08 January 2018

Cake on Fast Sunday

This is the talk I gave yesterday, in the general session of stake conference:

Years ago, a wise elder's quorum president of mine showed up to teach his priesthood lesson on a Fast Sunday. Imagine our dismay – a bunch of hungry, thirsty priesthood holders - when he revealed a large chocolate cake as part of his lesson. Then, he made a request of our quorum and said, "If you are fasting today, please raise your hand." Most of us dutifully raised our hands. He then made a follow-up request and said, "If you didn't begin your fast with a prayer, please put your hand down." To be honest, most of the group put their hands down. Without a word he proceeded to cut the beautiful cake into large slices and served them to those with their hands down. Nobody protested, but nobody was bold enough to partake either - after all, it WAS Fast Sunday. You can imagine the curious glances as we tried to decipher where this lesson was going. Once the cake was passed to those with their hands down, he said: "Now....those who have a piece of cake, go ahead and eat it. I know! I know it's Fast Sunday, but if you didn't begin your fast with a prayer, you're not really fasting, you're just starving." That lesson has remained with me and has had great impact on my understanding of the Law of the Fast.

As a bishop, I loved taking advantage of introducing the Sharing Time theme each month to the primary children of our ward. One month, I brought into primary a thick board with a phrase written at each end. On one end I wrote "Fasting with Prayer." At the other end, "Fasting without Prayer." I asked for a helper to come to the front of the room. I instructed the girl that we were going to race. The first one of us to put a construction screw all the way into the board would be declared the winner. Then I handed the little girl a screwdriver and a screw. Her task was located on the end of the board labeled, "Fasting Without Prayer." So I gave her the "go" signal and she started the task. Then I pulled a power drill out of my tool bag. It was over in seconds. She hadn’t even gotten 2 or 3 turns into the wood before I had completed the task with the powerful drill. Our discussion that followed drove home the idea that fasting REQUIRES prayer. It is simply ineffective without it.

The words ‘fast’, and ‘pray’ occur together over 30 times in our cannon of scriptures. On one hand, prayer is an action and a principle that stands completely on its own. It can be effective all by itself and used as often as necessary and under any circumstance. (2 Nephi 32:8-9) Fasting, on the other hand, does not become effective until combined with two other things: prayer and a generous fast offering. I use the word “generous” on purpose, because that is what we learn from modern revelation. We’ve been counseled to “…be as generous as circumstances permit in your fast offering.” (Eyring, Conference Report, April 2015; Holland, Conference Report, October 2014) Elder Wirthlin counseled us further when he said, “My brothers and sisters, the measure of our offering to bless the poor is a measure of our gratitude to our Heavenly Father. Will we, who have been blessed so abundantly, turn our backs on those who need our help? Paying a generous fast offering is a measure of our willingness to consecrate ourselves to relieve the suffering of others.” (Wirthlin, Conference Report, April 2001) King Benjamin taught that our generosity is also a measure of our ability to retain a remission of our sins. (Mosiah 4:26) And I would submit that while fasting without prayer is like starving yourself, fasting without a generous offering might be tantamount to starving others, since much of that money is used to help the needy. It’s really of little use unless all three actions are combined.

Another aspect of fasting that we should be aware of is that when we fast, it should be a private affair. “Moreover, when ye fast be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face” (3 Nephi 13:16-18) and I might add ‘brush thy teeth often and chew minty, sugar free gum, if necessary.’ That last part may have been from The Book of Lance 12:21, so please don’t take that as gospel – just my opinion. If you feel like chewing sugar free gum will break your fast, please don’t change your habits on my account. But the principle of ‘appearing not unto men to fast’ holds true. It is something that should be known to you and the Lord only. Sometimes, hiding our fast is hard to do as members of the Church, considering we all generally fast on the same day each month. But my prolific use of minty, sugar-free gum on fast Sunday will continue, in my effort to ‘appear NOT unto men to fast.’

These principles can be very difficult to teach to young children. I’m sure, in many-a-house (mine included) we parents have heard that fateful rustling of cereal boxes in the kitchen from our beds on the first Sunday of the month and rushed out into the kitchen to remind our kids that it’s Fast Sunday. (picture a parent sliding, with a stubbed toe, across the kitchen floor, like a runner headed for Homeplate, yelling in slow motion “I-t-’s F-a-s-t S-u-n-d-a-y!!!” – as you narrowly grab the spoon from their hand as it’s headed for their mouth) I can still hear in my mind the moaning, and weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth and rolling of eyes as they grudgingly put away the milk and not-so-carefully pour cereal back into the box. To avoid this, we’ve tried to make it a habit to remind our children a few times on Saturday about the Fast so that they wake up in the right spiritual mindset. It might even be smart to be kneel next to your younger children when they pray to start their fast and have regular conversations during the fast to ensure the correct focus is maintained. Periodically reminding children about the purpose of their fast will help them to remember the person they are sacrificing for and the trials that person is experiencing. The principle of ‘remembering’ is a critical principle in this Gospel.

Now, I skipped a little section of the scripture back there and I’d like to take a minute to go back and address the principle of “rewards.” The full scripture is in 3 Nephi 13:16-18 and part of it reads: “But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” This is a general principle in scripture that teaches us that we can receive rewards for obedience from 2 sources in this life. One source of reward is from our Father in Heaven and the other source is from the glory and praise of men. When we ‘appear unto men to fast’ and broadcast that fact with our sad faces, the praise and glory of men becomes our reward. Once that is done, there is no further reward from Heaven. (3 Nephi 13:2) This principle is mentioned several times in scripture associated with giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting. (Matthew 6:4,6,18) And when we give to the poor, we are counseled often to do it privately. Some of my fondest memories from my childhood were a family activity we called ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. My mother helped us understand the principle of anonymous giving very well. Twelve days before Christmas, we would trudge through dark, snowy streets to take a gift to a family in need without their knowing, and this would continue each night until Christmas Day. One family became so curious that they would stay up all hours of the night to discover the identity of their anonymous donors. And Mom gave strict orders – we were NOT to be caught under ANY circumstance. The penalty would be severe, I was sure. So, to keep the spirit of anonymous giving, I’ve delivered those gifts at some extreme hours, even jumping into prickly bushes to prevent anyone from finding me. And even with those scratches, OH, how glorious is that feeling of receiving those blessings from heaven and not from the praise of man.

Fasting, for certain folks with health issues, can be daunting if not outright impossible. Consider those with diabetes or health concerns that do not allow them to fast. I served my mission in the lower coastal areas of Ecuador and fasting was extremely difficult, as a missionary. While there are temperate areas in Ecuador, I served in none of those areas. Along the coast, it can get quite hot and the humidity can be incredibly stifling, especially in the rainy season. I remember the coldest I ever felt during my mission one specific night. Instead of using the normal, single sheet which I slept under for two years, one night, it got SO cold that I was forced to use 2 sheets. THAT’S how hot it gets. And when the most common mode of transportation used on my mission is your own two legs and temperatures reach over 108 degrees in that Ecuadorian sun, it became almost dangerous to fast a full 24 hours if you engaged in the regular rigors of missionary work. When we realized Fast Sunday was approaching, we would generally try to plan a little less work in that time span and stick closer to home so that we would not be too worn out. Several times we worked a little too hard and I became overheated to the point of heat exhaustion. It was likely these multiple experiences that makes me welcome winter snow when it comes to the Salt Lake Valley each year. Summer is not my favorite season, believe it or not. To those who cannot fast, I would say, do what you can, within reason, to simulate a fast of your own making. If you cannot sacrifice food or water, sacrifice something, and do it with a purpose. The Lord understands your needs and limitations very well.

Fasting has yielded some holy and purifying experiences for me. Fasting is an effort to deprive your physical body of life-sustaining nutrients for specific spiritual purposes. While fasting deprives and weakens the physical body, with prayer - even CONSTANT prayer and scripture study - it will strengthen the spiritual body within you. The spirit then becomes the foremost entity, becoming stronger and stronger the more dedicated you become to that fast. And isn’t that part of our purpose on this earth? To overcome our physical nature and let our spiritual natures lead us? “For the natural man is an enemy to God.” (Mosiah 3:19) Fasting, when combined with the power derived from the sacrament ordinance and study of the Book of Mormon, also becomes a powerful way to break the chains of sin and addiction.

But fasting must also have a specific purpose. It might be to ask for extra blessings upon someone going through a life-threatening illness. It might be for help in passing a major college exam, finding a spouse, or even to obtain Spiritual Gifts. The purposes can vary widely, but there is no such thing as fasting without a purpose.

I like to compare fasting with temple work. When we go to the temple, once the work is completed for ourselves, we stand as proxy for others so that they can receive those same ordinances in the Spirit World. So, when we fast for the needs of another, it is like standing as proxy for them as YOUR sacrifice is dedicated to them, and those needed blessings flow straight to them, from heavenly sources.

27 December 2017

Back in the Saddle

It's been a while, no?

Long time no see. Hope all is well with you and yours.

Life has been a little intense since I last wrote in this blog. I've had a son leave and return from a mission, another one leave on his mission, oldest son got married, and more excitement than I care to mention.

Church callings. Yipes. That's been a roller coaster too. Hard to believe that craziness.

But life is good. Really good. Why, you ask? For me, because I have the grounding effects of my belief in Jesus Christ. I've learned that trials are meant to try to knock our focus away from Christ and his teachings. They do that for a reason - to see if and how long it will take us to re-focus upon Christ and regain the appropriate perspective. The quicker we regain focus, the better perspective we have on life and the quicker we learn from the trial.

Last March I lost my job - again. I've been through 2.5 layoffs during my 23 years in the IT industry. The 1/2 layoff was while I was employed at a certain company who went through round-after-round of layoff and my rattled nerves got the best of me. I jumped ship before they sank into oblivion. All-told, something like 1,500 people were let go before I left.

Anyhoo, I am gainfully employed again and loving life. I think I will try to stick with the 25-year plan with this company and just retire when I hit 70. Sounds like a plan.

I think I will do something I used to do on this blog and just post a bunch of random items that have happened over the past couple weeks.

1. We skyped with Blake this past Monday.
2. We attached the laptop to the TV and it was like he was in the same room.
3. Technology is amazing and makes our lives incredibly easy, compared to the old days.
4. For Christmas I got a pair of expensive hiking boots.
5. We got them on a major sale for about 60% off retail price.
6. At Cabela's.
7. I recently built a new reloading table.
8. I reloaded over 700 rounds of ammunition in a 2 week period.
9. On a single-stage press.
10. That's a lot, BTW.
11. I recently received a collectors edition of LDS scriptures that I value more than almost anything.
12. I went to Firestone this morning for an oil change on my lunch break.
13. When I got there, they did not have me in their calendar correctly.
14. So I am going back Friday morning.
15. For a FREE oil change.
16. Woot.
17. I am speaking in stake conference in 10 days.
18. Good times.
19. Marshall is sick and has a little cough.
20. We saw "The Greatest Showman" last night.
21. Great movie.
22. We got a dog in October.
23. Labradoodle.
24. More lab than doodle.
25. Sheds like a %*#&^@.
26. He's Oggie.
27. Still a puppy and a little dumb at times, but can do every trick in the book.
28. Super energetic.
29. Cute.
30. I have several people who have made me offers if I decide not to keep him.
31. I get my children to obey and be nice by threatening to sell him.
32. I would never sell him.
33. But they don't need to know that.
34. #KidJail
35. #InsideFamilyJoke
36. #ILoveLongHashtags
37. #JustinTimberlake #JimmyFallon
38. Ending this blog on a weird number of entries. 38....39, whatever it takes.

13 October 2015

Sacrament and the Ministering of Angels

In the Sacrament prayers we are commanded that if we "always remember Him" we will "always have His Spirit to be with [us]."

Once we make that covenant, we promise that we will remember Jesus Christ. How do we do that? Well, the regular and simple items of reading the scriptures and daily prayer will suffice in "remembering Him". But once we do our part, what exactly does it mean to "have His Spirit to be with [us]"?

I don't just think that we are blessed with some extra measure of the Holy Ghost. No, it goes further than this.

In October conference of 1998, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated this:
     "What does it mean that the Aaronic Priesthood holds "the key of the ministering of angels" and of the "gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins"? The meaning is found in the ordinance of baptism and in the sacrament. Baptism is for the remission of sins, and the sacrament is a renewal of the covenants and blessings of baptism. Both should be preceded by repentance. When we keep the covenants made in these ordinances, we are promised that we will always have His Spirit to be with us. THE MINISTERING OF ANGELS IS ONE OF THE MANIFESTATIONS OF THAT SPIRIT."

Is that not amazing?

If we keep the commandments and remember Christ in reading the scriptures and through prayer, we will have angels ministering to us to safeguard us from the fiery darts of the Adversary. I can just imagine the power that comes with scripture study and prayer. It literally unlocks the doors of heaven and allows the hosts of heaven to surround me throughout the day, thwarting the evil that Satan's minions would inflict upon me.

Simply amazing to think about. The scripture in D&C 84:88 which states "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."

I love the Lord. His tender mercies are extended to me all the day long and his love is eternal.

14 January 2014

Laws and Morality

We are a nation of laws…..sometimes too many laws, in my opinion. We’re a little too nit-picky about a lot of things. The tax code, for example…I rest my case.

Where do laws come from? Why do we have laws at all?

A law defines something you should NOT do. Let's be clear. You have the freedom to obey or disobey a law, but you are not free to choose the consequence. And there is always a consequence to disobeying a worldly law, if you are caught. If something is not spelled out as a law, by default, it is something you CAN do, and which may have no consequence.

Make sense?

So, who defines a law? Who is to say what is right or wrong in any given society? Does anyone really have the right to say what we can or cannot do? Where is the moral compass of humanity which dictates what we should and should not do?

This is why we have the form of government we do. Why we elect representatives. We elect people who we feel share our beliefs. By “beliefs” I am talking about morality. Everyone has a slightly differing sense of what is right and wrong. I have my own beliefs as to where that sense or conscience comes from. I believe they come directly from God and that almost every single person is born with that ability to distinguish right from wrong. Some people, I feel, are without guilt. Meaning, they cannot see right from wrong and cannot be held responsible for their decisions (intellectually disabled, very young children, etc.).

I have lived my life with a sense of what is right and wrong that has been learned and defined by reading Christian scriptures. I have chosen to make the Ten Commandments a part of my life. Beyond the Ten Commandments, I believe in a Living Prophet. One who has been ordained by God to communicate his will to mankind. Through this prophet, God can further define and clarify his will regarding the minutia of those original Ten Commandments. An easy example of this is where we are commanded “Thou shalt not kill.” Does this mean ‘don’t kill under any circumstances’? Ever? Even in self-defense? No. Because of modern revelation and examples in the scriptures, we learn that it is OK to kill in self-defense. You are completely justified, and it is not considered a sin against you, in God’s eyes.

There are many things which God has defined as sinful. Things we should not do. Activities that carry serious spiritual consequences, should we choose to engage in them. If we murder, then we have committed a sin so serious that it may result in us losing our own lives as the consequence. We shouldn’t steal. We shouldn’t cheat or lie. Going even further into this principle, we learn that simply looking upon someone lustfully, in a sexual manner, is a sinful thing. Acting on homosexual desires is defined as a sinful thing. Doing drugs and partaking of substances which alter our agency is considered sinful behavior; things we should avoid and repent of. The list of ways in which we can participate in sinful behavior is long and will not be covered here.

In 2014, Amendment 3 to the Utah constitution, which was passed by a 66% majority vote, was overturned by a federal judge as unconstitutional. This immediately made it legal for same-sex couples to get married in Utah.

In 1995, eleven years prior to Amendment 3, the LDS Church sent out a message to the world entitled “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” In it they announced and re-affirmed their belief that marriage between a man and woman was ordained of God. They declared that the commandment given to Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the earth was still in force and that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between a man and woman who are lawfully wedded. Furthermore, they stated that the “means by which mortal life is created” to be divinely appointed. This means that sexual relations between a man and woman, the manner in which life is created, is by God’s divine design. Any other way or use of those procreative power is not of God. To clarify even more, they state that “marriage between man and woman is essential to His [God’s] eternal plan. Children are entitled…to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”

Let’s take a step back, after reading that, and analyze a thing or two. By all accounts and by my own genetic makeup, I have the potential of becoming a raging alcoholic. At the age of 14, I drank, in one setting, 8 beers and about 16 ounces of whiskey. That’s a LOT of alcohol for a 14-year-old. I didn’t pass out. I didn’t vomit. My body handled it QUITE well. Luckily, I realized that the path I was heading down would not lead me to the places I wanted to be in life, so I never touched alcohol again. Although genetically predisposed to alcoholism (parent, grandparents), I CHOSE another path. To this day, while I enjoy the smell of tobacco, I do not touch it. I walk past a smoker and can distinguish high-quality tobacco from the garbage they sell at the store. I am drawn to these things, but I CHOOSE not to indulge in them. Why, you ask? Because of my religion, my morals and the principles that were taught to me by a prophet of God. I have been taught and believe that partaking of those things is not something God wants me to do, so I choose to obey his will, knowing that I will be blessed in this life and the next if I abstain from those temptations. I even made covenants with God to avoid those things.

And now we bring homosexuality into the mix. Is the fact that I am attracted to alcohol and tobacco a sin in itself? No. The sin would come into play once I drank or smoked those things, having made covenants to avoid them previously. So, in the same vein, is it a sin to be attracted to someone of the same sex? No. The sin would come into play once you chose to participate in that temptation.

Do I hate homosexual people? Foolishness. God loves them and they have as much divine potential as I do. Does God hate sin? Of course. He makes that clear in his Word, the Holy Scriptures. God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. (D&C 1:31, Alma 45:16). We cannot commit sinful behavior and expect to live in God’s presence. If I indulge in alcohol or tobacco, it is as much a sin as someone who chooses to participate in homosexual behavior. We all have our weaknesses. They are given to us by God himself. (Ether 12:27) He does this because he wants us to learn to control these physical bodies. If we can obey his commandments and exercise self-control over this mortal shell, he has promised to reward us with great blessings. More than we can comprehend.

So when I object to a federal authority that undermines an entire population of people, without precedent, it is not a slight to people who choose to participate in homosexual behavior. It is not that I feel I am any better than every other sinner on the earth. I am one of you. My imperfections are mine and mine alone to deal with in life. And through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I feel that I can gain the mental and spiritual power to overcome those sins…put them behind me, and look forward to a life with God if I persevere to the end. (1 Ne. 31:20)

I feel that marriage itself was defined and created by God. It is not mine or yours to change. HE defined it as a relationship between a man and a woman when he put Adam and Eve onto this earth. Simply legislating marriage as something else, or making laws that make sin “ok” does not make it acceptable in God’s eyes. Sin is still sin. Righteousness is still righteousness.

The scriptures warn us and prophets have foretold that in the Last Days, mankind would “call evil good, and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20) That we would “put darkness for light, and light for darkness; …put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” To me, that means that eventually mankind will reach (or HAS reached) a point where the things which God has defined as sinful will be legislated into legality and will be generally accepted as “ok” in the world. This, as we see starting recently, has initiated the trend of calling people like me, who see certain behaviors as morally wrong, as behind the times or bigoted (intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself). It reminds me of a poem by Alexander Pope, part of which says this:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

(Epistle II, v. 10)

Modern Translation:

Vice is a monster with an ugly face,
To hate vice is a forgone conclusion;
But when we are subjected to vice at every turn,
We first endure sin, then we pity sin, then embrace...SIN.

Forever, sin has been a part of our society. We live with it and witness its effects every day on the nightly news. What Pope is saying here is that when we spend too much time around sin, we become numb to it and its effects. In time, if left unchecked, we will eventually embrace sin as acceptable behavior, even embrace it ourselves and participate and, because of guilt, end up reversing those once-held beliefs, calling what was once good, evil.

If being against sin, in all its forms makes me a bigot, then sign me up, Jack. I'll ride that bus to the end of time.

Justice, Mercy, and the Atonement of Christ

I had a little moment of clarity while I was driving to work this morning regarding the atonement. I read in 2 Nephi this morning and these thoughts came to me in a flood while stopped at a stoplight.
This is how I think of the way the Atonement works and how the principles of justice and mercy come into play.
I think of justice as an actual entity or being. He is an entity who is greedy. He cannot tolerate error or sinful behavior. Imagine that sin or transgression is something that you are penalized for and costs money…spiritual money. It is a drain on your spiritual bank account. Every time a sin is committed, justice MUST be paid for that sin. He says “Aha! I’ve got you! You’re mine. I OWN you.” As if we have suddenly become indebted to him. And in a very real sense, we depart from the metaphorical presence of Heavenly Father and are within the grasp of Satan. For God "...cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance." (D&C 1:31)
The Savior came to the earth and suffered in Gethsemane and Golgotha in order to satisfy the demands of justice. His Atonement filled his own spiritual bank account with enough money to cover the cost of all the sin and spiritual debt that every living creature could or would ever commit in the entirety of this planet’s mortal existence. His ability to be merciful, by extending us spiritual credit (forgiveness), is limitless and infinite. By his suffering he filled his bank account to overflowing.
We come to earth and, as little children, are incapable of committing sin. We are innocent until we have the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Once we reach an age where we understand the consequences of our decisions, then, when we commit an error, justice holds out his greedy hand, waiting for the price to be paid. That price is not automatically satisfied by the Savior instantly. Once I choose to repent (Mosiah 15:11-12) and turn away from that sin and follow the Savior’s example, will He pay justice for the price of my sin – He exercises His mercy. If I do not repent, justice’s hand remains outstretched, awaiting payment. The debt must be paid by someone at some point. If it is not paid by Christ in this life, it will be paid by me in the next life in the form of great suffering (D&C 19:16-17) “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;”
Paul, in speaking to the Hebrews (chapter 6:4-6) spoke of this when he said, For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
If we deny His gift, we are, in effect, crucifying Christ again in the sense that WE will suffer unnecessarily. We will be in the same state as those who deny the Holy Ghost, who will have no part with the Savior and whose eternal progression will cease.

22 July 2013

Misuse of Authority

I have held many positions of authority in my life. I have been a leader in my church in various capacities as well as the Boy Scouts of America. I've also had short stints as a supervisor at my work. I enjoy supervisory work and I feel I get along with people quite well. I've had good bosses and bad bosses throughout my life. It is my opinion that a boss should be nicer than most people BECAUSE he's a boss. He should be kinder, gentler, and more patient than most.

Some people, however, have a problem with authority. Once they get a taste of it, they tend to rule with an iron fist - or at least a LEVEL of "iron-fistery", if that were a word. Here is a section from the Doctrine and Covenants which addresses this matter very well:

D&C 121
34 Behold, there are many acalled, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their ahearts are set so much upon the things of this bworld, and caspire to the dhonors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the arights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be bcontrolled nor handled only upon the cprinciples of righteousness.

I believe most people misinterpret the scripture above. The way I read it says that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled ONLY upon the principles of righteousness. It takes MORE than just the principle of righteousness to handle the rights and powers of the priesthood. The Lord even enumerates those principles below in verses 41-46.

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to acover our bsins, or to gratify our cpride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or ddominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens ewithdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to akick against the pricks, to bpersecute the saints, and to cfight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the anature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little bauthority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise cunrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but afew are chosen.

THESE are the principles through which we should wield our priesthood powers.
41 No apower or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the bpriesthood, only by cpersuasion, by dlong-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By akindness, and pure bknowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the csoul without dhypocrisy, and without eguile
43 aReproving betimes with bsharpness, when cmoved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of dlove toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of adeath.
45 Let thy abowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let bvirtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy cconfidence wax strong in the dpresence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the edews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant acompanion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of brighteousness and truth; and thy cdominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

When you look at your leadership responsibilities as a way to control people, you've overstepped the bounds of your leadership powers. That is the quickest way to lose the Spirit in the decisions you make. I have experienced this MANY times when I yell at my children or punish them too harshly. The Spirit immediately withdraws and I am completely without his guidance. It is not until I have settled down and humbled myself and asked my Father for forgiveness that I can approach that child and ask THEM to forgive. It is a humiliating circumstance to find yourself in.

I was presiding over an elders quorum presidency meeting once and we were discussing a change in a home teaching companionship. I made a specific suggestion and immediately the secretary disagreed. He asked why I didn't want to do it his way. I simply stated, "It doesn't feel right." He was surprised. We were able to finally agree and I think it gave him MORE confidence in my abilities because he KNEW that I was not making decision out of haste or simple need or to exert my authority. I was making choices based on what I felt was direction from the Holy Ghost.

05 July 2013

Knowledge of God's Existence

Last Saturday I experienced the most intense physical pain of my entire life - at least as far as I can recall. Pain is like that. You tend to forget its effects quickly in the face of all the other things we endure in life. After giving birth, it took Lisa many months, even years, to forget the physical pain of childbirth and carrying a child for 9 months and all the associated problems, to the point that she would even consider getting pregnant again. I will endeavor, in this blog entry, to detail what lead up to this experience and what I have learned from it 6 days after it happened.

My Friday night was spent with the youth of my stake. Matt Jorgensen and I spent about 90 minutes outside, in the searing heat, (104 degrees) grilling burgers and hot dogs for about 220 people. It was hot, but fun. I don't mind those grueling, sweaty experiences, because I have, in my mind's eye, the purpose for which I am suffering. This is generally true for me in most difficult circumstances I find myself. I tend to look forward and think to myself, "This experience will benefit me or someone else, and this is the ultimate purpose." It is true even when I am accomplishing some big goal in life. I regularly assess myself and look forward to the end and it helps motivate me into making that vision a reality. To see the end from the beginning.

Once we were done, the youth got to hear from a few speakers for some motivational messages. While they supped from the cup of the Spirit, I and a few other leaders stayed in the kitchen cleaning, washing dishes and moving gear to the other church building, which would be used for the next day's activities. Once cleanup was complete, we piled into dozens of vehicles and took the youth to Classic Fun Center where they roller skated, jumped on trampolines, played laser tag, and other various fun things. We took the youth home at a fairly late hour. I got to bed around midnight - not abnormal for me.

The next morning I arose to get ready for another day with the youth. We were to head to our stake bowery to feed the youth breakfast and then take our rakes and shovels to the "This is the Place" state park for a large service project. I showered, shaved, and got dressed. As I sat down on the floor to put on my shoes, I felt the muscles in my lower back completely give out. I fell back to the floor writhing in agony. The spasm subsided but I knew I was in trouble. I laid there for a total of 90 minutes. Every 5-10 minutes, my back muscles would spasm and cause severe pain. It was fortunate that I fell between the sofa and the wall - I had something to grab onto and push against as the searing pain would come and I yelled and cried in agony. It literally brought tears and sobs out of me - which I thought had long been rooted out of my hard heart. :-)

My wife contacted our chiropractor and she stated that I needed to immediately ice the affected area and get to her office as soon as possible. I also asked Lisa to call my fellow servants in the young men's presidency to explain to them my absence. I asked that they come and give me a blessing - which they were more than happy to do. Once they left, I knew I had to move - in pain or not. I rolled over onto my side, ignoring the pain. Once that spasm stopped, I gather Bryce and Blake and carefully explained how they were to lift me to my feet. I had to completely relax my body for this to work. I relaxed myself and everything was going great. About half way to my feet, I could feel my muscles start to tense and I knew a spasm would take control quickly. I yelled "Go! Go! Go!" They hefted my dead weight and got me to my feet just as a spasm rocked me again. I turned around and grasped the fireplace mantle and writhed in pain, sweating and panting. I placed my arms around their necks and they bore almost my entire weight as we walked carefully to the truck where Lisa was waiting to take me to the chiropractor's office. She drove quite slowly because even minimal bumps caused little spasms. The simple act of walking from the handicapped parking space to her office took about 5 or 10 minutes. I walked slowly and would nearly break into spasms were it not for Lisa's shoulder to rely upon. I arrived at the office and Dr. Draney had me lay on a table where she adjusted my hips. It hurt but was nothing compared to the spasms. From there I tentatively walked to another room where some electrical stimulus cords were placed on my lower back and I laid on a soft bed for 25 minutes. The electrical stimulus hurt, but I could tell it was loosening the muscles in my back. Again, it was nothing in comparison to the earlier spasms.

Once complete, I was able to walk out of her office of my own will - slowly - but with MUCH less pain than before. The spasms stopped completely.

Now for the lessons learned.

As I lay there on the floor, between spasms, the thoughts kept coming to my mind that Heavenly Father loved me. In my mind I was made keenly aware of all the many blessings I had received at the hand of God. His mercy in preserving my life each day and in allowing me to breathe and walk and smell and have a loving wife and children were ever-present. I silently prayed over and over and thanked Heavenly Father and acknowledge his hand in my life. I did not ask for relief from the agony...that thought never entered my mind. This did not lessen the pain or improve my situation, but it gave me perspective. In that painful state I was able to joke and laugh and not be completely overcome by it.

Even 6 days later, I still have issues. I move a little slower and cannot bend over easily, but I am making progress. My chiropractor is out of the office and I will not be able to see her for at least a week from today. Ice packs are my constant companions. They help relieve the pain and keep me somewhat functional. I am not yet ready to start stretching, but will try in another day or two.

An interesting experience, to say the least.

Life is good. God is good. And I'm happy to be alive. There is pain in this life. I am confident, however, that the pain is there to help us appreciate those days we DON'T have pain. That cold exists to help us appreciate heat, and vice-versa. Sweet, salty, bitter, savory. Opposition exists to give us choices and to gain understanding of what is good, and what is bad. It might be compared, in a very small way, of the things the Savior of mankind had to experience during the atonement. We are given trials and are commanded to bear one another's burdens. The Savior went through all pain and suffering so that he could understand my pain and suffering. Why? So that he could give us relief, perhaps? While he doesn't always grant relief from trials, he can at least be an understanding ear when we pray and perhaps offer guidance as we work ourselves out of the holes we find ourselves in.

I don't mind this eartly test one bit. I know God loves me and I know that these experiences will be for my good and will help me in becoming more like Him. As I have started to say in life...."It's all good."

03 June 2013

Righteousness as a Weapon?

I get more frustrated each day as I watch the media alter how and what the world sees as far as "news". It has the powerful effect of altering peoples' thoughts, actions, and opinions based on how certain stories are presented and the details given - or NOT given.

An example to prove my point is something my college statistics professor taught me. As a professional statistician, he would consult with companies and spend time gathering data. Once he had the data he would simply ask the question, "What do you want the results of this data to show?" If a company was completely honest, they just wanted the raw data. However, most companies want to "swing" the data to their favor if at all possible. There was little truth in what he did. He could take raw data and make it into anything his customer needed or wanted and base it all on "fact". For instance, a college could conduct a poll of students and ask them "Do you believe firearms should be banned from our campus?" Possible answers would be 1) Yes 2) Maybe or 3) No.

Forty-nine percent of the respondents may give option 3 as their response, but you can report the output as stating something like this: "Fifty-one percent of all respondents support banning firearms from our college campus" when, in reality, only 20% responded with a firm "yes" and the rest responded "maybe". All were clumped together and seen as some form of affirmative response.

Make sense?

The media does the same thing. These are companies which are out to make a profit. Period. They function the same way as any other company. If the people running the company have certain religious, political, or economic beliefs and affiliation, they are more likely to run and alter stories to support their line of thinking. This is true with anyone. It takes a seriously, intrinsically secure person to humbly seek facts and not let the facts be swayed by their belief system. It takes another level of person to allow those facts to work WITHIN their belief system.

I work with a man who cannot, for any reason, see his former church as doing any good for anyone at any time. I have had many conversations with him about dozens of political, economic, or religious issues. He has tried to sway me by stating, as fact, certain things about his former church. Once I point out the actual facts to him in this regard, with legitimate, hard-hitting, factual statements, he is still quite unrelenting in his opinion. EVEN WHEN FACT IS STARING HIM IN THE FACE, his opinion will overrule the facts when they are as plain as the sun in the sky.

This next story is unrelated, but it all ties together at the end.

I am recalling a story about a certain prophet named Moroni. This prophet lived toward the end of his civilization's time on the earth. Shortly after he died his entire culture was wiped off the planet. He was a righteous man who pleaded with his people to turn from their hateful and angry ways and to forget and forgive their enemies. This man was also the general for the army. He was the equivalent of today's Secretary of Defense and maintained actual real-time battle experience on his resume. He fought alongside his people. He was loved by his people and his armies followed him without question.

At some point, his people became more interested in bloodshed and revenge than defensive warfare. They weren't about defending their homes, their country, their rights, and families against tyranny. They just wanted to kill their enemies at all costs.

It was at this point that he relinquished control and resigned as commander. He could not, in good conscience, lead his people in battle when the cause ceased to be righteous and justifiable before God.

Now to drive this home and make my point.

The political climate today has driven me to the point that I've considered defending myself with violence, if necessary, to keep the rights I have been given. Rights granted, according to our Constitution, by God himself. However, as I listen to my church leaders and ponder the scriptures, I am moved with compassion toward this evil world and their ever-shifting values. Their eternal attempts at changing good for evil and evil for good have worked.  Satan has taken specific principles and altered their meaning to mankind. Once seen as sin, abortion is a now a woman's "right"...entitled to end the life of her child whenever she sees fit. While defending these principles is necessary, since we are taught to "be a light unto all the world", the still, small voice has prompted me that violence may not be the answer. I have felt that the ultimate way to change the world and all those within in it is through the Gospel Light. By being more righteously engaged in spiritual things and focusing more attention on the Savior, His example and teachings, I can enable more change in the world. I am reminded of Alma's mission to the Zoramites. "...the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just - yea, it had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else..." (Alma 31:5)

I do not believe the world has reached the evil state of affairs mentioned in Moroni where his people were "past feeling" (Moroni 9:20). We are heading down that path, most definitively, but I believe the words and teachings of Jesus Christ can still effectuate great change in this country and the entire world.

That said, does it mean I will stop carrying a pistol around? Nay. I will always be prepared to protect myself and family if someone is intent on doing harm.
 But I am more willing to delve into the spirituality the Gospel of Jesus Christ can provide and help change the world the way my Savior would - through their hearts. From the inside. If it is not successful and the chasm deepens, I will re-assess at that point and act where necessary.

08 November 2012

The Conservative LDS Mind and a Warning

As I lay in bed not sleeping Tuesday night, I thought of the many conversations that could very well take place with my liberal friends regarding the presidential election. The more I thought upon the matter, the more I realized that I do not understand the liberal mind and the liberals most likely have no understanding of the conservative (let alone LDS) mind. This could be used as a general open letter and invitation to liberals to encourage a new dialogue and understanding.

LDS folks are raised in such a way that we are confident we can spot right from wrong by way of the Holy Ghost and the inspiration that comes to us from Heaven on a regular basis. We’re baptized and given this gift and commanded to use it to live our lives in accordance with God’s will. In a nutshell, we direct our lives and the decisions we make by the way we FEEL. Our decisions could fly in the face of factual data. But when we come out on the other side of the day having successfully traversed a metaphorical mine field, we look back and see it as the loving, guiding hand of a merciful Heavenly Father. We don’t always understand the why’s and wherefore’s, but we proceed into the dark knowing full-well that we are acting on spiritual promptings and that it will be for our ultimate good. (2 Nephi 31:17, Moroni 6:4)

LDS folks also have an understanding of the United States of America that might be different from mainstream citizens. We believe that this land we now call the United States of America was preserved by God himself as His “Promised Land”. That is has been set aside by God for people who choose to live His commandments through the ages. We believe that God has also told the inhabitants of this land that if they are righteous, they will prosper. The other side of that is if they are NOT righteous, God will wipe them off of this land as he has other inhabitants time and time again when they have turned against Him and His commandments. (1 Nephi 2:20, 2 Nephi 1:9)

We also believe that God acted upon the hearts and minds of men and women at the end of the Dark Ages to seek out this land again and establish a righteous nation thereon (1 Ne. 13:12). The previous inhabitants had been wiped out and comparatively small bands remained in the form of the American Indian, who were literally “driven forth and scattered abroad” by these new gentile conquerors. We believe that God inspired many righteous men and women to come here and obtain the land, with God’s approval, and form a new government which was founded upon principles inspired by their Almighty Creator. Because this form of government was inspired, we are very sensitive to changes therein. We consider the Constitution to be a Heavenly-inspired document, which, if altered too greatly, would bring the judgments of God upon us.

There is a massive divide in this country today. One that could not be better spelled out than the voting results: 59 million votes for President Obama and 57 million votes for Mitt Romney. For the incumbent, literally half the Nation do not want him in office. A lot of those people feel, in their heart-of-hearts, that Barack Obama wants to fundamentally change our form of government and our high place in the world. Not to mention a legislature which is completely locked up tight…one side by the democrats, the other by the republicans. If there were ever a recipe for no good happening in our government, the last 4 years and the next 4 years make for a perfect storm. Not specific to Obama’s policies alone, but as much to do with the conservative mindset, conservatives are unwilling to bend on the issues which they see as black and white, right or wrong. What are those issues? Gay marriage. Universal health care. Large government.

To the issue of gay marriage: LDS folks believe homosexuality to be a sinful behavior, defined in scripture by God himself. Like any other sinful behavior, it is something to be repented of and something Heavenly Father sees as wrong. Just like stealing another man’s wife, or coveting his belongings, or backbiting. It’s not an issue of equality at all. We know and love gay people in our own families. We don’t approve of their lifestyle choices, but Heavenly Father himself has defined marriage as between a man and a woman. This is not something we can change. It is a mandate from above. (Proclamation to the Family)

To the issue of universal health care: The vast majority of Americans are against universal health care, but are extremely dissatisfied with the constantly rising prices of health care. We believe the Founders of our nation were clear in the regard that Federal Government should remain small and stay out of the common man’s life. Thomas Jefferson stated “…a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” This theme is repeated by many others. The English colonists had left an oppressive government and did not want to establish anything akin to what they had in England…namely, an intrusive, micro-managing type of government that removed their ability to defend themselves against tyranny. They felt that the government should provide for the common defense and general welfare of the people, nothing more. To FORCE people (through taxation) to care for others (UHC) is behavior that a tried-and-true LDS person would see as wrong. The LDS Church welfare system is funded by voluntary donations. Obamacare is funded by taxes, the payment of which I have no choice in. It’s akin to Satan’s plan in the Pre-Mortal world where he offered to be our Savior and put forth the principle that would ensure all Heavenly Father’s children would return to him – by force. His plan would remove our very ability to choose between good and evil. (Moses 4) The freedom to choose is pivotal in LDS beliefs. Forcing your beliefs onto someone else is evil, pure and simple, as is passing a law against the will of the people. Our constitution is clear…we have the right to worship however and wherever we want. Or not at all. And we reserve the right to do good or evil – it is our choice. As a church we do not simply give handouts in a welfare situation. In emergencies, yes. While the church is prepared and able to provide a great many things for members or non-members in need, those people are generally expected to return the favor by working a few hours in a local pasta plant or spend a Saturday working at a beet farm. The Church has taken this a step beyond the "teach a man to fish" principle. The Church will also help get people the training they desire in order to give them skills necessary to get them on their feet again and a Perpetual Education Fund which enables members of 3rd-world countries to receive student loans at extremely no- to low-interest rates. The end goal is to get them educated and help end the cycle of poverty perpetuated in these nations. These programs are funded by the WILLING donations of members worldwide. It is not forced or required by the base doctrines of the Church. The conservative mind is one who wants, and DOES, give to others liberally when they are in need. The Entitlement Generation are of the mentality today that they want big government and want their leaders to provide everything for them and make their lives easy.

Now that over half our nation has chosen a path that the minority may deem unrighteous, we have a few choices to make. We can dig in our heels and take this nation on a fast track to destruction through partisan bickering, or we can choose to, as Jesus taught, “love the sinner…hate the sin.” One thing we can all agree on is this LDS principle: Contention is of the Devil (3 Nephi 11:29). The chasm created in this country is going to get wider if we can’t agree to disagree and get along better.

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On a slightly different but related tangent, I want to address one piece of this chasm that must be overcome and addressed soon. A large contingency of Obama’s loyal, voting public are minorities. Specifically, the Latino community – 75% voted for Obama. As recently as 2011, the LDS Church sent out a public statement advocating support for the Utah Compact, which is legislation which helps illegal immigrants gain legal status in Utah. It is a more compassionate approach to illegal immigration than other states like Arizona. Bishop H. David Burton was a key sponsor in the passing of this bill in 2011. This seemed to fly in the face of the opinion of most LDS people in general. Why is this important to the LDS Church and why would their position differ from that of the general membership? Let’s discuss. In 3 Nephi there are a whole slew of chapters and verses about the interaction of the gentiles and the remnants of the House of Israel (the Lamanite people, i.e. Latinos). We need to be clear about something. LDS folks believe that they, as gentiles, once baptized into the faith, become “adopted” into the House of Israel. The House of Israel, according to scriptures old AND new, are the chosen people of the Lord. NOT the gentiles. The majority of people currently inhabiting the United States are gentiles, as spoken of in the Book of Mormon. Because the House of Israel went astray and was wiped off this land, God promised that the Restoration of the Gospel fullness would come to the remnants of the House of Israel THROUGH the gentiles. 3 Nephi 20:1-16 is clear about this. If the gentiles inhabiting America today ever happen to forget the Lord and His Commandments, God will remember His covenants with the House of Israel and literally TURN THEM LOOSE ON THE GENTILES. Verse 15: “But if they [gentiles] will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they [the house of Israel] shall go through among them [gentiles], and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor…to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people.” 3 Nephi 20 further clarifies this by saying (v15) “…if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people – Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.”

We HAVE to make peace with the Latino community among us. We have to repent of our sins and keep ourselves clean from the blood and sins of this generation. If we are not righteous and kind to them, they will tear us to pieces as a nation. This is why a good relationship between the LDS Church and the Latino population is so critical.

So, do we compromise our standards? Not likely. But would the Savior find a way to bring everyone together? Yes, and so should we. The White Horse prophecy may well come to pass simply by the EFFECT of the policies of the Church, not by any single PERSON, per se.



I know that was long, but your thoughts are appreciated.

22 May 2012

Supposed Friends

I don't make enemies. I honestly have a hard time thinking of many people whom I truly disdain. I'm generally fun and happy and easy to get along with.

The other day I saw some former co-workers in a restaurant during the lunch hour. An instant smile spread across my face and I grabbed their attention. "Hey! Man, it's good to see you guys."

One of them replied instantly with a very sober face, "Huh. Wish we could say the same."

..............................................................................

I was dumbfounded and had no idea what to say except, "I probably deserved that", with a slight chuckle. They did not return a chuckle or any indication that they were kidding and the conversation stopped right there as they went back to talking to their friends.

I turned back to my co-workers and we resumed our conversation. But it bothered me a lot. I wondered what I had done to offend them. When I worked with those folks we got along well. In fact, I felt like I was sort of a liaison for our group and theirs. They seemed to prefer dealing with me than many others in my group. We had, what I thought, was a great relationship. Friendly.

If I offend someone I generally apologize quickly and try to regain their trust in short order. I don't like having enemies. It makes for very uncomfortable situations, especially in an office where you have to deal with and speak to these folks on a regular basis. It's the same with me, my wife, and children. I don't let bad feelings fester. It's too energy-consuming. And if I truly apologize and seek forgiveness and it is not given, I move on. I don't have time to deal with it.

But when someone acts offended and I truly have no idea what I did to offend....yikes. Makes me think someone else has poisoned them or spread nasty, untrue rumors about me.

I don't know. Now I'm rambling.

I wish you all the best and may your day be awesome.