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Have you been “cancelled?” Have you been “cancelled” by a loved one, perhaps? Does that loved one no longer speak to you or even acknowledge your existence? Do they ignore (or perhaps avoid) your phone calls, your texts, your emails? Have they attempted to bully you into silence?

I have. It sucks. It sucks rotten vulture eggs.

Was it perhaps because you didn’t vote the way they thought you should have? Or perhaps it was because you don’t endorse the right bumper-sticker slogans? Or perhaps it was because you passionately disagree with your loved one on a very important issue? Or perhaps it was because you simply refused to endorse an organization you think is corrupt and perhaps evil? (I’m fairly certain your loved one thinks the organization is engaged in a righteous cause.)

I certainly have been “cancelled.” I have been called a racist, a bigot, a hater, and a traitor to the Constitution of the United States (all very serious accusations) by family members, some of whom have not spoken to me in well over a year, even though I reach out to them every week. The pain is very real.

So, have you been “cancelled?” Are you the target of a loved one’s “righteous hatred?”

I personally think that there is no such thing as “righteous hatred.” Hatred is the absence of love. Hatred can never be righteous and is never justified. Righteous ends never justify unrighteous means.

So, if you have been the target of someone’s “righteous hatred,” I’m sorry. I feel for you. I really do. I’m there.

But I think there is a more important question than “Have you (or I) been ‘cancelled?’” Far more important. And that is this—

Have you (or I) “cancelled” someone else? A loved one, perhaps? Do you (or I) no longer speak to that loved one or even acknowledge their existence? Do you (or I) ignore (or perhaps avoid) their phone calls, their texts, their emails? Have you (or I) attempted to bully them into silence?

Was it perhaps because they didn’t vote the way you (or I) thought they should have? Or perhaps it was because they don’t endorse the right bumper-sticker slogans? Or perhaps it was because your (or my) loved one passionately disagrees with you (or me) on a very important issue? Or perhaps it was because they simply refused to endorse an organization you (or I) think is engaged in a justified and righteous cause?

I cannot control the actions of any person other than myself (nor should I attempt to). Forcing (or bullying) people to “be good” has always been Satan’s way. It is not and never has been God’s way.

If you (or I) can so easily see the mote in your (or my) loved one’s eye, perhaps you (or I) need to make darn sure there isn’t a beam in your (or my) own.

I once wrote an essay entitled, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in First Nephi.” I’ve long felt that there is a reason why the Lord included First Nephi at the beginning of The Book of Mormon, so that if we get bogged down in the Isaiah chapters of Second Nephi (and who hasn’t) and feel as if we need to start over, we would read this iconic story of Nephi and Sam, Laman and Lemuel, Lehi and Sariah over and over. The lessons contained in First Nephi are fundamental for all Latter-day Saints.

Calling upon her experience as an adult youth leader and as a parent, Sharla Goettl has broken down these essential lessons from First Nephi in her new book, Spiritual Resilience: Leading Our Youth to Go and Do, in way that is highly relatable for both youth and adults, and especially for parents of youth. Even more than her analysis of the lessons of First Nephi, I deeply appreciated the very personal examples from her life and the lives of her children. These examples and anecdotes helped bring these timeless principles into the modern world of “Come Follow Me” and “home-centered church.” These are the hard lessons that even those who attempt to live the gospel and their sacred covenants will go through great trials, where we cannot see the end, we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel—but Heavenly Father does see. He knows what we need to learn, how we need to grow, whom we need to become, and how to help us to get there. Sister Goettl’s insights into the idea that we must armor ourselves in spiritual resilience to weather our storms, to work through our doubts and as-yet unanswered question are timely and relevant for modern Latter-day Saints.

I found the book to be an easy read, with concepts and insights well supported by scripture, prophetic teaching, anecdotes, and experience. I appreciate the summaries at the end of each chapter that helped me review what I just read, to cement it in my mind, and to make it easy to return to the book again and again.

I understand that this is Sister Goettl’s debut book, and I say, “Well done!” I heartily recommend and endorse Spiritual Resilience: Leading Our Youth to Go and Do.

For more information, go to:

Affiliate link: https://amzn.to/2NVeZy9

Author’s website: www.sharlagoettl.com

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/authorsharlagoettl

Instagram: @authorsharlagoettl

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/sharlagoettl

Rafflecopter giveaway!

*  EVERYONE can get a FREE gift at www.sharlagoettl.com  Click on the link at the top of the page for “The Goal Maker”.

* EVERYONE can participate in her Goodreads Giveaway to win a free copy of the book!  Here’s the link:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57118553-spiritual-resilience        (The giveaway ends on April 13 though)

Join the tour!

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http://christymonson.blogspot.com/
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http://www.ra
chelkirkaldie.blogspot.com
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http://journeyinthejoy.com
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http://www.shannonsymonds.com
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https://theheroinsideme.com/
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http://www.unwillingchild.wordpress.com
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https://bookofmormonconsensus.blogspot.com/

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http://www.the-exponent.com
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http://www.maryannjohnsoncoach.com
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http://www.mybookaday.com
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https://granteagar.blogspot.com
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https://bewarethebookwyrm.wordpress.com
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https://singinglibrarianbooks.com
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http://lisaisabookworm.blogspot.com
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http://www.bonnieharris.blogspot.com

“For if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.” –George Washington, 1783

“No idea is so dangerous that it cannot be spoken.” –Captain America (Yeah, I know it’s a comic book, but it’s still true.)

Violence and sedition are not the answer, but neither is the silencing of voices some find offensive or dangerous. We have allowed media corporations to decide who gets to speak and what ideas as so dangerous they cannot be expressed. They are private corporations, but they are also media monopolies and therefore cannot decide the winners and the losers in the battle of ideas.

The speech we should fight hardest to protect is the speech that offends us. For when that speech is silenced, those who want to control our thoughts will come after our speech.

Go ahead, Facebook, Twitter. Ban me.

The Witch of White Lady Hollow was a bewitching read. I couldn’t put it down! It was great getting to know Tabitha Moonshadow as she discovers her power within and tries to fit in as the new girl. The plot was well written and suspenseful as you try to discover who Magnus really is and how our young heroine will work things out. You will feel a range of emotion along with Tabitha while reading the novel (happiness, disgust, confusion, fear, etc.). Reading this novel is time well spent.

Crystal Earl – DeWitt, MI

My wife covers her eyes or focuses on a game on her phone when we watch Dr. Pimple Popper, at least when a surgery starts. But she does like to watch the show with me, and she occasionally glances up even during the surgery. It’s hard to not be squeamish when the scalpel slices into the skin. You either turn away, or you feel as if you must watch. I’m sure someone has probably already has written books on the psychology of this. My wife is the “turn-away” sort, and I am the “must-watch” sort. (I am a horror novelist, after all… I also watch the needle going in when I donate blood or take a blood test.)

Cindy and I have watched as several people have lipomas (benign fatty tumors) and other undesirable things removed from beneath their skin. It’s both fascinating and gruesome. It’s also really cool when you see how someone’s life is changed for the better after some disfigurement is removed.

But I’ve learned something from watching the show. As the scalpel slices into the skin, I’ve noticed that the pigmented layer of the skin (the part that contains the external skin color) is very thin. It’s only 1mm to 4mm in thickness. For those of us who are metrically challenged, that’s between roughly 1/32 and 5/32 of an inch. That’s all. Underneath that extremely thin layer of pigmented skin, we all look alike.

So, can anyone tell me, objectively, why some people make such a fuss about something so thin? Why in the world would anyone give an airborne mass of fecal matter what color that thin layer of skin is?

Do you think that for even one second our Heavenly Father, the Father of the entire human race, makes the slightest distinction between His children based on something so trivial?

When I teach my weapons classes and do book signings, I often go in full kilt (and character). My Renaissance faire boots look awesome, but they really difficult to put on and take off. It takes as much as 10 minutes to put them on right. Taking them off is a pain as well. I can remember more than one occasion when I realized (after I got my boots on) that I had a really tiny pebble in my boot or an uncomfortable fold in one of my socks. When that would happen, I would hold a Gollum/Smeagol-like debate with myself as to how far I was willing to walk with that irritant in my boot. Because I really didn’t want to have to take my boot off, remove the pebble or adjust my sock, and put the boot back on. So, often I would convince myself everything was all right.

Our foot—it hurtsss, my Precioussss!

It’s not that bad! We can walk on it!

But our foot already hurtssss! It’s ba-a-a-ad!

We’re going to be late as it isss, Precioussss. And we hates to be late, don’t we? Gollum! Gollum!

But we’ll have to walk around on the nasssty, uneven fairgrounds, carrying sssswordsesss and ssspearsesss and axessss, oh, my! And booksesss too, Precioussss!

We won’t have to walk so far. No, we won’t, Precious.

Take it off us! Take it off us! It hurts!

We’ll do it later. Later, Preciousssss.

No, we won’t. It’ll just go on hurting and hurting.

Later. La-a-a-a-ater.

Years ago, I listened with fascination as a friend of mine (who is not of my faith) described the process she and her fellow parishioners were going through in finding a new priest for their church. (There old priest had retired.) They (the selection board) interviewed each candidate, and those they liked got a tryout, a chance to conduct services and preach sermons on a Sunday. This priest had to do three services on their tryout Sunday, each one with a different style of worship: high, middle, and low. Each Sunday, the priest would be expected to preach to three groups of people in the way the hearers felt most comfortable. Some people were uncomfortable with the “high” form of worship and wanted a more casual experience. While I thought that was fascinating, what struck the me the most was when my friend described the interview process. They (the selection board) listed a bunch of topics that they didn’t want to hear preached about in church, then they would ask the candidate priest if he or she were okay with avoiding such uncomfortable topics. If the candidate said, “Well, the scripture says <something-different>,” that candidate was done. The board only wanted to hear what they wanted to hear. They did not want to be called to repentance, they only wanted to go to church to feel good. After all, that’s what kept butts in the pews and put donations in the plate.

As an aside note, I notice we tend to do the same thing with our politicians. We vote for the guy or gal who tells us what we want to hear. We will do almost anything—twist our logic and our principles into rancid pretzels with road-apple nuggets if necessary—to justify voting for someone who has the right letter after their name or who promises us what we want. I’ve actually heard people say, “So he had an affair with a porn star while he was married. But he’s such a good family man,” and “He only raped the one woman, and who believes her anyway?” I honestly don’t know how you say things like that with a straight face and without puking into your mouth just a little.

But I digress.

This morning, I had a technical issue on my company-issued work laptop—my work installation of Microsoft Office 365 (Outlook, Word, Excel, etc.) notified me that my copy of Office was “not activated,” meaning that my copy was not legal to use anymore. I contacted the IT help desk and logged a help ticket. They responded fairly quickly, but the news I got was not what I wanted to hear. I learned that my employer’s licensing agreement with Microsoft had changed, and we were now supposed to use the internet (browser-based) version of Office instead of the version already installed on our work computers. I was directed to change how I accessed email, calendar, documents, etc. I took a quick look at the internet version. Almost immediately, I decided I didn’t like it. To be perfectly honest, I had decided that before I tried it out. But, hey, I did give it a try.

So, I messaged my supervisor and asked when the licensing had changed and if it were possible to get reactivated and keep on using the version I prefer. He said to try the internet version out, and if I had a legitimate reason to go on using the version I prefer, he was sure it could be arranged to purchase me a license. Well, I immediately went looking for a reason! I found several. Well, a few. Well, perhaps one thing that really annoyed me. But that one thing—that one little thing—oh, boy, did it annoy me! Surely that was reason enough to get the company to spend a paltry $100 a year to make my life a wee bit more convenient.

I messaged my supervisor back and told him about my gripe.

And as soon as I had hit enter and sent the message, I immediately regretted it. What was the big deal, really? Why was I so unwilling to make a personal adjustment? Sure, in the grand scheme of things, a $100/year might not be that much of an expense, but what if it wasn’t just me? What if it were 10 employees or 100 that felt the same way I did? If it were 100 employees, that’s $10,000 per year that the company shouldn’t have to spend to keep curmudgeons like me happy. (And if it were just me, why should I make the company pay the extra $100 anyway?)

And truly, if I got to continue as I was, would that really make me happy?

So, I quickly messaged him again and said, “I will figure it out.”

And with a little trying, I figured out a way to do what I needed/wanted to do. And just like that, my problem was solved.

Hey! I just saved the company $100. Do I get a finder’s fee? I believe 10% is customary… What a windfall! Just how am I going spend that whole $10? I could buy 4 whole gallons of gas! Maybe. I better check the price…

During my personal scripture study this morning, this passage from Ezekiel really caught my attention:

Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! (Ezekiel 13:2-3, emphasis added)

In ancient Judah, some “prophets” told the people what they wanted to hear. In Ezekiel’s day, a large part of the nation of Judah had already been carried away captive into Babylon. Ezekiel was part of that group. Some “prophets” were telling the people that God was gonna kick the Babylonians’ butts and Judah would be triumphant, that they would all get to go home soon. That was what the exiled Jews wanted to hear.

Ezekiel, on the other hand, was prophesying that Jerusalem would soon be under siege and thereafter, it would be utterly destroyed, including the temple. He was prophesying that the Jews had brought all their own misery upon themselves, because they had not repented, they had not changed. He was definitely not telling his fellow exiled Jews what they wanted to hear.

As I read this passage, I thought to myself, I had been “prophesying out of my own heart.” I didn’t want to hear what I should be doing or how I needed to change. I wanted to hear what I wanted to hear. So, I had gone looking for things to fit what I wanted—to find facts to fit the narrative.

Religion—true religion—isn’t supposed to make me comfortable. It’s supposed to help me to grow, to become more like my Father in Heaven and my Savior, to help me to be a better husband, father, son, grandfather, and man. It’s supposed to call me to repentance. I can’t grow without change. How far am I willing to walk on the tiny pebble in my boot, before I stop and take it out?

I don’t go to church to feel good. I go to church to become better.

Excuse me—I have a pebble in my awesome boot, and I’ll be a lot more comfortable when it’s out.

And it will only take me about 15 minutes…

No, it won’t! It’ll take too long, Preciousss!

Shut up, Gollum.

I used to donate to the Right to Life Committee, because I am an ardent supporter of the right of the pre-born to live and not be murdered. I say, I USED to donate, but I don’t anymore. Why? Don’t I want to save the baby humans? (I saw that on a bumper-sticker a few times, “SAVE THE BABY HUMANS!” in imitation of, “SAVE THE BABY SEALS!” which I have also seen many times. And by the way, I abhor the slaughtering of baby seals too. I also will not eat veal.) I DO want to save the baby humans, the pre-born humans, from slaughter by those who should love them and protect them with their lives. But I will no longer pay money to the RTL Committee. Why? Because I found out that my donations went to two places: the RTLC “operating expenses” and the campaign coffers of Donald Trump and of other Republicans who support Donald Trump. I guess it was naivete on my part to think the money went to support strongly pro-life candidates, rather than just pro-Trump politicians. (News Flash: they are not always the same.)

So, I stopped donating… there. I stopped donating to that organization. Because I don’t believe sending money to President Trump or his allies is the best way to support the rights of the pre-born.

By the way, I have never stood outside an abortion clinic and protested. I have never terrorized or tried to shame the women and girls who enter therein. I have never held public prayer vigils in front of Planned Parenthood. My prayers are for God, and not to be heard of men.

I strongly support the right of the people to bear arms (yes, including scary-looking rifles with <gasp> non-wood stocks), but I am NOT a member of the National Rifle Association. There are those who say, if you’re not in the NRA, you’re not supporting the Second Amendment. And to them I say, “Baloney.” Personally, I think there are better ways to uphold the right to bear arms, as anyone who has ever been to my medieval weapons classes can attest. In my case, these ways include education and teaching by personal conduct. When I have sung, “Down by the Riverside” with the Tabernacle Choir, I have been known to sing, “I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield… When they pry ’em outta my cold, dead fingers.” (Don’t worry, Mac and Ryan, I’ve never sung it that way in a broadcast or concert. But I’ve thought it.)

I supported (after the fact, of course) the tragic killing of Harambe the gorilla, because I believe the life of a human child is infinitely more precious than the life of a magnificent animal. And to those who cry, “Harambe didn’t have to die!” I’m sorry, but once he had hold of that little boy, yes, unfortunately, he did have to die. And to those who contend that the zookeepers could have shot the gorilla with a tranquiller dart, you have been watching too many TV shows. In the time it would have taken for an already agitated Harambe to become incapacitated (up to ten minutes), he would have had plenty of time to kill (intentionally or otherwise) that human child. Once that child was in danger, the child’s life took the ultimate priority, even over a beloved and endangered gorilla.

But, hey, memes are fun, right? Memes and bumper-stickers help stoke outrage over a tragedy that was, once the child was endangered, unavoidable. You know what would have been a greater tragedy? If Harambe had actually killed the child. That would have been far worse.

I strongly believe that George Floyd was murdered by a man who showed a flagrant disregard for human life. I believe the murderer needs to be tried, and if found guilty by a jury of his peers, punished according to the law. Anyone who knows me can attest that, throughout my life, I have vehemently and vocally opposed racism. I’m not going to detail my anti-racism “creds,” because that would demean both me and them. I oppose racism in all its ugly forms, but I will never support Black Lives Matter. While some of their goals and my goals may overlap, they, as an organization, do not have my support. To quote from their own website, “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable. We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).” (Emphasis added, but this is a direct quote.) These goals are not mine. If they are yours, then perhaps that organization is for you. It’s not something I can be a part of.

The ends do not justify the means. Good never justifies evil. Love is not affirmed by hatred.

While it is probable that you can find racists in any group of people, to say that all cops are racists is an act of prejudice and an outright lie. To say that all protestors are looters and thugs is equally reprehensible. That would be judging a whole group of people based on the actions of a few. That is—yes, I will dare to say it—BIGOTRY. It is a false narrative.

False narratives have ever been a tool of the enemy of all humanity, Satan. He has used them to inflame passions and hatreds, to incite violence. Recently, I saw someone attempt to use the Savior’s clearing of the temple as a justification for looting and violence. Seriously? Jesus went into the temple—The House of the Lord—to clear out the filth from His own house. Let me repeat that—it was His own house. He didn’t burn down a low-income apartment complex, rob a jewelry store, or steal a 4K UHD TV. He also didn’t shoot a cop in the head for daring to enforce a curfew. He didn’t demand that everyone bow down to His will. He didn’t force all of us to be good. That was Satan’s plan in the beginning. And forcing someone to “be good” doesn’t change anything.

What did Jesus do? How did He solve the problem of hatred and bigotry? He taught us by word and by deed. He taught us to love one another. He taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to not covet our neighbor’s stuff. He taught that, if a Roman soldier (a member of the occupying army) demanded someone to carry his pack for a mile, then we should carry it for TWO miles. He taught love unfeigned. He gave commandments that, if we live by them, will make us happy and more like Him. He commanded us to love them that hate us, to do good to them who despitefully use us and persecute us. He never called evil “good,” nor good “evil.” He never justified or condoned sin, but He commanded that we abstain from even the appearance of it. Rather than forcing us to be good, He was good. And He invites us to learn from His example. He healed the ear of the man who came to him with a sword after Peter had smitten the man’s ear off. Then He gently rebuked Peter. He forgave the soldiers who crucified Him and asked that His Father forgive them as well. He said, “I the Lord will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” He also taught that those who will not forgive have committed the greater sin. Imagine that! Refusing to forgive is WORSE than the sin committed by the person who hurt us!

In short, He taught us that the only way to be happy. And that is to love, to do good, and to forgive everyone.

A long time ago, in a land far, far away… Actually, in the 19th century, in the USA… musicians were sometimes carried in a wagon in advance of a political rally. Many people followed the wagonload of musicians as they played, regardless of who the rally was for or what the candidate or party stood for. Sometimes, spectators would jump onto the back of the bandwagon and ride along. This became known as “jumping on the bandwagon,” which refers to espousing a cause simply because it’s popular, regardless of whether that cause is based on truth or lies.

Not so long ago, in this land, a man was killed in the course of his arrest in Minneapolis. I don’t know whether he was a good person or a bad person or, like most of us (myself included), simply a flawed person who had done both good and bad in life. I do know that the crime of which he was accused and therefore arrested did not warrant the use of deadly force. The police officer who killed him has been arrested and charged with murder. He will be tried and, if found guilty by a jury of his peers, will be punished according to the law. These are the relevant facts.

Notice I didn’t mention any other aspects of the incident, and for not mentioning any other aspects, it is likely that others will attempt to “enlighten” me with bumper-sticker slogans or attempt to make me feel guilty for an evil I did not commit and heartily and vocally condemn. And that is sad, because murder is murder, regardless of the color of anyone’s hair or eyes or skin. I want justice for the murdered man and for the murderer.

Over the weekend, in Salt Lake City, during a “peaceful protest,” people broke into a jewelry store and robbed the place. A “peaceful protestor” threw a hatchet at police officers (who were not involved in the murder in Minneapolis). Perhaps the hatchet-thrower’s aim was just wildly off. Other businesses were robbed and destroyed. Police officers were injured. Protestors were injured and were rescued and treated by police officers, the very police officers who were having rocks, bottles, scooters, a baseball bat, and a hatchet thrown at them.

Many claim that the looting and the attempted murder in Salt Lake City is justified because, someone murdered someone else in Minneapolis. How is the theft of jewelry justified by murder? How is it justified to rob and destroy a business and the business owner’s livelihood? What about the people whose jobs will be lost, many of whom haven’t had a paycheck in months?

In Minneapolis, rioter burned down a 189-unit affordable development. How in the world does that help anyone?

One evil never justifies another evil, regardless of the disparity of degrees of evil involved. “Charley broke my arm, so I kicked Suzie’s cat!”

Slogans are being bandied about and memes posted, reducing issues of right and wrong to a single emotion, attempting to spark outrage or guilt or to make the slogan-bandier and meme-poster seem pious. Why not start with what the Savior taught? “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Doing good unto others, treating others as you would like to be treated would be a good start. Jesus never asked us to post self-righteous slogans or memes so we could appear to be “woke.”

One member of my family is a police officer. He does not live or work in Minneapolis. He has never murdered anyone. He treats people who don’t look like him with respect. Why should his life be in danger? I know him. He is a good man. He doesn’t deserve to have an axe thrown at him. But to far too many people, he is one of them, and thus someone to hate and or be murdered or to incite others to murder.

In Salt Lake City, during the protest, which was no longer peaceful, one protestor was asked by a TV news reporter, “Why are you here?”

The woman replied, “To support the protest. To support what’s going on.”

The reporter then asked, “Why? What are you protesting?”

The woman replied, “I don’t know.”

This protestor had witnessed the violence, and even if she had not actively participated in it, she still cheered it on.

The Bandwagon from Hell is rolling down our streets, pounding out a drumbeat to dance to the devil’s tune and a siren call to violence against those who were in no way involved in the murder in Minneapolis.

And people are jumping on the bandwagon. They are cheering it on.

The day after the riots, destruction, looting, and attempted murder, people of all eye, hair, and skin colors were downtown, cleaning up the broken glass and removing the graffiti in Salt Lake City. They were at the state capitol, repairing the damage done by others. That was an act of true Christian charity (even if they weren’t all Christians). And I am quite confident that they too want justice for George Floyd.

Yearning for God

Many years ago, I had the privilege of playing Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” A local rabbi graciously accepted our invitation to come and teach how to portray early 20th century Ukrainian Jews accurately and respectfully. I was very grateful for this opportunity to once again learn at the feet of a rabbi. I have had such occasions rarely in my lifetime, but I have always come away enlightened.

One of the many things I learned that evening was that there is a form of prayer (one that Tevye employs in a funny scene), which, though vocal, is non-verbal. In other words, the praying contains no words. The rabbi explained it as simply “yearning for God.”

About nine years ago, as a member of the Tabernacle Choir, I was blessed to sing with the Choir and the Band of the Air Force Reserve (which included drums and bagpipes), as we performed “Highland Cathedral.” There are no words in this piece. When the Choir sang, we sang simply “ah.”

There are times, like this period of pandemic and fear, where we know specifically what we need to pray for. But even at times like these, I feel a “yearning for God” that surpasses words, that causes tears of longing and joy to leak from my eyes and the power of the Holy Ghost to fill my soul to trembling. I know what we are praying for, but I also feel that yearning for God and the peace that His Son alone can bring.

I have searched my heart for ways to help others, to lift spirits during this trying time. I think I have found one.

Please join with me in yearning for God.

Ben Savage is a genius!

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Flying high with praise for Devourer of Souls

With his newest book, “The Witch and the Devourer of Souls,” C. David Belt shines bright as a master of suspense and tasteful horror. Tabitha Moonshadow has expanded her talents, and with the help of her faithful, struggling husband, is thrown into an epic who-dunnit that keeps you guessing right until the end. David hits all the right notes in this fantastic sequel that seats him firmly in the same section as Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

Walt Parker, South Jordan, Utah

It is a rare feat for an author to pull off a sequel that is better than its earlier work, but in the case of “The Witch and the Devourer of Souls” that is exactly what C. David Belt has done.
Belt’s heroine, Tabitha Moonshadow, returns with even greater abilities than before, thanks to a special connection she and her husband have through the Power. As college students with a new baby, their lives seem perfect.
But a string of kidnappings and murders in their community soon changes that. To her own endangerment, Tabitha unwittingly begins using the Power to help police find the perpetrator. Before long she begins to suspect everyone around her.
With Belt’s trademark plot twists, “The Witch and the Devourer of Souls” captures the reader’s attention from beginning to end.

Adam Ward, Centerville, Utah

The Witch and the Devourer of Souls is a riveting work of fiction. I couldn’t put it down! I didn’t read the first book in the series, but I didn’t feel that I was lacking in the information that I needed to enjoy the story. Now I want to go back and learn more of Tabitha’s beginnings. This novel had characters that were believable in their everyday lives and the identity of the Devourer kept me guessing until the very end. It was quite suspenseful, intriguing, and well done.

Crystal Earl – DeWitt, MI

This book was a wild ride. Like all of Belt’s works, it tells the story of good people in horrifying circumstances who make it through because of their faith and their love for each other. The characters were delightful. Josh and Tabitha are endearing in their newlywed love without being nauseating. In contrast, the eponymous Devourer may be the most creepy, disgusting villain I’ve ever encountered in fiction. Belt kept me guessing and second-guessing his identity until nearly the end of the book.

Though The Witch and the Devourer of Souls is the sequel to The Witch of White Lady Hollow, the story stands well on its own, with concepts like the Power explained well enough to prevent confusion. Though it is certainly not a bedtime story for young children, there are enough uplifting and genuinely hilarious moments to keep the reader from losing hope. I oscillated between wanting to throw up and nostalgically chuckling at the heroes’ Provo-esque antics. I’d recommend this book to anyone with a strong stomach who wants a thrilling, quirky read.

Elissa Cardon Nysetvold – Beaumont, TX

I had never dedicated a grave before.

I have seen it done. I have read the procedure. I know how to do it, but I had never done it personally.

Until yesterday.

My dad passed away early Monday morning, and yesterday (Tuesday)—yes, just one day later—we buried him. Per my mother and my father’s wishes, there was no funeral. There will be a family gathering at the gravesite and then later at my home, but that will have to wait until my mother can attend. You see, she’s in the hospital, fighting for her life. So, all plans for a memorial gathering will have to wait.

No, they weren’t both in a tragic accident or anything like that. My mother has been sick for some time and has been in the hospital for nearly two weeks. She was in the hospital before my father fell and broke his hip early Saturday morning. We called 9-1-1. An ambulance came and took him to the hospital. A surgeon repaired his broken hip, but given my father’s severely advanced dementia and general health, we all knew this was a life-ending injury.

On Sunday night, he was approved for hospice care. A little over eight hours later, he had passed. This was almost exactly forty-eight hours after he arrived at the hospital.

We are grieving, of course, but his quick passing is also a tender mercy.

My parents have lived with us for the last few years, and their presence has been a great blessing. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to care for and provide a home for my parents in their later years.

Dementia is such a cruel disease. It slowly steals away your loved one. It slowly steals away the victim’s mind. I say, slowly, but sometimes this horrible disease progresses with stunning speed. At first, it was simply struggling to find the right words. Then he would start a project, like removing a shed door, and then forget how to put it back on. Then he would forget why he had come into a room. Then he would forget names. And faces. He would tell the same one or two stories over and over.

And then he forgot the stories.

His decline in the last two weeks has been stunning. He could no longer recognize me, didn’t know who I was. He didn’t recognize my mother anymore. Or my wife, Cindy. We were just strangers to him. He could rarely form complete sentences, and when he did, he would substitute words, seizing out of the recesses of his clouded mind whatever words he could. Often these words had nothing to do with what he was trying to say. He could no longer tell us what he wanted or needed. He could no longer understand what we were saying to him. Two weeks ago, you could have described his comprehension as that of a two-year-old. In the last few days, he had lost even that level of ability.

My father, a history professor and a very talented teacher, had lost the ability to speak.

In his last two days in mortality, there was nothing left of him. His soul was still there, but it could no longer peek out of those eyes—those tender, blue eyes that had once been so loving. In the end, he was trapped in a mind that could no longer allow him to be himself. In the end, there was only pain and fear.

My father was a great and loving man. He IS still a great and loving man. I have many, many fond memories of him. He was a strong man who worked hard all his life for his family.

We have an eight-thousand-gallon fishpond in our backyard. My dad dug the entire pond by himself using a shovel, a pickaxe, and a claw-hammer. He dug it the first time my parents came to “winter” with us. (They wintered with us three years before selling their home in the mountains of Nevada and moving in with us permanently.) I only expected him to start the project, perhaps to get only a quarter of the way done. He needed a project, needed something to keep him busy, something repetitive that didn’t require thinking. He dug the entire pond that winter. All by himself. In one shot. That was my dad.

That IS my dad.

On Sunday morning, I went to Choir. One might question how I could go to Choir with all this going on. The truth is, I was desperate for any sense of normalcy. So, I went. A few of my brethren in the Choir asked how I was doing. One of those men is my friend Brad. I told him. I unloaded. Then I sang the broadcast. And, yes, I was weeping through most of it. (No surprise, I know.) On Tuesday (last night, the day we buried my father), we had a recording session. After the recording session, Brad asked me how I was doing. I told him. Everything. He said, “You seem like you’re doing so much better tonight than you were Sunday.” And the truth is, he was right. I am doing better. So much better.

We are grieving and we will miss him. But he is freed at last from the prison that his mind had become. He has his great mind back. He has been reunited with loved ones lost. He is himself again.

I miss him, but I am so profoundly happy for him.

I thank my Heavenly Father and His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ, for Their great plan of happiness and salvation. I know I will see my dad again.

And when I see him again, he will know who I am.

 

Fun Interview

Typical of Belt’s works, he paints a picture of a gripping tale that keeps you glued to your seat right from the beginning! There is romance, humor, drama, suspense, incredulity at how deranged a character can be, and some fanciful uses of the Power, something to which we’re introduced in a previous novel titled The Witch of White Lady Hollow. And the picture’s canvas is set in cultural “Happy Valley” Utah. If you’re looking for a story in which you collect details and ponder them to attempt to detect the villain’s identity, only to find out you’re wrong, look no further. Only a gifted author who carefully crafts a story can fool not only the main characters, but also the reader!

John Abercrombie

I have a confession to make. A huge confession. Let me work up my courage, take a few deep breaths, calm my trembling hands.

Okay.

<long-loud-sigh>

Here goes . . .

I love Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

There. I said it. Now all the world knows (or at least those few who actually read this Author’s Note).

Okay, now before you take away my man-card, hear me out.

I enjoy a good, well-written horror tale, but I also enjoy a good love story. And as anyone who is familiar with my work can attest, I firmly and enthusiastically believe the two need not be mutually exclusive.

While I do love “Pride and Prejudice,” it ends (in my not-so-humble-opinion, and with a small—very small—apology to Miss Austen) far too early in the story. I want a sequel! And not from a modern writer—I want to know from Miss Jane herself. I want to know how the Darcys kept their romance alive! I want to know how they survived the horrors and vicissitudes of the Napoleonic Wars!

Romance doesn’t end with the first kiss or even at the altar.

At least it shouldn’t.

In the early 1980’s, shortly after Cindy and I had completed our separate church missions (hers in Spain and mine in South Korea and Los Angeles, Korean-speaking) and early in our married life together, while I was finishing my degree at Brigham Young University (where I took exactly zero English and/or creative writing classes—which may be painfully obvious), I discovered a TV show called Hart to Hart. This little gem related the adventures of a married couple who solved mysteries together. What drew me to the show was the chemistry between the husband and wife. The two characters obviously loved each other and were devoted to each other. There was no “romantic tension.” There was just romance. (All the tension came from outside—from the villains and the adventure—it was never about “will they or won’t they.”) And it was exciting! And it never got old. At least not to me.

In “The Witch of White Lady Hollow,” when last we met the intrepid and courageous (and short) Tabitha Moonshadow, she had just met <insert-name-of-future-husband-here>. And although we knew the two of them would or should end up together, that didn’t happen in that first book—we merely had the potential for love and romance. All we had was a handshake (literally) and a spark. And a mutual penchant for watching old, scary movies.

In writing the sequel, I could have picked up the story right there and have related all the details of the courtship and the wedding—not too many details about the wedding, since it takes place in a temple, but I digress—but I didn’t tell that part of the tale. I skipped all that. (Oh, the horror! <sounds-of-fanning-myself> I think I may faint. Quick! The smelling salts!) No, I jumped ahead in their lives—to when they were starving married students with a baby at BYU. I mean, so many of us can relate to similar scenarios, right? It wasn’t that the courtship and the wedding weren’t important—they absolutely were. Courtship is exciting and it’s new, and the wedding is (or should be) glorious and beautiful and sacred. But courtship must not end at marriage. Courtship is a grand, life-long adventure.

But sometimes, the grand adventure is mired in the mundane and in the everyday problems of life. Tabitha and <insert-name-of-future-husband-here> have classes, homework, low-paying jobs, a barely running, high-mileage car, bills, nearly empty cupboards, dishes to wash, floors to sweep, laundry to do, and a baby to feed and clean and nurture. (“Whatever you do, don’t you dare wake the baby!”) Romance can get lost in all of that. All too frequently, it does.

So, I wanted to tell a story about two people who have to deal with all of that crap (literally—remember, there are dirty diapers to change) and somehow still find time for romance and love and rejoicing in what brought them together in the first place. In short, I wanted to tell a story of passionate, tender, married romance . . . with the Power and a supernatural serial-killer thrown into the mix.

I mean, we can all relate to that, right?

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