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

kennedy_s-hugs_9781462119707_web_large

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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Finding Novelty in the Scriptures

When the going gets tough, don’t give up — get creative!

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

finding novelty in the scripuresHave you ever had a hard time staying focused while reading the scriptures? Does your mind wander away into unrelated topics? Do you ever reach the bottom of a page and then realize that you can’t remember anything you have read?

Chances are that if you answered no to all of these questions, then you have never tried to read the scriptures.

Why is it so hard to stay on task mentally when studying the scriptures? And what can we do to make it easier for us? In this post I will answer these questions from a neurologic perspective.

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Latter-day Doctor: 2018 Year in Review

This has been a transformative year for the blog

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

Here is our year-end summary!

Top Ten Posts of 2018

2018 review

  1. The Book of Mormon – Alternate Chronology. This post was actually from 2015, but its traffic has really taken off this year and it has gotten twice as many hits as any other post. I revised the chart and the post this year to include hyperlinks to the online scriptures.
  2. Is There Something Wrong? A personal story about love, friendship, and mental illness that happened during my senior year of high school. This post really struck a chord with people, especially when it was shared among my high school classmates.
  3. The Crescent Moon. My neighbor Christie Perkins died in April, and this was my euology for her.
  4. Medical Marijuana. A contentious political and cultural issue, explained from the perspective of a practicing doctor.
  5. A British Summer: My Experience as a Latter-day Saint Missionary. My two years in England really changed my life.
  6. To Be Learned is Good If… This was the first post by Rand Colbert, MD, a new contributor who joined the site this year.
  7. Alternative Medicine. A fairly balanced discussion of another contentious topic.
  8. Ministering for Sociophobes: A Practical Guide. A discussion of social anxiety disorder, focusing on practical advice for sociophobes trying to fulfill church assignnments.
  9. It Becomes You – A Memoir About Medical Education. This was the series of posts which launched the year, describing the launch of my career. If you know someone who is thinking about becoming a doctor, send them to this post.
  10. What Is Death? A discussion of medical and religious definitions of death, and an explanation of Latter-day Saint doctrine about the afterlife.

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Christmas, Upside-Down

Has your Christmas been turned upside-down? You’re in good company.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

Christmas Upside DownOne of my family traditions, started when my oldest kids were little, is to illustrate the Christmas story from the Bible, one scene at a time on large paper, and post them on the wall. Each week in December, usually in our Family Home Evening, we do another drawing and read that part of the story together. The little kids crowd around and lean over the paper so that it is hard for me to see what I’m drawing, and at some point early on I started sitting at the top of the paper, across from the kids, and drawing from the upside-down perspective. My rule is that every mark I make on the paper has to be done this way, including the lettering. This is a great mental exercise, drawing and writing upside-down, and my drawings are so bad anyway that they are not much worse when I do them this way.

Over the years I have known many people who have had their Christmases turned upside-down because of illness. I told one of those stories a couple of years ago on this blog. Just two weeks ago I said to a patient, “This will go down in history as your Christmas in the hospital. Just get used to that idea now.” But fortunately this patient improved much faster than I expected, and last week he was discharged home after only five days in rehab. This will go down in history as his Christmas miracle.

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