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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 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.)


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.


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


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)


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.


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 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