Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Messages in the Night


Early this morning as I was semi-awake, a phrase from a Christmas hymn was playing over and over in my mind:

“And He leads His children on to the place where He is gone.”
 
Those words, coupled with the words from the poem “The Gate of the Year,” generated an image in my mind of my being led through a great darkness by the Savior as he held my hand:

"I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
   ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
  And he replied,
   ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
   That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way!’"

 
I think the encouraging message to me was that I can travel through much darkness or trials in my life with peace and even joy, as long as I stay focused on Him who is leading me, and the reality and safety of His strong hand holding my hand.
               
 "The night is dark and I am far from home, lead Thou me on."
 


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"


 
For some Christmas Spirit, click on the following link to watch an exquisite music video. (Or copy and paste the link.)
 
The pianist is Jon Schmidt and the cellist is Steven Sharp Nelson. The video was filmed at the LDS church’s Jerusalem set in Goshen Utah. The video also features portions of New Testament videos filmed there by the church.



Merry Christmas.

PS: try this one too!
 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Not the Benedict Arnold of Christmas



Did you happen to see the recent headlines about Pope Benedict that falsely implied that he said the traditional Christmas story was not true?

The major media (CNN, The New York Daily News, etc.) published headlines like this:

“Killjoy pope crushes Christmas nativity traditions”
"Pope sets out to debunk Christmas myths"

Of course, I was shocked and dismayed that the Pope had apparently lost his mind and had caved in to atheism.

But there was something about such shocking news that didn’t quite ring true for me. So I did a bit of investigating (on the internet) to find out what the truth really was.

The brief story in the local Deseret News by Matthew Brown, “Vatican comes to the defense of pope’s book on Christmas,”  was almost too brief. It merely noted the current media flap, but left out the important point that the Pope had been misquoted and misunderstood! The five people who sent in comments to the Deseret News obviously thought that the Pope was probably guilty as accused: the Benedict Arnold of Christmas.

However, on the website, firstthings.com, Kevin M. Clarke, set the record straight, showing that the media reports were sloppy journalism at the very least. His parting words:

As should be painfully evident, there is a big difference between what the media says that the Pope says and what the Pope himself actually says. Each time the waves settle from their slipshod coverage, the media should find that it has displaced a bit more of the public trust, trust that they will deliver the truth about Vatican news. They forfeited my trust a while ago. If anyone were to ask me, “How should I read news about the Vatican from the secular press?” I would say, “It can be useful for information, but must be read with a fundamental principle of uniformly applied suspicion and doubt. In other words, read it in the same way in which they would have us read the Bible.”

In reality, we probably should regard any and all of the media’s news stories with “Uniformly applied suspicion and doubt,” not just stories about religion. But especially about religion!

Sad, but true.

Even Matthew Brown of the Deseret News did not work very hard to set the record straight on Pope Benedict. He missed an opportunity to defend someone misrepresented by the mainstream media. Shame on him.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Astronomical Baloney


Astronomical  baloney often shows up unexpectedly. The other night, I was watching the first show (the pilot) of “Warehouse 13,” a SyFy Channel series now on DVD. In one scene, Pete, the hero, is gazing skyward into the night sky in South Dakota and says something about seeing Leo, Cygnus, and Sagittarius.  According to the online character profile, Pete “has extensive esoteric knowledge, including popular culture and astronomy.”

Most viewers probably didn’t know or care a fig about the constellations that Pete mentioned. However, it came into my ears like hearing a novice attempting to play the violin. Something was definitely off key.

So, I asked myself: Is it actually possible to see Leo, Cygnus, and Sagittarius at the same time? The answer is, not really.

Sagittarius is a summer constellation that is located by looking southward. Leo is a spring constellation that sets in the west by the time Sagittarius becomes fully visible. And, the constellation Cygnus is found in the northern half of the sky.

Obviously the writers were not intentionally making Pete look like one of those fakers who merely pretends to know something about astronomy, or who was randomly name-dropping constellations in a failed attempt to impress Myka. Because, if so, since she is the bookish one, having grown up in a bookstore, she would have spotted his balderdash and immediately challenged him. So, why did Pete name those three particular constellations? There is nothing that logically or visually connects them.

I suspect that it was the writers who were just randomly name-dropping constellations…. Just think: they could have chosen Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila, the three constellations in the “Summer Triangle.” Or they could have name-dropped the three bright stars of the Summer Triangle: Vega, Deneb, and Altair. At least those names have logical and visual connections.

 Astronomical baloney also popped up in Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River, which I reread recently. I expected better of this author who, for many years, was a reporter and producer for Minnesota Public Radio.

The first astronomical blunder Enger made was on page 117 when he wrote that as evening fell, “Stars were appearing. Venus in the east.”  (Italics added.)

The immutable astronomical facts are these: Any time that Venus is visible in the evening, it is always seen in the west, never in the east. The only time that Venus can appear in the east is in the morning.

The second astronomical mistake Enger made was on page 224. Enger has Reuben seeing the “blue disk” of either Venus or Jupiter in the South Dakota sky just after midnight in the winter.  

Two problems. First of all, Jupiter does not appear to be blue; it looks more yellowish.  

Secondly, it would be impossible to see Venus at midnight in the winter in South Dakota. Perhaps south of the Arctic Circle in northern Alaska during the summer, you might possibly see Venus at midnight, because Venus is found during the twilight near the sun. This obviously could never happen in South Dakota in the winter.

A suggestion for Enger: The most noteworthy star in the winter skies suitable for determining general direction would be Sirius (found in the southern half of the night sky). Also, some easily spotted winter constellations can help with direction: Orion and The Big Dipper. Traditionally, the Big Dipper and the North Star/Polaris in the Little Dipper are used to establish the direction north. In the early 1960s (the timeframe of the story), every kid in Minnesota knew that. I knew that (I was there). Reuben, who was a kid from Minnesota, would have known that.

For some reason Enger seemed fixated on Venus: Two references to Venus – both of them inexplicable nonsense. Astronomical baloney.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

David and Goliath 2012


 
As you may have previously surmised, I am not into rock music. Classical is more my style. So, prior to a few days ago, if someone had dropped the name Brandon Flowers while conversing with me, I would have been completely clueless.  Not so today. Although I’ve not listened to him sing, and I cannot name any of his hit songs, I will now call myself one of Brandon Flowers’ fans. Why?

While on a concert tour this summer, Brandon was being interviewed on a Norwegian TV show when the host asked him questions about his Mormon faith. After Brandon responded with positive remarks about prayer, the Church, etc. the host brought out another guest, the famous atheist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins, true to form, launched into an attack on Joseph Smith, whom he called a “charlatan,” and the Book of Mormon, which he called “an obvious fake.”

It was apparent that Brandon was surprised by this deliberate and cynically planned ambush. The goal of the show seemed to be: Let’s humiliate this Mormon guy -- and don't give him a real opportunity to respond.

So, after Dawkins spewed forth his huge disdain for the Mormon faith (looking directly at Brandon as he did so), Brandon responded: “The book's been studied and torn apart and looked at — and I am not one of the professors that have done it — but to call this man a charlatan, I take offense to it.” He also told Dawkins that he (Dawkins) “needed to do his research” (on the Church and the Book of Mormon). Dawkins huffed that he had done his research, “obviously.” 

Brandon, of course, was absolutely right. Real scholars who have actually done honest research on the Book of Mormon, undoubtedly would agree that there were tell-tale signs that Dawkins had done no true research. His argument against the Book of Mormon was a "straw man" argument that would earn Dawkins a C-minus in any college logic class. Dawkins, in fact, is himself the charlatan -- a person who pretends to have expert knowledge or skill that he does not have. He specializes in sound bites, and he has no real interest in the truth. Obviously!
 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Of Friends (and Cousins)

Suppose you were befriended by a kindly person during the saddest time of your life. Would you not love that person and see his friendship as a gift from a benevolent God who saw your need and sent an angel?

I have a favorite movie in which a forlorn, unloved, and tortured young man named “Smike” is rescued from the clutches of evil people, and taken in as a brother by another young man named Nicholas. Smike, who is an orphan, suddenly enjoys the love of a family for the first time in his life. When Smike contracts tuberculosis, Nicholas takes care of him like a father, until Smike dies. Nicholas then lovingly buries him near his own father’s grave. In every way, Nicholas loved and served Smike as a beloved brother. Only later does Nicholas learn that Smike was actually his cousin. Smike’s father and Nicholas’ father were brothers. This movie, of course, is Dicken’s novel, Nicholas Nickleby.


The fact that Nicholas loved Smike so faithfully and purely was touching and inspiring. But when we learn that they are actually cousins, suddenly, something quite profound seems to have been at work. The hand of Providence brought the two young men together during a trying time in both of their lives, to be a blessing to one another, and for the purpose of reuniting and sustaining their family.

Have you ever had such an instant rapport with a new friend that you have felt to remark, “we must have known one another in the Pre-existence”? That’s how I felt about my friend, Anita, who first entered my life about thirty years ago.  A new perspective has emerged this past week on that wonderful friendship. She is my cousin. Thirty years ago, she was indeed a gift sent from God – God who cares about blessing our lives (while also uniting and reuniting and strengthening families). This week while I was working on Family History, I made the connection in my ancestry with Anita’s. Knowing now that we are family tells me that our friendship thirty years ago was indeed brought about by the hand of Providence. A smiling Providence.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. (T.S. Eliot)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Marathon Man


The London Olympics will come to a conclusion on Sunday, August 12. The final event of the Olympic Games is the men’s Marathon which will happen on Sunday. No other event is scheduled on the closing day of the Olympics. Clearly, it is the capstone event. Two weeks ago on July 27th, as the Games were set to begin, a vivid memory from a previous Olympics came to my mind: Frank Shorter winning the Marathon in 1972.




After winning the Gold Medal, Frank Shorter instantly became a household word in the United States.  I remember being inspired as I watched him run: I so wanted to run like him. I was not alone in my feelings. Frank Shorter is credited with triggering the running boom in the USA that occurred in the 1970s. And the rest is history, as they say.



Thursday, August 9, 2012

Inexorable

"Inexorable" was the word that came to my mind as I contemplated today's date and my having arrived at this point in time.

My first acquaintance with the word inexorable occurred in my UMD English class when I was a freshman in college. Or it might have been a word in one of Robert Frost's poems. It's a word that, over the years, I have repeated silently to myself, letting the syllables roll over my tongue: in-ex-or-a-ble. It sounds so profound.

Inexorable means something cannot be prevented or stopped. The passage of time is inexorable. The arrival of old age is inexorable.

One of the great things about living many years, is the many priceless memories. Because of my many priceless memories, I am a "wealthy" woman today.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Stephen R. Covey


Two weeks ago, on July 16th, Stephen Covey passed away at the age of 79; he’d have celebrated his 80th birthday in another 3 months. For me, his death was completely unexpected because he always seemed ageless, full of life, and as energetic as though he would live forever.

And he could have, but he now is enjoying "other scenes of haste."

In April he was out riding his bicycle in the foothills of Provo when he crashed while going downhill. He didn’t break any bones. However, even though he was wearing a helmet, the impact caused some bleeding in his brain. This is what ultimately took his life three months later.

So, the accident happened as he was “sharpening his saw” with aerobic exercise. He was pro-actively taking care of his physical body in anticipation of living a long, active, and productive life. He was setting an excellent example for all of us; he was following his own admonitions found in The 7 Habits. I can just picture him on his bike, wearing his helmet, looking like a Tour-de-France guy, grinning at me as he zooms by, with that familiar twinkle in his eye. I shall picture that whenever I think of him from now on.

I met Stephen Covey before he became world famous (in the early 1970s). For the last 12 years, since moving here from Albuquerque, I have thought of Stephen Covey every time I have driven down into Provo from Orem. His house in Provo stands out conspicuously in the foothills of the Wasatch Front.

I have, on my bookshelves, three of his books, including, of course, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’ve read 7Habits several times. About twenty years ago, I even bought a dozen copies and gave them away to my friends, because I was convinced that he had “nailed it.” What had he “nailed”? The “character ethic” is what he called it. A formula for successful leadership is what millions who’ve read the book have called it. A “Personal Reality Check” is what I call it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Great Minds Think ...


Timothy Clark, in today’s newspaper, made some points in his column that tie into my previous two blogs. Among them:

If children don’t taste real success [or, in other words, accomplish something worthwhile], they may look elsewhere for fulfillment. They may get the idea that pleasurable pursuits are the equivalent of solid achievement. That is of course what our inane popular culture teaches, and children tend to believe what they are taught. The truth is much of the pleasure we seek is a waste of time. It leads to mediocrity, untapped potential and even destructive addiction.

If our children go back to school and have amassed nothing but hours on the gaming, Internet and television log, it will be a lost summer. We have a vested interest in our children, and we know the mass media does not.

Some of his recommendations?

Teach your children that the grand aim in life is not to consume, but to create and contribute. It’s a whole lot more fun.

Identify projects to complete: service, arts and crafts, music, cooking, gardening, learning a language, sports, home improvement.

To read more, go to http://desne.ws/KipoGV

My previous two blogs were each written without knowing what might catch my eye in the next day’s newspaper. I termed it serendipity yesterday when a new article tied into my previous theme. Three days in row, however, is more notable than mere serendipity. And it’s more notable than merely a case of  “great minds think alike.”  

“In the mouth of two or more witnesses shall everything be established.”

Yesterday’s newspaper URL for the article on the effect of electronic media on our brains and relationships is http://desne.ws/LzLkyc

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fried Brains and Frenzied Souls


Today’s newspaper carried an interesting article titled “Electronics Overload” – which I thought was a serendipitous follow-up for my previous blog (“Summer” – see below), in which I touched on the behavioral and psychological drawbacks of too much empty electronic media, resulting in a tortured emptiness of soul.

Coincidentally, last week’s newspaper sounded the alarm about children spending 3 or more hours per day using the computer. The concern of that article was the dearth of physical activity.

The opening paragraph of today’s article certainly caught my attention: “Parents addicted to their electronic gadgets – and children who follow their example – stand to lose brainpower . . . .”

Losing brainpower is a scary prospect. According to the article, spending too much time using electronic media can “re-wire” your brain in detrimental ways, resulting in an inability to focus or think deeply. (So, now, I can attribute my struggles with a more or less constant state of distraction to cyberoverload rather than approaching Alzheimers. Hmmmmm. I am almost relieved.)

Two books were cited as sources: “Conquer CyberOverload” by Joanne Cantor, and “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr. Carr’s book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2011.

Describing some of the detrimental effects of too much use of electronic devices, Carr said, “We are welcoming frenziedness into our souls.” Our “capacity for concentration and contemplation” is being depleted, robbing us of “our ability to have certain kinds of thoughts and experiences – the kind of thoughts and experiences that have defined our humanity” – resulting in a “shallowness of thinking and relating.”

Loss of brainpower is bad enough, as it limits our ability to grasp things meaningfully and to communicate effectively. Loss of our ability to relate in deep and meaningful ways is probably even worse, as we become mechanical with our interactions: Less than fully human.

I haven’t read Cantor’s or Carr’s books yet, but I think I shall. I’ll keep you posted on what I glean from having done so.




Tuesday, June 12, 2012

SUMMER


It’s summer. Across the country, countless school children are reveling in their summer vacation from school. Unfortunately for the mothers or other supervisory adults of these children, the B-word is soon to or will inevitably threaten household peace: “I’m BORED!”

Back in the day when I had half a dozen (or so) complainers on my hands, my favorite responses to this silly complaint were: (#1) "Boring is good." (#2) "Sounds like you need some work to do … let’s see, how about …." (#3) "Only boring people get bored." Eventually, the complainers would get their imaginations in gear and cook up some kind of outlandish mischief to keep me from getting bored!

When I was a kid, during summer vacation my mom and dad had bottomless lists of things for us to do to keep us occupied. Occupied. Not entertained. Usually these occupations involved toiling away in the hot summer sun, or, in the sweltering, non-air-conditioned house, toiling away over a hot stove. “Vacation” it was not.

To be fair, I have to say that there was still plenty of time for day-dreaming, riding the horse, reading novels, climbing trees, and often just listening to the buzzing, chirping, sighing sounds of nature, soaking up the warm joy of the sun, finding wild berries to eat, watching the cumulus clouds billow overhead, catching frogs, and picking flowers.

Also, to be fair to the bored children, the “I’m bored,” whine, comes from a natural desire to be doing something productive and worthwhile with one’s time. Watching TV or videos, playing computer games, surfing the web, or endlessly updating one’s “status” on Facebook, are the easy entertainments that many thousands will turn to immediately to try to satisfy this irresistible desire.  Such entertainments, however, have no ability to satisfy the longing of the soul for something productive and worthwhile to do. They merely momentarily distract, lull, and dull the senses, leaving the soul empty and dissatisfied. Most children will even be decidedly grouchy after several hours of such entertainments. Days and weeks or months of this fruitless quest for satisfaction in soul-less entertainment can only produce dis-ease of the heart, mind, and soul.

Children, of course, are not the only ones who seek in vain for a sense of soul satisfaction through electronic media. They very likely are following the examples of their parents and so many others, who, perhaps fearing a sense of aloneness or absence of direction or emptiness, keep turning, ironically, to the media of emptiness for a remedy.

Identifying productive and worthwhile things to do with one’s time may be extremely challenging. A mother may not be omniscient enough to know what is perfect for any particular child. But a trip (or ongoing trips) to the library is a good place to start, and may even produce more terrific ideas of things to do than one summer allows for. Sometimes one idea from just one childhood summer may be enough for a lifetime of productive, worthwhile endeavors which will shape the character and do some good in the world, and not merely “entertain.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury

I stayed up all night long to finish reading  Dandelion Wine  many years ago. I was enchanted and transformed by it. I had to share it with my two youngest daughters. I read it to them. And I think they loved it too.




I am sorry to report that Ray Bradbury died yesterday. It seems appropriate that the transit of Venus occurred the same day. It reminds me of his short story, "All Summer in a Day," which had Venus as its setting. Memorable sad story about children's cruelty to the child who is "different."

In the following piece is a quote by Ray Bradbury, God bless him:

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) on Science, Religion and Darwinism by

Ray Bradbury, who died yesterday at age 91, wrote The Martian Chronicles as a series of science-fiction short stories later woven together into book form. It tells the story of how human beings escape their own doomed civilization by colonizing Mars, wiping out the wiser native Martians in the process.
The Martians, as protagonist Jeff Spender explains, saw their religion and their science as compatible, "each enriching the other." Not so the men of Earth as Bradbury imagines it in the near future:
That's the mistake we made when Darwin showed up. We embraced him and Huxley and Freud, all smiles. And then we discovered that Darwin and our religions didn't mix. Or at least we didn't think they did. We were fools. We tried to budge Darwin and Huxley and Freud. They wouldn't move very well. So, like idiots, we tried knocking down religion.
We succeeded pretty well. We lost our faith and went around wondering what life was for. If art was no more than a frustrated outflinging of desire, if religion was no more than self-delusion, what good was life? Faith had always given us answers to all things. But it all went down the drain with Freud and Darwin. We were and still are a lost people.
"We were and still are a lost people." Yes, sigh. For a brief summary of how Darwinism poisoned the cultural well, you can't beat that.
 
 
 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Venus Transit

The transit of Venus across the face of the sun will begin on Tuesday, June 5, at about 4:05 p.m. local time. "First Contact" will occur when the dark image of Venus first touches the edge of the sun. "Second Contact" will occur about 20 minutes later when the entire image of Venus is inside the sun's image, but still touching the side. 

(2004 Venus transit seen through clouds. Image Credit: Sylvie Beland)


According to Astronomy.com, Venus will cross the face of the sun beginning on the upper left side of the sun, and travel diagonally toward the right side. [Note: a SLC newspaper has it begin on the top right and end near the bottom right.] Around 7:30 p.m., Venus will be halfway through the transit. The sun will set before Venus completes its transit.

The next Venus transist won't happen for more than one hundred years from now, in 2117. So, this is (probably) your last chance to see it.

We will be setting up our telescope with its solar filter. You are welcome to drop by and have a look. We will also have eclipse glasses for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

WAITING . . . . . .

Once, long ago, I read “Waiting for Godot,” a two-act play by Samuel Beckett. I remember being impatient with it, and with the author for wasting my time. If I read it again, now that I am older and have the perspective of more years, I doubt that I would feel any more edified by it than I did the first time I read it. The play is about two self-engrossed, self-pitying male characters, Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for someone named Godot to come and make a difference in their empty boring lives. While they are waiting, Pozzo and Lucky come along. The addition of the two other characters is only a momentary distraction for Vladimir and Estragon.  Nothing changes. The second act, which occurs the next day, is only slightly different from the first act, being an echo.

Two years ago, I watched a film titled, “Waiting for Superman.” It was about the wretched state of public school education in the United States, and the potential for certain charter schools, such as the Harlem Children’s Zone, to make a difference. The title is a reference to how frightened he felt when Geoffrey  Canada’s  mother told him, when he was a child, that Superman wasn’t real:  there was nobody to save him.

Waiting for Godot, or for Superman, are metaphors for expecting that someone else will solve our problems for us, or save us.

Most of us hate waiting. It is part of the real reason why we may be habitually late. A bunch of people are late for a scheduled event, so the event is delayed several minutes because of waiting for the late-comers. The next time (or eventually), those who were kept waiting also begin to come late since the event never seems to start on time anyway, and waiting is so annoying.

Most of us are impatient. We expect results now, not in an unknown future. Some of us have little faith in waiting for promised results; especially when the expected results are delayed. Many of us feel irritated when our time is wasted by others or by circumstances. All of this is because we are, in general, self-involved, self-important, and self-centered.
And yet, some of us find ourselves waiting for “Superman” to save us from harm, sadness, tragedy, boredom, hardship, life. Some of us find ourselves waiting for Godot or an unknown entity that will miraculously or magically change our lives and make us happy. Absent the grand entrance of Godot or Superman, we feel sorry for ourselves.

The problem with self-pity is that it can only exist in a state of helplessness, waiting for someone else to intervene in our lives. While we are immersed in self-pity, we are doing nothing useful or productive. We are not trying to solve our own problems. We are not helping others. The secret to vanquishing self-pity, is to do some good in the world, preferably for someone else. The secret to taking the first step away from self-pity is to recognize the good around you and in your life, and focus on that. Then focus on making someone else happier. You can do that by noticing the good around them and pointing it out. Stop wallowing in self-pity, in the “slough of despond.” Keep stepping away from self-pity, one step at a time. Self-pity is a sin. It is the sin of ingratitude. It is the sin of self-indulgence. It is a lack of faith. It is full of pride, and lacking in humility. Don't waste another precious moment of your life feeling sorry for yourself.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Outside the Temple"


In yesterday’s Deseret News, Timothy R. Clark, who writes the weekly column, “On Leadership,” gave me a new perspective on profanity. The headline for his column read, “Profanity is overused and overrated.”

I liked several of his quotes, such as:

“I listened to Howard Stern once for about two minutes and that was two minutes too long. Take out the profanity and he’s dead air.”

“Shock jocks use it [profanity] as the ‘weapon of the witless’ because they have no real talent, but that doesn’t matter to a market that has no real taste.”

“Profanity has become a crutch for those who can’t write.” [And I would add that sex scenes are another crutch for bad writers, including screen writers. But I digress.]

But the quote that really made me sit up and take notice was this:

“The term profanity comes from Latin roots that mean before or outside the temple, thus referring to language that is irreverent or indecent.”

It’s one thing to have profanity inflicted upon us against our will, as when we are standing in line at the grocery store or strolling through the park or some other public place, or perhaps our boss or co-workers habitually use profanity. It’s an unwelcome assault on our sensitivities as it defiles the temple of our consciousness, but we are innocent victims because we did not consent to the profanity, neither do we condone the profanity.

But let’s think about when indecent or irreverent material appears in a book we are reading, or in a movie or during a TV program that we have chosen to view. If we continue to consume indecent or irreverent material after it turns profane, are we not consenting to and condoning the profanity? Maybe we have continued because we hoped that the first appearance of profanity would be the only example of it in the entire book or show. How often has that been true in the past?

How many profanities will we have to hear or read before we say, “that’s enough!”? When will we have crossed the thin gray line in which we have gone beyond tolerance and have begun “enjoying” the indecent and the irreverent?

The phrase “outside the temple” caused me to imagine myself being prohibited from entering any of the Temples of God. And I thought how devastating it would be to desire to enter God’s presence, but because I had chosen profanity, I could not enter. Since profanity is “outside the temple,” if I choose it by continuing to read it or watch it, am I not also choosing to BE outside the temple? Am I not choosing unholiness over holiness? Am I not choosing to be unclean and unworthy?

The Holy Ghost departs when irreverence or indecency is chosen over goodness and virtue. When can I afford to be without the Holy Ghost? Is not “now” the crucial moment of my existence?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

New Leaders

I went to the Church website this morning to see photos of the new General Relief Society Presidency. As I looked at them, I felt comforted – surely the Lord has selected them and they will be guided and strengthened with powers beyond their own. Yesterday when the releases of the then current presidency happened, I felt sorrow and loss. Sister Beck was a wonderfully inspiring and courageous woman. 

Happily, the new ones look quite fresh and vigorous!


Sister Linda K. Burton was serving as a member of the Relief Society general board when she received her call to serve as the organization’s president. In her Church callings, she spent three years serving with her husband as he presided over the Korea Seoul West Mission. They returned from Korea in 2010. She also served on the Primary general board, and in various callings in the Young Women, Primary, Sunday School and as a seminary teacher.

She studied elementary education at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and is married to Craig P. Burton. They have six children and 19 grandchildren.

Sister Carole M. Stephens was also serving on the Relief Society general board when she accepted the call to serve as first counselor in the general presidency. She has also served as stake and ward Relief Society president, ward Relief Society counselor, teacher and homemaking leader, ward Young Women president, member of a ward Primary presidency, Primary teacher, Cub Scout leader, Church-service missionary and seminary teacher.

She attended Weber State University in Ogden, Utah and is currently a member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, where she serves as the Farr West camp captain.

She is married to Martin R. Stephens. They are the parents of six children and 15 grandchildren.

Sister Linda S. Reeves was serving as the first counselor in her ward’s Relief Society when she was called to serve in the Relief Society general presidency. Previously she served with her husband when he was president of the California Riverside Mission. She also served as stake Relief Society president, ward Young Women president, ward Young Single Adult advisor, Sunday School teacher, and Primary chorister.
She graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in special education. She is married to Melvyn K. Reeves and they are the parents of 13 children.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Standing Alone

Many years ago, when I was a Young Adult in the Church, Kathy, one of my LDS peers in our Branch in Minnesota, nicknamed me “Pious Pat.” She thought that I was overly zealous about things to do with the activities and the beliefs of the Church. Her intent with the nickname was an obvious put-down. She, on the other hand, maintained an aloof, cool, slightly mocking demeanor about anything to do with the Church. Clearly, in her view, I was so UNcool. At this same time, I had another LDS friend, Evelyn, who, while she didn’t make fun of me, seemed to view my enthusiasm as unbelievably na├»ve. Fortunately, during the same time, I also had other LDS associates who were as equally devoted to the Church as I was.

Both of these young ladies were regarded as “active” in the Church. But somehow, their devotion or dedication, in comparison to mine, was lukewarm, at best. Sometimes my enthusiasm was slightly dampened by their jaded and jaundiced view of me. Nevertheless, I continued to share my thoughts and feelings (testimony) about the Church (doctrines and beliefs) with them at every opportunity. I couldn’t help myself. I found everything about the gospel to be “a marvelous work and a wonder.” So much so, that I couldn’t keep quiet about it. Unfortunately, I can’t say that they were ever persuaded by anything that I ever said. Tragically, one of them eventually committed suicide a short time after her marriage, while the other one settled into a lifetime of inactivity.

More than forty years have passed. During that time, I have lived in eight different Stakes in seven different cities in four different states. In all those places, I have always found both kinds of LDS associates—those who shared my love of the gospel, as well as those who were only lukewarm. Ironically, in spite of being surrounded by others who cherish their own testimonies and commitment to the gospel, sometimes I have felt quite alone. Especially when those whom I have expected to share my values and viewpoint have turned away from me, as if to say, “aren’t you being just a little too  --  pious?”

Standing alone again and again over a span of forty years is lonely. And disheartening. Oh, to have the heart of Moroni! I fear that I have not had the strength, the courage, the fortitude of Moroni who really had to stand alone.

During General Conference time, though, I always feel comforted and not alone. As I watch Conference, I am thrilled at the visual proof that I am not alone. About 100,000 people assemble in the Conference Center during the five sessions of Conference each April and October. As the first session opens and the camera scans across the audience, I feel like I am standing next to Elisha of old, who is saying to me: Look! They that be with us are more than you thought: you definitely are not alone!

And during those two days of Conference, I feel that I truly am part of the “mountain” filled with angels and chariots of fire. I feel courageous and strong! I have the heart of Moroni.

Only four days to go!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Newt vs. Mitt

I jokingly remarked to my DH (Darling Husband) yesterday that the first names of the potential Republican candidates for POTUS, made me wish for names that sounded more “presidential.”

“Mitt”? Sounds mostly like baseball equipment. “Newt”? Sounds mostly like a salamander. Who takes a leader with a clownish name seriously?  

You, of course, may or may not remember the shallow, inane, and laughable “he looks Presidential” standard invented by the media in the past twenty years . . . . Unfortunately, it’s still, more than ever, all about appearances and sound bites.

Yesterday, a voter in South Carolina was explaining why he voted for Newt. It had everything to do with being glib and not much to do with being good or doing what’s best for the country. He voted for Newt because he could be counted on in every future “toe-to-toe” debate with Obama to “win” the debate. However, how that translates into being an effective leader in the country and in the world, I don’t know.

It seems that the prevailing sentiment against Mitt may be largely due to his lack of “stage presence.” He seems viscerally uncomfortable with the way politics is done these days – requiring him to play popularity games and to regurgitate empty slogans and sound bites while “looking Presidential.” He seems nearly sick to death of it all. I cannot bear to watch the news clips of him and his family. To me it looks like it’s killing them all.

A great many people apparently have a hard time feeling a “connect” with Mitt. Of course, the anti-Mitt “cult of Mormonism” propaganda causes otherwise decent people to feel uneasy about him. Nevertheless, in our over-riding culture of entertainment, we seem to focus too much on “style” and symbolism. We like the style and the symbolism of the triumphant debate winner. We don’t value as highly the substance of a person’s moral character or his propensity for following time-honored guiding principles. Indeed, some people feel extremely uncomfortable and incredulous around someone who tries really hard to do the right thing all the time: “Is he for real???? Nobody’s that good!”
Pitiful.
So. Bottom line: I feel sad that so many Americans size up our political candidates using a measuring stick of shallow, inane, and often laughable criteria. And, of course, I fear for our country because of the tremendous power of the news media to shape our views and attitudes. Those who control the news media, control what we see and hear. Thereby, the media controls what we think and feel. And what we think and feel controls what we do.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Making Better Resolutions


Yesterday in Relief Society, our lesson was Chapter One, “Living What We Believe,” from the new Teachings of Presidents of the Church manual. [If you don’t have a copy of this new book, the complete text is available online at lds.org.] On page one, we learn that George Albert Smith, at age 34, made a list of 11 ideals to live by, which he called his “personal creed.” The manual referred to them as “resolutions” – perhaps they used that word to inspire members of the Church in their personal New Year’s resolutions. Interestingly, the kinds of ideals on President Smith’s list are to be noted not only for what they included, but also for what they did NOT include:

George Albert’s list did NOT include going on a diet to lose 20 pounds (or any other weight goal).

George Albert’s list did NOT include exercising more to get physically fit (or any other physiological goal).

George Albert’s list did NOT include anything that would not really matter in the Eternities.

His list, in short, was a description of how he would follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in his daily actions throughout his life, being kind, gentle, and a blessing to all. While his goals certainly could be termed “lofty,” there was no spirit of “loftiness” – no pride nor arrogance or self-importance – to be found in any of the eleven ideals. Each of us would do well to adopt his creed as our own.

Obviously, personal creeds and New Year’s resolutions are not the same thing. I recently read some advice that could be applied to New Year’s resolutions. In Chapter 19 of Dallin Oaks’ new book, Life’s Lessons Learned, his advice about goal setting is useful if we want to make better resolutions:

“I believe in setting goals, especially the right kind of goals. I have learned that some goals can be an impetus for progress, but others can be little more than a source of frustration. … The ultimate goal for personal effort is to put the Lord first in our lives and to keep His commandments. Attaining that goal requires personal effort and does not depend on others. … Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in His commandments and His will for us prepare us to deal with life’s opportunities and circumstances….”

As I read that, I thought to myself, what would happen if I made just one New Year’s resolution for 2012, that in all things, I would “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”? The question I would ask myself in each situation would be what would the Lord have me do? The promise that follows seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is that “all these things shall be added unto you.” The “all things” Christ was referring to (see Matthew 6:24-34) were the temporal concerns of his disciples for food and clothing and other “Gentile” desires. He assured his disciples that Heavenly Father knew what they needed and would do a better job of supplying those needs than they could do by “taking thought.” (For us, “taking thought,” refers to obsessing over things beyond our control.)

My last year’s list of New Year’s Resolutions comprised 12 things I wanted to accomplish or improve on during 2011. All of these goals were good goals that required personal effort and did not depend on others. While most of these goals did see a little action, not one of them was successfully “completed.” In most cases, I had been too optimistic about my own strength and time available.

Nevertheless, I think I shall keep last year’s list because it expresses good desires. However, I think I may be more successful at actually improving if my motivation for working on any particular item on the list is to do God’s will.

I like the simplicity of what Elder Oaks said: “The ultimate goal for personal effort is to put the Lord first in our lives and to keep His commandments. … Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in His commandments and His will for us prepare us to deal with life’s opportunities and circumstances.”

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year Dawns

The tumult and the shouting dies,

The captains and the kings depart.

Still stands thine ancient sacrifice,

An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet:

Lest we forget. Lest we forget. 



The above verse from the Hymn, “God of Our Fathers, Known of Old,” came to my mind as I was contemplating this first day in the new year.

Last night there was a great “tumult” going on as fireworks were exploding around us because the neighbors were “bringing in the New Year” rather loudly.  It didn’t completely wake me; but it was surprising how much noise there actually was.

In sweet contrast, the morning dawned peacefully enough. Nothing, not even the clock radio, disturbed the peace.  

When we left for Church just before 9 a.m., the day was crisp and cold (but not bitterly cold), and the sun and the blue sky were cheerful.  It seemed to be a symbolically optimistic beginning for our new year. And, being the Sabbath day, it seemed to be a glimpse of that Millenial Dawn we look forward to.

I thought about how the “captains” and the “kings” of this world are destined to “depart” when the King of Kings returns. All of the worldliness around us will also depart. All “tumult” and “shouting” will cease for a thousand years.

At that Millenial Dawn, the only possession worth having will be a humble and a contrite heart. We will need to have sacrificed all of the worldliness, tumult, and shouting from our lives and that dwells in our hearts and minds. It is an “ancient” sacrifice because all people in all times will have had to make this same sacrifice in order to “abide the day of His coming” (3 Nephi 24:2).

Lord God of Hosts, be with us in this new year, lest we forget….