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Friday, November 11, 2011

Church History Symposium 2012

I just received word that I was accepted to present at the Church History Symposium this year.  This is awesome for a couple of reasons:

1.  My paper is on the development of thought behind D&C 138.  For those of you who don't know, President Joseph F. Smith received a vision about the ministry of Christ in the Spirit World, for the 3 days before His resurrection.  The main thoughts are on whether or not Joseph F.'s vision, showing that Christ "organized His forces" rather than visiting those in the Spirit World, were new ideas or not.

2.  No undergrad has ever been accepted.  I don't think one has ever been dumb enough to apply.  As Peter Jay Elliott once characterized me, "you're dumb enough to ask, smart enough to know you have to.

When I got the acceptance e-mail in class, I teared up.  I love this Church.  I love its prophets.  I love its history.  I love that the Church is both true and living, that things can develop and change, as needed.  And I love you all, for supporting my writing, my nerdy love of talking history, and for supporting me.  I love you all more than I can say.

I love my life.  The next step is to try and live up to the opportunities I've been given.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Jesus said "Love Everyone"

I’ve recently been listening to some favorite talks and interviews with General Authorities.  Here are two: one with President Hinckley, and one with Elder Holland:

President Hinckley: Experiences Worth Remembering 
Transcript of the full talk
“I had a long-remembered meeting with Mr. Shimon Peres of Israel. He was a former prime minister. He had seen much of conflict and trouble in his time.
I asked him whether there was any solution to the great problems that constantly seem to divide the people of Israel and the Palestinians. He replied, “Of course there is.”
As I recall, he said, “When we were Adam and Eve, we were all one. Is there any need for us now to be divided into segments with hatred for one another?”
He told a very interesting story that he said he had heard from a Muslim. The Muslim told of a Jewish rabbi who was conversing with two of his friends. The rabbi asked one of the men, “How do you know when the night is over and a new day has begun?”
His friend replied, “When you look into the east and can distinguish a sheep from a goat, then you know the night is over and the day has begun.”
The second was asked the same question. He replied, “When you look into the distance and can distinguish an olive tree from a fig tree, then you know morning has come.”
They then asked the rabbi how he could tell when the night is over and the day has begun. He thought for a time and then said, “When you look into the east and see the face of a woman and you can say, ‘She is my sister.’ And when you look into the east and see the face of a man and can say, ‘He is my brother.’ Then you know the light of a new day has come.”

The second thought, tied in with the thought above, is the transcript of aninterview that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland had with PBS, during the making of the documentary, “The Mormons.”

Where were you when you heard that the ban was lifted on blacks in the priesthood?

“I can remember exactly where I was. For us that's the "where we [were] when Kennedy was shot," this deep, deep, spiritual, emotional moment in the history of the church. I was a very young commissioner of education, still in my 30s, and I was coming over from my office in the church office building to the suite of General Authority offices for something or other. ... I walked into the office of the General Authority I was going to see, and he said, "Have you heard the news?" This was barely moments out of the temple meeting and the announcement where it was official. And I said: "What news? I haven't heard any news." And he said all worthy men -- regardless of race or status or circumstance -- all worthy men are to receive priesthood.

You're going to think all I do is cry, but this is in the same family as that missionary experience I described to you. I started to cry, and I was absolutely uncontrollable. I felt my way to a chair ... and I sort of slumped from the doorway into the chair and held my head, my face in my hands and sobbed. 

There's no issue in all my life that I had prayed more regarding -- praying that it would change, praying that it would come in due time. I was willing to have the Lord speak, and I was loyal to the position and the brethren and the whole concept, but there was nothing about which I had anguished more or about which I had prayed more. And for that to be said in my lifetime, when I wasn't sure it would happen in my lifetime, ... it was one of the absolute happiest days of my life.”

I rejoice that the gospel, with all of its blessings are available to all of God’s children.  When all worthy men were given the opportunity to receive the Priesthood, it meant that temple work could be done for all.  Men and women could be sealed in the Temple.  Because of Jesus Christ, we can return to live with our families in God’s presence.  Because of the Church’s belief that “all are alike unto God,” we should all love each other as brothers in sisters.

President Hinckley, later in the same address, said:

"I have given you a sampling of significant occasions that have forever touched my life.
They have influenced my thinking and my behavior. They have affected my life in an unforgettable manner.

You likewise will have significant experiences. I hope that you will write them down and keep a record of them, that you will read them from time to time and refresh your memory of these meaningful and significant things.

Some of them may be funny. Some may be of significance only to you. Some of them may be sacred and quietly beautiful. Some may build one upon another until they represent a lifetime of special experience."

I love the Lord, and his servants, the prophets.  Please remember your own experiences, your own favorite quotes, and share them.  


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Joseph Smith and Revelation

I'm currently enrolled in Grant Underwood's "Joseph Smith in Mormon History" class at BYU.  My textbook is "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling" by Dr. Richard L. Bushman, recognized inside and outisde of the Church for his scholarship.  Reading his book just gave me a huge "AHA" moment.  Let me explain.

I have wondered for years why the revelations before 1835 were favored in the Doctrine and Covenants.  When the Twelve were called, the burden of “direct” revelation was taken from the prophet, and transferred to leading councils of the Church.  What a beautiful system that the Lord has created!

Joseph Smith’s ability to apply, adapt, and expand on his own revelations fantastic to me.  But he did he not only rely on his own revelations, but he seems to have recognized (to an extent) pragmatism and Priesthood should work hand in hand.  Revelation was not only parting the Red Sea, it was organizing Israel’s camp. It was not only Jesus multiplying the bread and fishes, it was the distribution of the bread and the fish.

A final word about revelation, from President Henry B. Eyring.  This is from an MTC address that he gave several years ago, while he was teaching mission presidents how to teach missionaries to teach by the Spirit.  Some of this is paraphrased, but you get the idea:

"You may think that revelation is easy for me, because I'm an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But it is not.  Revelation is hard.  I'm supposed to teach you by the Spirit how to teach hundreds of others how to teach by the Spirit.  That is a near-impossible task.  That is why I stay up late at night worrying about assignments like this, pleading the Lord, reading his word, and trying to figure out how to say what is most important. It is HARD."

Revelation is hard.  We have prophets, councils, and the Spirit to teach us what to do.  

Sorry these thoughts are so scrambled.  I just love the Prophet so much.  If he could do so much, with so much on his plate, and so little experience, it gives me hope that I can in some small way help build the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 Years Later: 9/11/2001

Ten years ago, I was driving to Indian Hills Middle School, during the first month of school. I was in the car with Tommy Ballard, my best friend. We heard the news that someone had crashed into the first World Trade Center, and I felt as if it was a horrible accident. Then came the second plane. And the third, into the pentagon. And the fourth, into a field in Pennsylvania.

On this ten year anniversary of one of the formative moments of my teenage life, it’s hard for me to express the horror and shock I still feel at the events. But perhaps even more important is the aftermath, 2 wars, a worldwide depression, even silly things like losing Leathermans to the TSA (3 and counting).

The first emotion I remember feeling is a desperate desire for revenge. My 13 year old self thought that someone needed to pay for that crater in the ground, and the thousands of empty places at dinner tables, work spaces, and family prayers. I remember hating Osama bin Laden, and praying that he would “get his”, that he would know something of the pain that he and his cronies had caused.

That took a long time to get over.

My next feelings were sympathy for my fellow Americans. I wanted to hug each person that had been affected, and tell them that everything would be ok. In my fledgling faith, I wanted to be able to explain that this was all a part of a divine unfolding, that God was the Gardener, and He knew what was best.

That desire hasn’t left me. I still know that God is in control, and that He has a plan for all of His children. But my faith has developed to the point where I can see that God has a plan, but that it includes the perspective that He allows us to make mistakes, even ones that cost the lives of thousands of His children. God, in His wisdom, will “force no man to heaven,” but endows each of his sons and daughters with the dangerous ability to choose what each person wanted to do for himself.

In God’s wisdom, in His patience in allowing us to even kill one another thinking that we are doing Him a service, (See John 16:2) He reminds us that those who do so “have not known the Father, nor me” (John 16:3). It would also be wise to remember that Athiests, Jews, Christians, and Mormon have all supported and participated events that are not representative of their beliefs and principles. Again, God allows us to choose. It is tragic at times, but beautiful at others.

We MUST choose to do one thing, and that is forgive. We cannot become embroiled in bitterness or apathy towards others. We must not think “God will punish them, and I am justified in feeling how I feel.” That’s the most un-Christlike, unkind thing a person can do.

We MUST turn to God, like this woman has.

Sandy's Story

We MUST love our fellow men, because we love God, or if we don’t believe in God, because we believe in doing the best we can.

It takes time to heal. It may take longer for some to forgive, but peace will bind the broken heart, if that peace is sought in the proper way (John 14:26-27, 16:33).

A modern day Apostle, George F. Richards, taught us something concerning forgiveness, by relating a dream he had experienced:

“I dreamed that I and a group of my associates found ourselves in a courtyard where, around the outer edge of it, were German soldiers--the Fuehrer Adolph Hitler was there with his group, and they seemed to be sharpening their swords and cleaning their guns, and making preparations for a slaughter of some kind, or an execution. We knew not what, but, evidently we were the objects.
But presently a circle was formed and this Fuehrer and his men were all within the circle, and my group and I were circled on the outside, and when we walked around and I got directly opposite to him I stepped inside the circle and walked across to where he was sitting and spoke to him, in a manner something like this, "I am your brother. You are my brother. In our heavenly home we lived together in love and peace. Why can we not so live here on the earth?"
And it seemed to me that I felt in myself, welling up in my soul, a love for that man, and I could feel that he was having the same experience, and presently he arose, and we embraced each other and kissed each other, a kiss of affection.
I think the Lord gave me that dream. Why should I dream of this man, one of the greatest enemies of mankind, and one of the wickedest, but that the Lord should teach me that I must love my enemies, and I must love the wicked as well as the good" (General Conference, October 1946).

This dream was less than a year after Victory-in-Europe Day. If people could find it in their hearts to forgive Hitler, and all those who had wronged them in this world war, we MUST find it in our hearts to forgive others.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I've come to know that the Lord will "raise up friends and pour out peace" and "joy cometh in the morning."

These past few weeks have been pretty difficult for me. I know everyone's life is difficult, and things go wrong, and that people have their down times. And what happened isn't really important, other than it has been a struggle to see the bright side of life for a few weeks. The passing of Greg Gray really through me for a loop, and it turns out that I'm not nearly as tough or prepared in other aspects of my life that I'd like to pretend I am. But it is also true that the Good Lord knows me better than I know myself, and knows that I have things to work on. I've been a big baby in a lot of ways. I'm sorry for that. I'm not going to go into detail either, besides to say that I've felt betrayed and confused. I'm sorry for the lack of detail, but I appreciate the prayers and positive thoughts!

Through these experiences, I've realized and remembered that I have the greatest friends in the world. Sometimes I don't think it's possible to realize the kind of friends that you have until you feel like you don't have any allies.

When Joseph Smith was going through his experience in Liberty Jail, sometimes referred to as a "Prison Temple" (because of the revelations received there), the Prophet was worried. And troubled. And felt alone.

The Prophet was in jail on trumped up charges, in a room that didn't allow him to stand at full height, poisoned food, attempts to feed him human flesh, and his wife had just had a child. His people were being driven out of the state at the point of gun and bayonet. He had reason to worry and to ask God "where art thou? And where is the pavillion that covereth thy hiding place?" And seemingly pleading his case, reminding the Lord what the Prophet had endured for Him, and that the Prophet had done nothing to deserve this treatment, acknowledging the power the Lord had, he asked:

D&C 121:2 How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

3 Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?

In all the tender love of a Father, and with a sweetness almost unparallelled in scripture, the Lord replied:

D&C 121:7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

9 Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

The Lord, in His knowledge that the Prophet needed to go through this in his eternal tutelage, and knowing that the Liberty Jail experience was difficult and potentially deadly, reminded Joseph that the Lord had given him true friends, that would not leave him.

The Lord has referred to his disciples as His friends on many occasions in the scriptures, and saying that "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) He also said that "I will call you friends, for you are my friends." (D&C 93:45) That is a promise. The Savior laid down his life as our Friend, Brother, Savior, and Redeemer. He is still our "kind, wise Heavenly Friend."

The Lord has also said that He will not "leave us comfortless, I will come to you." Promising help "Not as the world giveth, giveth I unto you," but an Eternal perspective and peace that cannot be purchased. No amount of money can buy peace of mind. Only obedience and application of the principles the gospel.

President Ezra Taft Benson has said that:

"Men and Women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision,quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles,lift their spirits, multiply their blessings,increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace." Ezra Taft Benson

I've been reminded of that in the past week. Friends have come, as well as peace. They have come hand in hand, both through just being around friends, and the love that have come (in my mind) as directed by the arms of the Savior.

There are too many people to mention, but I have been greatly appreciative of the text messages, facebook messages, and e-mails from concerned friends and family. To them, I say, I'm doing great. After all, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." I've had my night or two of sorrow, and am now more focused and happy than I have been in months.

I love you all. You've done more for me than I can say.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Greater Love Hath No Man Than This" Greg Gray

Video Courtesy of

On July 23rd, 2011 Greg Gray passed away, a drowning victim. He had dived into the river where his family had been fishing to save his sister. His sister survived, but Greg did not. My heart is full as I try and express my feelings about Greg, some words of inspiration he gave me, and some reflections on death, and Greg's love he showed in his death.

I regret that I only knew Greg for 4 1/2 months, while we served in Beaverton, Oregon on our LDS missions. Though I did not know him for a long time, I loved him dearly. I knew him while he was serving with Elder Duncan Tuitakau, and I was serving with Elder JJay Jensen. JJay and I were organizing a zone meeting, trying to uplift and inspire the rest of the Hillsboro zone to new heights. Our zone had been reaching new heights in terms of confidence, work, faith, and attitude. Baptisms and conversion came as a bi-product of these factors, and JJay and I wanted to make sure the trend would continue. I don't remember much about the zone meeting, other than great trainings on unity by some members of our zone, and that there was a powerful spirit in the room when the floor was opened to sharing testimonies. Elder Gray, fresh out of the MTC eventually stood and took the floor. After almost 3 years, I can't remember his exact words, but this was the gist of what he said:

"I didn't decide to serve a mission because it was the easy thing to do. I didn't come to Portland for myself. I came for every single person that I come in contact with. I came to show the love that the Savior would for each of them. I didn't come on a mission to be recognized, or patted on the back. I came here to work."

Those words deeply impacted me. I had been out almost 20 months at the time that I heard Elder Gray's timely testimony. I was reminded that I was also called on a mission to work and love, and to do my best, not to be recognized as the best.

Greg lived up to his words. Through the death of his grandfather, some alarming and scary situations in his first transfer, and hard work with his companion, Greg and Tui saw great success in their own personal growth, and in persons gaining faith in Jesus Christ and then acting upon it. Greg was a spiritual leader, and he rallied those around him to new heights.

Greg's faith and character shined when he passed away, when he dove into the river, I would guess without any hesitation. He showed the Savior's compassion, and lived the Savior's words that "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) He lived the Savior's commandment that "That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

It can be easy to ask the question, "why Greg?" The answer is that we don't know. Death comes to each one of us, in the words of the author Chuck Palahniuk, "if you stretch the timeline out long enough, everyone's survival rate drops to zero." But it is in situation of the young, the good, and the loved that we oft can wonder "WHY?" The answer is that we don't know.

President Spencer W. Kimball once remarked that not everyone dies because they were called to a great work on the other side to do (although, undoubtedly Greg is very busy as a missionary on the other side). Sometimes people just die. Sometimes alarming and sad things happen, through no fault of our own. Some are "appointed unto death," but sometimes it just happens. I think, perhaps, that it is in these times that we feel our faith stretch and grow.

But I do know something. I do know that Greg would want us all to go on in faith, and love, and working hard for the good of others. I think that Greg would have wanted us to become better from this experience.

"Greater Love Hath No Man Than This" will be forever changed for me. I am so grateful that the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. I am so glad that when our spirits separate from our bodies that we return to the God who gave us life. And I am so very grateful that "because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death."

May the Lord help us all to remember Greg, his example, and the love he showed.

This may also help: Tragedy or Destiny by Spencer W. Kimball.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Link Bomb 7/16:

The newest Mormon Message from Jeffrey R. Holland

A new Paris, France?

The new temple site in Fort Collins, Colorado.

An LDS missionary was mauled by a lion in a Guatamalen zoo (and lived!).

New York Times article on the Hill Cummorah Pageant.

This is a great one to share: an historian on the most important things in the Book of Mormon.

Not really LDS related, but a BYU comedy group did a Harry Potter parody of Katy Perry's Firework."

Official Church Apps for iPhone.

The "Sister Wives" family is petitioning to make polygamy legal. Joanna Brooks asks the question, what would Mormons do if polygamy became legal?

If you're an LGBT Latter-day Saint, PLEASE participate in the survey on this page:

An interview about Mormons with the Interfaith Alliance President, who recently defended the public slander of Mormonism on Fox News.