Sunday, August 10, 2014

I See… The Skill of Integrity

“Integrity is the ability to carry out a decision long after the moment of making it is gone.”

Loren C. Dunn.

I fell in love with this definition of integrity the moment I heard it 18 years ago. So many of us float through life making promise after promise, commitment, and covenant. At the moment we sign up, we fully intend to follow through, but then life’s baggage and misadventures successfully detour us.  Elder Dunn’s declaration implies that integrity is a skill that can be acquired through observation and practice.  I’ve collected several anecdotal stories over the years about righteous men and women who have developed this skill. Here are just a few manifestations of integrity that could be familiar to most LDS readers:

  • My father promised the Lord one month that his Elder’s quorum would achieve 100% home teaching, The last hour of the last day of the month, he waited in the dark in a parked car in front of that last  member’s house who had not received a visit, hoping they would return before the stroke of midnight (they did).
  • Two quarreling spouses met with their bishop for advice.  Instead of focusing on particular points of contention or encouraging improved communication, he separately asked them to remember the covenants they made with the Lord over the sealing room altar many years ago.  Were they prepared to break them? (they were not and decided to try harder)
  •  A young man applies for his first fulltime job after graduating from college.  During the interview, he explains his value to his potential employer as follows: “I am neither a rocket scientist nor a highly skilled professional.  However, I will always do what I say I will do, and be where I say I will be, when I say I will be there.” (He was hired)
  •  A young married LDS supermom has made sacred covenants with God throughout her lifetime to respect and honor priesthood authority.  She detects defects in the LDS male culture that seem to encourage, or at least tacitly allow, unequal treatment of women.  While she does not completely concur with her bishop’s characterization of how the priesthood universally blesses all of God’s children, she nevertheless agrees to quietly, patiently, and personally work it out with the Lord rather than go public with her concerns.

Today’s world is so starving for integrity that we are too often impressed by the mere promise of it. Hence, we elect leaders who write checks with their mouths that their actions can’t cash.  Only the daily, challenging practice of integrity exercised through the sum of kept promises reaps results. Righteous traditions are the glue that bridge moments of inspiration across oceans of life’s harsh and constant ebb and flow. Whether it’s Captain Moroni’s promise to defend freedom, or President Reagan’s promise to not negotiate with terrorists, I suspect it was their daily commitment to principles of liberty, freedom, and human decency that led the transformation of motivational words into solid action. Both of these gentlemen could honestly list “integrity” on their resume of valuable skills.  Could you? 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I See… Time to Rock!

It was the good life.  I was young and flexible, rockin’ out to the intoxicating pulsating beats of the live band at the big BYU dance with my dream girl.  “Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend…” The music invited us to rock the night away.  Homework was done and I had already maxxed out work hours at the Cougareat dishroom. No cares in the world except for the joy of moment!  Time to rock!

Now it’s a little over 30 years later, and I’m still with my dream girl, but now we’re together in our dream home.  I’m old and stiff but still yearn to rock out.  We just invested in a pair of outdoor padded rockers for the back porch. I’m home from work, dinner is done and dirty dishes are safely stored in the dishwasher.  We adjourn to the backyard rockers, looking forward to an exciting evening of virtually keeping up with the world through our kindles and Ipads. The deafening peace of farmland beyond our back fence invites us to rock the night away.  No cares in the world except for the joy of moment!  Time to rock!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I See… A Creative New Standard for Measuring Attraction


There are currently a wide range of standards commonly used to measure the world around us.  We measure the size of our homes, the quality of our car tires, the temperature of our consumables, and much, much, more. Some standards of measurement are innately arbitrary, such as the pain index doctors use when interviewing patients.  Everything important to us deserves to be measured. Why, then, do we not have a standard for measuring attraction?

I quickly noticed this appalling gap of accurate tools and terminology for objectively measuring attraction soon after I embarked on that wonderful voyage we call marriage.  My new wife would prepare a culinary masterpiece, then anxiously ask me “how much do you like it?”  I had no safe answer.

Until now. The Mormon Third Eye, deftly employing it’s crack staff of Tennessee extended family members, has compiled the world’s first standard for measuring attraction, using a revolutionary new scale- the Social Upward Performance Engagement Ratio, or S.U.P.E.R.

Here is how it works.

When you encounter something that provides a level of satisfaction worth measuring, equate to how much respect you would provide it in a social setting.  For example, if you just kind of like pistachio ice cream, you would describe it as “I would date pistachio ice cream.” If it was something you really liked, you could say “I would go steady with Breyer’s double fudge ice cream.” For extreme cases of thorough desire, like the relationship I have with my kindle, marriage would be appropriate.  In previous blogposts, I have already committed to marry my kindle, chocolate orangesticks, the large-screen projection television we used to have in our basement,and my wife’s chicken salad. 

Think about it. What would you marry if you could? Or date? Would you ask episodes of your favorite TV show to the prom? Would you invite chocolate fudge bars to your birthday party? Or would you just like it on facebook?  What about BYU Volleyball games?  I would go steady with BYU volleyball, but I doubt my wife would even be willing to be seen with it at the mall.  The possibilities are endless.

 Here is the list of descriptors my staff has compiled so far. Perhaps there are more. For now, they have all been approved for inclusion in S.U.P.E.R.:

Go steady          
Ask to the prom
Go to the dance
Invite them to my birthday party 
Ask to dance
Like on facebook
Be seen with it at the mall
Give it random hugs
Compliment it
Play it in monopoly
Go on a double date
Hang out
Grocery shop
Meet the parents
Call it animal names

One last question- What do you think of this MTE blogpost? Please answer using S.U.P.E.R.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I See… How to Clean Your Temple

The Mormon Third Eye boasts a long and glorious tradition of providing timely, insightful “how to” guides that, when applied to daily life, enrich and enliven the user’s experience as a Latter-day Saint.  From how to get your kids to watch General Conference, to how to disembowel a really good joke, and everything in between, the Mormon Third Eye is a venerable font of essential knowledge.  You can find a more exhaustive list of Mormon Third Eye life instructions here. Today we offer handy instruction on how to clean your temple.

Last week I was afforded the singular opportunity to spend a Thursday morning cleaning the Raleigh North Carolina Temple.  I often use time in the temple to ponder on the more eternal perspectives of life, and so my mind naturally wandered there again as I reverently vacuumed the men’s changing room. The analogy engine fired up in my big thinking head and I thought “Wait a minute… if our bodies are temples… and cleaning the temple is such an important duty… then how do we clean our ‘body temples?’ hmmm…” The result was a quick list, received via personal revelation, of interesting insight on efficiently cleaning your temple. 

Clean Often- Volunteers clean the temple every Thursday and Monday morning. We should be consciously cleaning our own body temples from corruptive moral, temporal, and intellectual input at least that often.

Go Where You Usually Don’t Go- I was assigned to vacuum the women’s changing room, which at first made me very uncomfortable- a place I thought I would never have a need to visit.  However, it had to be just as clean as any other part of the temple. Likewise, there are parts of our inner temple we like to avoid- like the part that justifies watching an R-rated movie or wonders what the Lord was really thinking when He called brother so-and-so to serve as a bishop.  As uncomfortable as it may be, we need to go there and appropriately clear those errant thoughts and beliefs.

Seek Perfection-  I was instructed to clean surfaces that by all appearances were already spotless.  They had to be cleaned again, however, because of the extremely high threshold- after all, this is where the Lord comes to visit his people- could it ever be clean enough? Probably not.  But I felt the Lord would accept my earnest efforts. Why should our temple body be any different?  We should be constantly cleansing our body temple to prepare it as a suitable place for the Lord to visit us in uniquely personal ways.

Be Sacred-  I was humbled by the opportunity to clean the temple.  Actions as ordinary as sweeping bathroom floors were transformed into sacred experiences.  The work of scrubbing down our body temples from the poison and stains of the world should be as equally holy.  Be reverent as you work on keeping your temple clean.

Someone Will Help You-  I had never cleaned the temple this way before. What do I do when this red alarm light on the vacuum starts blinking?  Should I vacuum under ALL the chairs in the endowment rooms?  Fortunately, there was a temple cleaning supervisor available to answer these questions.  Do you have questions about cleaning your temple?  There are living prophets, apostles, and local ward leaders who want to help you, but you have to ask. (BTW, that blinking red light indicates that you need to adjust the height of the vacuum brush, and yes, you need to vacuum underneath chairs in the endowment room, but DO NOT move them in the process).

Be Thorough and Pay Attention to the Small Stuff- Surfaces in the temple need to sparkle, which requires an uncharacteristically high level of attention and effort.  Several years ago, during a business trip to Seoul, Korea, I joined the American Branch one evening on a temple spring cleaning assignment.  An elderly Korean grandmother handed me a rag and a bottle of polish, and politely asked me to polish an elegant freestanding oriental room divider with an expensive cherry wood frame that adorned the temple lobby.  I spent a few minutes quickly applying a perfunctory coat of polish, then returned to ask her for my next task.  “I’m done!” I proclaimed reverently but proudly.  “Oh no you’re not!” she replied in a firm but loving voice.  “Here, let me show you.  It should take you about two hours to finish this task.”  She then proceeded to spend 15 minutes lovingly polishing just a few inches of cherry wood on the divider.  Cleansing our temple body of immoral thoughts and influences takes time and constant, loving effort.  Don’t hurry the job. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I See... A Return to Dishes

Sounds like the romantic title of a new landmark three-part historical fiction novel narrating the meteoric, ruthless rise of an oppressed, bedraggled dishwasher from the working-class restaurants of Provo, Utah to the smarmy suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, right?

Well… kind of… 

It’s actually merely the romantic title of this Sunday’s blogpost narrating the meteoric, ruthless rise of an oppressed, bedraggled dishwasher from the working-class restaurants of Provo, Utah to the smarmy suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Back in ’82, before email and cell phones and word processors, fresh off my mission I worked 20+ hours a week in the bowels of the Cougareat at BYU in an industrial strength dishroom. I suspect that those fellow students who actually had a heart to break were heartbroken learning of the sacrifices made to graduate from BYU.  The long evening hours, the endless parade of food-encrusted dishes that had to be scrubbed, the dates and dances missed etc…

The dirty little secret is that I truly enjoyed the thoughtless break dishroom work offered. After hours and hours of big thoughts in the library or in class thinking of new ways to solve the world’s old problems, my brain got a break via the mindless work that cleaning dishes afforded. The luxurious diversion of squeezing other people’s leftover enchiladas or cold mashed potatoes and peas through my scrawny fingers cleared my mind and reset my thoughts; I was now mentally prepared to face another day tomorrow.

Most of all, the hundreds of thousands of dishes washed during my BYU days prepared me for 30+ years of marital bliss. My new wife was pleased when I instinctively stepped in to help her with the dishes, and was even more excited when this anomaly continued way past the first few years.  Years passed into decades, and I settled comfortably into my after-dinner role in front of the sink in the kitchen processing dishes. 

When life throws you curveballs, you still have to swing at the pitches. About seven years ago, circumstances beyond our control dictated that I pick up a second job, and through careful reassignment of our household chores, I was relegated to only taking out the trash and occasional Saturday yard work. No more dishes!

However, recently, with more circumstances within my control, I chose to spend more time with the wife of my eternities doing the dishes. It feels good to be in front of the kitchen sink again, scraping off fish taco leftovers and wilted salad parts with my bare fingers (real men use their hands!) It feels good to a part of the family again, doing the chores that inexplicably relax me.

Honey, I’m back!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I See.. The Small, Hidden Blessings of the Big Move

We recently moved from the People’s Republic of Maryland to the United States of North Carolina. After almost 30 years, we are now the “North Carolina Taits,” not the “Maryland Taits.” This is our first move in 18 years, and it has brought us a host of blessings and challenges. We love our new home and surroundings, but desperately miss our ward family in Maryland.  It’s easy to count and track the big benefits; however, there are smaller, more hidden advantages that get lost in the larger, more obvious blessings of the big move, many of which are detectable only by the critical gaze of the Mormon Third Eye. 

The most efficient way to accurately describe what the Mormon Third Eye sees is through a comparison of two short conversations on the same topic: me trying to locate the spatula to fry some eggs on a slow Saturday morning:

Maryland House:

Me (walking sheepishly around the kitchen, as if I was lost in the airport of a foreign country):  Honey…. (pleadingly)  where are we hiding our spatulas nowadays?
Wife of my Eternities (frustrated that I have spent at least of part of every portion of every day the last 18 years in this room and still claim to not know where we store spatulas): It’s where it’s always been for the past 18 years!  Do you remember the last time you fried yourself some eggs?  Where DO we keep the spatulas?
Me (not realizing that use of a spatula would require me to first pass a test, and being too lazy to think more than 10 minutes into my own past):  Hmmm...

North Carolina House

Me (walking around sheepishly in the kitchen, as if I was lost in the airport of a foreign country):  Honey…. (pleadingly)  where are we hiding our spatulas nowadays?
Wife of my Eternities (kindly, politely realizing that she unpacked the kitchen in the new house without my help):  Oh honey…I’m so sorry… of course you don’t know we are storing them now in the drawer there right next to the sink….

Discriminating readers will have quickly picked up on the cataclysmic, momentous difference between both conversations.  The bottom line is that I, for the first time in the history of the world, can participate in sanctioned, ultimately useless laziness, and no longer need be thoroughly familiar (or as my wife would euphemize, “care about”) about what is where in the kitchen!  How cool is that!

I temporarily basked in the magic of the moment and wondered how long I would be awarded this privilege.  Hopefully I could take advantage of the moving-to-a-new-home excuse for months, perhaps even years, before being held responsible for knowing and caring about how our kitchen operates.

But if she’s reading this, probably not. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I See… The Lord’s Plan for Strengthening Marriages and Families

As puny humans, we live in an immediate world. We are always instinctively looking now for the answers to current problems. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach.  If the house is on fire, the answer is to douse it with water now, after first evacuating your family and your computers. 

The Lord however, sees across generations and millennia, and routinely warns us beforehand of difficult challenges on the horizon. He also offers us solutions if we are open to the concept of trusting him and his version of human development.  We know, for example, that a little less than 1600 years ago, the prophet Mormon, through revelation, saw our day and offered divine counsel on meeting our challenges.   An even more relevant example would be the Proclamation to the World on the Family.  How many of us 16 years ago saw today’s assault on the divine definition of marriage between a man and a woman and realized that the Proclamation’s message was preparing us to be ideologically armed for the current struggle?

The Mormon Third Eye is adopting this same approach to attaching significance to the recent policy change allowing young women to serve missions at age 19.  The common short view applied to the utility of this major policy change is that the Lord is hastening his work, and to a lesser extent, focusing more on harnessing the spiritual power naturally evident in the hearts and testimonies of the women of the church.  While this is no doubt right and true, the Mormon Third Eye looks farther into the future and assesses a more long-term unintended but wholly appropriate consequence- the strengthening of marriages and families.

Here is how it works. When I was prowling the sacred halls of BYU over thirty years ago hunting for a worthy wife to share the rest of my life with, one quality high on the checklist was service as a fulltime missionary. I reasoned that marriage to a complete stranger of the really opposite sex would be difficult enough on its own, and so it was critical that my future mate and I possessed shared experiences acting as spiritual “currency” in correctly communicating on relationship issues of profound importance.  I was certain that I would instinctively have more in common with a returned sister missionary, so I married my wife after she returned from serving a mission in the Dominican Republic. 

Applying that same logic to today’s new missionary policies, I wonder if the Lord knew that many future families would be challenged by immense financial, cultural, and moral pressures designed to pull them apart? I wonder if he knew that some of tomorrow’s marriages might need the currency of service as a fulltime missionary to stay united and strong?  Imagine armies of valiant returned sister missionaries strengthening husbands and children with their experiences! I wonder if the Lord knew that some of tomorrow’s families might better endure the stormy seas of debt, immorality, worldliness, and sanctioned selfishness led by a team of returned missionaries?

The Mormon Third Eye contends that He did. And so He inspired a generation of current church leaders to counsel together and receive revelation on promoting missionary service among young women of the church.  Certainly this is one splendid side effect available to young women who freely choose to serve a mission. And we thought it was merely about “hastening the work…”   

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I See… Christmas Once Every 18 Years, in June

I grew up poor but happy.   Some of my most pleasant memories involve rushing downstairs on Christmas Day and witnessing a carefully constructed cacophony of brightly wrapped presents surrounding the tree. Everything was small and cheap, but all of it was something wrapped that had to be unwrapped.  Much of the joy of that day was experienced in the act of unwrapping.  To a poor kid who spent too much of his free mind time daydreaming about next year’s Christmas, the anticipation of waiting to see was waiting for me inside the brightly-colored festive paper, followed by the release of latent energy resulting from quickly and violently ripping away the outside to see what was on the inside, led to an emotional rush rarely tasted in the history of my morally secure life.  Since I don’t do drugs or alcohol, this was the closest I would get to “getting high.” I vividly remember imagining a perfect world where my entire Christmas day was consumed in removing paper from presents.

That perfect world arrived last week, 45 years later.  After 18 straight years in Maryland, we picked up and moved ourselves and decades of accumulated junk to North Carolina.  Professional movers securely surrounded everything we own with endless amounts of packing paper, then shipped it to our new home in Raleigh.  They basically deposited a buhzillion boxes in various locations around the house, then left us with the enviable task of unwrapping it all.  It would be Christmas all over again.

Initially, the idea of looking forward to rediscovering everything we owned was emotionally encouraging. After the first hour of unwrapping doodads destined for the kitchen, I had already broken my previous Christmas day record for consecutive unwrapping minutes. By the end of day two, my satisfied soul was saturated with 16+ hours of discovery.  At day five, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of both worldly goods that had been liberated from storage boxes as well as the mountainous pile of possessions yet to be processed.  It was mine. All mine. 

The allure and excitement of wondering what was inside the next wad of paper had been replaced by the monotony of what was actually inside - perhaps another used umbrella from the old coat closet or a damaged domino tin from the old game chest? Where were the remotes for the entertainment systems? There were a few surprises –why do we have two copies of “The Empire Strikes Back” DVD? - but there wasn’t enough of the undiscovered to balance out the massive amounts of the well-known. 

So, the moral of the story here is be careful what you wish for as a young Christmas kid, because by the time it is granted decades later, it may be too much of a good thing. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

I See...When Father’s Day Comes Every Day

If you are someone fortunate enough to be a father to children, how does your typical Father’s Day unfold? For me, with two grown children forging lives of their own thousands of miles away, it usually involves a somewhat quiet Sunday at home, peppered with an inspirational sacrament meeting, a few pleasant phone calls from the kids, and a favorite meal of my choice- this year it’s steak bites, a smarmy salad, fresh strawberries, and a homemade chocolate mousse pie for dessert. Yum!  Ever since my children have grown old enough to appreciate me, I’ve warned them that I only want two gifts for Father’s Day; their appreciation and their love- a love that can only be shown by leading diligent lives in conformance to gospel principles. So far, they have not let me down; I am blessed.

Today I’m pondering, what would happen if it was Father’s Day every day?  Personally, I’m afraid I would turn into a fat, prideful, and big-headed head of household. However, if we accept the divine pattern of living within families, then we have a Heavenly Father, the father of our spirits, the author of the plan of salvation, who loves us with a perfect love beyond our puny mortal capabilities to comprehend. For Him, every day truly is Father’s Day; he is completely immersed in making us happy, and all he desires in return is a daily “thank you” in our prayers and our love, which is shown through keeping his commandments.

However, I don't know what his favorite meal is...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

I See… The Real Power of Music

Ancient and latter-day prophets, apostles, and other church leaders bear fervent testimony of the awesome power of music to bring souls closer to Christ in unique and inspirational ways. Master teacher Boyd K. Packer said that “I learned too what power there can be in music. When music is reverently presented, it can be akin to revelation. At times, I think, it cannot be separated from the voice of the Lord, the quiet, still voice of the Spirit.” The message of music crosses generations and unifies congregations as they worship together.

However, I recently discovered another influential dimension of the real power of music to bind and befriend all members of the church, regardless of their age, life experiences, and location- the power of Song Pop.

Song Pop is a social multiplayer game in which players must recognize songs and then answer in a multiple-choice format. My wife is mildly addicted to it.  She uses the game, however, to cleverly stay in contact with friends and family from all ages and walks of life.  Whether it’s challenging a young mother in our ward on her knowledge of 70’s disco music, testing somebody else’s grandmother on Elvis favorites, or quizzing someone else’s child on current rockabilly hits, the key is that they are connected and enjoying each other’s company in ways that could never be imagined during the pre-Song Pop era.  Every time I hear sound effects ringing throughout the house announcing the start of another Song Pop game on the Ipad, I know my wife is working hard to cement another long-distance relationship with a treasured relative or friend through the medium of online musical matches.

Stay connected through music. Challenge all to a game of Song Pop.