Empathy and the Volkswagen Fox Effect

The trials we suffer in righteousness make us more empathetic to others.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

I once had a girlfriend who drove an old Volkswagen Fox. Before I started spending so much time with her I had never really paid attention to this kind of car, but after that I started to notice them. In fact there were several Foxes driving around our town, but I had been blind to them until I had a reason to notice them. This relatively sudden change in awareness of a reasonably common thing, caused by a new personal experience, I refer to as the “Volkswagen Fox effect,” and it is likely that you have experienced something like it in your life.

So here is the rest of the story: My last memory of this particular car is from just after I broke up with the girl. She squealed the tires on the road as she sped away from my house.

. . . and it was on Valentine’s Day.

I promise that I didn’t premeditate the timing of this breakup to schedule it on the worst day possible! It was a decision I had been stumbling towards for a few weeks, and that was just the day when I decided to follow through on it. Really it was a spur-of-the-moment decision.

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Faith is a Shoe

Why would you try to run through life without it?

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

Faith is a Shoe

A few weeks ago I wrote about the untimely death of my daughter Evelyn, and how my faith in God’s plan gave me a sense of peace and assurance despite the loss. I want to expand a bit on this theme.

Faith is not a crutch; it is a shoe. Just as using a shoe helps you travel farther and faster over rougher terrain, faith helps you move through life. It smooths over the rough parts and propels you forward, protecting you from injury and pain.

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Embrace the Certainty

When the rubber hits the road for the Plan of Salvation in your life, the faith you will need should already be in place.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

Embrace the CertaintyLast week I spent a whole day on the labor and delivery floor with my wife Marisa. The birth of our 9th child was an important day for our family, and we kept up as many of our traditions as we could. I wore my lucky hat, an English flat cap that I have worn at the births of all of my children, and I even cut the baby’s umbilical cord, as I have done for all of the others.

But this birth was different, because our baby was dead.

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Embrace the Uncertainty

When faced with uncertainty, be firm in what you know is right.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

A teenage boy sat outside on the campus of Bakersfield High School. He was a freshman, almost 15 years old, and was sitting alone on a sidewalk next to a field with scattered trees. It was winter in California: cold, but not that cold. Under-dressed for the weather, but not dangerously so, he tried to suppress a shiver while eating a sandwich that his mother made for his lunch. While he ate, his thoughts wandered through life’s deep questions.

“Is God really up there?” he wondered. This question occupied him a lot, because he could sense how fundamental it was. All of the moral code he had learned from his childhood seemed to depend on the answer to that question. “If there were no God,” he reasoned, “then what would be the point of keeping the commandments?”

Many of life’s important decisions won’t wait for you to feel entirely settled about them. This young man was faced with choices that could forever change the course of his life. Across the street he could see the punk crowd loitering at their hangout, and one or two of them were discreetly smoking. Some of the punk kids were his friends, and he was tempted to join them. But was he going to obey the Word of Wisdom? He also knew about boys and girls his age getting pretty serious with physical intimacy. Was he going to follow the law of chastity? Could he make a decision on these matters without really knowing God for himself?

The year was 1993, and that young teenager was me.

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Book Review: Kennedy’s Hugs

This book has raw authenticity and powerful emotional impact.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD


Last fall at the Latter-day Saints Publishing and Media Association conference I picked up a copy of Kennedy’s Hugs by Jason and Heather Hansen. The cover of the book has nine pictures of Kennedy, a beautiful teenage brunette, in various poses: smiling while talking on a cell phone, kissing a boy on the cheek, laughing with another teenage girl, etc. There is a big pink heart under the “u” in the title, and “XOXOXO” written under a couple of the pictures. It didn’t look like a book that I would be interested in reading, or even caught dead reading, so when I got home from the conference I gave it to my teenage daughter, who read it the next day. (She is a natural speed reader.) When she gave it back to me she said, “You have to read this. It’s so sad!” She explained that it was about a girl who died of a neurologic disease, so I started to warm up to the idea of reading it — but only at home where no one but family would see me holding the book.

My wife read it next, and sobbed the whole time. She said, through tears, “There is so much hardness and unkindness in the world, you begin to expect people to be mean. It was the love they had for each other that was so touching that I was unable to stop crying. There really are loving people in the world.” Obviously this book had emotional impact. I decided to read it.

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Announcement: Ensign Article in February 2019

man_doctor_exam_roomThe article I submitted to the Ensign Magazine will be published in next month’s edition, and you can read it online now: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2019/02/latter-day-saint-voices/im-glad-i-listened?lang=eng

I supplied a mug shot picture, and the Ensign illustrator Allen Garns came up with this image. I think he did a good job!

Here is the text I submitted last March: Mourning with Those that Mourn. Continue reading

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Treadmill Journal, Part 3: Words of Wisdom

The Word of Wisdom is a token or symbol of our covenant to follow all of God’s commandments.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

treadmill journal 3

My old treadmill is kind of a piece of junk. It is 5 years old, and has been put to heavy use in the winter months (and heavy abuse by the children in all seasons). It works well enough to use, but it is certainly not in peak condition. One of its quirks is an inability to lower its belt speed while running. If I am using the interval workout program, for instance, and the speed is supposed to drop from 8 mph to 6 mph at the end of a high intensity interval, then the belt speed actually stays at 8 mph. This makes it difficult to do any kind of speed training or cardio work. Fortunately the manual incline adjustment still works, so I can set the speed to a moderate pace and adjust the incline to add variation.

During December I was reading the reviews on new treadmills, and decided that a NordicTrack Commercial 1750 would make a good Christmas present. It is a little pricey, but I have some money saved up in a rainy day fund. And what are treadmills for if not for rainy days?

Over the last few weeks I have been listening to President Nelson’s talks from October 1985 through October 1986 while running on the treadmill. We have discussed the Word of Wisdom on this website before, but one of his talks made me think of it in a way that I had never considered before.

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