Saturday, August 27, 2016

I See... A Beautiful Day

The network was down.
My boss yelled at me.
I lost my password.
The doctor told me that my painful swollen left finger is full of “bone shards.”
The lawn mower quit working halfway across the lawn.
I forgot to take out the trash.
I'm behind at work and with seminary preparation.
I've been shut out of the database.
Traffic was terrible.
We had to pay for two, yes two new HVAC systems for the house.
It's 95 degrees and 90 percent humidity outside.
I enjoyed the privilege of rocking my two-week old granddaughter to sleep at the end of the day. She actually smiled at me! I know its probably just gas, because cognitively newborns don't know how to smile until they're at least two months old. But still...

What a beautiful day!  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

I See... How to Really Enjoy Your Next Visit to the Temple

The Mormon Third Eye is proud to serve as the unofficial remedial manual for modern Mormon members on how to get things done the right way in their own lives, homes and wards. In fact, approximately 10% of the Mormon Third Eye is dedicated to making Latter-day Saint life easier, with advice offered at all levels difficulty and capability, from the mercilessly mundane (how to deal with a bad dream) and seemingly silly (how to end any argument with your wife) to the unusually unique (how to keep your children morally clean before marriage)and sadly serious (how to know if your wife really, truly loves you). Now it's time learn how to really enjoy your visit nextto the temple.

Over the past almost 40 years I've either been serving in three temples (Seoul Korea, Washington DC, and Raleigh North Carolina) or visiting many more. The essence of temple worship is the opportunity we have to serve as “Saviors on Mt. Zion” and experience the joy that comes with doing something for someone that they cannot do for themselves. As we complete the saving ordinances for our ancestors, we are effectuating their release from spiritual prison and introduction into spiritual paradise while they await the joyful day of resurrection. Actually, the source of all the good feelings we feel as we serve others in any capacity anywhere anytime for anybody is the fact that we are doing something for someone that they cannot do for themselves. The atonement of Jesus Christ is the epitome of this principle- the only perfect man suffering for our sins and our sorrows, making the impossible possible- enjoying a stain-free eternity with our Father in Heaven. Can we even comprehend how happy the Savior must be as a result of this act of ultimate service?
The entrance to the Washington D.C. Temple, with a partial view of the water fountain out front.
Absolutely not. But we can have a taste of it. So... what if... what if... the next time you attended the temple, you did something for someone that they cannot do for themselves- an act of service for the dead AND the living?

Here is how you do it. The next time you go the temple to perform saving ordinances vicariously for your ancestors, take a completely immobilized wheelchair-bound recommend holder with you. To give them an opportunity to serve their ancestors, you will have to do everything for them. Everything. And you just might experience incomprehensible joy in the process.

This happened to me a few months ago during a temple shift. I was assigned to help an elderly man in a wheelchair complete endowment ordinances for one of his ancestors. All he could offer them was his body. I had to do everything else for him. Everything. And as I did so, I was infused with a quiet but powerful wave of peace and joy and love that is hard to describe.

I guess you could call it incomprehensible.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I See... Grandbaby Lives Matter!

Black Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. What really matters? I heard an almost rational explanation of the Black Lives Matter movement a few weeks ago. A rather educated unofficial spokesman for the movement claimed that it's real purpose was an element of social justice- to highlight for civil society implicit and hidden biases against my brothers of another color. What matters more than life and death? Emphasizing the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of policemen charged with keeping the peace, for any reason, for better or worse, opens room in social discourse to consider this cause. Black Lives Matter movement members merely want our world to stop turning for a moment and think seriously about their problems.

We all meet moments in our lives that cannot be adequately explained; they can only be felt and believed. The world stops turning for us and we become completely and totally frozen in a sliver of time by the wonder and miracle of the moment. It can only be fully appreciated by personal experience. Moments of life and death, with missions and marriages squeezed in between, almost complete the catalog of experiences for many Mormon church members that have to be lived to be truly appreciated. Only our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can fully empathize with our challenges and sorrows through the miracle of the atonement. These moments matter.

So, I solemnly proclaim that Grandbaby Lives Matter. Why? Because I last Friday afternoon I held my first grandbaby for the first time. The world stopped turning for a moment and nothing else mattered. I can't put into words the joy I felt over the little miracle cradled in my arms. Only other grandfathers and the Savior know.

I want the world to know. Grandbaby lives matter.

Monday, August 8, 2016

I See... Standing as a Witness

I See... Standing as a Witness

Standing as a witness is a key concept of our faith. 15 witnesses saw Joseph Smith's golden plates to testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and sacred ordinances of salvation are not recorded as valid unless there are witnesses present. And, in the most sacred contexts imaginable, the Father bears witness of the Son when necessary.

Hence I feel it important for the Mormon Third Eye to stand as a witness of two seminal events that occurred in Las Vegas on the same weekend; one eternally amazing, and another just plain amazing;

Just Plain Amazing

Several elements of the extended big Tait family were converging on Las Vegas for the temple wedding of a favorite nephew. One of my other favorite young married nephews agreed to pick me up at the airport mid-morning and babysit me for a few hours until the rest of the family arrived for matrimonial festivities later in the day (The fact that a young hip and happen'in nephew would WANT to be seen with me around Vegas is truly amazing, but I digress). He proceeded to pick me up a sporty white Mustang convertible and escort me to his truly palatial suite at the prestigious Hard Rock hotel on the Strip. When he and his sweet wife had arrived in Las Vegas the night before, both their carefully selected inexpensive rental car and hotel room had been sold to someone else in error. In an absolutely amazing feat of satisfying serendipity, they were compensated for their discomfort with their upgraded convertible and suite. My nephew, certain that no one would believe his good fortune, pleaded with me to stand as an independent witness. I certify that I did in fact see and spend time in the said convertible and suite.
Image result for hard rock hotel las vegas

Eternally Amazing

Covenants and commandments were kept across generations, preparing two worthy young members of the church to meet over a sacred sealing altar in the Las Vegas Temple last Saturday. One of them was my oldest brother's son. With his sweet bride they made eternal covenants that included immeasurable promises of eternal increase and “all that the Father hath.” At that moment they started the bright new adventure of matrimony that will assuredly include recurring bouts of faith, repentance and forgiveness; of mistakes and miracles, patience and pain, joy and sorrow, and words of both planned praise and thoughtless criticism. And through it all, it will be their commitment to the covenants they made that day that will carry them through valleys of trial and sorrow.
A view of the Las Vegas Nevada Temple illuminated in the evening, with an orange sky in the background and the city lights in the distance.
I was privileged to populate the quiet crowd of family and friends in the sealing room to enjoy this eternally amazing event.

I stand as a witness.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

I See... When is Heaven?

The Mormon Third Eye has talked about Heaven before, often in the context of what makes us happy. You can read more about it here, here, here, here, and here. We often entertain thoughts of a perfect world in the future filled with our favorite things and people, or we describe “heaven on earth” as a particularly wonderful event or existence frozen in current time and space. The Mormon Third Eye, however, goes beyond the present and the future into the past to find Heaven. It happened two nights ago... in the dream.

Two nights ago the necessary strains of my 56-year old body would not let me sleep so I wandered upstairs into my college daughter's empty bedroom to avoid punishing my wife with my insomnia. We had our temple shift to work Saturday morning so it was important that at least one of us got a good night's sleep. After endless tosses and turns and Seminary New Testament manual musings, I finally fell asleep.

I was awakened in my unusually realistic dream by the appearance of my college-age daughter as a cute, bouncy toddler wearing a white temple blessing dress. She flitted from toy to toy around the room and we had a grand time playing together and reading bedtime stories like we used to; however, the only phrase tumbling out of her two-year old mouth was a perky “I'm all grown up now daddy!” It seemed like heaven.

Then my married and soon-to-be father adult son entered the room dressed in the white clothes he wore when he was baptized at age 8- more heaven. We played and talked and laughed together as a young family for awhile. I texted my wife to come upstairs and join the fun. She quickly arrived and was pleasantly shocked with our ability to magically transport back in time to the youth of our grown children. While we both wanted the joy of this impossible experience to last forever, reality started slowly encroaching into my subconscious and we feared that if we left the room to get ready for our temple shift, we would lose them. However, we made the right choice and I woke up. And suddenly, my daughter was still in college in Utah, and my son and his wife were still expecting the birth of their first child again. Just like that it was over.

The dream left a lasting impression on me. While I found heaven in the memories of joyful times spent with my young family, I'm glad that's all they are- memories. I wouldn't want to miss enjoying their bright future trapped in the past!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I See... How to Celebrate Pioneer Day

For those of us with pioneer ancestors, Pioneer Day holds special significance. My great-great grandmother Elizabeth Xavier Tait traveled all the way from Poona, India in 1856 as a member of the ill-fated Willie Handcart Company, a trip that left her permanent health scars. You can read about it here.

I always find inspiration this time of year in her sacrifice, but struggle in attempts to properly celebrate or commemorate it. We celebrate it every July 24th with parades and parties that express our gratitude, but I pondered this year on a better way to commemorate it. Elizabeth Xavier proved to her descendants that she could do hard things. What if... what if... I honored her this Pioneer Day by doing my own hard thing?

I have a weed-infested backyard that taunts me daily. Even with my best efforts I have so far failed to conquer this monster. So... on Monday, July 25th, all day long, I am committed to completing my hard thing- I will not sleep until I have eradicated every vestige of unwanted growth from the backyard. Just like my pioneer ancestor, I'll start at the break of dawn on the back lawn and continue until sunset. When the temperature soars to 95 degrees with 60% humidity and the pile of pulled weeds overcomes our yard trash can, I'll stop for a moment, wish to quit, then remember Elizabeth Xavier Tait trudging through the snows of high Wyoming and keep on pulling.

This is my hard thing.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I See... The Prayer Chair

We are taught to pray at special times in special places- in our temples, our churches, our homes, our closets, and even in our hearts. Our home has a traditional place where the most special prayers, priesthood blessings, are offered- we call it “the prayer chair.”

We picked up this chair several years ago when we lived overseas. As you can see, it's a non-traditional but entirely comfortable “corner” chair where the front corner appears squarely between the two legs of the person sitting in it. At first it was just a clever conversation piece; but as time passed it naturally became that special place where sons and daughters and moms and dads the and husbands and wives and Relief Society presidents and bishops in our family received blessings of inspiration, comfort, strength, guidance, and health. When someone has encountered a new calling in the ward, a new year at school, or a new illness at home, many times they end up spending time in the prayer chair under the loving hands of one with priesthood authority listening to guidance tailored to their particular trial.

In our latest humble abode it has secured a most sacred location- our walk-in closet. Usually it is a guardian of the mundane- a cozy resting place for clean and dirty clothes in various stages of being filed away somewhere else in the house. However, as one of my favorite Book of Mormon personalities Amulek taught, “But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.” (Alma 34:26), and without much effort at all it is easily transformed into that pristine place where souls are poured out.

Everyone should have a special place they can go to when they need help bearing their burdens. We have ours- the prayer chair. Where is yours?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I See... The Mormon Third Eye Blind

Sunday, February 28th, 2016. A day that will live in infamy. Why? Because... that is the Sunday that Mormon Third Eye went blind.

For almost 440 consecutive weekends (mostly Sundays), since Saturday, November 17, 2007, except for a few wedding anniversaries that fell on a Sunday, the Mormon Third Eye has posted what it has seen in it's own tiny corner of the LDS universe. From that very first missive about the Hampstead Young Married Ward to a Sunday, February 21 2016 post on the nameless sister missionaryin 2nd Kings 5, these weekly writings have tiptoed nimbly through both controversial and lighthearted gospel and family topics.
However, on that fateful fourth Sunday morning last February, I woke up wrapped in personal intrigue. What would happen if I intentionally skipped a Sunday? Would the world stop turning? Would my world crumble? What if... What if.... I ran out of things to write about? Or even worse, what would happen if I just decided not to write? These ponderings transported me to an even deeper place. Why do I blog?

If you believe the personal doctrine taught in my very first post roughly 8 and ½ years ago, the inaugural Mormon Third Eye was an attempt to hang on to the great ward family I thought I lost after being a released as a bishop over three years earlier. Fast forward to Sunday, May 22 2011, where itwas identified as a crude attempt at blog therapy.

I realize now I was just looking for myself via 440 sessions of intensive weekly weekend blogtherapy, and on Sunday morning, February 28th, 2016, I was found- I knew who I was. I have a divine heritage as a son of my Heavenly Father who loves me, and with that knowledge comes confidence in my intrinsic worth.

That's when and why the Mormon Third Eye went blind. I was blind but now I see.  

Sunday, July 3, 2016

I See... My Two Dads

I have two fathers. I knew the first one, before he passed away almost 32 years ago, as a strong man with a gentle side who loved me. He wasn't perfect, but his lasting gift to me was the clear line between right and wrong. There was never any question between right and wrong and good and evil. I always knew him as someone dedicated to the gospel and his family. When he summoned up the courage the last few years his life to write about it and reveal the history of his wild side growing up, it made me respect him even more for how far he had come to love us and take care of us.

The second father is actually my first father; my Father in Heaven. He has always been there for me and loves me perfectly. He shows that love for me by creating and executing that Great Plan of Happiness, the Plan of Salvation, so that I could come to earth and learn through my own experience the difference between good and evil. Although I've never seen him with my physical eyes, nonetheless I often sense the indescribable love he has for me, usually in quiet pondering moments during my Saturday morning temple shift or on slow lazy Sunday afternoons when I'm blogging for the Mormon Third Eye (like I am right now). The epitome of that love was the great Atonement of his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that makes it possible for me to repent of my sins, endure my sorrows, and return to his perfect presence some day.Matthew 5:16, We should let our light shine to bring glory to God

I have a lot of work to do first. I look forward to meeting both of my fathers some day.  

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.