Author Archives: deanwebb

Choose Peace, Love, and Forgiveness

There is a difference between admitting wrong, accepting consequences, and making amends versus denying everything, blaming others, and making noisy distractions. The first is part of building the Kingdom of God. The latter is part of making war against God.

Choose who to listen to: avoid those who always have a justification and never an apology. Seek out those who advocate peace without limits, love without exceptions, and forgiveness even towards mortal enemies. Avoid those who demand violence, vengeance, and retribution. Peace, love, and forgiveness are all parts of the most powerful, and most humble of forces in the universe – that which will prevail – while those other things are all hazardous to the soul we will need for eternity.

Contracts and Covenants

Let us suppose I hire a painter to paint a house I own out in the country. I sign a contract in which I agree to pay for travel expenses an amount up-front, and a final amount upon conclusion. We travel to the site and discover the property has burned down. True to the contract, I pay for travel and up-front expenses, but that is all. The house being burned down means the contract cannot be fulfilled. I terminate the contract without fault and the painter and I go our separate ways.

Now let us suppose the same situation, but we have a covenant to paint the house. Together, we rebuild it, as the covenant places a moral and spiritual obligation to see to it that a painted house results from our efforts. The money for the job is not as important as the job. We do not go our separate ways, because we have a covenant that implies we maintain and watch over that house.

This is why I do not have a contract with God. I have a covenant. The covenant is to return my soul to Him, and I labor with Him in that effort.

My Political View

Since the foundation of the nation and before, there have been men, organized in whatever Party that would give them shelter, who gained and maintained power by placing other people, the weak and vulnerable, in separate classes, thereby depriving them of votes, economic choices, and equality before the law. This has been the great evil that stood for slavery, for disenfrachisement of women, against workplace safety, against overtime pay, against paid time off, against limiting the work-week. It continues to work to strip votes from nonwhite communities, refuses to pass legislation that would break cycles of poverty and imprisonment, and which obstructs legislation that would keep our lands and cities from being overwhelmed with pollution.

Its leaders are obvious in their love of money, and it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. They are obvious in their recycling of language and slogans used to support both slavery and segregation as they demand none speak or teach of the shame their political ancestors cursed our land with human bondage, lynch mobs, and cold-hearted justification of economic inequality.

In my own state of Texas, this Party has been in power for decades, and under their watch, with their knowledge, they have permitted school districts to take money that was supposed to service needs for the poor and handicapped children and merge it with the district general fund. This means that schools remain illegally underfunded and that services that could have prevented the Uvalde shooter and others like him from murdering children in schools were not provided, in violation of both federal law as well as our communal obligation to the most vulnerable and precious members of our nation, our children.

Make no mistake, money is involved in the politicians who preside over the deaths of our children. Those denials of services mean lower property tax rates, the savings of millions for those who support that Party – to them, the money is more important than the lives of children. They claim to be very religious, but so did the priests of Moloch, who sacrificed children to idols for the wealth of Carthage.

A Party that fights to reverse civil rights legislation, that works to make the rich richer, and that presides over the deaths of children in the name of lower property taxes is the enemy of freedom and the unity of the nation.

And that is why I do not support the Republican Party. I have to live, work, and worship alongside those who do and I know that the only true victory is through surrounding them with love, to the point where they willingly surrender the lies that sustain the illusions that justified their fight against peace, equality, and true justice.

Easter 2024

Today is Easter, wherein I observe an important occasion in my faith. But that occasion is nothing to me if I do not honor it by striving to increase my compassion, peace, and love. I take seriously Gandhi’s challenge to be Christlike if I proclaim to be Christian. Faith is not a fixed destination. It is a pathway, unfolding before me as I choose to open myself to its possibilities.

Healing Words

I.

Two words we are often told to use are “please” and “thank you.” I would like to put forward an idea that we should avoid “always” and “never”.

Jesus taught us to be kind to each other. He taught us to forgive each other. He wants us to live in peace.

That is why he told us to tell the truth. Telling the truth – the pure truth – must be done kindly. If we think that we tell the truth, but include a hurtful comment or tell it in such a way to either uplift ourselves or condemn another, then we have not spoken the truth the way Jesus taught us to tell it. He taught us that we should not judge others, lest we be judged in the same way. He taught us that whatever we do to anyone else, we have done it to him.

Imagine if everyone you spoke to, everyone you interacted with, was Jesus Christ. That we are all disguised most of the time, but on each occasion we say or do something, the person we speak to or do something to suddenly becomes Jesus Christ. Would that change what we were about to say, to change what we were about to do? Imagine my situation with that mental exercise – I could be delivering this talk to a chapel with multiple instances of the Savior. If I intended to say something harsh, I would be greatly stressed and worried, full of the desire to repent. But if I keep my words kind and speak a message of peace, then I have no stress or worry – I could hope for no better audience than one with my Elder Brother, the Beloved of the Father, even Jesus Christ.

So how do we speak the truth in a manner befitting an audience of our Savior? I would say that statements or conversations containing certain words can wreck the truth. I must say these words in order to identify them, but I want to assure one and all that these are not directed at any person or persons. Those words that can wreck the truth are “you always” and “you never”. Statements using those words will misstate both the frequency and the intention to the audience, prompting a stressed, upset response.

Better to change the you-statements to I-statements. I know how I feel every time I feel something. I can only guess at the thoughts in the mind of the “you” that I may address. Stating my feelings that arise out of another’s action are a truth and they do not challenge the other person negatively if the action is stated simply, without judgmental words. “I feel uncomfortable when you say my name incorrectly” is an example of an I-statement that speaks a truth. It prompts not a stressed, urgent response, but a concerned, motivated response. When I hear someone else say that, I invoke my resources of humility and ask for a correction. Once learned, I strive to not repeat the thing that stresses another person. With the I-statements and a humble response, we are on the path of peace.

This does not guarantee that the person we speak with will have a rational or peaceful response to what we say, but it does provide the best chance of such. The path of peace is also a path of patience. It is a path of forgiveness. It is a path where we see the other person, regardless of what they have said or done, as a child of Heavenly Father, a divine sibling that needs our prayers to help them overcome the darkness that might be in their lives that keeps them from something better.

II.

Violence is possible with words, feelings, and thoughts. It is not limited to physical acts. Words do hurt, and a growing body of medical research indicates that hurtful words and stressful situations can have impacts on generations of people whose ancestor may have suffered greatly – or who caused others to suffer greatly – or, as is sadly often the case, both suffered and caused suffering.

Jesus Christ suffered for us all, and in Him we have healing. Let us always think of suffering with the hope of healing. The blows we suffer, physical, verbal, and emotional, cause stress responses in our bodies. Constant negativity produces not only a change in mental state, but introduces stresses and structural issues in one’s own body parts and cells that can lead to physical breakdowns, diseases, cancers, and death. Peaceful, kind words spoken out of Christlike love can have the opposite effect. “Miraculous cure” is a pair of words often associated with a patient who found a better way.

The journey away from stress and hurt involves work, but it is good work. The first part of the work is always within. Are we forgiving ourselves for our mistakes? Are we choosing to take a few moments to respond when we are suddenly confronted? Are we seeking comfort in prayer, scripture study, fasting, and meeting together with like believers often? Are we giving ourselves permission to speak honest, kind truth about our suffering to those who do care about us?

A lie frequently told is, “I’m fine.” A casual passer-by may not care for details or be equipped to deal with a sudden unloading of emotional baggage, but at the same time, one should not feel trapped by the rules of polite conversation. If we aren’t feeling fine, we can still respond to a casual “How are you doing?” with a statement about something we’re grateful for. “I’m happy to see the sun out today.” “I’m glad I’m not running late.” “Looking forward to the weekend.” Expressing gratitude has the benefits of healing our inner stress with a happy truth as well as possibly making a connection, however brief, with that well-wishing passer-by with something that that person is also thankful for. Shared happiness is the best happiness, and it can be done with a simple expression of gratitude.

For those we see more frequently, “I’m fine” is a mask for our pains. And for those we see more frequently who ask how we’re doing, they truly do want to know if we’re in need of a prayer, a kind word, an act of service, anything that they’re willing to provide out of their own Christlike love. Remember the sudden Savior-ness of the person we speak with: how many of us would tell Jesus Christ, “no, I’m fine”, when He offers us salvation, healing, and happiness? Then when the least of these, our brethren, offer the same to us, let us partake.

“I don’t want to be a burden.” “I wouldn’t think to ask.” “I can make it on my own.” Are these truths or are they lies we are taught by the world to say so that we don’t seem weak? If we tell lies to not seem weak, we weaken ourselves. Jesus Christ wants to share our burdens, He wants us to ask, He wants to join us in the journeys of our lives, and He sends His followers to stand in His place in our lives. When we share our burdens, when we ask, when we journey with others, we become a gathering in the name of Jesus Christ, and His presence is among us.

When I started this section out about the violence of words, emotions, and thoughts, I had in my own mind those originating from others, but in thinking of Jesus Christ and His healing, I turned within and saw plenty in myself that was my own violence, directed inwardly. I see even more the wisdom in not worrying about what’s in someone else’s eye when I have so much obstruction in my own. Walking up to someone to solve a problem they are not asking me to solve is a terrible error. But being invited by someone to help them with something is an opportunity to both receive and give blessings, to multiply the love and goodness in the world.

We believe in sharing burdens and in mourning with those who mourn. Walking the path of peace with the Savior means we offer ourselves to share in suffering in order that it might be healed. And when we refuse or push aside offers of help when we so clearly need it, we bring needless worry and concern to those who love us, who are wanting to give us the help we need. What help would you ask for from the Savior? Then pray about it, and go and ask that help from family, friends, the Relief Society, and the Bishop, as appropriate. In so doing, we let the Savior send us love, peace, and healing in the way He wants to send it to us, through His servants.

III.

What about others? What if we are in a situation of abuse, of constant stress and hurt? The best answer is to not remain alone. Seek professional help and guidance. There are people who have much more skill and knowledge in helping others who can provide you with answers. If I want to learn more Math, I won’t do it by signing up for a course in History. I’ll go to a Math professor. If I am in a serious condition, letting my friends and family know is part of the healing process that goes along with seeking a professional to help me through that dark night of the soul.

I facilitate the Emotional Resilience class. There are many times when, in the course of discussion, I am required to read statements to that effect. They are as much for me as for anyone else participating in the course. I do not teach it, I only facilitate attendees as they teach themselves and each other. But we only teach ourselves so much – should there be something more serious, we need help from one more wise. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, in their wisdom, have given us much knowledge that we are taught to use to serve each other even as They would.

Emotional Resilience is not in-depth counseling. It is not group therapy. It is learning about our humanity. It is about being more Christlike in how we think, act, and feel, yes to others but more importantly to ourselves. It is about recognizing signs when our lives are out of balance and guiding us in what we can do to restore balance. It neither starts nor ends our spiritual journey, but it most certainly helps us along the way. The Emotional Resilience class is about recognizing the obstructions in our own eyes and the work we need to do in order to clear them out. The class is for both those who serve and those who lead. It is for anyone who follows the Savior, Jesus Christ, who is serious about taking up the invitation he gave to “Come, follow me.”

Above all, Emotional Resilience is about having more truth, love, and peace in one’s life. Healing ourselves is as important a part of becoming more Christlike as anything else we are asked to do. In healing ourselves, we then unlock the thoughts and prayers needed to then go and heal others, to help others to heal themselves, and, by the great web of connections that unites us all in Christ, to heal the people of the world, one and all.

The Great Filter

Wizzo teleported back to his work world. It wasn’t his home world, but with instant teleportation to any point in the universe possible, “work from anywhere” meant precisely that. Wizzo enjoyed leaving behind his assignment planet, because he could use his real name again. “Wizzo” just sounded odd in English, the language of most of the planet where he was posted. On that planet, he went by the much less exotic name of “Pete Wilson.”

If you’re thinking I’m referring to a particular “Pete Wilson” that you know about or think you remember from a news or history, no, it’s not that Pete Wilson. Wizzo is someone you most likely have never met, unless you live on my street. Wizzo lives a few doors down from me and we’ve had some interesting conversations about his work, to say the least. He’s a great guy. Anyway, he went to his work world.

At his work world, he got a quick bite to eat before heading in to see his manager, Zazzo. Zazzo, like all his other managers, was an awesome person that he wanted to be more like as he continued on with his life. Wizzo knew that the best way to be more like someone was to consciously copy their behaviors, so Wizzo did all he could to be more compassionate, understanding, encouraging, peaceful, and loving. It didn’t hurt that embracing those behaviors made instant teleportation much easier.

And that was the big question he was going to answer to Zazzo, was the planet of his posting anywhere near being spiritually mature enough to instantly teleport, among other awesome things. Wizzo walked into her forest glade to make his report.

You may wonder why Zazzo didn’t work in an office? Well, working from anywhere means precisely that. Zazzo liked forest glades much more than offices, like nearly every other sentient being in the universe. Honestly, offices are only a thing on planets that are struggling spiritually. Everyone else picks and chooses between wonderful spots of nature on the nearly infinite planets of the universe and has a much better experience with work.

Perhaps I should also mention that Wizzo’s quick bite to eat was visiting a berry bush and a fruit tree. That’s how he was able to walk from there to Zazzo’s forest glade. Like most days on the work world, it was a wonderful, happy day that made one thrilled to be alive.

“Hello Wizzo, how are things at your assignment?”

“Hello Zazzo, I’m still hopeful that they turn around eventually.”

“What gives you that hope?”

“They still seem incredibly reluctant to engage in global thermonuclear war. I’m hoping that their realization about limits leads to other changes for the better.”

“Do they still have money?”

Wizzo felt that twinge of certainty that one gets when someone asks a question that everyone knows the answer to, and that the answer is bad.

Zazzo continued. “We still don’t have any population that loves money they way people do where you’re assigned that is able to join with us. It’s known as a Great Filter for a reason.”

Yes, Wizzo nodded, a Great Filter. The kind of thing that acts as a roadblock on the development of a people, preventing them from realizing true harmony with the universe and, hence, the ability to live happily and blissfully as Wizzo, Zazzo, and near-uncountable numbers of their brothers and sisters did all over the happy, ordered, and peaceful universe. If you think I’m describing a universe other than our own, the answer is a qualified “yes and no.” Anything more than that would be difficult to explain in proper detail, so I’ll pass over it and get back to this discussion between Wizzo and Zazzo that I’m focused on.

I focus on it because it involves me. I live on this world that Wizzo observes under the assumed name of “Pete Wilson.” I’d rather be living in a way where I could truly work from anywhere, and that means I need to either find a way off of this world or to make this world a better place to live – both of which involve the same sort of spiritual maturity that Zazzo doubts we’ll be able to attain because of the way the people on this world have a love of money.

Because, whether we like to admit it or not, the love of money is the root of all evil.

But Wizzo believes in us, he believes in miracles. Zazzo does, as well, but it’s her job as a manager to take up a position of questioning, that the truth may be established. You see, it’s the truth that sets us free, but we have to have enough truth to hit a critical mass of freedom that affords us the kind of mobility and bliss ant Wizzo and Zazzo enjoy. One could say that those two practically eat the stuff up, that truth. Sadly, we here on the planet Wizzo observes tend to favor fictions that let us live a life of tolerable pain because we fear the pain of the truth that would set us free.

Now, Wizzo was totally aware that, yes, all the worlds under observation that loved money were complete non-starters as far as merging in harmony with the universe. One could even describe the places as real hells. Places where people who spoke words of truth got murdered by the money-lovers and the people they were able to enslave with either fear or a lust for power. Places where the money-lovers took the words of those who preached truth and peace and twisted them to justify the love of money and the violence that unnatural love brings.

And though many people on Wizzo’s assigned world were worried about how Artificial Intelligence had a chance of destroying humanity, Wizzo was much more concerned about the programmed, artificial constructs of corporations and government bureaucracies were already actively destroying that humanity. Scientists on Wizzo’s assigned world worried over nuclear weapons, global warming, and programmed machines run amok when the root causes of those threats – the love of money among them – were being ignored.

So what could Wizzo say in defense of this planet that would counter the argument that, with a love of money, it would never be a candidate for the blissful existence that was its potential? He thought, and said, “Population decline. If the global population declines, their economic system that depends upon constant consumption is no longer valid.”

Zazzo asked, “Isn’t that model already obsolete in the face of global ecological catastrophe? They’ve had that impacting them since the start of their industrialization period, and haven’t changed.”

Wizzo responded, “The population drop would add one more element of unsustainability to that way of living.”

Zazzo shook her head. “But does the people that changes because they must change truly change? Better the people that changes out of an innate desire to change and to become more spiritual.”

“True, true.” Wizzo nodded his agreement. “But a people humbled, regardless of reason, is a people that is humbled, and then is ready to be taught the lessons of peace and truth. It’s happened in a few places and times in the planet’s record of sentient life, it can happen again.”

“But on a global scale? If there’s just a single hold-out, we’ll be back to a crisis situation in a matter of generations.”

Wizzo then had a question of his own. “Do you think they are ready for a reset, though? I still see a hope for better things among them. Not everyone lusts for money and power. I think they could still change.”

Zazzo agreed. “Yes, they’re not yet to where they could harm anyone but themselves, so there’s no need for a reset. We watch with patience and hope.”

And so Wizzo returned to his assigned planet and told me about his report. We are being watched with patience and hope – let us work to reward that patience in what we do, rather than frustrate it. And, yes, I admit a bit of my own agenda there, as I’d love to be able to teleport to the places Wizzo’s told me about, they sound just fantastic.

But there’s only one way to get there. Painful though the start of the path may be, it’s well worth the complete journey, I assure you.

A Question of Suffering

Which would you prefer? Suffering an amount that you get used to for all eternity or suffering a deeply painful, but transformative amount that leads to a change in who you are and then, eventually, eternal peace?

It seems like many people prefer the eternal suffering with all the lies surrounding it so that they don’t have to go through the deeper pain that makes a change. Truth is painful, truth does hurt. But truth also transforms. Truth does not warp, truth does not crush, truth does not imprison. Truth does set us free.

But we have to make a choice to embrace truth in order to find the peace on the other side of that choice.

Minor, Granular Adjustments

I started writing this essay in my mind last night as I dealt with a potential biological roller coaster from something I ate. Somehow, a train of consequences was running express through me and I was of the opinion I’d rather not have things go down – or up – the way they seemed quite destined to do.

In the dark bathroom suddenly made light, I contemplated my fate and, having no human nearby to provide status updates to, I started a conversation with God. Call it what you will, be it prayer, delusional ranting, bargain-making with fate. I talked to God, because that’s what I do. I see God as my Heavenly Father, a loving, merciful relative who exists outside the whole of time and space, so that He can help us along our way towards getting into the family business, working on the immortality and eternal life of humanity. He is involved in every life, as existing outside of time meaning there is no shortage of the stuff for handling any and all requests that come His way.

Granted, I started this conversation fully aware that other people were supplicating Him at the same time. Some begging for relief in much worse circumstances, some asking for evil things they would never be granted, some prattling on about minutiae, and still others pleading in prayer not for themselves, but for loved ones. But since there is no limit on the time God has, each one of His beloved children are heard and answered.

Those answers are often minor, granular adjustments that either take the edge off of something harsh or that help us endure what is about to get much worse. I’ve been through much worse in my life. This most recent prayer was decidedly a small ask, relative to the proper ordeals that I’ve agonizingly had to face. But I’ve faced them and gained experience, wisdom, and a greater desire to be compassionate from them. God knew they were for my good, that they were formative experiences that gave me valuable puzzle pieces to assemble in my lifetime to create a more complete picture of my existence.

My body is in pretty good shape on its own and I knew it could do much to heal itself. So what do I need divine intervention for in this case? Maybe God didn’t do anything tonight to keep my body in a comforting stasis. But maybe something else was done in my past that made getting though this night cleanly and quietly a possibility.

Mind, now, I was ready for bad times. I had made my peace with the fact that being sick can be most unpleasant, but that it’s also a conversation with my body about my own choices and the choices of others intertwined with mine. I was ready to be thankful for the running water to wash with, the clean clothes to change into, and the help from my wife in cleaning up the aftermath. Being sick helps me to see the web of support around me and I am compelled to be thankful for the people who answered my prayers sometimes years before I ask a question that their response is part of.

As I prayed, I felt the wave of nausea, the “This is it!” moment we all wish didn’t have to happen… and then, it didn’t happen. Something about the experience was in knowing that it was most certainly about to be rough and messy and then knowing that, no, that mess was being canceled by a Heavenly Father who wanted me to learn a different lesson. That moment was not about enduring, but about sacred covenants and greater promises yet to be fulfilled.

My mind has recently been dwelling on the child I lost over 20 years ago, my son Jarom. I believe that all of my family can be resurrected and restored in happiness. These are huge blessings that I am deeply grateful for. Yet, there are times when I miss, I feel loss, and I wonder. This moment in which I asked for a small thing and having that small thing happened reminded me once again that the greater things can happen, and will happen. There is no need to fear. Heavenly Father is with us all, every step of the way, and we are capable of discovering that companionship for ourselves.

I still woke up too early, I still don’t feel up for going to work, and I expect some Powerade in my future. But I still know the blessing that came to me in that stormy moment made quiet, that it was more than a momentary comfort. It was a matter of eternal importance, made manifest by a minor, granular tweak. It was a tender mercy that spoke to me, to give me comfort not only in the moment of need that I knew of, but also comfort in the moments I wasn’t considering my needs.

Even now, those things I mentioned as negatives are things I can find value in. Waking up too early gave me time and presence of mind to write this. I work from home, so I can still get some things done for work and get rest later today. Powerade exists and I can get it and it will help me recover. If someone gets it for me, I will be grateful for that, as well. I write this mostly for myself, but if it should help someone else, then I have spent these early hours of the day doing something that a loving and merciful Heavenly Father knows will answer the prayer of another of His beloved children.

Racist Trees

It is frustrating how some people need a mountain of evidence to say “well, the jury’s still out on that issue.” Racism persists because it serves a purpose to provide a framework that justifies the material benefits of those who perpetuate the system. Even trivial aspects of that racist framework, like statues of Confederate politicians and generals, provoke violent reactions when they are targeted for removal, because those who benefit from racist frameworks know that such removals will eventually force them to repent, humble themselves, and ask for forgiveness.

Getting to about an hour into the film (link below), although it depicted the arson that targeted Black homes in Palm Springs, I couldn’t help but think of the bombings in Dallas happening at the same time that targeted Black families that had moved into White neighborhoods.

I always taught my history students to select the multiple choice answer that painted the worst possible situation for Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, Women, LGBTQIA+, and any of the other numerous divisions used by people in power to perpetuate their power. My students always did well on the state-mandated History exit exams.

Moving Closer to Heaven

Vision? Realization? Speculation? Whatever it was, it came to me one morning and answered a question that had been on my mind. Namely, if Heavenly Father knew that Saul would convert, why not have his conversion earlier and prevent him from being complicit to Stephen’s death at the hands of a mob?

I saw in my mind – imagined, if that’s a more comfortable word – all of Saul/Paul’s life and where it intersected not only with Stephen, but other people. Basically, things and people had to be in the right places for that conversion experience to work out for the best. It happened when it did because it couldn’t happen at another time and be as effective. And as for Stephen, well, his death is not his end. I saw much more of his continuing existence, so much of it that it made his time in mortality seem a short, intense flash that could be summed up in two words, “It hurt.”

And then I saw how so many people only focus on a single spiritual dimension in getting closer to God. There is benefit to doing good things, expressing faith, and living within moral and ethical bounds, but focusing on one to the neglect of others only moves one closer in that dimension. The distance remains in the others. This vast experience of existence of which mortality is a part is critical for us to show which directions we choose to go. We can move as we choose and there is no punishment for doing wrong so much as there is an inability to reach for an awaiting reward of being able to manifest eternal love.

Heaven is proximity to Heavenly Father; Hell is distance. Even as we experience pains, diseases, hungers, grievings, sadnesses, depressions, agonies, injuries, injustices, mockings, assaults, damages, and, ultimately, death, we can nevertheless choose to continue to move our souls heaven-ward.

And so, it matters not when one dies. What we do in life can be left raw and sinful, or it can be amended, repented of, and made sanctified. When do we die? is a question whose answer is nowhere near as important as that of How did we choose to live?