Tag Archives: Vision

Tolerating the Weeds

Not Free Willy

My wife and I watched Blackfish a few months ago. Going into it we knew it was about SeaWorld and orca whales and the issues that arise from their captivity, but we didn’t know much more than that. Thinking that our two year-old son might find it interesting to see killer whales, my wife invited him to join us.

“Hey, do you want to watch a show about whales?”

*turns on Blackfish*

(From the television) “…Um, we need someone to respond… the whale just ate one of the trainers…” *ominous music* Continue reading Tolerating the Weeds

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“It Ain’t in My Bible No More”

I went to my grandpa’s funeral last weekend. During the service, I heard a story that I’d heard a time or two before. I didn’t mind – it’s a good one.

My grandpa served in what was then the Southern States mission, right in the heart of the Bible Belt. One day, while tracting, my grandpa got into a discussion about the way the Church practices proxy baptisms for the dead. The man he was speaking with challenged him to defend that belief by going to the Bible, even handing him his own copy of the scriptures.

My grandpa obliged, and turned to the scripture in Corinthians that Latter-day Saints sometimes use as a proof-text. “There it is, right there in your Bible,” he said, handing the man back his Bible. Continue reading “It Ain’t in My Bible No More”

“I couldn’t fathom why the Church supported Boy Scouting”

I love scouting.

That may be why I appreciated Mac’s comments here. I encourage you to read them. It’s a wonderful story.

Scouting had a tremendous impact on me, and introduced me to a host of great men who helped guide me through my teenage years. My love for scouting is likely due, in fact, to then. Continue reading “I couldn’t fathom why the Church supported Boy Scouting”

Somewhere I Belong

A Whole New World

I’ve maintained a blog for perhaps four years now, but it’s really always been for me more than it’s been for anyone else. I write about things I’m interested in, or have an opinion about, but I don’t really follow other blogs or comment prolifically. Because of that, I’ve had limited awareness of the Mormon blogosphere as a whole.

That’s changing a bit. I’m coming to find that there’s a whole world out there I never even knew about!

Like, did you know there’s a loosely-defined community of bloggers that constitute the Bloggernacle? (It’s hard to define, though some have tried – from my knothole, it looks like it tends more ‘liberal’.) There’s even a term for when members of that community gang up on you – it’s called being Bloggernacled (from “Bloggernacle dog piled”). Continue reading Somewhere I Belong

“This is for the Record”

Geez Cousin you are super into this whole thing.”

I had posted a link to Kate Kelly’s excommunication letter, released by Ordain Women, on Facebook. I thought that it provided an interesting counter to some of the claims that Kelly has made about the process she has gone through. It wasn’t the first time I’d posted or written about the recent controversy, either: Continue reading “This is for the Record”

A Harmful Address from General Conference

I like to explore the blogosphere after General Conference ends. I’m interested in the reactions that others have to the words of the Church leaders, men who I consider to be prophets, seers, and revelators. This helps me to think more critically about what I’ve heard, which in turn builds my testimony in what they’ve said.

One particular post caught my eye. A marriage and family therapist, and member of the LDS Church, wrote a post on the Saturday morning session of General Conference, dividing each speaker’s comments into (potentially) three sections:

  • Messages I Found to be Healthy and Uplifting
  • Messages I Found to be Needing of Further Nuance/Discussion
  • Messages I Found to be Harmful

The first two sections aren’t anything special – this blog, for example, is a place where I often add my own nuance and discussion (from my perspective, of course) to the words of prophets. That third section, though, piqued my interest, perhaps because it’s an idea that is so foreign to me – it’s a short walk from “harmful” to “dismissible,” and that concerns me ever so slightly.

In the interest of adding to the dialogue, I’d like to look at the “harmful” portions identified by this blogger in Jeffrey R. Holland’s address. Continue reading A Harmful Address from General Conference

Cherry Blossom Faith

It’s beautiful in Washington state right now. Just last weekend, my family and I visited the Quad at the University of Washington, where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. The winters here are cold and dark – in December, the sun doesn’t rise until 8am and sets as early as 4:30pm – so it’s refreshing to see color and vibrancy return as we meander into spring.

That beauty was offset by some difficult news. I say difficult, because while it doesn’t really affect me directly now, it’s indicative of a culture shift that will impact me in a big way, sooner or later. Continue reading Cherry Blossom Faith

The Potter’s Clay

I was reading through some of my old mission notes the other day, and came across a fantastic little lesson. It all starts with this scripture from Jeremiah:

“O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:6).

The Potter’s Process

To those who may have taken ceramics in high school (or have seen the movie “Ghost” more than a few times) this may be old news. For the rest of us, though, this is how the ceramics process works.

First, you have to cut and wedge the clay. Wedging is done by rotating the clay and pressing it onto a hard surface. When done correctly, wedging homogenizes the clay and gets all the air bubbles out.

This is very hard work, but work that is absolutely critical. Air still in the clay will expand during firing, and the piece will explode in the kiln.

A piece is then molded and dried before making its’ way to the kiln, where firing takes place. Firing is normally done in multiple steps. The initial firing, referred to as bisque firing, is meant to harden the clay in order to make glazing easier. This first firing takes a few days, as the oven temperature slowly rises to almost 2000 degrees, then slowly falls before pieces are removed from the kiln.

If the temperature rises or falls too quickly, or if the wedging was poor and air bubbles were left in the clay, the piece will explode. It will be completely destroyed, and will likely destroy or damage pieces near it in the kiln.

Our Response to the Divine Potter

As our Heavenly Potter works us into the shapes he desires, we can respond in two ways.

Rebellious Clay

The first response is to rebel against his efforts, to push back against the wedging and the molding. Regarding this response, Isaiah asks,

“For shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?” (Isaiah 29:16; see also 2 Nephi 27:27).

“Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Isaiah 45:9).

Isaiah essentially points out how silly it is to fight our Potter’s hands. It would be absurd for my own clay to start talking back as I formed it into a pot or dish! It’s dirt! It has no idea what’s going on, or what is best.

Humble Clay

This is why it’s so much better to respond in the second way, with humble acceptance. Contrasting the intelligence of a human potter and mud is an apt metaphor. Compared to our Heavenly Father, and just like the dirt, we don’t have a clue.

Additionally, the clay has no real value until it is molded. We could never become apart from the molding, pursuing our own course, what our Heavenly Potter could make us.

In the words of Isaiah, how better is it to say to the Divine Potter,

“But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

In his hands we can be shaping into something special. As he wedges us, and we feel the pressure of being stretched and refined, let us remember his purpose. He wants to prepare us for the kilns ahead, and give us the fortitude to withstand the heat.

Firing and Repentance

Once clay is kilned, it’s practically permanent. While it’s possible to become malleable again, it’s so much harder than before the clay is fired.

First, scraps need to be soaked. And soaked. And soaked. The moisture was taken out of the clay over a long, hot process, and it will take a long, long time for moisture to return. It does not happen overnight.

Then the clay must be reconstituted. This is sometimes done with a machine that crushes and mixes the scraps into clay that can once again be molded and shaped.

But all is not done even after reconstitution. Again, the clay must be wedged, and wedging reconstituted clay is far more difficult than wedging new clay.

What can we learn from this?

First, we learn that repentance is hard. It is possible, and it is worth it, but that does not mean that it is without a price. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said,

“I am convinced that… salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that [we] have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. [We] have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

“Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that [we], to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.

“For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.

If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.

The soaking, and the reconstitution, and the wedging after a life of sin will be difficult, and painful.

But I repeat, it is worth it. Isaiah tells us,

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Jesus Christ is our Savior. Should we, God forbid, reject his careful molding and shaping, his atonement provides for us to be soaked, reconstituted, and wedged so that we can be all he wants us to be.

The Youth Activity from Hell

We had a relative visit from back east last night. He just moved there for a job, but has to come back here every other weekend to finish an E-MBA he’s pursuing. He flies in Friday night and sleeps over, then spends 8 hours in class before flying back home.

He slept over at our place last night, and we got to hear some stories about the goings on in his ward, including what leaders thought would be a good youth activity.

They decided it would be good to read the Book of Mormon…

in its’ entirety…

together…

within 36 hours…

Oh, brother.

The Activity

The youth and their leaders met together at the church Friday evening to start reading the Book of Mormon. They read constantly, and finished for the night after 9pm.

After a good night’s rest, they met again at the church at 8am, and then powered through the rest of the Book of Mormon, wrapping up around 11pm.

Throughout the evening and day they were free to come and go to use the restroom or eat.

My relative’s son had a miserable time at the Friday night portion. His parents offered to let him decide himself whether or not to go back Saturday, but to make sure to ask Heavenly Father. He told them later that Heavenly Father didn’t want him to go, and passed on the Saturday session.

Forgetting the Purpose

One of the greatest lessons that I took from my mission was to always consider the purpose in what I was doing.

Teaching Towards a Commitment

For example, we would often teach gospel lessons to those who were investigating the Church, but we were given full leeway over what to teach and how to teach it. That’s quite a responsibility, and proved difficult until I discovered a trick.

First, we decided what we wanted to have happen as a result of our lesson. Missionaries would usually leave what we called “commitments”, something an investigator would agree to do. It might be to pray every night, or to read the scriptures, or to come to church, or to stop smoking, or even to get baptized.

Next, we would pick the gospel principles that would support that commitment. If we were going to commit an investigator to read the scriptures, we might teach about prophets, or how the scriptures answer “questions of the soul”, or how we can each receive personal revelation by reading the scriptures.

Finally, we’d put those principles together logically and plan how to team-teach them.

The Youth Activity

Sounds fairly simple, right? Well, this has literally revolutionized my life and nearly everything I do in a teaching or leadership capacity.

And what’s more, as simple as it is, few people seem to do it themselves. Answering the question, “What do I hope to accomplish?” before setting out full-steam ahead is a foreign concept to far too many I encounter.

This youth activity, for example – what did the leadership hope to accomplish by a reading of the entire Book of Mormon in two sittings?

In some of my organizational behavior classes I’ve learned that in order to stay attentive, adults need to change gears every 20 to 30 minutes. You need to move from a lecture to video, and from a video to a case study, and from a case study to a breakout session, even if you’re only working with 90 minutes. Otherwise, people lose focus and won’t absorb what they hear, even if they think they’re drinking it all in.

And what of different types of learners? Auditory, visual, and kinetic learners learn in very different ways. One type of activity (say, reading from the text for hours on end without any discussion or commentary) may not materialize into any long-term effects.

So I ask again, what did the leadership hope to accomplish? If they wanted the youth to get a broad overview of events in the Book of Mormon, there are better ways (reading or watching Book of Mormon Stories, for example, or going over the CES timeline). If they wanted to present some important doctrinal highlights from the Book of Mormon, there are also better ways for that.

What might they have accomplished doing this activity?

They might have taught that it’s not important to retain what you read as long as you get it done. With scripture reading we’re checking off a box, and even though none of those kids will remember the slightest bit of what they read they can all say with pride that they’ve finished the Book of Mormon.

They might have taught that consistency is not important. Why read the scriptures each day when you can force it all in to a weekend or month? How much easier it is to “procrastinate the day of your repentance”!

They probably taught some of the youth to hate the scriptures. Some might have been pressured to participate, whether by leaders, parents, or peers. Now, that’s fine when we’re pressured to do good things, but I’d venture to say it may be hard to see the fruits from this activity.

And that’s just off the top of my head.

Conclusion

What’s the take-away from an experience like this?

The primary take-away is probably that it is essential to consider what we want to accomplish before we do a task. Always be asking yourself, “What do I hope to accomplish?”, and then reevaluate what you’re doing in the light of that purpose.

The Hawaii Honolulu Mission Motto

I’m still spending time in my wife’s class, and today happened to be Hawaiian Day! Before we left for school, I pulled out a box with some things from Hawaii, and it brought me back to the wonderful two years I spent there as a missionary.

In the Hawaii Honolulu Mission, we have an incredible motto. It goes like this:

We are grateful to be in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission – the Aloha Mission. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is our message; love of God and others is our motivation; and obedience to the commandments and mission rules is our strength. By sharing the gospel with others, we can give them the “ha”, the breath of life, even eternal life. Aloha!

You might not have noticed, but this motto is an acronym of sorts for the word “Aloha”.

  • Atonement of Jesus Christ
  • Love of God and others
  • Obedience to the commandments and mission rules
  • HA, the breath of life, eternal life

If you’d like to learn more about this motto, read this devotional talk by President and Sister Peterson, who served as the mission leaders soon after I left.

(The only thing I find is missing from this motto is mention of the Restoration. If I could be so bold as to suggest a change, the last full sentence would begin, “By sharing the restored gospel with others…” I know, I know, when am I ever not so bold?)

Another quasi-motto centered around the Kukui nut. We were taught,

“The Kukui nut was prized by the Hawaiians because the kernel is rich in oil. Each kernel burned for three minutes. It reminds us of the light of the Savior which fills our souls, not for three minutes, but for eternity.”

I’m so grateful to have served in Hawaii. There is not a day that goes by where I am not influenced by my experience there.