Sunday, June 22, 2014

Publication Updates

First, To Sleep No More, my novella written under my pen name, Kathleen Marks, is now available on Nook and every other e-distributor that I'm currently aware of. It is also available in paper back at several outlets. Here is the Create Space link.

Second, I am working on the next episode in the Dalton & Dalton series, so please stay tuned. This one, like next suspense novel, Betrayed, will take place in Niagara Falls.

And speaking of Betrayed, my publisher has changed its publication date. I'll let you know when I know more.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


My url host has decided to cancel its blog product, so I've transferred my most important posts over the past several years to this new blog. Unfortunately, they're all listed under June 2014, but at least they're here.


Preternatural scientist Alexandra Dalton and her estranged husband Richard Dalton, a treasure hunter join forces to unravel a mysterious "Night Hag" murder.

Hi, everyone,

Though I will continue to write contemporary and historical suspense novels under my pen name, Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen, I will also be writing and self-publishing speculative novellas, under the pen name Kathleen Marks, for ebook and print on demand. My first novella is the beginning "episode" in a romantic suspense series titled: To Sleep No More, a Dalton & Dalton Preternatural Mystery and will be released later this month. Above is the cover and a quick blurb.


(This article was originally published on Gospel Ideals).
“I know that my Redeemer lives.” Job said it. Other prophets and apostles of both the Bible and Book of Mormon have said it, and each first Sunday of every month, numerous members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, including me, testify of it in their Fast and Testimony meetings. However, even with so many testators, millions of people ask how they can personally attain a sure knowledge that Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, does in fact live.
The answer is quite simple: Heavenly Father, by the power of the Holy Ghost, will reveal it to our hearts and minds when we sincerely obey and pray to Him (Moroni 10:4-5).
This truth—this promise from God—is a process that applies to all people and in all ages of their lives. For example, a friend of mine recently asked her six-year-old niece how she knew Heavenly Father loved her. She replied that she knew Heavenly Father loved her because when she kept the commandments, He helped her. She had not only obeyed Him, but she had also recognized His hand in her life.
My first steps toward my testimony of Jesus Christ began in a similar fashion when I was a child. I no longer remember all the details surrounding such events, or even all the prayers I offered, but I do remember that every time I prayed to Him about things that were important to me at the time but now seem a bit frivolous, I recognized that He had answered me anyway. I prayed to Him for things like help in finding lost items, in providing ways to stay modest when my clothes were malfunctioning, and in achieving goals I’d spent many hours working on. In every instance, God answered those prayers in the affirmative, and each time He did, I not only knew that He had done so, but my trust and belief in Him also grew. I began to know that my redeemer lives.
But affirmative answers to my prayers are not the only reason I know God lives. I, like every person on this earth, have trials that test me almost more than I think I can bear. Many of them are ongoing, and though I have prayed for relief from them, they continue. Along that path, however, God has blessed me with tender, comforting mercies that provide a touch of balm to my soul and give me the strength to carry on.
One of those loving mercies came while I was working with young women in a spiritual activity at achurch girls’ camp. All the participants were blind-folded, given an animal sound, and told we needed to find the rest of our “family” by making the assigned sound. When we found our family members, we were to hold them close to us and ultimately complete a specific task which brought us “Home.”
As luck would have it, shortly after I found my family, I lost them again, and at the end of activity, I was a lone person in the field. At that point, someone noticed I was “lost” and sent my family to retrieve me. They did so, and finally, tearfully, I returned to home base. But I wasn’t tearful because I was embarrassed I was the last one on the field (though I slightly was); I was crying because one of Christ’s parables had suddenly become alive in me; Alone in that field, I had received an answer of comfort to one of my never-ending prayers.
The parable is found in Matthew 20:1-16. It describes how a householder hired laborers for his vineyard at varying times of the day, and at the end of the day, paid all workers the same reward. Before that activity, when I’d read that parable, I’d thought as many of the earlier-hired workers in the story had, that it wasn’t fair for those who’d worked all day to receive the same wage as those who’d worked an hour. However, as I stood alone, after all I could do on my own, and was finally rescued, I realized that parable witnesses of Christ’s mercy. I learned that it doesn't matter to Him whether we make it to God’s Kingdom first or last. What matters is that we get there. And when we get there, we’ll each receive the same reward: Eternal Life.

That answered prayer, along with many others, comforted my heart and strengthened my hope in Jesus Christ. That is how I know that my redeemer lives.

PERFECT PIE CRUST HINT by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

Though I've made homemade pie for years, making perfect pie crusts seemed like a goal I could never reach. I'd tried many recipes and followed several bits of' advice, but in every case, I could never move my rolled crust to the pie pan without tearing it--usually in multiple places. 

Eventually, I chose a recipe I now always use, because, in part, it promised perfect pie crusts, and one day, even though I continued to do the same things over and over again, I was going to get different results. Or so I told myself.

Finally, I had a pie-making break through: roll the dough on a piece of wax paper and move the paper to the pie pan! Ta da! It finally slipped easily into the pan, and I had a perfect pie crust! 

I'm sure there are a lot of you out there who say "Of course!" to that idea. Some of you probably even have pastry sheets. But for me, a person who didn't want to purchase a pastry sheet simply for those days I made pies, it was an answer to a life-long problem. And maybe, just maybe, it'll help someone out there. Someone like me. 


While traveling, I always meet good and interesting people and learn fascinating facts. For instance, I hadn't known dragons were not only popular there, but also legendary. My third chapter book,The Mouth of the Dragon, takes place in Krakow, Poland during WWII and refers both to a legendary dragon and to a brave man who did what he could to protect the Jews during the holocaust. Here are a few pictures from that area.


In recent days, over 43 LDS authors signed a letter titled "Mormon Writers Ask for Manuscripts to be Treated on Quality of Work Not Content of Biography." I was one of those authors, for I do not believe that anyone, no matter their beliefs, should be mistreated. However, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I affirm that I do not support the gay lifestyle. My feelings are the same as those published by the Church at this link.


It's been a while since I posted pictures from one of our trips, so I thought I'd show you a little of New Zealand. We were there in the spring of 2012.

The Redwood forest in Rotorua, New Zealand. I loved this place! It's also one of the settings in the novel I'm currently writing. 


My husband and I went on an extended trip through Europe last year. Here are a few pictures from our 2011 trip to Seville, Spain. 

BECOMING HIS By Ronda Hinrichsen

A number of years ago, my husband and I had a difficult time getting along with one of our neighbors. Not even quick fixes, like cookies at the door, seemed to solve our grievances (although the cookies didn’t hurt J). To make matters more difficult, we were in the same ward, and the wife and I were serving in the same organization. Needless to say, we frequently felt offended and angry with one another.
Eventually, our bishop called my husband and me in to talk with him about the situation. After listening to our side of the story, we discussed possible solutions, including “cookies-at-the-door,” but ultimately, he said something like, “Read the scriptures, and when you find your answer, tell me about it.”
Several weeks later, I found my answer in Doctrine and Covenants 38:27, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”
Prior to this, I knew I needed to turn the other cheek and love my “enemies”—Isn’t that what the cookies were all about?—but when I read that scripture I realized I had to do more than try to show love; I had to become united with my neighbors or I wouldn’t belong to Christ. That knowledge stung. Worse, how could I accomplish it?
Although I’m still working on becoming “one” with others, over the ensuing years, I’ve come to know that being offended has nothing to do with the offense or the person who committed that offense. Instead, it has everything to do with ourselves and how we handle the situation. I’ve also learned there are four truths—albeit personal assessments—I’ve had to make on my continuing journey to become one with Christ.
1)     1) Am I choosing to not be offended? In a recent conference address, Elder Bednar stated: “To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.
"In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13-14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. . . To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.”
 2)      Is my testimony based on Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and His church—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—or on some other thing or person? If it is, then I must keep these truths from 3 Nephi in mind: “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
3)      Am I striving to become like Christ? Again, from Elder Bednar: “The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations.
“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).

4)   4)  Do I fully trust Christ? While sometimes I might forget I know I can trust Christ, the truth is, I do know that I can. A few years after the event I mentioned at the beginning of this article, my family and I faced another, even more difficult challenge which involved lawsuits, large monetary loss, and great fear and distrust. After several years of trying to resolve the issue, I felt very angry and bitter. I knew these feelings were wrong, and yet no matter how hard I tried to get over them, I couldn’t do it.
One day, as I was folding laundry and feeling overwhelmingly upset, I prayed, “Heavenly Father, please help me! I can’t do this on my own.” Suddenly, just as the people of Alma had their burdens lightened so they could not feel them (Mosiah 24:14), I, literally, could no longer feel the burden of my anger and bitterness. I then knew the Lord was carrying that burden for me while I worked through my feelings. Christ does visit us in our afflictions.

A final note. I believe life is a laboratory, where each person has the opportunity to become more like Christ. Because of, or perhaps in spite of, that fact, we often find our own wills and weaknesses at odds with the wills and weaknesses of others. While such experiences may hurt us, they also provide the challenging friction that adds to our refiner’s fire and offers the double-edged opportunity to be saviors ourselves. I mean, through what other experiences can we better develop love and forgiveness for “enemies” who are, in fact, our beloved brothers and sisters—people we once, desperately, wanted to bring back home?


Like the paying of tithes and offerings, temple attendance is a deeply sacred and personal action which brings divine blessings to us and our families. As such, our leaders have counseled us to go to the temple as often as our circumstances allow. However, because we don’t always recognize when we’ve received these blessings, being more like the righteous Lamanites who were “baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost and they knew it not (3 Nephi 9:20),” we might wonder if we are attending often enough to secure them.
Each of us must answer that question for ourselves, taking into consideration our available  time, abilities and family situations, but I have learned there are some common “signs” (the fruits of the devoted temple attendee’s labors) or blessings—we can use as a gauge:
1. Strengthened family relations, even with less active or non-member relatives. There are 
examples of this in the Ensign, but I also want to go on record as stating that due to my own and some of my other relatives’ temple attendance, I have seen marked improvement in my relationship with a less-active family member. Those miracles have come gradually, almost imperceptibly, but they have come.

2. A testimony of the temple burns inside them like an ever-present flame. Under the term, “Tabernacle,” the Bible Dictionary describes the portable temple the Israelites carried with them as they wandered through the wilderness. Inside it, the Holy of Holies “contained only one piece of furniture: the Ark of the Covenant, or the Ark of the Testimony” which housed sacred objects, like the two tables of stone. As I read this description, I immediately thought of a friend of mine. She, a mother with children ranging in ages between grade school and college, attends the temple every week so she can “stay sane.” In consequence, whenever we discuss problems we have with our families or our callings, she immediately says, “we need to go to the temple.” She, like the Ark of the Testimony, carries inside her bodily temple an ever-present testimony of the powerful priesthood blessings which come through temple attendance.

In her 1999 conference talk, Carol B. Thomas, then the First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, noted these additional blessings:

1. “Going to the temple often provides balance in our lives. After returning home, we have an increased sense of well-being; the influence of the Spirit can shield us from the frustrations of the world. Listen to this promise by President Hinckley: “If there were more temple work done in the Church, there would be less … selfishness, less … contention, less … demeaning [of] others. The whole Church would increasingly be lifted to greater heights of spirituality, love for one another, and obedience to the commandments of God” (Teachings, 622).”

2. “The spiritual atmosphere of the temple curbs our appetite for worldly things. When we attend frequently, we no longer have such a need to wear the latest fashion, and we are not so easily drawn to the entertainment of the world.”

3. “The temple is a place of revelation. Many years ago I was walking into the temple and in my mind I heard the words, Learn public speaking. I thought to myself, When will I ever have need for public speaking? Over several months’ period of time I tried very inadequately to conjure up some enthusiasm to obey the prompting I had received. I even checked out a tape from the local library by a public speaker who admitted that his goal was to someday speak in the Mormon Tabernacle. I thought at the time, I’ll never be speaking in the Tabernacle!"

4. “In the temple the Spirit of the Lord provides comfort and peace, especially during moments of despair. Recently I met a 35-year-old woman in the temple. As we visited, I asked if her husband was with her. With a look of tenderness in her eyes, she shared with me that he had died of a brain tumor three months ago. The temple is her anchor; the Spirit found in the temple gives her comfort and peace, and perhaps her husband was there.”

Finally, the October 2010, special issue of the Ensign on Temples beautifully testifies of their purposes and importance, but what I most love about this issue is its testimony of the temple’s power. It’s no secret that we live in a troubled, almost upside-down world, where Satan is working beyond overtime to destroy God’s work and His children. But what we members of Christ’s church sometimes forget is that God has not left us alone or without protection. The temple covenants and the lessons we learn there are the fortifications we and our children need. Thankfully, my children encourage me to attend the temple, so I know they have acquired testimonies of it, but whether our children say anything to us about the temple or not, or whether or not they know of the blessings they’ve received through our attendance, is not the most important thing. What matters is we have gone to the temple, and we continue to go to the temple, thereby securing the crucial priesthood strength and power we need in our families as we struggle to withstand the evils of these last days. 
President Boyd K. Packer describes this principle this way:

                        "Our labors in the temple cover us with a shield and a protection,
                         both individually and as a people. So come to the temple—come
                                         and claim your blessings. It is a sacred work.” 

MY PEACE GIVE I UNTO YOU By Ronda Hinrichsen

When I was a child, Christmas Eve was a magical night of lying in bed and rapidly kicking my legs and feet between my sheets because I couldn’t contain my excitement; morning held the promise of long awaited dreams coming true. One particular year, I imagined the large box under the tree, addressed only to me, would be something expensive and wondrous, something like an elaborate dollhouse.
But as sometimes happens on Christmas morning, when I opened the box, instead of a dollhouse, I found a children’s novel buried under wadded newspaper. Although disappointed, I accepted the gift and read the book. It wasn’t until years later that I, with older and somewhat wiser eyes, realized the book was actually the better gift. As a child, had I played with dolls? Not much. Did I read books? Yes. The novel, though not what I’d thought I’d wanted, turned out to be the better gift.
Now, Christmas means so much more to me than temporal gifts. Besides being a time of giving, it’s also a time of gratitude for answered prayers and a time of rejoicing in God’s never-ending love and involvement in our lives. Actually, Christmas is becoming more like Thanksgiving to me, in that I enjoy the traditions that go along with the holiday, but like giving thanks for blessings, the deep and lasting, Eternal impressions that fill my heart and lift my sights closer to heaven are gifts that are always with me. I believe cherishing these spiritual witnesses is the real secret to keeping Christmas in my heart all year long.
However, just as that long ago holiday brought me disappointment, Heavenly Father’s gift of life to us also brings tribulations and heartache. Years ago, my husband and I faced an enemy—a hardship—from which we couldn’t walk away nor eliminate. We dealt with it as best we could, relying on the Lord for help, but we still couldn’t find relief. Eventually, I felt very bitter against “the enemy,” and though I knew I had to forgive, I couldn’t seem to find a way out of that bitterness. Finally, one day as I was folding laundry and feeling overwhelmed by my emotions, I prayed, “Please help me, Heavenly Father. I can’t do this on my own.” Instantly, my burden was gone. Literally. I knew the bitterness and the associated problems were still there somewhere, but I couldn’t feel them, and I knew then as I do now that the Lord had taken my burden for me and carried it as I struggled through the situation. This experience happened to me during the summer, but my joy and amazement felt like Christmas.
That is why this Christmas I’ve chosen to share with you a few gifts of comfort that only Christ can give during some of this life’s greatest trials. I don’t know whether or not I’ve chosen the right quotes that will lift you in your circumstances, but if I haven’t, please know the answers—the peace—you seek is out there and can be found through the mouths of our prophets and the whisperings of His Spirit to your soul. I know this to be true. Merry Christmas.
“I feel that judgment for sin is not always as cut-and-dried as some of us seem to think. The Lord said, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Does that mean that every person who kills will be condemned, no matter the circumstances? I feel the Lord recognized differences in intent and circumstances: Was the person who took his life mentally ill? Was he or she so deeply depressed as to be unbalanced or otherwise emotionally disturbed? Was the suicide a tragic, pitiful call for help that went unheeded too long or progressed faster than the victim intended? Did he or she somehow not understand the seriousness of the act? Was he or she suffering from a chemical imbalance in their system that led to despair and a loss of self-control?
“Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth.” (Russell M. Ballard ) 
And . . .
“we have our ‘second estate,’ which is the mortality we are now experiencing and our sojourn in the spirit world following death (italics added,Pres. Marion G. Romney ) 

Victims of Abuse:
If you struggle with abuse, you may want to read this article in its entirety.  Here’s a snippet:
“Satan uses your abuse to undermine your self-confidence, destroy trust in authority, create fear, and generate feelings of despair. Abuse can damage your ability to form healthy human relationships. You must have faith that all of these negative consequences can be resolved; otherwise they will keep you from full recovery. While these outcomes have powerful influence in your life, they do not define the real you.” (Richard G. Scott)
To Those With Heavy Burdens:
You who may be momentarily disheartened, remember, life is not meant to be easy. Trials must be borne and grief endured along the way. As you remember that “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37), know that He is your Father. You are a son or daughter created in His image, entitled through your worthiness to receive revelation to help with your righteous endeavors. You may take upon you the holy name of the Lord. You can qualify to speak in the sacred name of God (see D&C 1:20). It matters not that giants of tribulation torment you. Your prayerful access to help is just as real as when David battled his Goliath (see 1 Sam. 17). . . “For with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27)-- Russell M. Nelson 

“These are the reasons for the continual trials with which we are all faced. We need these experiences so that we might draw closer to the Lord and learn to depend on him for everything.” –
Bishop H. Burke Peterson   

“The fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ brings great comfort in stressing times of mortality. It brings light where there is darkness and a calming influence where there is turmoil. It gives eternal hope where there is mortal despair. It is more than just beautiful doctrine. It is a reality in our lives that if we can be obedient and obtain the eternal rewards that God grants us, if we will draw nigh unto Him and embrace the eternal doctrine, we will be blessed.” Robert D. Hales  


In preparation for this year’s holiday season, I experimented with what I called “The 12 days of Thanksgiving.” For twelve consecutive days (I actually went 15), I kept track of any “extra” blessings that came that day or “things” for which I felt especially or unusually grateful. The results amazed me. Every single day, I received answers to prayers, or "saw" amazing-to-me blessings. And you know what? As soon as I recognized them, I felt gratitude.
After this experiment, I began to ponder on and study the words “thanksgiving” and “gratitude.” I went to first, and to my surprise, while the word “thanksgiving” is frequently found in the scriptures, the word “gratitude” is not there at all. Neither is “grateful.” How could this be? Haven’t our leaders frequently taught us gratitude is a commandment from the Lord? That it’s a means to humility, the “mark of a noble soul and a refined character”, and “the foundation upon which repentance is built ”? 

While these statements about gratitude are correct, through further study, I’ve come to see that not only is there a slight difference between the meanings of “Thanksgiving” and “gratitude,” but there is also an increased power that comes from combining the two.
The dictionary defines gratitude as a “feeling” of thanks and thanksgiving as an “act” of thanks, such as through prayer, acknowledgement, or praise. A feeling versus an action. Hmmm. To me, that sounds very much like sorrow for sins versus confessing and forsaking those sins, or even more profoundly, Nephi’s faithful “I know” compared with “I will go and do." Each, like the joining of gratitude and thanksgiving, are spiritual laws where obeying the individual commandments increases righteousness, but obeying its companion at the same time opens the windows of heaven.
One of the greatest scriptural examples of this principle is contained in the book of Luke:
 “And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
“And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
"And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks and he was a Samaritan.
“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”

In this Biblical account, ten deathly ill men obeyed the Lord and were healed from their disease. It is reasonable to me that each must have felt some measure of happiness, wonder, and perhaps even gratitude for the relieving of their suffering, but only one—the one who returned and physically thanked the Lord for His merciful gift—received the greater blessing.

Elder Merrill J. Bateman  said, “As part of the great miracle of the Atonement and the Savior’s power to mend broken hearts, to heal from within, the parable of the ten lepers takes on new meaning. Luke describes Jesus meeting ten lepers. Upon seeing the Savior, they cried, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus responded, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” As they went their way, they were cleansed. One returned, fell on his face at the Master’s feet, and gave thanks. Jesus said, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” And then the Lord said to the one who returned, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (see Luke 17:12–19). In becoming a whole person, the grateful leper was healed inside as well as on the outside. That day nine lepers were healed skin deep, but only one had the faith to be made whole. The tenth leper was changed eternally by his faith in the Savior and the healing power of His Atonement.”
Modern scripture also reiterates this truth: “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more (D&C 78:19).”

After studying this principal, I began to wonder. During my 12 Days of Thanksgiving, did I allow heaven’s greater blessings to come into my life as well as perhaps bless the lives of others by immediately expressing thanks when I recognized them? In some instances, I’m sure I did, but in all cases? I don’t know. I simply can’t remember. But what I do know is now—right now—I have some thanking, some praising, and definitely some praying to do. For I am grateful.


My family lives on a small farm. We raise hay, cows and goats, but we also try to raise a garden. I say try because over the years I’ve learned that animals and gardens don’t necessarily mix. Take my strawberry “patch” for instance. Strawberries are among my favorite fruits, so every year I try to grow them. Before we became farmers, I was successful at growing them, but when adversity—i.e., goats—entered my life, I discovered that they, too, like to eat strawberries. Not a good thing.

Because goats are so prone to finding ways out of their pens and then making a beeline for the garden, every year for the past several years, I’ve tried to outsmart them by planting new strawberry plants in hidden or remote areas of our yard. But without fail, and no matter how hard we try to maintain their pens, the animals manage to break out, find my strawberries, and eat them either before or just after the plants have begun to bear fruit. Two years ago I finally, dejectedly, gave up my quest to grow strawberries.  

And then a new spring arrived. While I was weeding the flower garden and preparing it for a new year, I found a single strawberry plant growing amid the other perennials. I was SOOO excited. It had survived not only the goats but also my neglect--I hadn’t even  known it was there.

At first, I considered digging it up and moving it, yet again, to a new location, but I eventually decided to leave it where it was. I also told my husband about it, and he, knowing the struggles I’d had, directly put up a metal panel fence around the flower bed. I wasn’t sure it would be enough protection, but I hoped, and nourished, and watched. After a few months, it began to bear a few berries. I thought they were among the most delicious berries I’d tasted, but before the season had ended . . , yup! You guessed it. The goats escaped, went straight for the flower garden, and ripped the top right off the strawberry plant.

Again summer, fall, and winter passed into a new spring—this spring--and I began to prepare the flower garden for the coming season. To my delight, I found I not only had one living strawberry plant, but FIVE! Strawberries are prolific, and such growth is not uncommon, but after all the adversity I’d had with them, I felt those five were the most miraculous plants in the world.

One righteous person has the same thriving, fruit-bearing power. Over the course of time, the world has faced innumerable hardships and conflicts, but in spite of them, righteous men and women have stepped forward and changed the course of man’s downward spiral. While the scriptures overflow with powerful examples of such people, like David fighting Goliath, Esther saving the Jews, and Captain Moroni raising his coat of freedom and leading others against a wicked king, these righteous people are not the only ones who’ve stood—or now stand—for righteousness and make a difference in this struggling world.
In fact, if we are watching, we’ll see that in spite of the world’s growing degradation and perniciousness, modern LDS youth and adults have increased their devotion to temple attendance, scripture study, and kindness.The trouble is, they don't always see the results of their efforts. However, in the July, 1985 Ensign, Gail Argetsinger, costume director for the Manti pageant, did see the results of one good man living his religion:

When I decided to make the armor for the pageant’s “Moroni and the Title of Liberty” scene out of leather, I visited several dealers in New York City. One place, in a rough section of Manhattan, had exactly what I was looking for.

The store was run by a blunt but friendly man who introduced himself as “Sam.” My husband, Jerry, and I explained what we were looking for and that we represented the Hill Cumorah Pageant, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sam lit up like a candle. “The Mormons! Well, come right in, make yourselves at home.”

Jerry and I looked at each other. Usually our introduction drew no response except, “So? You got cash?” This leather dealer was actually glad to see us!

He gave us advice on selecting hides and how to cut them to best advantage. Then, as we worked, Sam began to talk about his experience with Latter-day Saints.

When he had joined the United States Air Force at the outbreak of World War II, his basic training had been at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. It was his first time out of New York City. Like many good Jewish boys, he had been raised in fear of the gentiles. He had never seen a Latter-day Saint. But as he got to know the many LDS airmen in his group, he learned to love them. “I don’t believe I’ve ever been treated better by anyone,” he said. “But the reason I’ll always love the Mormons is for something that happened later in the war.”

In 1942 Sam was flying bombing missions over North Africa. His commanding officer, Major Hawkins, was a Latter-day Saint from Salt Lake City.

As Passover approached, Sam and the other Jews in camp discussed how they would celebrate it under combat conditions. To start with, there was no unleavened bread. They thought they would have to use soda crackers.

On the night before the Passover celebration, when Major Hawkins returned from a combat mission about midnight, he went to Sam’s tent and awakened him. “Sam,” he whispered, “I just heard you boys have no unleavened bread for Passover.”

“That’s right,” Sam told him.

“Well, come on,” said the major, pulling Sam to his feet. “There’s still time. I’ll fly you to Tel Aviv to get some.” So Sam and the major squeezed piggyback into the cockpit of a small plane and flew all the way to Palestine.

“I still can’t believe it,” Sam told us. “I asked myself what kind of a man would understand the importance of our sacred rituals. This was the middle of a war, and we didn’t exactly own the skies at that point. He risked his life to get us that unleavened bread. The Mormons are something special, all right!”

Sam gave us a good price break on the leather. And it was all because forty years before a righteous man had lived the teachings of the gospel.

When we went back to his store the next year, Sam was unable to give us the same price break on his leather. I told him it was quite all right. We greatly appreciated his generosity the first time, but to expect such a deal the second time would be taking advantage of him. We expected to pay a fair price.

He smiled. “A Mormon would understand that.” Then he told us the whole sto
ry of his war experience again. “The Latter-day Saints are something special,” he kept repeating. “I really love them.”

Thank you, Major Hawkins, wherever you are!

I agree. Thank you to Major Hawkins and to everyone else who lives the principles of the gospel. Like a strawberry plant, righteousness has the power to spread and grow good fruit that leads ourselves, our families, and our nations back to Christ. Remember Joseph from the Old Testament? After being sold into slavery, taken far from his family, and imprisoned through false accusations, his faithful obedience eventually spread so far and bore enough good fruit that he saved himself, his family, and his people from starvation. Not only that, but he also restored peace and goodness to his family. Isn’t that what we all want?


The October General Conference marks the beginning of a beloved time of year. With Thanksgiving reunions just around the corner, Christmas surprises close on its heels, and inspired words from our prophet ringing through our hearts, we can’t help but rejoice. And that rejoicing is only increased when we add music to our celebrations.

Consider the Christmas season. Each year, we observe through sacred words, nativities, and gift-giving the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. However, some of my most memorable celebrations have come through my participation in music. For example, each year when I hear “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve or sing the words “yet in my flesh shall I see God” from Handel’s “Messiah,” I inwardly rejoice.

Special commemorations are not the only ways we can celebrate our faith. According to the dictionary, to celebrate also means to proclaim widely and favorably, so when we bear our testimonies in Sacrament Meetings or express our gratitude to God around our Thanksgiving tables, we are, in fact, celebrating our faith. But if we combine those proclamations with music, our rejoicing becomes even more profound. For example, if it wasn’t for the musical celebrations performed each Sunday morning by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, my husband’s father would not have found the church. According to him, years ago neither he nor his family belonged to a church, but they did regularly listen to the Tabernacle Choir’s Sunday radio broadcast. One day, the missionaries came to the door and asked him if he’d like to learn about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He refused. The missionaries then asked him what church he did belong to, and he, not knowing what else to say, said, “The Church of Richard L. Evans.” The two missionaries looked at each other and then said, “That’s us!” Needless to say, my father-in-law let the missionaries in, and his family later joined the church.

This leads me to another way we celebrate our faith. It is not defined in the dictionary, nevertheless, it is very real and comes nearest, I believe, to true heavenly rejoicing. It is the method born of Spirit speaking to spirit and is one of the tender mercies given to us from the Lord. The only feeling I can think of that comes closest to it is like what we feel those first moments after the birth of a baby. But more frequently, that spiritual celebration comes through our hymns.

Elder Merrill J. Bateman told the following story :

“Heather . . . suffered from a rare disease called glutaric acidemia. . . (It) results in acid forming in the muscles similar to that which occurs following a period of intense physical activity . . . (and) As she grew, she was confined to a wheelchair, was unable to speak, and could send messages only with her eyes. A direct gaze and a smile meant yes. A blink meant no. Despite the handicaps, one could feel her vibrant spirit.

“. . . When she was old enough, the parents enrolled Heather in a special school . . .One morning as Heather and the teacher visited about the prior weekend, the teacher learned that Heather had attended Primary. The teacher then sang for Heather “When He Comes Again.”

“The expression on Heather’s face revealed the delight within her. When the teacher asked Heather if she had a favorite song, the young girl’s wide eyes and engaging smile left little doubt. But what was the song? Through a series of questions, the teacher learned that Heather’s song was one she had heard in Primary . . . (and after three days of painstaking work) the teacher (finally) began to sing, “There is sunshine in my soul today.” Heather’s body jumped, and a big smile crossed her face. Her eyes gazed directly into the teacher’s, indicating success . . . Both teacher and student rejoiced.

“. . . After finishing the first verse and chorus, the teacher asked if she wanted to hear the rest of the verses, and Heather’s eyes opened wide with a firm yes. The teacher began to sing:

There is music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus listening can hear
The songs I cannot sing.

“Heather’s reaction to these lines was so strong that the teacher stopped. As the reality and significance of the words pressed on the teacher’s mind, she asked: “Heather, is that what you like about the song? . . . Does Jesus . . . hear the songs you cannot sing?”

“The direct, penetrating gaze indicated yes.

“Feeling guided by the Spirit, the teacher asked, “Heather, does Jesus talk to you in your mind and in your heart?”

“Again, the child’s look was penetrating.

“. . . Does Jesus say, ‘Heather, I love you’?”

“Heather’s radiant eyes widened, and she smiled.

“After a pause, the teacher asked next, “Does He say, ‘Heather, you’re special’?”

“The answer again was yes.

“Finally the teacher asked, “Does He say, ‘Heather, be patient; I have great things in store for you’?”

“Heather summoned all her strength, and her head became erect and her eyes penetrated the teacher’s soul. She knew she was
loved, she was special, and she needed only to be patient.

“Two years later, Heather died . . .Her younger brother Mark also suffers from the disease but not to the extent of his older sisters. . . As the parents discussed Heather’s passing and the funeral that would take place, Mark exclaimed, “No go Heather’s funeral!” . . . For two days he could not be persuaded.

“On the morning of the funeral, the father went to Mark’s room to get him up. As he entered the room, Mark was sitting up in bed with a big smile on his face. His first words were, “Dad, go Heather’s funeral!”

“The father responded, “Mark, what has changed your mind?”

“. . . Dad, dreamed about Heather.”

“Mark, what was Heather doing?”

“Oh, Dad, Heather running and jumping and singing, ‘There is sunshine in my soul today.’ Dad, go Heather’s funeral.”

It’s no secret that I love music, especially the hymns of the church. Perhaps that’s because music is one of my talents, or maybe it’s because I grow closer to God through the hymns, but whatever the truth, I am grateful I can celebrate my faith in Jesus Christ through music.

“Because I have loved so deeply,
Because I have loved so long,
God in His great compassion

Gave me the gift of song.” (Paul Laurence Dunbar)

THE LORD'S YARDSTICK By Ronda Hinrichsen

Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish I were as meek as he is?”  Or, “That gal gives up so much of her time and money. I’m going to do everything I can to give just as much as she does?”
I know I never have. In fact, rather than reaching upward to attain similar spiritual gifts, I too often compare myself to others in more physical ways—their homes, their bodies, their accomplishments—believing if I only had what they had or looked like they looked, I would be happy and successful. But the truth is real success has nothing to do with material wealth, honor or appearance.

In Gospel Doctrine, Joseph F. Smith states, “The great truth enunciated by the Savior seems very generally to be lost sight of in this generation, that it will profit a man nothing though he should gain the whole world, if he loses his own soul.
"The standard of success as declared by the word of God, is the salvation of the soul. The greatest gift of God is eternal life. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pg. 125).”
Such a standard is not easy—it requires constant vigilance—but that truth is the reality we should concentrate on, not on having a nice car or selling a lot of books (I’m an author, after all J). 
The Heart of the Matter 
Marvin J. Ashton wrote: “When the Lord measures an individual, He does not take a tape measure around the person’s head to determine his mental capacity, nor his chest to determine his manliness, but He measures the heart as an indicator of the person’s capacity and potential to bless others. 
“Why the heart? Because the heart is a synonym for one’s entire makeup (Ensign, November 1988).” 
In other words, the Lord will judge us by our characters. “Your character will be the yardstick that God will use to determine how well you have met your mortal probation,” Elder Richard G. Scott affirms. “Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices in the trials and testing of life. Such choices are made with trust in things that are believed and, when acted upon, will be confirmed as true. . . . . Satan and his troops have defined their character by resolute opposition to the will of our Father and consistent violation of His commandments. You solidify your character by consistent correct choices (Elder Richard G. Scott, Ensign, January 2007 ).”

Since correct choices are so vital to the development of our characters and thus our pathways to Eternal Life, perhaps that is the reason the Lord chose this message—the command to choose perfectly, to be perfect as He is—when he presented the Beatitudes to the Nephites shortly after His death and resurrection. Here are just a few of the character traits we must work for in our quest for Eternal Life:
      “And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
      “And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.
      “And blessed are the merciful . . .
      “And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (3 Nephi 12: 5-8).
      This character list of Christ-like perfection goes on and on, yet so do the Eternal blessings. Notice, not one of them pertains to nicer homes, expensive clothing, or worldly prestige.
When I began this article by mentioning that too often I compare myself to other’s achievements, I meant that literally. Especially in relation to writing success. For years, I felt jealousy when the fictitious Anne of Green Gables received her contract to have her book published. The same goes for Jo March in Little Women. I’ve had to fight jealous demons in relation to live people, too, but all the while I’ve known such feelings were wrong and I had to find a way to overcome them.

In time and after much study, I learned that at the root of jealousy is natural-man selfishness. Go figure. But I also discovered that three interconnected ways we can overcome that tendency is to develop patience, love and humility. In a talk by 
Elder Neal A. Maxwell, he said:

"The patient person assumes that what others have to say is worth listening to. A patient person is not so chronically eager to put forth his own ideas. In true humility, we do some waiting upon others. We value them for what they say and what they have to contribute. Patience and humility are special friends.

Since our competition in life . . . is solely with our old self, we ought to be free of the jealousies and anxieties of the world which go with interpersonal competition. Very importantly, it is patience, combined with love, which permits us “in process of time” to detoxify our disappointments. Patience and love take the radioactivity out of our resentments. These are neither small nor occasional needs in most of our lives!"
Once I heard that statement, I began to remind myself--whenever I felt jealousy rising within me--that any real competition I have is with me and my own progress. Conversely, everyone else also faces the same challenge and thereby deserves my encouragements and praises when they step closer toward their divine potential. We’re all on this pathway to perfection together, after all.
Final Testimony
Sometimes, in all this self-competing, we begin to see ourselves as less than we really are. We may even doubt our abilities to succeed, or worse, feel our quest for Eternal Life is a hopeless endeavor. This is wrong. Nephi said it perfectly: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” The Lord has commanded us to be meek, merciful, even perfect, so that means He will—and has—provided a way for us to accomplish them. Countless scriptures speak of His outstretched arms, His unending patience, His Eternal love and interest in our lives. He has not left us alone. He will guide us, perhaps even carry us, to the top of His yardstick.


When my husband and I were in Shanghai, China,my pallet fell in love with what I called a "pumpkin roll," because I had no idea what its real Chinese name was. I loved it so much that even now, a couple of years later, I searched the internet for a recipe that looked like it so I could take it to a New Year's Eve party. Lo and behold, I found it! I also discovered that it is actually considered a dessert. I hadn't known that at the time, because in China, desserts are really different from the super sweet dishes I'm familiar with. It's real name is "Pumpkin Bao."  I didn't have all of the ingredients for the real recipe, so I substituted with similar, common ingredients. Below is the copied/adjusted recipe I actually used. Also, to save time, I dumped all the "Bao" ingredients into my bread maker and set it on the dough setting. My Pumpkin Bao's turned out REALLY good. Everyone at the party raved over them. One even tried to barter with me for more.

Pumpkin Bao
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
8 ounces canned organic pumpkin
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon dried yeast
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
Powdered sugar
In a bowl, combine the butter, sugar, cornstarch, and flour. Stir in the egg and, when combined, mix in the whole milk.
Whisk the pumpkin purée in a small bowl until smooth. Add a third of the butter mixture to the pumpkin, then whisk the pumpkin into the butter mixture along with the milk. Pour the mixture into a double boiler and cook until the custard thickens, stirring constantly after the first 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
Add the flour, yeast, milk, and sugar to the bowl of a food mixer and beat until combined. Add the butter and mix until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Add a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Cover the bowl with a cloth and allow the dough to proof for 1 hour, or until it doubles in size. On a floured surface, roll the dough into 1-inch-diameter logs and cut into pieces to form 1 1/2-inch-diameter balls. Flatten each ball of dough with a rolling pin, place about 1 tablespoon of the pumpkin mixture in the middle, and wrap the dough around the pumpkin, pinching the dough together to cover the pumpkin. Set on a sheet pan seam side down, about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Let the pumpkin balls proof again for 20–30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush egg over the buns. Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, turning the trays after 5 minutes, until the dough is firm and golden. Sprinkle the top of each ball with powdered sugar and serve warm.