Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Book Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Sometimes we forget; we let life become dull and colorless; we stop feeling because we think there is nothing to feel; we allow ourselves to be completely weighted down. Strange, but that happens sometimes. And then, something comes along to awaken us--nudges and whispers: life has brilliant color; I feel alive; I think, I am, I see. God gave us many things that remind our finite brains how to live and dream...The written word is one of those priceless gifts.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a book that I want to own, so I can revisit and contemplate it fifty times over--the characters, voices, images, emotions...the way the words look on the page. When a book, like Elegance, has the power to enliven my senses through the simple act of turning pages, when I read and feel the nudges and whisperings of eternity reminding me of possibility, blessings and beauty, I can only think:

this is why people say that reading is like breathing.

Image from

Friday, March 25, 2011

Scar Scout Rising

Congratulations to first-time author Gary Darby for actually getting me interested in a science fiction book! After only a few chapters, I found myself pulled into the exciting world of Star Scout Rising. I often caught myself actually tensing up as I read about the dangerous and exciting adventures of Del Baldura and his teammates. With great characterization and an excellent plot full of hair-raising twists and turns, Star Scout Rising is definitely a triumph!

(Unfortunately, the book should have been much better edited before publication, but don’t let that stop you from missing out on this fun new novel!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tsunami Relief

Thoughts and prayers going out to those affected by the recent tsunami.

If you're looking for a way to donate to help with the relief effort, I've heard that this is a good place to donate (I haven't researched it or anything, so I'm not positive.)

I definitely know that this is a good place to donate.

Ultimate Sausage Cheese Pizza

Serves 1
Calories per serving: 475

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup organic tomato sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch pepper
1 link precooked chicken basil sausage
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/2 red bell pepper or jarred roasted red pepper
4 ounces prepared pizza dough
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped scallion, white and green parts
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh basil

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. For the tomato sauce, heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, salt and pepper, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Preheat a gas grill or stovetop grill pan over medium-high heat. Place chicken basil sausage and bell pepper on the grill. Grill the sausage until cooked through, about 2 minutes each side; set aside. Continue grilling the pepper, turning, until the skin is blackened, 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Place pepper in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until cool enough to handle. Peel, stem and seed the pepper; cut or tear half the pepper into large dice, reserving the other half of the roasted pepper for another dish. When chicken sausage is done, slice thinly and set aside.

5. Spray an aluminum pizza pan with nonfat cooking spray. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to stretch the pizza dough into a thin round, about 8 inches. Place it in the prepared pan. Spread the dough with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Arrange the sliced chicken sausage on top, and scatter the pepper over. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

6. Bake until the edges are crisp and lightly browned, and the cheese is melted, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with scallions and basil, if using. Let pizza stand about 2 to 3 minutes before eating.

Recipe from

Southwestern Turkey Burgers With Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 4
Calories per serving, turkey burger: 342
Calories per serving, sweet potato fries: 89

For the sweet potato fries
2 sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling
Juice of 1/2 lime

For the turkey burger
1 1/3 pounds lean ground turkey
1 4-ounce can diced green chiles, drained
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2–3 spritzes canola oil in a mister
3 ounces 50%-reduced-fat pepper-jack cheese, cut into thin slices
4 whole-wheat Kaiser rolls
Romaine lettuce leaves
Tomato, sliced
Red onion, sliced
1/2 avocado, sliced

1. For the sweet potato fries, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Wash and dry the potatoes and, with the skin on, slice into 1/2-inch-thick rounds; cut the rounds into 1/2-inch-thick finger-shaped pieces. Toss the potatoes in a bowl with the oil, chili powder, garlic powder and salt.

3. On a baking sheet, spread the sweet potato fries in a single layer and roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until brown and tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a platter or bowl and sprinkle with a little more salt.

4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the lean ground turkey with the diced chiles and season with salt and pepper. Shape into patties and refrigerate until ready to cook.

5. Heat a large grill pan or nonstick skillet on medium heat and spritz with canola oil. Add the turkey patties to the grill pan and cook until browned on one side, about 4 minutes. Flip, reduce the heat to low, cover (if using a skillet) and cook until the juices run pale pink, about 4 more minutes. Top with the reduced-fat pepper-jack cheese during the last minute.

6. Toast the rolls in the oven or in a toaster oven. Alternatively, grill them 1 minute on each side.

7. To assemble: On a platter, place the fries and a burger on a bun and top with lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado slices. Squeeze lime juice over the fries and serve.

Recipe from

Stuffed Shells

Serves 10
Calories per serving: 331

12 ounces (1 box) jumbo pasta shells (approximately 40 shells)

For the tomato sauce
1 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes in juice
1 14-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes in juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup roughly chopped red onion
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 sprigs fresh basil

For the stuffing
1-pound bag baby spinach
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
2 scallions, chopped
2 cups (16 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded reduced-fat, part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch grated nutmeg
1. Spray a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells, and partially cook 6 to 7 minutes — they should have started to become tender but will still be firm to the bite. Drain in a colander, and immediately transfer to the oiled baking sheet, spreading them out in a single layer so that they don’t stick together. Let cool.

2. For the sauce, pour the tomatoes into a bowl and mash with your hands, or pulse in food processor to chop. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Cover, reduce heat to very low and cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. (Check a few times during cooking; if vegetables begin to brown, add 2 teaspoons water and stir.) Add the tomatoes with juice, basil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer gently 5 minutes. Then simmer very gently, partially covered, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Scrape into another container with a rubber spatula; set aside.

3. Add the spinach and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Place over medium heat, cover and cook, tossing every now and then with tongs for even cooking, until wilted, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain, and let cool, then squeeze out as much liquid as you can, and chop. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.

4. In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring every now and then, until tender and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add scallions during the final 1 minute. Add to the bowl with the spinach. Add the ricotta, the ham, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, the parsley, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and the nutmeg, and stir to combine.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

6. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of two 9-x-13-inch baking dishes. Fill the cooked shells with the cheese mixture, about 1 tablespoon per shell, and arrange the shells side by side in a single layer in the prepared dishes. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, and then sprinkle each with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.

7. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted, 25 to 30 minutes.

Recipe from

Chocolate Pavlova

Serves 6
Calories per serving: 337

For the pavlova
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

For the topping
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup shaved dark chocolate
1/4 cup melted chocolate for drizzling

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk the egg whites and salt on high speed until they hold their shape. Add the sugar gradually until the mixture stands in firm peaks. Add the lemon juice and whisk just to incorporate. Sift the cocoa powder into a small corner of the bowl and lightly fold it into the meringue using a plastic spatula. Do not overmix or you will lose the rippled effect. Pour the meringue onto the parchment-lined sheet pan in an oval shape, roughly 3 inches by 5 inches and 2 inches high. Place into the bottom of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

3. Switch off the oven without opening the door and leave the pavlova in the turned-off oven for one hour. Remove and set aside.

4. For the topping: Whisk the whipping cream into semi-stiff peaks and spoon on top of the pavlova. Sprinkle with raspberries and shaved chocolate before serving. Finish with drizzled chocolate.

Recipe from

Stuffed French Toast Sundaes

Serves 2 (2 cups per person)
Calories per serving: 353

1 whole egg
1 egg white
2 tablespoons skim milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon honey
4 slices whole-wheat bread, crusts removed
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blackberries
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
2. In a bowl, whisk together the egg, egg white, milk, cinnamon and honey. Spray a nonstick muffin pan with calorie-free vegetable spray. Carefully dip each slice of the bread into the egg/milk mixture and press it into the muffin pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes, until crisp.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese until smooth. Spoon equal amounts of the ricotta mixture into each of the bread cups and top with berries. Drizzle the maple syrup on top.

Steak With Cauliflower "Mashed" Potatoes

Serves 4
Calories per serving: 389

For the rosemary salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

For the cauliflower mashed potatoes
1/2 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/2–3/4 cup low-fat milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 scallions, chopped

For the steak
1 pound lean steak, preferably flank, about 1 1/4 inches thick
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
8 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1. For the rosemary salt, combine chopped rosemary and salt on a cutting board and chop together. Stir in the pepper; transfer to a small bowl, and set aside.

2. For the cauliflower mashed potatoes, place the cauliflower in a steamer basket, set over boiling water, cover, and steam 15 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, add the buttermilk and 1/4 cup of the milk, and puree until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, place potatoes in a saucepan and add cold salted water to cover by about 2 inches; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, return to the saucepan and heat over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes to dry. Mash with a potato masher. Add the cauliflower puree, 1/4 cup milk, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir to blend, and heat over medium-low heat, adding more milk as needed for a creamy consistency. Stir in the butter and the scallions. Cover, and set aside to keep warm.

3. Heat a grill or grill pan. Sprinkle the steak on both sides generously with the rosemary salt, pressing it into the meat. (Reserve the remainder for another use.) Grill the steak 4 minutes on one side. Turn, and grill to rare, 3 to 4 more minutes. Remove to a plate and let stand 5 minutes. Thinly slice the beef against the grain. Add the vinegar to the pan and stir to incorporate any pan juices.

4. To serve, make a bed of lettuce on each of four plates. Arrange one-quarter of the steak slices on top of the lettuce. Spoon on some of the cauliflower mashed potatoes. Scatter tomatoes over all, drizzle with the balsamic-meat juices, and garnish with the chopped mint.

Recipe from

Cookies and Cream Milkshake

Serves 4
Calories per serving: 169

1 pint low-fat chocolate ice cream, slightly softened
2 packages low-calorie chocolate wafers (about 30 total)
1/3 cup low-fat (1-percent) milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a blender, place the ice cream, chocolate wafers and 1-percent milk. Add the pure vanilla extract and blend until most of the wafers are broken, leaving a few larger chunks. Pour into 4 glasses and enjoy

Recipe from

Chocolate and Cranberry Biscotti

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen
Calories per biscotti: 76

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely ground almonds
3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Melted chocolate for drizzling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and arrange a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Beat egg and sugar with a handheld or standing mixer on medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture. Beat until no traces of flour remain. Stir in cranberries. The dough will be very wet and sticky.

4. Scrape the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, forming a thick line in the center. Wet your hands and pat dough into a 9-x-3-inch rectangle. Bake until puffed and dry to the touch, about 25 minutes. Cool on pan for 15 minutes; keep oven on. Peel off parchment and carefully transfer rectangle to a cutting board. Cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices.

5. Lay slices flat on unlined baking sheet, and bake until dry, about 10 minutes. Flip slices and bake for 10 minutes more. Let cool completely. Cookies will crisp as they cool.

6. Drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.

Recipe from

Spring Rolls With Lemongrass Dipping Sauce and Cucumber Salad

Makes 6 rolls
Calories per serving, 2 spring rolls: 104
Calories per serving, lemongrass dipping sauce: 63
Calories per serving, cucumber salad: 39

For the lemongrass dipping sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1 stalk lemongrass, minced (lemon or lime zest also works)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon red chili flakes

For the cucumber salad
1 seedless cucumber
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Salt, to taste

For the spring rolls
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 pound medium shrimp (about 12–13)
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce

For assembling
6 Vietnamese rice paper wraps, soaked in cold water for 45 seconds (lettuce leaves also work)
2 ounces red bell pepper, julienne
1/2 large carrot, shredded (about 2 ounces)
2 cups bean sprouts
2 ounces sugar snap peas, julienne
2 ounces shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 teaspoons fresh mint, shredded, for garnish
2 tablespoons scallions, green parts only, sliced on the bias, for garnish

1. For the lemongrass dipping sauce: In a small stainless-steel saucepan over medium heat, combine the rice vinegar and honey. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes or until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat and add the minced garlic, ginger and chili flakes, and let steep until cooled, about another 30 minutes. Set aside and reserve.

2. For the cucumber salad: Wash and cut the cucumber in half, lengthwise. Slice into thin half-moons and transfer to a bowl.

3. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the mirin, sesame oil and rice vinegar. Season to taste with salt. Drizzle the dressing over the sliced cucumber and toss. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

4. For the shrimp: Over medium to high heat, place the sesame oil, minced ginger, garlic and the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are pink and not too firm. Add the mirin and let it reduce. Add the soy sauce and cook another minute. Let cool and set aside.

5. For the assembly: Soak the rice wrappers in cold water for 45 seconds or until pliable. Be careful not to rip the wrappers when removing from the water. Place on cutting board lined with a clean dish towel and spread evenly.

6. Place some red bell pepper strips, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, sugar snap peas, two shrimp and 1 teaspoon of shredded mint on each wrapper. Start wrapping at one end and roll over once, then bring in both ends and continue to roll, making sure the filling remains inside and fits snugly. Continue with remaining wrappers and filling.

7. Cut each spring roll on the bias, and serve with the cucumber salad and the lemongrass dipping sauce. Garnish with sliced scallions.

Recipe from

Supreme Quesadilla With Poblano Peppers

Serves 4
Calories per serving: 472

For the quesadillas
2 poblano chiles
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 large white onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
1 1/2 links precooked chicken sausage, sliced in rounds

For the guacamole
2 Hass avocado
1 large tomato, cored and diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

For serving
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1. Roast the poblano chile over an open flame with a burner on, using a pair of tongs to hold over the fire. Turn the chile occasionally and roast until completely blackened. Alternatively, broil on a baking sheet, turning, until blackened. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. While the chile cools, make the guacamole. Seed, peel and dice the avocado, and transfer to a bowl along with the diced tomato, lime juice and salt. Stir and mash with a fork or spoon until well combined, then set aside.

3. Peel, stem and seed the cooled poblano chile and cut it crosswise into thin strips. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and poblano chile strips, and season with the salt and freshly ground pepper, stirring occasionally. Add about 2 tablespoons of water if the mixture becomes too dry. Cover with a lid, and cook until the onions are softened and translucent, about 9 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve, keeping warm.

4. Heat a separate skillet over low to medium heat. Place 2 tortillas in it and warm them, turning occasionally, until pliable, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove one tortilla and reserve. Sprinkle a thin, even layer of cheese on the other tortilla, in the skillet. Top with an even layer of the warm chile-and-onion mixture, then the sausage rounds and another thin layer of cheese. Center the reserved warm tortilla over the cheese, and heat until the bottom tortilla is browned in spots, about 1 minute. Carefully flip quesadilla, and cook until the other side is brown and the cheese is completely melted, about 2 minutes. Place on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.

5. Cut each quesadilla in quarters, and serve with the guacamole and sour cream.

Recipe from

Thursday, March 10, 2011

“Settle This in Your Hearts”

Neal A. Maxwell

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Neal A. Maxwell

This is an appropriate moment to thank Elder Hanks for his influence on my life in so many moments over so many years.

Eighteen years ago from this same pulpit, I pled with those who stood indecisively on the “porch” of the Church to come fully inside. (See Ensign, Nov. 1974, pp. 12–13.) Today my plea is to those members already inside but whose discipleship is casual, individuals whom we love, whose gifts and talents are much needed in building the kingdom!

Any call for greater consecration is, of course, really a call to all of us. But these remarks are not primarily for those who are steadily striving and who genuinely seek to keep God’s commandments and yet sometimes fall short. (See D&C 46:9.) Nor is this primarily for those few in deliberate noncompliance, including some who cast off on intellectual and behavioral bungee cords in search of new sensations, only to be jerked about by the old heresies and the old sins.

Instead, these comments are for the essentially “honorable” members who are skimming over the surface instead of deepening their discipleship and who are casually engaged rather than “anxiously engaged.” (D&C 76:75; D&C 58:27.) Though nominal in their participation, their reservations and hesitations inevitably show through. They may even pass through our holy temples, but, alas, they do not let the holy temples pass through them.

Such members accept callings but not all of the accompanying responsibilities; hence, their Church chores must often be done by those already “anxiously engaged.” Some regard themselves as merely “resting” in between Church callings. But we are never in between as to this soaring call from Jesus: “What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27; see Matt. 5:48; 3 Ne. 12:48.) It is never safe to rest regarding that calling! In fact, being “valiant” in one’s testimony of Jesus includes striving to become more like Him in mind, heart, and attributes. (D&C 76:79.) Becoming this manner of men and women is the ultimate expression of orthodoxy!

All are free to choose, of course, and we would not have it otherwise. Unfortunately, however, when some choose slackness, they are choosing not only for themselves, but for the next generation and the next. Small equivocations in parents can produce large deviations in their children! Earlier generations in a family may have reflected dedication, while some in the current generation evidence equivocation. Sadly, in the next, some may choose dissension as erosion takes its toll.

While casual members are not unrighteous, they often avoid appearing to be too righteous by seeming less committed than they really are—an ironic form of hypocrisy.

Some of these otherwise honorable members mistakenly regard the Church as an institution, but not as a kingdom. They know the doctrines of the kingdom, but more as a matter of recitation than of real comprehension.

Casual members are usually very busy with the cares and the things of the world—much as honorable Amulek once was. Called many times, he would not hear. He really knew concerning the truths of the gospel, but Amulek would not acknowledge that he knew. (Alma 10:4–6.)

One common characteristic of the honorable but slack is their disdain for the seemingly unexciting duties of discipleship, such as daily prayer, regular reading of the scriptures, attendance at sacrament meeting, paying a full tithe, and participating in the holy temples. Such disdain is especially dangerous in today’s world of raging relativism and of belching sensualism, a world in which, if many utter the name of Deity at all, it is only as verbal punctuation or as an expression of exclamation, not adoration!

In contrast, those sincerely striving for greater consecration neither cast off their commitments nor the holy garment. They avoid obscenity, keep the law of chastity, pay their tithes, and love and serve their spouses and children. As good neighbors, they “bear one another’s burdens,” “mourn with those that mourn,” “comfort those … in need of comfort,” and valiantly “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.” (Mosiah 18:8–9.)

When the determination is first made to begin to be more spiritually settled, there is an initial vulnerability: it is hard to break with the past. But once we begin, we see how friends who would hold us back spiritually are not true friends at all. Any chiding from them reflects either resentment or unconscious worry that somehow they are being deserted. In any attempt to explain to them, our tongue is able to speak only “the smallest part.” (Alma 26:16.) We continue to care for them, but we care for our duty to God more. Brigham Young counseled candidly: “Some do not understand duties which do not coincide with their natural feelings and affections. … There are duties which are above affection.” (Journal of Discourses, 7:65.)

Likewise it is only fair to warn that any determination to seek greater consecration will soon expose what we yet lack, a painful but necessary thing. Remember the rich, righteous young man who was told by Jesus, “One thing thou lackest”? (Mark 10:21.) Ananias and Sapphira, otherwise good members of the Church, “kept back” a portion instead of consecrating their all. (Acts 5:1–11.) Some would never sell Jesus for thirty pieces, but they would not give Him their all either!

Unfortunately, we tend to think of consecration only in terms of property and money. But there are so many ways of keeping back part. One might be giving of money and time and yet hold back a significant portion of himself. One might share talents publicly yet privately retain a particular pride. One might hold back from kneeling before God’s throne and yet bow to a particular gallery of peers. One might accept a Church calling but have his heart more set on maintaining a certain role in the world.

Still others find it easier to bend their knees than their minds. Exciting exploration is preferred to plodding implementation; speculation seems more fun than consecration, and so is trying to soften the hard doctrines instead of submitting to them. Worse still, by not obeying, these few members lack real knowing. (See John 7:17.) Lacking real knowing, they cannot defend their faith and may become critics instead of defenders!

A few of the latter end up in the self-reinforcing and self-congratulating Hyde Park corner of the Church, which they provincially mistake for the whole of the Church, as if London’s real Hyde Park corner were Parliament, Whitehall, Buckingham Palace, and all of England combined!

Only greater consecration will cure ambivalence and casualness in any of us! As already noted, the tutoring challenges arising from increased consecration may be severe but reflect the divine mercy necessary to induce further consecration. (See Hel. 12:3.) If we have grown soft, hard times may be necessary. Deprivation may prepare us for further consecration, though we shudder at the thought. If we are too easily contented, God may administer a dose of divine discontent. His long-suffering thus becomes very necessary to maximize our agency and development. But He is not an indulgent Father.

We “cannot bear all things now,” but the Lord “will lead [us] along,” as we “give place” in our thoughts and schedules and “give away” our sins, which are the only ways we can begin to make room to receive all that God can give us. (D&C 78:18; D&C 50:4; Alma 32:27, 28; Alma 22:18.)

Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus!

Consecration is the only surrender which is also a victory. It brings release from the raucous, overpopulated cell block of selfishness and emancipation from the dark prison of pride. Yet instead of striving for greater consecration, it is so easy to go on performing casually in halfhearted compliance as if hoping to “ride to paradise on a golf cart.” (Henry Fairlie, The Seven Deadly Sins, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979, p. 125.)

But is being consecrated and “swallowed up” a threat to our individuality? (See Mosiah 15:7.) No! Heavenly Father is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new and the real self. It is not a question of losing our identity but of finding our true identity!

When, at last, we are truly pointed homeward, then the world’s pointing fingers of scorn can better be endured. As we come to know to Whom we belong, the other forms of belonging cease to mean very much. Likewise, as Jesus begins to have a real place in our lives, we are much less concerned with losing our places in the world. When our minds really catch hold of the significance of Jesus’ atonement, the world’s hold on us loosens. (See Alma 36:18.)

Increased consecration is not so much a demand for more hours of Church work as it is for more awareness of Whose work this really is! For now, consecration may not require giving up worldly possessions so much as being less possessed by them.

Only when things begin to come into focus “with an eye single” do we see “things as they really are”! (Jacob 4:13.) What a view awaits! Only to the degree that we respond to life’s temptations as Jesus did, who “gave no heed unto them,” will we be “free”—free at last! (D&C 20:22; John 8:32.)

True orthodoxy thus brings safety and felicity! It is not only correctness but happiness. Strange, isn’t it, even the very word orthodoxy has fallen into disfavor with some? As society gets more and more flaky, a few rush forward to warn shrilly against orthodoxy!

Remember how, with Pharaoh’s angry army in hot pursuit, ancient Israel aligned themselves with the Lord’s instructions? Moses stretched forth his hand and the Red Sea parted. With towering walls of water on each side, Israel walked through the narrow passage obediently, and no doubt quickly! There were no warnings about conforming on that day!

There are passages ahead which will require similar obedience, as prophets lead the “men [and women] of Christ” in a straight and narrow course.

Becoming more like Jesus in thought and behavior is not grinding and repressing, but emancipating and discovering! Unorthodoxy in behavior and intellect is just the opposite. A little pornography may lead not only to child and spouse abuse, but it slowly sucks out the marrow of self-esteem. A little tendency to gossip can lead not only to bearing serious false witness, but more often to malicious whispers which, unfortunately, “memory will warehouse as a shout.” (C. S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis, ed. Owen Barfield and Jerry Root, Wheaton, Ill.: Tindale Publications, 1989, p. 425.) A little criticism of the Brethren, which seems harmless enough, may not only damage other members but can even lead to one’s setting himself up as a substitute “light unto the world.” (2 Ne. 26:29.) Yes, happily, some such prodigals do come back, but they usually walk alone, unaccompanied by those they once led astray!

Jesus counseled His disciples, “Wherefore, settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you.” (JST, Luke 14:28.) Getting thus settled precedes consecration. The Prophet Joseph Smith said gospel knowledge “does away with darkness, suspense, and doubt” and how “there is no pain so awful as that of suspense.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 288.) Being settled keeps us from responding to every little ripple of dissent as if it were a tidal wave. We are to be disciples, not oscillators, like a “reed shaken with the wind.” (Matt. 11:7.) More members need the immense relief and peace which can come from being “settled” without which those individuals will be like “the troubled sea, when it cannot rest.” (Isa. 57:20.)

There is another special reason to become settled: we will live in a time in which “all things shall be in commotion.” (D&C 88:91; D&C 45:26.) The uncertainties, upheavals, and topsy-turviness of today’s world will be such that those who vacillate and equivocate will be tossed about by severe turbulence.

Finally, if we shrink from deeper consecration, then we are not worthy of Him who, for our sake, refused to “shrink” in the midst of His deepening agony during the Atonement! (D&C 19:18.) Instead, Jesus pressed forward, giving His all and completing His marvelous “preparations unto the children of men.” (D&C 19:19.)

Consider, what if Jesus’ Mortal Messiahship had consisted only of remarkable sermons? Or was further enhanced with healings and other miracles—but without Gethsemane’s and Calvary’s awful but consecrated hours of the Atonement? How then would we regard Jesus’ ministry? Where would mankind be?

Brothers and sisters, whatever we embrace instead of Jesus and His work will keep us from qualifying to enter His kingdom and therefore from being embraced by Him. (See Morm. 6:17.)

May we get settled and prepare now for that marvelous moment then, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

From Baghdad to Benghazi
by Charles Krauthammer
Several factors catalyzed the Arab spring. But the Bush Doctrine set the premise.

Voices around the world, from Europe to America to Libya, are calling for U.S. intervention to help bring down Moammar Qaddafi. Yet for bringing down Saddam Hussein, the U.S. has been denounced variously for aggression, deception, arrogance, and imperialism.

A strange moral inversion, considering that Saddam’s evil was an order of magnitude beyond Qaddafi’s. Qaddafi is a capricious killer; Saddam was systematic. Qaddafi was too unstable and crazy to begin to match the Baathist apparatus: a comprehensive national system of terror, torture, and mass murder, gassing entire villages to create what author Kanan Makiya called a Republic of Fear.

Moreover, that systemized brutality made Saddam immovable in a way that Qaddafi is not. Barely armed Libyans have already seized half the country on their own. Yet in Iraq, there was no chance of putting an end to the regime without the terrible swift sword (it took all of three weeks) of the United States.

No matter the hypocritical double standard. Now that revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush’s freedom agenda, it’s not just Iraq that has slid into the memory hole. Also forgotten is the once proudly proclaimed “realism” of years one and two of President Obama’s foreign policy — the “smart power” antidote to Bush’s alleged misty-eyed idealism.

It began on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first Asia trip, when she publicly played down human-rights concerns in China. The administration also cut aid for democracy promotion in Egypt by 50 percent. And cut civil-society funds — money for precisely the organizations we now need to help Egyptian democracy — by 70 percent.

This new realism reached its apogee with Obama’s reticence and tardiness in saying anything in support of the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran. On the contrary, Obama made clear that nuclear negotiations with the discredited and murderous regime (talks that a child could see would go nowhere) took precedence over the democratic revolutionaries in the street — to the point where demonstrators in Tehran chanted “Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them.”

Now that revolution has spread from Tunisia to Oman, however, the administration is rushing to keep up with the new dispensation, repeating the fundamental tenet of the Bush Doctrine that Arabs are no exception to the universal thirst for dignity and freedom.

Iraq, of course, required a sustained U.S. military engagement to push back totalitarian forces trying to extinguish the new Iraq. But is this not what we are being asked to do with a no-fly zone over Libya? In conditions of active civil war, taking command of Libyan air space requires a sustained military engagement.

Now, it can be argued that the price in blood and treasure that America paid to establish Iraq’s democracy was too high. But whatever side you take on that question, what’s unmistakable is that to the Middle Easterner, Iraq today is the only functioning Arab democracy, with multiparty elections and the freest press. Its democracy is fragile and imperfect — last week, security forces cracked down on demonstrators demanding better services — but were Egypt to be as politically developed in, say, a year as Iraq is today, we would think it a great success.

For Libyans, the effect of the Iraq War is even more concrete. However much bloodshed they face, they have been spared the threat of genocide. Qaddafi was so terrified by what we did to Saddam & Sons that he bargained away his weapons of mass destruction. For a rebel in Benghazi, that is no small matter.

Yet we have been told incessantly how Iraq poisoned the Arab mind against America. Really? Where is the rampant anti-Americanism in any of these revolutions? It’s Yemen’s president and the delusional Qaddafi who are railing against American conspiracies to rule and enslave. The demonstrators in the streets of Egypt, Iran, and Libya have been straining their eyes for America to help. They are not chanting the antiwar slogans — remember “No blood for oil”? — of the American Left. Why would they? America is leaving Iraq having taken no oil, having established no permanent bases, and having left behind not a puppet regime but a functioning democracy. This, after Iraq’s purple-fingered exercises in free elections seen on television everywhere set an example for the entire region.

Facebook and Twitter have surely mediated this pan-Arab (and Iranian) reach for dignity and freedom. But the Bush Doctrine set the premise.

Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2011 the Washington Post Writers Group.