Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shouldn't that be obvious?

In what may be the "duh" moment of the year, FINRA published an Investor Alert on July 25, 2011 to help counter the problems arising from the fact that, in their own words:
[I]nvestors may not realize that they could be taking on more risk if they invest in products with higher returns.
Kind of obvious, no? Still, when the herds flock to speculate in the market (rather than invest in it), such an elementary lack of understanding of financial products is bound to occur.

Other gems from the Alert include:
If you do not fully understand how your investments function, you could find yourself surprised by outcomes you didn’t expect, such as illiquidity, exit fees, loss of principal or the return of your investment in a form other than cash.
The promise of higher return is almost always associated with greater risk and an increased possibility of investment losses.
Legitimate investments that promise returns of 30, 50 or even 100 percent per year without any risk to your principal simply do not exist. Always independently verify who you are dealing with and whether the seller of the investment is licensed to do business with you.
Seems to me that the brunt of FINRA's advice is two-fold: (1) don't get greedy (i.e., by participating in Madoff-style get rich quick schemes) and (2) do your homework. After all, the key difference between a speculator and an investor (and no matter what nomenclature the financial press favor, most "investors" today are, in reality, speculators) is the amount of good ol' fashioned research an investor does before tossing their cash to a third party (be it the markets or Uncle Jeff).

So next time you're looking to invest, grab a calculator (or abacus) and all the info you can get your hands on and get to work.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Sabbath day thought

"Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved." - President Thomas S. Monson

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"The Power of Personal Testimony in Strengthening the Family"

Last night during the Saturday evening session of our semi-annual district conference*, my lovely wife Michelle delivered a remarkable sermon on the power of a personal testimony to strengthen a family. Indeed, it was too good not to share ... so here it is:

Mary McQuarrie was born in August 1846 near Glasgow, Scotland. At the age of 11, her family left for the American west to join her brother who earlier converted and moved to the Salt Lake Valley. Mary, her parents and other siblings were baptized after their arrival in the states. At the age of 15 she became the third wife to Edward Bunker, a man 24 years her senior.

It is said Mary was “never was to regret this marriage. She ... came to know by experience that if this law were lived as God intended ... it would refine and purify the soul as nothing else would,” (Online Biography).

Mary understood the hardships of pioneer life as she moved with her husband and family to St. George and Santa Clara, Utah before settling Bunkerville, Nevada. Later, Edward moved to Mexico with his first wife, where he suddenly passed away. Mary spent her final years battling a crippling illness while raising her 8 children alone in the desert.

Yet, her granddaughter explained, “[Grandma] was never known to complain of her suffering. Her faith and trust in her Heavenly Father was sublime. She gave to her posterity a powerful testimony of the truth of the Gospel, and an example of righteous living that should stimulate her grandchildren and great-grandchildren to increased devotion for righteous living ... Her children found in her ... a faith in God indomitable and unimpaired, though she had been sore-pressed and tried ... One could not know this little woman, so humble and sweet, without knowing that when she approached---God listened,” (Online Biography).

In October 2006 General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf similarly spoke of the power a personal testimony may have. He said, “Our firm personal testimony will motivate us to change ourselves and then bless the world,” (Ensign, November 2006).

As with Mary McQuarrie, this principle is illustrated time and time again in the scriptures. We read and study of individuals who desire and seek testimony through continued prayer, faith and obedience. And by so doing are able, like Mary, to call upon God’s attention and the powers of heaven to change their lives, the lives of their families and the lives of others. Today I’d like to highlight three such examples - Enos, Martha and Alma and his son Alma.


Enos begins his record explaining the “wrestle which [he] had before God,” (Enos 1:2) to receive a remission of his sins and gain a personal testimony. With a sincere desire and hunger to know for himself, he earnestly prayed until he received forgiveness and a witness of the power of God. He shared this testimony with his family and community, as his son Jarom explained that he “did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering ... continually stirring them up unto repentance,” (Jarom 1:11, 12).

Enos also used his testimony and faith to call upon the powers of heaven when he asked the Lord to preserve the Nephite records. He says, “Wherefore, I knowing that the Lord God was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsovever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it. And I had faith, and I did cry unto God that he would preserve the records; and he covenanted with me that he would bring them his own due time,” (Enos 1: 15-16).

Enos is a great example of a powerful testimony that motivated change in himself and subsequently blessed his family and countless generations to this day. Because of Enos’s testimony in the Savior and His ability to bless us with the righteous desires of our hearts, he helped preserve the Nephite records, an important part of the Book of Mormon we hold so sacred today.


Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus were close with the Savior while he was on the earth. It is said that “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus,” (John 11: 5).

When Lazarus became ill, Martha and Mary sent for the Savior. By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead four days. Martha went to greet the Savior and said unto him, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee,” (John 11:21-22).

Jesus responded saying, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live ... Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. [And then] he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus come forth,” (John 11: 25, 26, 27, 43).

In a recent conference address, Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer explained this story “gives us a deeper view of [Martha’s] understanding and testimony,” (Ensign, May 2010). He continued, “[Martha’s] testimony in the trial of her brother’s death clearly shows the depth of her understanding and faith ... By knowing more about Martha, we find she was actually a person of deep spiritual character who had a bold and daring testimony of the Savior’s mission and His divine power over life.” Indeed, we learn through this story that Martha’s testimony not only positively influenced her own life, but also strengthened her family as Christ restored Lazarus to life.


Alma, after hearing the testimony and teachings of the prophet Abinadi, repented and began to teach the things he learned. He encouraged others to “walk uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs ...” (Mosiah 18:29). When his son became “a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church,” (Mosiah 27:9), Alma prayed so fervently that an angel appeared that he might “be brought to the knowledge of the truth,” (Mosiah 27:14).

Afterward, Alma the younger explained that during this experience “[he] remembered ... to have heard [his] father prophesy ... concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ,” (Alma 36: 17). It was his father’s testimony that led Alma the younger to seek forgiveness from and a testimony of the Savior.

This testimony he passed on to his children as well. Before leaving for the last time, Alma asked his son Helaman, “Believest thou the words which I spake unto thee...? And Helaman said unto him: Yea, I believe. And Alma said again: Believest thou in Jesus Christ, who shall come? And he said: Yea, I believe all the words which thou has spoken,” (Mosiah 45:44).

As we see in both Alma’s lives, developing a pattern of testimony bearing and teaching within the family can have a profound effect. Elder David A. Bednar explained “feeling the power, the edification, and the constancy of testimony from a spouse, a parent, or a child is a rich blessing. Such testimony fortifies faith and provides direction,” (Ensign, November 2009).

In October 1994 General Conference, Elder Robert D. Hales suggested seven ways in which we may gain and maintain a strong testimony. They include continuing in prayer, searching the scriptures, pondering gospel principles, being humble and receptive, living our testimony through obedience, sharing our testimony, and lastly enduring trials of circumstance and persecution, (Ensign, November 1994 or New Era, August 2002). Once again, our previous mentioned examples illustrate each of these principles. Enos pondered gospel principles, even the words “ ... which [he] had often heard [his] father speak concerning eternal life,” (Enos 1:3). He then prayed and continued to pray “all the day long ... yea, and when the night came [he] still did raise [his] voice high that it reached the heavens,” (Enos 1:5). Later, we learn that Enos continued to “pour out [his] whole soul unto God,” (Enos 1:9) and that he “prayed ... with many long strugglings,” (Enos 1:10). Similarly, Alma the elder “prayed with much faith,” (Mosiah 27: 14), and “did pour [his heart]” unto the Lord (Mosiah 24:12).

Martha was humble and receptive to the Lord’s admonition to “choose the better part,” (Luke 10: 41-42) which resulted in a faith and testimony of Christ so powerful as to raise her brother from the dead.

Alma the younger was known to “study the scriptures diligently, that [he] might know the word of God,” (Alma 17: 2), and freely shared his testimony with others as he found that “the word had a great tendency to lead the people [and] ... had [a] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than ... anything else,” (Alma 31:5).

Mary McQuarrie lived her testimony through cheerful obedience and remained devoted despite years of physical and spiritual trials.

Elder Hales taught, “Individual testimonies are the foundation and strength of the Church. Our testimony provides a guiding light that leads to a commitment which directs our conduct and our way of life ... Having a strong testimony allows us to help others in their search for truth,” (New Era, August 2002).

I know there is great power in personal testimony. I know because although we have not met in this life, the testimony and example of those in the scriptures as well as my great-great grandmother, Mary McQuarrie has sustained and encouraged me through varied life experiences.

I know that as we engage in the activities Elder Hales recommends, we will increase our testimony of and faith in the Savior. We will gain the kind of testimony that will motivate change in ourselves and bless the lives of our families and others. I know that as we desire and seek these things, that it may also be said of the power of our testimonies that when we approached, God listened. Of this I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

* Note: Elder Perkins, the Asia Area president, told us last night that the Saturday evening session of stake/district conference is invariably (1) the least attended and (2) most uplifting meeting of any stake/district conference. Because of that, he feels that the Lord will likely pick that meeting to announce His second coming (allowing active church members to self select into the wise or foolish virgin camp ;)