Sunday, November 23, 2014

I See… the Mormon Third Eye’s Top Ten October General Conference Spiritual Sound Bites!

(Third Eye Network- TEN) The Mormon Third Eye today released (below) it’s top ten list of October General Conference spiritual sound bites. For more information on what a spiritual sound bite is, and lists from previous conference sessions, look here, here, and here. For other TEN press releases, look here, here, and here,

 “The process of evaluating and ranking spiritual sound bites from General Conference talks has become more agonizing and heartbreaking than ever before!” exclaimed Richard Tait, who leads the MTE editorial staff every six months as they sift through hundreds of pages of inspired gospel messages to identify the most precious nuggets. “This fall 44 pronouncements from 30 different speakers made the final cut. Every line was a gem.” Mr. Tait refused to reveal the complex algorithmic formula used to select winners, saying only that pondering and inspiration played a large part. 

1. “We need not walk by the shores of Galilee or among the Judean hills to walk where Jesus walked. All of us can walk the path He walked when, with His words ringing in our ears, His Spirit filling our hearts, and His teachings guiding our lives, we choose to follow Him as we journey through mortality. His example lights the way. Said He, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” President Monson

2. “Being able to see ourselves clearly is essential to our spiritual growth and well-being. If our weaknesses and shortcomings remain obscured in the shadows, then the redeeming power of the Savior cannot heal them and make them strengths. Ironically, our blindness toward our human weaknesses will also make us blind to the divine potential that our Father yearns to nurture within each of us.” Elder Uchtdorf

3. “The negative commentary about the Prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish. There will be family members and friends who will need your help. Now is the time to adjust your own spiritual oxygen mask so that you are prepared to help others who are seeking the truth.” Elder Anderson

4. “One of the most meaningful things we can do as parents is teach our children the power of prayer, not just the routine of prayer.” Elder Callister

5. “We heed prophetic word even when it may seem unreasonable, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. According to the world’s standards, following the prophet may be unpopular, politically incorrect, or socially unacceptable. But following the prophet is always right.” Sister McConkie

6. “Decisions of character are made by remembering the right order of the first and second great commandments.” Elder Robbins

7. “As you dedicate time every day, personally and with your family, to the study of God’s word, peace will prevail in your life. That peace won’t come from the outside world. It will come from within your home, from within your family, from within your own heart.” Elder Scott

8. “Our local Church leaders, like seasoned river guides, have been tutored by life’s experiences; have been trained and mentored by apostles and prophets and other officers of the Church; and, most important, have been tutored by the Lord Himself.” Elder Ballard

9. “The most important event in time and eternity is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He who accomplished the Atonement has given us the ordinance of the sacrament to help us not only remember but also claim the blessings of this supreme act of grace. Elder Hamula

10. “But no matter how large the organization of the Church becomes or how many millions of members join our ranks, no matter how many continents and countries our missionaries enter or how many different languages we speak, the true success of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be measured by the spiritual strength of its individual members. We need the strength of conviction that is found in the heart of every loyal disciple of Christ.” Elder Packer

11. “Our wounded souls can be healed and renewed not only because the bread and water remind us of the Savior’s sacrifice of His flesh and blood but because the emblems also remind us that He will always be our “bread of life”12 and “living water.” Sister Esplin

12. “But our eagerness to declare this message is not merely the result of a sense of spiritual duty. Rather, our desire to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with you is a reflection of how important these truths are to us.” Elder Bednar

13. “As the world continues to watch us, let us be certain that our example will sustain and support the plan the Lord has designed for His children here in mortality. The greatest teaching of all must be done by righteous example.” Elder Perry.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I See… Saving a Nation Through Prayer and Plainness

When modern Mormon men and women analyze the slender example of Enos in the Book of Mormon, we tend to focus on his excellent efforts to seek a personal testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ through monumental pondering and prayer. The Mormon Third Eye, however, without sacrificing the moral and message of Eno’s search for truth that has successfully inspired legions of current and future members of the church to seek their own testimonies, likes to highlight the underappreciated aspects of his struggles summarized into one action-packed chapter.  It is here, buried in a few corners of his narrative, we find Eno’s formula for saving a nation- prayer and plainness.

Before you try to save a nation, you have to determine if it is worth saving.  During his marathon prayer session, he asked the Lord to spare his bitter enemy, the Lamanite nation. God, in his ironic wisdom, promised Enos that not only would he save the Lamanites “in his own due time,” but also that he would do it via records of Nephite prophecies the Lamanites worked so hard to unsuccessfully destroy.

After Enos got off his knees he went to work defending his own people from their own internal destruction.  His weapon of choice was “plainness of speech,” the natural enemy of today’s political correctness: “And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction.

Would this strategy work in saving our nation today?  Our living prophets and apostles must think so, because they have been preaching a message of moral purity and adherence to eternal family values that could be described as harsh by today’s politically correct bully pulpit.  In a world that obfuscates the truth with mixed messages on gender, marriage, and agency, wise and inspired church leadership teach us in plain terms that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose,” and that “marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God.”  Success in family life is achieved not by any choice, but by right choices: "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."

Are we ready to try the Enos formula? I pray for this nation- that our leaders and governments, given the luxury of choice, will make right choices; then I oftimes speak with plainness on this blog.  Join me!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I See… A New Methodology for Gospel Study

The Mormon Third Eye has always specialized in researching novel ways to enrich the spiritual lives of faithful saints.  In the midst of our extensive research, our crack staff stumbled upon a methodology of personal gospel study so new and exciting that we have even scooped the big church itself! A carefully constructed search of yielded virtually no information referencing this new methodology.  As technology and mankind advances, we move beyond mere books and paper and study the gospel in cyberspace.  Ironically, we have overlooked one of the earliest and most simplistic methods of gospel study; a path that has existed since the dawn of time and can be summarized in three powerful words-  “listening in church.”

There are three simple steps for effective gospel study via listening in church that bear a remarkable resemblance to more standard gospel study principles:

Step 1: Ask the Lord in true humility and fervent prayer before church starts for a desire and capacity to focus and listen with the spirit.
Step 2: Delete distractions: Just before speakers begin to deliver their messages, offer another short prayer in your heart, then put down the smart phone and close the lid to your kindle.
Step 3: Ponder in your heart what is being said and seek spiritual confirmation of its truthfulness.  Promises made to readers of the Book of Mormon, with a little editorial discretion, can also apply to listeners of the word in church meetings:

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall listen to these things in church, if it be wisdom in God that ye should listen to them in church, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10:3-4)”
What is really old has become new again; you ought to try it sometime. Church meetings can be an ideal location for discovering the spiritual essence of gospel principles or strengthening testimonies via personal gospel study if you come prepared to listen. I just completed a wealth of gospel study via a fast and testimony meeting last week, and memorable stake conference proceedings today.  What new discovery did you make at church today?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

I See… Embracing the Lack of Imagination

A few years ago Elder Uchtdorf instructed our Relief Society sisters to “create.” A large US energy firm encourages us to "imagine the possibilities." Innovations in youth education and entertainment incite imagination. So why does the Mormon Third Eye advocate embracing the lack of imagination?

Most everything important in life cannot be imagined. I cannot imagine:

life without chocolate and cherry kool-aid;
lighting something on fire and then putting it into your mouth; (I think they call that “smoking”)
anything more comforting than a warm grilled cheese sandwich on a cold day;
being married to anyone other than my wife, and having a more beautiful context for living than the one she has created for me;
my life without a testimony of the perfect gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith;
any book of scripture more true and relevant to my personal spiritual needs than the Book of Mormon;
death without something after it;
being happy without my family, my religious beliefs, and my God;
the depth of sins and sorrows my Savior bore for me.

Perhaps my imagination about these elements fails me because they are so real.  They are woven into my character.  I'm ok with that. What's wrong with your imagination?

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!