Mary survived because of your prayers

A lot has gone on for my friend Mary.

Here is the latest update about Mary and her struggles with the impossible:



A long forgotten example

I’ve been home from Japan for over three years now. I know, long time. (I know I’m not married, too, but thanks for the reminder.) It wasn’t until late last night as I zombie-walked home from the library that I remembered one of the best lessons the Assistants to the President in my mission taught me. No matter how dogged, exhausted, dead-like, and thoroughly worn through they looked, once you walked up to them and said hi they would smile huge and show the enthusiasm of the world solely to you. It was good to remember that small, little attribute they had. It wasn’t out of any prerogative or advice someone gave them. It was just a by-product of working as hard as they can and not letting it chance-affect anybody around them. They were good leaders in our mission.

Here. Have a pep talk from a Prophet of God. (Grab a tissue)

Gordon B. Hinckley: Prophet of God.

(If you would like to hear the talk without any of the music, which I would rather post, then go here and these remarks start at 9:48)

Lessons from a genius: Arthur Henry King

Arthur Henry King by Nathan Florence

Wow! The new semester starts, with new classes and a new calling, and my blogging goes down the drain! I made a goal this week with some wonderful new friends that I would blog, though, so I planned all week to get here.

I met with a member of our Stake Presidency a month ago, and we got talking about our common interests in philosophy and education. He pointed me towards a book, Arm the Children, by Arthur Henry King. It is a book of speeches and papers Brother King wrote on teaching and having faith in the contemporary world. From what I understand, Arthur Henry King converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was later in his life. He was raised Quaker (which I assume led to his unique perspective on some of our cultural habits), in England, where he learned to love the hundred books or so that his home held. From the love of reading those few books he went on to become the predominant scholar of Shakespeare in the world at his time. At one point he became something akin to the Deputy Director of Education for all the United Kingdoms. He traveled the world to many colonies of the UK to help them develop their education system to become stronger. Along the way, and from study, Brother King learned 17 languages. He became a master of etymology and literature. He truly was a genius.

I’m not exactly sure how he become in contact with the church. Surely, as he traveled the world he had heard of the Mormon church. He wrote that what converted him was the account by Joseph Smith of the events leading up to and including the First Vision. Everyone ought to read his talk on Joseph Smith as an author, it is one of the best I have ever read. He taught that Joseph Smith wrote in such a way that just by his writing Brother King knew Joseph Smith was not lying or cheapening his own experience through persuasion or over-the-top rhetoric. By the language of the prophet alone he knew it was true, and at over 50 years old he was baptized and joined the church. Soon after the prophet asked him to come to BYU and help give the students a perspective of the gospel from the world. He did that, starting in the English department, then the Philosophy department, and finally ending in the Honors Program, until he passed away ten years ago. Many of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles used to quote him in General Conference talks and devotionals at BYU. He also wrote many articles in the Ensign back in the 70’s. According to this member of my Stake Presidency, at one point an apostle said that Arthur Henry King was a hidden gem of the church that more members need to become acquainted with and read. It has been a pleasure to read from his wisdom and faith. Here are some of the wonderful lessons and excerpts that I have enjoyed from Arm the Children over this past month:

P. 30 – “[Matthew] Arnold believed that art had to fill the gap left by the decline of religion and therefore had to take over the moral function that religion had previously had. The idea that instead of having a religious faith one could live from poetry, from fine art, from music was a common among undergraduates and academics when I was a young man; I think it may still be a common idea.”

P. 37 – “The Doctrine and Covenants is an extraordinary document, and, of the documents the Mormon Church had to offer me, it was the one which, after the Joseph Smith story, impressed me most. The Doctrine and Covenants legislates for a new religious community, and the way in which its revelations apply to the details of people’s lives seemed right to me. There has to be a connection between testimony, revelation, and ordinary practical life.”

P. 48 – “[ . . . ] Our Father does not require obedience; he requires willing obedience. And our faith should give us wiling obedience. It it does not, then there is something wrong that we must struggle to put right by prayer and thought.”

P. 68 – “I learned early that patriotism does not connote slavishly following your country in all things. Patriotism does not mean, “My country right or wrong.” That is moral nonsense. But it means, “My country insofar as it remains faithful to God’s purpose.” A true patriot doesn’t pretend not to notice when his country goes wrong. He doesn’t say, “All is well,” when all is not well [ . . . ] A true patriot says, “I love my country, and, therefore, I will do my best for my country. I will place my abilities at the disposal of my country; I will try to improve my country.” A true patriot is prepared to help humbly bring his country back on to the right track again.”

P. 123-4 – “I believe that the more we know about our ancestors–the way they lived, the history of their times, there language and culture–the more chance we have that they will accept the gospel. I am sure that is so because if we turn our hearts towards them, they should turn their hearts toward us. That is one of the things that Malachi means.”

P. 130 – “We must remember that we should judge in such a way that we shall not mind being judged in the same way. That is the point. To commit ourselves to a judgment is to be prepared to have someone else commit himself by judging us.”

P. 143 – “Self-forgetfulness is at the heart of sincerity. That means that if we try to force sincerity, we shall merely produce insincerity and hypocrisy. Once we start being self-conscious, we can’t be true. Any self-conscious effort to express things is always against the grain. To attempt self-consciously to speak or write well means to fail; it is to forget that we are members one of another. [ . . . ] This has everything to do with being righteous [ . . . ] We have to learn to be sincere. We have to try, just as we have to try to repent all our lives. It is an ongoing process. And eventually we can reach the point where we don’t have to think about it. It comes spontaneously.”

P. 149 – “If we do something spontaneously and it is a good thing, then it will be virtue unto us. But if we have to think whether to do it or not, if we have to reflect for even one moment, then the element of potential sin has entered because we are doubtful about what we ought not to be doubtful about. We ought to know what to do it situations. The right way to follow the Master is the way he teaches.”

P. 159-60 – “The best literature of our times (outside the gospel) is miserable, uncertain, vicious, uncertain, cynical, uncertain, sardonic, uncertain. And it is no accident that this is the case. The reason is that faith has gone out to a lower ebb than it has ever been at before in Western civilization [ . . . ] Only the bad literature of our time is “happy,” and it is bad because the happiness is synthetic. Bad literature tries to be happy with “romance” outside the gospel, and that is impossible.”

P. 274 – “There is elitism on campus: athletic, social (clubs), and political (BYUSA officers and their staff). True, BYUSA officers do not have as much power as comparable officers at other universities, but in that very absence of power, they have exemplified empty elitism. They need to be made honest by being chosen, as Church officers are. Ours is not a democratic church. Why this imitation of apostate universities, an imitation of the world not necessitated by being in the world? Cannot the Lord’s university be spared the unspeakable vulgarity of childishly run elections on which most sensible students turn their backs?”

P. 322 – “Those of us who have helped to build up the evil pressures in society or who neglect to do our best to combat them are partly responsible for the crimes that result from those pressures.”

P. 346-7 (Last paragraph of the book) – “Self-forgetfulness is the key to wholeness, to becoming at one with God’s world, and each individual must become whole. The individual is of supreme importance. The individual is from everlasting to everlasting. But the individual exists by virtue of others’ individuality. And that is why I say that individuals develop as they forget themselves, they do not develop by asserting themselves or thinking of themselves. And that’s the fundamental thing about this soul of ours: if we can be at peace with ourselves and be at peace within the group, we can be so most readily by remembering that, as members one of another, we gain by remembering others and forgetting ourselves. Fundamentally, such remembering and forgetting is what love is all about.”

What do you think?

The Growth Mentality: Faulty Mindsets

“I don’t divide the world into the weak and strong, or the success and the failures; I divide the world into the learners and the non learners.”                                                                                                               – Benjamin Barber

“As a man thinketh . . . , so is he”                                                                                                           – Proverbs 23:7

I randomly saw an article on BYU’s homepage a bit ago and was instantly pulled into it. I read the entire article and then read the connecting links to newsletters and research that other schools have done on the subject and read all of them. It was one of those, “Oh my gosh, it IS something real!” moments that you appreciate and learn everything you can. I just wish I could have figured this out about myself six years ago. Pertaining to my education (and consequently my career and life), this is one of the most important principles I have ever learned.

For however long as I can remember I have struggled with the idea that I am just not smart enough to learn certain subjects. I constantly would argue that I just wasn’t a natural at it and would only be able to pass with an average understanding and grade. While I write this it is obvious to me how that line of thinking is faulty, but that was how I felt and it was frustratingly debilitating. Subjects like Economics, Calculus and Chemistry were beyond my mental capabilities of comprehending and applying, and I thought I should just plan on avoiding interaction with those subjects. Even if I wasn’t initially convinced of this mentality towards a certain subject, even if I tried extra hard from the start, the first slip in understanding, test taking, or mastering usually became enough evidence to personally condemn myself and choose to simply respect the material instead of comprehend it.

So you can imagine my surprise and utter joy when I found a BYU research article explaining my faulty mentality and how to work towards fixing it. I’ll quote from the different articles I found to explain this principle of differing mindsets, and then cite the links at the end.

The two differing mindsets are explained thus:

  • Stephanie says she “can’t do math.” She refuses to take math courses because it’s “not her thing.”
  • Mary is not innately good at math but works hard at it because she relishes the challenge it presents. She believes her math skills can improve with time and effort.
  • “Mary and Stephanie have similar math skills, but they differ greatly in their mindsets. Students with a “fixed” mindset (like Stephanie and I) believe that intelligence is fixed by nature rather than the product of effort and perseverance. With this assumption, they are not motivated to attain skills they don’t believe nature will allow. This negative mindset occurs often and is reinforced, frequently unintentionally [. . .] throughout life. Ironically, even high-achieving students can have this mindset, causing them to shy away from hard work in order to conceal their weaknesses and protect their self esteem (also sounds like an issue of pride). People having this mindset might also feel entitled to good grades and become depressed when they don’t receive them.”

    “A 60-year-old academic psychologist might seem an unlikely sports motivation guru. But Dweck’s expertise—and her recent book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success—bear directly on the sort of problem facing the Rovers. Through more than three decades of systematic research, she has been figuring out answers to why some people achieve their potential while equally talented others don’t—why some become Muhammad Ali and others Mike Tyson. The key, she found, isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed.

    What’s more, Dweck has shown that people can learn to adopt the latter belief and make dramatic strides in performance. These days, she’s sought out wherever motivation and achievement matter, from education and parenting to business management and personal development.”

    “Michael Jordan, now considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, adopted a growth mindset and succeeded through effort despite being told early on that he did not have enough talent. Similarly, Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein experienced repeated obstacles and failure, but because of persistent effort they achieved success.” Some of the suggestions given that someone like me can work on and need from teachers and leaders around me:

  • Feedback: Praise (and criticize) effort (e.g., “Your work is paying off”), not traits (e.g., “You are brilliant”).
  • Motivate: Remember that with effort significant growth is possible for everyone and that real growth is the root of confidence.
  • High Expectations: Maintain high standards.
  • Coach: Provide continual support and frequent growth opportunities rather than making harsh judgments of inherent traits.
  • These are just some of the clips from the various articles I read on the subject. I’m working at it, but it is really hard to fight years of habitual thinking. I also want to read Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, as soon as possible. Nothing like learning your super-senior year that your entire mentality to learning has been wrong! 🙂


    BYU Center for Teaching and Learning » Blog Archive » The Growth Mentality

    STANFORD Magazine: March/April 2007 > Features > Mind-set Research

    BYU Center for Teaching and Learning » Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education