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Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Post-Food Coma Obligatory Christmas Blog Post

Its Christmas Day. I'm sitting on my couch with my favorite wife and dog next to me watching Elf! (which has since become the Doctor Who Christmas Special). They're my favorite because they're mine. I'm sure many of you have a favorite wife and dog as well. We just returned from a friend's house where we chit chatted all day while our host cooked up an extreme Christmas Dinner, which filled our bellies much like one fills a size 6 shoe with a size 10 foot.

This Christmas season really gave us a chance to look at the season of Christmas, and refocus our Christmas spirit. We had spent most of our money on things we didn't need, like rent, electricity, food, and student loans, so didn't have much money for the things we need, like iPads, HD TVs, and sideline Denver Bronco's season tickets. Now, Christmas isn't about money. We all know that. Its all over the Ensign every year, and I'm sure somebody in your ward (church congregation) took up a good 5 minutes of your Sunday School nap to rant about the evils of Christmas consumerism.

However, Christmas really isn't the same when you're broke, and let me tell you why. When it comes down to it, Christmas is about giving, and serving. We give to those we love because of the happiness it brings them. We give because Jesus gave, and he is our examplar. And who doesn't love seeing the smile on their favorite wife's face when she opens a small box of designer rocks, or the look on their child's face at the sight of a brand new digital distraction? When you're broke, you miss out on the anticipation and excitement of brand new toys. Being broke on Christmas is like missing an opportunity to serve. You miss out on an opportunity to do as Christ would have done (though I'm sure he wouldn't buy your child the new iSomething.)

So, we had a choice to make. We could mope around for Christmas, or we could get into the Christmas spirit. So we forced it on ourselves. We took late night (9pm for old married couples) car rides to look at Christmas lights while listening to the local jazz station's Christmas program. We put up Christmas lights on the back patio, and got out our little tiny Christmas tree. We bought a few new shirts, and wrapped them up in last years wrapping paper. We watched some Christmas movies, drank some hot cocoa, and snuggled under the big red fleece blanket with our favorite dog between us. To top it off, we went caroling with the sister missionaries to the bishop, some random ward (church) families, and, by accident, a non-member family we'd never met.

In all, its been a good Christmas, partially because my in-laws mailed me a very nice Bronco's scarf, but mostly because I spent the Christmas season with my favorite wife, doing what we could to bring each other happiness, and bringing happiness to our ward family.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Home Teaching: Take the Initiative

When the Ward Executive Secretary sent an email to the ward to report their home teaching for November, I asked if I had a home teaching assignment yet, and I did. I was to teach with Brother Burk. I immediately sent off an email to Brother Burk to ask if he was available to make visits. We agreed that I would make the appointments and he would teach the lesson. So, I called our families and got our appointments made. No big deal.

I don’t know about you, but I do what I do. It’s not out of the ordinary or in any way special. It’s just what I do.

Well, what I had done was, unbeknownst to me, quite noteworthy. Brother Burk was quite impressed with my initiative in contacting him when I could have just let him do all the work, since he’s the senior companion and all. He spent several minutes talking about it.

Then I thought about it. Why did I take the initiative?

Brother Burk is moving next month. I don’t know anybody in the ward very well. I’m busy with work and school. It’s the Christmas Season and people are busy. Taking initiative scares me. Etc. Etc. There are a million reasons I could make up, none of them good of course.

In order for me to take the initiative and call Brother Burk I had to supplant the natural man. I had to jump through all my personal hang-ups and excuses, and just do what I had to do. Would my lack of home teaching have gone unnoticed by my Priesthood leaders? Likely not, as Home Teaching percentages are low in most wards. Would I be in trouble with anyone? No. Would I notice I hadn’t done my Home Teaching? Yes. Would my families have known? Yes. Would Brother Burk have known? Yes.

So, my decision came down to four considerations: 1. Personal accountability, 2. Accountability to/Respect for those I serve with, 3. My basic obligations to those whom I’ve been given Priesthood Authority over, 4. My love for my Savior and his Children.

To the Elders of the church: If you are lacking in your Home Teaching, then I ask you to begin now. Stop making excuses. Be of good courage, and push past the fears, the apathy, and the excuses. Get out there, and serve your families. Whether or not you are a good Teacher, you are providing service to people whom you will come to love, and call friends. This is the work that will outlast this mortal life. It is a good work, and you should make yourself a part of it.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Like Rain For The Ocean

If Christ were here on Earth, what would he do? Surely he would lift his hand to feed and clothe the world. How would he do it though? Would he raise his magic wand like a magician and make the world a better place? (Thank you Pope Francis) Maybe he would create a multibillion dollar business to seek out and care for people? Maybe he would go out on his own, and cure the world one person at a time, similar to his mortal life on Earth? Really though, what would he do?

As I pondered these questions the answer came to me, almost as clear as if it were the spoken word. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did start a multibillion dollar business, and he called it The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Maybe it’s not a business as most of think of a business, but it is a business nonetheless.) Then, since he couldn't be here to perform the work one-by-one himself, he called his “employees”, and “business associates” to do it for him, to lift the world one person at a time.

At first glance, it’s a wonder that lifting the world one person at a time would be very effective. There are over 7 billion people after all. It’s a tall order, even for the Lord’s church, and still remains tall after including the billions of churches and civic organizations involved in the work. However, it is the most effective way. Why is that? Because “He recognizes the great worth of each of Heavenly Father’s children.” (Elder Hugo E. Martinez, “Our Personal Ministries”) The Lord wants each person to feel cared for as an individual, not as an impersonal group. He understands the human psyche, and our need for closeness. He knows us, and wants us to know each other.

So, we then have a duty, each of us, to lift others in our little part of the world, whether they be strangers, friends, or enemies. The little acts of service we perform, no matter how small, will contribute to a larger ocean of Christlike acts throughout the world, and as we all work to lift each other up, the world will be lifted as well.



Saturday, November 8, 2014

7 Most Excellent Lessons

One of my favorite fun films hit the silver screen in 1989, and in this film are several life lessons that we learn every Sunday, and are core values in the lives of Latter-Day Saints. That film is "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure."

In case you haven't seen it, Bill & Ted are two high school kids barely skating through school. Their dream is to rock with Eddie Van Halen in their band, "Wyld Stallyns." As their senior year comes to a close they must pass their history report to graduate high school. If they don't graduate, Ted will go off to military school, and Bill and Ted will never see each other again.

They're sitting in front of a Circle-K, trying to study historical dudes for their report when a phone booth falls out of the sky and Rufus (George Carlin) steps out to tell them they must pass their test in order to become the leaders of a Utopian future.

Bill and Ted get in the phone booth (a time machine) and kidnap several historical dudes (and one historical babe) who later present for their most excellent history report, thereby securing our most bodacious future.

So, here are some memorable quotes from the movie, and their accompanying lesson. If you haven't seen the movie, you're gonna have to catch up. ;)



“Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.” –Ted
We are a peculiar people, and strange things are happening all around us, some good, and some bad. Rufus (Moroni) brought us the phone booth (Book of Mormon), but its up to us to do the leg work, and learn from the historical dudes (Prophets).


“Whoa. Those must be the princesses you told yourself about at the Circle-K. We gotta go. It’s a history report, not a babe report.” Bill
Remember why you came to Earth. Stay on task. Don’t give in to the natural man.


“Bogus” –Bill and Ted
Listen to the Holy Ghost, and fine tune “the spirit of discernment” so you know when things just don’t add up.


“That conversation made more sense this time.” –Bill 
Whether its reading the scriptures, or attending the Temple, you’ll understand more each time you do it.


“Trash can… Remember a trash can.” –Ted (Gotta see the movie for this one)
Keep your commitments, especially those you make to yourself.


“Be Excellent to Each Other.” –Bill
Remember to keep the second greatest commandment, to love one another.


“PARTY ON DUDES!” –Abraham Lincoln
Remember to have fun, but keep the commandments when you do!



Saturday, October 4, 2014

DELIVERANCE IN THE DESERT

My dad taught me to drive in the Glade outside Farmington, New Mexico in an old 2nd generation GMC Jimmy (K5 Blazer). The Jimmy was old enough that its body had once been made of steel before becoming mostly iron oxide held together by a burnt orange paint. It was lifted to fit large 30 inch wheels, and my uncle had outfitted it with a 450 block engine. It was loud, and had tons of power, and set off car alarms just by driving though a parking lot. We called it “The Beast”, and rightly so. To top it off, my father had learned to drive in the mountains of Colorado, and honed his skills in the army. He was fearless, and could do things in the Beast I’ve never seen duplicated in any other vehicle.

Not the Beast, or the desert, but you get the idea


My first truck was a 1980 Toyota four banger pickup with four on the floor, and no power steering. It was orange, with bucket seats, tan interior, and sported a pretty dent in the steel truck bed between the cab and wheel well. I also learned to drive this truck in the New Mexico back roads.

The roads in the Glade were at one time 100% unmaintained dirt roads, carved through a forest of pinion trees, sage brush, and weeds that never turn green by teenagers looking for a party, and gun aficionados target practicing on metal signs, beer cans, and the occasional jack rabbit. The roads were full of pot holes, ruts, and washes. If you didn’t know how to drive on these roads you could find yourself stuck in a rut, or a wash, or high centered on a chunk of sandstone.

One of the many dirt roads found in the Glade


This is where my story begins. I was driving my little beater truck, and trying to impress my girlfriend by showing her my mad driving skillz on the back roads. About 2 miles out, I drove through a wide wash. I did everything my dad had taught me about going through a wash. I kept my steering wheel steady, and kept at a steady, yet swift speed. However, there was no way my four banger was going to get through that wash. So, my truck stopped moving about half way through. I did what I could to get traction, but there was no hope for my little truck, so we had to walk. If I’d done this about 5 years later I could have used a cell phone to call for help. Instead, we started walking back to town.

We probably walked just over a mile back when a Ford F250 came upon us. He drove us back to the sight of my failed pride, tied up a tow rope, and easily hauled my truck out of the wash. We were saved!

In tonight’s Priesthood session, Elder Uchtdorf talked about Jesus’ apostles being told at the last supper that one of them would betray him. Each one in turn asked, “Lord, is it I?” Instead of turning on each other, they turned inward, and reflected on the intentions of their own hearts. Later in the talk, Elder Uchtdorf tells us that asking this question with humility can help us to grow. For when we ask the Lord to show us our weaknesses, with the intent to fix those weaknesses, the Lord can help us to overcome, and grow into better people.

The Glade's main road


“Is it I?” I ask this very question quite often, but instead of addressing the Lord, I toss my inquiry into the ether. Most often the adversary answers me with a loud yes, and then he proceeds to tell me all the things I do, or ever did wrong. He has, on many occasions, thrown me into a deep depression, in which doubt fills my soul. He tells me that I’ve run myself into a deep wash, and there’s no way I’m ever getting out. I should just give up, and accept life stuck in the wash.




In the Book of Ether, the Prophet Ether relays the Lord's message to us, “If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27) Jesus says, “come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

If we don’t include the Lord when we ask “Is it I?” we will learn our weaknesses, but not in a way that encourages repentance. We will try to save ourselves for a little while before giving up, because we don't have the strength or tools ourselves. Instead, we need to address our question to the Lord, "Lord, is it I?", so that he can bring in his heavy duty F250 with a towing wench and haul us out of danger, so we can get some rest from the desert heat. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quiet in Chaos

Sometimes we need to stop and listen
At home alone today, I found myself annoyed. It's muggy today, and I've had a growing headache, but really, it was just too loud. What was too loud? To be honest, the television. I was bored, so busied myself with a late 80's Keanu Reeves, and Alex Winter movie that has the power to numb the mind like no other movie in existence, except maybe it's sequel. Don't get me wrong now, it was an excellent time, but my mood was growing more bogus by the minute. After the movie I kept up the mind numbing going for another 20 minutes before I just turned it off. I needed something else. What was it?

Silence!

Silence is golden they say, and it's true. Man did not evolve in the constant stimuli of the Vegas Strip. No, man evolved in the quiet of forests, deserts, and plains. Even just a couple hundred years ago, your ancestors came home most nights to a dinner lit by the setting sun, and a few oil lamps if they could afford them. The family busied themselves with chores to ready themselves for the coming day, then lay down next to a coal stove with the rest of the family for the night, having prayed, and read a few words of scripture as a family. If that wasn't your family a couple hundred years ago, then go back a few hundred more.

The point of the story is that we are not meant to live with constant stimuli, yet we do. Some of us don't have a choice in the matter, but most of us do. Most of us can have silence, but choose not to. Why? Have we forgotten what our ancestors had to learn centuries before us; To live with their own thoughts? Maybe so. This is why so many of us can't sleep at night, and why all our best thoughts come to us in the shower. Those few moments of silence we find are the only times our brains have to think for themselves!

It's also the only time that the Holy Ghost isn't competing for our attention. Yes, these are the moments that we can allow God to speak to us, and are the perfect times for prayer, and contemplation.

The Manhattan Temple: Quiet among chaos


I also want to suggest another place to find that much needed silence. That is, the Temple of the Lord. When we enter the Temple we are asked to turn off our phones, and other devices. This isn't only for the sake of others, but for us, to foster a spirit of reverence, meditation, and contemplation within ourselves. Throughout most of the Temple we whisper when we speak, and in most cases, we don't speak at all.

My favorite room in the Temple is the Celestial room. For those who don't know, the Celestial room is a large room, beautifully, yet simply decorated. This is the room that, after making covenants with the Lord, we (Latter-day Saints) take time to sit, pray, meditate, and contemplate. This is a special place, set apart from the world. Temples are mostly built from granite, and the walls are all about 3 feet thick, so the silence of the celestial room, where nigh a whisper is heard, is a profound silence, even when nestled in snugly next to a 6 lane interstate.

This silence gives us an opportunity unlike any other to commune with the Holy Spirit. The Temple is God's house. The Holy Spirit is strong in his house. Compounded with almost complete silence, the silence truly does become profound. It is in the silence of God's Holy House that the Spirit can reveal God's deepest secrets, and desires for us. It is here that many of often come to contemplate big decisions, or come for confirmation of spiritual truths. It is in his Holy House that so many Latter-Day Saints come to simply feel that they have come home to their loving Father.

If you can, I encourage you to go to the Temple, and commune with your Heavenly Father. Linger longer in the Celestial Room, with the intent of embracing the silence, and letting the Lord's Spirit settle into your heart there. Give the Lord the time you would give an old friend you're meeting for brunch at a quiet diner downtown, after all, going to the Temple is a lot like meeting an old friend for brunch in a quiet diner downtown.

If you can't go the Temple, I encourage you to strive to do so. Whether you need some long talks with your bishop, or have yet to enter the waters of Baptism, you will be blessed for every effort in getting into the Lord's Holy House.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Novel Idea

I have noticed, in American, possibly world culture, the novelization of our people. Not the writing of our lives into novels, but living our lives as if we were in a novel. The basics of a  novel are:


· A problem that needs to be solved

· A protagonist to solve the problem

· An antagonist to oppose the protagonist

· A theme, or structure (mystery, action, romance, etc) to how the problem will be solved

· And a plot, or the actual steps and progressions the protagonist takes to solve the problem, or the antagonist takes to thwart the protagonist

(Please accept my apology for ruining every book/movie you ever attempt reading/watching again.)



THE PROTAGONIST

In a novel (or movie) everything happens to, for, or because of the protagonist. Every event furthers his cause. Every struggle leads her closer to the book's climatic apex. When coincidence favors the hero we cheer on her cause! When bad things happen, it’s a travesty, and somebody must pay! VOLDEMORT DID THIS! We yell as we keep ourselves from hurling the book across the room. We cry for him or her when tragedy strikes his friends, families, and classmates. "Somebody must pay." we loathely mutter under our breath.



THE BOOK OF LIFE


What does the book of life say about you? Are you the protagonist; the antagonist? A supporting character? A minor character?


NONE OF THE ABOVE!!


No, this is the book of life. There are no protagonists or antagonists. There are no supporting characters, nor minor characters. We are not ranked by our importance, or casted role. We are people. People are good and bad; we are each a mix of good and evil. We are all special, and all important, but none of us is more special, or important than another. "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." (D&C 18:10) and "...God is no respecter of persons." (Acts 10:34)


PERCEPTION


When we see ourselves as protagonists in the book of life, then everything that happens, happens to, for or because of us. Why did Nancy in accounting lose her job? To create an opening for you, of course! Why did you get into that nearly fatal accident? Because you have an important lesson to learn. Why were you diagnosed with cancer? Because God singled you out and wants you to grow from the experience.


Bullhonky! All of it!


Bad things don’t happen TO us. Good things don’t happen FOR us. Good things happen and bad things happen. "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the evil, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matt 5:45) God does not esteem one flesh above another because one is more righteous than the other. (1 Nephi 17:35)


The novelization of our lives has created a perception in us that we are all protagonists. As protagonists we are entitled, yes, ENTITLED to good things. As the protagonist, the author of the Book of Life breaks his contract when he makes us suffer! He cannot be the kind and loving author we always thought he was if he makes our lives unbearable, can he?


When we look at life from a broader perspective, when we see that our story is the story of everyday life, we begin to see that God hasn’t singled us out for greatness or damnation. We begin to see that the pages of the book of life are full of everyday things, and those things are beautiful. The greatness is up to us.


DETERMINATION


Where our story leads depends entirely upon us. Despite our burdens, despite our pain, despite our insecurities, it is up to us to move. It is my faith that God does not give us trials, but that trials come as a part of our mortal existence, and our test is how we handle those trials.


Heavenly Father is very aware of our burdens, but our burdens do not define his love for us.



The greatest novel ever written won’t be the man who the saves the world from a tyrant. The greatest novel ever written IS the novel of every person who rises from their slumber, and with faith, hope and charity determines to make today better than yesterday and lives with faith that tomorrow will be better for the things done today.


So your challenge then is to rise up, take hold of your burden and with faith, find the determination to carry your burden. It is not the legacy of the Saints of God to fall slack when the journey lengthens, the oxbows break, the rations run low, and death takes our loved ones. No, it is our legacy to stand tall, and determine that our journey is not over. You woke today with the breath of life in your nostrils. You still have that breath now. God still has need of you. Do not burden yourself with the entitlement of this generation.


THE ATONEMENT


The more I study it, the more I learn that the Atonement is not just about death, resurrection and eternal life. The atonement is about healing. It is about helping us cope with this mortal life. It is about bringing peace to our souls, whatever our burdens. Heavenly Father is very aware of our burdens, but our burdens do not define his love for us. Jesus asks us to take his yoke up with him, or rather he offers us to make a covenant with him, that if we carry the burden of caring for his people, he will carry the burden of our grief, sin, and heartache. He will heal us, and teach us happiness. (Matthew 11:28-30)


Thanks to Henry Bingham for his help in preparing this article 

Monday, August 11, 2014

A World in Turmoil

A WORLD IN TURMOIL

I don’t like watching the news. It’s not because I don’t want to know what’s going on in the world, but because it either makes me sad or angry, there is enough spin to throw me off the carousel, or I don’t care what Megan Fox wears to every TMNT premier, especially right after hearing about some act of terrorism, or mass genocide somewhere in the world.

It also makes my life feel small, and insignificant. My problems are infinitesimal in comparison to the rest of the world’s problems. I broke my foot in late July. So what? A young mother in Iraq wishes her son still had a foot. I don’t always like my job. So what? A street urchin begging for change in Denver’s 16th Street mall gave up on employment months ago.  My apartment is small, overpriced, and laid out strangely. So what? A war veteran, who will be sleeping underneath Portland’s Burnside Bridge tonight, would be happy to wake up here every day. It’s too hot outside. So what? Millions of people live in the hot African sun, with no shelter to speak of, and less water to drink for the whole day than I just washed my hands with.

What right do I have to complain while my brothers and sisters suffer throughout the world?

Earlier today I was reading about violent acts of anti-Semitism throughout the world. If anything gets under my skin its violence, abuse, or hatred of any one people based on something that separates them from others, i.e. race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, class. Unfortunately, there has been a rise in this kind of hatred in recent years. I see it all over the internet, on TV, out of the mouths of loved ones, on the street, everywhere. I am continually appalled by the thoughts, words, and actions of otherwise upstanding citizens.

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR

Are we not commanded to love our brothers and sisters as we love ourselves? I was recently asked what that means, because every person thinks of love differently than every other person. I’ve thought about that question a lot since it was presented to me, and the answer came to me while studying for our Elders Quorum lesson. That answer comes from our prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith. President Smith’s third wife, Jesse, “often said of her husband, ‘He is the kindest man I have ever known. I have never heard him speak an unkind word.’ He would respond, with a smile, ‘I don’t know any unkind words.’” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, chapter 15)

You can rest assured that President Smith was human. Like any other man, I am sure he knew many unkind words. However, I think what he meant was that his heart didn’t know any unkind words. This goes the step beyond Thumper’s mother’s saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” The saying, though classic, and well said, still allows us to feel unkindness in our hearts. President Smith’s example is for us to have no unkindness in our hearts at all. If there is no unkindness, then there is nothing you have to keep yourself from saying.

Is this not an attainable Godly Attribute? Can we not turn our hearts in love toward our brethren? Can we not change the world, just a little bit at a time by committing ourselves to loving our fellow creatures in Christ?

COMFORT

As Latter-Day Saints we have a sure knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, and know our place in it. We know that this life is but a small part of our own eternity. My Patriarchal Blessing tells me, “While the world is in commotion and there’s a lot of unrest, and there’s not the happiness that needs to be there, remember that in the Kingdom of God things are intact.”I think this is important for people like me, who empathize with the world, and are saddened by the poverty, and the acts of hatred and violence that are so prevalent in today’s world. If you’ve gotten this far in reading, then you are also likely to benefit from such comfort.

While all is NOT well in Zion, it is well in the Kingdom of God, and will all be straightened out on the other side. The saddest part may be the number of people whose hearts are closed to the word of God because of their hatred for the God’s children who do not match their narrow description of good human beings.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Seek to Serve

It's hot tonight in Oregon, and Oregon doesn't believe in AC, just box fans in the window. When its this hot I can't sleep. When I can't sleep I either listen to the Helen Jane Long radio station on Pandora (calm piano), or listen to the scriptures/conference talks on the Gospel Library app for Android.

Tonight, I chose the October 1997 General Conference. I got through the first two talks before I had to move to a cooler location. (I.e. the couch) So here I am, on the couch blogging from my smartphone.

Before I started this though I was stalking my measly 200 friends on Facebook. One of them posted this meme:

Found here

This meme went perfectly with those first two conference talks. In the second talk, "Called to Serve", President Boyd K. Packer talks about our service in the church, not just serving in callings, but serving with our hearts, and spirits, not just when called by revelation from Priesthood Authority, but when revelation from the Holy Ghost calls us to serve.

This goes in line with the meme above because we don't know the fight others are putting up, but our Father in Heaven does, and he gives each of us the Gift and inspiration of the Holy Ghost to serve our fellow creatures.

The first steps are the hardest. We don't always know the voice of the Spirit if we aren't accustomed to listening to it. So we don't know if we are on a wild goose chase, or following the Spirit until we've tested our inspiration.  However, we can learn to hear that voice, and discern its origin.

Elder Packer tells us to " cultivate a spirit of service." And this may be the best advice. We need to first show the Lord that we are willing to serve, and will follow his inspiration. When we have proven that he can trust us with his revelations, then he can send us where he needs us.

How do we cultivate the Spirit of service? Just do it. Get out there, and serve. Start with helping set up chairs before church, prepare your lessons, talks, etc. Carefully and with your class in mind. Pray for guidance. Talk to your bishop about your desire to build your desire to serve.

There is also an unintended consequence of service. I've seen it more times than I know. That is friendship. When you serve others you learn to love them, and you make strong bonds based on mutual respect, and love.

This, I think, is an important lesson for our day. We live in a world that is perpetually more and more inward facing. Many people care only for themselves, and their conveniences. Few take their headphones off to listen, talk, or serve. It is a sad state of affairs.

Let us not forget the two greatest commandments, to love God first, and our neighbor second. I pray that we haven't yet forgotten, and if we have, that we can remember again.

Remember, you don't know the struggle of another, so be prepared to listen to the Spirit, and serve with all your heart. If you are prepared, the Lord will trust you to follow his guidance.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Sacred Heritage

I have a mission box. In this box is several things I kept from my mission. Photos, mission scriptures discussions, letters, and other things I had decided to keep a long, long time ago. Among those trappings is a sheet of paper I received when I was ordained an Elder of the Melchizedek Priesthood. I don’t know how many of the brethren have this. It’s not something I ever hear talked about, so I’m assuming it’s not all that common. (Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm not.) It is my Priesthood Lineage:

Peter, James, and John were ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matthew 16:13-19, 17:1-9Mark 9:2-10, Luke 9:28-36, 2 Peter 1:16-18)

Joseph Smith Jr. was ordained an Apostle of the Lord under the hands of Peter, James, and John in June of 1829. (Joseph Smith History 1:72Doctrine & Covenants 27:12, Doctrine & Covenants 128:20, Church History in the Fullness of Times)

Brigham Young was ordained a High Priest 14 February 1835 by the First Presidency of the church: Joseph Smith Jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. He was ordained an Apostle by the Three witnesses the same day: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris the same day.

Joseph F. Smith was ordained an Apostle of the Lord 1 July 1866 by Brigham Young.

Joseph Fielding Smith was ordained an Apostle of the Lord 7 April 1910 by Joseph F. Smith.

Glen Obid Hamblin as ordained a High Priest 29 April 1940 by Joseph Fielding Smith.

Living Webb was ordained a High Priest 28 July 1966 by Glen Obid Hamblin,

Living Marcum was ordained a High Priest 8 February 1976 by Living Webb.

Living Peterson was ordained a High Priest 9 November 1986 by Living Marcum.

Living Mecham was ordained a High Priest 28 June 1987 by Living Marcum

I was ordained an Elder of the Melchizedek Priesthood 18 November 1998 by living Mecham.


As I look over this sacred lineage I find myself wondering, what is the Priesthood "DNA" I carry? How has the Priesthood that I carry been used by those who preceded me? What can I learn from them? Am I upholding my lineage? Would my fore-bearers approve of how I've carried on their heritage? I can only hope so.



Do you know your Priesthood Lineage? What great things have your fore-bearers done with their Priesthood? What are you doing to honor your Priesthood Lineage today?



Sunday, July 20, 2014

President Henry B. Eyring: A Priceless Heritage of Hope

This coming week we will be discussing President Henry B. Eyring's General Conference talk, "A Priceless Heritage of Hope."

I still think Pioneer Day is funny. I didn't grow up LDS, so I had never heard of Pioneer Day. Even after I joined the church I didn't hear about it for maybe ten years. I heard about the youth doing the handcart and wagon treks, but nobody ever said the words "Pioneer Day." I just thought it was something our stake did every summer.

*On a side note, I grew up in New Mexico, which is close enough to Utah for a day trip, but far enough to have never heard of Pioneer Day.

Wagon Train Trek Reenactment


I still remember the day I found out. It went something like this:

"July 24th? What happens July 24th?"
"Pioneer Day."
"Say what?"
"July 24th. Its Pioneer Day."
"Never heard of it."
"You're kidding, its a national holiday, with parades, and everything."
"In Utah?"
"Well, yeah, but..."
"That explains everything."


Okay, okay, let's move on

President Eyring talks about the heritage of our church membership, and the "pioneers" who led the way for us to discover, and join the church. He asks us to remember those who have come before, and to continue the work they started, the work of spreading the hope the gospel brings.

Since I shared my conversion story last post, I want to share another story this time. This story isn't about the church, but it is about carrying on a heritage of hope.

STORY TIME

My grandfather Orville was an amazing man. He was born and raised in Kansas outside of a small town. He was raised with Baptist morals, and never strayed from that moral path. He was 6 foot 4 inches, and stout with unruly, curly red hair that stood up 6-8 inches above his head. He was a good fit for working as a farm hand in both Pocatello, Idaho, and Monte Vista, Colorado in his young adulthood. Idaho, and the San Luis Valley in Colorado both specialize in potatoes. In those years he also worked as a truck driver, probably balancing out his income for the slow season, but I don't have any details on that.

In 1955, or 1956 he moved his little family to Albuquerque, New Mexico. My mother was 3-4 years old, and the younger of two girls. There, he worked at an asphalt plant, delivered propane, ran an oil refinery, (Not sure in what order), and was a volunteer firefighter. One of my favorite stories is that he had very long arms (which I inherited), and if a light burned out in the firehouse he would be called on to change the bulb because he had a longer reach than guys who were even taller than him.

Sometime during his life he joined the Methodist Church, and became a Deacon in his local congregation. I don't know the services Deacons perform in the Methodist Church, but I am sure he fulfilled his responsibilities with the utmost diligence, and reverence. He never drank, was never abusive, and never cursed. He was a man of kindness, and love. He worked hard to support his family, and never let a lack of jobs keep him from working. He was the embodiment of the American way.

I will always remember something he told me in his later years, about ten years after my grandma died. It is the principle by which I now try to live my life. It is the entire purpose of this post:

"You were always Marguerite's favorite (My grandma). She talked about you more than the other grandkids (there were only 5). She had more patience for you than anyone else. But I love all of you the same. I don't have any favorites, you're all different, but I love you all the same."
When he said that to me, I felt love from him, and knew that moment that our Heavenly Father feels the same way about his children. He loves us all the same, despite our differences. He wants to watch us grow. He winces at our indiscretions, revels in our success, and hopes that we will find the right way. That is my priceless heritage of hope, my lasting legacy of love. My brothers and sisters of this world are all different, but our Heavenly Father loves them all the same. It is the legacy, and principle I strive to live.


"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." (John 13:34-35)


Monday, July 7, 2014

My Conversion Story

Disclaimer: Normally, I don't get all too personal on my blog. I have an aversion to feelings in general. Feelings are often uncomfortable, painful, and most disagreeable to the lacrimal glands, so I avoid them, much like rational people avoid asphyxiation, rattlesnakes, poisonous spiders, bears, dark alleys, and canned peas. So, consider this a special occasion, if you will.

Canned Pea Monster


MY CONVERSION

I remember my own baptism well. The date was October 19, 1997. I was living in the small town of Farmington, New Mexico. I was 19 at the time. My father, in the midst of a difficult battle with hepatitis C, had committed suicide just over a year earlier. My family took it hard. Our lives had been turned upside down.

In search for answers I chose a comfortable set of beliefs. I chose to believe that when my father died he just stopped existing. He would never return. I would never have to see him again, and he could never hurt me again. (See the disclaimer). So, death was ultimate, unimaginable nothingness. There was no hope, no misery. No pain, no relief. The absence of being, the absence of consciousnesses. Nothing.

Through a train of influences and conversations I found myself talking with Elder Orr from small town Idaho, and his odd, violin playing, trunky companion. Over the next two weeks I would read from 1 Nephi through 3/4 of Alma, and the books of 3 Nephi, 4 Nephi, and Moroni. (I read the rest later) The Spirit was strong with me at that time, enough to throw out all doubt that anything else could be true. It was truly amazing.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had the answer to every significant question I had about life, death, and deity. There was no question I couldn't answer by searching for it in the scriptures. One of those questions was answered in Alma 40:11. This scripture told me what happened to us after death. My Father, the unbeliever, the monster, dad, had been "taken home to that God who gave [him] life." 

Not since my father died had I experienced such strong emotions about his death. I cried as I read, and reread this verse. All of a sudden the death that released me from my own personal h*ll became the death that released my father from his own personal captivity. I could see Heavenly Father pulling my Earthly father in with a warm embrace. There was joy. There were tears (as much as a spirit can shed tears). There was no more unbelief. 

Heavenly Father would then have a frank conversation with him. He would show appreciation for his honest heart, and attempts to help those who couldn't help themselves. He would chastise him for his errors, and counsel with him on the work he needed to do. My Father would then get to work on his own repentance. The sweet out-weighed the bitter for the first time in at least 12 years.

My father in the army in the early 70s.
"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers"
Malachi 4:6


So, two weeks after my first meeting, Elder Orr stood next to me, held my arms, said those magic words, and baptized me. I died. Then I was pulled out of the water, my old self gone. A new man rose from that warm, watery grave. A man of doubt, unbelief, and contention was buried, and a man of hope, love, and belief was given new life. An animal took it's last breath, and seconds later, a child of God took it's first. Like a newborn babe, my eyes were set to wonder. Life had taken on new meaning. Even the smallest, most mundane activity was in similitude of Christ's life, death, or resurrection. My life had new meaning. It was no longer about my Earthly success, but it was also about my spiritual success.

A year and a half I would return Elder Orr's favor and serve in the Idaho, Pocatello mission.

In two weeks my life was changed forever, quite literally, forever.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What's in a name?

This blog post covers our Stake's Priesthood and Relief Society lesson this week. This lesson is on Russell M. Ballard's talk, "Following up" from the April 2014 General Conference. I'm only discussing the first portion of his talk though, about about using the full name of the church. For this first portion of his talk, Elder Ballard references his talk from October 2011 "The Importance of a name." I recommend reading this talk as well, for a better understanding of the subject.

LAZY MOUTH

Ok, I admit it. I'm bad at this principle. (The name of my blog reflects this.) I've rarely had to explain what a Mormon is. Sometimes I don't have to explain what LDS, or what a Latter-day Saint is. And my mouth is mostly too lazy to say, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" in it's entirety. (Honestly, the epitome of laziness is being too lazy to say 9 more syllables.) Then, I'm too intimidated to explain what being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints means, so I just let people think of me as a Jell-o loving, casserole eating, funeral potato consuming, polygamy practicing, mass producing Mormon, hoping that my example is enough to break their stereotypes.

Is my example enough? HA!


BECAUSE I SAID SO

In Far West Missouri in 1838 Jesus Christ revealed to Joseph Smith: "For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (D&C 115:4) While "Because I said so" is not a reason most adults will accept, this is pretty much the truth of the matter. Jesus wants his church to be called by his name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It shows reverence and respect to our Savior when we do as he asks, even in the smallest things, like saying extra syllables.

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

Ponder a question for me: Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still the same church if it is called The Mormon Church? Defensively, you say "yeah, or course! A rose by any other name is still a rose." Let's look at this though. Like any other commandment, the Lord has wisdom in his actions.

WHO'S GONNA SAVE YOU?

The Lord reveals something to us in Doctrine and Covenants 76. D&C 76 was given to us from a vision Joseph Smith witnessed in 1832. This scripture reveals to us the nature of the eternal Kingdoms of God, namely the Celestial, Terrestial, and Telestal glories. I want to bring to your attention one portion of the chapter in particular. As you read this, ponder the name (or name of the church) by which you refer to yourself.
"And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one.
And the glory of the terrestrial is one, even as the glory of the moon is one.
And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world;
For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas.
These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch;
But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant." (D&C 76:96-101)
So, whose name you call yourself by? Who is your savior? Is your savior Mormon, or Jesus Christ? Which Kingdom are you shooting for?

LABELING YOUR MOTIVATIONS 

There are also psychological reasons to call ourselves by the name of Christ. Look at yourself. What do you do for work? What are your hobbies? Who are you?

The label of "who you are" is a powerful motivator in your decision making process. As a church member there are certain things you do, and don't do. There is a certain set of basic beliefs that you follow. When you label yourself as a member of Christ's church you have expectations, not just from others, but from yourself. You strive more to live the expectations.

Calling yourself a Mormon is one of the most informal ways to refer to your sacred church membership. Does that informality reflect, not only who you are, but the way you practice your religion? Are your sacred obligations met informally, without reverence, or respect? Does your lazy mouth denote a lazy devotion? Reflect on that a bit, do some introspection, and ask yourself those hard questions. Then ask what you should do about it.

AN IMPERFECT PEOPLE

None of us is perfect, but there are little things we can do to help us along. They may seem trivial to us, but there are reasons God asks them of us. One of those things is saying a few more syllables when you refer to the church, and your membership in it. Its not hard, it just takes practice and discipline.



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Identity Crisis


There has been a big push recently to normalize Mormons. We are trying to fight the stigma that we are strange, 3 legged beasts, sprouting horns, carrying off dozens of women to Utah to be our wives. Nobody wants to be strange. Nobody wants to stick out. When you stick out people ask you strange questions that you are either tired of answering, or feel unqualified to answer. Nobody likes the spot light, but we are in it, Like it or Not.

Don't get me wrong here. I think the push is a great idea. The church, and it's members are doing a great job, maybe greater than ever, of shining their light to the world. However, we should be cautious to not lose who we are in the process. Here are some thoughts (mostly from my own life) on this subject.

WHO ARE WE?

This most recent General Conference (where I got my inspiration for this post) spoke heavily to me about my identity. It made me ask the question, "Who am I?" This wasn't the same question we answer in Sunday School, "I'm a child of God." Though pertinent, and applicable, I'm taking about a different question. That is, "Who am I at church? Am I the same person at home, at work, with friends, with family, and in the Temple? Do I have a secure identity? Do I really know who I am?"

I can unfortunately answer "no" to those questions. I struggle to be the upstanding church member when I'm not at church,or in the Temple. I'm not breaking obvious commandments, like drinking, smoking, or fornicating, but I do indulge in raucous laughter, boisterousness, don't always use clean language, and can throw an impressive temper tantrum. I'm prideful, and I try to fit in with the in-crowd. I just want to be liked, or left alone. Don't we all?

“When you are alone, are you in good company?” - Boyd K.Packer


A LIFETIME OF STUDY

We are members of the church. We are also many other things. We wear many different hats. The question is whether these are all separate identities. The question then is who are you at the core? You are a child of God, but what does that mean? What role does that play in your life? How should a child of God act? How should a Latter day Saint act? 

These are simple, yet complex questions to answer. The best I can say is to study Christ and his teachings. Study the prophets, and apostles. Don't rely on your own understanding of what a man of Christ would do, but learn it for yourself, then try to emulate it. Sorry for not having a clean-cut answer, but this is something that takes a lifetime of study and practice to truly understand. It is up to you to dedicate yourself to that endeavor.

TRUTHS AND LIES

There are many lies out there. There are more lies than there are truths, and it is hard to decipher between the two sometimes. However, I want to cover a few that are significant when we consider who it is we are when we are not at church, or at the Temple.

Truth: One purpose of mortality is to gain a body, and learn to care for it.
Lie: The only reason you came to earth is for a body, and your self worth (as well as everybody else's) is dependent upon how that body looks in a swimsuit.

Truth: We are a Christian Church.
Lie: We are a Christian Church, and we should learn to fit in with other Christian Churches, so it's okay to conform to their version of the truth as long as I have a testimony of the True Church.

Truth: Our friendships should not be exclusive to active LDS church members.
Lie: We should make people like us by conforming to their standards. It's okay to tell a dirty joke or two if it makes you look normal.

Truth: It is important to keep the commandments.
Lie: It is important to keep the commandments, and we must shun, demean, and deride those who don't keep the commandments, especially if they know better.

Truth: I am a child of God, and am special in his sight.
Lie: I am a child of God, so I am specialler than you.

Truth: God Loves me, and I can repent of the wrong I've done.
Lie: God loved me, but I messed up pretty bad, so he can't love me anymore, and if he doesn't love me, then I don't have any worth, so there's no point in keeping ANY of the commandments.

Truth: The two great commandments are to love God, then to love your neighbor as yourself.
Lie: The greatest commandment is to take care of number one.

REMEMBER

This life isn't a popularity contest, or a game show. This life, your life, is the real deal. You only get one shot at it. Are going to live it for show? Are you going to parade around in a different costume for every crowd your in, and every job you do? Are you going to compromise your morals because of your own insecurity? Are you going to compromise your doctrinal beliefs to avoid (or start) an argument? Can you see the person wearing a McDonald's uniform, or conversely a three-piece suite as your equal? Are you a LDS at church? Are you LDS at work? Are you LDS at home? Are you LDS at a party with friends? Are you LDS home alone? Are you LDS in front of beggars? Are you LDS in business meetings? Are you LDS on vacation?

WHO ARE YOU? 

That's a bigger question than you think, and one that takes great introspection, and practice to answer. It's a question of not just identity, but of personality, self-worth, and character.


BE WHO YOU ARE WHEREVER YOU GO.



Friday, May 23, 2014

The Dangerous Filth of the Internet

I find myself increasingly saddened by the wickedness I've seen recently online. We live in a wicked world, and it is sad to see such vileness, and wickedness spread across the internet.

In your mind, you may have already consigned this to a blog post condemning pornography, well you would be wrong. There is another pernicious filth being spread across the internet. Like pornography, it is also a dangerous and disgusting habit. It may just as great of a danger to members of the church as digital smut.

This particular sin is brought into our homes through internet users emboldened, and made courageous by the anonymity of the internet. Many are well-meaning church members just trying to do what is right. Others intentionally spread their filth like butter and syrup on bad pancakes, blaming their actions on the rights and duties of the priesthood, or their righteous indignation.

What is this filth I speak of? It is the same filth Jesus rebuked in his mortal ministry. It is hypocrisy, hate, and bullying. I have seen it in memes, comments, blog posts, and passing comments all across the internet. Sometimes it comes in light humor, such as a recent post I saw about linger-longers, and the awkward conversations we've all had with people we weren't comfortable with. It was meant to be humorous, but instead condemned the lonely, needy, and brokenhearted. Some come in pure meanness, such as multiple comments made in recent blogs about dating, sexuality, and other hot topics. One church member even responded to a post saying he would "punch in the face" anybody who disagreed with his beliefs.

Yes, we have been called to preach repentance to the world, but what does that mean? The answer can be found in the way Jesus treated people when he was here on Earth. I've heard it justified that Jesus said some particularly harsh words, but it is important to look at who he spoke those harsh words to. Study the New Testament if you are unsure. Did he condemn the awkward, unkempt guy who has a hard time speaking to girls? Did he condemn the homosexuals and lesbians? Did he condemn those seeking equality among their fellow humans?

No, he condemned the bullies, the haters, and the indignant. He condemned those who would stand between God and his children. He condemned those who only chose the right so their neighbors, wives, children, and bishops could honor their works. He condemned the "vipers" who laid in wait to accuse somebody of grievous sin, and demand that they be stoned to death.

Brothers and sisters, when Jesus comes to Earth, he won't turn first to the stoners, the druggies, the drunks, the LGBTs, the inactives, the non-RMs, or whatever group doesn't follow every commandment to the letter and demand repentance. No, he will turn to the members of the church, and ask why we have alienated so many of his children. He will ask why we have not loved our neighbors, why we have not clothed the beggars, why we have not fed the needy. He will ask why we have condemned so much of the world, instead of putting our arms around them, and showing them the way. We, as members of God's true church, are held to a higher standard than the rest of the world, that means that we will be held accountable first. That means that all of our unkind words, our bullying, our shunning, and ostracizing will be upon our heads. I daresay that it will be better at that day to have lived sinfully as a nonmember than to have spread hatred and injustice as a member.

Paul truly spoke that men in the latter days would be "lovers of their own selves," (2 Tim 3:2) but we know better, and need to love our neighbor instead.

From the scriptures:

Matthew 5 and 3 Nephi 12
Matthew 7:4-5
Matthew 23:13
Mark 12:38-40
John 13:34-35
John 17
2 Timothy 3
Mosiah 2:32
3 Nephi 1:24
3 Nephi 11:29-30
4 Nephi 1:3

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Insignificant

Sometimes we all feel small, unimportant, or insignificant. It's a big world we live in, and an even larger universe. When Moses was taken into his vision of the the whole Earth, and everything upon it he felt to exclaim, "Now for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed." (Moses 1:10)

This is how I've felt more recently. I am 1 person in 6 billion and growing. My body mass, while growing, takes up an even smaller percentage of total mass in the known universe. Little tiny me is nothing. If I stopped existing the universe would move on without so much as a blink.

This feeling makes me not want to stick out. If I'm so unimportant, then why would anyone want to hear me. Why would anyone want to read this blog? Why would anyone want to hear me play my saxophone? Why would anyone care about me? This is why I've been silent lately, why you haven't heard from me. I don't feel like my opinions are of worth. However....


It's all a lie!


Satan wants us to believe that we really are insignificant. He wants us to feel that we are of so little worth that there is no reason for us to make anything of our existence.

The truth is that we are a small part of God's creation. We don't take up much space. We are little by comparison, but we are also the most important part of God's creation. Ponder God's statement to Mosess later in the same chapter, "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) WE, human beings, who each (by comparison to the universe) take up less space than a quark in a proton in an atom on the far side of the moon are THE MOST IMPORTANT of all God's creations. It is enough to bring us the gifts of great humility, and great inspiration at the same time.

God created planets, stars, galaxies, the whole universe. He created black holes, and dark matter (if it really does exist). Everything he has built is amazing in scope, breadth, and beauty, yet you, yes, little old you, who can barely open her eyes in the morning to take a shower; you, who doesn't like peas because they squish when you eat them; you, who works hard day in and day out to cover most of his bills; Yes, YOU, reading this blog right now are among God's most favored creations. You are more important than the moon, the stars, and the planets in their orbits. You are his work and his glory. Jesus didn't suffer and die for the stars in the sky. He rose on the third day for his children.


...for you.


Next time you feel insignificant, remember it is only in mass that you are small, for you are big in the eyes of God.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

EQ Pre-Lesson: Joseph Fielding Smith Chapter 9: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon


Chapter 9: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon


This week we are discussing Chapter 9 of the Joseph Fielding Smith Manual. Instead of going over the lesson as a whole in this blog, I'm going to cover a few vital points.

What is truth?
"All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also, otherwise there is no existence." (D&C 93:30)

Some would say that there are two types of truth, spiritual truths, and temporal (or scientific) truths. However, truth is all in one. Truth exists without bias. One truth does not put itself above another. Truth IS; no more, no less. Interpretation and application is what gives order and meaning to truth. Deciphering the truth, it's importance, and meaning is sometimes the most difficult thing to do. 

The gospel is true. It contains many truths. It is up to each of us to discover the truth(s) of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and of the Book of Mormon. Just as scientists dedicate their lives to discovering the universe, and all things in it, we dedicate ourselves to discovering God, and all his teachings. We begin this process by following Moroni's promise, "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost." (Moroni 10:4) This is just a beginning though. We can't do do this once, and expect to be enlightened for life. We have to go through this same process over and over throughout our lives.

So, after having found the Book of Mormon to pass the test of truth, it is then our duty to determine it’s value. As I said before, the order and importance of truth is irrelevant without interpretation and application. So, how important is the Book of Mormon to you? Has it changed you? “Have ye been spiritually born of God?... Have ye experienced this mighty change of heart?” (Alma 5:14) These aren’t questions anybody can answer, except for you. Ponder the change the Book of Mormon has brought about in you. The greater the change, the more you should consider its importance.


"Do eternal consequences rest upon our response to this book?
Yes, either to our blessing or our condemnation"
- President Ezra Taft Benson -

STANDING AS A WITNESSES

That's a peculiar phrase isn't it? It's strong. It's powerful. It doesn't inspire movement. Wait, what? Standing as a witness inspires us to stand. This isn't about taking the gospel to the world. This is about standing firm. This is about holding firm to the Iron Rod when the scorn from the great and spacious building gets personal. This is about standing strong in your testimony in the face of temptation, persecution, false doctrine, harassment, ridicule, or provocation. This is about being firm and immovable. Standing as a witness at all costs.

So, let's tie all of this together:

  1. Discover the truth of the gospel. Not "your truth," but the unalterable truth that does not change based on your opinions, how you feel, or who you're trying to impress.
  2. Evaluate the importance of the truth you have discovered. What does it mean to you? Is it something  you need to protect, and keep for your own, or something you want to share with others?
  3. Stand as a witness. Be firm, and immovable.

Homework:
Read the lesson
Evaluate areas of your life where you struggle to stand as a witness of the Book of Mormon, and the restored gospel.
Strengthen your testimony in those areas so that you may stand firm, and immovable as a witness of the Book of Mormon, Christ, and his restored gospel.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Like it or not

Portland, Oregon Temple, Moroni's Spire
Most of us don't like to be put on the spot. It's uncomfortable, and makes us nervous. Well, guess what, you are on the spot all the time. As a Mormon you are an ambassador of not just the church, but of Jesus Christ himself.

Ponder on that for a moment.

Look at yourself, members of your congregation, your ward and stake leaders, and the General Authorities. When you consider their example, do you see individuals, or examples of Mormonism? Do you consider yourself an example of Mormonism?

Like it or not, YOU are the example of the church to your friends, coworkers, classmates, etc. Whether or not you live righteously, whether or not you are Christlike, the attributes you exhibit to the people you know are how they will see ALL Latter-Day Saints.

I found this out firsthand. I wasn't active when I started my current job. I didn't tell anybody I was LDS, and I certainly didn't talk like I was. As people found out they would say things like, "I didn't know you're Mormon, you don't act Mormon." I felt guilty, shouldn't those I see everyday be able to say something more like, "I didn't know you're Mormon, but I can see it now that I know."

Well, I've cleaned up a bit since then. I do my best to be an example of Christ, and of Latter-Day Saints. I don't always do well at it, but I try nonetheless.

Remember this when  you interact with others. Are you being an example of Latter-day Saints? Your example is THE example by which they will view the church. Are you a good example?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

EQ Lesson 4/27: Let's not take the wrong way

This week our Elder’s Quorum lesson covers Elder Claudio D. Zivic’s talk, “Let’s not take the wrong way.” I’ve split this talk into 5 sections, and will talk about each section individually.

Be Anxiously Engaged
“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27)

Elder Zivic opens up with a story about a child playing piano. It’s almost too bad he never comes back to this story, but he gives us something for which to think about before moving on to the next section.

Elder Zivic talks about a young boy who was taking piano lessons at this parent’s request. For some time, he ran from his lessons, and didn’t want to play piano. Then one day, he started participating. He started giving it his all. He had begun to love playing piano, and then he ran with it, practicing far more than was required of him. There are so many ways to apply this, and I am sure that we all have examples of this very same thing happening in our own lives. Since this is Elder’s Quorum I would like to focus on church/spiritual things.

Throughout our lives we all have to gain, and reaffirm our own testimonies. When we gain our own testimony a change comes over us. Our duties become more enriching, and we want to learn more about it. We want to “be anxiously engaged.” This is great! We need to be anxiously engaged, and learning about the Gospel every chance we get. However, this comes with a warning!

Tread carefully
“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.”(1 Ne 12:17)"

When we are anxiously engaged in the Gospel we have to be careful about what we study, learn, and the conclusions we come to. Yes, we can, and should have autonomy in our studies, but as in Elder Zivic’s story we need to be aware of the signs on the path. The signs aren’t always what we expect, we have to know what to look for. The trail to Delicate Arch from Elder Zivic’s story are a series of Cairns that hikers have placed to tell others they are taking the correct path. These cairns are small piles of rocks. They are obvious markers, but if somebody, like Elder Zivic doesn’t know to look for them, they will just wonder why somebody would make such a curious little rock tower. It is up to individual hikers to educate themselves about the cairns, and then to follow them.




Just as hikers on their way to Delicate Arch have cairns, we have signs to lead us. As with the cairns it is up to us to educate ourselves about the signs, and subsequently follow them. So, what are the spiritual cairns we should be following? Let’s start with Paul’s words: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23)Joseph Smith also described the inspiration of the Holy Ghost as “pure intelligence.” (JS Quotes) Oliver Cowdery learned that the Spirit may “burn” in your bosom (but only after we’ve done our part in learning, and asked for confirmation in faith.) (D&C 9:8) Another spiritual cairn we should use is whether we are following in the footsteps of the prophets, and apostles. Are we following these spiritual markers as we learn, or are we wandering off into strange paths? If so, we had better find the path back as soon as possible.

Nourishment
When we are following the cairns set aside for us we find that we have spiritual nourishment along the way. We are fed, we are hydrated, and we are never lost. When we follow strange paths there is no guarantee. We may feel nourished at first, but the longer we go the hungrier we get, the less fulfilling our meals, and the more parched our spirits become. As Elder Zivic points out, Christ is the vine through which we get our nourishment, so it only makes sense that the closer we stay to him, the more nourished we are. This isn’t to say that we can’t study subjects not covered in the scriptures, or even controversial subjects, we just need to be careful that we don’t let those studies lead us from the truth, and nourishment Christ provides us.

Find your way back
If you aren’t on the right path, find your way back. Seek the help of your bishop, other members, and start praying for the Spirit’s guidance. When you’re on your way back you’ll start seeing those spiritual markers again. The Lord is merciful, and will lead you home; you just have to do the work.

Our time is now
We don’t know how much time we have on this Earth. You could keel over in the middle of this paragraph (please don’t), or you could live another 50 years. You don’t know when your time is up, so now is the time for you to be anxiously engaged in a good cause, follow the path of righteousness, find your way back, and be nourished by the good word of God. If you haven’t made that decision yet, then I encourage you to make that decision now. If you don’t know the “right way,” then ask you Father in Heaven, and he will show it to you.

Homework:
Read/Listen to Elder Zivic’s talk “Let’s not take the wrong way.”
Evaluate the path you are on. What spiritual cairns can you look to for guidance?
Lift your head up and enjoy your weekend

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

EQ Lesson: Joseph Fielding Smith Manual Chapter 7





Since we just talked had a lesson about Joseph Smith, and the importance of having a testimony of Joseph Smith in December I wanted to take this lesson in a different direction. First, I would like to thank ClassicMormon Mom for her post on this same lesson, which provided me some direction.


Witnesses of Christ

Joseph Fielding Smith states, “Two themes stand out uppermost in my mind. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, and that Joseph Smith was a Prophet called and appointed to usher in the dispensation of the fullness of times.”

We can hardly speak of Joseph Smith without Speaking of Jesus Christ. When we speak of Joseph Smith we talk about his first vision, and the work he did to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the men of this generation. Joseph smith’s witness and testimony of the Risen Savior is the foundation upon which we stand. Without the first vision, Joseph Smith is just a boy from upstate New York. Maybe we would have known him for something else, but that isn’t what happened. Joseph Smith, a boy of 14 was visited by God the Father, and his son, Jesus Christ. Because of this event, this witness, and this testimony Joseph Smith restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in its fullness to the Earth.

That is the testimony this great work stands on.

Brotherhood

Though I don’t know a lot about the relationship between Joseph and Hyrum, I know they were more than brothers. They were best friends, and brothers in Christ. They loved and supported each other, and trusted each other with their lives.  Joseph Smith had so much respect for his brother, he is quoted as saying, “I could pray in my heart that all my brethren were like unto my beloved brother Hyrum, who possesses the mildness of the lamb, and the integrity of a Job, and in short, the meekness and humility of Christ and I love him with that love that is stronger than death, for I never occasion to rebuke him, nor he me.” (JSF Manual, page 112)

In 1841, Hyrum was called to be Assistant President of the Church. In his ordination he was told, “That he may act in concert with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood,  and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery. That my servant Hyrum may bear record of the things which I shall show unto him, that his name may be had in honorable remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever.” (D&C124:94-96) Working so closely in the Church Presidency together only strengthened their bond of brotherhood, which would continue to grow until they were both martyred in Carthage Jail.


 http://img.groundspeak.com/waymarking/display/7b188f90-5a1b-4439-8d40-81d2bb9ce4da.JPG
                             Joseph and Hyrum Smith's Last Ride - Memorial in Nauvoo, Ill

Brothers in Christ

In February of 1999 Gordon B. Hinckley, in an address to the Salt Lake Tabernacle, declared that the first thing every convert needs is “a friend.” Look at your Quorums, your wards, your stakes, and the church as a whole. We have strength and a bond that goes beyond this life. The priesthood connects us. It strengthens our bond as sons of God. When we consider the Priesthood, we think of worthiness, honesty, and integrity. Though not all men who hold the Priesthood have these attributes, we know that their incidence is higher than in the rest of the world, and that most are working to overcome their shortcomings. So, through the Priesthood our trust is strengthen, and our love deepened because we know the manner of men which stand by us.

So, look to your quorums first. Who among your brethren stands in need of a friend? Is it a new convert? Is it a returning member? Is it a struggling member? Is it you? Don’t be afraid to approach start a friendship with that person in need, or if it’s you, search out a friendship. Sure, your bond may feel artificial at first, even forced, but over time your bond will deepen. If you continue in this friendship, your bond may even be as close as Joseph and Hyrum’s bond once was. Imagine the love and respect you are leaving behind by letting these opportunities pass you by. Imagine having somebody you can trust that much.

Strength in Companionship


Humans need interaction. Satan knows this, which is why he likes to get you alone. When we are alone we are at our weakest, and when we are weak, he can entice us with “goodies.” We may indulge in a goody, then another, and another. Each time we do we are being rewarded for being alone, and since we don’t get any goodies when we are not alone, we get the equivalent of a punishment until we ARE again alone. (Do you see the cycle here?) P.S. There is research to support this. All you have to do is Google any kind of addiction and the word loneliness to find it.

Sin causes man to seek darkness, and loneliness. It is in the empty darkness that they can hide their darkest deeds. That is why the Savior commands us to almost always have a companion. We have companions in parents and siblings as a child. We have companions when we go on missions. We have a companion when we Home Teach. We are commanded to marry, which adds an eternal companion. So then does is not make sense to add to your list of companions through friends, and brothers in the Gospel?  When God said of Adam, “it is not good that man should be alone,” (Gen 2:18) he wasn’t kidding. When we have a companion, one who will see that we are “nourished by the good word of God,” (Moroni 6:4) we will not be left alone to the darkness, to be dragged down by the wiles of Satan.

In closing

The lesson here is actually simple. 

1.       Seek to gain, or strengthen your testimony of the atonement, and the restoration of the gospel in these latter days.

2.       Seek out friends(s) whose testimony and resolve you can strengthen, OR seek out friend(s) who can strengthen your testimony and resolve.

3.       Strengthen that friendship(s), and support each other in Christ, not in sin.

Remember, when you make friends that the goal isn’t retention. We aren’t looking to bolster numbers. The goal is to grow in love for somebody so much that you want nothing more than for them to be saved, for the Gospel is about the pure love of Christ, not numbers.