DISCLAIMER: I have a substantial number of loyal readers from the great state of West Virginia. I want to reassure them that none of the stereotypes mentioned in this post have anything to do with them, unless they do. I should also point out that I don't have a lot of readers from Kentucky, so I'm going to have to side with the Hatfields on this one.
I have been watching the mini-series "Hatfields & McCoys" on the History Channel. Lots of great actors, interesting story, but at the end of the day, I'm finding it hard to root for either side. Vengeance is not endearing. And apparently, life back then was very, very slow. But it is nice to see a movie where Kevin Costner can believably portray the smartest man in the room.
While the movie is kind of a downer, the plus side is that you get to see a lot of Hillbillies - shaggy, dirty, pig-thievin', tabacky-spittin', bootleggin' Hillbillies. As with most history, or historical fiction, it makes me glad that I live in the here and now. It was a rough life back then. I imagine it's changed somewhat by now. The show does a marvelous job of showing what it looked like in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia/Kentucky back in the late 1800s. If by Appalachia you mean Romania, because that's where they filmed it. Apparently it's easier and cheaper to film Romanian hillbilly shacks than good old American hillbilly shacks.
I haven't seen the last part of the miniseries yet, but I'm sure it ends badly for somebody. When God said "Vengeance is mine," he meant it. (Mormon 8:20)
Whether you like Hillbillies or not, I must admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for them. They are great characters, and are apparently responsible for one of the more important creations in culinary history. I have had an on-again-of-again relationship with Mountain Dew for most of my adult life. Sometimes I am strong, and am able to resist its siren song, other times I succumb to the glorious ambrosia that it is. Don't judge me.
Since all of you may not have the time, or the desire, to watch the entire six-hour miniseries "Hatifields & McCoys", I have posted this brief video of what life is like in Hillbilly Country. It is only one minute long, and is equally instructive - and there's several Hillbillies. God bless 'em!
I could go for getting my innards tickled about now.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
About midway through this post, some of you will begin to disagree with me...
Mount Everest fascinates me. For as long as I can remember, I have read and watched anything and everything about people's attempts to climb the tallest mountain on earth. I watched the "Beyond the Limit" series on the Discovery Channel, and the IMAX movie. I read the Krakauer book ,"Into Thin Air", and the mediocre TV movie it inspired. I've read books about Hillary & Norgay (The First pair to summit, and Mallory & Irvine (the pair that might have beaten them by 29 years). It is amazing to read about these climbers.
Everest is in the news again because the brief climbing season of 2012 just ended. And it was rough one - at least four people died. But the fear of death doesn't stop them. Since 1953 over 3000 people have reached the top of Everest. Just a couple of weeks ago a 73-year-old woman summited. The oldest man was 76. A couple of years ago, a 13-year old reached the top. In 2001, a blind man made it to the summit. (At least that's what they told him. No hate mail - it was a joke.)
In fact, there were so many people trying to climb Everest this year, that there was a huge traffic jam. 150 people in one day, 200 people the next. See the dark line in the following photo? It is made up of climbers waiting for their turn.
Some estimates say over 3000 people have stood atop Everest. Over 200 people have died trying - and most of their bodies are still up there. That is about 7.5% death rate.
So why am I so fascinated by Everest? Is it because climbing Everest represents the ultimate battle between man and nature? Is it because it tells tales of what strong men and women can endure? Is it because "It's there"?
Not really. The reason I am so fascinated by climbing Everest is because I think it is the worlds greatest representation of pride and selfishness - completely driven by ego. I am constantly baffled by the entire process - and I watch out of a morbid curiosity to understand better.
Why would I risk my life, and risk leaving my EC a widow, and my kids as orphans to go climb a mountain that thousands of other people have climbed? (Or for that matter, a mountain that nobody has ever climbed.) In this case, a mountain that a 76-year-old man can climb. Would I play Russian roulette with a gun that had one bullet and 10 empty chambers? Nope. I recall tragic stories of men stranded and dying on top of the mountain phoning home to say their last goodbyes to their devastated wives and children. (I would be sooooo mad.)
And the point of saying I climbed Everest is what, exactly? "I stood on top of the world, next to grandma?" "I spent years of my life and huge amounts of money to be able to say "Lookie what I did!" - Knowing full well that the only reason I even got to the top is because I hired some amazing Sherpa to drag me there."
I don't get it. I don't understand how so many people either live their lives in a vacuum, or think they live their lives in a vacuum, that they can risk death doing something that has absolutely no real purpose or meaning - just for ego. Does my life really impact so few people that I can throw it away to cross an item off my "bucket list?"
Then again, I don't understand a lot of things we do. We sacrifice time, talent, and money chasing things that do not matter. Sure, they might matter to us, but that doesn't make them matter. We can convince ourselves that most anything is important if we try hard enough, or invest enough time, money and energy into it.
At the end of the day, we have plenty of mountains to climb that are full of risk and adventure. Mountians that really matter to us and to God. Why go chasing ones that might kill us?
photo source and article
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Many Lamanites repented and converted to the gospel through the teachings of the sons of Mosiah. They felt such grief and sorrow for their past sins, and such joy in their newfound forgiveness, that they made a covenant that they would no longer fight against their brethren, the Lamanites. They called themselves the "Anti-Nephi Lehies." (Don't ask.)
And when they said they wouldn't fight, they meant it. They buried their weapons of war, and never used them again. There were times when the Lamanites attacked and began to slaughter the defenseless and passive people - but they would not fight back. This struck the hearts of the Lamanites, and many stopped fighting and joined with the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. This effectively doubled their ranks, and made the other Lamanites doubly mad.
After the Lamanites backed off, the apostate Amalekites started stirring up trouble. As the danger became more apparent for the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, Ammon asked the Lord as to how to protect them. The Lord told Ammon to go to Zarahemla, where he consulted with the King and the people. Everyone was in agreement that the now-called "People of Ammon" should come take possession of the nearby land of Jershon. They would provide the Nephites with some sustenance, and that the Nephites would protect them from their enemies.
They definitely needed the protection. The Nephites stationed guards around the land of Jershon, and soon enough, the army of the Lamanites showed up to do battle. There was a tremendous slaughter on both sides - Lamanites and Nephites. Eventually the Nephites prevailed, and the Lamanites turned tail and went home.
End of summary.
As we were reading this story, I was thinking about what it must have felt like to be part of the Nephite army, or a family member. I know that the Nephites were righteous, and they had agreed to protect the People of Ammon, but you KNOW there had to be some serious whining in some quarters.
I can't believe you have to go fight the Lamanites again - you just got home!
Why cant the Anti-Nephi-Lehies do their own fighting?
We are just protecting them because they give us food.
What are they going to do? Stand around and watch you die?
It's not fair that you have to fight their battle. It one thing to guard the borders, it's another to go to war.
Besides, God never even asked them to make that covenant - it was their idea! God has always said it's OK to defend our families.
How many of our people have to die to protect them? - and they aren't even Nephites!
So these are the thoughts that I was thinking on behalf of the Nephites as we read the scriptures. Thankfully, most of the Nephites weren't thinking this way at the time. They were wiling to fight and to die to preserve the lives of the People of Ammon.
It is admirable to defend your home, your wife, your children, your country, but it is kind of expected, right? There is self-interest at stake. I'm not going to stand around while someone destroys the things I hold dear. (Red Dawn, anyone?) But there is something even more noble in defending those that cannot defend themselves: The weak, the afflicted, the minority, those that are "different". I find the willingness of the Nephites to fight for the People of Ammon both remarkable, and noble.
Now the connection: I was working in the yard yesterday, and thinking about why I was spending my Memorial Day weekend working, instead of playing. It got me to thinking about the purpose of Memorial Day - a day originally created to pay tribute to the people who died while serving in the Armed Forces.
What does this have to do with the People of Ammon? Most of the lives lost by Americans in war have been lost in the service of someone else. You have to go back to the 1898 to find a war that was fought on US turf, defending US homes and families. Since then, the US intervened in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, as well as other actions.
I was a teenager when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. I remember the protests during that war. I remember people protesting as the soldiers returned home. Protesters will protest.
It's not our fight! Our sons and father's shouldn't have to die to protect them.
Hitler is not our problem.
The British can take care of themselves, and the French are snooty.
Saddam is not our problem.
Why should we die to protect the French, the Britiish, the Kuwaits, the Poles, the Afghans, the Iraqis, the Vietnamese, the Koreans, the Sudanese - they aren't even American.
Why? Because there is nobility in protecting the weak and the oppressed. There is nobility in those willing to put their lives on the line to serve others. Self-preservation and isolationism isn't noble. It's pragmatic.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. I am proud to honor the lives of those who died protecting our Nation and our way of life. I am even more proud to honor those who died protecting those who could not protect themselves.
Friday, May 25, 2012
"Never use a 5-dollar word when a 50-cent word will do." Mark Twain
I wanted to make sure that quote was accurate, because there are dozens of versions out there:
"Never use a 50-cent word when a 5-cent word will do."
"Never use a 75-cent word when a 5-cent word will do."
"Never use a 50-cent word when a 10-cent word will do."
etc. (Obviously this quote has been tweaked for inflation)
I had no idea how hard it would be to source that quote! When I typed "50 Cent" into Google, I got 145,000,000 hits on this guy named Curtis:
|Apparently, Curtis has a lot of quotes out there, too.|
Anyway, I decided to use the quote by Twain, and stick with $5 and 50¢. All of this background was merely to find a quote so I could tell you a quick story that isn't even that important. No, I am not on any medication this morning.
So- to the story - finally.
Yesterday my EC told me that my 4th grader (FOML5), was having some troubles with one of his friends. I wanted in on the discussion, so last night I tried to reinstigate the conversation.
I hear things aren't so good with your friend Jeff lately. What's going on?
He won't play with us any more at recess.
What's he doing?
He won't play with us, he will only play soccer with some other kids.
Why do you think?
Well, some of the kids are saying that he's becoming an egotist.
(At this point I am already suppressing a smile)
An egotist? Wow. That's a pretty big word.
Do you think he's an egotist?
I don't know. That's just what some people are saying.
Do you know what egotist means?
No. But it's bad.
Who started saying it?
Evan. And he's in AP English.
Oh, well that makes sense then. What do you think "egotist" means?
That he's mean and tough.
Have you ever heard the word "conceited?"
What about "stuck up."
That's what egotist means.
Oooooooh. (Light bulb goes on)
Now you wouldn't want people saying things like that about you, right?
So you and your friends really shouldn't be saying things about Jeff that are mean.
It wasn't me, it was Evan!
Well, even if Evan says them, you guys shouldn't repeat them.
Especially if you don't know what they mean.
Alright buddy. Thanks for talking.
Egotist? I know when I was 10 we used to stick with the 5¢ words. I decided to end the conversation at that, rather than get into a discussion about egotism - being that he is only 10, and only has a nascent cognizance of idiosyncratic narcissism.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Last week I posted a video clip of Shawn Rapier doing a stand-up bit about traditional ways we members of the Church begin our talks. In case you had a brief flash of slothfulness, and missed it, here is the post: "How Not to Start a Talk."
Shawn really nailed this topic, and the reason it was so funny is that we all recognize what he was saying from our regular church attendance. My friend that first sent me the link was one of my counselors in the bishopric. We went to lunch last week, and while we were talking about the video, he pointed out something that I had noticed:
Shawn missed one. Probably the one that bothered my friend and I the most - enough that I decided to go back and add it. Here it is...
"Brother's and sisters. I am glad to be speaking to you today. When the Bishop called me on Friday night to ask me to speak..."
There it is: The Time Stamp. It happens constantly.
"The Bishop asked me to speak on Thursday night."
"Bro. Counselor asked me to speak on Wednesday."
"He got me on my cellphone on Saturday morning."
I have to admit that one of the reasons the Time Stamp bothered me and my counselors was that it could be embarrassing. Yes, every now and again, speakers only had a day or two to prepare because we had just forgotten to make the call. Oops! Nobody likes to be called out in public when they mess up.
But what is the point of the Time Stamp? Why even go there? I've thought a lot about it, and here are a few unspoken reasons.
1) Shifting the Blame: It isn't really my fault if this talk is terrible - I just got asked on Friday - so it's the bishop's fault if I do a bad job. (Immediate assumption: I'm bracing myself for a bad talk)
2) I Shall Overcome: Yes, if this talk was good, it was good because I was able to pull it together on short notice - because that's how good I am. (Immediate assumption: Bad talk coming, but you might change my mind)
3) Some Leaders are Sent to Try Us. I am willing to speak, but need to point out that the bishopric is inept because they gave me so little warning. (Immediate assumption: That is so unfair - It's OK if your talk stinks.)
4) I'm So Funny. I needed to start with a joke, and this is all I could come up with - embarrass the Bishop. (Immediate assumption: That's all you got?)
Whenever you hear someone use the Time Stamp, you will see the bishopric smile and nod, or shrug their shoulders, because it isn't really that important - or because they know more than the speaker knows.
Sometimes the call comes late in the week because...
...someone cancelled at the very last minute, due to illness or other personal problems.
...the bishopric has been waiting for inspiration as to who to call to speak on a specific topic.
And what the Time Stamp speaker seems to forget is that the bishop would not call you on Saturday afternoon for a Sunday talk UNLESS HE TRUSTS YOU AND BELIEVES YOU CAN DO IT. I had a handful of sisters and brothers in the ward that I knew I could count up to the very last minute, and sometimes I would call on them - and they would step up and deliver. I cherished them.
So why dump on the leaders for a laugh? Lose the Time Stamp. Let it go. Give the best talk you can, and know that you don't know all the reasons as to why, or when, you were asked to speak.
- I am curious to hear the opinions of brethren who have had the task of assigning talks. -
(That sure wasn't as funny as Shawn Rapier)
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Last night I finally took the entire family to see The Avengers. For FHE. What? Yes, once in a while we go crazy on Monday night. It can't all be profound teaching and testimonies. It was also nice to go a week without singing Book of Mormon Stories, complete with hand actions.
The movie? I enjoyed it. Ten seconds of Hulk vs. Loki was worth the price of admission. Add to that a soda and popcorn, and you can't go wrong. My EC liked it too.
Loki? Oh, I guess I should explain who Loki is. He is the Villain - the antagonist against whom our heroes must contend. He is evil in a cool, smarmy sort of way. But he dresses in ridiculous outfits. Several times during the movie he presents himself in his fancy clothes, complete with an outrageous headdress/helmet thing.
Yes, Loki stole his "look" from Moroni. That is so wrong! From that moment on, I sat watching The Avengers wondering what else they stole from the Book of Mormon. Then I started thinking that they should just make a "Book of Mormon Avengers". It would be awesome.
There are plenty of characters to choose from:
First, you have Nephi - the original triple-threat.
Nephi had the Sword of Laban, and knew how to use it, he could use a bow and arrow like Hawkeye, and the coolest of all, he had the ability to stretch forth his hand and zap people so they would "wither like a reed". Like Iron Man, only better. (more here) And besides, look at those guns - he makes Thor look like a Demi-Wimp.
Then there is Ammon
MIld-mannered shepherd/killing machine. Ammon was so proficient with a sling that he could kill from a distance. But if the fighting got close, he could handle a sword. His signature move? Disarming his adversary. Literally. And again, look at the muscles on that guy!
Teancum's weapon of choice and method of attack was at close-range, with a javelin. He was also really crafty. He was able to sneak into the camp of his enemy and kill the leader. Not once, but twice! (Granted, the second time he didn't make a clean getaway and was killed. Oops!)
Samuel the Lamanite:
We know very little about Samuel, but we know that he had some sort of "force-field" that prevented arrows from striking him. That takes some faith!
Bad guys? Take your pick - there's a bunch of them: Kishkumen, Gadianton, Korihor, Coriantumr (Who was invincible) and of course the tag-team of Laman and Lemuel.
My intention when I started writing this was to give you all the scriptural references to back up the Book of Mormon Avengers, but then I thought - Hey! This would be a fun thing to do with the boys for FHE next week. So, you're on your own. Besides, it would be good for us all to crack the book open and remind ourselves what real heroes are all about.
Monday, May 21, 2012
Sunday, May 20, 2012
There. I said it. I would like to say that I'm not, but I am. This post is not an attempt to justify it, but rather, an attempt to understand this shortcoming better, and solicit thoughts from my wise and attractive readers as to how I can solve it -It is also not a discussion of cliquishness within the church - so put on your thinking caps...
Back in High School, I learned an important lesson. Depending on the school, or the timing, sometimes I was in a clique, other times I was on the outside looking in. The lesson I learned is this:
We usually don't recognize a clique from the inside.
So I looked up the word "clique" on LDS.org to see what the brethren have said about it in conference talks. Imagine my surprise to find that the word "clique" has never been used in a General Conference talk. So I widened my search, and found a wonderful discussion about "Why Mormons are so cliquish"... on... a Catholic website. And a Christian blog. And an ex/anti-Mormon blog.
Apparently there are plenty of people on the outside that easily recognize the cliquishness.
A few years ago, I was participating took part in a Relief Society class and asked the following some questions to look at our lives from the outside. (So these were directed at the sisters - brethren can insert their own similar questions.) Be warned: I am using the term "non-member".)
• The last time you went to lunch with friends, how many non-members were included?
• What is the ratio of LDS to Non-LDS kids in your car pool?
• When is the last time you double-dated with a non-member couple?
• What percentage of the telephone numbers on your phone belong to LDS people?
• When was the last time you took dinner, or a plate of cookies, to someone who was not a member of the Church?
• Who was the last person that you did service for who was not a member of your ward or family?
• When was the last time you invited a non-member to church?
• Have you ever gone camping or on vacation with members of a different religion?
• When was the last time you invited a non-member family to dinner?
...You get the point. Sure, I can ask the questions - but I can also fail the quiz. Spectacularly.
That is the problem - I recognize that I am cliquish. And remarkably so. And I shouldn't be. I also should point out that the smaller the LDS population density is where you live, the better you probably did on the quiz.
I asked my EC the other day the question I heard that prompted this: "Why are Mormons so cliquish." She instantly admitted it was true, then rattled off a list of reasons why. And they were all real reasons. I have added a few of my own. If you are not a member of the LDS church, and you wonder why we are cliquish, here's a few ideas. I am not claiming the are correct reasons, but they are real. When I speak as "we", I am speaking of my EC and me - not my readers - I'm sure you are beyond this in your lives.
1) We hang around with the people we hang around with in the natural course of church activity. There are weeks where we are involved with these same members of the church 3-4-5 days a week. Add in Monday night, and we have precious little time - or desire - to expand our social lives.
2) I really like the people in my ward. The people I worship and serve with are my friends, and I enjoy their company. We share common beliefs, goals, schedules, and attitudes towards many things. I am comfortable around them because they reenforce the things that I am about. For example: If I have an extra ticket to a game, and I can choose to take Dean from my ward, or my non-member neighbor, it is easy for me to choose: Dean. I don't have to worry about who is going to drive, and what Dean will talk about after he has had a few too many beers. It is more comfortable.
3) We are trying to raise our children with certain standards. When my son spends a Saturday playing with a neighbor who only wants to play M-rated video games, and says OMG every thirty seconds, it makes it a lot easy to send him off to play with his LDS friends. (Man, even I can't believe how snobbish I sound!)
4) Our neighbors have been warned about the Mormons. True story: FOML4 and FOML5 are natural missionaries and friendly kids. They succeeded in bringing four of their friends into our ward's Cub Scout pack. After while, they all dropped out. Later, we find out that the pastor at the church they belong to specifically counseled them to not let their kids participate in things like Scouting in the Mormon units, because they might pull you in. How much time do I want to invest in a relationship that is built on paranoia? (Deserved or not!) But the parents of these ex-Cubs are really, really nice, friendly people.
5) We are not only "cliquish", we are "clannish" as well. I want my kids to marry one of us. I desire that the FOMLs marry within the faith, and have numerous offspring - all raised in the faith. That is far beyond a "clique". I don't even want my teenagers to have girlfriends - let alone a non-member girlfriend - even if her standards are HIGHER than my son's. But this is tough, because even lots of people inside the Church don't understand this. (Read about it here.)
I told you I was cliquish, and a bit snobbish, and now I've shared with you why. But it kind of makes sense, doesn't it? Am I alone, or does anyone else fail this test with me?
The problem is that we are supposed to be in the world, befriending and serving others, and sharing our testimonies. That gets hard to do when we are so busy in our Mormon-centric lifestyles. For some of us, the majority of our lives roll on with few opportunities to make really close friends with people outside the church. Even friendships built within the church can fade as quickly as a boundary is redrawn.
In our experience, most of our non-member friends are people we meet through our kids. We've met some really great people through our kid's youth sports teams, school activities and such functions. To further that type of association, I imagine that I could join some type of a group like Rotary, but I would know that I was doing it to assuage my guilt for not being a better missionary.
Guilt? Yes there is guilt there. I was a good missionary in the field, and have been a good missionary when assigned, but my flashes of missionary-ness are less frequent than they should be. Sure, I have baptized coworkers and friends, but not lately. But I know better. My efforts do not align with my knowledge.
I know the essential nature of missionary work.
I know God wants me to do more.
I know that the church I belong to is wonderful, and would bless the lives of anyone and everyone.
Maybe I don't love people as much as I should, or it would spring more naturally. (Enos 1:11)
I shouldn't need to be assigned to "Love my Neighbor."
How do we get out, and get busy?
How do we get past our comfortable, friendly world and extend our cliques to include others?
How do we do it without it feeling like a task?
How do we increase our love for others so this desire to share flows naturally?
Please share your thoughts, and you don't need to call me a snob - 'cause I already did!
Saturday, May 19, 2012
I worked through the night, courtesy of Mt. Dew and Ruffles Sour Cream and Cheddar potato chips. With bleary eyes, I wrapped things up around 4:45 this morning. On my way home, it occurred to me that it would be the prefect time to get some stuff I needed at the store without having to fight the crowds- so off to Walmart I went.
Turns out that this particular Walmart doesn't open until 5:00am. So, I actually stood outside the sliding door waiting until they unlocked it. What a geek. It felt really odd being the first customer.
Apparently there is a door prize for being the first customer of the day, because when I passed by the bakery/deli area, one of the bakery people asked me if I would like a free donut. What a stupid question. Of course I want a free donut. (For those who are concerned, it was a raised donut with chocolate icing.
One of the best parts about going to Walmart is the people watching. As I have mentioned before, there is actually a website dedicated to taking less than flattering pictures of Walmart shoppers. The refer to them as "People of Walmart." It is always fun to see if there are any contenders at our store. But, at 5:01am, there were precious few other customers.
I went on with my shopping...
Hang on - let me back up and do some description to help set the scene:
Last night, when I went back to work, it was all about comfort. I wore flip-flops, some baggy shorts, and an old, beat-up BYU shirt. I ended up staying there all night, and emerged into the daylight with gigantic dark circles under my red, tired eyes. I don't know if there were crumbs on my old shirt, but there were, at best, grease spots. My hair was disheveled, and I had my reading glasses perched on my nose. All-nighters used to be so much easier...
Now we can return to my shopping...
With donut in hand, I took a shortcut that lead me through the clothing department. Smack dab in front of me was one of those "People of Walmart." I took of my glasses, only to realize that it wasn't a "People of Walmart"- it was me!
Worse yet - I had become one of them!
I was leaning against my cart, munching on a donut, looking like a poster child for insomnia - dressed like a slob.
I'm hoping nobody took my picture...
Now that I have shared this abject humiliation with you, my loyal readers - I'm going to bed.
Friday, May 18, 2012
If you have been following the past week, you will know that FOML3 has embarked on his mission, and entered the MTC Wednesday. I stayed home and worked, while my EC and FOML1 left town to go drop him off. Long gone are the days when the missionary brought the whole family into the MTC to sing and say goodbye. Now there is a system that operates with the ruthless efficiency of disembarking Space Mountain, and takes about as long.
On behalf of my wife, I would suggest that they create a post-drop-off parking area", similar to the cellphone lots at the airport. You could call them "Weeping Zones." If other parents leave the MTC in the condition that my EC does, it would be in the best interest of public safety.
Anyway, thanks to technology and free long-distance, I was able to listen and participate in the goodbye process as our Elder left. I have to admit, it was hard. Much harder than we had planned.
When our first son left, we were giddy, and excited, but it was still surprisingly tough. My EC has since proclaimed that the "best kept secret in the Church is how difficult it is to send a son or daughter into the mission field". But since we had already dealt with it, we knew that the second time would be much easier. Right? Right?
Wrong. The second time was worse than the first time. It may not be for all parents, but it was for us. There are a few reasons that could contribute to the surprising degree of difficulty:
First, less than a year ago, FOML2 was rushed home from his mission a few months early with a life-threatening brain injury that he incurred in the field. (If you are a long-time reader, you might remember last summer when I was doing hospital vigil...yeah, that.) He has experienced many miracles, and is almost 100%, but we are still a little gun shy. (Should I ever go public, I'll fill you in on this amazing story.)
Second, FOML3 is much more of a home-body. We are used to having him around. He will leave a gigantic hole in our home. Our utility bill will be much smaller, and the house quieter, but his absence will be greatly felt.
Last, this son was the "runt" of the litter. He had surgery as a baby, hospitalizations, and a lot of health problems over the years. I think we are just a little bit more protective of this one.
Even so, away he went, full of faith and desire, and with our faith and blessing. We were sad to see him go, but would have been sadder if he had chosen not to.
Yesterday I was siting at my desk, and a wonderful lady who has worked for me for 15+ years, saw that I was a little "misty". She asked if I was OK, and I told her that I was fine. She is not a member of the church, but lives a very religious and Christ-like life - she has watched most of the FOMLs grow up. I felt like talking, so I invited her to pull up a chair.
I asked her a simple question: "So, do you think we're crazy?"
"No", she replied, 'Why would I think you're crazy?"
"You have watched us send two of our sons off on missions - and you know what happened last time - what do you think about it?"
"I think it's fine...if that's what they want to do." Implied in this statement was a thought she had expressed before - that kids go because they are pressured to go, rather than out of a sincere desire. "I'm sure it is good for them to get away and grow."
"I couldn't agree more,"I responded. "If he didn't really want to be there, I sure wouldn't have wanted him to go."
And then I must have gotten a "preachy face" or something, because before I could say anything else, she stood up, and was ready to go. Before she walked away she did say, "You know, most nineteen year-old boys are trying to figure out how to put together enough money to get drunk all weekend." Smart lady. She gave me a smile, and walked out.
Opportunity missed? Maybe. Maybe not.
At this point of the post I had intended to indulge in a sermon highlighting the "right" reasons to serve a mission vs. the "wrong" reasons.
Instead, I think I'll just put it out there that we are thrilled that FOML3 is serving, and we know that he is prepared, and doing it for the right reasons. (And yes, there are right and wrong reasons.)
So - are we crazy? Maybe - but not about this!
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Ever since I started this blog, I was planning on writing a post about the things we do when beginning a talk in church that drive me crazy. I had four or five items to address - items you are all familiar with - but I never got around to writing it out.
Lo and behold, last night a good friend sent me a link to an educational video that demonstrates this mater far better than I could ever explain it. Think of it as an introductory course on "How NOT to Begin a Talk in Sacrament Meeting."
Now I realize this video is five years old, and that many of you have already seen it, but it is new to me. And it is well worth two minutes of your time. I promise.
My thanks to Shawn Rapier. I think I'll go back to bed for a few minutes.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Friday evening, we gathered for pictures - all of us. Our nuclear family +1, soon to be added. Sure I grumbled, but I know it is important. When we get the picture back, it will go on the wall with two other paintings: One of a holy temple, the other of our Savior Jesus Christ.
The portrait of our family is a visual reminder that we have been sealed together by the authority of God, in a holy temple. We are bound together beyond this earth life. Like glue. Friday we experienced something new for us: We included in the picture the soon-to-be eternal companion of my son. Our family is beginning to expand through new sacred ordinances.
Friday night, we celebrated the beginning of another eternal family. The daughter of some of our most enduring friends was sealed in the temple that day to a man she adores. They expect to be together for eternity, and they can be. At the reception we visited with people who hold special places in our hearts and memories. It was a joyful night.
Saturday morning, my son had the great privilege of quietly sitting as a servant of God laid his hands upon his head and blessed him. This kind, elderly friend holds a special gift of revelation, and the title of Patriarch. My EC and I quietly listened as the windows of heaven were opened and the Holy Spirit whispered words of counsel, and promised great blessings upon our son. It was made clear that the Lord has high expectations for him, but the potential blessings are beyond comprehension. It was a joyful, teary, sweet morning.
Early Sunday morning, my EC awoke to breakfast in bed. Mother's Day - or as I tell my kids - the most important day of the year. My EC has been a mom now for 24 years, She is really good at it. She has the patience and sweetness that I lack. She is raising up a righteous family, and teaching them how to love. I adore her. Later that day we would make her a special meal, give her gifts, and remember how blessed we are to have her in our lives. We are blessed because of her faithfulness, and willingness to sacrifice career, comforts and health to bring five children into this world and make this family her priority.
Sunday morning, we attended church. Not just because it was Mother's Day, but because it was the Sabbath. There, we participated in the sacred ordinance of the sacrament - a representation of the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Through this simple ordinance, we have the potential to be made clean, and to renew the covenants and promises we have made with God. Because He is merciful
We then listened to children speak and sing songs of appreciation for their mothers. There is nothing that can trigger smiles as quickly as singing children...
But then, our son stood up to speak. Tomorrow he is entering the MTC. He stood and spoke about sacrifice. I was amazed at his maturity, and his skill as a speaker, at his depth and delivery. But what pulled at my heart was hearing him express appreciation for the sacrifice of mothers - especially his own mother, but that's not all. He went on to rightly bear testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and gave his witness of the divinity and reality of Jesus Christ. He knew what he was saying was the truth. I could feel it.
Sunday evening, as Mother's Day wore down, members of our family came to our home. Aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, and grandma, all gathered to enjoy a last chance to visit with my son, and to wish him well. There is strength in those relationships. And grounding.
Monday evening, our Stake President came to our home. He is the leader of the Church in our area. He holds the priesthood keys and authority to conduct the affairs of the church for us. We gathered a a family. We prayed, we shared testimonies. And then, the President gently laid his hands upon the head of my son, as his brother, his uncles, and I joined him. By authority given him by Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, he set my son apart to serve as a full-time missionary. He pronounced blessings upon his head: Blessings of health, and knowledge, and protection. He offered wise counsel as directed by the Spirit of inspiration. Blessings that will guide and help my son as he leaves his family and the comforts of home to serve the Lord in a far-of land. Blessings that will comfort him, and those of us that remain behind.
This morning, our family gathered at the crack of dawn to read scriptures - like we always do. We are currently reading the Book of Mormon again - a book that was delivered and translated by the power of God through a prophet of God. Today, we happened to be reading in Alma 37-38, as Alma counseled his missionary sons. When my turn came around to read, I found myself reading aloud:
"And now my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, see that ye look to God and live. Go unto this people and declare the word, and be sober. My son, farewell." (Alma 37:47)
Emotion prevented me from choking out the words, and my eldest son stepped in to finish reading for me.
We knelt together in family prayer - like we always do. My wife thanked God for our family, and the sealing power of the temple. She expressed our gratitude for so many things, and pleaded for blessings for our son, as only a mother can do.
Our family is awash in the Spirit, and tears, and gratitude. For 85 hours we have witnessed the power of God in so many different forms. We have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. We have witnessed ordinances performed by God's authority and with power.
"And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest." (D&C 84:19-20)
In a mere three-and-a-half days, our family has seen the power of godliness working with our family, over and over and over again. We have been blessed with understanding and interaction with God that the vast majority of the earth's population does not comprehend. We all participated in these ordinances to receive guidance, comfort, and cleanliness.
And this was our weekend. Not because we are special - these things are available to anyone and everyone - but because we are richly blessed.
Why am I a Mormon? Because it doesn't get any better than this.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Last week we played a game called 3 Truths and a Lie. Today I will reveal the lie. Drumroll please...
Wait! Before I do, I would like to mention a couple of things:
A) Mother's Day was great. My EC is the best Mom EVER.
B) I thought my Mother's Day post bordered on pure genius, but hardly anybody else did. Hopefully you were all just busy enjoying Mother's Day. (To those that liked it, thank you. Especially Daisie for trying to use it in her sacrament meeting talk - you are my hero.)
C) Here are the statements in review:
1. I was once bitten by a lion in Africa, as my Zulu guide just stood and watched. I survived.
2. I live in Utah. I have survived.
3. I was once trapped in an ancient temple in Bangkok, and rescued by a Buddhist monk. Survived that too.
4. I am not at all famous. If you learned my name, you would not recognize it.
D) Here are the results (Composite of both polls)
47% - Lion
26% - Bangkok
14% - Utah
13% - Famous
86% of you got it wrong... Everybody went with the idea that the crazy stuff must be false. Oops!
I was once bitten by a lion lion Africa. TRUE
I was once trapped in an ancient Buddhist temple. TRUE
I am not famous. TRUE
Which means....DRUMROLL PLEASE!
I don't live in Utah. (Well that was a little anti-climactic, wasn't it?)
You may ask, "Why MMM? Why would you reveal such an important part of your non-identity to the public?" Here's why: Every now and again I get a comment or email that suggests that since I live in Utah, I have a very limited view of the world, the church and its culture - or other such nonsense. This should be especially insulting to the twenty or so people from Utah that do not have a limited world view.
However, I was raised in the "shadows of the everlasting hills". I grew up in Utah, I lived there for almost half my life. But I don't anymore. I have family and friends there, and visit often to see kids at school, go to conference, etc. I LOVE Utah. I have relatives there - my heritage is there. I love the mountains, the snow, the fry sauce, and scones. Utah excels at creating wonderful unhealthy things to eat. I love seeing white steeples dot the landscape, and I love me my Cougars.
But the Church is not just a Utah church, and we need to get better at communicating this to the world. When I am making observations on Mormon culture, it is through MY personal prism of having lived both in and out of Utah. My experiences are different than yours - but don't try and diminish my thoughts by asserting that I would know better if I just got away from the Wasatch Front. That is why I spilled the beans. (A couple of beans)
So, there you go... If you guessed right, congratulations!
Have a great Monday!
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Well brothers, if you forgot to get the shopping done for Mother's Day, then you blew it. But never fear - I am here to help.
Over the years, when my children were out of money, or forgot to shop, they would throw together a last-second coupon book to give to their Mom. I have also gotten some coupons for Father's Day and birthdays. Once in a while I even remember to use them.
So, if you are just now realizing that you blew it, and your kids are unprepared to honor the most important woman in their lives, it is not too late to help them save face. I have put together an assortment of coupons that your kids can print out and give to their Mom. I have created heartfelt coupons for kids of all ages - even teenagers.
So, get printing, and help your better half have a wonderful Mother's Day.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
I learned first-hand in Africa that many tribes have the belief that when someone takes a photograph of you, it steals part of your soul. People would actually run and hide when the cameras came out. I learned this the week before I was bitten by the lion. ;)
I always thought that this belief was some ridiculous tradition based on ignorance and fear of the unexplained- but I'm beginning to wonder.
As you know, last night we had family pictures taken. The photographer took hundreds of pictures.
Now it is Saturday morning, and I just can't seem to find any motivation to work on my Sunday School lesson for tomorrow.
(Oh c'mon. They all can't be "gems" - besides, it's not like you're paying anything for this.)