A Christian call to action

Fighting has broken out between Georgia and Russia, and is taking place right in the Georgian capital.  CNN is reporting that heavy casualties have been reported on both sides.

Lyudmila Ostayeva, who lives in the capital, said “I saw bodies lying on the streets, around ruined buildings, in cars.  It’s impossible to count them now.  There is hardly a single building left undamaged.

Sarmat Laliyev told AP “They are killing civilians, women and children, with heavy artillery and rockets”.  You can read the full story here and click here for photos.

The Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili tells about how the Russian warplanes are targeting the civilian population and residential areas.  He’s now putting political pressure on the US for to get involved and send in troops to fight Russia.

How can we get involved?  There are likely many ways, not the least of which (but perhaps the most simple and immediate, if not the most powerful) is simply through prayer.

It’s easy to watch these events happen on the news, and simply turn off the TV to return to our lives of luxury and comfort.  But as Christians we have a responsibility, a responsibility to be filled with charity, and to let our genuine concern drift to all the peoples of the earth, especially those in war torn areas of the world.

But prayer is a real and mighty power, allowing us to draw upon the powers of heaven to intervene in the lives of man, that the souls of those affected might be comforted, strengthened to shoulder the burdens placed upon them, and that the hearts of those directing the conflict might be softened, that a resolution might be reached speedily.

For are we not all sons and daughters of God?  We cannot simply sit unfeeling as our brothers and sister perish and suffer.  May we all cast our voices heavenward in unity, and be one in might, mind, and intent, our voices lifted up together to pray the help of an all-powerful Father. 

Rusty

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How to tell if it’s the spirit, or yourself?

Someone typed this phrase into a search engine the other day, and ended up at my Blog.

First, I love seeing that people are out there asking such important questions.  For indeed, the ability to discern the promptings of the Holy Ghost is one of the most important attributes I think we can acquire.

There are many answers to this question, but here I’ll make the assumption you’re referring to a confirmation you’re seeking to a question or decision in your life.  For this, let’s look at the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 8:7-9), which addresses this topic head on.

7.  Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

8.  But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you;  Therefore, you shall feel that it is right. 

9.  But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong;

Study it out in your mind:

From this scripture, we see the prerequisite command that we must first study it out in our mind, whatever it is we seek. 

So often we have our own prejudices, we have our own idea of what we WANT, and we naturally feel fear, or apprehension over certain things.  I like to refer to this as emotional baggage, and every decision is fraught with it.  If we skip this step, and don’t exercise our own mental capacity to figure it out objectively, then we leave ourselves far more subject to these external emotional influences.  Only by studying it out first, are we prepared to transcend that emotional baggage, make a decision based on principles and not prejudices, thereby leaving us open to feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Ask if it is right:

Once we have studied, and have come to our own conclusion, then we’re prepared to ask.  But we must ask sincerely and with faith, believing that we shall receive. 

If we ask insincerely, without being truly willing to follow the answer we get, then again, we find ourselves more greatly swayed to our own emotions, and all we get is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If we ask without faith, then again, the doubts in our mind will block or blur the clarity of the feelings of the spirit.

Burning or Stupor:

That burning feeling comes as the Holy Ghost bears witness to us that what we’ve asked is right.  The stupor, at least for me, isn’t that I suddenly suffer from amnesia, and forget everything, but seems to me more like a confusing feeling, where I struggle to really envision the path that I’ve decided on.  On the other hand, if it is right, and the times when I distinctly feel the spirit, the path (whatever it is) is very clear, and you’re motivated and inspired by that clarity, even it isn’t a complete understanding of HOW it might come to pass, you still see that first step clearly.  But if it feels somehow indistinct, or blurry, like a concept you can’t quite grasp, then you’re likely feeling a stupor of thought to indicate you need to pursue an alternate course.

Putting it to the test

Within the scriptures, in many cases, we’re told about how a good seed can only bring forth good fruit, and an evil seed will only bring forth evil fruits, hence “by their fruits ye shall know them”.

Alma, in the Book of Mormon teaches the same principle in his magnificent discourse on faith, suggesting that you should experiment upon the word, plant it in your heart, and see if it will grow.  And if it grows, then you know that it is good.  But if it doesn’t, then you know that it is not good (Alma 32:27-34).

I most commonly use this principle in my decision making process, treating the word, or the seed, as the idea or concept that I am pursuing.  In my mind, I study it, I follow the idea through, trying to understand all the likely paths and consequences.  I have found that when doing so, if it is good, then I find that the “way is lit” (mentally), and I can see clearly what will happen.  But if it is not good, then I stumble around, as though in a “stupor of thought”, and struggle and struggle to try to “imagine” it through, but to no avail.  At that point, I try to shake off the emotional baggage that held me to that concept, and then attempt the mental exercise on the opposite course.

This way of “experimenting upon the word” has always been successful to me, so I wanted to share it with you.  I hope you (or someone) finds it of some value.

Rusty

P.S. If this did not answer your question, I’ve also addressed the “feelings” of the spirit to some degree here where I describe that not all emotion is of divine origin, and offer some suggestions as to what it seems witnesses of the spirit do feel like. 

Also, here and here I explain how to sharpen your spiritual senses and increase the frequency with which you’re able to feel the spirit.

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Inspiring words for those who need them

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/inspiring-words-for-those-who-need-them/

Putting life into perspective

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/putting-life-into-perspective

Earthquake in Los Angeles, California

My CNN Alert just notified me that there has been a magnitude 5.8 eartquake in Los Angeles, California.

I’m searching for details, and will post more about possible ways to help as soon as I can.  In the meantime, may all our prayers go out to them.

As I mention here (Looking through the lense of God), the power of united prayer is magnificent and real.

Rusty

Update:  The Red Cross has opened a “Safe and well” website for CA quake victims, and urges those affected to register.  Instructions are here.  Click here to register as safe and well.

For insurance claims, you can contact CEA (California Earthquake Authority) here.

Other Articles:

Twitter:  Reporting on massive use of Twitter to report quake, even for victims.

CNet:  Los Angeles earthquake chokes phone calls, not twitter

CNN:  Expert:  L.A.’s 5.4 quake ‘small sample’ of one to come

iReport:  Did you feel the quake?

Associated Press:  Southern California earthquake causes phone jam

Some photos of the damage are here.

Advice from Gizmodo:  In earthquake, don’t make phone calls, use Text or IM instead

USGS (US Geological Survey site) for specific detail on this quake is here and here, for general CA earthquake info go here.

CNN:  http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/07/29/earthquake.ca/index.html

MSNBC:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/22886841#22886841

Ask a Mormon

As I posted here “Researching Mormonism – a Lutheran Bishop’s advice“, Krister Stendahl gives us three rules for examining another religion.  The first and foremost rule is that when you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion, and not its enemies.

His words inspired me to create this page – allowing you to ask me any question you might, so that you can hear an answer directly from a Mormon.

As you’ll see by the disclaimer at the top of my blog, everything I say is simply my opinion and interpretation of doctrine, for official doctrine you can visit www.lds.org.  But, I will give you my honest opinions, and I will base them on scripture and doctrine to the best of my ability.

If I don’t know the answer to your question, then I’ll endeavor to get you an answer. 

All you have to do is type in your question in the comments below.  I don’t moderate them.  If the question seems genuine, I’ll answer it in a dedicated post.  If it’s not genuine, or if your purpose seems to simply be to argue, disrupt, or be disrespectful, don’t bother – I’ll delete it and move on.

But if you’re someone who genuinely wants to know what Mormons believe about something, just ask.

Rusty

P.S. – Because I can’t get to every qeustion immediately (I’ve got 6 kids, after all ;-), I will notify you by email once I answer your question on the blog.  Thanks for participating, I’m sure this will be fun.

Please help

You can read all the reasons why I’ve created this blog here, but in short, I have a strong desire to be a voice of hope, encouragement, and inspiration.  I’m dedicated to the task, and to teaching and testifying of our Savior and His gospel, and in the process, I hope to add to the voice of Mormons on the internet.  That’s my role, but I need your help.

See, I can only reach so many people on my own, but with your help, that reach can explode to unimagined proportions.  You can play an actual role in this vision of building the voice of good on the internet.  Here’s what you can do.

Tell others – The easiest thing to do is email others about the blog.  Tell your family, your friends, or anyone else within your sphere of influence. 

Use StumbleUpon – For those of you who don’t know about StumbleUpon, it’s a brilliant new social bookmarking site.  When you find a site on the internet that is particularly good, you can bookmark it on StumbleUpon, which then allows others to find it.

It works brilliantly.  Whenever someone adds one of my posts to StumbleUpon, that day I’ll receive between 200 and 400 unique visitors.  What’s more, usually those visitors are NOT Mormons.  Which means when you “stumble” one of my posts, it’ll automatically be sent to hundreds of new people.  It’s almost evangelical – your actions will result in hundreds of people seeing that particular post.

It’s an easy way for you to pioneer missionary work online.  And it’s free.

All you have to do is pick the post you want to share, then click the little “Bookmark” button that looks like this (usually found at the bottom of the page you want to share):

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Then click the link on the left that says “StumbleUpon”.  A little window will pop up where you can add a short review of the post, select what it’s about (type in “Religion, Mormon, LDS, Church” and whatever else that post might be about).  Then check the “no” box to verify there’s no adult content and click “Add your review”. 

Now simply fill out your information (you only have to do this once to create your account).  Now you’re done.

Whenever you find a post that you really like, just click the “Bookmark” button, and stumble it.  The more posts you stumble the more people will find Ongofu.

So please, contribute to the cause and spread the word!  I certainly appreciate your help.

Rusty

About me

The precise events that make up my childhood are somewhat unclear.  I have only a handful memories before age 11, and some stories from others, but both can be fallible. 

When I was about 3 my mom and dad separated.  He’d had a vision that he was going to be a prophet, and was told to sacrifice me to prove his worthiness.  My mom thought that was a bad idea, packed up my sister and I, and we moved away (to his disappointment… but he’d show up later).

We moved to a small, inconspicuous town in Southern Utah called Panguich and “settled down” for a couple of years.  With my mom working as a hotel maid, we lived about as you’d expect – without much.  I remember starting school there, not fitting in, and not being very smart.  I remember my grandma pulling my hair to try to teach me my alphabet, probably the only way to get me to learn.

At some point, my mom remarried (“dad” #2).  I remember he was really severe.  We lived in the basement of a house, and I remember setting up traps (hangers dangling from a thread tied to my door knob) so I’d be awake to know whenever he’d come in my room.

At some point, my mom realized he wasn’t the right guy so we left.

We moved to another small, unassuming town called Oak City, and got a little trailer house.  My mom started singing and playing guitar for work.

By now I was in grade school.  I was the really poor kid, and was a loner.  I remember hiding at recess from the bullies, except once, when after school one of them pushed me down.  I grabbed a big rock (it seemed big to me at the time), and smashed his bike.  Then I ran home as fast as I could, terrified, but feeling vindicated.

My mom found another guy, and decided to get married (dad #3).  We moved to a tiny town in Montana called Marion where we were really poor.  In fact, I remember one time finding a dime on the road.  I went home and showed my mom, and she sent me down to the little town store, where I bought one of those Atomic Fireballs.  I brought it home, and we broke it apart and shared it.  At one time we lived for a while in a tent in the forest.  I remember once my mom brought home a box of Bisquick mix that was about a quarter full.  My step brothers and I mixed it all up and were preparing to cook it on our propane stove, but we never got that far.  We ended up just sitting around the tin bowl scooping it out with our hands and licking it off our fingers.  Bisquick never tasted so good.

My dad worked on an oil rig, and was always gone.  He’d come home on paydays, and would drink a lot.  He was a mean drunk, and so after a short time, we left him too.

We moved into a little trailer.  Money was tight, so my older sister went to live with my grandma.  The trailer didn’t have electricity, or running water.  I remember not showering in the winter, unless I could manage to stay at a friend’s house, so I’d go to school stinky.  As you can imagine, I was expertly avoided.  In fact, my teacher got this little partition and put it in the back of the room and put a desk in it.  When I arrived in the morning, she would send me straight back to my little desk, then close the partition around me, and I’d play with Legos or a Matchbox car I would have brought in my pocket.  I was always prepared.

One time I walked in and my teacher made some comment about my clothes, or my smell, I can’t remember now, but I do remember hauling off and punched her – again, scared but vindicated.  Of course that got me suspended, which wasn’t good, because the one thing about school, was that they provided lunch.

By now my mom was travelling a lot, and would be gone for several days at a time on singing gigs.  I’d be home alone in our little trailer, with some blankets and my best pal, a little dochsund named GiGi.  I remember often going to sleep cold and scared of the freaky noises inherent to the back woods of Montana.  I was about 11.

One day my mom came home early from one of her trips with some guy, we packed our stuff into 3 or 4 black garbage bags, put them into the back of his pickup, and drove away.

She dropped me off at my grandma’s house.  Eventually she told me she was leaving to try to get some money so we could be together again, and left.

My grandma and grandpa were already taking care of my sister, and I was a growing 11 year old boy who really needed a full-time dad (and some structure), so we drove to Idaho where we visited my Aunt and Uncle with their family (6 kids, an already large family). 

I didn’t know them very well.  In fact I only ever remember being with them on one Christmas at my Grandmas.  So here I found myself in another completely foreign place.  But alas, I figured we were only visiting, and at least I had my grandma, who seemed to be my one “constant” in life.

That made it very difficult when she pulled me aside to tell me that she was leaving me there.  Watching her drive away – my last vestige of familiarity was one of the hardest moments of my life.  That and the day I actually came to grips with the fact that my mom was never going to come get me. 

Now the point to all this…  Those two events were probably the most challenging of my life, but were probably the two most important things that ever happened to me.

The family that took me in ended up being exactly what I needed.  As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy, for me or for them.  I came in as an 11 year old boy, with no structure, no discipline, and… well, a lot to learn.  I was now the oldest of the kids. 

Just try imagining that for a minute.  Picture an 11 year old boy that you know (think of how naturally awkward they kind of are at that age), now picture having that person come in to live with you, not for a while, but for the rest of their childhood, and when you already have 6 kids.  It’s a sacrifice they made that I’ll never fully appreciate nor understand.  And we didn’t always get along, for a long time I clung to the fantasy that my mom would come get me, and that prevented me from adapting better.

But I had reliable shelter, heat, food, clothes, and all the material stuff I’d never had.  But more importantly I had structure, and got to see a real family function.  And most of all, they introduced me to the church.  They taught me the gospel,  gave me my own set of scriptures (a copy with an upside-down cover – I still have them today), and set me on a path that would lead me away from my past.

Fast forward to today.  I’m married to a beautiful and inspiring woman.  I have 6 amazing kids (5 boys, 1 girl).  I’ve succeeded in business as an executive (VP) for one of the largest and most influential real estate software companies in the nation.  I served a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), speaking Mandarin Chinese in Sydney Australia.  I live in a beautiful house on the foothills of the Rocky Mountain range in the Salt Lake area. 

I could go on and on about the wealth of material blessings we enjoy, but those can be gained by anybody.  More importantly, I’ve been given perspective.  I’ve been able to see two polarizing sides of life.  I’ve lived and breathed poverty, and as such have a burning empathy that only comes from personal experience.  I’ve seen firsthand what broken homes do.  What broken marriages do.  But at just the right moment, at the most critical point in my life where perhaps I was at the tipping point, the Savior lifted me out of that life, and placed me in an environment that would show me the other side of life.

I did a post here about a cartoon that was once sent to me that I loved.  It shows a man carrying a cross along with a bunch of other people, each carrying their own crosses.  Along the way he keeps cutting his down to make it lighter and easier to carry.  But soon he comes to a chasm in the road.  The others, who had accepted the struggle of the crosses given to them, were able to use their cross to bridge that gap and cross the void, but his was too short.  It was followed by the statement “we often complain about the cross we bear, but we forget that it is preparing us for the chasm that only the Lord can see”.

The burdens I had have prepared me to be who I am.  I wouldn’t be the father I am today, nor would I have the testimony I have, had those experiences not been mine.  They have prepared me for life in a uniquely compelling way.

And finally, they have shown me that no matter what our circumstance in life, current or historical; we can overcome any and all obstacles.  It is not our past that matters.  No, our future is determined by far more substantial things than memories.  It’s our perspective on life, our perseverance, our will to succeed, our attitude, and most importantly, our ability to hope and to trust in God.  These are the things that shape our future.  Past is past.  Dwelling upon it only results in an ever inhibiting cycle of self-imposed limitations, as we convince ourselves that we are stuck within it, but we’re not.  Life is what we make of it.

My experience has taught me that. 

Rusty

P.S.  Feel free to comment here, but most of the comments on this page can be found on the posted version here, if you’re interested.  There I’ve explained a bit more about what happened with my biological father.

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Ongofu?

Well, besides the fact that it really sounds cool, in a hip – web 2.0 sort of way, believe it or not it’s actually a bit deeper than that.”Ongofu” is Swahili for “to be converted, reformed, or rehabilitated”.

Conversion:

Conversion isn’t an event, and it’s more than a process, it’s a lifestyle.  It’s an attitude, and requires regular recommitment.  The Book of Mormon teaches us through poignant repetition the inevitable end of people and societies who forsake their conversion, take it for granted, and for whom it becomes commonplace.

“For my spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts” (D&C 1:33).  And so, it becomes readily apparent, the need for us to adopt a lifestyle of conversion, rich with regularly recurring events that reset our righteousness, and rebuild our resolve.

Daily scripture study, regular meaningful prayer, and church attendance.  A life filled with such simple, sustainable steps shall be strong enough to withstand even the most powerful winds which shall wail against it.

Reformed:

In the most literal sense of the word, to be reformed is to be made into something else, something we weren’t before.  There’s a poem that I memorized in college that articulates this point nicely.

Life Sculpture
George Washington Doane

Chisel in hand stood a sculptor boy
With his marble block before him,
And his eyes lit up with a smile of joy,
As an angel-dream passed o’er him.

He carved the dream on that shapeless stone,
With many a sharp incision;
With heaven’s own light the sculpture shone,
He’d caught that angel-vision.

Children of life are we, as we stand
With our lives uncarved before us,
Waiting the hour when, at God’s command,
Our life-dream shall pass o’er us.

If we carve it then on the yielding stone,
With many a sharp incision,
Its heavenly beauty shall be our own,
Our lives, that angel-vision.

Rehabilitated:

The concept of rehabilitation is to take something that isn’t well, and restore it to good health.  Such is the sanctifying effect of the Holy Ghost, and the natural result of personal conversion and reformation.  Our ongoing spiritual rehabilitation is of utmost importance to our salvation, and the process of rehabilitation, like conversion, must be perpetual. 

And so, because of the natural importance of these three concepts (conversion, reformation, and rehabilitation), in the life of one striving to be better, but acknowledging their imperfections (and because it just sounds so cool), I decided to call my blog…

Ongofu.

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About this blog

Well, to really understand, you’d have to read “an interesting past“.  If you do, you’ll appreciate why I am so passionate about encouragement, inspiration, hope, and motivation. 

I guess you could sum it all up with the phrase “because I have been given much, I too must give”.

First and foremost, I have a burning testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and find the utmost joy in teaching and testifying of its principles – especially on such a regular basis.  This blog lets me be a kind of pioneer, with an opportunity to “brave new frontiers to spread the gospel”. 

But I also have a deep sympathy for the trials of life that create such heavy burdens that people bear, and want to be that voice to offer comfort, hope, encouragement, motivation, and inspiration.  It has a lot to do with my belief in “emotional supply lines“.

Finally, I believe it’s very important to speak up.  The world is having conversations about Mormonism using new media (particularly the internet), and increasingly people are turning online for research.  It’s important that when to do go online, they find the right information, and they find that information being shared and testified by real people.

Not many years ago, Malcolm Gladwell wrote “The tipping point“, a fascinating exploration of what makes ideas grow ubiquitous.  What takes them from just “an idea” to becoming a social phenomenon?  He talks about the linear impact that highly influential people can have on pushing an idea to its tipping point, where suddenly it becomes colossal. 

Then more recently, a researcher by the name of Duncan Watts suggested that the spread of social ideas was highly driven by cumulative word of mouth influence (more than by any one person).

The point is, the more people there are that are willing to invest in speaking out, sharing their ideas, and testifying, and the more successfully they are able to do it, the more those ideas become heard.  Increasing the frequency of the “pro” message, is an important step in shaping the larger social opinion, and reaching those individuals out there who are really seeking to discover.

To this point, on December 15, 2007, Elder M. Russell Ballard gave a speech to two hundred graduating students at Brigham Young University – Hawaii, wherein he states:

” We cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the church teaches.  While some conversations have audiences in the thousands or even millions, most are much, much smaller. But all conversations have an impact on those who participate in them. Perceptions of the Church are established one conversation at a time.”

He said that there are too many conversations going on about the church for church representatives to respond to each of them individually, and that church leaders “can’t answer every question, satisfy every inquiry, and respond to every inaccuracy that exists.”  He said that these students should consider sharing their views on blogs, responding to online news reports, and using “new media” in other ways.

So I’ve decided to be a pioneer in my own way, in the hopes that just maybe somebody might find hope in my words… or truth, or faith – in which all my efforts would have been worth it.

Rusty

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