Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why the Wait?

If you're a regular reader of this blog (there might be three of you and I thank you), you've undoubtedly noticed a drop off in posts lately. There's a good reason for that: busyness and lack of computer access.

The first was due to things like a family reunion and my wife's graduation ceremonies and celebrations with family. Way to go, Deb!

The second is the result of our vacation to the Oregon coast. We just got back and as soon as I can get the pictures onto a computer, I'll post about our adventures. The break was much needed and very refreshing.

So stay tuned.

Monday, August 11, 2008

O That I Were an Angel

“O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart,” wrote Alma, a Book of Mormon prophet. And what was Alma’s wish? “That I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!”

“Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder,” he continued, “repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth” (Alma 29:1-2).

Alma lived sometime in the century leading up to Jesus’ birth and knew that his wish, his heart’s desire, could not be fulfilled in his lifetime: “I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me,” he concluded (Alma 29:3).

Perhaps because it was his desire to preach repentance and the plan of redemption to the ends of the earth that it is fitting that many of Alma’s sermons and writings are recorded in the Book of Mormon and now available in some 100+ languages.

We live in a day when our voices can be heard as it were in any part of the world via the Internet, a technological wonder Alma probably never dreamed of but would likely use, were he alive today, to share his testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ to any who would listen.

I feel like I am living Alma’s dream to at least a small degree. The opportunity to share something of my faith with friends and family and readers from across the United States and around the world has been a source of great joy in my life.

I have personally tasted of the sweetness of the gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ, and I would like to share it with any who are seeking for lasting happiness and joy. If some of my religion-themed posts have sounded preachy, it is only because I am anxious to get the message out and struggle in my efforts to communicate it.

But, oh, what a message it is! At its core is God’s love for His children, all of humanity, and His desire to bless us beyond measure, beyond our current comprehension. The plan of redemption mentioned by Alma is God’s way of bringing us back to live with Him. Central to that plan is Jesus Christ: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Or as Jesus put it on another occasion, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

Therefore, “I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written” (Ether 12:41). I would also encourage you to make these things a matter of fervent prayer: “Ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true” (Moroni 10:4). God will answer your sincere prayers without chastising or upbraiding you (James 1:5-6). I can affirm that one of the sweetest feelings is the understanding that God has actually communicated with you directly. That He is eager to do so is amply evidenced in the scriptures.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Great Thoughts

I'm now an avid blog reader--I actively follow a number of friends' and strangers' blogs. Here are a few of their thoughts that I've particularly enjoyed.

From Steve, my brother-in-law and good buddy:

I’ve heard people complain about there being too much conformity among members of [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints], saying that we don’t have enough diversity. I’ve heard other people speculate that it’ll be pretty boring in heaven if everybody has to follow the same rules to get there. But how much do the commandments say about how we can and can’t behave, really? The gospel is that we should have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then continue on in keeping the commandments and our covenants to receive the remaining ordinances of salvation. The only limitation on diversity I hear in that list is a limitation on sin. And anyone who can’t imagine a way to be an individual without fornicating, backbiting, abusing, stealing, or being irreverent is suffering from nothing so much as a severe lack of creativity. Diversity will never be a problem in a church that declares heaven to be full of people from every nation, kindred, tongue, and era of human history. [Emphasis added]

From No Impact Man:

[W]hen people ask me how I don't get engulfed in despair about the human race, I tell them I pay attention to what's going on around me on the street. I see people laughing, people helping old ladies, mom's loving their kids, doormen joking together.

Sure, humanity has it foibles--and I admit that those foibles could cause a lot of suffering for us if we aren't careful--but for the most part, I think we're pretty neat. Remembering that, I keep the despair at bay.

From Kristen's Mental Notes:

Aside from obvious evils, it is hard to think of a greater evil we inflict upon ourselves and others than that of insisting on our own misery. Refusing to forgive or be forgiven; finding nothing but fault in ourselves and others; always looking for what is wrong or what might go wrong; refusing to acknowledge or accept any positive or lovely thing. The only thing that makes this disposition worse is if one also professes to be a Christian.

Again, from Steve:

Perhaps I can mention some things that won’t be a part of eternal life, which I think we’ll all be glad to be rid of: In the celestial kingdom there will be no more sickness or death (Isa. 33:24), no more sectarian confusion and fighting (D&C 76:99-100), no more lies, infidelity, hate, abuse, starvation, sickness, cruelty, injustice, or sin of any kind. Finally, all our enemies will be gone (D&C 76:61). If they remained wicked, they’ll be somewhere other than the celestial kingdom, and if they repented, they will be there; they’ll just be our friends, instead! Would it change the way we treat our enemies if we knew they might some day be our friends and live with us with God? Maybe that’s one reason Jesus commanded us to pray for them (Matt. 5:44). [emphasis added]

And lastly, from Sans Auto, a thought about how to spend more time together as a family:

People will often ask my wife what she does with the kids since we don't have a TV. This may be hard to believe, but she spends time with them. They help clean and cook. They play and she plays with them. Try turning the TV off and see just how entertaining your kids can be, really it's incredible.

There you have it: a few quotations that have got me thinking in the past little while. Thanks to the writers quoted for doing their part to share good thoughts with the world.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Samoa Part 19: Saved from Trouble

One day, Uilifoti and I were walking along a dirt road in a remote part of our area. It was the beginning of the rainy season and the road was very muddy, so much so that my shoes and the lower part of my pant legs were caked with mud.

As we walked in the direction of the main road we saw a taxi approaching us. We could very clearly hear a song by either the Cars or the Police blaring from the car radio. As the taxi drew near we could see that it had four passengers, all inebriated. We said hello as we passed and continued walking in the opposite direction. Once about 50 feet separated us we heard someone from behind us.

“Elders!” the voice called out.

We turned around to see one of the men getting out of the car. He was young, perhaps near our ages—between 19 and 21 years. I noticed that he had a large plastic alcohol bottle in the front of his pants; the bottle’s neck protruded above his waistline.

“Hey, come here.” We walked the short distance to see what he wanted to say to us. He told us that he desired to be like us, a common remark from people whose lives needed reordering. Then he asked us for some money.

Uilifoti replied that we didn’t have any money to give to him. The man continued his mumbling about money and asked us a few more questions. Without any forewarning his demeanor suddenly became serious and aggressive.

He looked at me and asked, “What would you do if I shot you through the head right now?” At that very moment a wave of evil feeling coursed through my body. I realized that this guy wasn’t stable and that we needed to leave.

Concerned at the possible consequences of turning my back on the man, I looked him directly in the eyes and replied, “Nothing.” He asked me again and my answer was the same, “Nothing.”

Then he turned his attention and questions to Uilifoti. “What would you do if I punched you? You want me to punch you? Do you want to fight?” Then swearing and cursing, he explained that we were on his stomping grounds, his turf.

Uilifoti looked at him and said, “We’ve got to continue our work.” Then he looked at me and urged, “Let’s go!”

I didn’t notice when they had gotten out of the taxi, but the man’s friends had made their way over to him by this time. At Uilifoti’s “Let’s go!” we slowly started walking away. The man’s friends began apologizing profusely for their friend’s behavior but we replied, “No worries, we just want to leave. We’re going to go.”

Fortunately, the man didn’t pursue his violent course of action—he let us leave in peace. The further away we got from the four drunk men the faster we walked, then jogged, then sprinted to put as much distance between us and our would-be assailant.

The adrenaline from the experience and the sudden burst of exercise set our blood to boiling. Once we were walking again, Uilifoti and I verbally raged between us at the indiscretion and utter rudeness of that man. By the time we made it to the paved main road, we had calmed down enough to feel gratitude to the Lord for having spared us any serious, violent altercation.

That day I witnessed the literal fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to his servants: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).