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.

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.