Sunday, October 26, 2014

I See... The Problem with Church History

The Mormon Third Eye sees at least five problems with church history. Not with church history itself, but how it has been and will be discussed in cyberspace.  If you’re a regular reader of the Mormon Third Eye, you won’t be surprised at how it deals with these problems from unexpected angles.

As a hospitable venue for fluent historians and critical thinkers of faith, the Mormon Third Eye has been pondering deeply on the inspiration implemented by church senior leadership to release carefully researched summaries of controversial issues in church history; controversial in the context that they are being widely discussed and debated, especially among those who are critical of or disaffected with church organizations, beliefs or background for a variety of reasons.  You can read the most recent narrative about the Prophet Joseph Smith and his implementation of divine guidance to practice plural marriage here.

Facts by themselves are relatively useless. It is what we do with them that count. They just kind of float out there in intellectual outer space, waiting for someone to apply their personal or institutional bias in interpreting them.  

The MTE’s critical analysis of these researched summaries reveals that they generate several new problems for several adhoc sectors of the general Mormon populace:

Problem #1: For disgruntled members who have used an array of alternative narratives of church history to justify disagreements with doctrine, authority or standards, they’re going to be disappointed.  The honesty and clarity of the summaries effectively disarms their arguments. They will have to find another chink in the LDS armor to pick at.

Problem #2: For serious seekers of truth, who may be innocently struggling with their testimonies and are sincerely troubled about bumps and scars in church history, they will have to employ the faith-bound methodology for resolving gospel knowledge gaps eloquently explained in Alma Chapter 32. They now have a lot more material to earnestly live and pray and ponder about. Where will they find the time?

Problem #3: For those who have built houses of belief on sandy foundations, watered-down testimonies drawn from the well of floating facts of church history from any source will run dry. They will now have to struggle with resolving the emotional and spiritual torture of cognitive dissonance by either 1) seeking temporary comfort in an illusory lifestyle of pseudo-freedom in prisons built by the philosophies of man, or 2) rebuilding their testimonies by embracing the spiritually perilous soul-breaking work of planting a foundation of faith in eternal gospel principles. Either road is not easy, but not for the same reasons.

Problem #4: For those of us with testimonies founded solely in sacred spiritual experiences refined in the fire of faith in pure gospel principles and an all-knowing, all-loving God, we will now have more opportunities to share those testimonies more often when unsightly warts of church history are discussed.  Technically, this is not a problem for us but for those critics who are flustered with our faith-based approach.

Problem #5: Finally, the greatest challenge is for all of us to accept the love of God regardless of which problem we are wrestling with, for as Nephi so dynamically described it, “I know that he loveth his children;  nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” I sincerely believe that every child of God dealing with any of these problems will, through the Infinite Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ, ultimately find lasting happiness on the Lord’s timetable.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I See... Broken News

“Breaking News!!!” wildly flashes the bright thin red band across the screen, rudely interrupting Honey Boo-Boo’s most recent tirade on The Learning Channel in alarming HD clarity.  “Man Found Dead in Cemetery!” or “Pharmaceutical Giant Finds, Then Loses, Cure for Cancer!”  It seems that news is breaking all day long.  Well, here’s another flash from the Mormon Third Eye’s exclusive news network TEN (Third Eye Network): news is no longer “breaking;” it is now “broken” and needs to “fixed”. (to read more about TEN and its content read here and here.)

What exactly is “news”? In its most raw form, it is merely the plural form of new information. The MTE defines it as something worth knowing- information containing enough value and utility worth sharing.  Media and entertainment outlets, however, add another layer of requirements to valuable information before it can be transformed into “news”; it must contain a mysterious degree of abnormality- it must be different in some way.  Although MTE and the TEN are respected members of the news blogosphere, this is where the treatment of newsworthy items violently collide with mainstream media- the definition of “new” or “different.”

Mainstream media consciously defines what is new or different merely by what they choose to report or ignore.  Activities that were once considered relatively shocking, immoral, or amoral thirty years ago, e.g., gay marriage, bearing children out of wedlock, lengthy sexual relationships without the cover and commitment of marriage, and various other alternatives to a healthy family, are now considered common and even accepted in some parts.  The media has conditioned us to their normalcy. Even if we don’t agree with or accept them in spirit, we certainly don’t consider them to be unusual, which by the mainstream media’s yardstick means they are no longer news.

Hence, the MTE was not shocked when an alphabet network morning news show last week released the following breaking news flash: “Stay-at-home Spouses are Valuable Members of the Working World!”  The short program sensationally interviewed several women and one man who efficiently ran households while their spouses were at work.  The working spouses excitedly claimed how much more psychic effort they were able to devote to their professions, confident in the knowledge that their better halves were keeping the home fires burning, looking after children and their home work, school work, and most of their immediate temporal wants and needs- such as ad-hoc changing of diapers, doctor's appointments, and directions on the use of electronic entertainment.  It also highlighted stay-at-home spouses making the startling discovery of the amazing valuable contribution that the drudgery of running a household makes to successful family choreography. In today’s superficial world of media and entertainment, where raising a family is one of just many options on the smorgasboard of living, along with achieving financial security or physical prowess, this particular family dynamic is reported as an unusual, shocking new discovery that might be worth considering. Breaking news!

And therein lies the problem. It shouldn’t be news, much less breaking news.  It is an empirically sound method for successful living. Check the Mormon Mommy blogs to find an army of righteous women who worship the nobility of motherhood and consider their vital role in the family kabuki dance to be quite normal, not newsworthy.

So… yes, the news is broken.  The Mormon Third Eye is doing its part to fix it, and so are you, merely by reading this post and discussing it with someone else.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I See... The Sleep of Hell

Normally, sleep is good. Sleep is right. Sleep is true. I love sleep. I have a personal testimony of the power of sleep to revive and refresh the soul. However, the Mormon Third Eye recommends you avoid the “Sleep of Hell” at all costs.

The Prophet Lehi was a man of obedience and action. When the Lord warned him of the destruction of Jerusalem, he immediately went to the streets to warn his fellow citizens. When the Lord directed him to flee impending destruction, he packed up his family and left town.  When the Liahona appeared in front of his wilderness tent one morning, he was careful to follow its directions in righteousness. It seems like he was always doing something.  Knowing the importance of acting on faith and inspired direction, one of his last most precious prophecies to his oldest sons Laman and Lemuel was to avoid a certain type of sleep;  the “sleep of hell” (2nd Nephi 1:13).

Laman and Lemuel, like all of God’s children, were essentially good people. They had no problem being righteous; they had problems staying righteous.  They were continually repenting, which in and of itself is not a sin, unless you keep making the same mistake over and over again, which really is not repentance at all.  Lehi knew his sons. He knew that they were not actively seeking guidance and direction from the Lord. They were not obedient to the light they did receive through Lehi and Nephi. Lehi correctly characterized this predicament as the  “sleep of hell.”  He pleaded with them to “shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.”  The adversary had taken advantage of their laziness in living gospel principles and slowly led down the path of sin.  They would be eventually bound by the chains of sins.

The imagery invoked by Lehi’s pleas speaks to us today.  The adversary lulls us gently to sleep with seemingly comfortable rationalizations that just a little indiscretion is not that bad, and he is right. The real evil lies in the path it puts you on.  When you fall asleep at the wheel, your senses are dulled and danger rises. My own memory is seared with the eerie vision of a roadside sign attacking my family’s van in slow motion as I fell asleep at the wheel almost 40 years ago and put lives of my five brothers and sisters at risk. We escaped with only a scar and a broken bone, but those who fall asleep at the wheel of gospel living are not so lucky.  If they don’t pay attention to their prayers and testimonies, and don’t take time to act on what they believe, the chains of disobedience and obeisance to addictive lifestyles will dull their spiritual senses and send them softly to the sleep of hell. If and when they wake up, they will most likely find the misery and woe Lehi promises.

So… the Mormon Third Eye pleads with you. Get physically and spiritually fit, get the rest you need, but take time to act on your faith and avoid the sleep of hell at all costs.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I See… Man’s Search for a Happy Calling

In the LDS church, man’s search for happiness often involves serving others in callings: assigned opportunities to help others in Christ-like ways.  While all service ennobles and enlightens us, the natural man in all of us generates personal preferences. While it’s not a sin to want, we all instinctively seek specific joys associated with certain callings.

I thought I had what I wanted (not what the Lord wants for me or others) all figured out.  By serving in my student ward’s relief society as the passionate service leader, I met my future wife; you can read more that here. I later served for a few short years in the nursery and was hooked for life.  Since then, I’ve been blessed with varied opportunities to help others, all while vainly chasing my ecclesiastical dream of surrounding myself with nursery children for almost two hours every Sunday morning.  I was so desperately superstitious about satisfying my desires that I explored the possibility of applying Murphy’s law in a church environment and pretended to myself that I really didn’t care that much about little children anymore. It didn’t work. I resigned myself to the probability that I would be forever tortured spiritually by righteous but unfulfilled desires to serve again in the nursery.

This all changed in the Conference Center this morning during the first session of General Conference.  I was sitting in the upper balcony with my daughter immediately before it started watching the prophet and his counselors slowly walk up to their chairs on the stand.  Walking right behind the prophet was a younger unidentified brother who seemed to be taking care of the prophet in his old age; making sure his gait was steady and that he made it comfortably to his seat.  He provided the same act of service after the conference session concluded.

Now I have new dream.  I love the prophet with all my heart. I want the opportunity to personally look after the prophet.  I want to be that man. I’ve put it just one place above the nursery on my list of what I yearn for in my search for happiness.    

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.