Sunday, June 12, 2016

I See... How to Make the Old Testament Relevant, Part II

One of the critical challenges of the Old Testament is that it is... well... old. Initially, as we view it through our modern, rational, logical, and somewhat secular eyes, it is too easy to see only crazy stories of really old people who lived a long time ago in a faraway land.

Ironically it finds relevance today, however, in how Latter-day Saints should be assessing the past. The Mormon Third Eye believes that the no. 2 challenge to latter-day testimonies are deep and lingering concerns members harbor about unsavory elements of recent church history since the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith (No. 1 is pornography and it's destructive effects on the eternal family).

Think about it for a moment. What do concerns swirling around multiple accounts of the First Vision, the process of translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith's practice of polygamy, imposition of the ban on African-American males holding the priesthood, and almost every other controversial gospel topic have in common? The fact is that the ground truth of every one of these historical narratives involves a real or perceived error of judgment carried out by a church leader(s).

Somewhere along the way we lost our way and bought into a collective assumption that our ecclesiastical leaders are infallible, when in fact, like all of us, they fall prey to the prevailing bias of their era and may make errors in judgment. So, if our leaders make mistakes, how can we trust them? Should we trust them?

This is where the Old Testament can save us if we want it to. The Old Testament is fundamentally a compendium of stories about imperfect people who nonetheless served as tools in the hand of the Lord to bring about His great work. Has has a habit of working with imperfect people. Adam and Eve fall, Noah gets drunk, Abraham lies, Sarah is jealous, both Jacob and Joseph deceive, David commits adultery, and Jonah runs from God. Yet we don't talk about their problems very much because the gospel teaches us to look for the best in people and forgive others that we may be forgiven ourselves.

While I cannot deny mistakes may have been made then and now, neither can I deny the whisperings of the spirit to me on these matters: that if I am to be and act Christ-like, I will accept the inspired offerings of all ordained church leaders and overlook their faults. I will embrace the path of salvation they have laid out for us and find joy in accepting and living their counsel. It makes me happy.

This is the message of the Old Testament.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

I See... How to Make the Old Testament Relevant

The Mormon Third Eye can function as your ultimate one-stop blog for practical instruction on how to master some of the most difficult challenges life has to offer. From issues as puny as “How to Name a Rock Band” to more weighty matters, such as “How to Become the Ultimately Cheap BYU Fan,” the MTE has always been there with you to coach you through trying times. Now it is time to add another elegant experience to the list. One of the most truly challenging Mt. Everests we must climb in our quest to become gospel scholars is making sense out of the Old Testament. How can we make the Old Testament relevant?

This must seem to be an impossible task for those of us diving into the Old Testament overwhelmed by the mountain of irrelevant references to life back then. I myself have fallen prey to the temptation to politely excuse the need to learn about this sacred text. I'm ashamed to admit that I have, on occasion, threatened misbehaving youth with the penalty of making them read or listen to chapters from the Old Testament.

However, once you get past talking donkeys and righteous assassins getting the hilts of their knives caught in the overflowing folds of belly fat belonging to overweight evil kings, the Old Testament is basically a story about a chosen people waiting for the Lord to come and save them from their sins. Repentance and Atonement.

An image of the sleeping baby Jesus.

This is one key element of the mortal narrative we have in common with our Israelite ancestors; we too are waiting for the Lord to come. We are urged and inspired today to “wait” in the biblical active sense- correctly interpret and understand the signs of His Second Coming, then hope for or anticipate it's occurrence. Through ancient and modern revelation we learn that when He does come again, “he shall come in his glory” (Psalm 102:16) and “shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh.” (D&C 133:25). Hopefully we do a better job the second time around.

Jesus Christ in white robes and a red sash, standing on a cloud in the air, surrounded by thousands of angels blowing trumpets.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

I See... Dental Discrimination

As we actively march forward on a nationwide quest to eradicate all forms of discrimination and make everyone feel valued and safe, I've discovered another insidious form of favoritism- dental discrimination. I have bad teeth, it's not my fault, and I want redress.
This is somewhat embarrassing, but it's time expose this for what it truly is and seek justice. I have bad teeth. It's a genetic trait I inherited from my parents, and the constant onslaught of advertising in all media forms pressuring me to coat my teeth with corrosive waves of sugar and acid makes it worse. I've heard that brushing and flossing them regularly and cleanings at the dentist helps, but with the deck already stacked against me I gave up on those practices years ago.

I feel oppressed and distressed because of the condition of my teeth. Every time someone with perfect teeth flashes a toothy smile in public places, I feel uncomfortable. This situation is, at a minimum, unfortunate, because I have a constitutional right to feel happy and loved in any situation. The only solution, which must be implemented nationwide immediately to save all citizens with bad teeth from the terrible stigma associated with bad teeth, is a complete ban on smiles that reveal the existence of teeth in your mouth.

Only lip-only smiles should be permitted in lands under federal jurisdiction. Enforcement of this expansive mandate may require us to raise taxes to fund creation of a separate division of the Department of Justice to hire and train a massive army of smile monitors, but it's the only sure way that millions of toothless smile sufferers like myself can ever feel safe all the time. You must comply.  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

I See... Saving the Children

This is not your normal clever, witty, and inspirational note from the Mormon Third Eye. This will be hard and dark and terrible to read and heed- yet most important. Is there anything more essential than saving the children?

The MTE recently learned that there is very unconventional NGO rescuing the world's most vulnerable population from the most purely evil practice imaginable: O.U.R. (Operation Underground Railroad) rescues children from sex traffickers. This is their website. Their Underground Jump Team consists of former CIA, Navy SEALs, and Special Ops operatives that lead coordinated identification and extraction efforts. They also work with governments and social workers on successful aftercare strategies to ensure that victims are given the best possible chance to recover. Their motto:.

"To the Children: Hold on. We are on our way.
To the Captors and Perpetrators: Be afraid. We are coming for you.”

They call themselves Abolitionists. They believe they are freeing children from sexual slavery. And I believe them.

Now is the time to act. Tomorrow at 7:30 pm EST., a movie about their movement will be screened in select theaters across the country- The Abolitionists. I'll meet you at the Regal Crossroads in Cary. It will be hard and dark and terrible to watch, but it is a great first step in saving the children.

Join me.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

I See... My Two Mothers

I thought it would be a fitting tribute on this, the mother of all holidays, to introduce you to the two mothers that raised me.

This is my earthly mother. I've blogged on her heavenly qualities extensively throughout the years, usually at about this time of the year.  Ironically, what I remember most about my earthly mom was how deeply devoted she was to my earthly dad. They were a package deal. Neither of them were perfect, but their lasting gift to me was a very clear picture of right and wrong. I was taught Love at Home, Choose the Right, and I am a Child of God.

I haven't talked much about my Heavenly Mother. I don't know that much about her, except from a passing reference to her in a hymn and an excellent doctrinal essay the church recently published. I wish I knew her better.

The sacred pattern of families in the Plan of Salvation, however, provides me several hints about her character. Unlike my earthly mother, my Heavenly Mother is perfect. And that “perfectness” must necessarily include a perfect devotion to my Heavenly Father- a union of thought and purpose and action so complete and intertwined that, for us puny imperfect mortals, we may have a difficult time distinguishing between the two.

So... Maybe I know more about my Heavenly Mother than I originally thought? Hmmm....  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

I See... The 161 Things I Learned at General Conference This Weekend

Below is a list of 161 things the Mormon Third Eye learned at General Conference this weekend.  I haven't included authors of these gems because, in the end, it was the spirit that moved me to record them.
  1. - Obedience is a liberating path to divine destiny.
  2. - Obedience helps us discover what we are really made of.
  3. - Obedience is not an end to itself.
  4. - Obedience is the lifeblood of faith.
  5. - As, we increase in faith we must also increase in faithfulness.
  6. - If you cannot muster faith, begin with hope.
  7. - Good will not rescue us against our will.
  8. - Good is fully aware of those who are lost.
  9. - Our Father in Heaven has the ability to restore those who are fallen.
  10. - Never underestimate the power of the other side of the veil in the temple.
  11. - The mirrors in the celestial room remind us how the ordinances there connect us with our ancestors and descendants.
  12. - We are all equal before God in the temple.
  13. - God organizes eternal families only in temple.
  14. - Temple worship brings us happiness, fulfillment and peace.
  15. - Despite the lack of righteousness in the world, we live in a sacred and holy time.
  16. - See yourself in the temple.
  17. - Priesthood holders should live the kind of life that brings purity to their wife and children.
  18. - The media needs to show more examples of righteous fathers.
  19. - Loving the mother of his children and showing it are two best things a dad can do for his children.
  20. - Spending time away at work to provide for a family is the essence of fatherhood.
  21. - When providing a correction a father should be motivated by love.
  22. - The most essential work of a father is to turn the hearts of his children to their Heavenly Father.
  23. - Fatherhood exposes us to our own weaknesses and the need to improve.
  24. - Far from being superfluous, fathers are unique and important.
  25. - We will find peace in your lives when we walk with Jesus Christ
  26. - The reach of the atonement is as individual as it is infinite.
  27. - We need to continuously partake of the fruit of the tree of life.
  28. - Never has the great and spacious building been so crowded.
  29. - In everything we do in the temple, we are pointed to Jesus Christ.
  30. - Learn listen and walk in the path of the Savior.
  31. - The road we travel through sorrow and trials is made easier when we think about Jesus.
  32. - Membership in the Lord’s kingdom is a gift of immeasurable value.
  33. - The greatest challenge of youth today is the great and spacious building that surrounds them.
  34. - Conversion comes from serving those around us.
  35. - We need to get the gospel from our heads to our hearts.
  36. - We have a knowledge of the gospel. But do we believe it?
  37. - This church is more than a good place to go on Sunday.
  38. - The gift of repentance allows us to correct our course settings.
  39. - The choices we make determine our destiny.
  40. - Remember who we are. Pause to consider the consequences.
  41. - We are the recipients of a sacred trust. Much is expected of us.
  42. - The most important work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home.
  43. - Purity will be the protection of your marraige and family.
  44. - Our priesthood obligation is to put our families, and those that we serve, first.
  45. - We all can be saviors of strong families.
  46. - Charity defines Christ and pride defines Satan. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
  47. - Whatever problems we have, the beginning and the end of them is charity.
  48. - Those who save marriages pull out the weeds and water the flowers.
  49. - Astonish your wife by choosing to make her happy.
  50. - If it appears to take forever to build a great marriage, remember that it is for eternity.
  51. - Great marriages are built brick by brick.
  52. - If there really was a perfect woman do you think she would be interested in you?
  53. - The safe path is integrity and loyalty to covenants.
  54. - Strong marriages don't just happen because we are members of the church.
  55. - Replacing the original with something more modern in marriages brings sorrow.
  56. - In the very act of following Christ we are leading others to him.
  57. - We cannot be satisfied receiving spiritual blessings just for ourselves.
  58. - Leadership is an expression of discipleship.
  59. - We need to see young men not as they are but as they can become.
  60. - Jesus Christ sets the perfect example of qualities of both leadership and being followers.
  61. - Priesthood power can calm the fractures in the hearts of our families and overcome the spiritual, emotional and financial earthquakes in our homes.
  62. - We need to embrace our wives and their counsel.
  63. - Are we willing to follow President Monson’s example of serving others?
  64. - To increase our power in the priesthood we need to pray from the heart.
  65. - We need to live up to our privileges of the priesthood.
  66. - There are too many men who have the authority but not the power of the priesthood because their access is blocked by their sins.
  67. - The atonement of Jesus Christ can purify us.
  68. - Children are desperately v seeking parents willing to listen to them
  69. - Councils are where parents listen to each other and their children.
  70. - The irony of being good parents is that we get good at it after our children have left home.
  71. - Ordinances invite spiritual power and purpose into our lives.
  72. - Baptism is not a destination we should desire to visit over and over again.
  73. - The sacrament is an opportunity to repent sincerely and be renewed spiritually.
  74. - There is an inseparable relationship between baptism, confirmation, and the sacrament.
  75. - Ordinances are far more than rituals or symbolic ordinances.
  76. - Both the Holy Ghost and ordinances have a role in spiritual rebirth.
  77. - The Book of Mormon brings us closer to Christ than any other book.
  78. - We are all called to go to the rescue.
  79. - Bring one soul unto Christ.
  80. - We must never give up.
  81. - We must not delay going to the rescue.
  82. - What a marvelous role grandparents can play in the lives of their grandchildren.
  83. - We need to reach out to the youth who are beyond the fence.
  84. - The greatest tool in keeping youth included is other righteous youth.
  85. - Knowing someone's name can make a difference.
  86. - These youth need our time and our testimonies.
  87. - A child's spiritual DNA is perfect.
  88. - Reach out and take the Savior’s hand through the hand of our leaders.
  89. - No one goes on his way alone.
  90. - Are you standing with leaders in a darkened world to spread the light of Christ?
  91. - Righteous leaders walk the path of life with you.
  92. - The sacrament is indispensable to a spiritual foundation.
  93. - The Lord is more accepting of repentant sinners than those who feel no need to repent.
  94. The best way to grow closer to the Lord is to prepare for the sacrament.
  95. - The closer we are to God, the more we are to feel thankful and not entitled
  96. - The greater the distance between the giver and receiver the more likely the receiver is likely to feel a sense of entitlement.
  97. - We need to be humble before we walk through the valley of humility.
  98. - We need to teach our children to be self confident and selfless.
  99. - Some of the greatest sermons are taught by the singing of hymns.
  100. - The atonement is not only for those who need to repent but also for those who need to forgive.
  101. - We need to win and lose with grace.
  102. - We should not be defined by the worst thing we have ever done.
  103. - We all have people in our lives with Saul-like lives but Paul-like potential.
  104. - An unforgiving heart harbors so much needless pain. God will compensate us for every injustice we experience.
  105. - Forgiveness is the Lord's way to escape the burdens of injustices caused by others.
  106. - The Lord will not leave us out in the cold without keys.
  107. - Go forward with faith.
  108. - Without the keys of the restoration we would be locked out of our blessings of eternal life.
  109. - We live in a world that can make us forget who we are.
  110. - You can have what you want our you can have something better
  111. - Our first response to hardship should be to remember who we are.
  112. - A correct understanding of our eternal heritage is critical to our eternal future.
  113. - We are children of a living God
  114. - We need to prepare homes and children to feel the still small voice.
  115. - The things of this world can drown out the spirit.
  116. - Pray with full purpose of heart.
  117. - Choose to have your heart softened.
  118. - The Lord is in our midst.
  119. - Heaven is cheering us on.
  120. - All things work together for good for those who love God.
  121. - The first great commandment is to love God but he loved us first.
  122. - We, are to judge righteously, not self righteously or unrighteously.
  123. - The Lord blesses those who want to improve and want to keep the commandments.
  124. - The great thing about the gospel is that we get credit for trying even if we do not achieve it.
  125. - Don't give up if you can't do everything you have learned at conference.
  126. - The members are the miracle of this church.
  127. - The reality of the resurrection overwhelms our heartbreak with hope.
  128. - We all can be part of a cloud of witnesses that the resurrection is real.
  129. - Resurrection is the ultimate cure for all our ills.
  130. - Living as spirits without our bodies is a form of captivity.
  131. - The Savior’s resurrection brought total victory over death.
  132. - The temple can change our lives forever.
  133. - Everything we do in the church is to prepare us to go to the temple.
  134. - The real power of the temple is found in its ordinances.
  135. - We have an assurance that good will consecrate or trials for our gain.
  136. - Some things can only be learned by faith.
  137. - There is no warrant for a loyal opposition in the government of God.
  138. - We are not to be at ease in Zion.
  139. - The Lord does not make life easy but he does make it possible.
  140. - Opposition is central to the plan off what are to become.
  141. - Opposition is part of the plan for our mortality.
  142. - That Satan who opposed the Father's plan actually facilitated it.
  143. - From the beginning agency and opposition are central to the Father's plan for us.
  144. - The Savior satisfies the eternal demands of justice.
  145. - This moment of hardship does not define refugees but helping them will define us.
  146. - Meeting refugee families personally and not learning about them from a screen will change you forever.
  147. - Begin on your knees in prayer then find some place to help locally.
  148. - We must be careful that the news of refugees flight does not become commonplace.
  149. - The Savior knows what it is like to be a refugee; he was one.
  150. - God always welcomes us home. Our Savior invites us to remember Him as he always remembers us.
  151. - Life is not as cruel as it can sometime seem.
  152. - God knows everything we don't want anyone to know about us yet loves us anyway.
  153. - We can remember Him by serving others.
  154. - We can remember God by acknowledging the hand of the Lord in all things.
  155. - Remembering and forgetting are a part of our eternal journey.
  156. - Through the Holy Ghost we experience a multitude of miracles that never cease.
  157. - Seeking the counsel of the Holy Ghost in all things trivializes it.
  158. - Keeping our covenants will prevent us from being deceived by Holy Ghost impersonators.
  159. - The Holy Ghost respects our agency.
  160. - The Holy Ghost is not given to us to control us.
  161. - Personal revelation is essential.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

I See... Singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

March has been a remarkable month of firsts for the Mormon Third Eye. Last week I wrote about my first heart attack. This week I reference an even more monumental accomplishment- my first singing engagement with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir! Let me explain.
Image result for mormon tabernacle choir
I've been an avid fan of the book of Isaiah and Handel's Messiah. His prophecies of the first and second coming of Christ put to music by Handel introduced my heart to the gospel as teenager too many years ago. Since then I have chased after every rational opportunity to join others in singing this inspired oratorio in attempts to resurrect those original feelings of joy and commitment to the Savior. For many years the highlight of my Christmas season has been spending long hours with like-minded souls practicing and performing selections from Handel's Messiah. Even so, thoughts of singing THAT with the Motab existed far beyond the realms of reality; they were practically unthinkable.

Last month, however, technology and creativity caught up with reality. The Motab, through the miracle of the Internet, gave anyone with a computer the opportunity to participate with them in a virtual performance of the Hallelujah Chorus. They provided the sheet music, a conductor, and the Motab to sing along with me. All I had to was record myself singing along with them and post it on youtube with the Hallelujah hashtag. With the help of youtube musical wizards Peter and Evynne Hollens, the Motab folks blended my submission with thousands of others to produce the most awesome version of the Hallelujah chorus ever sung, which was released today here:

Time to dream again. More marvelous unthinkable achievements await me. Join me.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

I See... My First Heart Attack!

I missed my regular Sunday blogpost last week, but I have a real good reason- I suffered a heart attack.

Many people never forget the time and place of significant events in their lives. When and where they were married, discovered all-you-can-eat buffets, hit a cow with their car, etc., The men in my family enjoy a generational history of heart problems, so I knew it was coming; nevertheless I wasn't expecting it in the time and place it occurred- early Monday seminary morning.

Two Monday mornings ago I arrived at the seminary room at approximately 5:45 am, as I do most mornings, to make sure the room and the environment is prepared to receive 22 sleepy students seeking spiritual nourishment. As I opened the door and flicked on the lights, I saw an army of miniature hand-cut hearts placed lovingly on the desks loaded with words of praise and encouragement. On the chalkboard someone had written “ Bro. Tait – I aspire to have the spirit with me as much as you have it with you.”

Our whole class had suffered a heart attack! Somehow we survived but certainly a memory was made. I wouldn't mind having another one!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I See... The Nameless Young Sister Missionary

The Mormon Third Eye, with the awesome social media power of the blogsophere, is continually striving to shine the spotlight on the remarkably important yet seemingly minor acts of gospel courage that can define us. This week the MTE is highlighting the unsung heroes of missionary work strewn throughout the scriptures.

We frequently hear about the magnificent missionary exploits of Ammon, Alma, and the other sons of Mosiah. Abinadi was bold and Amulek was powerful in their preaching. Moroni's invitation to “come unto Christ and be perfected in him” is an invitation to explore the Gospel of Jesus Christ that continues to have impact spanning thousands of years.

But what about the nameless army of everyday missionaries hidden in scriptural accounts of heathens turning their hearts towards God? One of my favorites is the nameless young Israelite maiden who appears out of nowhere in 2nd Kings 5. She was the war booty of a successful Syrian foray into Israelite territory, a captive brought back to serve as the handmaiden of Naaman's wife. Naaman was deserved of such an honor, for he was the captain of the Syrian army who had served his king well. While Naaman was a “mighty man of valor,” he was also.... a leper.

The young Israelite maiden, obvious aware of her master's husband's challenge, innocently issued the following invitation to follow that day's prophet: “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.”

The rest is history. The King of Syria arranged via the King of Israel for the leader of his armies to visit the prophet Elisha, who instructed him to wash himself in the river Jordan seven times to be healed. After some initial soul searching, he did what he was told and it worked! Naaman now knew that “there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel.”

I still don't know the young Israelite handmaiden's name, but I have been motivated and inspired by her story. I also know that in our days, there is an awesome army of valiant Israelite handmaidens of all ages in church-wide missionary, Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary organizations, who soften hearts and open doors to the gospel for those that they serve. I only know a few of their names- my wife, my daughter, my daughter-in-law, and certain women I remember from home wards in North Carolina and Maryland.

If they all act in the tradition of a nameless young handmaiden in 2nd Kings 5, the church has nothing to worry about.   

Sunday, February 14, 2016

I See... Always

Sometimes, one word can mean everything; it can be the tip of a powerful emotional and spiritual iceberg that hints at something much more meaningful and lasting underneath.

Several years ago I was listlessly lounging around in a long line waiting to board an airplane to somewhere distant and doing what I always do- missing my better half. My heart was momentarily soft and fertile ground for tender emotions. Standing right in front of me was a grey-haired gentlemen much older than me, smiling and chatting amicably with a much younger 30-something wholesome-looking blue-eyed beauty. Their casual, familiar banter made it obvious that they were related somehow. Was she his daughter? granddaughter? Hard to tell. All I could tell from bits of randomly overheard conversation was that they knew each other well, and he was going away for an extended length of time... and she was not.

Soon the loose line in front of us instinctively started organizing and compacting- we were about to board. The charming young lady gave her father/grandfather a warm, final hug and started to walk away. She was about ten feet away when the elderly father figure turned around to throw out one final edict of advice- “Be good!” She paused for a moment, and then with smiling eyes meant to wrap ultimate comfort around an old man's weathered heart, replied softly but convincingly with one precious word of promise- “Always!”

For some unknowable reason, I had apparently wandered into the line of conversational fire. Her one-word covenant permanently froze that moment in time for me. Why? Even to this day I'm not completely sure. They were just two random strangers saying goodbye- I still don't know who they are. It's only one word in one moment, but perhaps it stuck so well because I was deep in yearning for the companionship of my own eternal companion- always.