Sunday, May 3, 2015

I See... Saving the World

Rarely does the Mormon Third Eye tackle a topic as taxing as saving the world. If you can't save the world, what else matters?

Just last Friday afternoon I was one of the millions of minions in North America who flocked to theaters across the country to be entertained and inspired by the new superhero blockbuster “The Avengers: the Age of Ultron.” Eight superheroes with various wonderful powers fought off the essence of evil to save the world from total annihilation. The movie had it's desired effect on me. I left the theater excited, inspired, and motivated; I wanted to save the world.

But how? Unfortunately, on the way home reality sunk in. In the sprawling mass of clogged left-hand turn lanes, pollen-laden air attacking my sinuses, and practical discussions on how much time we would spend tomorrow battling evil weeds in the back yard, I realized that the world that had just been saved was just fiction emanating from the clever minds of writers, directors, and actors. The world I lived in had real challenges with evil and needed to be saved too, but without the fabricated superpowers exercised in the movie. Even as a human I was pretty weak in the superpower/talent department. I don't possess any of the traditional athletic, musical, or entrepreneurial talents that most of humanity looks up to; I've been focusing mostly on keeping promises and making good decisions. What could I do?

It was then I reached into my wallet for my secret weapon- a secret weapon the none of the Avengers possessed, yet had the potential to bestow upon even puny mortals power to save worlds past, present and future. I pulled out my Temple Recommend.
I use my temple recommend to serve as a volunteer temple worker every first and third Saturday mornings. The prophet Joseph Smith taught that “these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.” The work I do in the temple and the life I must lead to remain worthy of a recommend makes me a willing and active participant in saving those who have gone before me, those currently with me, and those who will come after me.

I spent the morning after viewing the amazing Avengers movie in the temple saving mankind by administering saving ordinances for my kindred dead. I left the temple excited, inspired, and motivated save mankind in the real world with the power and authority of God.

It doesn't get any more “super” than that!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

I See... Unlikely Paths of Revelation

The Mormon Third Eye specializes in viewing unlikely paths of revelation. We always know that the source of it is God; however, in his creative and infinite wisdom, he occasionally uses the “weak things of the earth” as the chosen path to make his point. I was a witness to one unlikely path last week in early morning Seminary.

As the early morning seminary teacher, I know everything- or at least I'm supposed to. I've been an active member of the church who has been studying the gospel for the past 40 years as a hobby. I thought I had read and heard every possible explanation and analogy for precious gospel principles in 1500+ meetings over the decades, but I was wrong.

We were studying the Lord's Second Coming in the Doctrine in Covenants; specifically, the reasons why we know the exact day of his return. One thoughtful young seminary student expanded my horizons with the following analogy: “It's like this- movies are exciting and demand and keep our attention when we don't know the ending. If we knew the exact day of the Second Coming, our life of preparation for it would be much less interesting and exciting, right?”

“Right!” I replied excitedly,which prompted pondering in my own heart for a moment- “ I can't wait to see how the movie ends!”  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

I See... Proclaiming the Gospel

The Mormon Third Eye loves to adopt literal looks at foundational gospel principles with multiple applications. There is no inspired invitation more expansive in scope and sanctity than the charge to all those who have been blessed by the love of the Lord to Proclaim the Gospel.

In the most literal sense, the gospel is proclaimed through proclamations. The most popular and relevant proclamations of our day are “The Family; a Proclamation to the World,” issued in 1996, and “The Living Christ,” issued in 2000. The Lord commanded Joseph Smith via D&C Section 124 in January 1841 to compile the very first proclamation in the latter-days, and had him address it to “all the kings of the world, to the four corners thereof, to the honorable president-elect, and the high-governors of the nation in which you live, and to all the nations of the earth scattered abroad.” Due to the demands of establishing Nauvoo, building the temple there, and constant challenges with persecution that eventually took his life, it was not formally completed and issued until April 1945, several months after his martyrdom.

After learning about that first proclamation issued over 170 years ago in our early morning seminary class, we decided to create a proclamation of our own- a proclamation by the Garner Ward early morning seminary class to Garner Ward members- a statement of belief in principles and teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

This moving proclamation motivated me to write and post a proclamation of my own beliefs. Stay tuned- you'll be able to see it here via the vision of the Mormon Third Eye next Sunday.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I See… Goin’ Drinkin’

Discriminating readers should have never expected this headline; however, the Mormon Third Eye rarely conforms to expectations. After 55+ years of being “dry” I’ve decided to go drinking with my buddies. Since most of my buddies are likely to be fellow Mormons, including seminary class characters, initially this decision may appear to be wildly shortsighted and misguided. The key is what, where, and with whom.

I have learned via various vocational after-hours social functions where liquor flows freely that seemingly measured and mainstream coworkers magically loosen up and become exponentially engaging after only a few drops of alcohol. I’d liked to think that the elixir unlocks their inner interesting self trapped under layers of lifestyle bureaucracy, but the empirical observer in me is tempted to conclude that it is merely the liquor talking.

However, my LDS crew of all ages, which encompasses the range of young nursery stars to seasoned temple workers, tends to be naturally entertaining without the assistance of alcohol. Where can I meet them for a tall glass of fun spiked with small doses of morality?  I’m going to belly up to the bar at the Root Beer Saloon!

Root Beer Saloon

The Root Beer Saloon is a youtube channel  housing a playful, creative collection of film shorts produced by a seminary-aged youth that satisfies my hankering for a heapin' handful of humor much more quickly and thorough than a cold beer ever could.  

What does a superhero do on his day off? You’ll find it here. Ever tried a bottle of bacon-chocolate soda? These guys have. What if you had superheroes in YOUR early morning seminary class? Well, it’s not here yet, but…  

See you there!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

I See... Someone Else's Words

Happy Easter!

For the past 403 Sundays, Mormon Third Eye readers could turn to this blog and trust that they could read something original and enlightening. However, today's readers will become witnesses to history, for the first time in seven and one-half years of MTE, there will be a post with no... original... content.

I've always struggled with finding the right words that accurately depict the depth of gratitude I have for my Savior Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made for me. The Holy Ghost has born witness to my soul in undeniable ways that because he suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and died on the cross, I can repent of my sins and endure my daily challenges. Just as he rose from the dead on the third day, I can rise from the ashes of my own sins and look forward to resurrection and eternal life in His presence with my family, but these words don't even scratch the surface of wonder and gratitude that consumes my soul. It's very frustrating. How can you express powerful principles of the gospel that are bigger than words?

We all instinctively know the answer. It is the spirit, not the words themselves, that bear witness of the truth. In this context, my own words are not big enough to convey my spiritual knowledge, but the words of other great men come close; Joseph Smith and Bruce R. McConkie. So, I invite you to carefully read their testimonies, and embrace the emotions that will fill your heart, for they come close to expressing the emotions of my heart. The words may not be original, but feelings are:

joseph-smith-82822The prophet Joseph Smith:

"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God." (D&C 76:22-24)

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie“And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.

I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.

But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.”(The Purifying Power of Gethsemane, April 1985)

Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

I See... The Monument to the Unknown Member

We are all familiar with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Such monuments exist in several countries to memorialize the unidentified warriors fallen in battle. Their emptiness reminds us of lost names, lives, and loves.

Image result for the tomb of the unknown soldier

In countless LDS chapels and classrooms around the world there are too many empty pews and padded chairs that stand as monuments to unknown ward and branch members. Their emptiness reminds us of lost names, lives, and loves, possibly the fruits of missed Sunday morning handshakes or home teaching appointments,or perhaps rooted in years of personal spiritual neglect. We can pray, plan, visit, invite, apologize, fellowship, and show forth love in a myriad of means and ways, but in the end a loving Heavenly Father respects our moral agency and leaves it up to us to choose to obey and enjoy the blessings of church activity. Given the opportunity, what will you choose?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I See... Transforming Evil into E-ville

There are two types of evil in the world, and before we launch on a quest to turn one kind of it into another, we must be able to tell the difference between the two.

E-ville: This type of bad behavior is overwhelmingly easy to detect. Villains in Disney fables are e-ville. The famous Canadian mountie, Dudley Doright, will always save sweet Nell from the sinister clutches of the e-ville Snidely Whiplash. E-ville is as bright as the moon and as prominent as the painful pre-teen pimple. When Satan boldly tempted Jesus to misuse his godly powers for personal relief, satisfaction, and gain, he was exercising e-ville in most undeniable ways. When referring to this type of heinous handiwork, it is critical to pronounce it correctly. Repeat after me- “Eeeee-ville,” slow and sinister, like you really mean it. It is important to savor every syllable as it smoothly tumbles out of your mouth. There is no doubt here- this is bad.
Image result for dudley do right
Evil, on the other hand, is delivered quickly and quietly, with so little emphasis and energy that it may be difficult to even determine what was said. This type of bad behavior wants to masquerade as anything other than what it really is- tolerance, neglect, rationalization, etc. Nephi accurately described it as chains that slowly, almost unknowingly lead us down to hell (2nd Nephi 28:22)  The world is literally bathed in this type of behavior. Much of it flies under our righteous radar yet floods our homes in the form of oversexed entertainment accepted as exemplary, or perhaps as routine tasks pursued on sacred Sundays. Repeat after me ten times quickly: “evle evle evle evle evle evle evle evle evle evle.” If you say it quickly and often, it will be hard to know what you're referring to. Doubt and disguise is at the core of this dimension of deviance.

If evil and opposition has to exist in the world, and it does, the righteous quest of every latter-day saint should be to agressively turn “evle” into “e-ville.” Clearly identifying the enemy- e.g., pornography as the single most sinister sword slicing up the plan of salvation into insignificant body parts, or unwarranted criticism of doctrine and authority robbing fragile testimonies of their spiritual foundations still under construction- allows us to overcome it. It is time to choose.  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I See... the Voice of Evil

I have seen and heard the voice of evil, and it is... Siri!

Yes, you read it right. I have empirical, undeniable evidence that Siri, that omnipresent artificial thinking voice that roams around our Iphones with the answers to everything, is actually the voice of evil. Let me explain.

A few weeks ago my wife and I were preparing to attend a special couples fireside with Elder Todd D. Christofferson as the main speaker (you can read more about that here). These preparations included synching complex schedules, which led to a few uncharacteristically frosty verbal exchanges between us. As soon as I realized my need to confess and forsake the sin of being impatient, I dictated to Siri a quick message to be sent to my sweet wife. It was supposed to be an apology, coupled with the hypothesis that perhaps the adversary is working on us overtime because he knows that learning from the feet of an apostle would thwart his evil designs. Instead, it came out like this:

Siri, in the process of analyzing the context of my verbal statement and moving it from speech to text, made the command decision that it was, in fact, the adversary- the evil one, Lucifer, Satan , etc.

Another possible explanation for Siri replacing the “adversary” title with her own name is that it was trying to fulfill latter-day prophecies contained in 2nd Nephi 28:21-22, which predicts thatwe would be taught from all sides of society that there is no devil or hell.

A third option could be that I slurred pronunciation of the word “adversary” in my verbal command to Siri, and it automatically defaulted to what it deemed to be the next best word- “Siri.”

In any case, those of us who carry Iphones around need to be extra careful. We now have cause to wonder- which side is Siri on?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

I See… When Bowling Matters

Everything matters to somebody at some time in their lives. To prove this point I've pulled a bittersweet memory from deep within the BYU archives- remember that time I had to bowl, and bowl well, in order to graduate from the Y and feed my new family? Of course you don't- but you will now.

I’ve never been a big fan of bowling; I’ve only done it a few times in my whole life, and only under the duress of social peer pressure. Nevertheless, there was one season of life where bowling, whether I wanted it to or not, had to mean everything to me; when excellence in bowling would determine the direction of my chosen career and future earning potential. But, before I tell you that story... I have to tell you this story.
Image result for Bowling
This Story

College was a torturous experience. I enjoy learning, but was not up to the stress of grades and classes and majors and minors and general education requirements and working part-time and being poor and living in sub-human subterranean dwellings etc. I was a member of the “BYU Underground;” every place I lived in before meeting and marrying my sweet wife was a basement (you can read more about the BYU Underground here). Hence, I was determined to leave BYU at the earliest possible moment. An almost inexplicable combination of good fortune and careful planning resulted in a final semester that would end with exactly the right amount of general education and major credits to graduate.

The letter in my hand promising a full-time, secure job with the Department of Defense added to the tension and the pressure of the season. The offer of employment was conditional upon successful attainment of a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA. Blending the stress of completing a “C-less” final semester with the excitement of finally becoming a productive member of society was an engaging challenge.

After calculating how high the stakes were three weeks into that last semester, I made one last trip to the academic counselor’s office to review the credits that had been amassed over the years and confirm that I qualified for graduation. I shared with her vocational prospects that lay ahead of me and how much they depended on my academic accomplishments. She flashed a gracious but pre-programmed smile that had been practiced on thousands of other nervous students who had relied on her for their future. The smile was immediately engulfed, however, by a full facial expression of reserved but concerned disappointment. With uncharacteristic apprehension, she measured her words carefully: “you are one half-credit short of GE (general education) credits required for graduation.”

I struggled to temper my disappointment with a forced positive mental attitude. Heck, its only .5 credits! How hard would I have to work for .5 credits? Was there even such a class out there this last semester? How had I come so close without actually passing? Where had I fallen short? My counselor, obviously a trained mind reader with a promising future on the state fair circuit, supplied the answer: “you are .5 credits short in physical education requirements.”

Should I laugh or cry? Laugh at the unimaginably ridiculous result of a general education system gone beserk, or cry because it was actually true? After realizing that this was neither a joke nor a nightmare sparked by a deadly combination of late-night pizza and final semester worries, I talked myself down and became dedicated to finding the path of least resistance. This meant shopping around for a PE course long after classes had started and many student rolls would be full. Believe it or not, my last but only choice, the only class with room this late in the game, was... bowling. At first I had a hard time accepting that bowling was considered a class; then I marveled at my good fortune for earning academic credit by having fun twice a week. Maybe this would actually relieve school stress!

That Story

During the next two months, I launched heavy sparkling colored spheres down shiny wooden lanes with reckless abandon twice a week, without regard to form, technique, or even how many pins were knocked down. In the mix of homework and classes, part-time work demands, and trying to figure out this new person walking around the apartment (my wife!), it was liberating to do something where I didn’t have to worry about the quality of my performance. In this instance, however, ignorance started out being bliss but wasn’t going to end up that way. The planets were lining up against me; a laissez-faire attitude would threaten the very existence of my degree, chosen profession, and even an ability to provide for my young family.

“Houston, we have a problem.” That ominous phrase ran an incessant loop in my head as I walked across campus on that crisp fall afternoon, a little over halfway through that last semester, to meet with the academic counselor at her request. The absence of her perpetual smile was the first clue something was wrong. “Richard,” she started off tentatively, “as you know, your major (Korean Studies) allows only three C credits in any class, including your GE courses.” “So,” I’m thinking to myself, “whats the problem? There was that one C in Introduction to Biology years ago, but I’ve been maintaining an A- average since then.” Then she dropped the bomb; “you’re getting an F in bowling.”

“You’re getting an F in bowling... you’re getting an F in bowling...” Those six deadly words echoed ad nauseum in my mind. In the excitement of looking forward to graduating and a full-time job, I had neglected to detect the gathering storm. It didn’t take long for the dominoes to line up; bad bowling leads to.... bad grade, which leads graduation, which leads to..... no job, which leads to.... no money. I would have to improve my bowling somehow, or spend an extra semester re-taking a half-credit class and jeopardize my future earning potential.

It was too late now. We were breaking our lease, preparing to leave for Maryland and a new life, and using the letter of employment as collateral to buy a new car. Everything was riding on bowling. I would have to do better somehow.

It’s amazing how quickly changing circumstances can remarkably alter our attitudes and perspectives. One minute I was leading a carefree bowling life; now much more was on the line. The irony was glaring. Suddenly, form and technique and the right shoes and a lucky lane became really important. I had to focus and concentrate on achieving the right stride and releasing the ball at just the right moment. I spent sleepless nights critically replaying my performance earlier in the day, searching for that one tweak that would push the ball more straight and true down the lane. “Did I have the right spin? How do you deal with a 1-4 split? Could it be the ball’s fault?” These things mattered now.

Luckily, when I started paying attention and treating my time at the lanes as a real class instead of a hobby, I learned that grades were determined by how well a student improved on his initial scores. It should have been easy; since my first game was so horrifically bad, just having a little bit more pride in my work would result in rapid improvement. I began watching my scores closely. My mind was randomly generating strategies to release the ball stronger and straighter. I even spent some of my own precious time and limited budget down at the lanes, striving to discover that hidden bowling secret that would add 60 points to my score.

I decided to use my innate sense of and appreciation for the spirit of competition to my advantage. Watching professional bowlers on television (it’s just a little bit more exciting than watching golf!), I was intrigued by the competitive tension drawn by the hushed but intense descriptions offered by seasoned announcers. “If Bill Schlemeki of Skokie, Indiana,” the announcer whispers gingerly in the background, “can land this last strike, he will walk away with one.... hundred.... thousand..... dollars, and reign as grand champion....”

At the risk of revealing more than what most people would care to know about my unique but active imagination, it was not hard to overlay this same scene on my own situation. Just like Mr. Schlemeki, who had a lot riding on the championship game, my future too teetered on the edge of vastly improved bowling scores. In those dark hours in November, as the semester was winding to a close in the basement of the Wilkinson Center, I would be standing in the midst of a busy, noisy crowd of student family night groups and young daters in love, totally consumed in pondering on my next strategic bowling move. I drew inspiration from recreating my own little championship drama. “If Richard Tait, of Livermore, California,” my invisible, imaginary announcer whispers in the background, “can nail at least 8 pins in this last frame and bring his grade up to a B-, he will walk away with graduation... a new car.. a brand new job, and a future in providing for his family....”

The self-induced tension was almost unbearable at times, but the competitive spirit drove me to excel. The imaginary announcer’s voice pushed me through many troubled, exhausted moments, when I was ready to throw in the towel and accept a discouraging fate. Finally, however, an afternoon in December arrived, and the announcer’s voice was no longer imaginary. Let me rephrase that - lest someone think I was completely divorced from reality (four years of BYU can do that for you...), the voice was always only in my mind, but now the situation he was narrating was real. It was close to the last day of the semester, and a good score was critical to bringing my average up to the B- threshold. After a particularly stellar day of bowling, I rushed to the instructor’s office and begged him to recalculate my average scores several times to insure that my B- grade was not just a good dream induced by a good night’s sleep. I’m sure he was left wondering why a student was so thoroughly elated with a B- grade in a half-credit class teaching a skill valued by less than .001 of the world’s population. I, however, was happy beyond description to have altered the course of one man’s history by paying attention to my bowling game.

The moral of this story- getting little things out of the way permits the big things to happen.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

I See... Early Morning Seminary, the New Drug

I'm finishing up day 10 now. Due to weather emergencies I've had to endure 8 of the last 10 early weekday mornings by myself, without the intoxicating company of 13 mostly awake and alive young men and women choosing gospel enrichment over a more inviting pillow. Without the united spirit of 13 savvy students and one fired-up facilitator listening to, learning,and living the basic doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus Christ together via the revealed word of God in the Doctrine and Covenants. Without their engaging smiles, laughter, and quotable conversation that enlightens my heart and soul and prepares me for a more sullen day as a working stiff. Without the daily confirming witness of the Holy Ghost that we have a Savior who loves us so he chastens us; that there is real power in the Atonement to overcome our sins and weather our sorrows; and that sincere, honest pondering and prayer with a gut-wrenching desire to know will bring lasting, enduring answers too deep and delightful to describe.

Yes, I admit I have a problem,which is the first stage to recovery. I am addicted to early morning Seminary, my new “drug” of choice, and I don't know what to do about it, or whether I should do something about it.

Longtime readers of the Mormon Third Eye know that it often revels in viewing all aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the church charged as its caretaker in different yet faith-enlightening lenses. In the spirit of this seven year-plus tradition, I propose three distinct, yet related analogies on the administration of pharmaceuticals that could apply to my desperate situation: this story, that story, and the last story.

This Story

When it comes to the power to restore and reinforce both body and soul, no one can deny the double-edged sword of pharmaceuticals. Just as the proper administration of the right dosage of medicine can relieve suffering and buy our hearts and minds more quality time to think deeper thoughts, regular doses of seminary every morning restores our souls and draws us closer to God.

That Story

Drugs can be addictive. When we become addicted to a substance, our minds send signals to our bodies that we cannot function without it. The addiction rules our lives, and unnatural and distorted priorities are placed on obtaining more of the addictive substance. Normally, addictions of any kind rob us of our free agency to make right choices. Currently, desires to rejoice in the spirit that accompanies early morning seminary rule my life. I find myself aching through the spiritual withdrawal of no seminary due to inclement weather. The thought of when and what I will teach next consumes many of my waking moments. I can't imagine life without early morning seminary. It's a good problem to have.

The Last Story

Pornography has been aptly labeled “the new drug” for good reason; it is highly addictive and destructive to individuals, families,and relationships. In the tradition of “fighting fire with fire,” certainly we can fight a bad addiction with a good one. Hence, I wholeheartedly recommend early morning seminary as the next new drug in the battle against this evil. A soul consumed with all that a successful, spiritual early morning seminary program demands of it has no room for the corrosive, cankering effects of pornography.