Neal A. Maxwell’s 1989 talk “A Wonderful Flood of Light”

At a BYU devotional on March 26, 1989, Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave a talk entitled “A Wonderful Flood of Light.” You can watch it here: https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/neal-a-maxwell/a-wonderful-flood-of-light/

It has no written version, so I snagged the closed-caption feed from youtube and transcribed it myself as I watched. It’s a fascinating talk about the importance of the doctrine of pre-mortal life and well worth your time to read or watch it. Please forgive any punctuation or grammatical errors as I was working as quickly as possible. Paragraph separations are all mine.

“A Wonderful Flood of Light” by Neal A. Maxwell

Coleen and I feel privileged to be with you tonight, brothers and sisters. We appreciate joining with you in that prayer, and as we shall sing again together, O My Father, if I fail at my task tonight, the hymn will take care of the necessary theology. My remarks are entitled, “A Wonderful Flood of Light,” words taken from a 1909 First Presidency statement on the doctrine of premortality. I hope and pray this will be a fitting doctrinal focus on an Easter evening, as we celebrate the central event in the triumph of God’s plans and purposes.

Describing poetically our coming to Earth while trailing clouds of glory is evocative imagery. Another writer, uninstructed by true doctrine, mused “How everything is arranged in this life, as though we had entered it carrying a burden of obligations contracted in a previous existince. Obligations which seem to belong to a different world, founded upon kindness, which we leave in order to be born into this world.” C.S. Lewis declared, “Disgraced man may be, yet is not dethroned and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned.” However, so much more important than the faint glow emanating from such expressions as these is the striking and illuminating brightness of the Restoration’s revealed truths. It could not be otherwise, brothers and sisters, for as the prophet Jacob declared, “No man knoweth of God’s ways save it be revealed unto him.”

The same previous First Presidency further stated, “The doctrine of preexistence revealed so plainly, particularly in the latter days, pours a wonderful flood of light upon the otherwise mysterious problem of man’s origin.” The doctrine of premortality declares, brothers and sisters, that before his mortal birth, man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made neither indeed can be. Therefore, as identifiable individuals, you have been you for a long, long time. Furthermore, with important details as yet unrevealed, certain spirit elements of man are eternal and have no beginning since intelligence or the light of truth was not created or made, neither indeed can be. This spirit of man, said Joseph Smith, is not a created being; it existed from eternity, and it will exist to eternity.

So, whether as a spirit son or daughter of our Heavenly Father, you were sent here from your first estate to undergo this joyful, yet stressful, mortal second estate. Being the literal premortal spirit of children of the Father, you and I can, by going from grace to grace, eventually receive of the fulness of the Father as Jesus did. In addition to being resurrected, we can become perfect, or in one set of meanings from the greek, finished, completed, and fully developed, but only if we worship God and truly follow the example of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. After all, brothers and sisters, the ultimate adoration is emulation. Small wonder the prophet Joseph Smith taught that “if men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.” However, such comprehending clearly requires an understanding of the doctrine of premortality.

Therefore, we really are God’s spirit children, indeed. And we really do come trailing clouds of glory, which contain dim flakes of fire, still pulsating with borrowed light from our eternal home. In one form and degree or another, the vital concept of preexistence is found in the Holy Bible, in early Christian documents, in Greek and Jewish literature, and in other sources as well. However, once again, only from the restoration, with its confirming, clarifying, and elaborating revelations, do we get the clear and definitive truths about man’s origins. Thus, the plain and precious doctrine of premortality, in President Harold B. Lee’s words, “Can provide an awakened realization of who we are.”

Brothers and sisters, think of yourselves, not only for what you now are, but also for what the possibilities you have to become. President Joseph F. Smith said, “Through obedience, we often catch a spark from the awakened memories of the immortal soul which lights up our whole being as with the glory of our former home.” Then, President Smith further instructed us by saying, “Notwithstanding the fact that our recollection of former things was taken away, the character of our lives in the spirit world has much to do with our disposition, desires, and mentality here in mortal life. This spirit influences the body to a great extent, just as the body in its desires and cravings has an influence on the spirit. Environment and many other causes,” said President Smith, “have great influence on the progress and destiny of man. But we must not lose sight,” he said, “of the fact that the characteristics of the spirit, which were developed through many ages of a former existence, play a very important part in our progression through mortal life.”

Someday when the obscuring dust of history settles, we shall see much more clearly that gospel fullness existed in Adam’s time, including the doctrine of premortality. This precious doctrine, along with other doctrines, suffered later diffusion and distortion. President Joseph F. Smith observed again, “Undoubtedly the knowledge of this law, and of other rights and ceremonies, was carried by the posterity of Adam into all lands and continued with them, more or less pure, to the flood, through Noah, to those who succeeded him, spreading out in all nations and countries. Adam and Noah, being the first of their dispensations, to receive them from God. What wonder then,” continues President Smith, “that we should find relics of Christianity, so to speak, among the heathens and nations who know not Christ and whose histories date back beyond the days of Moses and even beyond the flood, independent of, and apart from, the records of the Bible.”

In developing real faith, the doctrine of premortality is a fundamental building block just as is the doctrine of postmortality. This doctrine of premortality represents a profound response to man’s search for meaning. Without understanding premortality, this life may seem puzzling. Some regard it as the inexplicable human predicament. Without knowledge of the preceding there and then, the injustice and the unevenness of the here and now cause some to call into question God’s justice along with his cosmic competency. Without an understanding of premortality, mortals often fail to make adequate allowance for the proving and tutoring dimensions of mortality. Life’s trials are then used by some as an argument against God instead of accepting these trials as something common to man or as the needed tutorials which last but for a small moment. Without the perspective of premortality and instead of understanding that all these things shall give thee experience, we can become drenched in doubt and wrenched by irony and adversity, lamenting “why me? why this? why now?” Without the perspective of a purposeful mortality, and of long-standing covenants between God and certain peoples, Israel’s wanderings in Sinai would be a senseless sojourn. Yet instead, however, God really has plans for us mortals.

These words from Deuteronomy, “And thou shalt remember all the ways the Lord thy God led thee these fourty years in the wilderness: to humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, and whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no.” God’s divine designs in mortality include to prove us herewith. Not so informed, however, then doctrinally deprived mortals, in Nephi’s words, “stumble exceedingly.” For instance, a severe stumbling, a major misreading of reality, is evident in the attitudes of hopelessness on the part of those who say, “mankind is destined to extinction, there is nothing we can do.” Or as another wrote, “We have no personal life beyond the grave. There is no God. Fates knows no wrath or compassion.” Such mortal lamentations as these bring to mind in contrast the great and reassuring lines of Jacob concerning the precious perspective of divine truth, “The spirit speaketh of things as they really are and all things as they really will be.” Truth also includes a knowledge of things as they were; thus, as we sing, “truth is the sum of existence.” Jesus said gaining eternal life requires us to come to know God and His Son Jesus Christ. Then, so knowing and so worshiping them, we will genuinely strive to become more like them and to partake of their fullness. For now, however brothers and sisters, we mortals are merely errand embryos. We possess certain underdeveloped possibilities and qualities, qualities such as love and mercy and patience and meekness and spiritual submissiveness, though enormously less spiritually developed than Jesus, nevertheless we too were with the Father in the beginning. Many of our Christian friends sincerely hold with the traditional views that each individual is created out of nothing, either at conception or birth. This is so different from knowing that as differentiated individuals we were with God in the beginning in the premortal world. Thus, there is contained in the simple hymn that we have sung, “I am a child of God,” more true doctrine on this matter than in the communicades of various synods of centuries past. Deliberation and discussion are not substitutes for revelation.

How and when did this precious doctrine of pre mortality become lost or distorted? We do not know precisely. Some things the scriptures say were kept back and others taken away from that which much later became our treasured Holy Bible. However as your own professor Stephen Robinson has written, “one needs to realize that by the time the dispute arose over the origin of souls, the scriptures that answered that question had already been excised. Therefore, those who deliberated were left to sift through their conflicting traditions without benefit of Scripture on this point.” Whatever the particulars, this plain and precious doctrine was stilled for centuries. Then, one false doctrine usually leads to another. The more spiritually significant the doctrine, the more quickly it is discarded when apostasy occurs. By way of example, pre mortality, the reality of the physical resurrection which we celebrate today, and the concept that man can become a god are early casualties. False doctrines, by the way, almost always seem to cause a lessened sense of personal identity, a lessened sense of personal accountability, and a lessened sense of personal joy. Furthermore, mistakened beliefs often lead to a heightened sense of hopelessness about the human circumstance. Thus, the doctrinally deprived really do stumble exceedingly.

Another severe example of stumbling because of a false doctrine is seen in the doctrine of predestination. Why worship a God who is capricious and unjust? Before predestination grip had faded, it helped to set the stage for a succeeding falsity, “pervasive irreligion” which like a flood covers the world today. Ironically, other mutant secular beliefs postulate their own forms of determinism: economic determinism, historical determinism. Whatever the form, however, false doctrines diminished human understanding of the reality that we mortals are free to choose. Historically, too, a general lack of understanding about God’s plan of salvation added to the ebbing sea of Christian faith. Described by Matthew Arnold with “It’s melancholy long withdrawing roar, retreating to the breath of the night wind, down the vast edges drear, and the naked shingles of the world.” Remember, one of the purposes of the restoration the Lord declared was to increase faith in the earth.

When the restoration, came the absence of these vital truths began to be remedied. Appreciation and understanding of these doctrines was not always widespread in the church nor immediate among church members. Sequentially, though not then fully recognized by all, the precious truths concerning the doctrine of premortality, in accordance with the line upon line pattern of Revelation, were unfolded in the restoration in April or May 1829, Alma chapter 3. Much more in 1830 while Joseph was translating Genesis and received the Book of Moses. More came in 1832, 1833 and so on. Still more came in 1842, when the Book of Abraham was published. Most recently in 1918, we received what is now section 138. Joseph Smith began to preach a portion of the doctrine of premortality publicly in 1839. Later, just prior to his martyrdom, there came the soaring King Follett sermon. Whether this gap between early revelation and later recognition and articulation reflected imperfect record keeping, the Lord’s timing, Joseph’s degree of disclosure, for he did not tell all he knew, the people’s readiness to receive, or all of the above, we do not know. In any case, the revelations came incrementally, and Joseph’s understanding and articulating apparently came likewise. But back to us and this powerful stunning doctrine.

Presently, we may puzzle over those occasions when we sense that we belong to another place which is somehow imprinted upon us. In pondering these emotions, we can only speak the smallest part, which we feel. There is certainly no sustained surf of recall, only the delicate mists of memory. These evaporate quickly under the baking heat of the mortal day. But only after evoking, however briefly, an unmistakable longing in us, though estranged, we hunger for reunion. Meanwhile, only a few come to this mortal experience with substantial ? already intact. Rather, our individual best is but the bud of possibility. Even so, these buds of possiblity are unmistakeably there. While unfolding and enlarging over time, these key qualities should also grow together to produce full felicity. When you and I experience these celestial qualities in others, even though not fully developed, we rejoice. We rightly associate these traits with greatness, whether in neighbors, friends, or those of high station. The selflessness of Mother Teresa speaks for itself, so did the meekness of that remarkable George Washington.
Since our individual identities and personalities did not begin here in mortality, there emerges, too, a more glorious appreciation of the Atonement as inwardly, and reverently, we conjoin the Scriptures pertaining to the Atonement with the things of the Holy Temple. The impending real reunion and real reconciliation have so much greater meaning. In theological fact, brothers and sisters, the more complete our understanding of the great Atonement, the more it is linked to the premortal world, just as Professor Hugh Nibley has so thoughtfully expressed.

If as some sincerely but mistakenly aver, we had been created here out of nothing, whether at conception or birth, how could we really be going home to a place we never knew as individuals? How could there be real, individual reconciliation with a father whom we did not know before our birth as individuals. Actually, we were nurtured near God’s side, and then came here for a wise and glorious purpose. This all points to a time when the faithful shall regain God’s presence in resplendent reunion. No wonder the Prophet Joseph Smith could speak of the gospel of reconciliation. We know almost nothing about ourselves or about our conditions before our spirit birth. But whatever existed, or whatever we were before our spirit birth, this was incorporated into Father’s merciful plans. We became his literal spirit sons and daughters, thereby being ushered into our first estate. Even in the premortal there and then, Heavenly Father left his children free to choose. Hence, the ideological war in heaven.

During this stressful sojourn on this earth, we should make no mistake, therefore, about who we and others really are. Amid our budding possibilities, in the words of CS Lewis, we are “in a society of possible gods and goddesses in which there are no ordinary people. We have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snug and exploit.” When you and I begin to know who we are, brothers and sisters, then we also know much more clearly what we might become and also how and when. The gospel thereby emancipates us from uncertainty as to our identity. But this precious perspective also brings with it an intensification of our personal accountability. While man is that he might have joy, other scriptures repeatedly tell us, for instance, that the natural man clearly prefers perishable pleasure.

With this heightened accountability, for instance, how can an eternal entity on leave from the Royal Courts on high treat another individual as an object of sexual pleasure? Do child abusers realize whose child they have abused? Since Jesus descended below all in order to lift us all up, why are we so busy putting each other down? With regard to poverty and to disease, even if people have actually brought upon themselves their misery, how can we withhold since we know who they really are? Inasmuch as we were all with God in the beginning, and can be with him throughout eternity, how childish it is to take advantage of another human, whether in dating in business or in politics? Since God lends us breath from moment to moment, how wrong to use any of that precious breath to lie, to bear false witness, or to dig a pit for one’s neighbor. Knowing we live in eternity, how can we say we have no time for children? Furthermore, may not the many wounded, strewn along life’s way, justifiably expect us Eternals not to be in too big of a hurry.

Even after all the premortal tutorials, including for the noble, who were called and prepared from the foundation of the world, we were placed in a mortal environment amid real challenges because it was the only way to tame the raw self further. President Lorenzo Snow said “I dare say, that in the spirit world when it was proposed to us to come into this probation and pass through the experience that we are now receiving, it was not altogether pleasant and agreeable. The prospects were not so delightful in all respects as might have been desired. Yet, there is no doubt that we saw and understood clearly that in order to accomplish our exaltation and glory, this was a necessary experience, and however disagreeable it might have appeared to us, we were willing to conform to the will of God, and consequently, we are here.” It’s a nice quote to offset the scripture we use often, and I think justifiably, about people shouting for joy at the prospect of coming here because there are days, as all of us know, when we might wonder what all that shouting was about.

Free to choose between liberty and life and captivity and death, we now experience firsthand the bitter and the sweet. It is a process of polishing even for those souls already significantly spiritually submissive. There will be little spiritual achievement, however, by reluctant embryos who are unwilling to participate in the requisite learning in order that their performance can be consecrated for their own good. Yet, even now, brothers and sisters, the power is in us to do much good if we but will. God’s work will truly become our own, only as we strive to become more like him by accessing the powers of heaven through increased personal righteousness. Besides it’s no use craving more of God’s power without first having more of his love. This is what so much of our mortal training is all about: coming to an understanding through experience of how vital the cardinal Christian virtues are.

Coming here not entirely in forgetfulness, our present drives for status and power and recognition and ascendancy may ironically involve twisted muted memories of glories and dominions we witnessed before we came here. But how can one wisely exercise any extensive dominion without first developing dominion over himself? We may desire to have spiritual glory and power, but we cannot without emulating God’s qualities and attributes. Besides, real glory requires real humility. Moreover, a larger future glory finally involves larger future service to others. Isn’t this obvious from the declared purpose of God’s own work and glory. It seems that regal repose and idle indifference are out of place in the celestial kingdom. During all of our protracted developmental process we are very dependent on God’s long-suffering which provides us with the much needed time and space in which to repent and to grow. If we fail to learn who we are, however much under information we acquire here, we shall be ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth. Without the key spiritual truths, such as pre mortality, learning even in the best of institutions will be a Sisyphus-like process in which all ignorance toboggans into no and trudges back up to ignorance again.

With, however, the acceptance of knowledge about pre mortality, there comes a greater realization of what it means to be true to ourselves and to our possibilities. We can even understand better the role of life’s disappointments and of opposition, the full shock of wish we will still feel at times, but within the absorptive framework of faith. With the true doctrines, we are not only made aware of many more things in our lives which need to be put right, but now there are real reasons to put them right. With us, other mortals are actually members of an eternal community. Our obligations and ethics in that community transcend that which is merely mutually agreed upon for the moment. The devastating weakness of situational ethics is their failure to take into account man’s real and full situation. Only the gospel gives us that. So illuminated by true doctrine, no wonder life’s process must be so relentless. There is so much to be done in so little time. Thus a blessing is often quickly succeeded by a soul stretching. Spiritual exhilaration is soon followed by frustration or temptation. Reveries are followed by adversities. Since left too long in extended spiritual reveries, we would quickly forget others in need. We must get on to the next challenge. Life is thus largely what we choose to make of it and of our inborn talents. The same musical scale was available to Beethoven for composing his fifth symphony as to the composer of chopsticks. These compositions even share several opening notes, but what an enormous emerging difference.

So brothers and sisters here we are in Eden, and Eden become Babylon. Perhaps we have grown too accustomed to the place. Even if we leave Babylon, some of us endeavor to keep a second residence there or we commute on weekends. Quoting President Romney, “Some go on trying to serve God without offending the devil.” Furthermore, Babylon does not give exit permits gladly. An ironic implementation of that ancient boast, “one soul shall not be lost.” Babylon is also a noisy distracting place. No wonder, therefore, some who live therein are called many times and would not hear. No wonder Jesus’s marvelous invitation to leave Babylon slums and join him in the stunning spiritual highlands goes largely unheeded. There, however, redeeming Jesus waits with open arms to receive us. Meanwhile, we do not as some say, live in a unsponsored universe, or in an empire of chance, rather we live amid the divine design which characterizes the enveloping empire of Elohim. Him about whom we shall see shortly.

With an understanding of the fullness of the gospel, we can see our lives here as part of a continuum rather than being deceived by the philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Gospel fullness, likewise, replaces the algebra of agnosticism with its one known factor, all others being unknown. The gospel also refutes human-isms, “no deity will save us, we must save ourselves.” Eliza Snow lyracized about your and my yearnings, saying it was not until the key of knowledge was restored, she knew why, that key of knowledge is the fullness of the scriptures. The religious establishment of Jesus’s time not only wrested what scriptures they had, but they lacked the key of knowledge, the plain and precious things.

Many weeks ago, when this talk was essentially prepared, I pondered how the very preciousness of the restoration makes it unwise for us to tamper with its truths, to attempt to dilute its doctrines, or to misuse its authority. I reflected further how I, for one, would not want to belong to a church which I could remake in my image. Rather it is the Lord’s image I should come to have in my countenance. The doctrines are his, not mine. The power is his to delegate, not mine to manipulate. Those who want to shape and remake things to their own liking have ample and legitimate opportunities to do so in political parties and mortal organizations. Our spiritual task, brothers and sisters, is to make God’s work our own, not the other way around.

There are those, in this second estate, whether consciously or otherwise, who try running away from God. Running away from God, mind you! God who has created worlds without number, and yet who notices the fall of every sparrow. Such runaways cannot even make it unnoticed off the front porch, let alone into the suburbs. Besides returning prodigals, those who have been all over the world, and some parts of Santaquin, soberly but gladly confirmed that it is impossible to run away from God’s love or beyond his redemptive reach. God’s love for us is of even greater duration than we now realize. Suppose, brothers and sisters, given any ancient or inherent individuality on our part, and given our opportunities to choose, suppose as God is doing the best even he can do in those circumstances. The marvel is that he persists and pursues his plan of happiness for us while preserving our freedom to choose. Seeing the great distance we had to travel, seeing our flaws and nevertheless commencing his work with whatever was before our spirit birth. Yet, God loved us enough to initiate this divine process over measureless periods. God our Father is truely and organizing as well as a loving father. Back of the beyond, he saw what was but he also saw what could be. There appears to have been no other way for him to increase our happiness and our joy. What long-suffering love! What true fatherhood! And all of his works are designed so that you and I can be added upon and thereby enjoy greater happiness and pointing us to the day, when if faithful, we might partake of all that the Father hath.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us that God even comprehended our perspective errors long ago: “The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth pertaining to the plan of salvation before it ever rolled in to existence or ever the morning stars sang together for joy. The past, the present, and the future were and are with God one eternal now. He knew the depth of iniquity that would be connected with the human family, and he has made ample provision for their redemption.”

I stand all amazed, not only at the love he offers me, but at the ample provision he has made for the human family. He was willing to allow the sacrifice of his first born spirit son, his only begotten in the flesh, in order to exemplify for us and to atone for us. Our father’s intelligence and his power are unfathomable, but even more staggering brothers and sisters, is the felicitous fact of his perfect love. Even as you and I come to love him, as the apostle reminded us, God loved us first. All the while he endures our insensitivity, our ingratitude, and our relapses. All the while, he honors our individuality. Things are to be done in God’s own way. Someday, probably at or near the resurrection, we will get our pre mortal memories back. These memories will give us even more abundant reasons to praise God forever.

Little wonder when Judgment Day arrives, and all mortals kneel and confess before him, each will openly acknowledge that God’s love, his justice and His mercy are perfect. In my opinion, brothers and sisters this grateful collective acknowledgment will pertain not only to this second estate but to all of our remarkable relationship with him. He does nothing save it be for our benefit. Oh it is wonderful! God the Father was redemptively at work long before mortal time was on this earth, and he will still be at work even after mortal time is no more. My beloved brothers and sisters, the doctrine of premortality is among what Paul called the deep things of God which God has revealed to us. For that divinely dispatched wonderful flood of light, which illuminates this deep doctrine, oh my father, I give you my deep gratitude, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Nonsense Rationalizations and the U.S. Senate

Last week, I wrote my two U.S. senators, Sen. Jim Inhofe and Sen. James Lankford, regarding the Republican-controlled Senate’s unwillingness to hold a hearing for newly-nominated Judge Garland. Here is the response I received from Sen. Inhofe and my reply back to him. I really don’t understand how they cannot see that their rationalizations can be extended out to absurd levels. Yes, I think they are acting within their Constitutional rights, but they could technically defer their “advice and consent” indefinitely and still be within the technical bounds. It’s so frustrating to me!

Sen. Inhofe:
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the vacancy on the Supreme Court and the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the spot. As your representative in Washington, I appreciate hearing your concerns.

Since the devastating loss of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, much controversy has surrounded who his successor will be. On March 16, 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the position. Judge Garland was an exemplary model of justice when he oversaw the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. As an Oklahoman, I am forever appreciative of Judge Garland’s actions on behalf of our state. I have spoken with Judge Garland since his nomination announcement and made it clear that this is about the process and not about him personally. It is important for the upcoming presidential election to be about citizens like you deciding the direction the Court will take.

We have seen time and again that when President Obama is unable to get his liberal agenda through Congress he has turned to executive actions and agency rulemaking to implement his priorities. These regulations and actions are now making their way through our courts, and many of them will be heard by the Supreme Court within the next year or two.

The President and Senate Democrats want the Senate to confirm someone who will uphold these executive overreaches, but the American people elected a Republican-majority Senate to oppose President Obama’s policies. With the balance of the Supreme Court now at stake, the choice to fill this vacancy will shape our nation for at least the next generation. Americans just like you are the ones who will bear the burden of these court decisions; therefore, you should have a say on who fills Justice Scalia’s vacancy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have made clear that the Senate will not hold hearings on a nomination until the next president has been elected. While the president has a Constitutional duty to nominate a justice, the Senate also has the Constitutional duty to provide “advice and consent,” and it is fully within the purview of this body to withhold that consent while completely fulfilling our Constitutional duties.

My response:
I appreciate your respect for Judge Garland.

You assert that “the American people elected a Republican-majority Senate to oppose President Obama’s policies”. I disagree and think that it is just as likely that several other factors contributed more heavily to the swing in party majority. In either case, I think we can both agree that the current Senate composition is the most recent representation of the American people.

If so, would it not be best for the Senate to hold a hearing for Judge Garland since they are the current, best representation of the American people? What if Americans elected a Republican president in November and swung the Senate back to Democrat majority (complete hypothetical; I don’t even know if the right numbers of Senators are up for re-election)? Should the now-Democratic Senate say we should wait four years until the American people have their say again? Can’t you see how this can be rationalized infinitely?

I can understand how you consider it in the purview of the Senate to withhold the consent. Please consider how that is a slippery-slope. No other Supreme Court vacancy has been handled in this way. Yes, Joe Biden made the argument many years ago for what the Republicans are doing right now, but the Democrats never followed through on that. Who is to say the precedent doesn’t get stretched further down the road? What is the cutoff for how long the Senate can wait? Can it be two years? How about three? Following the rules strictly, the Senate could wait until we had fewer than six justices (since that constitutes a quorum). You could do that, but can’t you see that it is a ridiculous notion? This current rationalization is ridiculous in the same vein.

I appreciate your response. I am a registered Republican and have only ever voted for Republican Senators in my lifetime. I value Conservative ideals, but I value common-sense much more. This behavior by Senate Republicans is complete nonsense, and I hope you can come to see that and fight for common-sense in our legislative branch. Thank you.

Continue This Story – Revisited

It’s almost been a whole year since we posted! Yikes, better fix that quick.

I was just going back through old posts and found this one about a fun little story Jessica and I wrote progressively back and forth. The link has long since been dead, but I found it at the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine! I’ve copied the text here to live forever. My paragraphs are in italics; Jessica’s are normal.

 

The Little Boy That Couldn’t

Joe had troubles doing anything. He’d try to ride a bike and would end up falling down. He’d try to kick a soccer ball and would end up falling down. He’d try to fly by jumping off his house and…well, you get the idea.

Then one day he met a girl with the same trouble. Cindy could not roller skate without scrapping her knees. She couldn’t braid her hair without getting it tangled in knots. She met Joe the day he tried to fly off of his house.

Joe landed on Cindy squishing her flat, but not too flat, as she was able to get up. Cindy said, “Hey, aren’t you Joe, ‘the little boy that couldn’t?'” Joe just hung his head in embarrassment. Feeling awkward, Cindy didn’t know what to say.

So, instead she decided to introduce herself. “Hi, my name is Cindy. I’m the Little Girl that Couldn’t.” Joe feeling slightly braver, asked Cindy, “Are you okay?” “I’m fine, thanks. What were you doing up on the roof?” “Oh, I was just…uh…

“…I was just testing my roof’s resiliency,” Joe said, “Everything seems to be in order. What were you doing in front of my door?” Cindy didn’t know how to explain that she had just been getting ready to knock on Joe’s door.

“Well,” she started. “I was actually coming over to talk to you about…something. Since I see that your busy, so I’ll just be on my way.” As she turned to run, Joe stopped her.

“You know, two negatives equal a positive. I mean, two ‘couldn’t’s would equal a ‘could’, right? So…let’s be friends!” With that, Joe and Cindy were best of friends from that day on and could do anything they wanted as long as they were together.

Ten Years

10AnniversaryAdam and I recently celebrated our 10th Anniversary.  It doesn’t seem like we’ve been married for that long, but we really have.  Adam wrote some very sweet things about it on Facebook, and I wanted to put them here too.

But first, here is us through the years.  We apparently we have to take pictures of ourselves often.  So, there are lots of selfies.

Here is what Adam had to say about it. I love the way he writes.

Since I already said the words “Happy Anniversary!” to Jessica on this, our 10th wedding anniversary, I thought I’d instead use this space to tell you about something important to me. It could have been different.

We could have never gone on a first date. I asked her out during one of our ward’s trips to the sand dunes. If she had said no, I probably would have given up. I was not (and am not) the persistent type. But she said yes.

We could have never started dating exclusively. Even after our first date, I did go on a few other dates before we started “going out”. None of them panned out nearly as well, though. When the time came to make it more serious (as told last fall in one of my status updates), I got up the courage to talk to her about it, but I was very nervous about what would happen and how excited she would be about the idea. If she had said no or been lackluster, I might have given up. But she said yes.

We could have never become engaged. I don’t think, after our mostly blissful dating period, that I could have ever NOT asked Jessica to marry me. Still, at times we had our doubts and spoke together about them. They seemed very serious at the time and could have become major stumbling blocks in our relationship. By the time I popped the question, I don’t think there was any possibility she could have said no. We had, time after time, said “yes!” by rejecting those doubts. So, on Valentine’s Day 2004 (I know, I know, Valentine’s Day), she very enthusiastically said yes.

We could have never married. Just kidding. When we got engaged and jumped on that marriage-train, there was no stopping it. We went full bore all the way until we both said yes at the altar like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Then marriage happened. We could have let it fall apart in a dozen different ways over the past ten years. Compared to some, our tests and trials were probably not huge, but they were to us. Time after time, we were faced with the decision to draw together or pull apart. Perhaps we haven’t been successful 100% of the time, but when the ultimate boiled-down questions became “Are you going to work to make this marriage successful?” we said yes and grew closer together because of it.

Today, it seems sort of strange to just celebrate the anniversary of our wedding because, practically, it is such a small part of what our marriage _is_. So, I am celebrating ALL the times we “said yes” and all the ways we are committed to each other. I love you so much, sweetie, and I’m excited to face the rest of our lives hand-in-hand.

What Aspergers Means to Us

Hey, Adam here. So, I have Aspergers Syndrome (AS). Just thought I’d get that out there. I was diagnosed last spring, ten months after Spencer was diagnosed with AS. We had not told any people about my diagnosis because it never really felt relevant. Since then, I’ve read a bunch about adults with AS. Research shows that the presence of autism in older generations is roughly equal to kids being born now. That means that the “autism epidemic” you often hear reported is nothing new. We are just better able to recognize it now. It occurred to me a couple days ago that I likely have at least one or two friends with AS/autism and don’t even know it. It has benefited me greatly to understand my place on the spectrum, and I’d like to shine light on it so that if any of those who know me are on the spectrum, some of this might resonate with them. Hence, this post.

Background
For a couple years prior to my diagnosis, I had been trying to find an answer to why I had been having difficulties coping with life in general ever since Spencer had been born. I searched and searched all I could trying to figure out why I would have mental breakdowns just because there were dishes to do. Why mentally scheduling a few tasks for a Saturday literally (and I mean that literally) felt as impossible as calculating higher-order derivatives without a pencil and paper. Why more nights than not, I dreaded spending time with my family after work. Why I got moody and grumpy every weekend before church or any social event and felt immense relief whenever such events were over.

Eventually, thanks to Spencer’s diagnosis, I was able to match up nearly every single one of my struggles with those typical of someone on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. I’d like to go through three specific aspects of how AS has negatively affected my marriage/family life and how learning about AS has shifted it in a positive direction.

Emotional Intelligence
Wikipedia states that “Emotional intelligence (EI) can be defined as the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” Did you know that there are actual psychological evaluations to assess emotional intelligence? I’ve taken some of them. I didn’t do very well, and it turns out I’m not alone. Many (most) people on the autism spectrum have a hard time with it. For me, specifically, I can label emotions just as well as anyone else in a removed, third-party setting. Unfortunately, in a live setting, I almost completely lack the ability to monitor, discriminate between and label emotions going on in others and especially in myself.

I’m sure you can guess as to all sorts of marital hazards that can arise from this. They have taken a few forms for us, but I’d like to share one type. When disagreements have come up for us, emotions tend to accompany them. Well, at least they tend to come from Jessica. I definitely feel them, but I have incredible difficulty expressing or even understanding what they are. On top of that, the emotions Jessica is showing are hitting the impenetrable wall that is my brain. It has led to some difficulties in communication. Pre-AS diagnosis, this would often end with her in tears and me wondering what train of bricks just hit me. I would literally have no clue how to interpret all her emotions as anything more than just “sad” or “mad”. They were like a foreign language to me.

One other problem would always accompany such conversations: I would “shut down” in the middle of them. It was never a conscious decision. My emotional center, and also most of my mental faculties, would close for business. I would literally be unable to answer more than yes or no questions. Post-AS diagnosis I have learned that this is a common thing for those on the spectrum. Another term is “overload”. I’ve come to understand that emotions’ (especially negative) affect me in a way very similar to very loud noises. It is much like someone is yelling. And the more the emotion is directed at me, the more deafening. The other night I saw someone crying (happily) and hugging someone else that I knew, and I couldn’t look away. It felt like they were making so much noise and was very, very distracting when it actuality it was very normal for the environment they were in.

Learning about AS has helped us understand that I can participate productively in disagreements or conversations-in-conflict as long as we take the right approach. Jessica is allowed to be emotional with me, even negatively, but I might just save my contribution to that conversation until after everything is cooled down. I am not off the hook, emotionally. I have learned that I need to share how I’m feeling with her, with the understanding that it might not be at “normal” times.

Jessica’s two cents: Once we started to understand how to better communicate with each other and our reactions to one another, we’ve been better able to avoid any overly emotional crying upset moments on either of our parts.  It took some time and a rather steep learning curve, but it has really helped.

Executive Functioning
“Executive functioning” can be simply described as being the CEO brain process that manages and runs all the brain processes that get you through your day. You can read a great write-up of how autism and executive functioning interact here.

One of the most common examples of “executive dysfunction” in my life as a parent has been common household chores. If the dishes need to be done (which they MUST be done, a completely different topic), my brain has to plan it out to the nth degree how to accomplish it. I will automatically start virtually loading the dishwasher in my head and plan it all out. If I can’t get them all in, in my head, that brain process shorts out and tries again. This all happens in less than a second and fires off like that over and over and over again.

This was all well and good when we were married without kids and had all the time in the world to dedicate to things like dishes and vacuuming. After having kids, that all went out the window. Now, I have no time to spend all my brain power analyzing optimal dishwasher configurations or vacuuming patterns or order of operations in bathroom cleaning or even the best order in which to do all of these things. Now, I have children who constantly want my attention and don’t allow for those important thoughts (please note sarcasm!). Pre-AS diagnosis, I (very stupidly) kept falling into the same trap of letting my mind constantly work on all the problems all at once while juggling kids. It always led to a breakdown (meltdown) of one form or another.

Now, post-AS diagnosis, I’ve learned about all this and can deliberately set those processes aside. Yes, I will still have to do the dishes, and you can bet that while doing them I’m still going to be figuring optimal placement (though I’ve learned to distract myself with music or TV so that I don’t burn out my brain). I know now that I have to pick one thing, announce it to the whole family, and do that one thing only. Even if that one thing is “play with the kids”, I can mentally set aside all other tasks. It is admittedly still very difficult, but simply knowing how my brain works is quite enabling.

Social difficulties
Along with my AS diagnosis, I also received a diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder (SA). It does fit quite a bit. The AS part of me has a very hard time understanding social and emotional conventions, and the SA part of me gets very anxious about being conspicuous because of that difficulty. It can be very frustrating some times and a negative loop. It is why I generally prefer to have my social interactions in very small groups. I love game nights at my house because I don’t have to focus on so many people at once. Social language is very much a “noisy” thing to me like emotions. When people exhibit some sort of conspicuous social interaction, it is very distracting to me and hard to ignore. When you get a lot of people doing that all at once, it gets overwhelming very fast.

Pre-AS diagnosis, this would result in me shutting down in many social situations. I would be no fun to Jessica because I would be dead weight and possibly ruin what, for her, is something very enjoyable. I also had difficulties transitioning to home life every evening after a socially draining day at work and would not be a pleasant person to be around. Post-AS diagnosis, social situations aren’t necessarily any easier, but I’ve learned some ways/tricks to resetting my brain such that I can “stay in the game”, if you will. Also, I’ve learned that if I just vocalize the stresses from work to Jessica, she can give me space for a while when I need it which goes a long way towards me giving her the one-on-one time that is important for our relationship.

Jessica’s two cents: Adam is not the only one who is aware in this situation. I’ve been able to identify some of the things that indicate Adam is approaching overwhelmed before he gets to that point and am able to better help him or even tell him to take a moment to go reset before it becomes an issue. We are not perfect at this, but we are getting better and more understanding of each other’s needs.

I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture or anything because, ultimately, I am a very high-functioning person and feel blessed to have always had good supportive friends in my life and to have found so easily my wonderful wife. I know a lot of people on the spectrum suffer so much more, in general. But, if we can improve, any of us, our lives with a little more mental health knowledge about ourselves, it can be incredibly beneficial.

Sorry about the long post, and if you actually made it this far, you deserve a medal. 🙂

A whole hand!

Wow, my Spencer turned 5 last week!  Some days it seems like it’s totally been five years and most days, I can’t believe he’s 5 already.  He’s getting SO big and has so much going.  We haven’t done our “official” 5 year old photos, but here are some good ones we took on our fall leaf drive.

ManyFaceSpencer

Some big things that have happened to Spencer in the last year:

  • Started Speech therapy and Occupational Therapy
  • Enrolled in Pre-K at the “big” elementary school
  • Had a blast at family reunion
  • Started Pre-K at the “big” elementary school
  • Earned a trip to LegoLand Discovery Center
  • Went to see several movies in the Theater
  • tried lots of scary things
  • Made lots of new friends

I’ve started a tradition (last year) where I interview Spencer every year.  Here is his interview from this year:

What is your name: Spencer
How old are you? (holds up his hand and says) 5
What is your favorite color? Red, and white and pink and purple.  Those are the only colors I like.
Who is your best friend? Branden (a friend he played with today at school)
Favorite animal? Insect
What do you want to be when you’re all grown up? a police man
What is your favorite movie? Curious George
What is your favorite book? Curious George Books
What makes you happy? having Lucy (our dog)
What makes you sad? When you [Mom] take candy from me
What is your favorite food? Nothing
What is your favorite song? None
What games do you like? Lego City, Nintendo Land, Twilight Princess and Nintendo Land.  Those are all the games.

Spencer is the best big brother for Matt.  And Matt ABSOLUTELY adores his big brother and tries do do anything that his big brother does.  Spencer is very curious about things he loves, and he asks all kinds of questions about them.  He has a fantastic imagination, and we often find ourselves telling him he has to turn back into himself before he can go into school, church or some where.  He loves watching his dad play Nintendo, and he often has good ideas about how to solve some of the puzzles we encounter in the video games.  He is very clever and comes up with some pretty amazing things.

We love having Spencer as part of our family and are so grateful for the all the joy and challenges he brings to our family.  We would not be the same without him.  Happy Birthday Spencer!

It’s been quiet, but not really…

September was a good one for our family.  We had lots going on, but we also had a very nice rhythm of our routine of school and the therapies I take Spencer to every week (3 therapists, 4 different appointments). We are loving the predictability of a regular routine, and the lovely fall weather.  We have been so blessed in so many ways.

NovemberCollageStarting at the beginning, we started a new therapy with Spencer called Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT).  Spencer has responded to it brilliantly.  Basically, it will give us better tools to deal with Spencer’s reactions to our requests and help him to deal with some of the things he feels in the same manner every time.  We are still in the beginning stages of it, and we are still doing the Child Directed Interaction.  So what that looks like for us right now is Special Time.  For 5 minutes a day, each of us plays with Spencer using something like blocks, legos, tinker toys or something.  During this 5 minutes, we are not allowed to ask questions, give commands or use any negative talk or sarcasm.  We ARE aiming to praise him, talk about what he’s doing and reflecting back to him what he says to us.  Spencer has just been eating up Special Time, and Adam and I are pretty close to the goal of 10, 10 and 10 (praises, descriptions and reflections).  He has responded so well, that we are actually having his teachers learn the same thing,TCIT.  We’ll see how this goes, but his teachers are wonderful and willing, so I’m not worried

Adam and I were able to go see Wicked again.  It is such a good show, and we were so glad we were able to see it again. Not much else to say about that, but it’s always worth mentioning.

Adam jumped on a planed and headed to Sugar City for a visit.  No real reason.  He just thought he should go visit, so I made sure he went.  When he came home, we were SO glad to have him home.  The boys really missed their dad, and I really missed my husband.

I started trading boys with my friend (thank you so much!) while Spencer is at school.  So Matthew has gotten SO much better about going to other people and being less of a Momma’s boy.  We were really concerned about when he goes to nursery in November (oh yes, just 3 more Sundays before Nursery!).  We were nervous he wouldn’t be able to be there without me.  He’s shown us lately that he’ll be JUST fine.  He’s such a laid back guy, and he’s really good about going with the flow.  We are so grateful for his attitude.

Adam and I spend a lot of time training for our half marathon (running it on October 19th).  Our Saturday mornings are spent doing our long runs, which get increasingly longer as the half gets closer.  I was supposed to do another sprint triathlon on September 28th, but it was cancelled because of nasty weather.  I was a little bit bummed, but it did let me get closer to running the half marathon distance wise before the race.

That’s what’s been happening with us for a while.  Just in a very deep routine, and we’re loving it.  It’s so good for our kids.

Living with an Aspie: Starting School

First Day
This is Spencer on his first day of Pre-K

Starting school is a fun time of year for a lot of kids and families.  It’s exciting with all the changes and things happening.  They just can’t wait to see who their child’s teacher will be and to send them off to school.

Well, that isn’t the case at our house.  The start of school means the end of all our summer routines, which brings about a mega case of meltdowns.  Throw in the fact that Spencer is going to a big public school (new building), new teachers and new amount of time being in school, and you’ve got the recipe for major pain.

To combat that, we tried a few things to help ease the transition from mostly being with Mom all the time (and a very small Pre-school class), and for the most part I think what we did REALLY worked.  Starting a week and a half before school started, we went up to the school EVERY day and started working wake up time to school wake up time.

The first time we went up to school, we met the secretaries and some of the counselors and learned the procedures for dropping off and picking up Pre-K students.  Everyone at our school has been SO accommodating to Spencer and his needs, it’s been wonderful.  Anyway, we practiced dropping off and picking up.  Then we would also practice walking from the front of the school to Spencer’s classroom (area before we knew which room for sure), from his classroom to the resource room and vice versa, and from his room back to the front of the school.  We made sure he knew how to get to the important places he would go during his day at school.

Frist Day 2
What is your teacher’s name? Ms. Austin (I caught the end of him saying it. Can you see it?)

When school started, he was VERY confident about where he was going, and I know that eased some of his anxiety about being at school.  The only thing we could not simulate was the number of people who would be in the lobby and moving about the school while he was.  The large crowds make him very nervous.  He’s getting better and better about going where he needs to go everyday though.

We also created an All About Spencer folder for his Pre-K teacher and his resource teacher.  This folder included a letter about Spencer and his diagnosis, and what that really looks like with him.  It also included a 4 page Sensory Profile for him.  We were hoping these things would give his teachers a head start in dealing with him, and it REALLY has seemed to help.  The last two days, his resource teacher has been sick, and has had a sub there for her.  Everyday, the sub has been waiting up front to be introduced to him with the para-professional that Spencer already knows, and he has gone with them mostly willingly.

I’ve been so impressed by all the faculty and staff at our school, and how willingly and lovingly they have taken my daringly son into the big elementary school.  He still has his bad days, but I know it could be SO much worse.  Here’s hoping things continue to work well.

Triathlon Recap

I’ve been training since April for a Triathlon that I finally got to run on July 20th. I ran the First Capital Triathlon in Guthrie. It consisted of a 500 meter open water swim in Lake Guthrie, a 12.5 mile out and back bike ride, and a 5K out and back run.

TriCollage640

Overall, it was AWESOME! I felt really good about all the times I turned in. I’m not super fast, but I never was. I came in about 13 minutes faster than I predicted.

Total Time: 1:47:22
SWIM: 13:07
T1: 2:12
BIKE: 55:58
T2: 0:56
RUN: 35:11

The part of the race I was the most nervous about was the swim. It’s a little bit scary swimming in an open lake where you can’t touch the bottom or rest like you can in the pool. Lucky for me, they had a practice the week before so I wasn’t learning how to do the swim in the lake during the race. I was able to do my swim a little faster than I predicted. I thought it would take me about 15 minutes and it took me 13, so AWESOME.

When I went out to the bike, I was pretty tired. I did do the swim faster than I had before, so I was a little more winded. Once I settled into the bike it wasn’t so bad, but it was pretty hilly. I knew it was so I was concerned about my bike. It had been giving me fits with the gears. So, I checked to make sure they would shift into the first set of gears the Thursday before the race, and they did so I stopped worrying. WRONG MOVE for me. My bike refused to shift into the first set of gears after the first hill, and I had to make do with my lowest gear being 2-1. I was hating life and cursing my stupidity to do a tri during the first quarter to even half of my ride. I was convinced that I was going to be the last one in, and that never makes anyone feel better. Once I made the turn, got some more quick energy into me, I felt much more positive and had a way better second half of the ride.

When it came time to do the run, I was cursing my stupidity again for the first quarter to half a mile. Once I got my running legs under me, I had the best run. I loved seeing all the different runners and the people out on the course cheering us on. It was a great run, and a lot faster pace than I’d been pulling off during my last training runs.

The best part was seeing my husband and sweet boys cheering me on right near the finish line. It made me so happy. I had a great big smile on my face when I finished not only because I finished, but because my family was there to support me in my crazy athletic endeavors. 🙂

In the end, I can hardly wait to do another race. The trouble is, I can’t seem to find one that isn’t on a Sunday. The ONE that is on a Saturday is an half Ironman distance (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run)! Yikes! SOOOO not ready for that. I’d like to get comfortable with a sprint and Olympic distances before I try a 70.3!

May was…

busy. May was so busy with birthdays, school stuff, evaluations, work outs and weather. The calendar doesn’t look that busy, but we seemed to always have something happening.

Here are some of the highlights in pictures: I’ll talk about them as the post goes, but here they are to start.

Print

At the beginning of the month, we celebrated Matthew’s first birthday. I can’t believe he is a year old already. He’s grown so much and we are so blessed to have him in our family. He’s such a good little guy to have around in our house. As a matter of stats, Matthew is growing well. He’s in the 77% for his weight, 89% for his height and 76% for this head size.  He’s quite the mover as well.  He’s practically running around the house now chasing after Spencer.  He definitely keep us on our toes.

At Spencer’s school, they had a Mother’s Day “tea” (meaning punch and cookies). He escorted me to my chair and my place mat. Got me my drink and my cookies. Then all the other kids sang a song, and Spencer promptly ran away not waiting to be around for the loud music. Other than the running away and fit throwing, he did pretty well.

Spencer’s school ended on the 16th of May. It was very bittersweet. We loved his teachers so much, and they have been SO good for him. I’ve seen lots of growth and change in him from the beginning of the school year to the end. So, to help us maintain that change, we have started Occupational Therapy as well as speech and pragmatic skills therapy (in prep for social groups). He’s doing very well thus far, and as a result, Spencer was able to feel confident enough to learn to buckle his own seat belt! (HUGE at our house).

Just like we did with Spencer, a couple weeks after Matt’s first birthday, we did some really cute cake smashing pictures. (Thank you Shana!) They turned out absolutely darling. You can seem them HERE

We’ve also started the process of expanding our patio in the backyard. We have a lot of space that is unusable. It doesn’t get any sun and is usually pretty muddy. So, we’re going to expand our patio so we can use more of our backyard. It’ll be great if it every gets done now. The wet weather we’ve been having has prevented things from moving forward as quickly as we planned.

On Memorial day, we enjoyed hanging out together as a family. We even made a trip out to Pop’s. It’s a soda shop that sells all kinds of bottled sodas. It has a restaurant in it (we’ve never gone for the food), and is definitely a cool thing to do in Oklahoma.

Adam and I have been busy with our training and both are making good progress toward our goals.

That’s been our month of May.

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