Inspiration is all around us

You’re number 288! Please, be personal.

The other day I was in Cutlers, a small sandwich shop here in Utah (they’ve got an amazing turkey and avocado sandwich, by the way, and crazy-good sugar cookies).   

It was early evening and they were about to close.  I walked in and placed an order for a dozen sugar cookies (no, not all for me… although I could have eaten them all).

The gentleman at the counter took my order and my cash, gave me my change, and declared with an I’m-bored-out-of-my-mind voice “You’re number 288”. 

 “No, I’m Rusty” I thought.  But then he handed me a little sheet of paper on which was scrawled the number 288, as if he’d read my mind and wanted to prove me wrong.

I looked around me.  There was one other person in the shop, and she’d already gotten her order.

I laughed out loud, which earned me a quizzical expression from my little helper, and to which I replied “Never mind… thank you.”

Clearly, he didn’t understand the importance of being personal. 

But it made me wonder at my own interactions with people, how often I must take on that same robotic approach.  How often do I forget that the person I’m talking to is a person?  That they’ve got a life, and right now it might not be going so well.

We all have areas in our lives that, due to repetition, cause us to be a bit too calloused in our interactions with people.

How would you feel if you drove up to the McDonalds window and the gal (instead of just reaching out for your money), looked at you in the eye, smiled, and said “Nice to see you, thanks for coming to McDonalds”, or “have a great evening, and enjoy your meal.”

Interacting with people can (and should) be one of the most regularly enriching aspects of our lives.  Sometimes they’ve got a bit of spare energy, or humor, or wisdom that you can glean from.  Sometimes it’s the other way around.  But whatever it is, as you become more aware of the person to whom you’re talking, you’ll find that good things happen.

If we all tried to be just a bit more personal in our dealings with others, we’d find the world would be a better place.

Rusty

P.S.  Email, as well as other mediums of digital communications tends to exacerbate this problem even more.  If your interactions with others are primarily digital, you’ll need to be extra vigilant, because you lack those visual cues that would otherwise guide your interaction.

Don’t abandon your children

Today Nebraska lawmakers voted (43-5) to change the state safe-haven law.  All 50 states have these safe-haven laws, allowing parents to leave infants at a hospital anonymously without fear of prosecution.  They were passed in an effort to prevent unwanted babies from being abandoned in less safe locations.

But when Nebraska set up their law, they failed to provide an age limit.  The result is that people have been driving even from out of state, just to drop of their children.  They’ve come from Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, and even Florida.

Since September, when the law took effect, they’ve already had thirty five children dropped off, all but six of them older than 10.  Today the Senate held an emergency session to change the law.

But is there a problem with the law, or is there a problem with society?

Full disclosure, having myself been abandoned by my father when I was about 2 and by my mother when I was 11, I have strong feelings on the matter that may cloud my vision.

But to me this whole scenario has exposed a terrible flaw in society, and this is just the tip of the iceburg (granted, one of the more atrocious illustrations of this flaw).  To me it speaks to the dramatic deterioration of the family.  

As a society have we come to so disregard the family?  Unwanted and out of wedlock pregnancies abound because of this disregard.  And as a society how do we rate this.  It’s strange to me that anyone can have a child and we have laws allowing them to abandon them at will at a hospital, but I have to have a license to catch a fish.  There’s something innately wrong with that.

Are there scenarios where it may be in everyone’s best interest for a child to live somewhere else?  Perhaps (far be it from me to judge each scenario), but it should be done with extreme trepidation, care, prayerful consideration, inspired guidance, and using appropriate channels (for there are worthy parents out there who are willing and anxious to care for these children).  But what kind of solution is it to simply walk away from the problem.  Especially when that walking away is from your very children, who love you, and look to you for support.

What kind of culture does that create? What kind of message and habit does that perpetuate? 

Families are ordained of God.  It’s central to His plan for the eternal destiny of His children.  Families are the mortar of society, and anything that would weaken those bonds (including the dereliction of duty by parents) threatens not only society but our own exaltation.

The protection and preservation of the family is not only crucial to those who have their own families, but to every individual, for families form the fabric of eternity, and our eternal destinies are interwoven in that fabric, regardless how isolated we may feel or try to become.  The hearts of the children MUST turn to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers MUST turn to their children.  There is immeasurable and ill-understood power in these relationships both on this side of the veil and beyond.

This same eternal and divine power that binds us together as relatives, is the very power that will strengthen you, support you, and give even the most weary parents the emotional and spiritual sustenance they need to overcome even the most daunting of life’s many challenges.

So if you are one who is struggling against such challenges, and considering such a dramatic course of action, let me speak to you clearly.  There is no challenge beyond which the Lord has power to help you overcome.  Do not turn away from your family.  Instead, turn to them, and experience the infinite power that is available to those who endeavor to strengthen those family bonds, instead of breaking them.  Turn inward, not outward, and you’ll find strength and support from the Lord in ways that you may have never imagined.

Families are eternal.  Let them not be so easily broken by such temporary strains, no matter how difficult they may seem at the time.

Please.

If you haven’t already, just read “The Family:  A proclamation to the World” and let your soul reflect upon the words of a latter-day prophet.

Rusty

 

P.S.  News on the issue can be found here, and here.

Changing of the guard – one prophet to another

In Arlington Cemetery, Arlington Virginia, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, one can witness the breathtakingly solemn ceremony of the changing of the guard.

It’s one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen.  Since it was built, the tomb has been guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  The soldiers that guard it have been chosen with excruciating care.  They are the best of the Elite 3rd U.S. Infantry. 

They have been tested and tried; they are the most seasoned sentinels.  They have unwavering discipline, and have volunteered themselves for tireless service.  During their guard, there is no relief.  They weather any storm, regardless of how severe.  Until they are relived, their vigilance is perfect.

Before the time comes for the changing of the guard, his replacement will walk with him for a time in absolute harmony.  They walk in perfect Step, one with another, completely united.  And then, when the time comes for the first to retire, the next is there, completely ready.  The handoff ceremony is precise and pure, having been executed many times before.  And so, the precious post passes from one to the next, in an unbroken chain of protection.

Such is the changing of the guard.

On Sunday, January 27, 2008, our beloved prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley passed away.  The following Saturday, February 2, 2008, I was privileged to be at the Tabernacle, and witness the changing of the guard.

 No, it wasn’t any official ceremony appointing our new prophet, but it was my opportunity to see the mantle of the Lord settling onto our new Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, as he bid farewell to his mighty predecessor with the tender words reflecting their friendship… “Gordon, God be with you till we meet again.”

And so, the changing of the guard is complete, leaving the saints with an unbroken chain of prophetic protection.  Chosen with excruciating care, from our most seasoned sentinels, the best of the elite, our new guard is uniquely positioned to stand in the storms that lie ahead, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

President Thomas S. Monson, our new prophet.  May the Lord bless you in your service, and may our prayers sustain you through your post.

The Tomb At Dusk

[digg=http://www.digg.com/arts_culture/Changing_of_the_guard_one_prophet_to_another] 

Rusty

Craig (from Craigslist) has faith in people

Craig Newmark

Craig Newmark

If you’re unfamiliar with the highly popular site “Craigslist” (www.craigslist.com), it’s a classified ads site where you can go and list and purchase things that are for sale.

The site was founded by Craig Newmark (bio and history) in 1995.  Since then Craigslist has become wildly popular, now receiving over 12 billion page views per month (if you’re not a tech person, that’s a really, really, really high amount of traffic).  Craigslist was recently valued by Sillicon Alley as being worth $5 billion dollars.

Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to Craig speak and was struck by something he said.  While he founded the company, he now primarily works in customer service.  His job is to make sure his customers are happy.

In his discussion, he talked about how the site is plagued by spammers, and those who tend to abuse the system.  In response, he’s put in place mechanisms for self-policing, to which he made the following profound comment… “I’ve found that people are generally good”.  He explained that if you just give people the ability to police themselves, by in large the system will take care of itself.

For one who has so much contact with such vast amounts of people, I thought his remark was particularly inspiring.

Rusty

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New, LDS News Source

LDS News Source

 

Today I received an invitation to exchange banners with a new news site www.LDSNewsSource.com, as yet another response to Elder Ballard’s challenge to increased membership interaction online (see also “So many Mormon Blogs“).

The site searches over 5,000 newspapers worldwide every hour, on the hour, and compiles any and all articles that pertain to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons).  Even more, it translates all those articles into 24 different languages.

I spent some time there tonight and it looks like they’ve really done a good job.  If you have a moment, you may want to check it out.  www.LDSNewsSource.com

Keep up the great work guys!

Rusty

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Picking pumpkins

The thing I love about the holidays, is the excuse to just get out and do stuff as a family. Here we are at the pumpkin patch, each of the kids prowling around in search of the perfect pumpkin.

It’s a cool October evening, and everybody’s having a blast.

Life is just good.

Life’s little pleasures

This morning I was lying in bed, trying to extract from the night every last minute of sleep possible, but I was slowly coming to consciousness as my kids began to wake themselves to go about getting ready for school.

I was pretending they didn’t exist for as long as possible when suddenly I heard the tremendously excited voice of my two year old in his bedroom across the hall.  Whereas generally he’ll lay awake in bed for a little while till I come retrieve him with a bear hug and daddy snuggles, today he burst out of his room shouting “garbage truck”.

Actually, it sounded more like “garage shuck”, but apparently he’d heard the garbage truck laboring up the hill outside, and just couldn’t bear the excitement any longer.

My 9 year old saw his enthusiasm, and brought him outside to witness this marvel of marvels first-hand.

Now, fully conscious, but not ready to give up the bed, I rolled over and tried to get comfortable.  That’s when I found that hidden spot in the bed where the sheets are still cool.  It was then that I realized how grateful I am for life’s little pleasures.

In a life of soaring expectations, overwhelming responsibilities, and profound business, sometimes it’s the simplest of things that bring you the most pleasure, if we will but take notice.

Rusty

Scriptures for the iPhone

For all of you iPhone fans (like myself), you’ll be happy to know that on August 6th, Michael Jensen (who brought us www.ReadScriptures.com – the free, web-based app) released a full-fledged (natively installed) scriptures app for the iPhone.

It contains LDS Scriptures including the Old Testament, New Testament (KJV), the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.  It also contains additional LDS content like Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual, Hyms, the Book of Mormon Study Guide, and even General Conference talks!

They’re soon going to be releasing the ability to search, bookmark, add footnotes, cross-referencing, highlighting, and more.

The app is available in iTunes right now (just search for “Scriptures”.  It is a bit spendy in comparison to other apps, asking a full $14.99, but on the other hand, the economics of the model make sense.  Whenever you have a smaller target audience, you have to charge more, whereas when you have a really large target audience, you can charge less and rely on mass to make the same revenue.

There are already 270 reviews, giving it an average rating of 3 ½ out of 5 possible stars.  But in looking through the reviews, it seems most of those that rated it poorly did so because of the price, not the quality of the app.

If the $14.99 is a deal-killer for you, Lee Falin has also released a version that is free, called “The Scriptures”.  His is also natively installed and doesn’t require an internet connection, but is limited to the Standard Works without the extra “goodies” of additional LDS content.  Still, it’s hard to beat free.  he too plans on updating his for footnotes, Topical guide, Bible Dictionary, ability to mark scriptures, and even aditional language support!

You can find more on Lee’s blog here.  His app currently has 101 reviews, averaging 4 1/2 stars (the cost is a big deal).  Most of his lower ratings are Mormon critics voting down the app because of the religion, not the app.  But it looks great.

I’ll download them both tonight from home to try myself.  If you’ve already tried either one, please let us know how you like them.

 

Rusty

Are intelligent people are less likely to believe in god?

Today I ran across an article (here) which seems to think so.  It discusses some research done recently tying a decline in religious observance over the last century to a rise in average intelligence.

The research was being conducted by Professor Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University.

Apparently there was an additional survey done of Royal Society fellows which found that only 3.3% believed in God.  Another poll done in the 90’s found only 7% of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God.

Lynn said “Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population?  I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ.  Academics have higher IQ’s than the general population.  Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God.

I’m not sure intelligence is the right word, but perhaps education.  Is this because as man becomes more educated they feel more self-sufficient, more superior, and as such, less prone to a belief wherein they rely on someone other than themselves – God?

Perhaps it’s that education relies on reason, proof, and logic, not faith, hope and trust… the thought that if it can’t be roved, then it’s not true.

Perahps the great apostasy, or falling away from the church of Christ, necessitating a full restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith, was in part due to the natural effects of educational evolution over time.

But the goal, of course, is not to remain ignorant, but to remain humble.  The ability to pursue intellectual increase while sustaining humility and testimony is one of the great challenges of life, because it is contrary to the tendency of the natural man.

In the article, Lynn said “… most primary school children believed in God, but as they entered adolescence – and their intelligence increased – many started to have doubts.”

No wonder the Lord so commonly counsels that we must be as little children, without malice, guile, or hypocrisy.

Rusty

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Did Mormons invent Wing Dings?

Wing Dings font...

Wing Dings font...

 

A little while ago, I was talking to a non-Mormon coworker.  He, of course, knew I was Mormon, and as we were talking, he said (in all seriousness): “I heard that Mormons are the ones that invented the Wing Dings font as a secret language”.

In case you’re not familiar, Wing Dings are a font available in Microsoft Word (since version 3.1) that renders letters as symbols.

I thought it was amazing that somehow, somewhere, somebody started this rumor.  I couldn’t help but laugh, as I took the opportunity to explain the inaccuracy of his understanding.

First, to set the record straight, for everyone out there wondering if Mormons invented Wing Dings… no, we didn’t.  In fact, Microsoft created Wing Dings by combining characters licensed from Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes (both Type designers).

But while this particular misconception was harmless (cute, even), many are not.  Many are created as propaganda and are proliferated around the internet (and conversations), and can become a great stumbling block to genuine people seeking the truth.

And so I renew my invitation… to all those who have questions about Mormonism, who have heard things that sound suspicious, ask (here).  We’ll answer you together. 

As Joseph Smith said “The standard of truth has been erected.  No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.  Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, and columny may defame.  But the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent.  Till it has penetrated every continent, swept every country, visited every clime, and sounded in every ear.  Till the work of the Lord shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say ‘the work is done’”.

Rusty

Mormon website ranks above all other religions

There’s an article on LDSMediaTalk.com (here), which points out that LDS.org ranks the highest of all religions organization’s websites.  At least according to Alexa (www.alexa.com), a well-known company that measures traffic, “reach”, and ranking of top websites.

According to the article, the following religions rank in this order (note:  the smaller the number, the higher the rank)…

  • 3,095 LDS.org (peaking as high as 2,500 in October… conference time)
  • 19,072 Watchtower.org (Jehovas Witnesses)
  • 25,990 Catholic.org
  • 62,988 Anglican/Episcopal
  • 71,175 Assemblies of God
  • 80,000 Sevent-day Adventist
  • 90,394 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Other sites for Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians were even farther down the list.

Of the three core missions of the church (proclaim the gospel, perfect the saints, redeem the dead), the church is perhaps most well known for their leading efforts in missionary work.  The Lord was clear in His command to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth, to feed His sheep, and to teach and baptize the nations.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), have always given every effort to take that charge seriously.

With some 55,000 dedicated missionaries world-wide, speaking 157 languages, the Lords church doesn’t stop there.  Instead, the latter-day prophets and apostles encourage every member to get involved using new media, to teach and spread the good news of the gospel.

It’s inspiring to see the Lords work move forth, and to learn that the world as a whole is responding to this new endeavor.  What a marvelous time it is to be a Mormon.

Rusty

 

The living Christ, a living Prophet – Conference Conclusion

 

This video, while intended to introduce conference, provides an equally compelling conclusion to this marvelous event.  A powerful introduction and testimony by Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Living Christ and a living prophet.

 

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pG2TxKrwAY

 

And here it is in text format:

A general conference of the church is a declaration to all the world that Jesus is the Christ.  That He and His Father, the God and Father of us all, appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith, in fulfillment of that ancient promise.  That the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth would again restore His church on earth, and again come in like manner as those Judean saints had seen him ascend into heaven.

This conference, and every other conference like it, is a declaration that he condescended to come to earth, in poverty and humility, to face sorrow and rejection, disappointment and death, in order that we might be saved from those very fates as our eternity unfolds.  That with His stripes we are healed. 

This conference proclaims to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people his messianic promise, that his mercy endureth forever. 

To all of you who think you are lost, or without hope, or who think you have done too much, that was too wrong, for too long.  To every one of you who worry that you’re stranded somewhere on the wintery plains of life and have wrecked your handcart in the process.  This conference calls out Jehovah’s unrelenting refrain “my hand is stretched out still.”

I testify of this reaching, rescuing, merciful Jesus.  That this is His redeeming church, based on His redeeming love.  It is no trivial matter for this church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it.  It is true light shining in a dark world.  And it shines from these proceedings. 

And that as those in the Book of Mormon declared, “There came prophets again among the people, who were sent from the Lord to speak it, yeah, there came prophets in the land again”.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Jeffery R. Holland
Quorum of the 12 Apostles

Conference Countdown – Engaging your children

New General Conference Activity Pack!

Believe me, I know how it goes (I’ve got 6 “childrens” myself), so I’ve been there.

You get all settled in to enjoy conference and then spend all your time preventing the mini-disasters that naturally result from a roomful of kids watching anything other than Sponge Bob Square Pants.

As comical as it is (if you were a bystander, they weren’t your kids, and you didn’t really care what the prophet was trying to tell you), it sure would be nice if they’d “shhhh”, at least just a bit so you could hear.

Even better, if there was some way to get them involved, and help them keep their little (emphasis intended) attentions focused through the drier parts.

Now there is.

Perhaps you’ve seen these circulating in prior conferences, but if you haven’t, there’s an UNOFFICIAL “General Conference Activity Packet” you can download and print for your kids (actually, print an extra copy for yourself, it, uh, helps if they see you do it too… 😉

The packet contains all kinds of great activities that keep them engaged, like…

  • Identifying the prophet and his counselors
  • Coloring the ties of those who talk,
  • Mazes
  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Matching the apostles photo to their name
  • Apostle name matches, and word search
  • Scripture matching
  • Deciphering hidden messages
  • Topic Bingo

And much more.

You can access (download and print) the General Conference Activity Packet direct here.  Also, there’s a good memory matching game with the apostles photos here.

Be sure to visit the author’s blog here (thanks again, and nice work).

Rusty

Mormon.org has been redesigned

In case you didn’t notice, www.Mormon.org recently underwent a redesign.  While the old site was really good, this new one takes a really clean, simple approach.  Things are easy to find, and what’s more, there’s LOTS of videos (really illustrating the church’s savvy recently on leveraging online video – e.g. their YouTube channel reaching the youth).  This really makes learning about the gospel, and what Mormonism is all about, very easy, very comfortable, very non-invasive, and a very rich experience.

For those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, www.Mormon.org is really focused on the fundamentals of Mormon doctrine.  Basically answering the questions “what is Mormonism all about?”, while www.LDS.org is focused primarily on being a resource for Latter-day Saints (Mormons) for lots more in depth information, manuals, and much, much more.

The new www.Mormon.org website breaks down their content by 5 main categories, each of which are then broken down into further detail.  Each page is very explanatory and almost all of them have rich video content.  If you haven’t yet seen it, click here.

Also, don’t forget to look at the bottom of the site to see the videos on “Mormons Worship Jesus Christ”, “Mormons are Christian”, “Jesus Christ is Real”, “God Speaks Today”, “Gods Words Never Cease”, “Answers to Life’s Great Questions”, and many other videos.

Or click on one of the Main topics below to see the many sub-options and videos under each category.

The Restoration of the truth:

“God is your Father in Heaven. He knows you personally. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and your Savior. His life and teachings are the way to peace and happiness.”

Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness:

“God’s plan of salvation and happiness helps you understand the purpose of life and your relationship with Him. Centered on Jesus Christ, God’s plan teaches where you came from, the purpose of life, and what happens when you die.”

Jesus Christ:  Our Savior

“Our loving Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to show us how to live meaningful and happy lives and experience eternal joy after this life.”

The Commandments

“Your Heavenly Father loves you and wants to bless you in all aspects of your life. He has given commandments through His prophets to help you live a happy life”

Membership in Christ’s Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized to perfect and bless the lives of God’s children.

 

Rusty

I can finally breathe

As I mentioned when I posted those pictures of me in the hospital (here), last Friday I went in for septoplasty.  I’d broken my nose when I was about 10 years old, and now, 25 years later, I finally went in to get my deviated septum fixed.

In spite of my smiling pictures, the experience was less than enjoyable.  It’s funny how much we take breathing for granted.  Then, to keep your septum straight (after they re-break it), they shove these over-large, two-inch-long plastic doohickeys up your nose and then send you home to “rest”.

At long last, almost 6 days later, I went in yesterday to have these doohickeys removed (doohickey is the medical term for these nasal devices).

Like a good boy, I sat in the chair while the doctor plunged forward with his little doctor-tweezers, suggesting that I “hold still”.  I cannot describe what came next, and I was confused for a fraction of a second that a human could be so cruel, and then I took a breath.

My brain was flooded with more oxygen than I ever remember acquiring.  It was miraculous.  The doctor (having fun now, of course) began laughing at my stunned silence and shocked expression.  I let him laugh, I was too busy breathing.  After 25 years of obstructed airflow, I suddenly felt what it was like to take a full breath of air.  It was almost intoxicating.  It’s something you cannot describe.

After leaving the office, I went to the parking lot and sat in my car.  For 30 minutes.  Just breathing.

And then I was angry at myself for having not done it earlier, realizing I had deprived myself for so many long years of this amount of oxygen.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I suddenly realized how much this is like the restored gospel of Christ.  Without the fullness of the restored gospel, we’re receiving only partial access to truth, eternal principles, divine guidance, and the blessings associated with each of these.  We go on, assuming this is simply what it’s like, this is all there is, and doing our best to manage with what we’ve got.

But then, when we experience the fullness of the restored gospel, embracing the truths that lie within it, those obstructions are removed, and we witness the full force of the beautiful, rich, and empowering gospel of Christ.  It hits you hard, wakes you up, and suddenly, having the fullness about you, you realize the limitations of what you had before, and perhaps even regret that it took so long.

Those who grow up in the gospel, often take for granted the amount of life-giving “oxygen” they’ve been blessed with.

But whether you come to embrace the fully restored gospel sooner, or later, it only matters that you do it sometime.  It’s just that the sooner you do, the longer you’ll have to enjoy such unobstructed spiritual “breathing”.

How grateful I am for Joseph Smith, who restored the Church of Jesus Christ, and that while I went 25 years with only partial access to oxygen, I was able to experience the fullness of the gospel all the while.

I so strongly hope, that all may “breathe” as I do.

Rusty