Friday, February 22, 2008

"What Is This Thing That Men Call Death?"

I came across a very interesting article yesterday written by Janice Kapp Perry. I read it online at Meridian Magazine but it was also published in the Deseret News. Take some time to go to that link and read the story behind one of my new favorite hymns: "What Is This Thing That Men Call Death?". The words, which I love, were written by President Hinckley. The music, which I love, was written by Janice Kapp Perry. It's kind of miraculous how it all came together, and just in time to be sung by the Tabernacle Choir at President Hinckley's funeral.

I've since downloaded it into my iTunes and can't get enough of it. It's simple, yet profound; moving, and memorable. You can download the mp3 file for free (both the song and the instrumental version) at this link. If you simply want the sheet music, you can get that here. Some of the most tender and testimony-building times are those in which I've either been witness to, or contemplate, the death of a loved one. This poem, written by Gordon B. Hinckley, speaks of the heart of the gospel:

What is this thing that men call death, This quiet passing in the night?
'Tis not the end but genesis--Of better worlds and greater light.
O God, touch Thou my aching heart--And calm my troubled, haunting fears.
Let hope and faith, transcendent, pure, Give strength and peace beyond my tears.
There is no death, but only change, With recompense for victory won.
The gift of Him who loved all men, The Son of God, the Holy One.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"As I have loved you, love one another"

The following is a perfect story to demonstrate the importance of treating people in a Christ-like way regardless of their circumstances. I read it in the new "Mormon Times" column by Orson Scott Card.  (Update--the link is now broken, but the column was originally published as "Parable: Acting part results in reflectionPublished: Thursday, February 21, 2008 12:00 am MST)  I can't help but think of the 13th article of faith: "We doing good to all men".  One of the ways to "do good" unto others is simply not judging them.  Here's the thought-provoking story:

"Sandy Brown was a keeper and maker of gardens. With his many workers he tended the lawns and shrubs and flowers of businesses and homes. Sandy loved the feel of his hands plunging into loamy soil, the suppleness and strength of young wood and tender greens, so he was often out with his laborers, working as hard as any. No job was too hard or menial for him to do.
One of his customers, a rich man and a Christian, told him one day: "I'm paying for the making of a film about the Savior. I want you to play the part of the Lord."

"I'm no actor," Sandy said.
"It's a silent film," said the producer. "It's in black and white. You'll act out the things that Jesus did, and now and then a different actor will speak some of the words of Christ."
"Why me?" Sandy asked.
"When I see you tending the garden, feeling the leaves and stems to judge the strength of the plants, your face seems to me like the Savior's face, looking at his fallen brothers and sisters with love and care, sorrow and hope."
"I'm not a man to portray the Lord," Sandy said.
"You'll play the Savior or no one will. I won't make this film without you."

Sandy went home and told his wife. "I'd have to grow my hair and beard," he said.
"I've always wondered what your beard would look like," she said.
"If people know I'm playing Jesus in a film, they'll judge me unfit to do it."
"They're more likely to treat you like a movie star," she said.
"That would be worse," Sandy said. "A celebrity because I portray the Lord? Unbearable."
"I think this movie should exist," his wife said. "I know of no better man to stand in Jesus' place."

With her encouragement, and a promise from the producer that his name would not be given out and no one would be told, he gave consent. For six months he let his hair and beard grow, uncut. When he looked in the mirror, he searched for the face of Christ, but did not find him. Nor, behind the beard, did he see himself.

A strange thing happened at church. People no longer chose to sit on the same bench with Sandy and his family. They no longer let their children go to the Browns' house to play with their children. Sandy was released from his calling as a Primary teacher, and no other calling was found for him.

"Today Sister Evans took my hand and told me she was praying for us," said Sandy's wife one day. "I think that she believes you're using drugs." "No," said Sandy said, "you may not tell her or anyone why my hair and beard are growing."

Many of Sandy's customers and many on his waiting list no longer wished him to tend their gardens. "Tell them what you're doing," his wife said. "You have employees who depend on you." "I'm tending gardens as well as I ever did," Sandy said. "There is nothing else to tell. And there's still work enough to keep us all."

When filming began, Sandy no longer tended gardens, and while some of the crews worked as hard as ever, others did not. Therefore he lost more customers, and, sadly, Sandy dismissed the workers who had not done well in his absence. With his business shrinking and his family isolated in their neighborhood and ward, Sandy faced the days of filming full of worry. Each day he performed the actions of the Savior, lifting up the man with palsy, anointing with mud the eyes of the blind man, turning when the woman touched the hem of his robe and blessing her, raising Lazarus from the dead.

Finally he knelt in the garden and bore the scourges and hung upon the cross, then stepped forth from the tomb led by the hand of an angel. He stood before Mary in the garden and let his apostles touch the wounds in his hands and feet and side.

He went home at night and listened to his children, and taught them the words of Jesus, never telling them what he had done that day, but trying to fill them with the love that he had felt while acting as the Lord. In the mirror he thought that now he saw himself, though still he did not see the Lord.

At last the filming ended, and Sandy went home and without a word cut off his beard. His wife wept as she cut his hair. "I will miss the presence of the Savior in our home," she said. "It was always only me," Sandy said. "You walked in his footsteps every day," she answered him, "and brought him home to us."

At church, people looked at him with surprise. Some were relieved, others still suspicious, but gradually the family's isolation ended. Sandy was made assistant financial clerk. Children once more visited their home. The filmmakers added the computer effects that made the miracles look real. They recorded the words of Christ and added music and at last, two years later, the film was finished.

Sandy and his wife and children attended a private screening. She held his hand throughout, and at the end she wept. "Oh, Sandy," she said, "it was worth it." Their oldest daughter looked at her father in awe. "Daddy, that was you," she whispered. "I never did those things," he told her. "Jesus did."

The film did not do very well at the box office. In previews, people saw that it was black and white, and did not come. Many who came were bored when none of the actors spoke, and left. Some stayed because they loved the things they saw and heard. Among these was Sandy's bishop. After he saw the film, he embraced Sandy, saying, "Why didn't you tell us?" "I didn't want the way people would treat me if they knew what I was doing." "We judged you wrongly," the bishop said, "but you judged us first, thinking we could not be trusted with the truth."

"I hope that you'll forgive me for not speaking up."

"Please forgive us for not trusting what we already knew of you, the man you were before the long hair and beard."

"I knew you didn't know what I was doing and I forgave you from the start," Sandy said.

And in that moment, with no mirror and only another man's face before him — with no beard, and with close-cropped hair — Sandy thought he caught a glimpse of the Savior, somewhere between forgivenesses."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What a Ride!

I thought it about time to update this blog. After all, it has almost been a week. That seems like an eternity in the blogging world. It's been a busy week finishing up my FASFA and scholarship applications. Deadlines were this past week for the fall. But I begin classes for my master's program in June. I'm really excited about it. If any of you know someone who has gone into Public Administration/Public Policy--I'd love to hear about your experience/advice. This is the view of downtown San Antonio from the UTSA downtown campus:

And just for kicks, here is a picture of Downtown San Antonio along the world famous Riverwalk:

What a place to live, work, and go to school, huh? We're enjoying it here. But we're so busy! There is always so much to get done. I'm feeling all kinds of pressures right now. (Hence the week delay in a blog update.) Life gets busy. But life is good.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from President Hinckley. It's definitely worth sharing. I haven't been able to find it published (at least the whole thing) on the internet, so I'm going to hand type it out. It comes from the end of an address to religious educators. I only have a faded copy of the last page of the talk, but I hope you enjoy too. It seems so fitting for my life right now:

"And now, finally, Enjoy your work. Be happy. I meet so many people who constantly complain about the burden of their responsibilities. Of course the pressures are great. There is much, too much, to do. There are financial burdens to add to all of these pressures, and with all of this we are prone to complain, frequently at home, often in public. Turn your thinking around. The gospel is good news. Man is that he might have joy. Be happy! Let that happiness shine through your faces and speak through your testimonies. You can expect problems. There may be occasional tragedies. But shinning through all of this is the plea of the Lord:

'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.' (Matthew 11:28-30.)

"I enjoy these words of Jenkins Lloyd Jones which I clipped from a column in the Deseret News some years ago. I pass them on to you as I conclude my remarks. Said he:

'Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. Most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise… Life is like an old-time rail journey — delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.'

"I repeat, my brothers and sisters, the trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride; and really, isn't it a wonderful ride? Enjoy it! Laugh about it! Sing about it! Remember the words of the writer of Proverbs:

'A merry heart doeth good like medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.' (Proverbs 17:22)

"God bless you, my beloved associates, in this great and sacred work. May you grow in strength and power and capacity and understanding with each passing day. May you cultivate constantly a saving balance in your life. May you speak from hearts filled with love for the Lord, for his children, for your own dear ones. And may there be gladness in your hearts as you reflect upon your great and sacred opportunity to touch for everlasting good those who daily come under your direction.

"God bless each of you that there may be love and peace in your homes, and in your hearts that satisfaction which comes of work well done in so great a cause. I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Google Maps' new "Street View" feature

Anybody who has been around me since I got my first Gmail account knows that I'm a big Google fan. They come out with some pretty cool things. I love Gmail. I'm still giddy every time I use Google Earth--it's simply amazing. But I especially love Google Maps. I use this all the time. I can get directions, estimated time and distance, find businesses, get street map views, satellite views, or a combination of the two. I could go on and on and explain all the ways I use these programs. (I seriously can't stand that people still use Mapquest anymore!)

Add the new Google "Street View" for Google Maps to the list of really cool Google features.

At first glance the Google Maps page may look the same but in a few select cities you will notice a new little icon near the “satellite”, “Map” and “Hybrid” links called “Street View”. It was introduced in 2007 and provides 360° panoramic street-level views--almost as if you were there in person! They've gradually expanded to 23 mostly major cities including Salt Lake/Provo and San Antonio as of February 12th, 2008--just two days ago.

I'm amazed that I can locate the house we lived in while we were in Provo and with "Street View" feel like I am standing right out front! As for our current Texas abode, they haven't quite photographed our street yet (even though a majority of the city has already been done), but you can see the entrance to our neighborhood off the major street. That's still pretty cool to me. Even more fun than that is to zoom in downtown and look at the Alamo as if you were a tourist on the street. So cool! Even all the trees are clearly visible! If you can't tell, I get excited over these things.

So check it out. Have fun. Go exploring.

Thanks Google. Keep up the good work.

Now if only I could get paid to do all of this Google promoting. They could really use me in a commercial or something. If only they did commercials...

In the mood to laugh?

So I came across a funny and clever discussion that is pretty hilarious to read. A "unique" photo from the Ensign is posted, along with one word: "discuss". Discuss they did, and I thought you'd get a kick out of all the comments like I didl

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Christian Conversation

I went out to lunch the other day with a group of five co-workers. Somehow the discussion turned to my faith. I knew that one of them is married to a Baptist preacher. I also knew that of all the things she has heard about my faith, most of it has probably not been either A) positive, B) true, or C) important. I assume her husband probably doesn't believe that I am a Christian, but belong to a "cult" (this sure gets old). So I was pleased at the openness and common ground we were able to find, as well as the friendliness and the level of interest. I tried to anticipate questions that they might have and explain things in a non-threatening, non-defensive way. (I'm inspired by Richard Bushman and the way he conversed with national media at the Pew Forum's biannual faith conference).

They all had comments or questions, and I did my best to answer them, even though I've never even thought about some of the things they asked. For example, all three of them had at least learned at some time in their lives that my Church "owns Coca-Cola." Have any of you heard this rumor before? Apparently it's common here. Since setting the rumor straight, I've joked with them about this a couple times since. I found it interesting that they didn't seem to know much about the main points of the restored gospel, but were mostly familiar with trivial things. But I was happy about the level of comfort and openness in which the conversation took place. And I've been pleased that since that experience a number of them have comfortably asked me about my take on some thing or another pertaining to my faith.

I've come a long way since I was just a kid who attended my friends non-denominational church one day and ended up sitting through a Sunday school lecture about Mormons--at his church! I felt like standing up and saying something to correct the things being said, or at least say "hey, can't we talk about Jesus like we do in my church?", but I was too shy and too insecure in my beliefs. Now days I wish they would invite me back to speak in their church about my faith. I think they'd find someone who is a lot more sympathetic than they would expect. I'm much more into building bridges than I am into trying to convert people. We all have so much to gain from each other. It behooves us to be so very respectful and neighborly.

President Hinckley has said: "The true gospel of Jesus Christ never led to bigotry. It never led to self-righteousness. It never led to arrogance. The true gospel of Jesus Christ leads to brotherhood, to friendship, to appreciation of others, to respect and kindness and love."("The BYU Experience") With this in mind, and in the most humble way possible, we should be saying "bring all the good you have and let us see if we can add to it".

I must note the irony, however, in the fact that some of the most odious attacks against my faith come from those who have at some point left the faith. These are the kind of people who leave the Church but can't leave the Church alone. It has always been so. My wife and I recently came across some of their blogs. I was very impressed with her response in an open letter "To Those Who Fight My Mormon Faith", and I'll simply suggest that you link to it and read it for yourself.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mormons in the Media

With Romney out of the race, I wonder how much the media attention on our faith will die down. So far, it has been fascinating to reflect on all the perceptions, or misperceptions, that we have had about our "image" and now to be confronted with a surprising wake-up call. Here are some "must reads" that have put us in the spotlight recently. You're welcome to leave behind links in the comments section if you come across other articles you feel are worth reading.

Romney, Mormons, and Me -- I love the thought provoking reflection and the final question: "In this the 21st century, how do we strike a balance between melting pot and assimilation on the one hand and the maintenance of ethnic or religious identity on the other?"

Mormons Dismayed by Harsh Spotlight
-- "I don't think that any of us had any idea how much anti-Mormon stuff was out there," said Armand Mauss, a Mormon sociologist who has written extensively about church culture, in an interview last week. "The Romney campaign has given the church a wake-up call. There is the equivalent of anti-Semitism still out there." And I loved the quote from Elder Ballard in an interview about encouraging members to share their faith through blogging and other "new media: "I just felt we needed to unleash our own people." This was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal

Missionaries Spread the News, but Don’t Read It -- New York Times profile of two LDS missionaries who didn't even know Romney had withdrawn from the race 50 hours later. Nothing too special or unique, but timely and relevant.

How to Bury a Prophet -- Great insite into the importance of family in our faith by writing about President Hinckley's funeral. Written by Kathleen Flake, an LDS associate professor of American Religious History at Vanderbilt University. (She was interviewed extensively in PBS's "The Mormons"). "Though the requisite list of Hinckley's ecclesiastical accomplishments was given, it was subordinated to his success as a courageous and amusing friend and a successful husband and father." Just like my dad always said: There are no wards and stakes in heaven--just families.

What is it about Mormonism? -- very insightful, sympathetic, and reflective piece printed in the New York times by a Jewish professor at Harvard, Noah Feldman

Mormons Confront Negative Ideas About Their Faith
-- "Mormons had come to the conclusion that their religion was pretty much accepted," says Richard Bushman, a visiting professor of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. "But these horrendous poll results that indicate that Mormons are not first-class citizens because of their religion were terribly shocking."

Mormons and Idiosyncrasy--Religious scholar and historian Martin E. Marty provides a "retrospective" on some of the extreme statements directed at the Church, asking "what went wrong, what goes wrong, when in a United States where so many good things are happening on the inter-religious, racial, ethnic, and gender front, this underground of ‘anti’s so frequently emerges.” I love the common sense in this article; it rings so true.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sacrament Meeting Suggestions Box

I had an epiphany after sitting through sacrament meeting today. We ought to have a suggestions/comments box outside the chapel. Just keep little comment cards next to the tithing envelops or something. Either way, don't you think there ought to be a way to give feedback? Don't you think those participating in the meetings would also appreciate a little feedback, or perhaps simple "thank you notes"? Sometimes I get an idea or suggestion and it's nice just to be heard. Suggestions could range from "we need more hymnals in the back of the chapel so we can all sing back there" to "Loved so and so's talk about _______. The Spirit really pricked my heart!"

And then there are days like today where I would perhaps want to leave anonymous feedback about how the tone of the meeting left something to be desired. The speaker went into lecture mode about how there were certain people who had committed to do a certain project and not a single one did it, and she ended up doing it herself, followed by a lecture about being on time to our meetings. (We just switched to having sacrament last--something that as a father with young kids I do not prefer). She also lectured us about how there was a world-wide satellite broadcast featuring the "new" prophet and "between two wards only 43, I counted, only 43 people showed up". (Another comment card suggestion--Put important announcements in the bulletin!) I don't think I'm the only one who doesn't respond well to negativity. I think it actually tends to have an adverse effect and pushes people further away.

There needs to be true love expressed--not a guilt trip. And I don't mean to dwell on the negative because I don't want to be a hypocrite. But as I left the meeting today I felt a little bit disappointed and sad--not just for me--but for anyone not of our faith who happened to be there today. I think they would have come across with the wrong impression of what we expect our meetings to be: Christ-centered and filled with the Spirit. If a suggestions box doesn't seem practical, perhaps a simple survey from time to time would suffice. "Strongly agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly disagree: I was edified as a result of my experience in this meeting today".

That ought to be the number one question, because the goal is "he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together" (Doctrine & Covenants 50:22).

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Easy Reading

I'm noticing that my wife gets a lot more traffic to her blog. I'm not surprised. She's a really inspiring person. She's also funny, and she's got a great perspective about mothering and life in general. She's smart, and she's also a really great writer. And she's a good critic when she needs to be. She told me that my blog isn't "easy reading". That's not to say she doesn't appreciate what I have to say, but I can see her point. Long posts can be intimidating. It's nice to have something short to read and comment about every now and then. So I'm going to keep it brief and spare you my grief (and disapointment) over the announcement today that Romney is "suspending" his campaign. I wasn't surprised. The writting was on the wall after Super Tuesday and after John McCain and Mike Huckabee (I'm being polite by not calling them names) teamed up on Mitt. He's still great, and who knows, maybe this is just the beginning...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Tender Thoughts

We had a pleasant time "spending the day" yesterday with President Hinckley, his moving funeral, and the extended coverage about him on BYU-TV. President Monson hit the nail on the head when he quoted an unnamed poet and said: "'Here and there, and now and then, God makes a giant among men.' President Hinckley was such a giant--a giant of knowledge, of faith, of testimony, of compassion, of vision."

President Hinckley had so much knowledge. He was always learning. He was always advocating getting more education and doing our best--in short, being smart. The theme of his life was one of faith--building faith in the hearts of the people, faith in God and in His Son, faith in this restored gospel, faith in our ability to "not just be good, but to be good for something." His testimony will always be remembered as one who was a special witness of the living Christ. His compassion--his love for all peoples of the world, both in the Church and outside of the Church. His love and desire to bless was so evident. And finally, his vision. He was a visionary and he shared an inspired vision with all the rest of us, making us feel that our contribution in our sphere was every bit as important as his contribution in his sphere. He envisioned temples dotting the world, and that has come to pass. He had a vision for us all, from the youth to the most senior member of the Church, that has inspired us all to be a little better, rise a litter higher, and to do the very best we can.

Last week we had the pleasure of visiting one on one with my Uncle Con and Aunt Carolyn when they came out to visit Sally, Brad, and Tyler. We haven't had a lot of one on one time--almost none--since he was called first as a mission president, then to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and now as president of the Portland Oregon Temple. So it was delightful to attend our ward together and have lunch together Sunday afternoon and hear of some of their funny and memorable experiences. My favorite was having a family home evening with all of us together at our house the day after President Hinckley passed away. We shared our thoughts and feelings about him. Then we got to hear Carolyn talk about Grandpa Lake as she was growing up. I think I'll cherish that memory for a long time.

Con has always been big on obedience. I remember when he gave his talk in General Conference entitled "Faith Obedience". It is a talk I've referred back to multiple times when the topic of "blind obedience" has come up from time to time. It was recently re-printed in the Novemeber 2007 New Era magazine. One of my favorite parts of the talk demonstrates that by obeying because of our faith, we'll be safe. It makes me grateful that Heavenly Father loves us so much to give us a prophet to guide us and help keep us safe. After sharing the story of experiencing a dangerous "sneaker wave" first hand, he taught:

"One of the sneaky ploys of the adversary is to have us believe that unquestioning obedience to the principles and commandments of God is blind obedience. His goal is to have us believe that we should be following our own worldly ways and selfish ambitions. This he does by persuading us that "blindly" following the prophets and obeying the commandments is not thinking for ourselves. He teaches that it is not intelligent to do something just because we are told to do so by a living prophet or by prophets who speak to us from the scriptures.

Our unquestioning obedience to the Lord's commandments is not blind obedience. President Boyd K. Packer in the April conference of 1983 taught us about this: "Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God. . . . We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see" ("Agency and Control," Ensign, May 1983, 66).

We might call this "faith obedience." With faith, Abraham was obedient in preparing Isaac for sacrifice; with faith, Nephi was obedient in obtaining the brass plates; with faith, a little child obediently jumps from a height into the strong arms of his father. "Faith obedience" is a matter of trust. The question is simple: Do we trust our Heavenly Father? Do we trust our prophets?"

Our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, made it easy to trust him. He loved us. A card that his grandchildren made him at his viewing said: "Dear Grandpa: We will always be grateful, be smart, be clean, be true, be humble, be prayerful because we love you." I too want to pledge to always be grateful, smart, clean, true, humble, and prayerful because I love President Hinckley. Goodbye to an awesome friend.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Stephen E. Robinson & "Believing Christ"

Stephen E. Robinson was a very influential mentor to me. He wouldn’t remember me, but I can never forget him.

While on my mission in Ecuador (1999-2001) I was able to borrow my mission presidents’ copies of “Believing Christ” and “Following Christ”, and I’ve never been the same since. I had always had a testimony, but after reading those books my understanding of the gospel just “clicked”, and everything in the scriptures suddenly made so much more sense. My faith in and relationship to our Savior was deepened, and it was also a liberating and enlightening experience to understand my covenant relationship to Him. I became not only a better missionary, but also a better person. It has made me a better disciple, friend, husband, father—you name it. I have since given away many more copies of those books. If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to read or re-read “Believing Christ” and the sequel “Following Christ.” Or if you want to read or listen to the talk that led to the book, it’s on the BYU speeches website. Here’s the link to the text version: “Believing Christ: A Practical Approach to the Atonement.” You can also download and listen to it as an mp3 file. To not just believe in Christ, but to believe Christ, turns on the power that faith in Christ can have on one's life. This concept is explained much more eloquently by him in the book "Believing Christ".

I feel great satisfaction in knowing that I was able to come back from my mission and take classes from him at BYU. That was an added bonus and more enjoyable than I would have ever expected. I was never one to miss classes, but I especially made sure never to miss one of his. I still have the class notes. I took New Testament and then The Doctrine and Covenants from him. Those were my favorite days as a student at BYU.

He was always very kind to let me visit with him one on one in his office and never made me feel rushed as I thirsted for more and asked questions and received insightful answers. His personality is one of a kind. I miss that time and hope life is treating him well.

When I took those classes, it was shortly after he was coming out of his own personal experience with depression, and the sun was just beginning to rise back up over the horizon of what was a very dark experience. He was so open and personal with us about that awful experience that chemical depression must be. He told us that they struggled to find the right meds to get his chemical balance right, and he had to go into drug detox to get off the meds he’d become addicted to. He found humor in the fact that he was probably the only BYU religious professor to have been a drug addict. He said that was the most humbling/humiliating experience of his life. I have been so much more understanding and sensitive with friends and family affected by depression ever since.

His gift, talent, skill, knowledge, frankness, and humor as a teacher has meant so much to me and always will. And his teaching opened up the scriptures to me in a way no other has—in a way that has made me think back so very often to the things I learned from him when I study the scriptures, teach, or participate in any gospel discussion. I can’t say that about any other religion class I ever took at BYU, or any other teacher. Then again, he wasn't our typical BYU professor. I remember him bringing in his 32 ounce soda pop to class (obviously from some mini-mart off campus). One day some student finally asked him what he was drinking. (Remember, BYU doesn't sell caffeinated drinks on campus.) He looked up with a sly look and said "Root Beer, and unless you taste it you wouldn't know any different." He taught without any pretense—he was the only BYU professor that would occasionally swear in class (mildly), and I even loved him more for it. He was a breath of fresh air. He got us to think about the gospel in a way very few can. Whether it was “stomping like an elephant” or “walking as if on egg shells”, the doctrines he taught have sunk deep into my soul and enriched my personal testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ-- the greatest source of peace, hope, comfort, assurance, and joy.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Why I Love Blogging

I love reading blogs. Not only is it a great way to stay in touch with family, but it's fascinating to see how other people think. I've found an LDS blog that usually is pretty fascinating reading. Not just because of what the main blogger says, but because the people who leave comments begin entirely new conversations. Those are sometimes just as fascinating as the original post. They get you to evaluate your beliefs and the way you communicate them to others. Your eyes are opened to other people's viewpoints, and sometimes you come away more informed because of an electronic social interaction with them, whether you agree completely or not. It's usually an enlightening experience.

Link to this post from the blog Mormanity and take some time to read through all the comments and the discussion that takes place between members of the "bloggernacle" (LDS bloggers) as well as those not of our faith on the theme of whether Mormons have a monopoly on truth, and then shooting off in other directions. They're interesting reading and they demonstrate what I love most about blogging--the conversation that can take place between commenters. It's fascinating to observe--and very seldom does Jeff Lindsay (the creator of Mormanity) even jump in, if at all. I think he too appreciates that his blog can provide a forum to an interactive discussion and as a place to share views, ideas, and information.

This would be the result of my ideal blogging world; having prolonged discussions about whatever topics come to mind. Of course, I would have to choose a specific theme to blog about to get as many readers as Mormanity, and that's not something I'm interested in doing just yet on my blog. Nor do I care about the quantity of visitors, but the quality of the conversation. Whether as an outside observer or sometimes as a contributer, whether on mine or on other blogs-I just enjoy the blogging experience. It has stimulated thought-provoking questions as well as answers. It's a great way to stay in touch with family and share all kinds of experiences, as well as benefit from the wisdom, humor, and experiences of complete strangers. I just enjoy a good written conversation from time to time. Sometimes the "voice" that comes out through the writing process is as interesting as the things that are said. So here's to blogging! The more people that join the "conversation" the better!