The grand panorama of scripture

Once upon a time there was a man who was given a map, and was told that if he followed the instructions on this map, he would find treasure untold.  Excited by the prospect of this treasure map, he set out one day to find the buried treasure.

The instructions on the map were many, and some were very difficult.  One of the instructions conveniently directed him to a tree under which there was much shade.  He was happy to see this instruction, for the day was hot, and he sat under the tree expectantly.  After a while, another man came to the tree, enjoyed the shade momentarily, and then made to move off.

“Where are you going” said the first man?  “I’m following the instructions in a treasure map” said the second.  “But I’ve got the same map said the first, and the instructions say to come to this tree, under which there is nice shade”.  “Ah”, said the second man, “Indeed this is nice, but there are more instructions on the map than just this one, and to reach the treasure, I must follow them all.” 

The scriptures of God contain many instructions.  But they cannot be cherry picked.  This man can sit under the tree as long as he wishes, completely fulfilling one of the distinct instructions, but he will get no closer to his desired treasure than this.  And because of the convenience of this particular instruction, it is easy to cling to it alone; justifying to himself that this was sufficient, for indeed it was instructed on the map.

Often as we discuss principles of religion on this blog, I seem to find this recurring theme.  Someone will quote to a certain scripture, justifying a particular belief or behavior, but in doing so ignoring so many other scriptural instructions that must also be taken into consideration to paint the full picture.

Much like a large oil painting, when you stand up close to the picture, with your eyes mere inches from its canvass, all you see are brushstrokes.  And while you can determine the color of each brush stroke, and it’s individual beauty, it’s not until you step back and consider the canvas as a whole that the true glory of the painting becomes clear.  From this vantage point, each brush stroke is seen in context, in conjunction with all the rest, for a clear picture.

As we work daily to increase our understanding of the scriptures, may we more diligently step back and consider the work as a whole, and see each principle in its proper place, that we might more completely abandon the short-sightedness of mortality, in favor of the grand vista of divinity.

Rusty

Inspirational Quotes

I’m always looking for inspiration, and I’m always inspired by looking. 

So, I’ve decided to start a post where we can collect inspirational quotes.   I try hard to use my blog to inspire and motivate others.  But the beauty of social media, such as blogging, is that it’s a two-way street.  This post is your opportunity to inspire me, and others who read it.

It’s an open forum, post whatever quotes you’d like, spiritual, motivational, whatever.  They can be yours, or they can be another’s (if so, please post who said it, if known).  Obvious rules will apply…

Let’s have fun.

Your spiritual ecosystem

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/your-spiritual-ecosystem/

Video – Christ in America

Here’s a video from YouTube, a collection of beautiful works of art, with music and an overlay of spoken scripture (some of my favorites).

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhbrR2FtP1o

 

How wonderful to have access to the full record of Christ’s visit and teachings to the ancient inhabitants of the American continent.

To get your own Book of Mormon, or to learn more about it, click here.

Rusty

The National Spirituality Index

Economic indicators are key measurements that have proven particularly powerful at predicting the performance of the economy.  There’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), unemployment, consumer confidence, S&P 500 stock index, housing starts, home sales, manufacturing, the yield curve, inflation-adjusted monetary supply, orders for capital goods, and more.

But anew indicator, the National Spirituality Index (NSI – which, admittedly I just invented), has already proven far more accurate at predicting our economic future than any of the others. 

If you’re Christian, and believe in the scriptures, then you’ve got ample evidence of repeated economic meltdown following sustained periods of wickedness.  A recurring theme that shows a societies overall economic health is directly proportional to the cumulative level of that societies overall righteousness – their NSI.

As societies become increasingly wicked, they begin to experience all manner of tribulations.  Sustained tribulation begets humility and an acknowledged reliance on the Lord, people repent, turn to God, and “magically” things get better.  It’s happened over and over.

But the turnaround doesn’t take place until the individuals in that society realize that the change has to happen with them – in their own personal lives.  It won’t be fixed by any blanket policy from the government, nor by some $150 billion economic stimulus package (which is money that doesn’t exist anyway – it’s a printing press, merely adding to our already staggering deficit, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has already estimated will jump to $250 billion because of the economy – without the stimulus package).

No, the NSI is nothing more than the sum total of every individual’s PSI (Personal Spirituality Index).  So it’s not until we, as individuals, realize that WE have to change.  It’s always easy to think “I’m not the problem”, but that’s not how the NSI works.  Every individual contributes or detracts from the index, and every weakness we cling to further depresses the index as a whole.

But as individuals begin to focus on changing their own lives, increasing their own spirituality, and staying in tune, can we stay the course of spiritual entropy.

As individuals change, they have a positive impact on those around them (the spiritual equivalent of gravity, which I discuss here).  Soon you get these islands of expanding righteousness, and pockets of perpetuating virtue.

So Ben Bernanke can continue to lower rates (like his predecessor), but we should expect very little effect until the NSI begins to improve.  But it doesn’t start with the whole; it starts with the individual – with you and me.

 Rusty
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Seeking for evidence

Recently the topic of evidence-seeking has come up frequently in comments on my posts, and I decided it warranted further exploration.

Is it weakness or folly to believe without evidence as Larry suggests in the comments here?  Or is it weakness or folly to require evidence to believe?

Must one have physical proof in order to believe something, or does that illustrate a crippled faith? 

Certainly the carnal man prefers evidence, as solid and irrefutable as we can get, for our minds seek naturally for such proof.  To proceed without proof, or evidence, is risky.  As such, throughout biblical history we find such sign seekers… those unwilling to believe without some sort of evidence or sign. 

But of these sign seekers we read… “And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, this is an evil generation:  they seek a sign” (Luke 11:29).  And in Mark we find that when the Pharisees came questioning Jesus, they sought from him a sign from heaven, and Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, why doth this generation seek after a sign?” (Mark 8:11-12)

So should we seek for evidence?  In Hebrews 11 (the great dissertation on faith by Paul), we find that faith IS evidence:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

Clearly, we need not see to believe. 

Verse 7:  “By faith Noah, being bwarned of God of things not seen as yet, cmoved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house;”

Did Noah require evidence before building the ark?  When God told him that it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights, did he say “prove it”?  He didn’t need to, for his faith was sufficient for action.

Verse 8:  “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Did Abraham require proof, or evidence before he acted?  Or was his faith sufficient?

What about Sarah in v.10, did she require evidence to have a child?  Or in v. 17, when Abraham was told to sacrifice his very son, did he require evidence that this was necessary, or did he move on faith alone?  In v. 29 when Moses approached the Red Sea, did he need evidence that he could part the sea or did he simply believe?

Were these people weak for not requiring evidence, or strong for not needing it.

In life we progress line upon line, precept upon precept.  While the need for evidence might be a suitable start, there needs to come a time in our spiritual progression where we graduate from the requirement of such a crutch, where our faith becomes like that of Moses, Abraham, and Noah, enabling us to act based on nothing more than faith alone.  Enabling us to act based on a witness from the spirit, and not some physical manifestation that our path is sure. 

But even those who have asked such questions are coming close without knowing it.  For as the Lord said to Thomas, who doubted his resurrection “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou has believed:  blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Here the Lord not only confirms that more blessed are they for whom faith is sufficient, but that they themselves, having not seen Jesus, yet who believe in him, have shown themselves capable of belief without proof.

While God may find it within His wisdom to provide evidence where he may, far be it from me to require it of him. 

True faith does not require evidence.  And while the wisdom of the world might find this imprudent, or call it weak, the wisdom of the world is not what I seek, but the strength of the faith of Noah, Moses, Abraham, and of all the great prophets, for God hath made foolish the wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 1:20).

Rusty

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La Envoi, 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/la-envoi-by-rudyard-kipling/

Buying the iPhone 3G

Buying the iPhone 3G

In case you wondered why there was no post on Friday, it’s because I spent all day standing in line to buy the new iPhone 3G – 10 hours to be exact, and the whole process taught me something I wanted to share.

First, here’s how it went. 

Friday morning I went down to the Salt Lake Apple Store (at the Gateway).  I’ve never done one of these stand-in-line-on-the-day-of-release things before, but I’d heard that the last time the iPhone was released the lines cleared out in only a couple of hours.  Since I’ve been a huge iPhone fan, and am passionate about technology, I thought it would be fun to go hang around other like-minded people, thrilled about the release, and try to get it on the first day.  In fact, I was in it as much for the experience, as for the phone. 

I got there at about 7:00am, an hour before the store opened.  Already the line was around the block.  Still, I was optimistic that the line would go fast and I’d get an iPhone.  And I found myself easily engaged in conversation with the people that were around me.

So I sat on the sidewalk and responded to some blog comments on my MacBook Pro (plugged into my pocket PC phone for internet connectivity, since the iPhone won’t let you do that :-(,  until just after 8:00 when the line started moving.  Initially we were moving at a steady clip, about 15 feet every 10 minutes or so.  But then all of a sudden, about 30 minutes into the process we simply stopped moving, and that would be how it was throughout the remainder of the day.  On average, we’d move about 5 feet every30 minutes.

Using my iPhone I found that there were problems with AT&T activation and the Apple’s iTunes server, and realized that the west coast was coming online as well, and they were likely slammed.  Still, I figured Steve Jobs would whip their IT department into shape in a hurry and increase their bandwidth to deal with the apparently unexpected surge of people. 

In retrospect, I should have known, if you release the iPhone 2.0 software the day before the release of the new phone you’ve spent millions to hype, and this time for a world-wide release, and all of them would have to access iTunes at the same time – it’s a recipe for disaster.  Combine that with the terrible decision to force iPhone customers to activate the phones in-stores, and it’s even worse.   

We were told that in-store activation was taking more like 30-45 minutes per customer instead of the 10-15 minutes they had expected.  45 minutes!  That’s a ridiculous amount of time to stand at the cash register trying to give Apple $300, especially for a company as image/experience conscious as Apple.

But, and this is the important part, we had only been there a very short time when we had Apple representatives moving down the line handing out coffee for those who were interested.  Later when it got hot, they handed out slushies, and throughout the day they walked around, distributing water, and even sunscreen, and collecting garbage.  Sometimes they’d come around and just ask how you were doing.  They’d bring around the new iPhone and let you hold it, which helped remind us all why we were there and infused us with renewed excitement.  Then they’d walk around the black iPhone and the white one, so that your mind was focused on which you wanted more, and not how long you’d been waiting.  They did an amazing job at making it a positive experience.

Long story short, after standing in the sun for 6 hours, which is a painful process; I was finally admitted into the store.  There was a crowd of Apple employees at the door, cheering as each group was admitted.  I have to admit it, that simple act really segmented the experience, and almost made you forget what you’d just gone through.

Inside, I was rapidly directed to a representative who said they’d help me buy my iPhone.  He too was cheerful and upbeat.  .

I gave him my information, drivers license, credit card, told him what iPhone I wanted (16 Gig, Black) and about 15 minutes later he told me: “There appears to be an error when I try to put your order through, it has something to do with your AT&T account, so we’ll need to have you call AT&T”.

Frustrated, I pulled out my Verizon phone (both my iPhone and my AT&T PPC phone were out of batteries), and called AT&T.  Once I got a rep, I handed the phone over to my Apple rep.  Almost 30 minutes later, my rep handed me back my phone and said the unthinkable (I could tell it was killing him)…

“I’m sorry, there appears to be a problem with your AT&T account, and we’ll be unable to help you here, you’ll need to go to an AT&T store.”

I was less than pleased, and requested that he try again, telling him that I wasn’t about to give up so easily after having waited almost 7 hours.  “Sure, he said, I totally understand, and I am so sorry”.

Another long story short, without further request, he tried 5 separate times, calling a new AT&T rep each time, spanning a period of THREE additional hours before he finally got an AT&T rep that could fix it.  And even then, it wasn’t fully fixed, they couldn’t eradicate the partial order that had gone through before, so it showed I wasn’t eligible for the $100 iPhone discount.  Undeterred, my apple rep gave me a $100 Apple gift certificate and used that to help purchase the phone.

So after 9 and a half hours (6 outside, and 3 ½ inside), I walked out of the store starving, tired, sunburned, and frazzled, but deeply impressed with the representatives at Apple. 

I got to my car, turned on the AC, and breathe for a bit.  Then pulled out my phone and tried to call my wife to tell her about the ordeal.  The call was dropped.  I tried another call, and it too was dropped.  In fact three calls in a row (which is really strange, because that’s never happened to me before with my last iPhone).

Sighing, I decided to try to sync with Exchange to check my email that I hadn’t seen for several hours.  Everything synched except my mail (contacts, calander).  Okay, at least I’ll set up my Gmail account to see what my blog comments were.  Gmails Imap servers failed to respond.

Finally I gave up and went home, so disappointed that I haven’t even really touched the phone until now when I plugged it into iTunes to download my music.

As disappointed as I was in the whole ordeal, I couldn’t help but remain impressed with the Apple store employees.

Sometimes I wonder if we, as members, can’t do a better job ourselves, of lightening the often very trial-laden process of conversion, offering comfort, understanding, and help at every step of the way.  It’s amazing how much a difference it makes, when those who surround you, the actual representatives of the church, manifest the very qualities that attracted you to the church in the first place.  As with Apple, I hope that we too, can be far more image conscious – being aware at what role we’re playing in the conversion experience of another.

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Rusty

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What Mormons believe, part 2

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
2nd Article of faith

Herein lies doctrine that I find sweet and compelling, and very personal, but so often taken for granted, or overlooked by many Latter Day Saints (Mormons).

This simple sentence explores the profound depth of difference between consequences and accountability.

Adam fell when he transgressed the law of God by partaking of the forbidden fruit, and by so doing, was cast out of the Garden of Eden, becoming mortal.  Because of that transgression, we too, are mortal, and as such, we live under the consequence of Adam’s decision.  But we are not accountable for it.

This is a profound principle, and one that has a much broader application.

Each of us grows up under the consequence of our parent’s (or ancestor’s) decisions.  Those consequences make up the environment of our past.  Some grew up in another religion, or with no religion.  Some grew up in abusive families.  Some grew up in poverty, and some in wealth.  Some grew up under the staining effect of racism, or with countless other derogatory views.

Those are the blocks with which we build (see my post on building blocks here).   

But that’s not what we’re held accountable for.  Rather we’re held accountable for our own actions.  It’s what we DO with those blocks that matter.  Some are faced with the challenge of overcoming great adversity.  Others, in perhaps an equally difficult manner, are required to hold higher an already high standard.

How often do we find ourselves blaming our parents or our past for our actions today? 

In short, we each have challenges inherent in the heritage we receive from the consequences of our parents actions, for good or for ill, but what matters in the eyes of God, is what we do on our own.

Hence my post “My story, why I think we’re not limited by our past“.

May we all be a little less focused on what we’ve been given, and a little more focused on what constructive things we can do with them.

Rusty

For related posts, see also “It is what you make of it“, “A psalm of life“, “The Builders“, “Life Sculptor“, “The danger of reflection“.

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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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God’s hidden plan for you

Around 1620, separatists from England had arrived in America seeking religious freedom.  Landing at New Plymouth, they set up what would become known as the Plymouth Colony.  This colony would be crucial in establishment of a nation free to worship God as they saw fit.

But it almost didn’t happen.

On the journey, many of the pilgrims had become ill, and 47% of them had died.  They were desperate to find a place ashore on which they could settle.  But every attempt found them repelled by the natives.  At long last, they came to Plymouth Rock.

Coming ashore they found an established, but empty village (called Patuxet) that had been built by the Native American Wampanoag.  The village had been abandoned three years earlier because of a plague (likely smallpox) that had killed every one of its residence.  So sweeping and severe was the plague that the colonists discovered unburied skeletons in some of the abandoned dwellings.

But that plague, which had killed so many of the Wampanoag, was crucial for the ultimate success of Plymouth Colony.

Because the local natives were in such a weakened state, the colonists weren’t met with the same opposition that they had faced on earlier landings.   In fact, the plague had nearly decimated the Wampanoag, depopulating whole villages.  To make matters worse, it hadn’t touched their longtime enemies, the Narragansett alliance to the west, which left the Wampanoag in a precarious situation.

 Realizing their vulnerability, Massasoit, Sachem, and leader of the Wampanoag, knew his only hope for survival would be to form an alliance with the Pilgrims.  For this purpose, on March 22, 1621 Massasoit, Samoset, and Tisquantum, broke long-standing policy, and came to negotiate with the colonists.

Those negotiations would make way for the survival of the Plymouth Colony (which were nearly decimated themselves, with only 47 survivors at one point), providing them with vital food, and knowledge that was crucial for them to know how to grow crop on this strange new land.

But none of that would have been possible if that plague would not have first swept the area, setting the stage for new colonization.  Colonization that would lead to the establishment of a new nation, a nation of religious freedom, where the word of God could be established, and his people could be free to worship.

But to Massasoit and his people, that plague was a catastrophe.  Likely there were many who must have questioned their God, doubt-ridden and angry because they could not see the larger plan.  But a lager plan there was.  A plan known only to an omniscient Father, and made possible by a plague.

Often it is that our lives are swept with such plagues.  Plagues of misfortune, plagues of trials, plagues of temptation, plagues of weakness, plagues of loss, plagues of discouragement, plagues of doubt, and sometimes, plagues of disaster.

How tempting it is, for us to question our Father, while we suffer under these plagues… while the reality of our pain is so real. 

But could it not be that the suffering we feel now, is preparing the way for a far richer future we can enjoy tomorrow?  A tree must be pruned, for it to be healthy.  A field must be plowed, before it can be planted.  And sometimes, we must be broken, before we can be built up.

God’s vision for us is greater than our own.  And the meager, mortal attempts we have made to shape our lives must sometimes be undone, before the true beauty of the vision our Father has for us can be realized.

May you trust in God through your adversity.  May you know that He loves you with a depth and intensity that you are incapable of understanding.  May you know that His plan for you is sometimes hidden, but that if you will trust in Him, and keep your faith, and endure to the end, you will find yourself in His presence, and you will know that it was all worth it.  For He lives, and He loves you, for you are His child.

Rusty
(Ongofu – rustysblog.com)

Jonah Peretti encourages the Mormon Strategy for Viral Media

This is cool.

Mormonism got a social media shout out last Friday from Jonah Peretti, cofounder of the Huffington Post and founder of BuzzFeed.

He was speaking at the inaugural “Viral Media Meetup”, covering his history of viral success, and key strategies for viral marketers.

He began by explaining the differences in the old media model (below), where the media giants determined what we consumed.

He then explained the new media model (below), where what we consume is instead determined by our peers.
This proliferation is exacerbated by what he calls the BWN, or the “Bored at Work Network”.
He goes on to describe key strategies in creating viral media, including
  1. Viral Media Strategy
  2. The Mullet Strategy
  3. Big Seed Marketing Strategy
  4. The Maniac Strategy
  5. The Mormon Strategy

For this last one, he throws up this slide:

Then points out that while Judaism seems far more well known (or more generally liked), Mormonism is crushing it, whereas Judaism is showing flat growth (his chart only shows up till 2007, which is too bad, ’cause we were just taking off).

That’s right, Jonah Peretti’s strategy #5 for viral growth… Learn from the Mormons

His recap:
I’m happy that we’re so widely well known for our missionary work.  Evangelism, sharing the gospel, and bringing others unto Christ are core elements of the Lords true church.
It’s kinda funny that here is this social media pundit, at the first ever viral media meetup event, talking about Mormonism as one of 5 key growth strategies.
Still, he missed one critical element.  His talk (and his strategies), were on how to get a message to go viral (get people to talk about it).  But the growth of the Mormon church (check this out), requires far more than people just perpetuating a message.  It requires real commitment.
You don’t get people to give up drinking and smoking, commit them to pay 10% of their gross income in tithing, commit people to living the law of chastity, etc. by just passing along a message.  That message has to be true, it has to ring home to their very spirits.  The growth of the church speaks more about the truth of the message, then the mechanism for sharing it.
Still, our missionary work is inspirational, even to industry pundits who specialize in spreading messages.
To me, that’s cool.
Rusty

Ongofu onTwitter

For those of you who don’t know what twitter is – it’s a micro-blogging platform.  Whereas with a blog you post fewer, but longer articles, on Twitter you post a lot more frequent (and vastly smaller) ideas, thoughts, and ramblings throughout the day.  Each “post” in twitter is called a “tweet”.  Cute eh?

In any event, just like you can subscribe to blog updates, you can “follow” someone on twitter.  They even have tools where you can get TXT updates sent to your mobile phone (only recommended if you pay for unlimited TXT messaging).

In any event, while there are lots of “older” twitter users, Twitter really has a vast youth crowd, so this really helps me expand my reach out to a younger audience.  If you’ve followed me very long, you’ll know that I’m constantly looking for ways to expand my reach and touch more lives.

But more importantly, because with a blog I feel that more than two posts a day is simply too much (please let me know if you disagree), I end up NOT talking about so many things.  I only end up picking those few items I really feel necessary to explore more fully.  But Twitter enables me to share thoughts on all those smaller, less “robust”, but often just as meaningful things throughout the day.

In any event, if you’re interested in following me on twitter – simply click here:  http://twitter.com/rustysblog.

Of course, you can also subscribe to an RSS feed to read all tweets in your favorite RSS reader.

I’ve built this page to house any comments you want to make on one of my tweets.  Simply type the tweet into your comment followed by any remarks you’d like to add.  That way we know which tweet you’re talking about, and we’ll let the conversations flow from there.

Either way, this’ll be fun.

Rusty