In a world where people look up to all the wrong kinds of people, it is refreshing to remember the life of Gordon B. Hinckley and recognize that he was a true hero in every sense of the word. What an example of everything that I would want to be. He was incredibly smart, very humorous, so patient, humble, loving, and understanding--in short, so very Christ-like. All day I've been trying to wrap my mind around the magnitude of this. It's huge. When I first found out I didn't want to believe it, and I started thinking "How dare he. He can't leave yet. He needs to make it to 100. I'm not ready for this yet". And that's the crazy thing. His life itself was so remarkable that we don't even think twice that he was 97. Something about him just led us to believe that he would keep on going, because that's the way he lived his life--always carrying on with energy and determination. Probably one of his most important talks was his very first as president of the Church:
"Now, my brethren and sisters, the time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike" ("This Is the Work of the Master," Ensign, May 1995, 71).
This is how we will carry on as the work moves forward. "Go forward with faith"-the theme of his biography. Of all the things President Hinckley taught, it is faith that best sums up his ministry. "The Miracle of Faith" is one of the talks that best sums up what he felt was so important and best demonstrates his amazing way of teaching and building faith. Faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ. Faith in the restoration. "Faith is the basis of testimony. Faith underlies loyalty to the Church. Faith represents sacrifice, gladly given in moving forward the work of the Lord...O Father, help us to be faithful unto Thee and unto our glorious Redeemer, to serve Thee in truth, to make that service an expression of our love, is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."
Amen, President Hinckley. You were (and always will be) one of my greatest hero's. God be with you 'till we meet again.
Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of our friend, Gordon B. Hinckley. While serving for over seven decades in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon demonstrated the heart of a servant and the wisdom of a leader. He was a tireless worker and a talented communicator who was respected in his community and beloved by his congregation. As President of his church, he traveled to more than 60 countries to spread a message of love and optimism to the millions of people around the world who shared his faith.
A Mayflower descendent and the grandson of Mormon pioneers, Gordon was a deeply patriotic man. His leadership and service strengthened the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University, the Boy Scouts of America, and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. In 2004, I was honored to present him with the Medal of Freedom, our Nation's highest civil award, in recognition of his lifelong public service.
Laura and I will miss Gordon's friendship and wisdom. Our thoughts and prayers are with his five children and the rest of the Hinckley family.
There are no words. We are so very saddened by the recent passing of our prophet and president, Gordon B. Hinckley just one hour and a half ago. We will miss you greatly. That's an understatement. Sara even broke the news to Addy tonight, and she said "we miss you princky hincky". So happy thinking of him being reunited with his Marjorie. So saddened by the loss of such a great man and such an influential person. Just yesterday we watched a talk he gave in 1994 at BYU entitled "The Lord is at the Helm". In it he said he could be called "Brother Hinckley". God bless you "Brother Hinckley". You have no idea how much you were loved and respected. You were one of a kind.
No matter how many "Christian" evangelicals try to say otherwise, I am a Mormon, AND I am a Christian. I'm not saying this in an effort to be included as part of some national "Christian club" or as one of "the group", but only to say who and what I really am. I strive to follow Christ--trusting in Him--and to live by Christian teachings/morals/values. Most of the time, people try to exclude Mormons from being Christian because we don't buy into the Nicene creed and the "Christian" understanding of the Trinity. If this truly were a prerequisite for being Christian, then PLEASE count me out simply because it's not biblical. In fact, count Jesus himself out because he wasn't around for the Nicene creed either, and he himself didn't believe in the Trinity that many, if not most, of modern Christianity say they believe in. To me, this is one of the most disastrous results of the apostasy--totally altering belief in and understanding of the nature of God.
We're also criticized for not accepting that the scriptural canon was closed after the death of the apostles; for believing that God is perfectly able to talk to prophets today as He did in ancient times. Once again, I'm glad I don't conform to the "Christian Club" if it means that I believe every word God spoke up until the Bible was finished-as long as he doesn't speak another word. Who are we to say God can't continue to speak? I could go on, but Stephen E. Robinson (my favorite BYU professor) said it best already in his book "Are Mormons Christian?". This book deepened my understanding of the issue and armed me with knowledge about the basis of the name calling and labeling of us as a "cult".
Elder Holland gave one of my favorite talks during the last general conference entitled "The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent". In it he said that "The Lord told the ancients this latter-day work would be 'a marvellous work and a wonder', and it is. But even as we invite one and all to examine closely the marvel of it, there is one thing we would not like anyone to wonder about—that is whether or not we are “Christians.” He then goes on to give one of the best and relevant talks; teaching the truth while at the same time defending our Christianity. No matter how far people go trying to tell us how crazy we are for believing certain things, truth is truth, and there's no denying it. Especially when some things are so self-evident. Doctrinal beliefs aside, I certainly don't judge a true Christian by what church he or she goes to, but by how he or she lives. That's why I can hope that others will do the same with me.
Mitt and McCain are about even in the latest Florida polls. And it looks like Romney is gaining momentum there, even taking the lead in one poll just released by Fox news. That's going to be a big day on Tuesday. Come on Florida--listen to Rush Limbaugh! On a side note, there was an interesting article in the New York Times today about Romney being the most hated by the other Republican candidates. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about it.
Here's what one commenter said, and I pretty much agree: "The thing the other presidential candidates dislike about Romney is that he makes them feel inferior. They are used to the same-old, same-old way things have always gotten done in politics, and here comes this new, highly successful and accomplished guy, a business genius. He's squeaky clean, no skeletons in the closet. He's smarter, taller and better looking than they are, has never been divorced, and has a wonderful, adoring family. Turns them green with envy.
Mitt is surging as people get to know him. I think he has a very good chance of becoming our next president, and I believe he will make a really great one. McCain is really not conservative, nor does he have the temperament for leader of the world's sole super power. His hair-trigger temper is a real drawback."
I never would have guessed the enjoyment and relevance I'm finding in the Old Testament! Before I started teaching seminary a few weeks ago, deep down I think I believed that people who would say that the Old Testament still applies to our lives were having to stretch the truth just a bit--like those CES types that have to say that because it's their job. You know how it is, you politely agree but inside you're kind of rolling your eyes. Boy am I glad to say I have been pleasantly surprised by how wrong I was. It would take too much time to blog all of the the treasures I'm finding in what's suddenly becoming a very new and fresh Old Testament-at least to me. And it's really quite a joy to share in this experience with my ward seminary class, despite the fact that it does wear on me to constantly be waking up so early and always in "crunch-time" mode to be prepared for a great class. It's still a joy because its effects are longer lasting and more rewarding.
My first thought when I found out I would be teaching the Old Testament in seminary was "oh great" in a sarcastic kind of way. My experience with the book has not been plentiful, and it also has not been memorable. I never took an Old Testament class at BYU, and I certainly don't remember anything from my high school seminary years. I think we went through 3 or 4 teachers, and I can only remember the name of one of them. So it's exciting to think that I can help give the kids an experience that I never had. And when I read the Old Testament on my mission, I was mostly looking for "one-liners" here and there (or famous scriptures) that I felt gave me instruction of how to better follow the Lord, praise the Lord, and live closer to him. I certainly didn't see how everything fit together. I knew how much the restoration scriptures add to our understanding of the Old Testament--but somehow those pages still stayed a little bit newer than all the other pages in my quadruple combination.
Now I'm being forced to really study it inside and out. In a selfish kind of way, I'm glad because my understanding is deepening. After all, the blessings promised in D&C 88:78 were directed towards the TEACHER. "Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend YOU, that YOU may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for YOU to understand." I think that's a good kind of selfishness! Look at what I get out of it if I simply "teach diligently"! I can sure use a bit more grace and "more perfect" instruction. Thanks also to the seminary and institute manuals that help explain things to me that I otherwise wouldn't have recognized by simply reading on my own. Now I get to better explain things to my students and show them how timeless some of these lessons are, and how the experiences of the people that lived so long ago still apply to our lives here and now. They're fewer and farther in between than in the New Testament and the Restoration scriptures, but they're there! And I also get to enjoy some really weird eyebrow raising stories mixed in. What more could I ask for? I enjoy finding the humor and interesting ironies as well as the spiritual enrichment--it makes it more "real" to me-just like life itself. I don't know it as well as I know my other scriptures, but it's becoming a lot more familiar. And somehow it's like the Old Testament is becoming new all over again.
It was 1963 when Dr. King gave his "I have a dream speech" and in which he said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". Sometimes I wonder about how far we've come since 1963 and about how far we still have to go. Are we still judging each other based on the color of our skin, or by what's on the inside--our character? It's a question worth asking, a quote worth quoting, and a dream worth making more of reality today. Racism still exits in all directions--I've actually felt racism against me because I'm white. Listening to the audio of Dr. King giving the speech while I read along in the text gives me chills. It's powerful. And it's a speech that needs to be remembered over and over again in America by all Americans. PS: American Rhetoric ranks it as the #1 speech of all time, and that is a great website to read or listen to almost any worthwhile American speech.
I have to say that I am "well pleased" with the state of BYU football right now. I suffered through mediocrity during my years there, save for the 2001 season. So naturally I am very excited that Bronco has proven to be the perfect man for the job to restore BYU Football to greatness. BYU has had two very solid 11-2 seasons back to back, and they've given us a lot of dramatic and exciting highlights. More importantly, they've won two back to back games over Utah, and two back to back bowl game wins over Pac-10 opponents. (Sara and I were there for the Oregon game-boy was that something for the kid who grew up going to the Oregon games!) Off course, it took the famous blocked kick to save us from a depressing "off-season" and keep us in position for a BCS bowl game next year, but even that has now added to BYU lore. Speaking of next year, it just got a whole lot tougher having UCLA come to Provo next year now that they've hired one of the best college football coaches in the country as their head coach (Rick Neuheisel) and former BYU offensive coordinator (and USC national championship offensive coordinator) Norm Chow. That is going to be a very, very big game--and to be honest, I'm a little worried. But for now, I'm going to enjoy both the memories AND the future possibilities. Go Cougars!
1. The Weather (I thought I would hate it, but I was mistaken. I actually love it!) 2. Our new house 3. Our San Antonio Water tastes great 4. We get to feel like tourists in our own city when we go downtown. 5. San Antonio is one of the 5 "most unique" cities in America (others include New Orleans, San Francisco, New York City) 6. The Alamo and the Riverwalk (the top two tourist attractions in Texas) are in our city. The Riverwalk is awesome. 7. You can learn a lot about Texas just by looking at our license plates 8. The capital city of Austin 9. The pride people have about the state (whether it's the BBQ or the Football- Go Longhorns! Go Cowboys!) 10. Live Oak trees 11. The variety of the geography of the state (especially the Hill Country) 12. That we live only 2 hours away from an amazing beach. 13. The people are friendly 14. Our ward (and our callings) 15. We live close to our cousins 16. Texas is Huge, and yet it's famous for both its big cities and small towns 17. There's always something new to see, learn, discover 18. Six Flags Fiesta Texas 20 miles away (we have season passes) 19. One of the only two Sea Worlds in the U.S. is across town 20. Blue Bell ice cream! 21. The Lone Star Flag (it even has its own Texas pledge: "Honor the Texas Flag, I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state, under God, one and indivisible")
One thing that I've been doing recently is trying to see Latter-day Saints from the perspective of others. This has been an eye-opening experience. I've become a lot more sympathetic to those not of our faith, or at least more aware of how we may be portraying ourselves for better or for worse. The days are over that we can simply dismiss our quirkiness as being because we are a "peculiar people". We can do better than that to articulate our beliefs and to build bridges to others willing to venture into conversation about religion.
Here's a quote that's especially applicable now that it's somehow become a national pastime to disparage and/or criticize Mormons simply because one of them is running for President and it puts the Church in the spotlight:
“We may never become accustomed to untrue and unjust criticism of us but we ought not to be immobilized by it.”
-Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Something that has actually helped to "mobilize" me recently is to face some of those criticisms head on. I figure we ought to know more about our history (and doctrine for that matter) than our critics. Looking back on it now, reading Joseph Smith-Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman was a perfect platform on which to do this. For those who haven't read it yet, let me fill you in by quoting from a Times and Seasons blog that reviewed the book and then interviewed the author (who I happened to meet on his doorstep, but that's another story):
"Rough Stone Rolling is the definitive biography of Joseph Smith for this generation. Bushman does an able, if not artful, job of telling the prophet’s story. His reading of Joseph’s use of seer stones, of his troubled relationship with his financially unsuccessful father, of the Book of Mormon’s countercultural take on Native Americans, and of the changing place of women and blacks in unfolding LDS theology are gems. But Joseph Smith, in this book, is not a majestic, triumphant, haloed, barely-mortal dispensation head. He is, by Bushman’s portrait, a flawed man—one making many mistakes and subject to many weaknesses. His straightforward style might be a little jarring to those used to sanitized Church history, but this book is and will be the benchmark biography of the founding prophet for a long time." (http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2759)
I happen to agree with this review, except for the word "troubled" to describe Joseph's relationship with his father. However, I could certainly use the word "troubled" to describe Joseph and Emma's relationship as a result of the murky plural marriage picture. That could very well be added into the review. I don't say this to dwell on controversial topics (although I'm certainly not afraid of them.) On the contrary, I invite questioning because out of questioning come answers, growth, and revelation. It can also prompt valuable discussion. And this book does just that. So I thought I'd share some thoughts I have about my experience with Joseph Smith-Rough Stone Rolling, and how it has shifted my paradigm of Joseph Smith.
First off, here's where I now stand with my paradigm: Joseph was a man who did incredible things in his life. Some of the things he did bug me. Most of the things he did amaze me. This I believe: Through it all, he was a prophet in the most general sense of that word. Perfection was never required to be a prophet. So while I still regard Joseph Smith as a "prophet", I'm no longer under any false impression about Joseph Smith the man being nearly without fault, which is the impression that sometimes has been given in Sunday School or on those BYU-TV commercials trying to sell you something about "the Life and Times of the Prophet Joseph Smith." Nor does this take away from my testimony of the greatness of the restored gospel. In fact, I think it actually adds to it.
My testimony has never been linked to whether Joseph was impeccable or not. It's also certainly not linked to whether the Church is perfect, for it certainly isn't. My testimony is linked to the power of the Book of Mormon to bring me to Christ. Because the Book of Mormon brings me closer to my Lord, Savior, and Redeemer-Jesus Christ-I find value in it and the effort Joseph made to bring it about--imperfect man he was notwithstanding. He himself admitted that he had many rough edges. Such as loosing his temper or getting angry. I can relate to that. I like the image of a forceful prophet. I can see some of that in myself. So knowing the truth not only makes you free, but it gives you hope because you realize that the Lord still can make something great out of your life even if you're not presently the most "Christ-like" person.
I loved my experience reading this book because it is enlightening and it was right up my ally with a mixture of historical, biographical, and religious reading that still is causing me to ponder. I recommend it as excellent reading, at the least to join in the conversation. However, this isn't a book for those members of the Church that rely solely on a sanitized version of Church history. Nor is it for those who teach that Joseph and Emma had a model relationship, or for those who cling to the belief that Joseph Smith was almost "barely-mortal". His human mistakes and frailties come out. But I like that, because it helps me relate better to all people in history who also faced struggles and problems--just like us. We can learn from both the good and the bad, the majestic and the not so majestic.
Just because there are some uncomfortable aspects in our Latter-day Saint history (and there are) doesn't mean we shouldn't face up to them or pretend they're not there. Our critics certainly won't ignore them, and they won't allow you to plead ignorance either.
So even for that reason alone, I am grateful that I read Joseph Smith-Rough Stone Rolling. It was a great, unique, one-of-a-kind experience. I certainly now have more knowledge. And knowledge truly is empowering. I also have a deeper appreciation. But I didn't feel a sense of conclusion immediately after finishing the book. I felt like I needed to ask the author something. I wanted to know essentially: Where do I go from here? What do I make of some of the disturbing facts that I hadn't previously fit into my neat little paradigm? What should my new paradigm be now? Part of my answer came by the Spirit through teaching the Elders Quorum lesson one Sunday on The Prophet Joseph Smith out of the Spencer W. Kimball manual. That was a sacred experience that hit me at exactly the right time. The other part of my answer came when I stumbled upon the following question and answer that I'm now sharing with you because it's the very question I would have wanted to ask the author after I finished reading the book:
Question: "By way of prefacing the book you write: 'For a character as controversial as Smith, pure objectivity is impossible. What I can do is to look frankly at all sides of Joseph Smith, facing up to his mistakes and flaws. Covering up errors makes no sense in any case.' This is, obviously, not the approach of official, correlated Church history. What are the benefits and drawbacks of your approach—and what would you say to a Church member whose faith has been jarred by the disconnect between what s/he learned about Joseph Smith in Sunday School and what s/he learned from reading your book?
Answer: "I believe the disconnect can damage young Latter-day Saints who learn later in life they have not been given the whole story on Church history. They are tempted to doubt the credibility of their former teachers; what else are they hiding, the shocked young people want to know? On the other hand, are we obligated to talk about Joseph’s character defects in Sunday School class, or his thirty wives? That may defeat the purpose of Sunday School or Institute. I am hoping that a book like mine will help to introduce all aspects of Joseph’s life into common lore about the Prophet the way most people know he had a seerstone. These now disturbing facts will become one more thing you accept along with visitation of angels and gold plates. People will wonder, question, and eventually assimilate."
I just have to say how much I enjoy teaching seminary. There are some really sweet moments and I love the Spirit that is there, especially when the students participate. I teach a great class of juniors and seniors-9 or 10 of them. They're a welcome change from 8th graders the rest of the day. I'm fully aware that I'm not the real teacher--the Spirit is, and I simply hope to create an enviornment that invites the Spirit and edifies with some lasting lessons from the Old Testament. I thought the hardest part of this seminary "assignment" would be waking up at 5am, but that's the easy part. The "hard" part is the responsibility weighing on me each night to be prepared and ready for a great 50 minute lesson early the next morning. But even that is an enjoyable experience, at least when I make enough time for preparation, family, and for sleep! There's no doubt about the power of the word, the power of the Word, and of the "work"--imperfections and all.
So it's been five months already that we've been able to call San Antonio home, and what a great place it is. Everybody HAS to make a least one vacation/trip here in their life because there's no other place like it. I'll post a picture or two of the two most visited attractions in Texas, and they're right here in our city--the Alamo and the River Walk. I love experiencing new places for the first time and studying out the geography on Google Earth and on maps. Just last weekend, to end my Christmas break with a bang, we headed down to the Gulf Coast, just over two hours away. I couldn't believe it was January and over 70 degrees and it was wonderful! Something about being at the ocean just renews your spirit. It was a beautiful beach, on the north tip of Padre Island just south of Corpus Christi. We've managed to pack a lot into these first 5 months in Texas, and we're proud to call this home.
Alright. It's time to start blogging. I've been enjoying the blog experience lately as an observer, with a few comments here and there, but I want a place to call my own. Nothing spectacular--just random thoughts which tend to revolve mostly around my Mormon faith, family, and politics, along with links to other blogs or articles that I've enjoyed or found worthwhile. Sara keeps a great blog with family pictures at lakelove.blogspot.com. I don't expect to match her in ANY way--because she really is too good to be true in EVERY way--so I won't be matching her in terms of blog quality either. And while I'm mentioning Sara--she deserves all the praise in the world. She's really too good for me. I really lucked out that I married her when I did because if I would have waited any longer, there wouldn't have been much hope for me. She's not only beautiful, but brilliant. She has so much love and energy always for our daughters--one day they too will know how lucky they are that she's their mom. And she's SO dedicated at being a wife and mother. She's also lots of fun, and funny (especially when she talks in her little kid voice). She's wise beyond her years, she's a great communicator, caregiver, and cook. I absolutely LOVE her voice--it's angelic. And there you have it. I live with an angel. Her hair always looks fantastic, even when she first wakes up in the morning. She doesn't need make-up to look like a babe, and the little she does use makes her look like, well, off the charts. (I was going to say she looks like a model but I actually don't have much experience looking at models and the few I have seen look scary to me.) Someday, I'll have to write a biography about her because she is SO worth knowing and learning from. Mostly, she is SO dedicated to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ--always has been, and it shows in the way she treats people. The sad thing is--I'm also her hardest critic--so she doesn't often think I think she's as wonderful as she is. And I don't praise her enough in public or private, so I thought now would be a good start. I wonder if it's because I don't know where to start, of if I worry that my attempt to do so would be so inadequate. Maybe, it's because it would come across like she's too good to be true. If that's the case, then I'm guilty of it and always will be, because she really is too good to be true. And people who get to know her soon think this too, but if they really get to know her, they stand in amazement (like me) because they learn that she really is that great. It's makes some people just sick, because they can't believe she's really that sweet. And sometimes she's not treated very sweet back just for spite--or is it jealously? I don't know for sure. What I do know is that I'M married to the person I always dreamed I would marry--and it's worth making last forever. And I'm glad it's going to be forever, cause I'm going to need a lot more time to learn how to be a better husband to her.
"The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it."