Sunday, April 20, 2014

I See... a Very Special Easter

This year I started looking forward to Easter right after the Christmas holidays. For some unknown reason, this was going to be a very special Easter, and I was prepared to blog about it this weekend.  I wasn’t sure why, but somewhat deep feelings about my Savior and what he has done for me on an extremely personal level began to constantly occupy my thoughts and time. My analytical mind inevitably took over and made different mental lists seeking to explain the unexplainable. There were several new media offerings being released over the next few months that highlighted Christ’s role as our Savior and Redeemer. Was that it? I was also getting excited about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, for the first time in the history of the world, producing a complete version of Handel’s Messiah on Easter weekend. Could that be what was keeping me awake nights? In March, the Young men and women of the church were focusing on learning more about the Atonement, and through my preparations to teach them about this most momentous event, I was gaining a greater appreciation for His noble sacrifice for us. Perhaps it was just me merely growing more mature and closer to my own eternal destiny, and instinctively preparing to meet my maker?

Then the weekend before Easter Mom passed away. Dad had left this world almost 30 years earlier; they were hopelessly in love with each other, sealed with bonds that would eventually break the bands of death, and Mom patiently waited her turn to rejoin him. In 80 years of an action-packed life of raising seven children, caring for a husband with recurring health problems, and loving over thirty years of newborn babies in maternity wards, her only recorded complaint was ironically one of her last uttered phrases- “can’t I just be with Don again?”

I volunteered to write the eulogy, and in the process of finding the right words to say, I also found the reality of the Atonement and Resurrection. My heart and soul yearned for confirmation that just as Jesus called the expired Lazarus from the tomb to rejoin his family, and He Himself rose three days from the tomb as a resurrected being to rejoin his disciples, Mom and Dad would rise again to join us.  The spirit whispered to me in undeniable terms, transforming my hope into a quiet comfortable knowledge of the reality of the plan of salvation.


Now I have to patiently wait my turn, but I have something to look forward to besides another very special Easter.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I See... The Top Eleven April 2014 General Conference Spiritual Sound Bites

Continuing a proud tradition initiated after General Conference last October, the Mormon Third Eye presents the Top Eleven Spiritual Sound Bites of April 2014 General Conference. You read about what a spiritual sound bite is here, and read last General Conference's Top Eleven Spiritual Sound Bites here.

11

"Sadly enough, my young friends, it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds." (Holland)

10

"Brothers and sisters, how do we protect our children and youth? Filters are useful tools, but the greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal internal filter that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love and our Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each one of us." (Reeves)

9

"You are infinitely more precious to God than a tree. You are His son or His daughter. He made your spirit strong and capable of being resilient to the whirlwinds of life. The whirlwinds in your youth, like the wind against a young tree, can increase your spiritual strength, preparing you for the years ahead." (Anderson)

8

"At times we may be tempted to practice what I call “natural man’s obedience,” in which we disobediently reject God’s law in favor of our wisdom or our desires or even popularity. To rationalize disobedience does not change spiritual law or its consequences but leads to confusion, instability, wandering in strange paths, being lost, and grief.  Spiritually mature obedience is “the Savior’s obedience.”" (Hales)

7

"The “now what” in the face of death in this life and the “now what” in contemplation of life after death are at the heart of the questions of the soul that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ answers so beautifully in the Father’s plan of happiness. Don’t underestimate the influence of the deceased in assisting your efforts and the joy of ultimately meeting those you serve." (Cook)

6

"Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness. Because our individual load needs to generate spiritual traction, we should be careful to not haul around in our lives so many nice but unnecessary things that we are distracted and diverted from the things that truly matter most." (Bednar)

5

"An obedient horse which is part of a well-trained team of horses needs little more than a gentle tug from the driver to do exactly what he wants it to do. This gentle tug is equivalent to the still, small voice with which the Lord speaks to us. Out of respect for our agency, it is never a strong, forceful tug." (Perry)

4

"There is no “up or down” in the service of the Lord. There is only “forward or backward,” and that difference depends on how we accept and act upon our releases and our callings.  Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities." (Oaks)

3

"Owning a smartphone does not make you smart." (Ridd)

2

"Those who serve others will not sleep through the Restoration." (Uchtdorf)

And finally, the number one spiritual sound bite of April 2014 General Conference is...

"Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval. Courage becomes a living and an attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as a willingness to die manfully but also as the determination to live decently." (Monson)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I See... Dealing with Adversity in the Lord’s Way

The Mormon Third Eye recently completed an exhaustive study on advice offered by ancient and latter-day prophets on dealing with adversity in the Lord’s way.  The results of this study produced ten guidelines to consider in facing adversity and trials. There is no greater joy than being the Lord’s answer to someone else’s prayer, and it is my hope that these guidelines will answer the silent prayer of someone else in need.

Pondering and praying about adversity and trials over the past few weeks, during my gospel study time and long commutes,  has caused me to reflect deeply on the refining role hardship has played in my life.  While I do not deny spending much of my days seeking to avoid pain and sorrow, I must admit that I have been blessed by them, but only long after they have passed and definitely not in ways I expected. 

First: Where can you find divine instruction and advice on dealing with adversity?  Big data analytics involves analyzing large sets of data for frequencies of selected words or phrases, then attaching meaning to the results.  In this case, I analyzed the data set called lds.org, where the church stores electronic copies of all the scriptures, lesson manuals, magazines, conference talks, etc.  My results showed that the book of Psalms in the Old Testament, the entire Book of Mormon, and lesson manuals that cover these books reference adversity and closely related words at least 10 times more than other data sources. Based on this data, I drew the conclusion that the Book of Mormon and the Book of Psalms could offer readers great hope and strength in times of trial.

Second: Trials, adversity, hardship, challenges, pain, sorrows, difficulties, etc, come to us in a myriad of shapes, sizes, forms, intensities, and time periods.  Some last only seconds; others may accompany us our entire lives.  They may be as small as a swollen diaper or as large as a lost spouse; they may result from our own poor decisions, the poor decisions of others thrust upon us , or the uncontrollable vicissitudes of life, but in any case, there is purpose and meaning in all suffering, and our goal should be to understand it, endure it, and learn from it. 

Third:  Every great prophet and apostle has had to endure deep sorrow. From our first father Adam, who was thrust out of the garden of Eden, to President Monson, who daily mourns the recent death of his wife, the love of his life for over 60+ years, and every great man and women in between, it turns out that facing adversity and trial is an essential element of life and living for every outstanding servant of God.  Why should it be any different for us spiritual peons?

Fourth: God did not design our lives to endure suffering alone.  We have friends, family, fellow ward members, the inspired counsel of church leaders, the scriptures, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and even the Savior himself in our silent pleadings and prayers to turn to for comfort and strength.  The Savior himself set the ultimate example. Ironically enough, even as he was bearing the burden our sins and sorrows in the Garden of Gethsemane so he could perfectly empathize with us, he sought strength to endure from our Heavenly Father, the only one who could help him. According to apostle Bruce R. McConkie,

“We know he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death. We know that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name. We know that he lay prostrate upon the ground as the pains and agonies of an infinite burden caused him to tremble and would that he might not drink the bitter cup. We know that an angel came from the courts of glory to strengthen him in his ordeal.”

If even the Savior sought strength from on high for what he was foreordained to endure, how much more important is it for us to seek help from divine sources?  More often than not, pride gets in the way of trusting in the Lord, his word, and his servants in seeking strength to shoulder our challenges.  Nephi in the Book of Mormon tells of dream in which he

“beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood. And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world. And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood. And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree. And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost. And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree."

The fruit of the tree represented the love of God; the rod of iron of the word of God; the great mist of darkness was the challenges of the world. Only by gripping tightly to the word of God did concourses of people make through the challenges of the world to feel the love of God, and so it is for us.

Book of Mormon prophet Helaman also counseled his sons to adopt the same strategy of finding strength to endure trial and hardship in the teachings of Jesus Christ:

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

On a more personal note, when my wife and I face particularly perilous problems with seemingly no reasonable solutions, we often resort to the statement “well, the Church is still true.”  This is our powerful admission that despite our most desperate failed efforts to fix all our own problems , the gospel of Jesus Christ will always be there for comfort and strength if we are willing to seek it.

Fifth:  In every major trial I have endured in this life so far, I have been rescued by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I don’t want to bore or disappoint you with the gory details of my own personal misadventures, but it is clear that I found no strength to endure or relief from suffering until I humbly admitted that I was powerless without the Lord’s help, help that is so graciously offered through the Atonement, regardless of the severity and frequency of our selected sins and sorrows.

I suspect that it is so for others too. My experience of service in the church has brought me into contact with several outstanding men and women who have set an example of enduring trials in the Lord’s way. I learned of a dedicated, righteous mother who, despite her best well-intention efforts, had a teenage daughter who turned her back on the gospel, the church, and all the morals and family traditions she had been raised in. Her bad choices occupied, burdened, and tortured mom’s every waking moment; mom walked through her day as a spiritual zombie, wondering what she had done wrong as a mother, and feeling helpless as her daughter continued to ruin her life.  At her point of deepest despair, when she felt as if her very existence would be forever crushed by this insurmountable, unsolvable problem, she turned to the Lord in prayer and pleaded: “Lord, I can no longer bear this burden. I can not think of it anymore. I am giving it to you. Please take it from me.” She recounted to me that she had to literally picture herself hand this burden over to the Lord, and she did. In that moment a miracle happened; it worked.

Sixth: Striving to be righteous does not mean that our lives will always be pleasant, prosperous, and painless. If we are faithful, the Lord will turn our trials and hardships into blessings, but this will happen on his time schedule not ours. His sure promise to us is that he will always provide us with the strength to endure and learn from our trials if we will turn to him.   In every particularly difficult hardship we face there is a decision point- will we turn to the Savior for comfort and strength, or will we blame him for what has gone wrong and turn away? Will we hold on to the Iron Rod or will we let go? Will we just wait for the storm to pass, or will we learn how to dance in the rain?

Seventh:  Just because we are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t mean that there can’t be light inside the tunnel. The essence of hope is that although the present is bleak, the future will be better. God does expect us to be happy now about current trials; he only asks us to find joy now in the belief that the future, the light at the end of the tunnel, will be better for us. It is in this hope that we find strength to endure life in tunnel.

One young mom recounted how she found light in the tunnel:

“While we were living in Boston, far away from family, our son was born ten weeks early. He weighed 3½ pounds and needed to stay in the NICU for six weeks. My husband was just getting ready to start his final exams and fly us across the country for a summer internship. We decided that I would stay in Boston to care for our new baby and pack up the apartment, my husband would go start his new job, and our two little girls, ages three and one, would go live with their sweet grandma for a few weeks.

That was one of the hardest tunnels of my life. I would take a city bus to the hospital, hold our son all day, and then come home in the evening to pack up our dishes and lamps, talk to my husband and girls on the phone, and try to get a little bit of sleep before it was time to start all over again.

I didn’t know if my son would be okay. He was tiny. He didn’t know how to nurse or drink from a bottle. He would have spells during the day and the monitors would go crazy. But I decided that the tunnel was going to make me stronger. I sang as I walked to the bus stop, learned the names of the moms and nurses at the hospital, prayed harder than I ever had before, and replaced my self-pity with gratitude that I had the privilege of being a mother.”

Eighth: Enduring adversity and trial in the Lord’s way requires two essential elements: a knowledge that there is a purpose behind our suffering, and knowing that God loves us. Through pondering, study, and prayer, we can know these things in the midst of our trials instead of after them. I frankly admit that this is hard for me, but I’m getting better at it.

Ninth:  What is the worst hardship one could ever experience?  Addiction to destructive substances and behavior like drugs, alcohol, or pornography? Serious illness, disability, death, divorce, or the deep sting of wayward children? Being physically and emotionally scarred by violent crime, or incomprehensible  sexual, emotional, or physical abuse within trusted family circles? Independent psychological studies indicate that for mothers, there is no worse heartbreak than the death of a young child.

I submit, however, that the most terrible trial of all is not knowing that God loves you, that we have a Savior that who atoned for all our sins and sorrows, and that we can turn to him for comfort, strength, and guidance to constructively deal with our challenges. Why? Because having faith in Christ and his love for us is at the root of all other attempts to patiently endure any adversity we face; it is force multiplier.
Tenth:  In most cases, answers to our prayers for help in constructively enduring adversity will come through other people.  What can we do to help others endure their challenges? I propose that it may be as simple as making cookies.  My oldest sister Velein, in her early 30s and a mother to four young kids, contracted a deadly brain tumor and was given less than a year to live. When we visited her during the last months of her life, she shared with us that she missed the simple joy of baking cookies for her boys. Deon made them a batch of cookies and brought great joy into the last moments of her life.

A few years later, Deon and I were visiting a less active single father of two pre-teen boys in our ward. We immediately noticed by their sparse, utilitarian decorating style that they were living poor and without the calming, loving influence of a resident mother. We had a tradition of baking valentine-shaped cookies and personally delivering them to friends on or around Valentine’s Day, and so we brought some to their house. They were extremely grateful for the gift. Brother Jones eventually returned to full activity in the church with his sons, and he later noted in a fast and testimony meeting how much that simple gift of cookies meant to him and his boys.

I frankly admit that although I believe these ten guidelines of dealing with adversity in the Lord’s way to be inspired, I still struggle with living some of them. However, I know I am a better man for knowing more about them, and the exercise of preparing this post has inspired me to put more theory into practice.

Ironically, in the process of preparing this message I had to practice what I am preaching.  Although I spent hours studying, pondering, and praying about enduring adversity in the Lord’s way my busy work schedule did not allow me time to actually write it until yesterday. Friday night I came home with the flu and should have spent the rest of the weekend recuperating in bed. I pleaded with the Lord for strength to endure my headache and chills and aches and pains and rumbly stomach and pull everything together, and he delivered. My headache and chills and aches and pains and rumbly stomach did not go away, but I was able immerse myself for a few hours in research and endure my physical ailments. And for that, I feel blessed.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

I See… Hardcore Motherhood

Motherhood is not for sissies. This is the message I extracted from the most recent book published by the “Power of Moms” online community, “Motherhood Realized.”   This collection of essays, all short yet powerful enough to distract even the most discriminating reader during a bathroom visit, seeks to define and refine the life and purpose of “deliberate mothers;” it fully describes the range of responsibilities of women who choose to find joy in their divine nurturing roles, regardless of their circumstances and challenges. Its unique strength lies in accurately championing the distinctly multifaceted roles of all mothers, regardless of their station and stage in life, without directly judging those unfortunate women blinded by the morals and relativism of the world to forgo this path. All are welcome to discover and explore the potential, wannabee, young, frustrated, imperfect, impassioned, empty-nester, and proxy moms of today as they navigate life’s constantly changing landscape, even twilight fathers like myself. It confirmed the innate jealously I held as a struggling father for moms who were blessed so spend so much quality time with their children.


It sparked in my soul latent memories of my own mom. She now lives out the end of her days in a memory care center, and her Alzheimers allows me to successfully brighten her day with happy birthday wishes several times a year.  Mom was neither a scriptorian, rocket scientist, nor master chef, and our family circumstances required that she spend her nights taking care of other mothers’ newborns at the hospital while we slept.  She did, however, leave us a precious moral gift- there was never any question about what was right and what was wrong. Thousands of important, successful decisions have been made by seven grown children since then.


 I love my mom, and I love this book. Read it and weep. Weep for those families infected by part-time women who choose motherhood as a hobby, not as an all-consuming passion.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I See... Inner Beauty

Sometimes stodgy packaging doesn’t do justice to the slender surprise hidden inside.  Sometimes the beat-up poorly planned cover of the book is not an adequate judge of curiously crafted content. More often than not, outward attempts to represent inner beauty provide only a momentary, narrow snapshot. And in almost all cases, true inner beauty cannot be fully described in words; it can only felt or pondered on spiritual planes.  Such is the case with the Gilbert Arizona temple.


I had the chance last week to tour the grounds of the Gilbert Arizona Temple.  The orchestrated peace, serenity, and natural beauty was breathtaking. Every bush, flower, tree and waterfall was carefully choreographed to overwhelm visitors’ souls with the message that they were standing on the precipice of God’s presence. I’ve never been inside the Gilbert Arizona Temple, but serving inside several other temples teaches me that the temporarily pristine and sacred surroundings encompassed by temple grounds and gardens stand as an invitation to enter and experience a much more powerful and lasting inner beauty within its walls.


Come. Come and See. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I See… Taming the Internet

With the rise of the greatest invention of the 20-21st century, the Internet, deeply psychological studies of epic proportions have been swirling around its massive sociological impact, for good and for evil, on individuals, families, communities, nations, and worlds.  While the church has all buildings wired for the Internet, said Internet has also become a force multiplier for world-wide secret societies of child pornographers. Recent experiences taught me that the Internet is neither inherently evil nor wholly worth embracing for its essential goodness- it just needs to be tamed.

Let’s start off with one essential, elemental fact- I am an information junkie. Knowing things, just for the sake of knowing them, is a hobby.  When true love results in marriage, partners often learn about each other’s oddities that need to be endured or reformed.  My new wife quickly learned that I liked to visit museums, and when we did, I would read everything… EVERYTHING (caps lock accurately convey my wife’s opinion). Every plaque, every description, every notation.  Fortunately for me, this was an element of my character she chose to endure. 

Pre-Internet age had me dreaming of someday owning an information junkie man cave- a staidly library filled floor-to-ceiling with books proudly displaying my love of knowing things, often regardless of their practical applications.  For several years my wife’s birthday present to me consisted of unlimited hours in a large bookstore with an unusually large book budget, browsing the aisles and teasing myself with the next new thing I would learn.  The arrival of the Internet changed all that.

When the Internet and its associated technologies arrived, it didn’t take long for me to embrace and apply it to my life-long addiction to information. I daydreamed of extremely portable large stores of information accessible via netbooks and e-readers long before Kindles became reality. Lazy weekend wanderings through Amazon’s endless book selection quickly replaced bookstore browsing sessions, and now I’m content with carrying around my information man cave of over 1,000 books (yes, that’s what I said- over 1,000 books- that should impress you) in my Kindle Fire HDX with 64G of storage. Plus, there was no real need to visit museums and historical sites anymore- there was so much more available via Wikipedia and Google than the pithy narrations on display plaques. The most current wrinkle in satisfying the information hobby is to look up in Wikipedia the hometowns of musical reality show (the Voice, the Sing-off, American Idol, etc) contestants that I’m watching with my wife.

An Internet Vacation

Imagine my terror, then, when we decided to visit my budget-conscious son and his wife living blissfully under the sunny skies of Arizona for a week, who have… no… wifi IN THEIR APARTMENT!! How would I survive?

The week has gone surprisingly well. I am being forced to spend a few moments each night down by the pool in their apartment complex accessing public wifi and responding only to the most urgent emails, and actually reading through some of the 1,000+ books on my Kindle- somewhat of an Internet vacation. Similar to documented efforts to break a debilitating laptop addiction several years ago, I rediscovered the clever company of my wife, my son, and his wife.

I also had a chance to rediscover what the kaleidoscope of life must have been like before the Internet took over. We took a day trip to the infamous mining ghost town of Jerome, Arizona. We spent a slow afternoon visiting a few local museums and reading how the ruling residents of Jerome cleverly overcame the hardship of the large evil mining conglomerate from shutting down the town by intentionally reinventing themselves as the world’s largest ghost town.  We also visited the world’s largest kaleidoscope store, Nellie Bly II, and were amazing engaged by the undiscovered world of pre-Internet entertainment. I had a kaleidoscope when I was a kid.

So… does the current kaleidoscope of my life include keeping the Internet as just one of the tools to view life? I hope so.  I’m ready to tame the Internet, but not abandon it. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I See… The Best Profession in the World

What is the world’s best profession? Experts in the gospel will tell you that a vocation involving hard work and serving others is the most fulfilling. Experts in the ultimately make-believe world of real life will try to convince you that working as few hours as possible for as much money as possible should be your goal.   A recent superficial, completely speculative study completed by the crack research staff at the Mormon Third Eye, however, has concluded that almost instant appreciation for a job done well in the form of clapping or applause truly qualifies as an essential element of the world’s best work.

On your next hot chocolate break at the office, while you’re waiting for the copier get fixed and your boss or assistant or co-worker to get off the phone so you can hold yet another meeting about the project that’s not going so well, daydream about employment where you are routinely applauded for your job performance.  Better yet, what about receiving applause BEFORE you do the work? How would that be?
I have not described an imaginary world. Exhaustive MTE research revealed at least four professions where workers receive applause for what they do: athletes, movie stars, toy ladies, and maternity ward nurses. There may be more.

We’ve all clapped for athletes and movie stars. However, I knew a work-at home mom who ran a part-time home business for several years that involved setting up vending machines at pediatric dentist offices and elementary schools dispensing toys in exchange for tokens. Dentists and teachers would award children with “good student” or “good patient” tokens which could be used to purchase small toys from the machine.  She kept a small inventory of tiny toys in her basement, and routinely spent a few afternoons a week visiting offices and schools to fill the “treasure towers” with toys and sell tokens to dentists and educators.  It provided very modest “furniture income,” enough to fix the furnace, go out to eat, and other minor necessities, but the real income was psychic: often, when she walked into an office or school to refill the towers, she would receive rousing rounds of applause. She was bringing them toys! Everybody loves the toy lady! 


I knew another woman who spent almost 30 years as a maternity ward nurse, mostly on the night shift.  There were long evenings of sick mothers and lost babies, and tired mornings when she had to slog home and take care of her own family. However, she does remember in the depths of twilight stillness newborn infants wildly enjoying their first gasps of life in their second estate.  Their big spirits found it difficult to be trapped in such small bodies, and their only outlet was petite crying accompanied by constantly wiggling and flapping arms and legs. The night nurse liked to imagine that this was their version of applause, the only way they could thank her for taking care of them, and it made her smile. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I See… the Season of Giving

The lights. The music. The gifts. This is the season of the year, more than any other, that our hearts should be full of gratitude for our Savior Jesus Christ and the wondrous gifts of rescue and salvation  from death and sin.  The older I grow closer to God, the more my ruthlessly logical mind wonders how and why the world so fully embraces the Christmas season and everything it represents, when, in reality, the truly greatest gifts we enjoy result from the sacrifices and death of Christ we celebrate at Easter.  So why does Easter still live in the long shadow of Christmas?  The answers are not so obvious. Before I explain that, I need to explain this.

This

I’m about to become victim to a true writer’s irony and attempt to discuss a topic that is too deeply spiritual to be captured solely by words- the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  I can compose smooth verbology that technically describes what the Atonement is and what it should mean to every person; the doctrine is straightforward and easy to understand.  However, the truly satisfying elements of the Atonement are wordless wonders communicated in intensely personal heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul communications between God and man via our ponderings and prayers. Hence, the best we can do as preachers of this great principle is to provide words that we hope inspire mankind to the brink of indescribable communion with God, where spiritual connections then take over and usher us into His world of perfect love.  Much like prophets in the scriptures had to be temporarily transfigured before they could withstand the presence of deity, so must we be temporarily spiritually transfigured before we can completely understand and enjoy the gift of redeeming love offered by the Atonement.

The Atonement is basic and far-reaching in scope and application. The results of choices made in the Garden of Eden dictated all mankind must be subject to death, and we were left to live the rest of eternity as disembodied spirits. Furthermore, because we all make mistakes, we are imperfect people spiritually separated from God, eternally penalized for our sins.  However, via the act of Atonement wrought by Jesus Christ, he became our prophesied Savior. Through his sufferings in the Garden of Gethsemane, he took upon himself our sins AND sorrows, and on the Cross of Calvary he sacrificed his life for us so that we may be resurrected and live forever in glorified physical bodies.

When we say that we can’t explain something, current cultural norms have conditioned us to translate this as “we don’t know how something works.” I can’t explain magnets because I don’t know how they work; I am just a witness to the results of their physical properties. However, when well-meaning dedicated members of the church proclaim from the fast Sunday pulpit that they have testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, but they can’t explain how it works, they are merely expressing in fairly literal terms the frustration of trying to convey in words that which can only be accurately expressed heart-to-heart. What I’m trying to say is… is that in the hearts and souls of those who have taken advantage of the Atonement for strength to repent of sin and endure tragedy and sorrow, the Atonement is a completely logical and understandable doctrine and event; there just aren’t words to convey it.

That


This year Easter falls on April 20th 2014.  I’m going to start early and celebrate Easter with same degree of respect and reverence for the Savior and his marvelous gifts as Christmas.  This means spending at least the 25 days prior to Easter thinking and serving others in a way that show love for Him and eternal gratitude for the great gift of the Atonement. 

Do not expect, however, obvious outward holiday preparations akin to Christmas; for like I explained above, Easter is truly a holiday of the heart.  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I See… Valentine’s Day in an Alternate Universe

Every so often I wake up and find myself living in an alternate universe, where unexpected events regularly occur and normalcy becomes infrequent. In an alternate universe, being different helps you blend in, while being popular highlights your insecurities. Some of my other documented advances in an alternative universe can be accessed here and here and here and here.  Many of these adventures are pleasant surprises; others are unwelcome realities.


Valentine’s Day 2014 brought another foray into an alternate universe.   On this day of what have should been ultimate romance spent together, we were separated by thousands of miles; I was working alone under Hawaii’s sunny skies, while the wife of my eternities was bundled up shoveling 20+ inches of snow in Maryland’s sub-freezing temperatures. Luckily my stay in this universe was short. I returned home the next day and melted in her arms, then shoveled us out of another round of light snow. It was a harrowing, disappointing journey into an undesirable world I hope to never repeat.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

I See… Why Its OK to Start Sacrament Meeting Late

(NOTE: THE STORY YOU ABOUT TO READ IS TRUE. NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THEIR BLESSINGS)

Say what? Start Sacrament Meeting late? Little Laman (not his real name, thank heavens!) was raised in the church, in a large traditional LDS family where the law was you always attended your meetings always on time. As he matured into adulthood, in countless subsequent leadership training sessions, church authorities at all levels taught him that starting sacrament meetings on time was a sign of respect and reverence for the Lord and his teachings. When his own kids were mere rugrats Sunday mornings were dedicated solely towards ensuring every diaper was changed and every nose wiped and blown long before meetings started so that every imaginable minor emergency was built into their transit schedule to arrive on time.

Now big Laman (still not his real name) was on a long business trip in a strange, unknown land, on a Sunday morning, and he was desperate to find a sacrament meeting, any sacrament meeting. He had to renew his baptismal covenants. He had become spiritually addicted to partaking of the bread and water every Sunday, reviewing the weaknesses of the week and making earnest promises to do better with the Lord’s help.

He did his homework. He looked up the local ward meeting times and locations on LDS.org. As he raced hurriedly through the downtown maze of foreign streets with strange names and twists and turns in a foreign car, he kept glancing at his watch and just knew he would be late, and he panicked.  What if he couldn’t find the chapel? He was already struggling with identifying his own location. What if he never found it at all? What if he arrived AFTER the sacrament had been passed?

The night before, in the guarded solitude of his high-rise hotel room, he had been deeply moved reading Brigham Young’s sermon reminding the saints that just as the twelve disciples did not recognize that resurrected Christ was in their midst until he broke bread with them, they too could truly feel His presence in their lives only after partaking of the sacrament. He found himself scanning the dirty windshield horizon for the next left-hand turn he would miss, silently pleading with the Lord that the sacrament meeting he ended up attending would start late.

His prayers were answered.  He quietly slipped into the back of the small chapel 15 minutes late and settled into somebody else’s pew.  The bishopric and their Aaronic Priesthood hurried to complete their preparations. The awkward second counselor apologized for starting so late, but Laman grinned a deep thankful smile.