Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Modern Day Pioneers

In the July 2013 First Presidency Message, President Thomas S Monson asked “Can we somehow muster the courage and steadfastness of purpose that characterized the pioneers of a former generation? Can you and I, in actual fact, be pioneers? I know we can be. Oh, how the world needs pioneers today!” (1)

You are a pioneer 


Martin Luther King Jr. said“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” 

In our most recent General Conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook said. “Faith is a principle of power.” (2) He goes on to describe the story recounted in Luke, chapter 8, where a woman who in 12 years had exhausted all her resources and suffered from an illness of the blood, pressed toward the Savior in a crowd. She had the faith that if she could touch him she would be healed.  When she succeeded, her illness was instantly cured. 

46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.

How many times in life have we taken a first step? How many times have we walked into the unknown, seeing only that first step before us, the direction laid out but the end not in sight? I believe many times. My most memorable first step was that of baptism into the Lord’s church. I could not see all the sweet things in my life that true conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ would bring me, but I knew that if I chose to make the one right decision of being baptized I would be on the correct path. That decision, to act on my faith in the testimony of Jesus Christ has shaped and will shape the remainder of my life. Faith is powerful first step.

Brothers and Sisters, I ask you to take that first step.

You are a pioneer.


British Author, Douglas Adams, says “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.

In October General Conference of 1989, Elder Dallin H. Oakes said, “In every nation, in every worthy occupation and activity, members of this church face hardships, overcome obstacles, and follow the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ as valiantly as the pioneers of any age. They pay their tithes and offerings. They serve as missionaries or as Church Service volunteers, or they support others who do so. Like the noble young mothers who postpone the pursuit of their personal goals in order to provide the needs of their children, they sacrifice immediate pleasures to keep commitments that are eternal. They accept callings and, in the service of others, they willingly give their time and sometimes their lives.

“They do as the Savior taught: They deny themselves; they take up their crosses daily; they follow Him. (See Luke 9:23.) These are those the Savior likened to the seed that fell on good ground: “in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, [they] keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15.)

“The fruits of the gospel issue from every honest and good heart, without regard to past origins or current positions in the Church.”

We have all served, both in and out of the church. Sometimes we serve with  ease and joy, and this is good. But sometimes when we serve we can be tired, uncomfortable and downright irritable. It is then we must step back from ourselves, put off our selfish nature and do for others what they cannot do for themselves. It is then we will truly find Christ in our lives and emulate the stalwart spirit of the pioneer.

Brothers and Sisters, I ask you to serve with sincerity and integrity.

You are a pioneer. 


Latter-day Saints strive to be obedient to the laws of the Gospel.  The commandments instruct us on matters of duty to God, personal morality, family relationships and interactions with all God’s children. Collectively, they construct the ultimate user’s manual for our mortal and immortal existence. While you seek to keep the commandments yourself, others will observe your example and gain testimony from it.

There are many voices seeking to pull us from the user’s manual, telling us we can find short-cut and alternate directions in diverse places. Some disregard the user’s manual altogether and seek out other instructions, the results thereof being disappointment and fleeting sensation.  Sometimes, by our actions, we can encourage others to follow the wrong user’s manual.

I love this quote from British author, Catherine Aird,   “If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning.”  

When Lehi saw the vision of the Tree of Life, he was the first of his family to reach the tree and partake of the fruit. Then he looked for his family and invited them to come to the tree with him. Not all of them came. Some did: Nephi and Sam and Sariah. But others did not, as they listened to the voices which pulled them away. Thus, we now consider this choice of Laman and Lemuel as ‘a horrible warning.”

President Monson has said, 

“We are surrounded by persuasive voices, beguiling voices, belittling voices, sophisticated voices, and confusing voices. I might add that these are loud voices. I admonish you to turn the volume down and to be influenced instead by that still, small voice which will guide you to safety. Remember that one with authority placed his hands on your head after you were baptized, confirming you a member of the Church and saying, “Receive the Holy Ghost.”  Open your hearts, even your very souls, to the sound of that special voice which testifies of truth. As the prophet Isaiah promised, “Thine ears shall hear a word … , saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.”  May we ever be in tune, that we might hear this comforting, guiding voice which will keep us safe. (4)

Brothers and Sisters, I ask you to be good examples.
You are a pioneer

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

While serving his mission in the Holy Land, people often marveled at the Savior’s willingness to forgive. Of course, he had the authority to forgive sins, but why was he so willing to do it? The answer is in His holy purpose in the plan of redemption: to be the sacrificial lamb for his brothers and sisters, who, if they repent, could be cleansed through his atoning sacrifice. And while those he taught then (and even us today) struggle to understand this great love, he has commanded us to repent and be partakers of eternal salvation.

Elder Oakes again says:

“One of the most Godlike expressions of the human soul is the act of forgiveness. Everyone is wronged at some point by someone, and many suffer serious wrongs. Christians everywhere stand in awe of those pioneers who have climbed that steep slope to the spiritual summit attained by those who have heeded the Savior’s command to forgive all men. (See Matt. 6:14–15; D&C 64:9–10.) Forgiveness is mortality’s mirror image of the mercy of God.

“…many modern Saints do their pioneering on the frontiers of their own attitudes and emotions. The proverb says, “He that ruleth his spirit [is better] than he that taketh a city.” (Prov. 16:32.) Modern Saints know that one who subdues his own spirit is just as much a pioneer as one who conquers a continent. (3)

Forgiveness need not be a mountain we cannot climb, or a soft word we cannot speak. While some waste useless energy on harboring grudges and anger, others find that forgiveness needs to be awarded often and wholeheartedly. Sometimes we do not know that we have need to forgive others until distasteful or unkind memories surface, but we can forge through pain and sorrow to feel the blessed relief and Godliness on the other side.

Brothers and sisters, I ask you to be strong.

You are a pioneer.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Laying Dad to Rest, January 14, 2017

We celebrated Dad's life today and he was laid to rest with full military honors in Big Flats, NY. The service was beautiful and Dad was honored and remembered by many friends and family. Sometimes I think I will wake up and find this has all been a bad dream, but the shared bonds of sorrow that we have experienced declare that this is an inevitable rite of passage of all families; to put their patriarch to rest and move forward in sweet memory. 
See you on the flip side. Rest well, Dad, after all your long years you've made've crossed the bar. 
Crossing the Bar, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea, 
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home. 
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark; 
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Many of you have captured Pokemon today. Many of you have captured free Slurpees from 7 Eleven. I have not captured anything today. For me, it has been a day of quiet remembrance of the woman who gave me life.

While growing up, July 4 started a week of celebrations...fireworks for America, a birthday cake for me on July 7, and then 4 days of sneaking around until my mother's birthday on July 11. My dad would shuffle us off shopping or out of the house to share his birthday plots with us. It usually involved something blue, being wrapped in blue and tied up with blue, as blue was my mother's favorite color. 

We'd always ask her what she wanted for her birthday, but she always said, "I don't need anything." Isn't that just like a mom? We kids could have been nicer to her, done our chores, stopped fighting and picked up after ourselves. Somehow we never thought of that, though. I seem to recall getting her things like perfume, blue soaps and blue nightgowns. She was always pleased with what we got her and never complained.

So today some of you may share her birthday, and while I remember her, on what would be her 85th year on earth, I am happy that I can remember you at the same time. It makes me smile, and although that does not assuage the guilt I have of being an unruly, ungrateful child, I know she would smile, as well, knowing that you share that special day with her when you came to earth.

Happy Birthday, Mom! It's been 40 years since I've seen you, but every time I see a blue soap or nightgown I think of you and how much I miss you. I love that I had you in my life for 16 years and that you were my biggest fan. My poems, my songs, my stories...all of them I wrote with the idea that you would be proud of me. I love you.

Penny Lee Soutar copyright July 11, 2016

Sunday, May 1, 2016

"Moving On..."

On a recent visit with a dear friend whose spouse passed away, my friend commented that a family member kept urging, "move on." My response was, "how do you move on?"

I remember asking my bishop that a few years ago. How do I move on from my divorce? How does anyone move on from tragedy, pain, sorrow, loss of loved one, violence, illness or any unexpected, unpleasant event? How do I move on? His answer, "That's the question, isn't it?" I remember discussing that I wasn't ready to date again, that I liked being single and was not going to jump back into something that I was not quite sure I wanted again. In a nutshell, I HAD ISSUES... the most prominent being FEAR. How do I get past the FEAR?

The Atonement came up, of course; that Jesus understood whatever it was I was going through and offered healing balm to my soul. Did I want to be healed? YES. Did I want to forget the pain? YES. Did I doubt myself? ABSOLUTELY. Was I afraid? YOU BETCHA.

After discussing this with my friend, I returned to my hotel room, where I randomly opened the ever present Gideon's Bible to the following passage: Ecclesiastes chapter 3.

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

I thought about this passage for several days...and asked, "What time is it for me?" It is a question befitting my recent year of indecision. There are times and seasons to all things, even indecision. When the Lord confirmed to me that it would be a good thing to sell my house, he did not confirm to me when or where I should move. In times like indecision is a decision -- to wait on the Lord for a more specific answer. What else could the Lord be telling me at this time?

I believe I have heard Him saying this - "you have had a time to rend, break down, weep, mourn, lose, cast away stones, refrain from embracing and pluck up that which was planted. Now it is time for you to be born, build up, laugh, dance, embrace, get, keep, sew, plant, speak, love, heal and have peace."

It was then I realized that "MOVING ON " doesn't exist...but "MOVING FORWARD" does. We don't forget the experiences and feelings of our lives...times of  joy, sorrow, kindness, violence, birth, death, pain, healing, illness, health...they make us who we are. As the Lord said to Joseph Smith in the Liberty Jail, "know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (Doctrine and Covenants, 122:7). And what is the good? MOVING FORWARD.

Not only are these experiences for our own good, but for the comfort and strengthening of others. As Prophet Alma said as he baptized in the Waters of Mormon, are we "willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort?" (Mosiah, 18:9-question mark added.)

So do I "move on?" I'd say no. I'd say I "move forward," carrying my experiences with me, in one way or another. How do I move forward? I use the knowledge, empathy and compassion I have gained that makes me who I am today, and move forward by redefining my situations, relationships and experiences through my human lens of pure Gospel living and daily progression.

Penny L Soutar copyright 1 May 2016

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: The Year of Letting Go

If I had to name this year, I would call it "The Year of Letting Go."
Letting go of 37 years of survival mode.
Letting go of the need to care for others as a definition of my self worth.
Letting go of unwanted, extra duties that tipped me over the cliff of burn out.
Letting go of any semblance of order in the chaos.
Letting go of old patterns, dysfunctionally discomforting.
Letting go of living for the future.
Letting go of the past that didn't work.
Letting go of 'have to's"
Letting go of the young adulthood of my daughter to discover the adult beautiful butterfly she is.
Letting go of long time friends, unexpectedly and unconditionally.
Letting go of anxiety, stress and depression.
Letting go of things that never were.
Letting go.

Penny L Soutar copyright 31 Dec, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Every day I am keenly aware that our nation, my nation, has those to thank who were willing to lay down the plow and take up the sword to fight and keep us free. Not only in this nation, but in my ancestor's nations of Scotland, Ireland, England, France and Germany. We are where we are in history because of those who put themselves, their trades, professions and families aside to answer the call of liberty. 

Today I am in reverent awe of those who have and continue to serve in our nation's military organizations. Every citizen contributes to our nation, but we ARE A NATION because of those to serve. Thank you. THANK you. THANK YOU.

Penny Lee Soutar copyright November 11, 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Myriad Math Memes Make Me Mad

I am SO FRICKING FED UP with all these posts, memes and videos about common core math sucking, "if they taught us math this way we would have liked it" and "we learned it "THIS WAY”, I COULD SCREAM. There I just did it.

In my experience, every meme, video and post I have seen has shown math skills that WERE TAUGHT. These posters may not remember or have grasped the concepts. Most of these complaints involve mental math, number sense and geometric sense.

As a math instructor and lover of mathematics, what most people don't understand is the BEAUTY OF MATHEMATICS. They don’t use much higher mathematics in their everyday lives. They don't see the patterns, values and relationships. But they are blaming teachers, school districts and now common core because they didn't understand it and spread these destructive memes that discredit today’s educational endeavors.

Can you honestly say that you remember EVERY SINGLE math lesson you were ever taught? No—and I don't either. I am still learning with every math lesson I teach: a new insight, understanding and relationship with the world of logic, patterns, symbols, algorithms and values. We are all on a different plane of understanding in each area of our lives, INCLUDING MATH.

Mathematics is beautiful, entertaining, the language of the universe. Don't blame the teachers, standards and school boards because you don't remember it the way it is being taught today. Because students learn and understand in so many different ways, different approaches to instruction (including instruction in multiple algorithms for solving mathematics problems) are ESSENTIAL to education in today's world of ever increasing speed of knowledge acquisition, use and transference. This is what you DEMAND from teachers and DESIRE for your students: individualized education in today’s currently overflowing public school classrooms. The only way to do that is to teach MULTIPLE methods of problem solving, enhancing students’ opportunities for understanding and encouraging them to discover their own strengths and weaknesses. Can we do any less to properly prepare our students for their future in the workplace and society? NO. We owe it to them. They deserve it.

So go ahead, post your memes and complain about standards, but remember that as you propagate information that you perhaps do not understand yourself, you poison others who have the most influence on the students of today and the future—their parents.


Copyright Aug 16, 2015  Penny Lee Soutar