she came into my life.   Even if it was only to prove to me that my heart wasn't beyond saving and then to turn around for it to break all over again.  For it is this particular heartbreak that has brought me to the point where I'm finally ready to learn the essential things I'm learning now.  

As wonderful as the things I'm learning are, I would however, sure give just about anything (including ever seeing palm trees again) if I could have the chance to hold her hand for even 5 more minutes and tell her what I saw when I looked into her crystal green eyes.  I never did get the opportunity to tell  her what I saw.  *big sigh*  Maybe someday.  In the meantime, I'm determined to be better each day and if that day comes I will be prepared.  I will continue to pray for that opportunity but, "nevertheless not as I will, but, as thou wilt."