Thursday, December 24, 2015

I got humility for Christmas

So on Christmas Eve I was sent to the store for a few last minute things. The store parking lot was packed with cars, and I knew the shopping experience would be crowded.

I parked my car at the edge the parking lot and made my way into the first store. When I came out, I went to drop off my purchase in my car before moving to my next stop. As I approached my car I noticed a man wandering around the vehicals.

Because the area I was parked in was near where I had seen panhandlers, and he didn't seem to be going anywhere, I assumed he was a beggar. I judged him. I figured he was looking to accost shoppers and ask for money.

I went into my avoidance pattern. I didn't look at him. I avoided eye contact. I'm sure my posture was shouting, "leave me alone." But he still spoke to me.

"How are you doing?" he asked.

"Fine." I said. Saying as little as possible. I turned my back on him and put my bag in my car and locked it. Then I turned back around.

He was closer to me now. And he was holding out his hand. "Do you know anyone that could use a little exrta this Christmas?" In his hand was a $100 dollar bill.

I said, "But...." a bit incoherently and he put the money in my hand.  Then he walked away.  I took a step after him.

He looked back before he got in his car and we made eye contact. Then he quickly got in his car and drove off. And I just stood there, more guilty than I have ever felt before.

I had judged a fellow man in a glance. I had deemed him unworthy of even a polite greeting. I had given him my cold shoulder. And I had been rude in my response to his salutation.

I'm ashamed of my behavior.

He was none of the things I had judged him to be. But even if he had been, that wouldn't have excused my actions toward him. The poverty of my heart was greater than I knew.

This is my confession. And my commitment to do better.

Because I know that I can do better.

I know that I should do better.

And I will do better.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Why I'm an Organ Donor

Well, I guess I'm not yet. I mean I still have all of my organs. Well, okay, when I was seven I had my appendix out. But I don't count that as a donation. No one really wanted it or anything.

But for years I have checked the boxes on my drivers license and filled out the forms to authorize the donation of my organs in the case of my death. And I seriously think this is something everyone should do.

Today we have great technology. We fly through the air. We talk to people around the world and up in space. We can search entire works of not just the great writers, but the mediocre ones, in seconds. And we can take an organ, like a heart, from someone that doesn't need theirs anymore. And give it to someone that will die without it.

Its like magic. Its like a miracle. And it could happen more often.

Here is the deal.

Lets say you are like me. You have filled out the forms, and checked the boxes. And then you are out riding your bike and get hit with a car. A few hours later, your next of kin is being told that you are brain dead.

At this point they ask a question. They ask them if they can use your organs. Because now that you aren't breathing on your own and can't make any choices, your next of kin get to make this choice.

And they are grieving. I've done my share of grieving. This is not the time when you want them to have to talk about this. But if they don't, it will be too late.

I shocked the doctor that told me that my son was not going to live when I asked him about organ donation. I asked the doctor if there was any need for my son's organs by anyone else. I think he had prepared for lots of different questions, but this was not one of them. He had to go and make some calls.

As a society, we need to re-examine how this works. I'd like to see my choice to be an organ donor be the default option. The doctor kindly tells my next of kin that they should say goodby before the transplant surgeons come. But not give them a decision to make.

I already made it. I want to be part of a miracle.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Terrorism: Why is this happening?

I studied Political Science in college. It was lots of fun and I found it fascinating. And this may explain why. One day in a class on foreign policy, the topic of terrorism came up. Some people make some funny comments, but the professor brought us back around. And the conversation went something like this.

“Do you want to know why terrorism happens? Because we know why it happens. There is a model for it that comes from game theory if you take that class this will make more sense to you."

Then he drew a game theory model on the board. 

“Basically it works like this. In political climates you are used to dealing with, the probability of getting what you want is pretty good. You go into an election, and vote for a president and there is a non-zero chance that he will be elected. And as a group that keeps you coming back to the voting booths year after year."

“But lets say your political objective is not to have a republican or democrat or even an independent in the white house. Your objective is to get rid of presidents and congress and elect a king or dictator for life. What is the chance that this will happen with our current political system? Yep, its zero. No one will vote for it, and no one will support it."

“At this point we turn to the equation. You see as long as achieving your goal is greater than zero, then terrorism as a tool for political change is the worst choice. But once your chance of achieving your goal is zero or so close to it that it doesn’t matter, then terrorism or what we call the illegitimate political actions becomes your only options."

He filled in a couple of models on the board with goals and probabilities. 

“So as long as two things remain. First, the goal of the PLO is the goal to expel or kill all the jews and overthrow Israel. And second, lacks a legitimate way to do it. (like some form of referendum that Israel would accept) then terrorism is their only option. Remove either of these, and terrorism will stop."

“Pick your political conflict. IRA wants self rule, and can’t get it. So there is terrorism. Afghanistan’s people what Russia to go home but they won’t leave, so there is terrorism. And so forth.” (this was a while ago.)

Now the equation hasn’t changed. Just the players. There are people that want France to change her laws, respect Mohamed, even introduce a little sharia.  France won’t do that, so there is terrorism. 

Right now, in the USA, it looks like we have places that are willing to toy with a little sharia. We have lots of people, press, media, politicians that are preaching tolerance and change to not “offend muslims” and respect and honor their traditions and legal privileges. And so there is a non-zero chance that such changes will happen.

There is a non-zero chance that we could see laws that give sharia courts jurisdictions in some areas or in some matters. Or both. There is a non-zero chance that we might import enough muslims to start influencing elections this way. And that we might convert people to this faith. 

It may be a long shot, but its non-zero. (I know many people are saying, “Over my dead body.” but understand, that is the idea.)

Right now, there are people looking at the USA and scratching their heads in wonder. They never dreamed that this would ever be possible. They are so excited to send us refugees and people they know will cause us to bend over backward to make comfortable. 

So we will feed their population, clothe them, and they will become voters. And if they don’t melt in the Great American Melting Pot, but remain true to their original purpose in coming here. We will have an electorate that will vote for things we could never have dreamed of. 

And if this process continues, we won’t see much terrorism. There will be a bit from the impatient ones. But mostly, it will be a peaceful transition to a theocracy. 

But if we stop this. If we elect a president who will reject the refugees and the influx of populations that are not willing to become americans. If we make achieving this goal of islamification of the USA a zero chance, then we will see more attacks and acts of terror. And those are our choices.

We don’t have any others. We can choose to welcome the enemy in and slowly surrender to him. Or we can shut the enemy out, and he will fight us openly to try and get us to start letting him in again. 

Well, I guess there is one other choice. You see, that equation has two parts, a goal and its chance of being achieved. The goal in this case is the spread of Islam and Sharia. If we set the chance at zero we get terrorism. 

But what if we change the goal? What would that look like? How could that be done? How do you change the objectives of a people that is theologically opposed to your freedom?

All of the answers are beyond me. But some of them aren’t. And in this case we have to overcome this bizarre idea that Americans have that religion and politics can be separated. The politics of Islamic Terrorists is not somehow separate from their religion. Its not based on economics. It doesn’t follow the geopolitical models that we use in dealing with China or the USSR/Russia. 

So the solution can’t ignore this. (Warning, these are going to be blunt and viewed as extreme by everyone. They are.)
 
Solution 1: Convert the nations of Islam to Christianity. I don’t really care which denomination. Or even make a new one. 

Solution 2: Fine, if converting nations to christianity doesn’t work for you, how about Buddhism? Spaghetti Monsters?

Solution 3: Kill all of the Muslims that practice branches of Islam that promote spreading of Islam by the sword, or the spread of Sharia. (I guess if kill is harsh, we can send them to some prison somewhere.)

Solution 4: Wage a rather expensive campaign where compounds are build at every population center with a muslim population. These are going to have two functions. First, they are a target for the righteous wrath of zealots. They will have non-islamic religious symbols and people, probably lots of women running around not keeping islamic standard of dress, behavior, etc. Second, they will have lots of gifts to give away to the youth and adults of the population. Not exactly bread and circuses, but the same goal. Make every attack by the zealots on the campout threaten the supply of free internet, free computers, and free candy. 

I could go on, but the solutions don’t get more palatable. Us Americans have grown up in a world where we help each other. We learn early that if we are just nice to people we can win their friendship. But this lesson only applies to people that have goals that are like ours. Not goals that are directly opposed to us. Not our goals, but us. 

But don’t get your hopes up. Just because I have written down solutions that are actually solutions. That doesn’t mean anyone will do them. We don’t have the political will right now. We would rather argue about minimum wage, and civil rights, and reparation to the great grand children of slaves. We want to fill our minds with making laws about love and punishing those that won’t bake cakes for them. We want to raise taxes and go deeper into debt at the same time.


Anything that doesn’t make us come up with a solution to a problem and to deal with an actual enemy that means us harm.  

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Holding hands inside my heart.

Four years ago today I said hello to a beautiful child. Every child is a blessing. And I felt very blessed.

Four years ago tomorrow, I said goodby to that beautiful child. And I felt many things.

I took this picture on our last day on earth with him, as he lay in the hospital with his hand reaching out. I may have never been able to shake his hand or teach him the wonderful ways our hands can be used to serve each other. To create things. And the joy we get from just holding the hand of someone that you love.

I am grateful that I took this picture. Because I will be holding his hand inside of my heart for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I'll be what you want me to be.

There is a song that is often sung at Church entitled, "I'll go where you want me to go" and it is referring to the Lord. It's very missionary oriented as we sing that we will go where the Lord wants us to go, and say what he wants us to say, and be what he wants us to be.

I really like this song.

I have a firm belief and testimony that I am where the Lord wants me to be. There have been times in my life where I received direction to move to new places and take on new responsibilities. For the most part, I have followed these directions.

One of the hallmarks of faith as a Mormon is that the Lord prepares a way for his children to do the things he has commanded them to do. So when I felt the Lord tell me to move across the country and take care of my parents, I did it. It wasn't easy. It wasn't a good financial decision. But there were blessings for following the Lord when he calls. And there were things that were waiting for me that I could never have planned for.

Should Everyone Be Like Me?

As a Mormon and as a Missionary, I have at times challenged people to make great changes in their lives. Challenges to give up smoking and drinking. Challenges to be sexually pure. Challenges to pay a tithing of 10% of their income. Challenges to join Christ's church and leave family ties behind. For some people these are hard things. For some people these are easy things.

But I don't think that everyone is like me. Nor do I think everyone should be. I am me. The Lord made me and has a purpose for me. My purpose is not the same purpose as your purpose. So while he asks me to challenge you to be more. I don't judge you in this challenge. I hope for you. And I wish for you. But you are not me, and only God knows what he is telling you about what you should be.

I have a testimony, a spiritual confirmation that my choices to be a Mormon, and have children, and follow the counsel of the church and the living prophet are certainly true. I know them. If I were to turn away from the Mormon faith even in the tiniest way, I would be going against what God wants of me.

But.

I have some family and friends that are not of my faith. And they are sure that God wants them to be true to their churches and the doctrines associated with it.

Who is right?

I'd like to say that there is no wrong way to follow God. But as we have read about Cain in the Bible. He may have made sacrifices to God, he certainly did it wrong. And so there are most certainly wrong ways to follow the Lord.

But isn't there one and only one right way?

I'd have to say, "No." as my answer. "And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" What is Christ's answer? "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." And this is what I also answer to the question. If you feel the spirit in your life, and your manifesting God's works, then you are living the way the Lord wants you to live.

Even if you don't belong to my Church.

Don't get me wrong. There are few joys greater than helping someone find greater truth. When I have the opportunities to teach and baptize in the name of Christ I know that I am doing the work he has sent me here to do.

I invite all to come and learn more.

But for those that can't abide more than they have. Or those that come and cannot or choose not to join with me and my faith, I know that you can still have the love of Christ in your life. You may still be fulfilling his purpose on the earth.

I say may, only because I know that accepting the Gospel of Christ is always a good thing to do. I know that not accepting and joining my faith does not mean you have rejected God.

I believe that not everyone has the same path to walk to get back to God. I believe that there are more ways to follow Christ than there are ways not to follow him.

I invite everyone to come and learn more. And I testify that Christ loves you no matter what you choose.  And if you let him in, he will use you to bless others and in this you will find joy.

So be what Christ wants you to be. He probably won't want you to be someone else, but he will want you to be there when he needs you.  And by being there, you will be doing his work.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

How to make things real

So I just watched a Ted talk by John Green  and he started out by relating how a fake town became real. After watching it I turned to my son who asked, "Why is he talking about that fake town still." John started talking about Agloe, New York, a town that was invented by some map makers to copyright their map. He tells the story really well. But at this point I responded to my son's question.

"He's talking about the same things that I keep trying to talk to you about." I said. "How if you believe in something, it can become real."

He looked at me with a face. A face that said, "What my dad just said sounds like a joke. He can't be serious"

So I explained how this magic happened.

First, there was a map that had a fake town on it. Because it was on the map people believed it was there. This, by itself didn't make the town real.

But because people believed it was real, they would go there. People with maps, that needed gas for their cars, or groceries or a bathroom. These people would go to the place on the map that said there was a town. This also didn't make the town real.

But the people going to the fake town caused something. They caused a market force to exist. And other people responded to this market force. People responding to the market force build a gas station so that people that believed there was a town would not run out of gas.

Once there was a gas station, there was a job for a few people at the location, and one or two of them decided they would like to live closer to where they worked, and build homes there.

Before long, there was a small grocery store to sell to the residents of the fake town, and to people stopping by to get gas at the gas station.

These residents needed to mail letters, so a post office was built there. Which employed more people, who wanted to have a school, and so on.

And soon, the fake town was real. It was real, because people believed their map, and so believed the town existed. This believe and the actions that sprang from it caused the fake town to become real.

All because people believed in it.

In our lives, we have a map of things we think might be real for our futures. If we believe in them. If we thing that one day we might be able to go to our own personal Agloe, then the forces the shape our world may make it real. And the more we believe in that future, the more actions we will take that will make that town on our map real.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lions, Abortions, Illegal Aliens and Racists

Somethings just are what they say they are. Somethings do what they say they do. The truth isn't (or shouldn't be) offensive, illegal, or wrong on any level. Legal or Ethical. Yet for some reason some people don't see it. Maybe they can't see it. Or more likely they are used to some things, and no longer see them. But when something that is also wrong or bad that they are not used to comes along, they jump up and down. (I'd call this throwing a tantrum, but that might be offensive. So I won't.)

Is shooting a lion wrong? Its not illegal. You can get a hunting permit for it. But being legal doesn't make something right. Lions are apex predators.  They are at the top of their food chain. Go watch the lion king and listen to Mufasa's lesson to Simba. Things hunt and eat each other. Lions are at the top of their chain. They hunt and eat things lower on the chain.

Man is also an apex predator. We are at the top of our food chain. When apex predators share the same area they normally have a conflict and one predator is driven out of the territory. But man is different. We have moved into virtually all of the territories. So he makes room for the others and intentionally doesn't behave as nature would intend. He doesn't just kill them all off.

Killing off all other predators would be the "right" thing to do. It is the natural thing to do. It insures that all of the natural resources and all of the other prey animals are safe for us. Safe for humans. Nature tells us that not killing the lion, but leaving it around in a park so that it can compete with us for food, and haul off a poor village child when food is scarce, or the lion is sick or injured and can't hunt is the wrong choice.

Killing lions is the right thing for man to do. Nature says so.

Killing lions and other predators is a right and good thing. It is what it is. Somethings just are true. And this is one of them.  But what about killing off other people?

Abortion prevents the successful birth of a human child. Even if the child is not legally alive, its still a potential legally live human. Minor children are not fully vested with rights, so should we allow abortions up to age 18? Animals all have an instinct to care for and protect their young. Some don't protect the young of others, but all protect their own young.

So when a human mother intentionally destroys a potential human in her body, she is doing something legal, but this is still wrong.

Some things just are wrong. And this is one of them. Nature tells us that we should protect our own young. Even those that are not fully matured. Even those that have yet to take a breath.

There is nothing offensive about being against abortion. Protecting the life or other humans, especially the young, is an instinct in us. People who hold other views are going against nature.

But what about laws. Is breaking a law always wrong?  Yes there are bad laws, and sometimes good people have broken bad laws in order to effect change. But no, breaking laws is always wrong. It just is what is ways it is. Illegal.

When people say that illegal aliens are criminals, they are stating the obvious. Just like illegal human trafficking is a criminal act. And illegally entering my home and taking my stuff is a criminal act. Going to a country that has laws about who can enter and when and where they enter, and entering in a way that violates those laws, is also a criminal act.

Its not racist to say that illegal aliens are criminals. And its rather obvious that people that choose to enter in this manner include people with other criminal tendencies. My buddy may enter my house through an unlocked window with no harm intended. But others that enter my house through the unlocked window will include the thieves, murderers and rapists. (its a good idea to close those windows. And if you are a good person, you should enter through the door to avoid getting shot before I notice that you are a good person entering through the window.)

If a person came to my door and identified as a thief, murderer or rapist, I would deny them entry. And a person entering my country identified as a thief, murderer or rapist would also be denied. So it is obvious and logical so assume that the thief, murderer and rapist are going to choose the illegal entry method.

Illegal aliens have broken at least the laws of lawful entry. Thus they have started down a path of disobedience to the laws of my country. Why is it assumed that they will respect all of or any of the other laws when they are here? And even if they do, illegally entering a home or country is offensive to the legal residence.

Entering in a country illegally is wrong. It is what is says it is. Calling people that point this out racists is also wrong.

Somethings just are what they say they are. Somethings do what they say they do. The truth isn't (or shouldn't be) offensive, illegal, or wrong on any level.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Why are you here?

In November of 2011, a week after my wife and I had lost our baby less than 24 hours after his birth I was sitting in church. It was a rough time. I was barely holding it together most of the time. I ducked into the bathroom so that I could cry in semi-private between classes.

To tell you the truth, this was the one and only time that I can remember feeling abandoned. I know that I wasn't. But my emotions were so out of control, and so intense that I couldn't feel the spirit. I couldn't feel someone listening on the other end of my prayers. I felt alone. I felt a lot of other things too. Sorrow. Grief. Anguish. But what I wanted to feel was the comfort of the holy spirit. Something that I was and am use to feeling on a regular basis.

Instead, I felt like I was locked in an echo chamber of my heart. I tried to pour out my soul, but all I could hear was my grief and pain in my ears. It was the single worst time of my life. I hope never to experience this type of pain again.

But I'm getting off track. I was sitting in church. And one of my friends came over and asked me a question. He asked, "Why are you here?" Well he started with, "Wow, you and your family have just gone through hell. If anyone is staying home from church it should be you. Why are you here?"

And he was right. I was in great pain. My family was all in great pain. If we had a living new born baby, I would probably have been home taking care of the new mom and baby. And no one expected me to teach a class or perform any of the tasks that lay members of my church perform.  Everyone, including me, would have felt I was completely justified in staying home. I don't think even God would have held it against me. Its not like I was feeling the spirit or anything by being there. I was just numb.

And he was wrong. I was damaged. Spiritually damaged. I needed to get as close to places where the spirit was strong so that I could heal. I had no intention of trying to lead my family through their grief and pain without the guidance of the holy spirit. What could I have achieved by staying home? Getting used to feeling numb? Not a real solution for me. I rely on the guidance of the Lord through his holy spirit just for normal husband and father stuff. I was way over my head without it. And so avoiding anything that was going to help me heal spiritually was just not an option.

I had to choke out an answer. And then blink back the tears. I said, "Where else can I go?" He understood, and those around us understood. When you need the healing balm of Jesus applied to your soul, there are few better places to start than to go to church.

I'd love to say that after this angels came and brought my son back to life. Or that I became endowed with great wisdom. Or that my wife and I were able to conceive and have another child. None of these things happened.

What did happen is that after a few weeks of plodding on I suddenly realized that it was back. The spirit was back. I cried again. It wasn't odd during this time, but for a different reason that most of the others. I was no longer alone.

When I read in the Bible the account of the crucifixion, and I read the words that the savior speaks when the Father withdraws his spirit from Jesus. And he cries out, "My God, why has thou forsaken me?" My heart breaks for him. This never touched me as it does now.

Not that my small pain of loss was anything like the atonement. But it was all that I could bear. And not that my unworthiness of heaven's blessing is anything like Jesus's perfection befor the Father. But in a small way, my heart is recognizing the feeling of aloneness.

And in a small way, I understand the atonement a little better.

I love Jesus. And I love my son Freddie. And I can't wait to be reunited with them again.

When I think what might have happened if I had stayed home. If I had turned from God and never gone back. Would anyone blame me? Probably not. But how much I could have lost if I had just stayed home. It makes my heart ache for my friends that have let themselves get lazy about their faith. Or some that have just turned away to explore some other path.

I want to shout, "Hey, come back. You're going the wrong way!"

So I write my witness this day. I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that he loves me. I have felt his love and I know that it is true and has the power to make the pains of this world bearable. And it makes the joys of this world sweeter. And in the end, we can return to him. I know this is true. I have felt it and know it just as I know there is a sun and moon and stars in the sky. I feel it in just as sure a way as I can feel when the wind blows on my face. And even though I can't share my experience of seeing the stars or feeling the wind. I can invite you to join me and feel it for yourself.

Or if you felt it before. To invite you to feel it again.

Thanks for letting me share this with you. May God bless you.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The songs I cannot sing

Many years ago I read a story about a young woman and her caretaker. The young woman was disabled and needed care for her daily needs. Her disability was to such an extent that she could not talk and make her thoughts and needs known.

She communicated by blinking, one blink for no and two blinks for yes. Her caretaker would sing to her from time to time as she did things like bathe and dress her. And one day asked her if she had a favorite song?

She blinked twice for yes.

After guessing a bit and going song by song through the hymnal, the young woman blinked twice again. The song was, "There is Sunshine in my Soul Today." So the caretaker sang this song for her, but was wondering why this was her favorite song. When she got to the second verse on the second line she sang, "For Jesus listening can hear, the songs I cannot sing."

She stopped here and asked if this is why it was her favorite song.

This story has stayed with me for years. And it is something that I think about often.

I enjoy writing poems and think that I am good at it from time to time. I am proud enough to thing I have a bit of a talent for writing. Its a hobby I have pursued most of my life. But there are many times that I find myself struggling to  find the right word or rhyme.

When I come back to something that I wrote and published in the past. Sometimes just a few days earlier. I see it with critical eyes. Its not as good as I thought it was while I was writing it. At least not to me.

I try, from time to time, to write poems and posts about my testimony of Jesus Christ. Of his gospel. And of the things that help me to be strong and happy in this life.

Sometimes when I come back later and read them, I wish I had spoken more clearly or used different words. But there is something that I never regret.

I never regret bearing my testimony or bearing witness of Jesus. I know that he hears not only the words that I say and post, but the words of my heart that I meant to say, but am unable to write, speak or sing.

As a poet and writer, I sometimes feel like I am just grunting out my stories and poems. But I know that as unintelligible as I can be, that Jesus can hear what I am meaning to say.

For the rest of you, I just have to apologize for my flaws. I'll try to keep the grunting to a minimum.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

In search of truth about Mormons

I've been having a few conversations with people about their choices of staying or leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints, LDS, or Mormon Church. I'll just call this "the Church" for brevity and not wanting to experience carpal tunnel. I have learned quite a bit about them, and a bit about me.

I know this isn't really a religious blog. But the topic came up and is something that I think about often and have deep feelings about. And to sum up why this fits, here is a quote that I heard in college and has resonated with me ever since. "I believe in Mormonism, like I believe the sun has risen. Not because I see it. But because by it I see."

To put that in more verbose words that aren't nearly as poetic. I don't just believe in the Church because I have attended, felt the spirit, gained a testimony through the holy spirit's witness, and witnessed confirmations aplenty. Not just that. But I believe in the Church because I live in a crazy chaotic world that would fill one with despair if not for the perspective of eternity that the Church offers me.

All of my friends that I have been talking to recently, who have left the Church, are making the claim that they have discovered that the Church isn't true, or isn't really Christ's Church because of something they have learned. Basically, they once believed, but after study, and reasoning, they have determined that that belief was an error and their faith was misplaced.

I find this interesting. First, I didn't acqure faith, and a testimony and knowledge of the gospel by simply study and reason. I did study. I did reason. But my faith isn't based on earthly evidence. Its based on the confirmation of the Holy Spirit.

To use their method of reasoning we are building this logical construction.

  1. The Holy Spirit testified of the Church.
  2. Reason and logic tell me the Church is not correct.
  3. Therefore the Holy Spirit must have lied to me.
Or

  1. I felt the Holy Spirit testify of the truth of the Church.
  2. Reason and logic tell me the Church is not correct.
  3. Therefore I didn't really feel the Holy Spirit
  4. And I will never be able to find the truth because I don't know how to recognize it.
Or....

I could go on, but they all boil down to the Holy Spirit either lying, not caring, or being much less than it is described to be. But this doesn't seem to faze my friends. And one said to me when I was asking them about feeling the spirit when reading the Book of Mormon and praying. 

She said that she had felt the spirit when reading and praying, but that we shouldn't rely on that good feeling when we have questions about Church history or doctrine that we can't answer. Or where the answers aren't satisfying our curiosity. 

Interestingly there is a place in the Bible where Christ deals with this exact issue. After Christ was crucified and rose from the tomb, he visited the twelve. But there was one named Thomas that was not with them when he came to them. In John 20:25-29 there is an account of what happened next.

But I can imagine the conversation before Christ appeared to Thomas. He would have told Peter that what they were saying wasn't reasonable. It didn't make sense. There was no compelling evidence. The Jewish leaders said the body had been stolen, and that was so much more likely. There was a complexity penalty to the logic of a resurrected savior.  The good feeling they had believing this was nice, but they needed to look at the facts and the evidence. 

I'm sure all of these arguments were made, and I know they have been made down through the ages about Christ. I feel proud to be apart of a Church that is receiving these now. 

But in Verse 29 Christ tells Thomas, "Because thou hast seen me, thou has believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

This is a special message from Christ to all of us living today. We are truly blessed when we acquire faith in him without needing to touch and see him. 

Unfortunately when I try to make this comparison, my friends seem to think I was telling them to stop thinking and become mindless drones. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I am trying to encourage is an examination of where they have chosen to look to the acquisition of knowledge.  

Most of us have all our senses. We can see, feel, touch, taste, and smell. But those are not all of our senses. We can also love, and hate. We can also wonder, and feel pride. We can be scared and feel fear. And we can feel brave or protective. 

When you feel like dancing or singing, what sense are you feeling that with? Just because you ignore it and don't dance down the grocery isle does not mean that you didn't, actually, feel it. 

I feel with the Holy Spirit. Its like a sense in every sense of the word. Just like seeing and touching. No, it doesn't mean that I can shut my eyes and let the Holy Spirit guide me to the door without hitting walls or tripping over my kids shoes. (But then with my eyes open I trip on their shoes too, so...)

The Holy Spirit's mission is to testify of truth. And having this truth detector means that I sometimes make choices that I can't explain all of the reasons for. I can give reasons, but sometimes the real reason was that I felt like it was the right or wrong thing and do did or didn't do it. 

When I read the Book of Mormon, I feel the spirit. When I pray, I feel the spirit. When I go to Church, I feel the spirit. And all of these feelings are that these are good and righteous things that are pleasing to Christ. 

So in the end. If the Mormon Church asked me to wear funny hats all the time, or never shave my beard, or give a portion of my money to the Church, or abstain from certain foods, or media, or offer prayers multiple times a day, or visit the poor, or leave my home and occupation for a couple of years to preach the gospel, or speak and act in specific ways. (It does ask some of these things by the way. But not all. We can talk about that if you like in the comments.)

If the Mormon Church asks me to do or not do something. I accept it. Not because I am a drone, but because I get a confirming feeling that it is the right thing. A good thing. And I try to do them as best I can because I like that feeling. 

I like the feeling the Holy Spirit gives me. It tells me the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a true church that is pleasing unto God. And next to that, confusing words of men and discrepancies in 100 year old records or fads in this years fashion of morality don't really matter. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How do simple things confound the wise?

In a word, easily.

But to expand on this idea just a bit, let's use two groups of people. And a common miracle that confounds the wise. The groups are believers, and nonbelievers. The miracle is the origin of man.

Here is how this works. Some really smart guys find evidence of evolution in species. And they start telling people about it. It gains popularity in some circles and large groups accept this as fact.

The first group of wise men, the believers, start to worry that this will cause people to stop believing in God. Some freak out and call this evidence a lie. And the people who teach it heretics.

The second group of wise men, the nonbelievers, feel a bit like they have been attacked. Which they have. And some think they have found the silver bullet to end religion. They run around trelling everyone that this proves religion is a lie, and the believers are stupid.

Both groups are wrong of course.

If we stop for a second and put aside the debate. And listen to the words of the prophet Ether, in Ether chapter 3 verse 5, " We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men." We can gain real wisdom that can lead us to real knowledge.

To the believer, evolution may be part of a miracle. Why should we bother to argue about it?

To the nonbeliever, even if evolution is the source from which man was created, it certainly doesn't rule out God. Why would you think otherwise?

A truly all powerful God doesn't have to perform miracles with something like a UFO landing in your yard. He can simply cause a butterfly to land on a branch and start a chain reaction of events to build his kingdom. Or even better, He can inspire a simple follower to an act of charity to lift and give aid to those in need.

The purpose of God is accomplished, and its a miracle. Even though the mechanism to produce the results was anything but miraculous.

To the wise men that believe in God. Hold to your faith and don't worry about your detractors. It will do you good. It may do the world good.

To the wise men that don't believe in God. You should keep studying the world through science or whatever methods you use. It will do you good. It may do the world good. Keep it up.

To both groups, fighting just makes you both look silly. (Yes Bill Nye and Ken Ham, I am talking to both of you.)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bedtime Stories



I started a podcast.

Its called "Once Upon A Bedtime Story" and is at OnceUponABedtimeStory.com

It all started with a story. A bedtime story. A story that was told over and over. And that story goes like this.

Once upon a time, the end.

That is Daddy's favorite bedtime story at my house. And yes, I know its not a ringing endorsement for a bedtime story podcast. But you see, the world is full of books and stories. Some of these are bedtime stories for children.

And over the years I have read quite a few that are much longer than my famously short story. But in this, many of the stories are repeated many times.

Repetition is not a problem so much for the child as it is for the parent. And one of the big challenges for me was that I wanted to read something new, and if not new, at least something that was a change from the same story read on the previous 5 days.

And I heard about a grandmother who recorded the reading of bedtime stories for her grandchildren. And my idea was born.

What if there was a way to have orally read stories available on a podcast, (actually I have been thinking about this idea since before podcasts were a thing) and then people could listen to them with their children, or play them for their children over and over as a way to aid busy parents and still impart the culturally significant and brains stimulating content of a story read out loud.

And so I have launched this podcast. I hope you give it a listen, subscribe to it, rate it on itunes, and tell all of your friends about it.

And please let me know if you like it.