What religion can learn from science

Appetite.  That’s what seems so prevalent in the world of science and so often lacking in religion, the appetite to constantly learn more, to not be satisfied with what we have, to continuously search, ponder, and strive to increase our knowledge and understanding.

It’s clearly not always the case- there are true spiritual giants among us, who set the example for the rest of us.  But by in large, it seems that more often than not, religion is often taken for granted, as though it’s a side-note to our lives.  As though it’s something that we think about on Sunday, or at Christmas and Easter, and not something that constantly occupies our minds, as we yearn for more.

But the world of science is constantly asking questions, trying to understand why, trying to get to the fundamental principles that lie behind the things that they observe.  They experiment, observe, take notes, draw conclusions, and then test those conclusions with more experiments. 

How often do we experiment upon the word of God?  How often do we take those experiments so seriously that we make a study of them?  How often do we strive to test our knowledge, and how unquenchable is our desire to further our understanding?

It’s so easy to let the urgent aspects of our life dominate our thoughts and monopolize our time, as the more important and everlasting side of us, that spiritual side, suffers the pains of disuse and apathy.

But we must learn, we must engage ourselves, we must seek learning, we must grow in knowledge and understanding.  Only then, will we be truly ready for the trials of life, and ready to stand firm amidst the buffetings, and the fiery darts of the adversary.  Only then shall our confidence wax strong in the presence of God, and shall the doctrines of the priesthood distill upon our souls as the dew from heaven.  Only then shall our foundation be so firm as to withstand the cunning craftiness of the adversary as he seeks to shake us from our testimony.

Joseph Smith once said “Thy mind, oh man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into, and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanses of eternity.  Thou must commune with God… None but fools will trifle with the souls of man”.

Truth is light, and if it be in you it shall abound, and if your eye be single to the Glory of god your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.  (D&C 88:67)  What a glorious promise. 

As leaders, as parents, as friends, and as individuals, let us all find ourselves a bit more engrossed in the gospel of Christ, and a bit more anxiously engaged in our study.

Rusty

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An eternal perspective – what role will you play?

We are encompassed about by things of no eternal consequence, but which ceaselessly fill our lives, occupy our thoughts, and consume our time… the vain aspirations of man and the constant ongoing minutia of daily life.

While all around us wages a war.  A war that is extended from before the foundations of this world;  a war over the souls of the children of men.

A battle, the individual results of which will determine the fates beings all, whether it is to their everlasting salvation unto eternal progression, or unto eternal damnation.

Surely we must live, and the demands of daily life must be met, but we must also bring ourselves to see that behind all these frivolities lays a far greater purpose, one with everlasting ramifications. 

We must be able to look through this husk of mortal life and witness the kernels of eternity, the potential that lies within the souls of the children of God.

Too much is at stake for us to take our task lightly. 

You must pause, witness the world around you, and ask yourself, what role you will play.

Will you be one who stands up to make a difference?  Will you be one who puts on the armor of god in defense of the truth, to battle the adversary despite the cost?  Or will you sit idly by and let the cards fall where they may?

What role will you play? 

May we rise together, and may we find each other on the side of truth, anxiously engaged in this great eternal battle, for none but fools will trifle with the souls of men.

Rusty

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How often do you feel the spirit?

I’m a big fan of measurement.  I think that unless you frequently measure those things in your life that matter most to you, then you’re achieving less than you could.  Simply the act of measuring brings you to consciousness, wakes you up, and makes you refocus.  Measurement brings clarity, perspective, and awareness to life.

In business there are proven techniques and formulas you can use that return hard and fast numbers that give you an accurate idea of how you’re performing.

But many find measuring their spiritual progress far more difficult. 

Ones level of spirituality, after all, is far more ambiguous, and can be difficult to measure.  What’s more, it’s difficult to apply the same formulas across multiple people, for our lives are very, very different.  But the inherent difficulty does not lessen its importance, and I propose that there are a few common techniques anyone can use to gauge their spiritual progress.

One of the most compelling, in my opinion, is in the answer to the simple question “How often do you feel the spirit”.

The frequency with which we encounter the spirit in our daily lives is directly proportional to the level of spirituality of our lives.  If our appetites are spiritual, if our pursuits are spiritual, then so too will our lives be filled with the spirit.  As your eye becomes single to god, your whole bodies are filled with light.  But that internal brightening happens by degrees, and those degrees are measurable by the instances of the spirit in our lives, as he confirms our actions.

I believe that a very healthy endeavor is to keep a simple calendar.  Perhaps it’s on your phone, or next to your bed, or on the wall, as long as it’s somewhere accessible, and every time you KNOW you feel the spirit, make a special mark on the calendar.

At the end of the month, tally up how many marks are on your calendar.  Now track this for several months running.  If you find that there are constantly diminishing number of marks on your calendar, you’re headed in the wrong direction.  If they’re the same, you’re stagnant.  We want to show more marks month after month.  But more importantly, we want to see more marks year over year.

What you really want to see is dramatic increases in encounters with the spirit this month, over the same month last year.

If that’s a lot, how about measuring only one month in three, or four months a year?

Initially, it may be hard to distinguish the spirit from other emotions.  Generally, the less you feel the spirit the harder it is to recognize.  But as I stated above, simply by measuring, you become more self-aware, you refocus, you wake up.  Simply by measuring you’ll do better at taking note, and those instances will become more meaningful, rather than lost in the rush of the day.  Then, over time, you’ll become more finely tuned to those encounters, and they will begin to play a larger role in shaping your daily life.

What’s more, feeling the spirit is a self-perpetuating cycle.  The more you feel the spirit, the more sensitive you become, the more tuned you become, and the more you’re likely to have such encounters.  So if you really want to know how well you’re doing, or if you’re improving and progressing.  Try keeping a calendar.

My hope is that we all might more proactively pursue a regularly realized relationship with the Holy Ghost.

Rusty

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Nathan Sharp, inspiration through art

Last week, when I was creating the post about what President Monson said he wanted for his Birthday (here), I stumbled upon an incredible LDS artist, Nathan Sharp, who has an astounding array of religious (and other) drawings.

I emailed Nathan to ask permission to use his remarkable portrait of President Monson in my post, and we began talking.  I found his words inspiring.  He wrote:

Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder and ‘art’ is defined in so many different ways by so many different people that sometimes it is difficult to understand.  I am a simple man and I am inspired by the things that surround me.  I find joy and purpose in watching my children imagine and grow.  I find strength in their innocence and unyielding faith.  My heart swells and tears come to my eyes when I hear the Star Spangled Banner and my soul is moved in profound ways by the sacrifices that are made every day, all around us, in our wonderful country.  I’m not looking to make social comments but, rather, to capture the moments that make us who we are.  Each of us is the hero of our own story and that story will take us down a path that is unique from all others.  My artwork comes from my story but I hope that it crosses paths with the experiences of many others as they travel their own road.  If something is stirred in the hearts of others as they see it and if they continue on their way stronger, more inspired, or more grateful than they were before, then I would consider myself successful in my expression of the moment.

As you’ll see by glancing at some of the artwork below, I’m quite sure he succeeded.

You can find out more information about Nathan, as well as peruse and purchase his work on his website:  www.NathanSharpStudios.com.  His prices are very reasonable (for instance, an 8×10 of President Monson is only $15).

Here are some of my personal favorites, others are below…

Cost of freedom

Miss You Daddy

Daddy come home

Dawns early light

Dawn's early light

Please visit Nathan’s site (www.NathanSharpStudios.com) to view more of his work.

If – by Rudyard Kipling

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/if-by-rudyard-kipling/

Picking the lock of salvation

For those of you who weren’t aware, last week was the national HOPE conference in New York.  No, this isn’t a self-help conference teaching us how to increase our capacity to hope (I wish it were).  Rather, it’s a gathering of some of the most talented and well-known hackers around the planet.  HOPE stands for “Hackers on Planet Earth”.

At every HOPE conference there’s a popular area called “Lockpicking Village” where they discuss all the latest lock picking techniques. 

Reflecting on the whole thing, I couldn’t help but draw the parallel to those who somehow think they can “slide” into heaven, somehow opening the “doors” of heaven without actually going through the mandatory prerequisite steps. 

A lock is made of tumblers in a tube, each of which must be in the correct place before the lock will turn.  Inserting just the right key will put those tumblers in their required positions, but inserting any other key, or a partial key, will only place a few of the tumblers, if any, in the necessary position, and no matter how hard you twist, or how long you wait, the lock simply won’t turn and the door simply won’t open.

So many religions teach the doctrine that man needs to do little, if anything, for salvation.  In fact, often they teach that it’s as simple as accepting Christ, or being baptized.  But first, baptism must be done by one holding the proper authority, but even then, that is only one of the tumblers in the lock.  There is more we must do.  Baptism and faith alone are insufficient for our exaltation; they’re only part of the lock.  Religions that teach such doctrine, therefore cannot adequately equip you to enter into the kingdom of God. 

The proof is in scripture itself, for we will, as Revelation 20:12-15 states, be “judged… according to their works”.

While the sacrifice of our Savior put the gate on the barrier, making entrance possible, it does not make entrance sure.  The surety of our salvation can only be gained by approaching that day armed with the right key, the one that satisfies the demands of all the tumblers in the gate, baptism by authority being one of them.

While this doctrine is far from traditional, it is prevalently backed by scripture.  And while critics are quick to protest, it is not the burden of Mormonism to back this claim, but the burden of anyone believing contrary to come up with a suitable explanation for each of the scriptures which clearly state otherwise (and which I list in detail here – a post that has gone almost entirely unchallenged).

But the miracle of Mormonism, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is that through Joseph Smith, the great latter-day prophet, the gospel of Christ was restored to the earth in its fullness along with all the keys, authority, ordinances and covenants necessary for us to do all we must do to enter the kingdom of our Father.

I invite you to learn more about this prophet Joseph Smith (here), partake for yourself in the miracle of Mormonism, and experience the rich blessings that come from understanding and living the fullness of the gospel.

Rusty

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Michael Phelps – Making your dreams come true

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/michael-phelps-making-dreams-come-true/

Satan is a good marketer, a lot like fast food

The other day I Stumbled Upon a site (here), which does a side by side comparison of popular fast food advertisements with a picture of the actual food item.  I’ve included a few of my favorites.

The whole thing caused me to reflect on the similarities between this, and Satan’s advertising tactics.  He’s quite adept at making sin look exquisite, delicious, and wonderful.  In appearance, it’s “all that you’d want”.  But then you find out that it’s not nearly what you’d expected, and it certainly wasn’t worth it.  His “advertising” creates an illusion of value and appeal, but is of no substance or worth.

Just as we must become smart consumers, and look beyond the advertising hype, as decisions in life come our way, we have to force ourselves to look beyond the advertising.

Rusty

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President Thomas S. Monson – his personal touch

President Thomas S. Monson, Mormon ProphetLast night, in the General Priesthood Session for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon Conference), President Thomas S. Monson gave the concluding address – in my memory, his best.

His talk was powerful, with a strong thread of personality elegantly woven throughout as he communicated those things that he felt mattered most for Mormon Priesthood holders to hear.

President Monson always has had an incredible knack for using stories from his life, and humor to bring life to his sermons – it’s an attribute for which he’s become so loved, and for which I think he’ll be so well known as a Prophet.

In his Priesthood address, he told a story of sitting up on the stand, some time ago, in a Sacrament meeting somewhere.  He said that as he sat there, he noticed a little boy in the audience, who was sitting exactly the way he was sitting.

He said that s he’d cross his legs, the boy would cross his legs too.  When he switched legs, the boy would imitate his very position.

He then said that he tried putting his chin in his hand (which he reenacted tonight) and true to form, the boy did the same.  Then, right before he was about to get up to address the congregation, he said he thought he’d really put the boy to the test.  So he looked the boy squarely in the eyes, so he knew he was focused only on him, and wiggled his ears! (As he said this, he paused, and with amazing dexterity, wiggled his ears).  Of course, we all laughed, and heartily.

Once we’d stopped laughing, he commented “My wife told me not to do that”.  We all laughed again.

He then continued, saying that at this point, the boy looked dumbfounded, turned and got his fathers attention, whispered something in his ear, then pointed to his own ears, and pointed back to President Monson.  He said that when the father looked up at him, he just looked back, completely solemn faced, as if nothing had happened.

Listening, and watching him reenact this in front of the largest Priesthood assembly ever in the history of the world, was simply inspiring.  The message of course was there, which he elaborated on after the story, but it was wonderfully accented by humor and personality.

Every prophet leaves behind their own legacy.  I think the legacy we’ll find from President Monson is that of his profoundly personal touch.  A wonderful trait for a prophet of God.

Rusty

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Little Lin Hao – a survivor, hero, and example

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.

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http://life-engineering.com/little-lin-hao-a-survivor-hero-and-example/

Two changes in my life – Leaving WordPress

Leaving WordPress – Moving to TypePad

Speaking of change, my experience on Wednesday encouraged me to make some changes I’ve been avoiding. 

One of those is to move my Blog from WordPress to TypePad.  WordPress has been great, it’s free (after all), and very stable.  Unfortunately, WordPress.com is just not robust enough for me to do the kinds of things I want to do.  I have a programming and animation background, but have been unable to use any of those skills on my blog because WordPress prohibits them.

TypePad, while it’ll cost me on a monthly basis to get these features, offers far more flexibility.  The end result will be a far more robust and interactive experience for my visitors.  I’ll be able to start building far more dynamic and engaging content, including interactive flash movies (like my upcoming flash-based presentation of the Plan of Salvation), polls, and lots more.

First Mormon blog in Chinese

What’s more, as I mentioned here (blogging in Chinese), I’ve decided to launch a Chinese arm of my blog, and had given myself 6 months to learn to write Chinese to get started.  I realized I was being lazy and selfish, and of little faith.  Who am I to procrastinate teaching the gospel of Christ because of a mere language challenge.  If I have faith, and my cause is righteous, then the Lord will provide me ample support right now.  If faith can part the Red Sea, move a mountain, and raise the dead, then I think it’s likely able to help me write Chinese.

So, I’m going to abandon my prior deadline, and start immediately.  Moving to TypePad will enable me to do that.

Downtime?

I hope that the change will be entirely transparent to you, but if you happen to hit the site and have nothing come up, don’t worry, I’m not dead, just moving (so to speak).

Now, what is there in your life that you’d like to change?

Rusty

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Holiness to the Lord, the story of John Rowe Moyle

Last night in the General Priesthood session of the October 2008 General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was discussing the need for Latter-day Saints to “Stand close together, and lift where you stand” (here), encouraging us not to aspire to callings, nor to shun them.

He recounted the story of John Rowe Moyle, a master of stonework who came west with the earliest handcart companies in 1846.  He settled in Alpine Utah, which was nearly 22 miles away from downtown Salt Lake City.  He was called to be a stone mason on the Salt Lake Temple.  In order to fulfill his calling, and to be to work by 8:00 in the morning, every Monday Brother Moyle would wake up at 2:00 a.m., and begin his long walk over the hill, and through the valley to the temple of the Lord.

He would spend the week in Salt Lake, working on the temple, and then on Friday, at 5:00 p.m., he would start the long walk home, where he would tend to the duties of his farm over the weekend.

One weekend, while tending to his farm, he was kicked as one of his cows bolted while milking, resulting in a compound fracture to his leg.  In the lack of any sophisticated medical help at the time, the only available solution for his injury was amputation.  His family and friends removed a door from its hinges, and strapped him onto it, and then removed his leg with a hacksaw.

As soon as he was able, once he could sit up in bed, he took a piece of wood, and using his carving skills, carved an artificial limb for himself so that such a little thing like the loss of a leg would not prevent him from walking each week to work on the temple.

As soon as he was able to stand the pain from walking on his stub leg, he again journeyed to the temple, and resumed his work, which he did for many years to come.

Amongst other stone work, Brother Moyle was responsible for carving the “Holiness to the Lord” stone upon the east side of the temple (images below).

Here is a map of how far he walked.  According to Google Maps, it says that drive (in a car, with a freeway) would take 55 minutes (click the map to view in Google Maps, with the ability to zoom, for better appreciation of scale).

(click image above for a larger view)

(Click image above for a larger view)

On Temple Square, there’s a sculptor of John Rowe Hoyle pushing a handcart with his wife (click for a larger view).

(Click image above for larger view)

Just be yourself!

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.

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Sister Hinckley’s Challenge

Sister Marjorie Hinckley described the condition in which she hoped to arrive in heaven, and in so doing, offers us a challenge….

I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing Sister Schenk’s lawn. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.

Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

I’m with Sister Hinckley.  Let’s go find some ways to get our hands dirty.

Rusty

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