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Monday, August 11, 2014

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.


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?


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.