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Sunday, January 25, 2015

WAR CHAPTERS

The Book of Mormon is filled with doctrines and principles that invite us to come to our Savior for redemption.  Nephi teaches us that we:

“...talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).


So, I have often wondered why Mormon included so many chapters dealing with war in his record.  He was a soldier/general in his own time and the connection there is pretty clear, but what did he hope to accomplish by adding the experiences of Captain Moroni, Helaman, Teancum, and many others to the record?


Maybe his purpose was to give us hints about ways to prepare for and overcome the influences that he saw in his visions of the future.  Like most prophets, the times he witnessed were not his – his own people were fast approaching annihilation and anonymity.  They were beyond help but the future generations (those in our day) might find some assistance in the experiences of the past if he were to record them for their benefit.


With that in mind, I have selected several short excerpts from the Book of Alma that Mormon included to guide us in the battles we will face.  The war for the souls of our families and friends is real and the guidance given in these snippets are inspired by a Godly concern for the welfare of future generations.  I present them for your perusal and use if you find them sufficient for your needs.


#1 – Alma 43:9, 48:10 – Know why and who you are fighting

Every war has ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys.’  The challenge is recognizing which is which.  The battles faced as parents, leaders, and individuals are very much like the wars waged all through history.  The difference between who is good and who is bad really depends on the motives for fighting. 
In these first few verses, Mormon invites us to remember that if the purpose for war is to protect families (wives, children, etc.) and maintain the rights of liberty and peace (including the right to worship as desired) then the battle is justified.  Any other purpose is probably selfish in its origin (position, money, glory, power, etc.).


#2 – Alma 43:23-24 – Collect data any way possible

Any good general craves information about the enemy so he can be prepared.  Sometimes it comes easily but most often it requires great effort to get the kind of knowledge that will result in defeat of an enemy.  Protectors must be willing to go to many extremes to understand and know what is happening in the lives of those they seek to protect.  How else will leaders know the challenges that confront the ones they serve?

And yes, there will be times when it is necessary to seek out spies to help with the reconnaissance.  All the help available should be used.  Despite what some may say, keeping eyes and options open is the only way to avoid defeat in this great battle.  Parents and family should not be ashamed to search out answers to important questions to protect loved ones.


#3 – Alma 44:1-5 – Fight, but be careful not to make total destruction the goal

Righteous efforts to maintain safety often result in confrontations between competing parties.  These experiences can degrade into a battle of wills and a desire to totally destroy the offending parties.  One of the things Mormon highlights in the wars led by Captain Moroni is the desire he (Captain Moroni) had to protect the lives of all participants.  His was never a war designed to annihilate the enemy.  He only wanted to stop the aggression and invite those who sought to destroy freedom to change their ways.

Parents and leaders are not out to destroy those they serve and love.  The purpose of their battling is to keep the way safe for those whom they care to protect.  If the enemy will stop trying to drag their children or family away, they will cease to use the tactics of war to stop them.


#4 – Alma 49:3-5 – Remember the past and prepare for the future

When a battle is won, don’t forget the things that were done to bring victory.  Build on the weaknesses that invited the original challenges and use the knowledge gathered to prepare for the next event.  It also helps to remember the words of Jesus, quoted by Mormon, in the book of Ether:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them (Ether 12:27)

Enemies will recognize weaknesses, often before combatants do, and use them to overcome.  All who would protect have to be humble enough to realize they are weak and make the adjustments necessary to overcome those challenges.


#5 – Alma 53:8-9 – Avoid contentions in the ranks

Every adversary looks for ways to invite dissension amongst their enemies.  The easiest battle to win is the one fought against a divided enemy.  Whatever is done must be done in love and with an eye single to the Glory of God. His influence must be the foundation for everything.  Only with His help can the war of this life be won.


Mormon was a great general and worked hard in his life to protect his people.  He was ultimately a failure as a general but his teachings can be the foundation of our own success in the personal war with wickedness.  Using his counsel we can stand firm and find safety in the doctrines and principles as taught by Jesus Christ through his living prophets.  The words are true and the power is in them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#38


Hard to believe, but today marks the 38th time I have celebrated the best decision I have ever made in mortality.  The result has been some wonderful adventures, memories that will last eternally, children that are so much more than I could have ever imagined and the love of a good woman who has endured, with me, all the vicissitudes of life.


We don’t have many photos of the special occasion, but this will give you an idea what we looked like back then
.
January 21, 1977 - the best day of my life.

NOW you know why I chose her!!

She was a BABE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And after 38 years she still makes my heart go WAHOOOOO!!!


Happy Anniversary to the best little girl I have ever known.
Here’s hoping we have another 38 (or thereabouts).









Tuesday, January 20, 2015

WHY READING?

As part of an introduction activity to begin 2nd semester, I asked my students to share the name of their favorite author.  Reading has always been one of my favorite obsessions, so I assumed most would have some preference carved out in their minds.

Imagine my surprise (and dismay) when I discovered that more than half of those I teach don’t regularly read on their own. 

HERESY!!!

I understand that some have difficulties, but these are bright, intelligent, and interesting young people.  Their parents are humble folks who are trying to raise children in a very difficult world.  Yet, as a body of young people, the majority don’t read, other than what is assigned by a teacher (and not even that sometimes).

So much is lost when people aren't comfortable with reading.
Imagination is limited!
Vocabulary doesn't grow!
Perspective is blinded!
Understanding of the world remains at a very juvenile level!

In my life, reading books is how I discovered things like science, art, politics, religion, and the joy that comes from learning something new.  When my children were younger they would often ask how I came to know so many answers to their questions.  Without fail, the answer was “I read that somewhere in a book.” 

I love reading!!

Because I read I know that Abraham Lincoln was much more capable than many of his day ever imagined.  He was wise enough to hide his intelligence with a ‘folksy’ attitude, giving himself an advantage with his adversaries.

Because I read I know that Einstein’s theory of relativity has its limits but is really cool in an eternal sense.  And it helps science fiction with plot-lines.

Because I read I am convinced politicians think most people are ignorant and don’t remember what has been said or done in the past. But those who read DO!

Reading is a lifesaver in more than one way. 
When Mr. Boredom approaches, a good book can push him away.
When I can’t figure out how to fix the car I can get the right book and find the solution.
And when life begins to get really messy, there are things I can read that will provide comfort from the sorrows all around.

While not a cure-all, reading is one of the great medicines for the ills of this life. 

If you don’t already, put some time into reading. 

You’ll be surprised how much it helps.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

NEW YEARS SLOTH

It’s been nearly a month since I last wrote.


Christmas has come and gone!!


New Years passed without a mention.


Many things have passed but there has been little motivation until today.  I guess I have had the BLAHS.


How does that happen to a normally vigorous person? 


Some might blame the conditions brought on by the seasons.  Sunlight is at a minimum and my work is indoors so the necessary keratin may not be getting into my system.  There are surely other reasons but none make any sense right now.


I just looked back on what I wrote and it sounds especially whiney.


Come on, cupcake, suck it up and get going.


OK, but I think I will wait until tomorrow to really put in the effort.


See you then.

Friday, December 19, 2014

CUBA

Though I was but a lad, I recall the tension that followed the events pertaining to Cuba in the early 1960’s.  Our elementary school was near a military base in Arizona and we often practiced ‘air-raids’ just as we did ‘fire-drills.’ 


Everyone wanted one of these.  Just in case!!


As the years went by, it didn’t take much to recognize the evilness of Fidel Castro and his henchmen and to feel some pride in how the U.S. was dealing with their atrocities.

He promised freedom
but all his people got
was -- well, not what was
 promised.

Fast forward to today!!

President Obama has made a decision to change relations with Cuba – for whatever reason – and has opened the possibility of future interactions between the former enemies.  The politics of all this escapes me – much of what our President does escapes me – but I do see a bright side to the situation
.

If talks do result in normalized exchanges between the two countries, there is a strong possibility the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will one-day send missionaries to that formerly off-limits part of the world.  Here is an article that outlines things that have happened recently in that regard.


Eternally, he will have a connection with this situation.

Much like the events preceding the Berlin Wall coming down, it seems the Lord is doing His ‘mystery’ work once again.  To me, at least, it is evident that the work is accelerating and will not slow down until……well, until the END.


Who would'a thunk this would happen in our lifetime.

 But it did.

I wonder how long before something like this happens in China or Iraq, or a number of other places.

Eyes Wide Open!!!

Friday, December 12, 2014

YOUTH

Mine is gone, but that’s not what I’m here to discuss.

Yesterday, Right in the middle of a lesson, it dawned on me that the young people I associate with every day are more than exceptional.  They live in a world that has excessive evil (I suspect even more than during Noah’s time).  Despite that hindrance, the vast majority of those I know are amazingly good and kind and righteous. 

And chances are they will be much that way for their whole life.

These magnificent people have been held back until this time because they have shown, in their pre-mortal existence, that they are among the best God has ever created.

And they are trusted.

By God!
By Prophets!
And by me!

So maybe it is high-time I (and we) trust them to be what they have chosen to be. 

Really, really good people who will, one day, welcome the Savior back to the earth.

It is only through their obedience and willingness to serve that they were reserved for the days that lie ahead.  Our job is and will be to prepare them to take over – so we need to trust them to do what they were sent to do.

After all, it’s not like they are slackers when it comes to goodness. 

Oh, sure, there are negative examples of young people who struggle with life and how to make it work for them.  But I don’t deal with that group much.  Most of them have made choices that lead them different directions before they ever come to my classes.  Those who make it this far and still choose to be part of what I do are pretty committed to living a good life.

And, as I explained to them, they will be the Bishops, YM/YW Leaders, Scoutmasters, Relief Society Presidents, Apostles, Prophets and all else needed to lead my grandchildren back to Heavenly Father.

I realize that I DO trust them.

I just sometimes forget and let my ‘natural man’ see things poorly.

“Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.” D&C 58:3

Yes, these are special people and we must treat them as such.

And expect much from them as we help prepare for THEIR time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WHY TRY?

Nothing is harder that deciding what you really believe in and what you don’t.  The challenges of faith can wear a person down and make life miserable.  Often folks give up because they can’t get the answer they are after.

Life is not meant for quitting.

All that is good comes as we keep trying.

This blog message has some interesting thoughts on how to deal with a crisis of faith.  We all have them and it helps to know how to hang on.  I recommend his method to some who struggle.

Much of what he says I can sympathize with – as a witness or partaker to similar events. 

I agree with Paul who taught that “… we see through a glass darkly.” (1 Cor. 13:12).

We won’t get all the answers in mortality, but what we do get, it’s best to hold onto like it means something important.

Because it does!!!

The sum total of our life will be how we are judged and rewarded in the eternities.  Thankfully, we have a very forgiving Judge.


Thanks Suzanne Campbell for the link.

Monday, December 8, 2014

STONES

I love that our Heavenly Father has allowed us to come to earth to experience mortality and learn all we can.


Sometimes I really hate the side-effects of said experiences.


Recently, I have had some lower back pains that have been rather intense.  I went to see a doctor and he suggested DRUGS, with a side of COLD on the affected parts.


They didn’t work!!!


After a while, I began to search through my struggling memory and came upon an experience I had nearly a quarter century ago.  The events were so horrific that I believe I repressed remembrance --- but now it is back

There was another time (in said past ¼ century) when a nagging back pain was actually found to be something even more terrifying.  Lo, it was beyond the pale of any experience I have ever been pained to endure.  This is stuff of major glory when it comes time to review the life lived on planet Earth.


And it seems to be returning.  

AAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!


For the uninitiated, the worst pain a man (and maybe a woman, but I suspect many would lay childbirth at the top of the list) can endure just might be the passing of a tiny crystalline shaped stone, yea, barely 4mm in size, through the urinary tract of his body.  Doctors have commented that this is as close as the male of the species will ever come to knowing what it is like to have a baby (side note: do animals get these little devils or is this only a human foible?).  Since babies are slightly larger than 4mm, I am grateful that God (or evolution if you believe that way) did not make arrangements for a couple to share the birthing duties in a family.


Imagine this in your body!


But I digress!!

For several weeks I have been tormented with this ‘bad boy’ and would really like to be separated from its existence.  I recognize the challenge this ‘rock of ages’ offers but since my life is on the downhill slope, most such experiences are not really appreciated.  According to the ‘all-knowing’ Internet, the time it takes to pass one of the little guys is around 31 days (give or take a month or two).  I’m past that limit so I guess it might be time to take drastic measures.


Someone tell me what drastic measures I can take at this point!!????


My sweet little wife has been after me to go see a doctor but last time I did that, he made the darn thing hurt.  Not really what I’m looking for.



Anyways, I guess I will just endure until ‘it shall come to pass’ and relieves me of my discomfort.  Keep you posted on any progress with my new friend.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CONTEND WARMLY

Over the past several months, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published several essays addressing specific doctrines of the Church.  Many of the subjects have been a source of concern for individuals, within and without the Church, who have questioned the historicity and validity of certain truths of the gospel.  I, for one, welcome the discussion these essays have engendered and hope readers will study and pray about the messages as they try to understand what we believe.

Unfortunately, answering questions for those who struggle with their faith also invites criticism from those who never had much faith or who have a desire to ridicule or belittle the beliefs of Latter-day Saints.  Such is the case with these essays.

I wish it were not so.

I wish we could share without rancor.

I am reminded of a story from the scriptures.

In the Book of Mormon there is an experience the Prophet Alma shared as he began a new chapter in his life.  These events occurred during a transitional time in Nephite history – they were changing their form of government and some new issues came to the forefront.

Governmental workings can be dicey under the best of circumstances (just look at what we go through with a system that has been in place for nearly 2 ½ centuries) but when governance makes drastic changes, undoubtedly there will be trouble.

King Mosiah, for reasons that are clear as you read the scriptures, suggested that the tradition of Kings should be abandoned and a new form of rule accepted by the people.  He proposed a system of judges, all accountable to the people, who would take on the task of helping maintain peace and freedom.

The people accepted and Alma was chosen to be the first Chief Judge of the people.  He also happened to be the High Priest of the Church at that time.  Yes, there was a mixing of Church and State – really not that unusual in days of old (see David and Solomon for example).

Almost immediately, there was a challenge to the new ruling system.  Some who desired glory chafed at the idea of having a government determined by the voice of the people – they probably felt they were better equipped to decide what was best.

But in his role as Prophet/Chief Judge, Alma was confronted by an even more difficult challenge.  A man, Nehor by name, came among the people of the city and began to preach doctrine that was contrary to the teachings of Christ.  He was very convincing and drew many people away after his teachings.

The law of the land stated that all people were allowed to believe what they would about God and His commandments.

But no one was above the law of the land.

Nehor, with his preaching of another doctrine, was perfectly within his rights and found no legal resistance to his efforts.  Because of his work, he was bound to have adversaries in the Church of Christ.  One was a man named Gideon who had gone through many struggles defending the Church and its leaders.  When Gideon challenged Nehor’s teachings, there was a dispute and Gideon was killed with a sword.

I don’t want to focus on the individuals in this story so much as what happened after the fact.  Though Nehor was punished with death, his efforts were not destroyed.  There were still some who relished in the doctrines he espoused.

The outgrowth of this rise in a new ‘religion’ was inevitable.

Here is what Alma recorded, speaking of those who accepted Nehor's doctrine:

But it came to pass that whosoever did not belong to the church of God began to persecute those that did belong to the church of God, and had taken upon them the name of Christ…
Nevertheless, there were many among [the believers in Christ] who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows… (Alma 1:19, 22)

Despite Alma’s best efforts, many in the Church of Christ felt it was necessary to stand in aggressive opposition to those who spread the doctrine of Nehor.

The result was not good.

There is always cause to defend the truths of Christ as we understand them.  But to defend them ‘warmly’ is not the way of the Savior.

The result of ‘warm’ defense is always something less than what God invites us to do or be.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke to this subject in the last General Conference:

Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious. We should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence. In doing so, we ask that others not be offended by our sincere religious beliefs and the free exercise of our religion. We encourage all of us to practice the Savior’s Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12).


I sincerely believe in Christ and His Atonement.

I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Kingdom of God on earth today.

I believe that there are good people outside the LDS Church who have many beliefs in common with my own.

I also believe that there are many who do not accept some of the things I hold dear to my heart.

They have the right to believe what they feel is true.

I do not have the right to speak harshly, warmly, or any otherly way about what they hold to be true.

I spent two years as a missionary in another land, and to my recollection, never once spoke in the negative about someone’s religious understandings.  If they asked, I was delighted to share what I had to offer and would even show them some differences in our doctrine.  But NEVER with the intent to belittle or demean what was in their heart.  That is not the way of Christ and it is not the way of those who seek to follow His pattern.

My intent, in this message, is to remind myself and others of strong religious persuasions to be kind as we discuss differences in our beliefs.  

We are all children of the same Father and have much in common.  

Most of us have faith in a Savior who has made it possible for us to overcome all the challenges mortality can devise.  

We love Him for this gift and follow His teachings because of that love.

While we may not agree on specific doctrines, we CAN agree to be kind in our words and civil in our discourse as we discuss these things.  That is the way our Exemplar would have us do things.

I believe in Christ.

I believe Christ.


I will speak as He speaks.

Monday, November 10, 2014

HARRY'S JUDGMENT

A few days ago a man who is currently serving as a bishop in an LDS ward wrote an article about one of my ‘favorite’ Mormon politicians (there was much sarcasm intended by that word).  This Bishop suggested that if Harry Reid lived in his ward there might be some difficulties in signing a Temple Recommend for the illustrious Democrat.


Harry Reid


(For those not of the LDS Faith, a Temple Recommend is the document required to allow an individual to enter Temples and participate in the religious rituals found therein.  A member is presented with a number of questions that must be answered appropriately to receive the Recommend.  Some deal with the stance on beliefs and associations that might be considered ‘against Church practices or doctrine.’)

Manti Temple

The author of the article indicated that, at least from his perspective, Harry Reid was in violation of several of the questions that are asked of each member desiring entrance to the House of the Lord.




There is no sympathy from me for Mr. Reid and his political persuasions.  His actions are often odious and despicable (see the tricks he pulled on Mitt Romney) and his leanings are so far left that I wonder how he can walk. In my estimation he is a liberal in the most offensive way that term can be used.

BUT!!!

His worthiness to participate in the religious practices of His (and my) church is not based on his political beliefs or practices.

(I suppose if he was a member of ISIS and went around cutting heads off innocent people we might reconsider.)

He doesn't!!!

He is my brother in the gospel of Christ.

His support of some programs and laws leaves me wondering how he sleeps at night.

Nevertheless – and this is a big nevertheless – I (nor anyone else except his Bishop) do not have the authority or responsibility to determine his worthiness to enjoy the blessings of the temple.


For a few years I was invited to serve as bishop of my ward.  In that responsibility I interviewed countless individuals, seeking to determine worthiness to partake of sacred blessings.  Most who came were completely qualified to receive recommendation.

Not surprisingly, none were perfect.

But there were some who caused me to think and prayerfully consider what to do.  A few were encouraged to prepare themselves more fully in certain areas and return when they felt they were ready.

Some responded with anger or shame when denied a Recommend and left without the desired blessings.  Through it all, my decisions were based on what I knew of the person, the answers to their questions, and the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.

I sincerely believe that I never made a decision founded in personal opinion, anger, or frustration with the member or circumstance.


It is not the duty of a bishop to make judgment on souls who reside outside the realm of his stewardship.  When one bishop calls into question the judgment of another there is a serious breach of protocol and propriety.  That is not the ways things are done in the Church.

I am confident the bishop who wrote the article is a good man and is doing his best to fulfill his calling.  He is offered inspiration from the Holy Ghost to know how to lead his little flock of saints

But, he is not privy to the facts, inspiration, worthiness, or anything else concerning members of another congregation.

It is highly inappropriate to speculate on the worthiness of a member who is not within the stewardship one has been given.



I know Harry Reid in his political role by his voting record and the things he preaches.


I know nothing of his role as a husband, father, man, or member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  



There is only one person responsible to give or withhold permission to participate in temple blessings.

Jordan River Temple

Those judgments are best handled by leaders who have the right to make the determinations necessary.  They are trustworthy and will do what is right.

Let them.


Without help from the ‘peanut gallery.’