Sunday, November 6, 2016

Casting Judgement: Missed opportunities to love one another

Last month I had a special opportunity to travel with my wife, my parents, my brothers, and two of my sisters-in-law to Dublin, Ireland and the surrounding countryside to view the beautiful homeland of my father and connect with his birth family. It has been an incredible and remarkable experience, one that I am working to document for my children and their future generations. (See more at Made in Ireland film.)

While I was there, one of the things that we came upon was the stunning Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Dublin. It was our first day in Ireland and we had planned to spend it walking all over Dublin and recovering from our flight crossing the United States and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland.

The Christ Church Cathedral is beautiful and sits on the banks of the River Liffey. It dates back to 1030 AD on its current location. As you approach the cathedral, you cannot help but feel drawn to enter its ancient grounds and peek inside.

I am not a Catholic, but I am a christian as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I embrace opportunities to learn more about how others approach God through their worship.

As I entered the grounds, I came upon the following sculpture of a homeless man.

I paused, thinking this was a strange sculpture for such a beautiful location. Homelessness is a terrible problem throughout much of the United States. I felt my nose wrinkle as I cast judgement. If I were the art director for these grounds, surely there were much more beautiful pieces that could have been curated for such a notable place visited by so many every year.

And, then, as I continued on, my blood ran cold as my gaze landed upon the feet of the man depicted in the sculpture.

Recognition quickly set over me as I stared at the prints of the nails in His feet, tangible symbols of a price paid for all of us. I know and love this man. It was the bruised and broken body of The Master, our Savior Jesus Christ.

I was surprised that I did not recognize Him earlier. Here is a man that I love, that I try to follow in my everyday life, though I often fall short of His ways and teachings.

I wondered why my reaction was closer to that of disgust rather than worry for the homeless, and I knew that a better christian would have had thoughts of compassion initially.

I reflected on the lyrics of a well-loved hymn called 'A Poor Way-Faring Man of Grief':

Then in a moment to my view
The stranger started from disguise.
The tokens in his hands I knew;
The Savior stood before mine eyes.

My wife Mary and I stood there for a couple of moments quietly pondering about the Savior and my wife remarked that it was her favorite piece of artwork that she had seen so far in Ireland. I am quite certain that the art was effective and that it fulfilled the objective of the artist as it required us to contemplate our own discipleship.

In one of the final discussions with His apostles, Jesus taught:

 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.             
Christ Teaches His Apostles

In the weeks since this experience, I have thought about what type of person am I really. If I do not recognize the body of Christ, what other opportunities around me am I missing to serve and lift others? In what ways do I neglect the commandment I have been given to love one another because of the judgements I place on others? What people in my life are silently suffering or have a need of my time, service, or compassion?

2016 is a difficult time. Social media is full of vitriol. We tend to judge each other based on the clothes we wear, the vehicles we drive, the things we eat. With so many differences of opinion on everything from politics to religion to parenting techniques, life has become full of unsolicited criticism. Casting judgements on others without really knowing them, their backstory, or what they may be going through is a missed opportunity on our part to just love as the Savior loves.

Note that Christ did not give the disclaimer that we should love another if one deems themselves worthy of our love, or if one aligns with our viewpoints - rather the commandment is that we should love as He did, which in my opinion is an unconditional love.

I am hopeful that I will be able to remove prejudice and judgement from my view as I continue to grow in love for God, for others, and for myself.

The author with his family at Christ Church Cathedral. Dublin, Ireland.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jim Hughes: A Tribute to One Incredible Man

I knew for the past year that I would sit down and write this blog post this very weekend. It's about a person; a man that I care very deeply about. And not just any ordinary man. This post is about a great man. In fact, 'great' doesn't seem to quite cover it. I spent a few minutes just working on a title for this tribute post. I started with the word 'great,' then moved on to 'wonderful.' I think I'm settled now with 'incredible.'

Because you see, Jim Hughes is one incredible man.

But to understand a little bit about where I am coming from, you must understand a little about the circumstances around which I met this man and how he has impacted my life forever.

When I met Jim, it was October 2008 and I was called to serve in the High Council. I had known him before, from talks he had given or on occasion when he had come to address the Elder's quorum in my ward. I moved to Eagle Mountain in August of 2006 and so I had seen and heard from Jim with some regularity, although I could not say that I had known him personally.

If you are lost at this point you can learn more about how our Church utilizes a lay clergy to minister to its members.

At this time in my life I had all but abandoned my dream of creating uplifting and inspiring media. I was working for a Bay area digital advertising agency which shall remain nameless, and working myself into an oblivion.

Now, the money was fantastic, but within just a few short years of running this company I felt completely spent and found myself wondering what more life had to offer. I had forgotten what I had already known; in part because of my somewhat myopic efforts to pay off some debts and in part because of the 24/7 culture that prevailed - and was rewarded - in the industry I worked in.

One Incredible Man
When I met Jim after voluntarily receiving this call to serve in my Church, I remembered my dream. I found myself thinking, here is this guy, who is a righteous upstanding man. He is a producer and editor and makes a living doing something he enjoys very much, creating great media and delighting his clients.

I had, after serving a mission and spending two years of my life teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of New Jersey, and attending film school at Brigham Young University studying the economics and business of film production, somehow forgotten what it was that I wanted to do. I was beginning to lose myself in the world, so to speak.

After meeting Jim Hughes that all changed. With my call to the High Council came a working proximity to my local Stake leadership, which includes a Stake President and his two councilors. President D. Harold Draper was the Stake President at the time, with President James Hughes as his first counselor and Mark Johnson as Second Councilor.

The Presidency put me to work and gave me assignments serving as the High Councilor over the Young Men's organization in the Stake. It's kind of like a youth ministry for the 12-18 year old young men. I was to oversee the Scouting program in the Stake specifically, and to ensure that all units within the 14 wards of the Stake were fully functional, that leaders were trained, that there was great communication between units and the BSA District.

Now I have to tell you something about the manner of men that these three men were. There is only one way to describe it. Do you recall when the Savior asked his disciples "What manner of men ought ye to be?" He then responded, "Verily I say unto you, even as I am." 3 Ne 27:27
Jim and Wendy

To be clear, these were men of God. No doubt about it. One of the meetings that I looked forward to with fondness was our early morning Sunday meetings. These Stake Priesthood Executive Committee meetings were an opportunity to discuss the affairs of the Church, discuss callings that were being extended, teach eachother the gospel of Christ and receive instruction and wise counsel from our Stake Presidency.

President Draper made it a point to come around with his councilors and embrace us each individually before the start of each early morning meeting. We would stand up when they entered the room out of respect and love for our Presidency, and then he would come around and give us all a big hug in his cowboy way, and slap us on the back and tell us he was dang proud of us. Jim Hughes would often ask about me and almost always ask about Mary. How we were doing, if she was happy. President Johnson would give me a hug and a smile and then straighten, and he would get serious. He would then tell me how much he loved me every single time.

On occasion we labored in helping our brethren find their way back by way of a disciplinary council. These were very difficult mornings, which usually involved a good man who had fallen into sin and had need of the Atonement in his life. It also involved his wife, crushed from the weight and seeming hopelessness of infidelity, and not sure exactly what to do or how to pick up the pieces.

Now you would normally expect a leader who held a position of authority over another to use this time as an opportunity to unleash on them, to tell them that they are scum and that they are going to burn in hell or some such thing, and if that's what you think happened then you are dead wrong. In reality, you would have never seen a kinder, gentler man who was able to use the scriptures as a healing balm to uplift, to inspire, and to edify.

Those mornings men and women walked out of those councils with a renewed hope in Christ, with a renewed commitment to live His gospel and follow the commandments of God. They had been reminded of His grace, and of His mercy, that it was sufficient for them and that "through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." Articles of Faith 1:3

Jim vacationing with his wife Wendy
He was not a professional counselor. He did not have degrees in psychology or behavioral therapy. But the counsel that he gave was life changing for so many of the men and women in that Stake because he spoke the words of Christ.

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. 2 Ne 25:26 

 As I increased my own desire to follow the Savior, I began to do an inventory of my life in an attempt to bring it into greater balance. I left the agency where I worked (at that point as VP of Marketing) and walked away from the six figure income. Nothing mattered as much as my need to focus on my family and on serving others, two things I learned from Jim as I served with him. And along with that came a wonderful blessing: the opportunity to do something I loved and still provide a great life for my family.

As Jim was diagnosed with cancer in April of 2010, I was sickened and disheartened. I remember hearing the news that he had to go into the hospital because he was disoriented and was having trouble moving the left side of his body. Doctors gave him an MRI and found a tumor the size of a grapefruit on his brain. Glioblastoma, they called it. I was floored as I sat on his bed in the hospital that day talking to a very tired and stressed Jim Hughes.

His faithful wife Wendy arrived with his daughters. I didn't know what to say, I just didn't have the words. I don't think I said anything, just handed over a plate of cookies and was speechless.

The next 17 months was a whirlwind of emotions, as Jim endured multiple operations, MRIs, scans, and his health would worsen and improve, worsen and improve. I felt sick for Wendy and his family and so helpless as to what I could do.

Never before had I known anyone battling cancer. But this wasn't just anyone, no. This was my good friend and buddy Jim. Who sometimes whispered "Jimbo!" in my ear instead of the more formal greeting of 'Brother Anderson.' The man who reminded me of my dream and inspired me to be great and to do great things. He was one who came to our home when Mary and I were going through some hard times. He told us that he took our names to the temple and had prayers said in our behalf in our time of trial when Mary was having some significant health issues. Anyone who knows me knows that there is nothing on this earth more precious to me than my girl, and when she is in pain, I am in pain. So there couldn't have been a kinder thing that anyone could have done than express their love and concern for Mary and I at that time.
I did have the opportunity to work on one project with Jim before he got too sick to work anymore. It was a video that he edited and involved youth from our Stake at a summer youth activity recreating a trek experience like the pioneers of old. It was a ton of fun to sit with him in his edit bay and work on this together, he was a very skilled editor and knew how to make a very powerful message:


Jim was a good man through and through and I had the privilege of seeing him at his very best. What an example he was to me! How I love him and look forward to seeing him again. But that's the best's not just "game over." I know that Jim will live again!

Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.  Alma 40: 11-12

And that's not all. He will be reunited with his family who he is sealed to for time and all eternity. That teaching is central to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Family relationships can last forever, not just for this life. In sacred temples, families can be sealed together for all eternity. That is exactly what our Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness is all about.

James Barton Hughes Nov 7, 1962 - Sept 15, 2011
Sure miss you Jim. And I'm grateful for your Christlike example to me and to my family. 
I welcome the day when we will meet again. You are one incredible man. 
 -Jim S. Anderson


An online campaign to raise money for the Hughes family. It never launched. Jim didn't think it fair for his family to be helped when there were so many other families who suffered with no financial assistance.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Truth about Mary

This is a post about somebody named Mary Anderson. You may regard me as somebody who is incredibly biased towards this particular woman, being her husband (of nearly 12 years), father of her five children, and best friend. Biased? OK, yes, you got me. But I would counter that I am also a subject matter expert on this particular person. And it is time that you know the truth about Mary Anderson.
Mary, the champion

If I had to sum up Mary in one word, I would say, "Mary is a champion." Always has been, always was. Some of you may know that Mary signed up for a series of half marathons this summer. After running the second of four races, she injured her foot and had to sit out the third race, the Hobble Creek Half, just last Saturday.

What you probably don't know is that this injury was devastating to Mary. She did everything she could to run in that race, she got massages, she bought a special leg brace, she prayed and sought out the Lord to be healed...and while her heart was healed in other ways, the physical pain from plantar faciatus lingered and she was not able to run come race day.

Now, she could have done a lot of things come race day. She could have slept in. She could have been negative and grouchy. She could have decided that running was not for her.

But instead, like the champion that she is, she did this instead:

She arose early and made her way over to mile 10 of the 13.1 mile race to cheer on some of her friends who were also running. This allowed me the opportunity to take several photos of her without her knowing, as I smiled to myself and thought, "well, doesn't this just capture the true nature of who Mary is?"

Instead of letting herself feel down and upset, she thinks of others. I can't tell you how many meals she has taken to a friend or a neighbor in need or how many times she has called someone who is hurting or how many times she has comforted one of our children, because I'm not sure. I can only tell you that it's a a lot.

So, on Mary's 34th birthday, and a dozen years to the day that I dropped on one knee and was ready to beg her to marry me (I didn't have to beg, fortunately for me!) I am grateful for champions in my life, especially one I get to call my wife (of nearly 12 years), mother of my five children, and best friend.

Happy birthday, Mary. I love you.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Scott & Brade: A Tale of Two Sons

Going through some photos tonight and I just had to share. I am blessed with two sons; my oldest son is named Scott. He has the kind of imagination that is without end or limitation. If you spend any amount of time with Scott, you will likely see him wander off into a nearby field or lot and begin to transform. Yes, that's right... transform. Complete with mouth noises, the works. He does it when he doesn't think anyone is looking, and he doesn't seem to hear you when he is in the middle of one of these transformations. He is extremely right brained, and if you put him in a box, and ask for a nice picture while taking family portraits at Yellowstone National Park, you might get this:

Now, this is a lovely photo of Scott and everything, but it doesn't truly capture his nature. If, on the other hand, you were to say to Scott, "OK, Buddy, you win....let's do whatever you want to do now," the results will be sure to entertain. You might get:


a maniacal smile, 

or perhaps Captain America saving the day,

but two seconds later you might see the Captain transform into a hideous mantis-beast, his back wiggling as he breaks out of his skin to better pursue you, with his insect beak all a-screeching.

Suddenly he's a stealthy ninja, silently creeping up the back alley to take the vermin crime gang unawares. Not a sound does he make until he pops into the head of some other villainous creature, or death defying hero.


Did I mention that I have another son? His name is Braden, and if you asked him to give you a nice smile for his Yellowstone River portrait, this is what you'll likely get, every single time:

I have two sons, and I love them both for entirely different reasons!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tweeting General Conference: Helpful or Hurtful?

We live in a social era. It's an era where ideas move at the speed of thought. Where good ideas and beauty spread virally based upon their assumed worth and popularity - but also where "the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent." Where anything virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy can be easily sought after - and found.

Which brings me to my question. The leaders of the LDS Church have supported social media as a means of spreading the gospel to others. Elder Ballard encouraged us all to join the conversation back in 2007 when he said
“Now, may I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration.”

The Brethren are very tech savvy, and they have long taught about the power of member missionary work. So when social media finally came about, they were early adopters and very quick to instruct members of the Church to utilize social media to reach out online and share the gospel that they were learning with others.

Many responded, and every year during General Conference there are thousands of members sharing their thoughts and feeling and reactions to the instruction during the Conference, as they have become accustomed to tweeting the events of their life. They tweet and retweet Apostles in real time, using the twitter hashtag #LDSConf. For many, this has become a part of their General Conference experience.

This behavior has been noted. President Uchtdorf even acknowledged the online conversations going on as he commented in a light hearted moment:

With so many social media resources and a multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before. In fact, I am almost afraid that some listening have already sent text messages like “He’s been speaking for 10 minutes and still no aviation analogy!”

The #LDSConf twitterstream lit up; the tweeting crowd went crazy, with posts such as "He's talking about us!" And "President Uchtdorf knows Twitter!"

Now, I have heard both arguments. Some say that they get an awful lot out of sharing the quotes and hearing feedback from others. They say that this helps them internalize the content and actually learn the doctrine that the Prophets and Apostles are teaching. Others have pointed out that this may not be the best thing to be doing while trying to learn from an Apostle, where it is so important to be able to be taught by the Spirit. These would likely reference John 14:26, that the Holy Ghost teaches all things and brings all things to our remembrance. They would say that if we are not in a mindset to be taught by the Spirit, we will not profit from the addresses, and our tweeting and retweeting will be in vain.

Now, open your mind for just a minute and ask yourself what you think. There is much the Church could be doing to further encourage these conversations to occur during a worldwide broadcast such as General Conference. The Church could build a page with a live stream right beside a twitter stream. It could offer a heat map of where in the world the #LDSConf streams are originating from. It could even offer a host of twitter tools and ideas for General Conference to-dos right from the pages of But the question is, should it?

I must say that I was 100% gung-ho for all things social at any time and in any place - until last Conference when President Uchdorf said something that opened my mind and got me thinking a bit. He said of social and mobile media:

My dear young friends, perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to “open [your] mouths” might today include “use your hands” to blog and text message the gospel to all the world! But please remember, all at the right time and at the right place.

What do you make of this? Is General Conference a "right time" and a "right place?" Weigh in and let me know your thoughts.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sacred Spaces

One of my favorite places to be is sitting on my front porch with my wife on a cool summer night. It's not so much that I love concrete, or that I have a thing for people-watching, but my wife and I enjoy a very full life, and the front porch is where we wind down together.

Each spring, as summer approaches, we get excited as the days get longer and we know that our porch days are fast approaching. Sometimes we jump the gun and head outside in wrapped in robes and blankets, trying to thwart Mother Nature and enjoy porchtime beginning in May when the bitter winds would have it otherwise. Those nights we only last ten or fifteen minutes, even with a hot chocolate.

Now Mary and I are about to complete ten years of being married and sealed at the end of this summer, and for those of you who don't know what that means - it means that our marriage has been sealed for time and all eternity in a holy temple by one having the authority of God to perform such a sealing. In other words, our marriage, and our relationship does not end with "death do us part" - it is meant to be so much more than that. It is an eternal marriage, one without end and unchained by the bonds of death. Likewise, our children are sealed to us as a family and we are on our way to being a forever family.

I can't tell you what a blessing that is in my life. Having the knowledge that families are forever is a game-changer. It changes the way that I want to treat my wife, my children, how I want to parent. It reminds me that we are all eternal beings and forms my perspective on how we as humans should treat eachother.

But this is not about my gratitude for eternal marriage, or for my family. Rather it is about my sweet wife Mary. As I mentioned we are going on ten years this November, and in the past decade we have become one. She is much more than my counselor, my financial advisor, my cheerleader, my business partner, my girlfriend, a total hottie, and the Mother of my children. She is also my closest and dearest friend. I love her with all my heart, and with everything that I am.

Now, you can see why I look forward each summer to sitting on my porch with my best friend. It is a sacred space; one where stories are told, experiences are related, and dreams shared. It is somewhere I go seeking peace at the end of a long day and being validated.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

See honey? That's why I need a brand new Jeep Wrangler...

it's all about creating American jobs!!! DO love your country, don't you?