Sunday, April 9, 2017

I See... How to Rejoice

Have you ever wondered how to rejoice? How to be happy? I do fairly often. The Mormon Third Eye research team found a handbook for rejoicing embedded in the Book of Mormon- Mosiah Chapters 2-5- King Benjamin's general conference address. The team found six principles that, if adhered to faithfully, will bring you joy.

A painting by Gary L. Kapp depicting King Benjamin standing on a tower within a temple complex, speaking to the Nephites gathered around.

1. A thankful heart for all that God has given us can bring us joy and help us feel the love of God.

At the opening of Mosiah Chapter 2, In preparations for this general conference, they are told to “give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.”

2. Serving others in the name of God brings us joy.

Mosiah 2:17, 20-21:
"17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants."

3. Keeping the commandments keeps us blessed and happy.

Mosiah 2:41: “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”

4. A knowledge of the birth, ministry, atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ can bring us joy.

In Mosiah 3:3-11 we are introduced to the fourth principle of rejoicing, which actually came from an angel: “And he said unto me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy. For the Lord hath heard thy prayers, and hath judged of thy righteousness, and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice; and that thou mayest declare unto thy people, that they may also be filled with joy.” The angel then teaches King Benjamin about the birth, ministry, atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

5. True repentance, forgiveness, and humility can bring us joy.

In Mosiah 4, we learn that as a result of King Benjamin's preaching, his people had “fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.” They had “viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.” It was after this broken-hearted confession of guilt and request for forgiveness that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come.” 

In verse 11 he revisits the benefits of true repentance and forgiveness: “And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.”

6. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel can bring us joy.

After finishing his address, King Benjamin asked for feedback: he wanted to know if “they believed 
the words which he had spoken unto them.“ In Mosiah 5:4 we find their answer. “And it is the faith which we have had in the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.”

Don't worry. Be happy.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

I See... Other People's Prayers

Prophets, apostles, and even the Savior himself occupy a large amount of our chronological real estate teaching us about our own personal prayers. How and why do we pray? And what do we pray for?

How: Matthew 6:6-8: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”

Why: D&C 19:38: “Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing—yea, even more than if you should obtain treasures of earth and corruptibleness to the extent thereof.”

What: Alma 34 20-25: “Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks. Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening. Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies. Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness. Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them. Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.”

How often, however, do we think and ponder about other people's prayers? This is important, because more often than not, we are either 1) mentioned in their prayers, or 2) the answer to their prayers.

Parents: do you pray for your children to grow up physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy?
Bishops, youth leaders, seminary instructors, brothers and sisters, medical professionals and counselors: you are an answer to prayers.

Are you struggling? Odds are that you are in someone else's prayers.

Here's a tiny quiet example from the Mormon Third Eye executive collection of inspiration stories:

Suzy Beewhyyou was walking into Staples one pleasant sunny afternoon when she noticed an elderly African-American lady (she had to be someone's grandmother- we're going to call her Mabel- I don't know her real name) standing precariously in front of the store, leaning on a cane and sporting a confused look. Suzy paused for a moment then asked if she needed some help. “I need to pay my bill at Dress Barn,” she responded in a slow, tired tone. Further discussion revealed that her niece had dropped off car-less Mabel at the wrong location; Dress Barn was actually still several long parking lots away. Suzy, who was in no particular hurry to accomplish her morning errands, offered to help. “Let me pick up what I need first, then I'll give you a ride there!”

Suzy came out of Staples a few minutes later, kindly escorted the old lady to the car, and made the short drive over to Dress Barn. Suzy deposited Mabel in front of Dress Barn, then made sure that Mabel knew where to go to be picked up by her niece. Just before Suzy drove away, Mabel thanked her with “God just sends people to you!”

A prayer answered. Is someone praying for you? Are you ready to answer prayers?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

I See... Christmas Every Day

((Warning: This post was compiled while watching the classic 1996 made-for-TV-movie “Christmas Every Day.”))

If you're human, you've probably lazily pondered at least once in a stray moment during the holidays what life would be like if we could experience Christmas every day. Oh the music! The food! Presents for everyone! The opportunities we are afforded to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and vainly, in our puny mortal ways, desperately attempt to honor and appreciate Him through gifts and songs and service! Everything we think, say, and do during the season brings us closer to Him and fills our souls with joy. We yearn to learn more about Him and understand His great love for us. How much more wonderful would our lives be if we could live each day as if it were Christmas day?

The Mormon Third Eye staff, as a result of recently completed several minutes of in-depth research, has concluded that it is indeed possible to enjoy Christmas every day! The formula is simple and possible to accomplish under the right conditions:

First: Offer a personal, earnest, meaningful prayer to your Heavenly Father. Elder Bednar calls them “gut-wrenching.” Seek to emotionally and spiritually connect with Him with a heart brimming with gratitude for the greatest gift of all, the atonement of Jesus Christ, which allows us to repent our sins, endure our sorrows, and return to Him. Feel His love for you.

Second: Sing a hymn. Full-time missionaries and early morning seminary teachers get to do this almost every morning.

Third: Serve someone in some way. Once again, full-time missionaries and early morning seminary teachers have an advantage here also.

The Mormon Third Eye is launching a massive year-long research project looking for participants to test the formula. If you want to be involved in this landmark research study, contact the MTE via Facebook to sign up. If selected, you should be willing to execute the formula and report how close that day resembles Christmas day.

Next year for me will be Christmas every day. I'll let you know how it goes. How about you?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

I See... World Peace

There is no better time to talk about world peas than Christmas. “Peas on earth, goodwill towards men!” How can we achieve world peas? The Mormon Third Eye has a plan.

First, it's important to understand what world peas really is/are. The intrepid Mormon Third Eye research staff learned from Wikipedia that peas were first grown in the Middle East in the 5th century BC; that you can make bioplastic out of pea starch; and that the annual 'Peasenhall Pea Festival' in the English village of Peasenhall, Suffolk attracts hundreds of visitors every year, with events such as Pea Shooting, the World Pea Podding Championships and National Pea Eating competition. There are at least 15 different major varieties of peas grown in the world today. China and India are peas leaders; America is a distant third.

Image result for peas

So... armed with this knowledge, how do we achieve world peas?

The first step is to admit that, just like international law, there is no such thing as “world peas.” Peas grown in China, India, and America are Chinese, Indian, and American peas respectively. The only chance for world peas is to have the UN decree that the ground where peas are grown does not belong to any particular country; it belongs to the world- kind of like the South Pole and the International Space Station. If the world can agree on climate change, world peas should be easy.

The second and final step would be to send huge shipments of world peas to war-torn areas of the world such as Iraq, Syria, and Detroit. Peas brings people together.

What a minute... I'm so embarrassed... I think most people are more concerned about another kind of world peace... hmmm....

Friday, December 2, 2016

I See... Lighting the World with my Mother's Love

The church has been challenging the world to “light the world” by following the Savior's example for the next 24 days leading up to Christmas. Today we were asked to honor our parents as the Savior honored his. The Mormon Third Eye will honor his mother, who passed away approximately two years ago last Easter, with excerpts from her eulogy. How will you honor your parents today?

"Her life, however, was so much more than the record. She was a wonderful, caring, hardworking, humble, faithful, fun-loving, diligent, and non-judgmental daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, caregiver, and friend to countless family and friends. She opened her heart and home to everyone, and we all have been blessed by her care.   

She led a life full of hard work, endurance, humility, service, and sacrifice for all who crossed her path, but especially for her family, friends, and coworkers.  Expressions of love, dedication, and devotion to her family were not trapped in the crucible of words- we always knew she loved us by her actions; by how she sacrificed for us.

“Mom suffereth long, and is kind; Mom envieth not, Mom vaunteth not herself, is not puffed up; doth behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  beareth all things, beleiveth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Mom never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall pass away. And now abideth faith, hope, and Mom; but the greatest of these is Mom.”

Mom was Charity. How did she do it all? We honestly don’t know. She was always laboring with us and for us, often long before we woke in the mornings and long after we went to bed.  How did she toil all night taking care of other people’s babies in the maternity ward, then come home to take care of her own sick husband and her own babies? 

We all have tender and deep memories of her charity and devotion to family, all of which will certainly transform into legends as they are passed down through generations. Just as we now movingly recreate ancestors crossing the plains as handcart pioneers 150 years ago, our great-grandchildren will be sharing unbelievable stories of Mom taking care of six young children alone in a home in Concord for six weeks without a phone to talk to her husband working on the other side of the country, or working as a nurse struggling to pay the bills of six even younger children while her husband survived a heart attack to graduate from college in Logan. She always lost herself in taking care of others.  Even after Dad passed away and all her kids left town for browner pastures, she filled her home with missionaries and her “summer sons-“ a parade of homeless BYU students, usually referred by her children, who needed a place to stay while they earned money to finance their next semester. 

Mom was not a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist, a seasoned orator, an educated scriptorian, nor a master crafter. She was not a superhero that saved the world, but a supermom who, together with an honorable Dad, saved a family of seven children.  Later in life, as she witnessed her children go on missions, marry in temples, become successful doctors, analysts, executives, and most of all, mothers, she described it as “the big payoff.”  And maybe that is true. But she probably did not realize that as she became wrapped up in the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years of loaded diapers, clogged toilets, pre-teen bicycle accidents and teenage car accidents running into one continuous blur, she was actually fulfilling the scriptural invitation to bring souls unto Christ.

Perhaps Mom’s greatest gift to her children, her most lasting legacy, was her example. Growing up, there was never any question as to what was right and what was wrong. We were raised under a clear morality, which we pass on to our own children. Another great gift was the example of enduring, eternal love she had for Dad. We learned how to love and sacrifice for our spouses as we grew up watching how deeply she cared for and took care of her husband who was sick for much of his adult life. 

We honor the dead in the way that we live.  She made those around her better, regardless of their age and station in life. For Mom, love is an action, not just a feeling or an emotion of deep concern. To truly honor her, to ensure that she did not live and die in vain, God expects us to be better people because we knew her. In this vein, she would want us to resolve today to love deeper, live stronger, care longer and serve others with more heart and soul. This can be our gift to her, and perhaps the only one we can give her now that she can still enjoy where she is now; for I have no doubt that there is a way for her to observe us somehow and know that we are serving and loving others more because she once served and loved us."

Friday, November 25, 2016

I See... The Biblical Trump

"And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations."
- Luke 16:9

It's obvious that the Mormon Third Eye can't be current unless it has an opinion on President-elect Trump. The collective body of imperfect Old Testament prophets constitute a series of flawed men struggling with faith, fear, and anger management issues who God nonetheless entrusted to accomplish His work - “the immortality and eternal life of man.”
Image result for president elect trump
Looking through Old Testament eyes, I see in President-elect Trump a flawed charismatic man with a boatload of undesirable character traits who has accomplished much in this life by leveraging the talent of other people, and now has been entrusted with implementing relatively lofty constitutional ideals. I voted for him because 1) his currently proclaimed positions on social and moral issues such as abortion, marriage, personal responsibility and the nobility of hard work more closely mirror personal beliefs I consider to be rooted in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ than Hillary Clinton, and 2) the state of North Carolina would not let me write in a more acceptable alternative.

So... I'm going to take the Savior's advice and make myself “a friend of the mammon of unrighteousness;” a friend of President-elect Trump. As his friend, I hope he will rely on talents of the right people to maintain America as “the Promised Land;” a place from which the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ can flood the earth and bless all of God's children regardless of their identity or station in life.

God bless America and God bless President-elect Trump. Please... Please...    

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I See... What it's like to be Popular

I often wonder what it is like to be popular. I've never been popular. What would it be like to enter a room and be the center of attention? To turn heads and meet huge welcoming grins? This would never happen to me. Never. Or would it?

Last Friday night we embarked on a family outing to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh. As I sifted through throngs of happy fair visitors rushing to experience carnival rides and uniquely tasty food such as bacon-wrapped grilled cheese sandwiches (I loved them!), I noticed out of the corner of my eye that complete strangers were paying attention to me with bright smiles and turned heads. A few even followed me a round for a few seconds. Had I suddenly become popular? Were fans of the Mormon Third Eye coming out of the closet and finally recognizing me publicly as it's creator and author? Had my blog finally become famous? Was I... popular?

Not hardly. My fake fame was fleeting when I realized I was holding the cutest little girl in the world- my two-month granddaughter. She was the popular one turning heads and drawing smiles.

Oh well... it was still fun holding someone popular!

I See... Your Sunday Best

I grew up in the model mormon home with six lively brothers and sisters and parents who let their actions and teachings show how much they loved us. Of all the gifts they left us, perhaps one of the most precious was love and respect for the Lord's Day. One distinct memory was the requirement to wear our “Sunday best;” my brothers and I put on faded white short-sleeved shirts with clip-on ties, and my sisters wore their best dresses. Since then, I've always tried to look my best on Sunday; it's a symbolic outer reflection of my inner commitment to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, last Sunday I attended a special sacrament meeting where virtually no one, not even myself, were wearing their Sunday best. I should have been appalled and offended. Approximately 240 priesthood holders of all ages from two stakes in North Carolina were crammed into the LDS Chapel in Conway, South Carolina dressed in their “Sunday worst;” dusty work boots and dirty jeans with ripped leather work gloves hanging out the back pockets; stained, worn teeshirts decorated with the remnants of chainsaw dust; unshaven faces gloriously topped with creatively positioned bedheads. We were a mess.

But where were our hearts? We had all volunteered to spend a whole weekend in hurricane-damaged portions of Conway and Florence South Carolina clearing downed trees and destruction off of the properties of some of the poorest, disabled, and disadvantaged residents of the area. Like the Savior did for us, we did something for them they could not do for themselves; most likely the dangerously downed trees would have lied around their properties indefinitely had we not offered our help.
Inline image
So... there we were, 7:30 am on a crisp sunny Sunday morning, taking a 30-minute break from our labors to partake of the sacrament and receive brief reminders from a general authority about the blessings of service and sacrifice. And then we left to complete a few more work orders.

The Savior was challenged by Pharisees and scribes: “Is it ok to heal on the Sabbath?” In this case, I claim that while we were not wearing our “Sunday best” clothes, we were certainly giving our Sunday best.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I See... The First Family Council

For church history buffs, it is always fun to trace the genealogy of church programs designed to bring us closer to Christ. Family Home Evenings became a church policy on April 27th 1915 (Monday night wasn't designated as the preferred time until 1970); Primary was adopted church-wide in 1880; the Scouting program of the church was started in 1913, three years after the Boy Scouts of America was established. While each one of these organizations possesses a riveting foundation narrative, the first family council beats them all. Why? Because without the key decision made at the first family council, we would not be here.
A family of four sitting together, looking at a painting of Joseph Smith from the Gospel Art Book.
The first family council was held in the pre-earth life, before the foundations of the world were laid. Our Heavenly Father called it because he had a big decision to make that would affect every member of his family; much bigger than traditional family councils held to discuss vacation plans, potential family moves, the division of labor around the house, etc.

In the first family council Heavenly Father introduced to us the Great Plan of Happiness, also known as the Plan of Salvation. According to this plan, we would be given the opportunity to come to earth and obtain a body. We would be given agency to make decisions about what we would do with this body; good choices would lead to more freedom, while bad choices would lead to physical and spiritual bondage. The decisions we made on Earth, combined with the grace of God, would determine how much we would enjoy the afterlife. Our Elder Brother Jesus Christ stepped forward and volunteered to be our Savior to make the plan work via the Atonement.

Another luminary in our pre-earth life, Lucifer, proposed an alternate plan. In his version, we would all still be given bodies and come to earth, but we would lack the power to choose. He would force us to make right choices and redeem us all, but his plan had a catch- he would receive all the credit and glory.

We all had a very important decision to make in that first family council. Two thirds of us chose Heavenly Father's plan; the other 33 percent supported Lucifer. As a result of that most important decision, we received bodies and agency, while Lucifer's supporters were condemned to endure eternity with as spirits. As a result of this very important decision, Lucifer's supporters now wander the earth trying to make life hard for us; they want us “to be miserable, like unto themselves.” The War in Heaven that rages on for the hearts and souls of mankind today had its origins in that first family council

So... the next time you hold a family council to discuss summer vacation plans that degenerates into a vicious shouting match about whether more time should be spent in Disney World or Universal Studios, try to remember that the first family council had problems too.  

Friday, September 30, 2016

I See... The Six Words That May Save Your Life

I know of six words, when used at the proper time in the proper order, may save your life. I'm talking about your eternal life in the presence of a loving Heavenly Father. But... before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this story.

Several years ago an errant young man came to visit his bishop in an attempt to clean up his life. He had runaway from his LDS home in his early teens, and spent the next few years living on the mean streets of a large city committing every sin imaginable. Now he was in his bishop's office pouring out his soul and earnestly seeking repentance and forgiveness. The bishop was, frankly, overwhelmed with both the enormity of the young man's past sins and the amazing change of heart he was witnessing. Was he a modern-day Alma the Younger?

The bishop delicately asked the young man what prompted him to turn his life around and start walking down the long road of repentance. Surely the answer would strengthen both their testimonies. “When I was at my lowest point, reeling spiritually and physically under the effects of riotous living,” the young man explained, “a voice in my head proclaimed 'this is not who I am.' And from then on, I had the desire and strength to make marvelous changes in my life.”

God made us to be brave, faithful, obedient, loving, compassionate, and kind; to be believing, charitable, spiritual, and humble. It is a part of the spiritual DNA we inherited from Him, and anytime we are not true to these God-like qualities we are less than we should be.

I have personally experienced the power of these words when I've been frustrated with life and been tempted to blame the Lord for my trials or be too hard on myself. “This is not who I am” are powerful words that proclaim our divine nature and protect us from sin and sorrow, much like it did for this young man.

I invite you to try it out the next time you find yourself sliding down the slippery slope of sin or overwhelmed with sorrow. They just might save you.