The Power of Stillness: Mindful Living for Latter-day Saints

By Jacob Z. Hess, Carrie L. Skarda, Kyle D. Anderson, Ty R. Mansfield

The co-authors of a forthcoming book on mindful living for Latter-day Saints have each felt separate nudges to consider a text to explore the mindfulness/Mormonism interface for some time. Although they’ve relished many popular treatments of the topic, including those exploring applications toward a more contemplative Christianity, they’ve also found their texts to be variously foreign to many Latter-day Saint ears. They’ve long desired an exploration that would feel more accessible to our own Latter-day Saint community, communicating insights from contemplative/mindful practice in a way that enhances faith in, and experience with, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

A central aim of the book is to advocate and help foster a meditative space where LDS doctrine and language are embraced as the foundation of contemplative practice—and where teachings from Joseph Smith, David O. McKay, and Gordon B. Hinckley can help illuminate words from Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Thomas Keating. Indeed, one of our central theses is that mindfulness already permeates the Latter-day Saint experience, even if we’re not always aware of it! 

There are many ways the skill of mindfulness might bolster and enhance Latter-day Saint spiritual practices. For example, mindfulness cultivates silence, which allows a richer communion in prayer with God. It helps interrupt knee-jerk reactions to misunderstandings in our church and family relationships. It cultivates slowing the mind down enough to rest on a scriptural text, allowing greater relishing of God’s word and better recognition of personal revelation. Practicing mindfulness also has led us to better experience the power of the Sabbath as a retreat, and the temple as a sanctuary escape from the “doing mode of mind.”

Listen to an interview on LDS Living’s “All In” podcast with two of the four co-authors, Jacob Hess and Ty Mansfield, on “Living a Mindful Latter-day Saint Life”

Preorder the book from Deseret Book.

JACOB HESS, PhD, is a qualified MBSR Instructor through the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and he has taught both adult and teen classes for years. Jacob is one of the creators of online mindfulness-based classes for those facing serious mental/emotional distress, depression, anxiety, and compulsive pornography use. He is on the board of the National Coalition of Dialogue & Deliberation and has studied mindful listening across socio-political disagreements for a decade. Jacob lives in Paradise, Utah, with his wife, Monique, nine chickens, three cats, and four boys who make sure their daddy’s own stillness gets interrupted every five minutes or so.

CARRIE SKARDA, PsyD, is a psychologist in private practice in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has provided individual and couples therapy, with particular interest in attachment trauma and mindfulness, for the last eighteen years. She was the director for training at the Antioch facility of Kaiser Permanente HMO in California, and has facilitated numerous therapy groups on such topics as depression, personality disorders, work stress, crisis management, and parenting. As a facilitator at Sixteen Stones Center for Growth, LLC, she has taught workshops on mindfulness, mindful eating, and forgiveness. Carrie has been studying and practicing mindfulness and formal meditation for over ten years. She is a bit obsessed with Jerusalem, is joyfully married with two young children, and enjoys serving as Primary president in her ward and remodeling her 1904 house.

KYLE DAVID ANDERSON, PhD, is the Director of the Center of Global Citizenship at Centre College, a small liberal arts college outside of Lexington, Kentucky. Kyle helped to found the college’s Meditation Centre group and hosts contemplative pedagogy workshops for university instructors across the southern U.S. He regularly integrates mindfulness practices into his higher education classrooms and Church callings. Kyle is a world traveler, educator, traveler, and writer. He lives in Danville, Kentucky, with his wife, Jenny, and three daughters who love their nighttime ritual of song and gratitude meditation.

TY MANSFIELD, PhD, is a practicing marriage and family therapist and an adjunct instructor in Religious Education at Brigham Young University. Ty completed his undergraduate work in Asian Studies and has been actively practicing mindfulness for over ten years, and he is currently in the process of certification with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach in their Mindfulness Meditation Teacher training program. Ty has also been actively cultivating space for more mindful listening in the area of conflicting views on sexuality and gender for the last decade through his work at North Star International and the Reconciliation and Growth Project. Ty and his wife, Danielle, and their five children live in Spanish Fork, Utah.

Book Endorsements

The Power of Stillness is changing how I relate to my physical and emotional suffering, my work and my weakness, my most loving and my most troubling relationships, and my deepest spiritual struggles and longings. That’s a lot to ask of one book. This one delivers. I am so impressed with how thoroughly the authors have tied the gospel of Christ with this beautiful practice of mindfulness, and with how approachable the concepts feel. The book helps us build a crucial spiritual skill most of us don’t even know we lack: the ability to be resiliently, compassionately present – with ourselves, with others, and with God. Can a single skill change so much? The answer for me is a game-changing, “Yes!” This book is going to bless a lot of people, and has blessed me.

Wendy Ulrich, PhD
Author of Live Up to Our Privileges: Women, Power, and Priesthood

There seems to be a lot of buzz about stillness these days – an interesting paradox. Sadly, our world has pitted religion against spirituality as we strive to live more mindfully. This book reminds us we need both! This book is also unique because it reminds us that stillness is not the end, but a means to a newness of life. The goal is not just finishing well, but journeying well; not just doing, but becoming; not just avoiding struggle, but finding the meaning God offers in it. Jesus is the source of stillness and the opportunities inherent in His Church invite us to live as deliberate disciples. We don’t leave the Church in search of stillness. We find it within our covenant relationship with Christ. Take a break from the crazy business of life and read this book. You will be glad you did.

Brad Wilcox
Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University
Author of The Continuous Atonement and Changed through His Grace

Historically, contemplation (or meditation) has played a crucial role in Christian life and faith. This book represents an important step towards bringing this vitalizing spiritual practice back into view in the Restored Gospel.

Thomas McConkie
Founder, Lower Lights School of Wisdom

The strength of this book is in its recovery of those principles of stillness and the contemplative life that are inherent in Restoration scripture and teachings. A practical guide to a dimension of discipleship too often lost amid the intense pace of church “activity.”

Terryl Givens
Co-Author of The Christ Who Heals

Consistently practicing the principles taught in The Power of Stillness has awakened my soul to the vastness and richness of living a Christ-centered life. I have found the quiet “sacred stillness” – time communing with God – opens a reservoir of love, compassion, grace, and peace. These moments of intimate connection deepen and strengthen spiritual capacities that have helped me navigate every aspect of my life. The principles taught in this book, if consistency practiced, can be transformative.

Debi Barley
Latter-day Saint Mindfulness Teacher Layton Utah

The Power of Stillness demonstrates that mindfulness is implicit in the Restored Gospel and in life skills which are consistent with Gospel living. Through numerous practical examples it reveals how being still, present and mindful opens us up more fully to the influence of the Spirit in the various aspects of our lives. It reminds us of the message of so many ancient and modern prophets that when we are still we find God. I expect it to be a landmark in introducing mindfulness to more Latter-day Saints.

John T. Kesler
Director of Salt Lake Civil Network
Latter-day Saint Zen meditation teacher

We have repeatedly been counselled regarding the negative consequences of living in a fast paced, constantly plugged in world, but the fact is that most of us don’t know exactly how to extricate ourselves from all of it. We can’t simply drop out of life. This volume is full of practical “how’s” for living in this world while being more fully tuned in to the things of the soul. A useful and timely addition to the Latter-day Saint library.

Virginia Pearce Cowley
Author of Through His Eyes: Rethinking what You Believe about Yourself

Research over the past four decades has consistently pointed towards the benefits of a mindfulness practice in terms of health and wellness. Unfortunately, because of the link between meditation and Eastern traditions, some have been hesitant to explore this health promoting practice. For anyone who has felt inclined to engage in meditation and mindfulness but wondered if this is consistent with their own religious beliefs, The Power of Stillness provides profound reassurance. More than that, it makes a compelling case for ways that a mindfulness practice can significantly deepen spirituality within a mainstream religious life. Given the many benefits associated with mindfulness, reading this book could be nothing short of life-changing.

Valerie Bentley, Ph.D.
Latter-day Saint Mindfulness Teacher
Ogden Utah

This one delivers. I am so impressed with how thoroughly the authors have tied the gospel of Christ with this beautiful practice of mindfulness, and with how approachable the concepts feel.

Wendy Ulrich, PhD