• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Saturday, July 8, 2017


D&C 121:41-46“[P]ower or influence can or ought to be maintained… only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge … [and] also be full of charity towards all … [yet] let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; … [so] The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion…”


Two grandchildren, age 9 and 5, visited over July 4th. I’ll call them Sister Sue and Brother Bob. Sue was baptized and confirmed[i] recently, and is learning many new lessons about following the spirit—using her newly confirmed “Gift of the Holy Ghost.’ Bob has a knack for eliciting a ‘darling-baby’ response in many interactions.

Big-sister Sue, often rushes to ‘save’ little Bob—from everything exciting or traumatic—especially exciting things she wants to do. Bob gets very frustrated at constant interference—after all, he is a ‘big boy.’ Sue know exactly how to (though appearing innocent), frustrate Brother Bob until he cries and complains.

Bob, on the other hand, takes advantage of sympathies to push until Sister Sue lashes out, or plots revenge. He seems adept at creating a climate of ‘poor-me-bullied-by-her.’

Power struggles common to childhood, may linger in some adults as acquired habits which lock them into constant angst and conflict. Attempting to describe lead-up and fallout of such events is lengthy, but they usually occur in microseconds.

I observed such an incident develop and diffuse,
  almost before I realized it was occurring.  

While visiting an Aunt and cousins, Sister Sue was trying very hard to be a ‘model-perfect-good girl.’ As Suzy sat on a stool eating, Bob repeatedly walked past and around, just close enough to bump her, as he ‘innocently’ got drinks and snacks.


In my experience, the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” discloses great truth.  We’ve tried to teach our children (and now grandchildren) to ‘boss’ themselves, not others. Sister Sue was soon steaming, and plotting. I could see it in her face and ready-to-swing fists should he again came too close. As I began to wonder about how to prevent a blow-out, I saw him coming again—and so did she.

I watched in the helpless fascination of time slowed to freeze-frame-jerks, and saw something unexpected. I saw her flinch as if to strike, but she didn’t. 

I’d overheard loving parents teaching kindness, and listening to promptings. I realized that discussion was influencing her—Bob walked away completely oblivious to what occurred.


In his 2008 article, “Who Is The Boss?” Richard B. Miller, PhD, Director of the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University, taught the power of parents working together to teach true principles. 

Quoting several prominent authorities he reinforced that “setting limits to what a child can do means …you love him and respect him.” When we “in our affection … dare not check [children] in a wayward course, [or] in wrong-doing … for fear of offending them” we do them a disservice. He clarified that parents should “not be afraid to set clear moral standards and guidelines. Be sure to say no when it is needed.”

I called Sister Sue’s name, and motioned her to come for a hug. She did, and cried a little. The effort had been huge. I told her she is an amazing big sister to kindly ignore Bob when he is trying to bug her.

I asked how she felt. “Good,” she replied, reinforcing that she can feel and heed spiritual promptings.

Without knowing it, she felt powerful.

Self-control is one of the greatest powers we can develop. 

Later I made sure to tell her parents (in her hearing), about her inherent goodness and desire to do what is right. Telling others what they do right, and thanking them for it validates their strengths and increases their inner motivation to continue.

Nevertheless, later the same evening, Sue tormented Bob while they brushed teeth at the same time. I failed to realize she was blocking him from the sink, and his mouth was full of toothpaste foam. He was whining without words, and I wondered why he was walking back and forth, back and forth, first on one side and then the other. 

When I caught on, I asked her to make sure he could use the sink, and she appeared to stand to one side, but straddled her feet so he still had difficulty getting to the sink. 


Rather than making a bigger issue of her efforts to be ‘innocently inconsiderate,’ I complimented his cooperation, and willingness to try to get along by using either side. Seeming to give in (to Sue) by adjusting his own actions, gave Bob greater choices than fighting her.

These dynamics of power can be seen in marriage and family relationships of all types. Dr. Miller’s research reveals that “power is made up of two major components …
  • the process of power, where one [person]… tends to dominate [interactions, or fail to] listen
  •  [and] power outcome, which is determined by which [person] tends to get their way….”
When I complimented Brother Bob's willingness to get along in peace, she put her feet together, both finished their teeth, and we had lots of time to read stories.

If we notice good, others are motivated to align actions and behaviors toward more good. 

In 1998, while serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Henry B Eyring taught that God “placed in His children a desire to live at peace with all those around them.”


Eyring reminded listeners that “Satan, [our] enemy … plants the seeds of discord in human hearts” because he knows the plan of happiness for God’s children and “knows that only in eternal life can those sacred, joyful associations of families endure.” 

Satan's intent is to cause misery by damaging family relationships.

When we fail to follow Jesus Christ’s example, we give Satan power 
“to reign over us,” cautioned Ezra Taft Benson [ii] (thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; 1985-1994), in his April 1986 Conference address, and again in 1989 

Can we thwart the adversary’s power and make peace?


Elder Eyring teaches that peace and unity come as we “see the good in each other and speak well of each other whenever we can.”   He reminds us:

There are some commandments which, when broken, destroy unity. Some have to do with what we say and some with how we react to what others say. … 
[For] unity, there are commandments we must keep concerning how we feel. We must forgive and bear no malice toward those who offend us. The Savior set the example from the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
We do not know the hearts of those who offend us. Nor do we know all the sources of our own anger and hurt. 
The Apostle Paul was telling us how to love in a world of imperfect people, including ourselves, when he said, 'Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil' (1 Cor. 13:4–5).
And then he gave solemn warning against reacting to the fault of others and forgetting our own …” (1 Cor. 13:12).
Elder Eyring explains further that the power of unity and peace come to us through the spirit.

The Holy Ghost is a sanctifier. We can have it as our companion because the Lord restored the Melchizedek Priesthood through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The keys of that priesthood are on the earth today. By its power we can make covenants which allow us to have the Holy Ghost constantly.
Where people have that Spirit with them, we may expect harmony. The Spirit … never generates contention (see 3 Ne. 11:29). It never generates the feelings of distinctions between people which lead to strife (see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 13th ed. [1963], 131).
It leads to personal peace and a feeling of union with others. It unifies souls. A unified family, a unified Church, and a world at peace depend on unified souls.

Elder Eyring reminds us that accessing the Holy Ghost as a companion is so simple that “a child can understand what to do.” We make and keep baptismal covenants to remember Jesus Christ and be obedient to God’s commandments, to “always have his Spirit to be with [us]” 
(D&C 20:77).

Sister Sue tells me it’s sometimes hard to hear the spirit, that it is very quiet, and that she is practicing listening still. I am humbled.

I am practicing, too.


Ballard, M. R. (1997). Counseling with our councils: learning to minister together in the church and in the family. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book.

Eyring, Henry B. "That we may be one" Ensign May 1998, 66. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, May 1998. Retrieved from 06 July 2017.

Miller, Richard B. “Who is the boss? Power relationships in families.” BYU Conference on Family Life, Brigham Young University, March 28, 2009.

[i] Baptism followed by confirmation as a member of the Church also confers The Gift of the Holy Ghost.

[ii] President Ezra Taft Benson delivered "Cleansing the Inner VesselApril 1986. And then reiterated and expanded his teachings April 1989 when he requested Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to read “Beware of Pride in his behalf.