Sunday, September 28, 2014

I See... Living the Dream

Many of us superficially entertain visions of grandeur and acceptable excess in our futures, but we don’t often get chances to live it- to live the dream.  How sad would it be if we were accidentally living the dream, without actually knowing we were in it? The Mormon Third Eye arrived at the terrible realization a few weeks ago that this was happening to him.

I grew up in a house 40-odd years ago where food was carefully rationed, especially sweets. Our collective teeth were so bad that we kept a dentist on retainer; I wouldn’t be surprised if mom was still making payments on us when she passed away earlier this year. Hence, as I rambled every weekday afternoon through the slimy streets of suburban Livermore slinging newspapers across lawns mined with bushes and other assorted obstacles, my mind would wander into comfortable daydreams of limitless desirable consumables. It was here I developed my love for chocolate- in my dreams. Unfortunately, that’s where it had to stay, because except for the occasional splurge at our local variety store when candy bars were on sale, or a treasured visit to the penny candy store in Richfield UT. during summer vacations visiting Grandma Ward, I would never control enough resources in my youth to quench my insatiable thirst for  chocolate.

I was prepared to accept my fate until chocolate dreams were perpetually planted in my psyche by the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” We all have seminal moments that make permanent marks in our personal history. I remember opening my mission call, the day I married the wife of my eternities, the moment of both of our children’s arrival to our family, and what I was doing when the twin towers fell in New York City. And I vividly remember the first time I watched that movie.

Willy Wonka’s and Charlie Bucket’s make-believe world included endless supplies of chocolate in various shapes and sizes; edible chocolate flowers, chocolate brownie dirt, and a chocolate milk river were my favorites. My imagination was permanently altered by the experience. I now had visual cues to accompany my obtuse fantasies of infinite chocolate. I was in pretend heaven, and could return anytime I wanted to in my mind, now that I knew what it could look like. Willy Wonka would keep the dream alive. (you can read more about my love affair with chocolate here.)

Or so I thought. Flash forward 40 years later to the present. 30 years of marriage family, work, home, church service; of unexpected joys and unwanted sorrows, barbeques and broken toys, and yes, even a little chocolate along the way.  A lot of water had flowed under my bridge of life, and underneath it all was buried my wild chocolate fantasies.

Last week I was relaxing on the back porch curled up with a favorite kindle book and a cool North Carolina autumn sunset.  I was enjoying some chocolate truffles so rich and thick with flavor that I couldn’t take another bite; I was satisfied.  At that moment, an uninvited but welcome memory returned- unfulfilled desires for chocolate.  But now I was satisfied; I had eaten enough. I further realized that I had more than enough money in my bank account to purchase all the chocolate I could ever hope to eat. 

I am now living the dream. Are you? 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I See... "Come, Come Ye Saints"

Every latter-day saint should have a favorite hymn- a heavenly tune that can appropriately calm or inspire them depending on their current challenge. For me, it was  “Come, Come Ye Saints” that carried me through the occasional but necessarily struggles that accompany preparing for a mission, serving a mission, and surviving college and work and marriage and raising teenagers. Don’t get me wrong- I’ve generally been a happy man most of my days- as a missionary, student, husband, father, and breadwinner- but on the roller coaster of life, we all need help to avoid being thrown out of our seats and plunging to our spiritual death. “Come, Come, Ye Saints” has faithfully served as the safety belt/bar keeping me on the track.

My Mormon Third Eye often takes advantage of the quiet stillness of Sunday afternoons recovering from the spiritual feast of church meetings to ponder on life’s personal gospel mysteries.  For decades I’ve wandered and pondered about the why behind “Come, Come Ye Saints.” I’m acquainted in very deep and personal ways with its awesome power to inspire me via messages of sanctified endurance leading to ultimate victory over hardship and evil. However, the hymnbook is packed with similar anthems that move the willing soul to seek higher spiritual plains via refining fires.  What it is about THIS song? What makes it so special to me?

The answer came just a few weeks ago, not on Sunday afternoon but a Thursday evening in the Raleigh North Carolina Temple.   It was my great-great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Xavier Tait. The one who married a church member stationed in Poona, India as a British officer; who was baptized there in 1852; who sent her husband before her to set up a homestead in Southern Utah, then barely survived crossing the plains on her own as a member of the ill-fated Willie and Martin Handcart Companies. That one (you can read more about her here.)  She has been trying to speak to me from the spirit world via that song for decades, but I haven’t been ready to listen until now. She has been silently moving me along the vicissitudes of life, standing by me through the rough spots through the words of a song that so adequately summarize her own struggles. I know that “Come, Come Ye Saints” was a favorite pioneer trail song. I can’t confirm that she actually sang it, but I know that she lived it.

So what is her message to me? I’ve got your back. Hang in there. The work is worth it. And please, do the work for my friends here on the other side of the veil.

“Tis better far for us to strive our useless cares from us to drive; Do this, and joy your hearts will swell- All is well! All is well!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I See... the Longest Date

Many decades ago, as I roamed the hallowed halls of BYU seeking an education, a wife, and a life, I would look forward to dates with the opposite sex. Some outings were just plain dysfunctional and embarrassing. However, there were a few dates, especially those with my future wife, that were exhilarating and engaging.  More than one late-night walk home was accompanied by consuming desires for longer dates.

When kids came we had to strategically plan for babysitters so that we could spend what was usually a few hours on a Friday night attending a temple session or rediscovering our love of Chinese and Mexican food. Although we love our children, we also loved those precious evenings together- I wished they would last forever.

Our last child left home for college about this time last year.  Now we have our house and our time to ourselves. We go on a lot of dates; we eat dinner, watch television, go shopping, and work on the yard and the house together.  We are spending a lot of “just us” bonding time together on a daily basis. We are dating every night.

Technically speaking, if a “date” is defined as dedicating quality time to each other without the interference of children, then since September of last year, I’ve been on the longest date of my life with the wife of my eternities.  But it still isn’t long enough. I want more. I want this current date to last forever.  I hope I get it.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

I See… How Not to Waste Time in the Airport

The Mormon Third Eye flies on business and to visit family 3-4 times a year, and struggles with all the time wasted at airports just waiting for something to happen. Time is money, so the MTE is constantly researching new, exciting, and more efficient methods for constructive airport waiting time management.  In pre-kindle days, it involved burning away excess hours with historical non-fiction purchased at the on-site airport bookstore.  Now it’s much easier to default to one of the many unread masterpieces hidden inside the Kindle. However, certainly there is more to life in airport lounges than a good book. 

A Better Way

There is a better way. I accidentally discovered it last week in my most recent round of on-site research on efficient airport lounge lingering. I was waiting in BWI airport at my gate for a Southwest flight home Raleigh.  Across the wide center pedestrian aisle at another gate I detected a momentous event coalescing.  The exit path at this gate was lined with impressive marines wearing their dress blues and hundreds of elderly onlookers waving American flags, interspersed with other potential passengers of all races and ages. This tunnel of patriotic passengers continued to stretch past several gates down the center pedestrian aisle. The mysterious draw of the event drew in several innocent random onlookers, including myself.  I couldn’t wait to find out why.

Then it happened. The doors to the gate exit flung open, and a parade of elderly WWII veterans, most of them pushed in wheelchairs by volunteers, rolled out.  They were part of an Honor Flight visiting the WWII Memorial in Washington DC. An uncharacteristically joyful sound penetrated the dull hum of busy people rushing to wait for their next flight; thunderous applause shook the airport for the next 15 minutes as marines saluted, volunteers waved flags, and passengers like myself clapped for these noble men and women who sacrificed so much so long ago for our liberties and freedoms.  “Thank you for your service!” was the most popular greeting. We were celebrating not only their service but also those who made the ultimate sacrifice and never returned, and they instinctively knew that. I was overwhelmed and inspired by so many people willing to randomly put aside their kindles, laptops, and cell phones to join the celebration.     

Can you think of a better way to spend time waiting in an airport?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

I See… The Most Modern Mormon Mobile Mancave Metric

The Mormon Third Eye, a recognized leader in social innovation, has once again discovered and defined a new cultural phenomena- the mobile mancave.

Stereotypical projections of mancaves include renovated basement walls plastered with random sports memorabilia, mismatched posters dealing with other manly topics, such as women, all centered around massive large screen televisions and puffy recliners or couches.  We should also include anything else a real man needs to be self-sufficient while virtually participating in Neanderthal sports- a microwave, a small fridge, perhaps even a small bathroom and stray engine parts.

However, at the most basic, fundamental level, what is a mancave, really?   The MTE metric for a mancave describes it as “any state of existence where a man is allowed to exclusively enjoy pursuing his own hobbies and interests without interference from any outside influence, especially another woman.” Notice that there are no references to physical locations- that’s because when it comes to mancaves, the MTE has broken barriers of time and space in redefining the essential nature of this accoutrement to the promise of mankind’s future.  The MTE concept of a mancave breaks all rules and limits. Under this new paradigm, a mancave is not tied to a room or location- it could be anywhere a real man is permitted to pursue his personal interests unfettered with a woman’s dainty touch.

My personal manly interests circle around chocolate, non-fiction history and church books, grills, building campfires, and BYU football and volleyball.  For years, I wrongly assumed that I required a location, a basement parlor lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with a projection TV and an empty wall to display my BYU flag.  However, last year I liberated myself from the tyranny of being tied to physical space and reinvented my own mobile mancave… my Kindle Fire.

My Kindle Fire possesses everything I require in a mancave. It’s loaded with several hundreds of books in my desired genres, and I can use it to watch BYU football and volleyball games.  If I need to answer a primeval urge to roast carrion over an open fire, I can saunter out the backyard and read BYU football stats or newly discovered notes on Wilford Woodruff’s personal journals while ensuring burgers don’t burn on the grill.  

Nothing beats life on the front porch consuming cheap chocolate fudgesicles on hot southern sunny Saturday afternoons while perusing through academic studies on ignorance.  

I can sit in any room or by any campfire and sink into my own personal mancave as long as there is my Kindle Fire and a wi-fi connection to comfort me. !    
So… men, I challenge you to re-evaluate outdated, programmed perceptions defining your own manhood, and join me in the mobile mancave revolution! The world is your mancave!    

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I See… A New Rite of Passage

Lehi and his sons; Mosiah and his sons; Alma and Alma the Younger; Mormon and Moroni.  The Book of Mormon is actually nothing more than a rich, engaging story of fathers teaching their sons the gospel of Jesus Christ that spans several  centuries. Every father had a son that had either rejected the good news of the atonement or would be facing life in a world drenched in sin and evil (Moroni). In either case, these wise fathers participated in the pattern of how God works- He takes bad things and turns them into good, while the adversary takes good things and turns them into bad.

In modern times, the organization and culture of the LDS church provides well-meaning fathers with multiple opportunities to share the gospel with their sons through milestones and rites of passage, which are almost inevitably tied to certain ages.  When I baptized my son, confirmed him a member of the church, and blessed him to receive the Holy Ghost when he turned 8, we discussed the basics of the plan of salvation and he passed into a life of accountability.  When he turned 12 years old and I ordained him to the office of a deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood, we had more precious father-and-son moments as I taught him his duties and responsibilities, and he passed into a life of service to others. We strengthened the patriarchal bond spending time together home teaching and collecting fast offerings.

When he turned 18 I ordained him an elder, and at 19 we sent him off on a mission.  These rites of passage included direct and honest talks about standards, morals, beliefs, and testimonies. I was both relieved and inspired when he told the congregation in his home ward just before leaving that he had decided to serve a mission not because his parents told him to (although we did), but because he knew in his heart it was the right thing to do- or something like that.  He left as an anxious teenager and returned to us a man of faith and conviction.

After returning to BYU-Idaho to prepare to assume the full mantle of adulthood as a husband, father, and breadwinner, he met the wife of his eternities, and at age 24 he was sealed to her in the Salt Lake Temple. This final rite of passage afforded me another opportunity to instruct my son on the blessings and landmines of love and married life. 

However, circumstances and the political climate in the People’s Republic of America created another rite of passage- at age 26, he was forced to sign up for semi-socialized medical  insurance via the Obamacare marketplace.  Although we raised him on principles of providing care to the poor and the needy through his own free will and choice, we also taught him to honor and obey the law, and the law demanded that he acquire medical insurance or face a fine at tax time.  According to the divine pattern of turning bad things into good, we held several in-depth discussions on how insurance works, and motivations for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and I dispensed decision making advice on choosing the right plan for his stage of life.  God had transformed the distasteful task of signing up for subsidized healthcare into the productive and memorable process of engaging my adult son on critical family and financial issues.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I See… The Skill of Integrity

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

Loren C. Dunn.

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

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

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

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I See… Time to Rock!

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

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I See… A Creative New Standard for Measuring Attraction


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

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

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

Here is how it works.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I See… How to Clean Your Temple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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