My First Book is Out!

My first book is finally out!!! It’s taken about five years to write, revise, cleanup, format, edit, and publish, but Giraffe Tracks is available as of today! I’ll have it on its own webpage soon, but the webpage isn’t ready yet, so for now I’m linking to straight the store from my blog.

So far, it’s available in:

Softbound book

Hardbound book

PDF download

Kindle book

or you can Read a Sample

I was hoping to release the audio book at the same time as the book release, but couldn’t have it ready in time.

If there is a format that you would want to buy it in that is not listed above, let me know. I’d like people to be able to buy it in whatever format they want, even if it’s .doc, .jpg or even .mov (that would be interesting). If you’re willing to buy it in a certain format, I’ll make it in that format and sell it at the same price as any digital text format.

I’m publishing it through Willowrise Press, which is my family’s independent publishing company.

Anyway, please buy it!

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book, so you can get an idea what it’s about:

By the late 1990’s, South Africa was in the midst of heavy political and social turmoil. With the ending of Apartheid in 1994, which was a legalized system of racial segregation which heavily curtailed the rights of the black population, the country was left in a dangerously challenging situation. The white population, who had enjoyed relative wealth, government protection, and exclusive employment opportunities, were now forced to share those resources with the massive majority population of native black Africans.

Native Africans, who had been socially, economically, and physically oppressed for centuries, were now allowed to leave their reservation-like townships and come into the cities and suburbs. Having been held back for so long, black Africans continued to experience severe poverty. As new opportunities were thrown at them, poverty-driven crime rose to a frightening level, leaving sour feelings in the hearts of the country’s general population. It became a time of anger, reunion, bitter feelings, fear, and hope.

Giraffe Tracks is the true story of an LDS missionary serving in the Johannesburg, South Africa Mission only a few years after the ending of Apartheid. Using compelling stories, humor, and spiritual insight, the story demonstrates that even in a land overflowing with crime, poverty, and racial hatred, peace and joy can be found through the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the powers of evil shake the foundations of human society, the truth and light carried in the testimonies of the Lord’s missionaries can change hearts, heal minds, and turn fear and hatred into faith and love.

Beautiful Savior Piano Solo

Beautiful Savior

Would you believe that the hymn, Beautiful Savior, was written in the 1600s? Crazy, huh? I’ve always loved the song, and had fun coming up with an arrangement for it. Let me know if you’d like me to make the sheet music available for purchase. I usually choose what music to put on sheet music based on the demand, so let me know if you’d like it in sheet music!

Beautiful Savior
by Author Unknown, 1677

Beautiful Savior,
King of Creation,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I’d love Thee,
Truly I’d serve Thee,
Light of my soul, my Joy, my Crown.

Fair are the meadows,
Fair are the woodlands,
Robed in flowers of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer;
He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

Fair is the sunshine,
Fair is the moonlight,
Bright the sparkling stars on high;
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer,
Than all the angels in the sky.

Beautiful Savior,
Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be Thine!

To hear more of my music, go to my official music website’s Listen page.

Amazing Grace: Piano Solo Arrangement
(MP3 and Sheet Music)

Amazing Grace

The classic Christian hymn, Amazing Grace, was written by John Newton in 1772. John has an interesting story. As a slave trader, John had a profitable career. Later, seeing the error of slavery, he turned his heart and devoted the rest of his life to the abolition of slavery. As one feeling the need for divine grace for his involvement in the horror of slavery, he said, “I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me . . . that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”

Obviously, our actions must reflect our efforts to follow the Savior, Jesus Christ, but all of us, at some time in our lives, come to the realization that there is no hope without His help. Then, once coming upon that beautiful grace and forgiveness, we find that his mercy is a necessary part of our existence every hour of every day.

Without the Lord, we have nothing, but with Him we have everything. We can and should do all in our power to serve, honor, worship, and love Him, but in the end, it will be his incredible grace that will save us.

Amazing Grace

Original Lyrics, by John Newton, 1772

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Amazing Grace: Piano Solo Arrangement (MP3 and Sheet Music)

Amazing Grace

The classic Christian hymn, Amazing Grace, was written by John Newton in 1772. John has an interesting story. As a slave trader, John had a profitable career. Later, seeing the error of slavery, he turned his heart and devoted the rest of his life to the abolition of slavery. As one feeling the need for divine grace for his involvement in the horror of slavery, he said, “I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me . . . that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”

Obviously, our actions must reflect our efforts to follow the Savior, Jesus Christ, but all of us, at some time in our lives, come to the realization that there is no hope without His help. Then, once coming upon that beautiful grace and forgiveness, we find that his mercy is a necessary part of our existence every hour of every day.

Without the Lord, we have nothing, but with Him we have everything. We can and should do all in our power to serve, honor, worship, and love Him, but in the end, it will be his incredible grace that will save us.

Amazing Grace

Original Lyrics, by John Newton, 1772

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Beautiful Savior

Beautiful Savior

Would you believe that the hymn, Beautiful Savior, was written in the 1600s? Crazy, huh? I’ve always loved the song, and had fun coming up with an arrangement for it. Let me know if you’d like me to make the sheet music available for purchase. I usually choose what music to put on sheet music based on the demand, so let me know if you’d like it in sheet music!

Beautiful Savior
by Author Unknown, 1677

Beautiful Savior,
King of Creation,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I’d love Thee,
Truly I’d serve Thee,
Light of my soul, my Joy, my Crown.

Fair are the meadows,
Fair are the woodlands,
Robed in flowers of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer;
He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

Fair is the sunshine,
Fair is the moonlight,
Bright the sparkling stars on high;
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer,
Than all the angels in the sky.

Beautiful Savior,
Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be Thine!

To hear more of my music, go to my official music website’s Listen page.

Amazing Grace: Piano Solo Arrangement (MP3 and Sheet Music)

Amazing Grace

The classic Christian hymn, Amazing Grace, was written by John Newton in 1772. John has an interesting story. As a slave trader, John had a profitable career. Later, seeing the error of slavery, he turned his heart and devoted the rest of his life to the abolition of slavery. As one feeling the need for divine grace for his involvement in the horror of slavery, he said, “I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me . . . that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”

Obviously, our actions must reflect our efforts to follow the Savior, Jesus Christ, but all of us, at some time in our lives, come to the realization that there is no hope without His help. Then, once coming upon that beautiful grace and forgiveness, we find that his mercy is a necessary part of our existence every hour of every day.

Without the Lord, we have nothing, but with Him we have everything. We can and should do all in our power to serve, honor, worship, and love Him, but in the end, it will be his incredible grace that will save us.

Amazing Grace

Original Lyrics, by John Newton, 1772

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: A Brotherly Reunion

At the time Jacob and Esau parted, they weren’t on very good terms. Jacob had received the birthright blessing, and Esau felt he had been robbed of it, even though the Lord had made it clear that Jacob had been the one to live faithful enough to receive that blessing. Esau was bitter enough about the whole thing that he made plans to kill Jacob.

Talk about sibling rivalry.

Jacob’s mom, recognizing the danger he was in, succeeded in getting Jacob sent away to find a wife. That effort not only saved Jacob from his brother, but he succeeded in getting a wife – in fact, he got two wives, and had twelve kids. Kind of a cheaper-by-the-dozen deal, I suppose.

After a while, however, Jacob decides it’s time to return, with all his household and the possessions he had accumulated. Only problem is, that means he’s got to face Esau again. Not sure whether his brother was over his grudge or not, he sends messengers to Esau with gifts, effectively saying, “Here’s a gift, I’m coming to visit.”

Esau sends back word that was more or less, “I’ll meet you part way – with 400 men.”

You can imagine Jacob’s anxiety. Sure that his brother plans on killing his whole family, Jacob prays and begs for help. This is when he is given the name change from Jacob to Israel.

Finally they meet across a field, and Esau comes running at Jacob. Jacob bows down, ready to beg for mercy, but his brother gets there and hugs him. They cry and sob over each other – Esau excited to finally see his brother again, and Jacob probably out of relief.

Here’s the account:

Continue reading Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: A Brotherly Reunion

Popcorn and Podcasting: Kiddoes

Kiddoes

Jenni and I have been doing our Popcorn and Podcasting LDS podcast for awhile, but we’ve been out of it for the past couple months. We’ve decided to try various topics, though, instead of having many podcasts on one topic – just to see how that goes.

This time we focused on Children

James E. Faust:

If parents do not discipline their children and teach them to obey, society may discipline them in a way neither the parents nor the children will like. Dr. Lee Salk, child psychologist, said: “The ‘do your own thing’ trend has interfered with people developing close and trusting family relationships. It tells people that they are neurotic if they feel a sense of responsibility for the feelings of other family members. People are also told to let all their feelings out, even if it is very hurtful to someone else.”

(Special Section Families, U.S. News and World Report, Inc., 16 June 1980, p. 60.) As Dr. Salk states, this is, of course, patently wrong. Without discipline and obedience in the home, the unity of the family collapses.

Anne G. Wirthlin:

Recent research on the development of a child’s brain has revealed new insights into how and when a child learns. I quote from a recent study: “From birth, a baby’s brain cells proliferate wildly, making connections that may shape a lifetime of experience. The first three years are critical” (J. Madeleine Nash, “Fertile Minds,” Time, 3 Feb. 1997, 49).

Anne G. Wirthlin, “Teaching Our Children to Love the Scriptures,” Ensign, May 1998, 9

Anne G. Wirthlin:

When first we love the Lord with all our hearts, then we can lead our children to Him in all of our interactions. They will grow in their devotion to the Lord as they see our devotion to Him. They will understand the power of prayer as they hear us pray to a loving Heavenly Father who is there listening and answering our prayers. They will understand faith as they see us live by faith. And they will learn the power of love by the kind and respectful ways that we relate to them. We cannot teach truth to our children apart from the trusting, caring relationships that we have with them. President Howard W. Hunter said, “A successful parent is one who has loved, one who has sacrificed, and one who has cared for, taught, and ministered to the needs of a child” (Ensign, Nov. 1983, p. 65).

Anne G. Wirthlin, “Touch the Hearts of the Children,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 81

Neal A. Maxwell:

Children often have the “thoughts and [the] intents of [their] hearts” focused on the Master. Though not full of years, such children are full of faith! Too young for formal Church callings, they have been “called to serve” as exemplifiers, doing especially well when blessed with “goodly parents” (1 Ne. 1:1).

Just as the scriptures assure, “little children do have words given unto them many times” (Alma 32:23). For example, the resurrected Jesus revealed things to the Nephite children, who then taught adults and their parents “even greater” things than Jesus had taught (3 Ne. 26:14).

It has been a privilege to seal several adopted children to Nan and Dan Barker, now of Arizona. Some time ago Nate, then just over three, said: “Mommy, there is another little girl who is supposed to come to our family. She has dark hair and dark eyes and lives a long way from here.”

The wise mother asked, “How do you know this?”

“Jesus told me, upstairs.”

The mother noted, “We don’t have an upstairs,” but quickly sensed the significance of what had been communicated. After much travail and many prayers, the Barker family were in a sealing room in the Salt Lake Temple in the fall of 1995—where a little girl with dark hair and dark eyes, from Kazakhstan, was sealed to them for time and eternity. Inspired children still tell parents “great and marvelous things” (3 Ne. 26:14).

Benjamin Ballam is the special spina bifida child of Michael and Laurie Ballam. He has been such a blessing to them and many others. Also spiritually precocious, Benjamin is a constant source of love and reassurance. Having had 17 surgeries, resilient Benjamin knows all about hospitals and doctors. Once, when an overwhelmed attendant became vocally upset—not at Benjamin, but over stressful circumstances—little three-year-old Benjamin exemplified the words of another Benjamin about our need to be childlike and “full of love” (Mosiah 3:19). Little Benjamin reached out, tenderly patted the irritated attendant, and said, “I love you anyway.” A similar episode occurred recently in an Israeli hospital, where little Benjamin, going through a necessary but very painful procedure, used the same loving words to reassure a physician. No wonder, brothers and sisters, in certain moments we feel children are our spiritual superiors.

Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Becometh As a Child’,” Ensign, May 1996, 68

Elder M. Russell Ballard

“The most important work we can do is to help God’s children come to a full understanding of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. This I know to be true…”

(Ensign, Nov. 2000 pg. 77 – 2nd to last sentence)

Barbara B. Smith:

It might be a temptation for a working mother to plan special outings and play times as the so-called “quality” time she has with her children. But many are aware of the danger this poses in giving them a distorted picture of life by using all their time together in recreation. It is important for children to see the balance that is necessary between work and play. They need to know that special events are more meaningful when daily routines are established and when assigned duties are completed.

One grandmother helped her grandchildren learn this truth. When they came to her house she was careful to have jobs they could do together; then afterward, they played a game. Then another task was followed by another game. The children learned, as she hoped they would, the relationship between work and play and the comfortable sense of playing after work is completed.

Barbara B. Smith, “‘Her Children Arise Up, and Call Her Blessed’,” Ensign, May 1982, 79

Patricia P. Pinegar:

The blessings of parenting and helping to care for children are many. President Hinckley said: “Of all the joys of life, none other equals that of happy parenthood. Of all the responsibilities with which we struggle, none other is so serious. To rear children in an atmosphere of love, security, and faith is the most rewarding of all challenges. The good result from such efforts becomes life’s most satisfying compensation” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 74; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 54).

Patricia P. Pinegar, “Caring for the Souls of Children,” Ensign, May 1997, 13

Elder Harold G. Hillam:

Many, perhaps most, adult members of the Church, however, find themselves in a position to teach in a more direct manner. Leaders, parents, and called teachers have the specific responsibility to constantly improve their teaching abilities so they can prepare, train, and edify those who fall within their stewardship. President David O. McKay reminded us that “the proper training of childhood is man’s most important and sacred duty” (Gospel Ideals [1953], 220). The Lord has made it clear that parents shall “teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68:28).

There is power in the doctrines of the Church—hence the need for us all to be ever learning and constantly fortifying ourselves spiritually. President Hinckley has said: “The forces against which we labor are tremendous. We need more than our own strength to cope with them. To all who hold positions of leadership, to the vast corps of teachers and missionaries, to heads of families, I should like to make a plea: In all you do, feed the Spirit—nourish the soul. … I am satisfied that the world is starved for spiritual food” (“Feed the Spirit—Nourish the Soul,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1967, 85–86).

Harold G. Hillam, “Teachers, the Timeless Key,” Ensign, Nov 1997, 62

Anne G. Wirthlin:

President Kimball shared vivid memories of his home when the family knelt before meals to pray, their chairs turned back from the table, dinner plates upside down. He remembers night prayers at his mother’s knee. He said, “I feel sorry for children who must learn these important lessons after they are grown, when it is so much harder” (Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977, p. 31). Home can be an oasis in the world. It’s a place where every child has a right to feel safe.

Anne G. Wirthlin, “Touch the Hearts of the Children,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 81

Elder Joe Christensen:

Remember family prayer every day. With schedules as they are today, you may need to have more than one prayer. Sending your children out of the home without the spiritual protection of prayer is like sending them out into a blizzard without sufficient clothing.”

Elder Joe Christensen, Ensign Nov 1993

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: Adam was a Christian

Society often argues about when exactly Christianity began. I don’t know what other churches believe, but in the Lord’s true church, we know that Adam knew of Jesus Christ, and believed in Him. Joseph Smith’s translation of the book of Genesis, known as the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, tells about Enoch’s ministry. Enoch became quite prominent in his time and ministry, doing great miracles, and stirring up attention wherever he went. But what is it that so riles up the people? It’s his teaching that Jesus Christ would come in the meridian (middle) of time.

Though people were deeply offended by his teachings, they were also fascinated to listen to a character who was so willing to say such “crazy” things. People are still like that today – they love a good controversy or fight. It’s kind of pathetic really, but it was very good in this instance, because it got them to listen to a prophet.

People would instruct their servants, “Tarry ye here and keep the tents, while we go yonder to behold the seer, for he prophesieth, and there is a strange thing in the land; a wild man hath come among us.” (Moses 6:38)

When Enoch was born, Adam was still alive. It’s likely that Enoch knew Adam personally as a young man (up to about age 60 – which was young in those days). But whether Adam himself told him, or the Lord revealed it to Enoch, Enoch explained to the people that Adam taught his posterity about Jesus Christ and the plan of Salvation.

Here’s the account:
Continue reading Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: Adam was a Christian

Profile of a Prophet

play-button3

Wow, cool!  The talk Profile of a Prophet by Hugh B. Brown is available online.  Here’s a link to listen to the MP3.  I love this talk.
Joseph Smith really is a prophet of God.  I know it to be true.  I just wish I could articulate that knowledge as well as Hugh B. Brown does!

Here’s a link to the text, if you prefer to read it: Profile of a Profile, by Hugh B. Brown