Sunday, January 31, 2016

I See... Disarming the BYU- Utah Rivalry

The Mormon Third Eye specializes in offering unconventional yet practical solutions to thorny problems. Whether its the four rules of successful living, keeping your teenagers out of trouble at stake dances, or just breaking the FemaleGift Code, the MTE has consistently provided workable solutions to some of the most relevant challenges in today's LDS families.
Few dilemmas should be as relevant and challenging to LDS families (especially the mixed marriagesreferenced here) than the torturous trials facing BYU and UofU sports aficionados joyfully participating in the overheated collegiate rivalry, affectionately labelled “the Holy War.” UofU basketball coach Bill Krystkowiak highlighted some problematic elements to the 109-year tradition when he chose to unilaterally cancel current and future basketball games with BYU rather than wrestle with the heated tensions and emotions associated with winning and losing. Players throwing punches, confident coaches viciously and openly criticizing opposing fear-laden coaches' attempts to weasel out of scheduled games, cruel jokes about fat coeds at both schools and the mothers of opposing team's players; it's spiraled way out of hand.

However, the MTE has done it's research and has the answer. Put your seatbelt on- the solution is wildly creative yet sensible.

Inspiration for this approach came from the story about an inspirational high school football game between Grapevine Faith Christian School and Gainesville State in Texas. Grapevine was a perennial football powerhouse regularly fielding 70 players and a staff of 11 coaches. Gainesville State is actually a ragtag team of 14 players from Gainesville State Youth Penitentiary who are escorted on and off the field by armed guards. Gainesville had gone 0-9 that year; they were used to the taunts of opposing player and parents complaining about having to compete against criminals.

The Grapevine coach did something truly remarkable to help the team and school prepare for the big game ahead. He asked Grapevine students, fans, and parents to form a formidable cheering squad for Gainesville State. You can read more about that here.

Gainesville State lost that game 33-14, but their players celebrated as if they had won. Since then the annual game has been renamed the “One Heart Bowl,” with an excited cadre of Grapevine Faith Academy parents, students, and cheerleaders effusively encouraging Gainesville State forward to it's next touchdown.

The implications of applying this same principle to the BYU-Utah rivalry are nothing short of mind-boggling. Imagine for a moment BYU assuming the role of Grapevine Faith Academy and asking some of it's alumni, parents, and students to wear red and root for Utah the next time they come to play in the Marriott Center or Edwards Stadium. Even if Utah lost, they would leave the contest full of hope that they were loved and appreciated despite their obvious personnel and leadership challenges. Rivalry tensions would magically meltaway under the bright sun of BYU benevolence.

I'm ready! Who will join me!  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I See... Brian and Leslie's Dad

Eons ago, while serving in the Korea Pusan Mission, the onslaught of new and strange Korean customs confused me. Daily consumption of large portions of cabbage pickled in red pepper juice, sleeping on the floor, bathing only three times a week at the public bath house down the street, etc.; as a freshly-scrubbed 19 year-old young man who had spent all of his formative years in the white-bread world of pre-1980's Northern California, this chance to totally immerse myself in a foreign culture was both a strange and exciting shock to my world paradigm. However, by the end of my grand two-year experiment of eating their kimchi, sleeping on their floors, and bathing with them, I came to understand and love everything about them. However, there was still one uniquely cultural element that befuddled me:- familiar names that parents used to talk about each other.

When Korean moms and dads chatted at church on Sundays or the rare ward parties on Saturday afternoons, they always referred to each other as “so-and-so's mother” or father instead of using their own names. As an earnest missionary trying to convey the precious pearls of gospel to a people I had grown to truly love and respect, it was difficult to track who was talking about who during random discussions overheard in the hallways. Who in the heck was Young-hee's mother? Myong-soo's dad lost his job again. Who is that?

In this world, my wife and I would be known as Brian or Les's mom or dad. I initially blindly attributed this practice to the traditional Korean emphasis on the nuclear family and the unusually large but standard sacrifices Korean parents make for their children to be successful. However, as the years and decades marched on and I bought into the stereotype of spoiled Korean anklebiters coddled by overworked moms and dads, I had to dig deeper and try harder to understand why valiant and sacrificing parents would choose to bury their own identities behind the names of their children.

Brian and Leslie have left the nest and are living their own lives now. As an interested bystander I watch them independently make courageously right choices on dating, marriage, school, career, and faith, and my soul beams with spiritual pride. I often catch myself dramatically proclaiming on Facebook or in the lobby during Sunday meetings, “ Yes, this is my son. My son.” Or “Leslie is my daughter. My daughter.”

Now I understand. You can call me “Richard,” “Brian's dad,” or “Leslie's dad.” I'll answer to each one of them.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

I See.. What Would Walker Texas Ranger Do?

It's a proven psychological fact that whatever we last put in heads at night before we wander into slumber has a more lasting effect on our character than anything else we've done that day. That's why so many faithful Mormons arrange their bedtime rituals to include scripture study and sincere prayer. Could there be anything better sashaying throughout our subconscious during these most formative hours than stories of stripling warriors and spiritual impulses encompassing the Savior's love for us?

Hardly. Yet a few months ago I found myself at bedtime being inextricably drawn into the moralistic crusading world of “Walker Texas Ranger,” a popular 1990's TV drama, where black was always black and white was always white. In Walker Texas Ranger's world of reruns, whether it be the evils of drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse, or gang violence, the good guys always won in the end, albeit after 50 minutes of enduring seemingly endless and patently offensive actions by antagonists hell bent on destroying all that is right and good in the world in the name of selfish gain. Evil was almost always decisively defeated via Cordell Walker, the testosterone-laden hero, offering up a heapin' helping of vicious martial arts kicks and punches. You could count on it. Although I still may have had a scripture in my head and a prayer in my heart when sleep arrived every night, it was accompanied with comforting thoughts that right would always prevail.
One recent evening, while satisfying my new-found Walker Texas Ranger fix, I was confronted with my own clear moral dilemma. A close friend far away was enduring a temporary but real and deep emotional tragedy and needed to hear my comforting voice on the phone. Now. However, I was 45 minutes into Walker Texas Ranger tracking down a den of international drug kingpins about to brutally torture the crusading widowed senator's completely innocent teenage only daughter (his wife had been murdered by drug lords just two years earlier), and I just HAD to know if Walker would reach her in time. Wouldn't you? Couldn't my close friend's emotional emergency wait 15 minutes?

Tensions were mounting. In the reel world, Walker, with the awesome power of his bare hands and feet, was quickly mowing down legions of oversized neanderthal thugs guarding the nondescript warehouse where the senator's daughter was tied up; meanwhile in the real world, my friend was quickly crumbling under the weight of her own emotional challenges. I had an important decision to make.

In the heat of the moment, my soul cried out, “but what would Walker Texas Ranger do?” The answer was easy. I immediately turned off the television and reached for my cell phone. Once again, right prevailed and evil was vanquished.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

I See... The Cool School

After four decades of incessant and vitriolic criticism of University of Utah, the Dark Sith Lord in the universe of Utah inter-collegiate rivalry, the Mormon Third Eye is honor-bound by it's own code of observation ethics to offer congratulations as the Utes join the ranks of really cool schools. What has changed in Far East Salt Lake City to warrant their elevation to such a lofty level? It's easy. When Ute's basketball coach Larry Krystowiak violated the sanctity of the longstanding 106-year BYU-UofU rivalry and unilaterally cancelled their next game with the Cougars, they became... well... trendy. And trendy is cool.
Image result for Ute basketball\
I know that a lot of diehard BYU fans, like coach Rose in particular, were incensed when Krystowiak pleaded with the BYU AD to indefinitely postpone future games with the Cougars. We could call them sissies and fraidy-cats, and perhaps be right but immature. The reality is, however, that we live in an era where breaking covenants and commitments, implicitly or explicitly, has become commonplace. Whether it be spouses breaking marriage covenants, government employees breaking sworn oaths to not disclose classified data that results in irreparable harm to national security (ala Edward Snowden), or even something as simple debtors willfully deciding to avoid contracted debts via bankruptcy procedures, the sanctity of keeping oaths, covenants, promises, and commitments has gone the way of one-peice bathing suits and eight-track music players. We've descended a long ways from reformed Lamanites thousands of years ago who suffered death in choosing to keep oaths to “bury their swords deep in the earth.” Keeping commitments just not cool anymore. It is not a part of the current trend.

Hence my conclusion that the University of Utah, as represented by it's basketball coach, is a trendy modern institution of higher learning in pursuit of relative truth and occasional commitment to shifting morality, whereas BYU still languishes in the academic backwater of old-fashioned, outdated principles of integrity, honor, and commitment. I have a sneaking suspicion that BYU will never rise to or surpass the U's more modern, trendy investment in convenient commitment.

I hope it never does.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I See... Making Memories

After years of painstaking purely anecdotal research, the Mormon Third Eye's staff of seasoned professionals have released a groundbreaking study of how to make a memory. Not just any memory, but a lasting, satisfying memory that sticks with you long after the moment of making it is gone. File this away with the long list of unique and actionable “how-to” research authored by the Mormon Third Eye and provided as a public humanitarian service to the tens of loyal readers over the past 8+ years; you can find the most recent one here.

Making a memory is not as easy as you think. The biggest mistake mankind makes is assuming that we can plan for them. Many of us schedule family reunions, daddy-daughter dates, and wedding anniversary cruises designed to prime conditions for the production of something memorable, yet in most cases these events over time tend to blur gently into the continuum of our lengthy lives. MTE research reveals that it is actually the unplanned moments, the accidental actions we randomly and courageously choose to pursue that stick on the canvass of our minds.

For example, I have attended at least 2,000+ sacrament meetings during my career on earth as a divine son of my Heavenly Father and a fortunate recipient of countless inspirational, prepared spiritual messages. However, the most crisp meeting memories that successfully rise to the surface are associated with two completely unplanned, random events; that time as a frustrated father I whisked my baby daughter out of a meeting while she screamed at the top of her tiny lungs “please don't spank me! I'll be good!”, which you can read about here, and another engaging episode of classic knock-knock jokes I traded with pre-school anklebiters sitting on the bench in front of me before the opening hymn, which you can read about here.

Here's a more recent example of how memory manufacturing really works. Over the Thanksgiving holidays we were hosted by my gracious sister's family in Nashville. A highlight was to be an evening visit with them to the impressively-lit indoor Christmas Winter Wonderland at the grand Opryland Hotel. It was a wonderful, perfectly planned and seemingly memorable experience.
cabin special - stay sunday thru thursday in one of our cabins and get 25% off your stay. Enjoy the Christmas Light Show while you're here!
However, what I will remember most was the wrong turn on the way home. We drove down a detour to accidentally discover a vacant, rundown Jellystone Park campsite magically transformed into the most oddly homespun entertaining drive-through orchestrated Christmas light show in the history of the free world. It was here that we enjoyed thousands of twinkling lights pulsating to the infectious beats of undiscovered Christian rock classics such as N-O-E-L, sung to the words of the immortal party classic “Y-M-C-A.” It was here that we stood up through the minivan roof opening with outstretched arms piercing the darkness of a December night with reckless abandon joyously singing the songs of Christmas for anyone in greater Nashville to enjoy. We topped off the evening with a midnight run to a deserted and remarkably understaffed Steak-n-Shake diner decorated with mounds of unwashed dishes at almost every table, where we were served by an amazingly perky young black waitress who sincerely endured our seriously silly demeanor.

A night to remember. A completely silly, random night germinated in the fertile ground of a carefully planned family outing. Are you ready to be random?       

Sunday, December 27, 2015

I See... The Winner of This Year's Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

You would think that the answer to this question would be easy- just look up the score, right? Afraid not. It's complicated.

Officially, University of Utah eked out a 35-28 victory by turning five straight BYU turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the first quarter into touchdowns. An amazing ability to turn misfortune into triumph is the hallmark of a quality program.

On paper, and in the battle to inspire legions of fans, BYU crushed it. They compiled better stats than Utah in almost every major category and fought like dragons for the remaining three quarters while shutting down the Ute defense.

Comments after the game made determining the true winner even more confusing. The winning coach claimed that Utah's play the last three quarters was “ridiculous” and they “had some work to do.” Conversely, losing coach Bronco Mendenhall effusively praised his team for never giving up. I witnessed Ute fans departing the stadium not celebrating a victory but relieved at dodging a bullet. BYU fans could be seen equally stunned during the long walk through the parking lot experiencing the true definition of hell, continuously re-evaluating what could have been with just one less fumble or tipped pass in the first quarter.

It wasn't until the flight home to Raleigh the following day I was able to identify the real winners of one of the most “freakish” bowl games in the history of this or any other world, right here in this picture:

You see, this game brought these three brothers and a brother-in-law together from across the fruited plains of America to one place, for the first time, for an occasion other than a wedding or funeral, since... well... um... I guess you would say... EVER! Ignore the shameful fact that we should have done this earlier; that we are all too consumed with our own puny lives as doctors, managers, and researchers; or that although we are scattered across the continent, we've always had the time and resources, but not the will, to arrange such a short but outstanding Mormon manly weekend. We filled ourselves full of steak, Utah smack talk, and memories that will last at least until dementia sets in. We're already looking forward to Brofest 2016.

We are the Champions!  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

I See... An Old-Fashioned Christmas

For the past decade or so I have enjoyed the Christmas giving season from the comfort of a living room recliner, combing listlessly through endless Amazon screens, hunting for the exact whatchamacallit or doodad that would light my wife's world with joy. It was all at my fingertips. Purchasing Christmas gifts for the Wife of my Eternities had been reduced to a few solitary hours of internet shopping in front of “Walker Texas Ranger” reruns- it's a great way to keep her out of the room. For many years I would have packages shipped to a neighbor's house, then persuade them to tease my wife about gifts that had arrived but could not be opened until December 25th. However, in mid-November of this year, after so many years of keeping up with the Jetsons via a most modern and efficient couch-bound Christmas shopping routine, I began to notice that something was missing. Something important.

It took me awhile to realize that I yearned for an old-fashioned Christmas. When I was a kid, at the dawn of color television, way before computers and emails and internets and Amazon Primes, Mom and Dad would take us to the mall for a day where we would wander in and out of storefronts with child-eyed wonder (after all, we were children!) and spend our piggy banks bursting with allowance and babysitting booty buying bright sparkly things for our brothers and sisters. Some form of this sacred tradition continued into the early years of married life, when I would tease my wife by taking a lonely afternoon mall trip shopping. But somewhere along the way, with advancements in modern communication, the magic of this moment had been lost. And I knew how to get it back. Maybe, just maybe, contrary to the Grinch's refrain, this year Christmas WOULD come from a store!
This year, I shut the lid to my laptop and grabbed the keys to my second-hand car. I gave my sweet companion a cheap cover reason to leave and darted out to the mall. This year, as in days of yore, I would buy ALL my wife's presents at the mall. And I did.

The magic returned. The thrill of the hunt was intoxicating. I found pure joy in merging with throngs of other displaced fathers and husbands uncomfortably wandering in and out of climate-controlled boutiques in the quest for items on my wife's Christmas list. I took well-deserved breaks to eat a soft pretzel and lust over high-priced gourmet chocolates at a seasonal kiosk. By the end of the day I had bags full of presents to give away and fully satisfied nostalgic senescence, a situation somewhat similar to a jolly bearded man in bright red suit I was well-acquainted with as a child. Christmas is back!  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

I See... The Future of the BYU-UofU Rivalry

(Editors note:  If you are a University of Utah fan, look away. Look away now.  You have been warned.)

The Mormon Third Eye hates to wait. Waiting for the big game next Saturday in Las Vegas is killing me. So, employing magical powers of prognostication, the Mormon Third Eye tried to look into next weekend to see what it could see. Unfortunately, like much of what MTE tries to accomplish, it radically overachieved and peered all the way into next year- exactly one year after next week's Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl- December 19th 2016! The Mormon Third Eye has looked into the future before, with mixed results. You can read about that here.

Anyway, here is what it saw reported via the completely fictional Third Eye Network (TEN):

(TEN) 19 December 2016: It's been exactly one year since University of Utah's crushing 84-0 loss to BYU, which sparked an incredible chain reaction of improbable events. It was in the 2015 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl that BYU, in a remarkable act of extreme compassion, accepted Utah's plea to end the carnage early and call the game at the end of third quarter, saving them the shame of being the first Division I football team in the past two centuries to lose a game by a triple-digit margin. It was only a few weeks after this most embarrassing loss in the history of college football that University of Utah administration approached the Cougars again with another unusual request; save them again from ultimate academic and spiritual ruin by accepting their plea to become a satellite campus of BYU.

BYU administration, in another singular display of ultimate irony, embraced their neighbors and officially ended hundreds of years of rivalry. The next 11 months of work to transform University of Utah into a new institution of much higher learning, a division of the new Brigham Young Utah University (BYUU), was a blur of negotiations, arrangements, and realignments. The most difficult but necessary move was rehabbing the old Ute sports training facility into a massive detox center for the tens of thousands of students needing to overcome liquor and nicotine addictions.

Last week, Harry Armpitz, in his last official act as University of Utah spokesmen, thanked BYU for their outpouring of love and support during this difficult time of transition. “We continue to be amazed at our new leadership's willingness to forget the past and move forward in a spirit of unity.” Capitalizing on lessons learned from ingesting Ricks College ten years ago, BYU agreed to preserve the “Ute Spirit” by installing red urinals in all on-campus bathroom facilities. “It is important that we preserve the “Ute Spirit” in highly symbolic ways that have real meaning for BYU administration, alumni, and students.”

It could happen! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I See... Almost the Celestial Kingdom

Because we are trapped in the here and now among food and homes and jobs and cars and other temporal necessities, it can be challenging to wrap our heads around what life could be like as resurrected beings in the Celestial Kingdom. Through the prophet Joseph Smith, God restored knowledge of three kingdoms of afterlife glory, with the highest being where God dwells. We know that within the Celestial Kingdom, there are three more degrees of glory, with the most glorious housing those who have entered into an eternal marriage covenant and remained worthy of that gift throughout the rest of their earthly days. Early church leaders granted brief glimpses into the Telestial, Terrestial, and Celestial Kingdoms found it difficult to accurately compare the brightness and joy of these heavenly homes with our humdrum earthly existence; the best Joseph Smith could do is claim that if people “knew what was behind the veil, they would try by any means to get there.”

Hence, every so often, in gospel doctrine classes and doctrinal hypothesizing in the hallways between meetings well-meaning members, worn down by the seemingly endless requirements of righteousness, commiserate about settling for a Telestial or Terrestial afterlife. However, if we know so little about life beyond the veil, why would we be satisfied with anything other than the best? How can we know?

Too many years ago, when my wife and I where young and in love and poor, we saved our pennies and splurged on tickets to a Kenny Loggins concert. He was our rock idol of that day. We looked forward to all our pressing worries of finances and futures melting away for a few hours as we united as one heart to his upbeat, romantic musical musings. Kenny would fix it all for us.
The week leading up to our Friday night dream date was laced with anticipation. I relished the sparkle in my young wife's smiling eyes every evening as we returned from work and excitedly reviewed what we looking were looking forward to. This was going to be great!

I still remember too vividly that fateful Friday evening as we collected our concert gear and prepared to leave our little apartment for the date of the century. We quickly reviewed the tickets to confirm the last-minute essentials that would further heighten the anticipation of ultimate joy- start time, seat location, etc. And then, we met the most breathtakingly stunning disappointment of our young married life- the concert was actually last Friday! We missed it!

In the excitement and expectancy of such immediate ecstasy, we had somehow read the tickets wrong! The sadness was deafening. We had just flushed at least one valuable week of our food budget down the toilet with tickets that were now worthless. Of course we loved each other, and knew we would always have each other. We eventually recovered, but the knowledge of the happiness that could have been haunted us for months.

In retrospect, I'm guessing that's what spending our mortal lives working towards Celestial glory but coming up short in another glorious kingdom must feel like. The knowledge and anticipation of what could have been but wasn't. Except I'm guessing that this disappointment may end up being somewhat more deep and enduring. I learned my lesson via the missed Kenny Loggins concert. I want tickets to the Celestial kingdom, and hopefully, through the grace of God via an atoning Savior, I will remember what I need to do to get there.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I See... The Best Life of my Days

We are all used to using the stock phrase “the best days of my life” to accurately describe a specific time period of our mortal journey here action-packed with events or circumstances that bring great joy and satisfaction. Perhaps it could be when we are young and in love, or old and in love. Or maybe it could reference the days we are raising our babies and grandbabies. They all count.

But the Mormon Third Eye sees things differently. While our Heavenly Father is the ultimate author of all these joys, I'm not sure he wants us to focus too much on them at the expense of more pressing eternal needs. We are taught that earth life could be the most important sliver in the long march of eternity. In light of this fundamental truth, perhaps we should be working more on compiling “the best life of our days;” receiving the ordinances and freely accepting and keeping the covenants that render our life here the pathway to eternity.

Think about it. Are you having the “Best Life of Your Days?”