Why I Stand with the Prophet in Every Issue

Some people are bothered by my statement that I stand by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on every issue. I’d like to talk about that for a few minutes, because it seems to come up often.

I think one of the reasons this statement bothers people is because independent thought and conscious choice are such valuable and essential aspects of the plan of happiness. And I agree, those things are absolutely essential, and it’s for that very reason that I feel as I do. Some would say that being so loyal to the church and its leaders is a way of handing my agency to someone else. That’s a valid concern. But remember, this is my agency. I have to choose what I do, choose what I believe, and choose whether or not to act on what I believe. Well, it’s simple. I choose to stand by the church in every issue. That’s my agency in action. That’s what I choose, and I will continue to choose it all my life. It takes a great deal of character and loyalty to make a choice like that. It takes courage, faith, and determination. It takes work. And that’s the choice I am making.

Another concern some have is that by simply obeying, I’m allowing someone else (or perhaps the church itself) to do the thinking for me. The concern is that I’m just being the obedient workhorse plugging away, pulling when I’m asked to pull (even if I don’t know what I’m pulling), and traveling when I’m asked to travel (even if I don’t know where I’m going). That too, is a valid concern. But there’s one thing that this concern isn’t taking into consideration. Who is most likely to be thinking—like, really, deeply, meaningfully thinking about the thing we’ve been commanded? Think about it. Which of these three are most likely to do the most thinking about the particular issue:

  1. The person from the outside, whose not at all interested in heeding the counsel;
  2. The one in the church, but looking for the reasons, wandering and waiting for solid logic and reason before proceeding; or
  3. The person actively doing the thing requested.

I believe those actively obeying are doing a great deal more thinking about the issue than anyone else. They’re the ones who stand by the teaching regardless of the persecution, legal ramifications, or abuse against them for doing so.

I can’t speak for everyone, but when the Lord commands something, or teaches a principle, or proclaims a doctrine, by his living prophet—even if it’s something I don’t personally understand or agree with, and I act on it, stand by it, and teach it, I can assure you I’m doing a boat-load of thinking, pondering, praying, and studying about it.

And while I’m sure both the obedient person and the disobedient person are looking to different sources for their answers, and may come to very different conclusions, I’m confident that almost always, the obedient person has put a lot more time, thought, and energy into the matter than the disobedient.

And every time I’ve obediently proceeded, and simultaneously thought, studied, prayed, and questioned the teaching, I’ve always come to see the deep spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical significance of the thing taught. I’m always left in awe at the wisdom and foresight the Lord has demonstrated in everything He has ever requested of me.

Another factor that can be difficult to explain to people is the matter of personal revelation. Even many who believe mostly as I do conclude that before they will proceed, they must receive personal inspiration from God that the teaching is right. I think it comes down to what kind of testimony a person has. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t call one type of testimony “superior” to another, but I do believe that the closer we come to the Savior, and the stronger our testimony is, the more we will be able to place our faith in Him without reservation. And the more we do so, the faster the further light and understanding come.

I once heard the prophet of God teach a principle, and I immediately accepted it. Not in a shoulder shrugging compliance, but because as he spoke, the Holy Spirit filled my heart, testifying clearly and unmistakably that the principle being taught was true. I had long since received a personal testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost that the prophet was truly called of God, and that His words, if heeded, would always lead me aright. My experience with the Spirit in that particular meeting simply strengthened that testimony. Several days later, while speaking to a friend about the teaching, she said, “But what about finding out the truth for ourselves? That may be what the prophet said, but I can’t believe it unless the Lord tells me personally as well.”

My friend was holding back until she could receive an independent testimony of the principle taught. But I’ve found that when I listen with a believing heart, I often receive that answer the moment the teaching is given. Then, the questions most worth asking the Lord are things like, how should I apply the principle in my own life, for my situation? Or what can I do to best teach this principle to others?

I have heard some suggest that those members of the church prior to 1978 that weren’t picketing against the church’s stand on the priesthood were in the wrong—that they should have been more actively involved in bringing about the change. I see two problems with that. First, it’s the Lord who made the change, not the saints. And second, those in a position to receive the revelation (Spencer W. Kimball and the twelve apostles) never once voiced a single word of opposition to the policy of the Lord’s church at that time. They received assurance from the Lord that the time would come, but they were not told when. They petitioned as they felt moved upon by the Holy Ghost. Only after faithful compliance and diligent prayer did the Lord finally give the revelation that changed church policy forever.

There were previous generations of prophets who petitioned the Lord on the very same issue, and they were turned away. The Lord knew what He was doing, and every church leader stood firm by the policy, because that’s what loyalty is. They didn’t understand it, and though they had questions, and brought them before the Lord, they always stood true to the answers given.

I feel to do the same.

That brings up another important point. Sometimes a principle isn’t intended to be fully understood before the commandment or revelation is given. A good example of this is plural marriage in the early days of the church. Some today are troubled that the church once practiced it. But the revelation to live that principle is not given to us today. We are not to practice plural marriage—and if we make the attempt, we will be excommunicated. We can’t expect a testimony of the full meaning of plural marriage right now because we are commanded not to live it. We accept in faith the fact that the Lord has different instructions to different people at different times.

Many saints in the early days of the church were commanded to live it, and with the commandment came the understanding and testimony. A great example of this was Brigham Young.

Would it surprise you to learn that Brigham Young was deeply troubled by the principle? He thought it had come from an evil source. But instead of picketing against it, or speaking out about it publicly, he prayed to the Lord about it. When, up to that point, it wasn’t enough, he spoke to the prophet himself. He discussed it with Joseph in a private conversation—not in a meeting with other elders, but in the privacy of his front yard one evening after the prophet walked him home. The only reason we know about the conversation is because the night was warm, and Brigham’s wife had her window open to cool her room, and she overheard the conversation.

According to S. Dilworth Young:

Down this road came Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. She (Brigham’s wife) heard Brigham say to Joseph, “Joseph, the doctrine of eternal marriage as you described it to me is not from the right source.”

Joseph Smith said to him, “It is from the right source, and you will know it, Brother Brigham.”

Brother Brigham then moved toward the door to open the latch, and Joseph Smith walked on up the street. Then Brigham stopped. He didn’t pull the latch string. He suddenly called out, “Joseph! Joseph! The Lord has revealed it to me!”

http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1039

My point in sharing this account is to say that sometimes we’re not intended to fully understand or receive a testimony of a principle before the commandment is given. But if we are faithful, and a revelation is given that might contradict our previous views, and we seek the Lord’s guidance, He will provide us with a testimony of the principle. It may not come all at once, like Brigham’s, but when it does come, it will be so clear and sure that we may come to wonder how we could have ever seen things differently. And in the meantime, if we remain faithful and loyal to what the Lord has already revealed, we place ourselves in the best position possible to receive more light and knowledge when the Lord sees fit.

In regards to honest questions, or even doubts, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a beautiful bit of wisdom that I wholeheartedly stand by when he said,

When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes…

When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/lord-i-believe?lang=eng

When it comes down to it, I stand with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on every issue because God has revealed to me by the power of the Holy Ghost that the living prophet has been called of God, that he speaks the word of God to the church, and that if I follow his counsel regardless of the consequences, I will be doing the right thing. I will be acting according to the will of God for me. That testimony has been burned so deeply into me that I can’t deny it without calling God a liar to His face. I know it’s true. The Lord leads this church. And what a beautiful thing that is! The Lord speaks to us through the living prophet, and God has revealed the truth of His words to me.

How’s the Music and Books thing Going?

This is probably one of the questions I’ve been asked more than any other for the last six months, and I usually answer with the honest but terribly vague, “Good. I love doing it.”

So how is it really going? I’m going to answer that question completely honestly (if in a very long-winded post), even sharing the detailed numbers most artists are unwilling to share, but which everyone is secretly very curious to know.

First off, for any who don’t know already, I’m working for myself now, earning money by selling my music, books, and crafts (Seasonally, with the crafts). I am the only breadwinner in our home, which means that I am the only source of income for our family, and I have no other job or source of income (unless you include tax returns). My wife is a full-time mother who home-schools our kids, so she’s working her tail off, but not bringing in a cent. So when I say I’m working for myself, I mean I am attempting to support my family on my music and writing.

And, just so you can understand our financial situation: We own a house with a small patch of property. It’s a small, three bedroom modular home in what used to be a full trailer park. We bought it several years ago, in good condition, for $69,000. Because we were already low income, we qualified for a government aided home loan, so our monthly mortgage payment is just under $470 a month.

Jenni and I have been very careful to stay out of debt. Our house loan is the only loan we’ve done since our marriage, and we hope it’s the only kind of debt we ever have. Basically, we’ve tenaciously avoided consumer debt. I’ve heard it said, and I’ve tried to preach and live this principle: in order to make it in this kind of market, you’ve just got to be smarter with money than everyone around you. We’re still working on that, but we’re quickly learning the necessity of it.

Other than utilities, Internet, tithing, basic medical expenses, and basic food/stuff supplies, we don’t have any big extra expenses. We don’t even have membership of any paid website subscriptions.

So, with that as a backdrop, I’ll talk about how I was able to quit my job to work full time for myself.

We’ve been working toward having me go full time for many years now. Two years ago, I was laid off my job, and for two weeks (after discussing it with Jenni and determining that we could afford it), I scrambled to create, market, and push the music and writing as fast and furiously as possible. The immediate response was so encouraging (though still insufficient financially at the time) that after I again got a job, we began planning how we could work toward going full time as soon as possible. We determined that the absolute base money we needed to live month to month was $1,400 per month. So we decided that as soon as we had $8,000 sitting in our bank account, which would give us just under six months living, I’d quit my job and work full time for myself.

The plan was that during that six months, we’d earn enough to keep going, if only to push it far enough ahead to allow more time to get us to an average of $1,400 per month before our money ran out.

So we did. Actually, our tax return of about $7000 was 7/8 of that initial $8000. I put in my two-weeks notice, and Feb 1, 2013 was my last day working for someone else.

Ever since we got started several years ago, the sheet music has been a better seller than any other product–by far.

At the time I quit, we were selling an average of about 1 piece of sheet music per day. I continued to write more music, and put it on sheet music. I updated my site, did all the SEO stuff, got smarter with my social media use, and tried everything I could think of and everything I studied to get the word out about my music. And the sales increased. Over several months, the one per day average began to fluctuate between 2 and 4 per day. One day there’d be five sales, then after two days without any sales, there’d be two more sales, etc. It even almost got to the point where a day wouldn’t pass without at least one sale.

Basically, the average sheet music sales now is about three per day. With site fees and everything, that’s about three dollars per sheet music piece sold.

Then there were the book sales. They’ve been a little harder to follow. Since publishers generally send out royalty checks every three to six months, it was harder to track the progress of my books, but all in all, they seem to be bringing home (as in, total that we get to keep) about $25 per month, which is about the same amount as I was getting for books before going full time.

I mentioned crafts. Specifically, I mean toy foam swords. A couple years ago, I designed some fun dueling swords for kids, and sold a few at the local 24th of July parade. This year, over the summer, we attended three parades and made a total of about $500 take home.

Those have been our three major sources of income. So on average (keeping in mind that the amounts for these items come in various chunks and time frames), our present monthly income is sitting at approximately $100 for swords, $250 for sheet music, and $25 for books, totaling about $375 per month. Clearly this is nowhere near the $1,400 per month that would make the business sustainable.

And our funds? Running pretty low. In the six months after starting full time, we earned just under three months living.

At that point, Jenni and I discussed the issue, and came up with a plan. We figured that if I decided go work for someone else again, I’d be able to find a job within a month. That figure is based entirely on the fact that it’s never taken me longer than that to get a job. So we took the date we’d be out of money and set it back a month and decided on that date, I’d go looking for a new job. We also gave it a name. The day I have to start looking for a job is called ‘doomsday.’

Since I continue making money, doomsday is moving forward. If, for example, I made $1000 this week on sheet music and sword sales, that would push doomsday forward almost a month. Our rule of thumb is that ever $50 I make pushes doomsday forward one day.

Since my six month mark, when we came up with the doomsday plan, doomsday has moved up about a month and a half, so that for the moment, doomsday is at the end of this month. Obviously, in order to push doomsday ahead faster than it approaches, we’re going to have to start making more money fast.

And I’m doing my best.

I’m still confident we can make this work. If not this time around, maybe on the next time we have $8,000 saved up. Still, repeating the exact same efforts would probably not be the best way to go.

So how can I claim that the “music and books” thing is going good? Simple. I’m making a few hundred dollars a month on them. How many people are able to do that? And many–possibly most sales are returning customers. People often send the kindest notes saying how the music or the books touched them or their family. Even if the music and writing isn’t fully supporting us, it’s certainly going good.

Without question, I have a lot to learn about marketing and business. But I’m not sure I’ll be learning much of it while not seriously working on it.

Even if I have to go work for someone else for a time, I’ll keep working toward going back to full time. I’m still optimistic that we can find a way to make this work. I’m glad I still have a few weeks to push forward, and I still plan, if at all possible, to push doomsday forward inevitably.

Dreams take work. They take hard work. And it’s work I’m willing to do.

Two Types of Creativity: Which are You?

Everyone is creative, but everyone has different ways of showing it or expressing it. In this video, I talk about the two types of creativity, and how they effect your creative work, and your everyday life. Knowing your creative type is powerful when it comes to either approaching a new skill or overcoming writers block. So what about you? What’s your creative type?

And just a sidenote, the music is from my newest CD, Fly. It’s the piece called Mount of the EagleYeah, that’s shameless self promotion, but hey, it’s my blog, right?

Howard Taylor on the Power of Practice

Howard Taylor gave a masterful presentation on the power of practice, and I’ve been learning from it ever since I first heard it. He references the article, How Not to Talk to Your Kids, which I also recommend.

He also references this graph:

Three phases of development toward adult expertise

Listen, then tell me your thoughts!

And remember, YOU WORKED HARD ON THIS!

Balloon Marketing

I found a fun strategy to use at book signings, especially stores that sell helium balloons. Here’s what you do:

1. Purchase 2-3 helium balloons (enough to get the word around, but not too many to keep track of)

2. Request that they use “hi-float.” It’s a goop they put in the balloon just before pumping it up that keeps the helium from leaking out slowly–yes this step is necessary. If you use a mylar balloon, it’s not necessary.

3. Write on the balloon with a sharpie, something like, “Book Signing, taking place right now near the candy section,” with your name and the name of your book.

4. Cut the ribbon off so that you only have about six inches left hanging from the balloon.

5. Tie your business card or bookmark (relating to the book you’re signing, of course) to the 6 inches of string.

6. Find something to add additional weight to the string, such as paperclips or aluminum foil. I used half of a chocolate kiss, still in the wrapper. The idea here is to add just enough weight to keep your balloon in stasis, so it doesn’t float up or fall down. Obviously it won’t stay put, and will drift up and down some, but you want to get it as close as possible to balanced.

7. Walk your blimp balloon to a decent traffic area of the store and let it go.

8. Go back to your table, and enjoy the signing! You can now ignore your balloon.

What will happen is the balloon will slowly drift toward any moving air. If someone walks by, it will follow them. If there’s a fan, it will do laps around the store.

If you have a quiet moment with no one around, you can check on your traveling marketers. If they’ve fallen asleep in an obscure corner of the store somewhere, bump them back out. But for the most part, you can totally forget about them and they’ll wander and advertise for you.

Don’t try to adjust the balance to make them higher flyers, unless the ceiling is within reach. Don’t weigh them down enough to get stuck on the floor. You want them to wander within an adult’s line of vision. If kids get them, let them play with them. Most parents will eventually tell them to let it go, and may even come by to see you and your book.

I had a signing for my book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WhoCame Up with Dating? at the Stokes Market in Salem, Utah, on Saturday, and was glad to see they sold helium balloons. I’d had the idea of trying helium balloons, because we’d had “pet” balloons at home many times, and I was excited to try it.

It was a flying success (pun intended).

I sent my balloons off at the very beginning of my signing, and it worked great. I was a little worried they might annoy people, but what happened was quite the opposite. They delighted everyone who saw them, and anyone who stopped to read it looked over to see me smiling next to my table.

They did get grabbed by kids a couple times, but only one was taken home.

With my first balloon I left the full ribbon on, but it just kept snagging stuff, so I shortened it to the six inches length, and it made all the difference. Balloons are a very personable species, and will try to make friends wherever they go. As long as the weights were put on right, and don’t fall off, they stay low enough to reach.

I also brought my laptop and had my book trailer looping. I put out a couple bowls of Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses (it is a dating book, after all), which brought a lot of “free-samplers” to the table.

The signing went great! I sold some books and lined up a potential fireside and radio interview. I don’t know for sure if the balloons had anything to do with it, but they certainly had something to do with my jolly-good mood.

The Middle Grade Novel, with Author Jennifer A Nielsen

At LDStorymakers this year, author Jennifer A. Nielsen gave an amazing presentation on writing for middle-graders, AKA middle-readers.
If you’ve ever even considered writing for the middle-grade audience (approximately ages 8-13), you don’t want to miss this presentation.

If you’re having trouble getting the full audio, try this link (I hope it works better:)

http://blog.chashathaway.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Jennifer-A-Nielsen1.mp3

The Hero’s Journey

I went to an awesome presentation by Christine Mehring at the Write Here in Ephraim writers conference this last week, and this class was amazing! I talked to Christine afterward to see if I could post the audio of it on my blog, and she said it was okay, so here it is!

She talked about the Hero’s Journey, and about archetypes in story. I found this image that reflects much of what was discussed:

Amazing stuff!

She also talked about archetypal characters:

The Hero: Usually the protagonist
The Mentor: The mentor also gives the hero some kind of help to take with them to help them in their adventure. They teach and give a gift.
Threshold guardian: “This is a bad idea, don’t do it.” Their job is to try to stop the hero
The Herald: Someone who comes and says, “You’re normal life is over, and it will never be the same.”
Shapeshifter: The one who seems to change sides or positions.
Shadow: What the hero could have been if the hero had taken a different path (the evil twin)
Ally: The friend, sidekick, or assistant
Trickster: Comic relief

In any story, you’re likely to find most if not all of these roles. It’s fun to plug in characters from my own books.