Category Archives: Uncategorized

Susan Boyle – Internet singing sensation

While watching the Mormon Messages Easter video of Elder Holland rise on the charts over the weekend, I couldn’t help but notice another rising star – Susan Boyle. If you haven’t watched her video yet then you haven’t been paying attention. In less than five days, adding up all the versions out there, it has achieved over 16 million views. That’s got to be some sort of a record.

Update: According to Viral Video Chart, it has now exceeded 91 million views and will shortly surpass 100 million, approaching the record of the most watched video on the Interwebs.

And no wonder! I confess that I have watched her stunning performance at least a dozen times and am floored every time I do. Susan is from a small town in Scotland and has never been married. In fact, she’s never been kissed. She lives in the same home in which she grew up with eight brothers and sisters. Her father passed away ten years ago and her mother in 2007.

Her choice of song is one of my favorites, I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables. My favorite performance before this last weekend was from the 10th anniversary concert. That’s one of my favorite DVDs. The song fits Susan because of the message. She has a wonderful attitude in spite of the life she has been given. She developed her talent singing in church. You go, Susan!

For more information:

1. San Francisco Chronicle
2. One of many fansites
3. Times UK OnLine
4. CBS News Interview
5. AP story on Yahoo News
6. Why Susan inspires us

Sharing the gospel through video on YouTube

What Seth calls “a simple video” that he made for Easter, I call amazing. Is it a simple thing to put a beautiful piece of music to a collection of wonderful paintings of the Savior into a video? Maybe some of you can do it with little effort, but for me, it demonstrates real talent. Thank you Seth, for helping me to continue to feel the spirit of Easter on this Monday morning. <Video embed removed>

The blessings of the LDS Temple

Carol and I went to the temple this afternoon and joined with members of our stake in a wonderful chapel session with a member of the temple presidency. I love these sacred moments where we are taught more about the endowment ceremony from one who has been set apart to teach the saints about what the temple really means.

Our visit to the temple today was emotional for me as I thought of both my parents who are now on the other side of the veil. The Los Angeles temple is where I was endowed over thirty years ago. My mother and father took me there and prepared me to understand the sacred blessings that are found there and nowhere else on earth.

In the temple we learn how to deal with the challenges of life better because we are taught the true source of some of those challenges. It is also in the temple where we are united as families through the eternal sealing power of the priesthood. I am so grateful to have been married to my sweetheart in the temple so many years ago.

President Uchtdorf: Pray for Obama

We have been invited by a prophet who attended the inauguration ceremony earlier this week to exercise our faith and pray for the 44th President of the United States of America. This is not a strange or unusual request and one that I am sure can be appreciated by people of all faiths. President Obama needs our faith and prayers.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve attended the inauguration and the National Prayer Service the next day. The two represented President Monson as they attended the events.

Hope and optimism

I like what President Uchtdorf had to say to the media after the events. He said that he prays for President’s Obama’s success in leading this country. Compare that to what popular commentator Rush Limbaugh said recently when he expressed that he hopes that President Obama fails. He later qualified that to be his policies.

I have always enjoyed President Uchtdorf’s positive outlook on life. Every time he speaks, he seems to express optimism and hope. I need more of that in my life. As he expressed to the media, these are important principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He pointed out that President Obama is also focused on these high ideals.

Deep emotion and unity

Isn’t it amazing how a person who is full of hope and optimism always seems to see the bright side of life? It makes you want to know that person better and figure out what makes them tick. In the case of President Uchtdorf, I think he was born with that natural optimism. It is a gift that we need more from our leaders today.

After the National Prayer Service, President Uchtdorf said he felt deep emotion and great unity among the people. He said he hoped that feeling of unity would continue through the years of President Obama’s administration. He also said he felt that the people of America are going to unite behind the new U.S. president.

Unity in First Presidency

President Monson said that it is always an honor for the Church to be represented at the inauguration of a new president. “We send our best wishes to President Obama and pray for the blessings of a loving Father in Heaven to be upon him and his administration.” President Uchtdorf reported that he felt those blessing there.

“We felt we were in the right place with all those whom we call brothers and sisters, to pray for this presidency, for this administration, and with them to pray for all the governments around the world to bring again peace and prosperity and unity to all countries.” I join my faith and prayers with our First Presidency.

Difficult economic times

We are facing difficult economic times. Some have expressed that they fear we will move right past a recession and into a depression. That could be catastrophic. In times like this, prayers for unity and success for the leader of our nation and in effect, the free world, are very appropriate. Many hope for a new positive change.

The start of a new administration brings optimism and hope for those who believe in the needed change. I confess that I am not one who likes change. I like routine and steady progress. I’m not sure if a government can bring about the correction to our economic situation but I’m exercising my faith and prayers as we go forward.

A historic transition

A change in power in a nation is always a historic event. In our democracy, we show to the world how that peaceful transition takes place. Liberties, freedoms and justice for all are not just hollow phrases but truly are principles of our great nation that we uphold. This is more than just a racially historic event in America.

President Obama is young and somewhat inexperienced. He has wisely chosen to surround himself with more experienced individuals. Just as we pray in the church for our prophet and those who surround him, we can do the same thing for the leader of our nation. Carol and I often prayed for President Bush and his family.

Social Commentary

If you have read many of my past essays, you could probably ascertain that I am very conservative in my political persuasions. I have written previously about Rush Limbaugh and how I enjoy listening to and reading his commentary on the political process and other events in this great democracy we call the United States.

I like many of the things that Rush says and agree with a lot of his viewpoints. However, in this instance, I am going to follow the counsel of a prophet and hope and pray that the objectives of our newly inaugurated president can be met. In fact, President Uchtdorf expressed that we need to help President Obama in his task.

Withhold judgment

I’m not sure if there is much I can do for President Obama from way out here in California. I will pray for him and his family just as I did for President Bush. Of course I will continue to pay my taxes and obey the laws of the land as best I can. I will contribute to the economy by buying needed goods and services as usual.

I think something else I can do to help President Obama accomplish his objectives is to not criticize. I plan to withhold judgment of the man and his policies until I see how well they work. I confess that I have initially disagreed with his efforts in the economic crisis, but then I also disagreed with what President Bush did there.

World situation

I am of the opinion that what is happening in the world around us may be beyond the help of a single nation. It may require the uniting of the world in a way that we have not considered before. I strongly suspect that President Obama is the man to do that like no other president we have ever had before. I will be watching him.

I will probably not agree with some of the things he proposes. But as things get worse, economically speaking, and I believe they will, I suspect that we will be in for some drastic measures that some will interpret as infringing upon our civil liberties. That happened with President Bush and I suspect it will happen again.

Summary and conclusion

I have noticed that I have been somewhat pessimistic over the last few months. My father is dying and I am struggling with what that means in my own life. I have much I want to accomplish before my time is up in this world and my father’s health reminds me that time is a precious gift that we can never, ever get back.

I want to have the kind of optimism that I saw in President Uchtdorf as he invited us to pray for President Obama. I need a renewal of hope and want to believe that things can get better. That would be a big change for me, but then, now is a prime opportunity for that needed change. As President Obama has said, “Yes, we can.”

Death is a time of reflection

The death of a loved one is always a time of tender feelings and reflection. We think upon the accomplishments of those who we have known but have now passed on. We marvel at their tremendous influence upon us, so constant, patient and kind.

The difficult times are forgotten, the cherished memories of sweet moments together are stirred up once again. Feelings of love are brought to our bosom as we think of the excitement of joys shared, beauty appreciated and sorrows overcome together.

We miss our loved ones. We miss their companionship and contributions to our lives. We wonder what they are doing now – who they are visiting and how they are feeling. We know the trials and pains of mortal life are over for them and are grateful.

I have finished my day’s work

Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables, penned these words that I find comforting. “For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose and in verse – history, philosophy, drama, romance, tradition, satire, ode and song. I have tried it all.

“But I feel I have not said the thousandth part of what is in me. When I go down to the grave I can say, like many others, ‘I have finished my day’s work! But I cannot say, ‘I have finished my life.’ My day’s work will begin again the next morning.”

Harold B. Lee said, “Death of a loved one is the most severe test that you will ever face, and if you can rise above your griefs and if you will trust in God, then you will be able to surmount any other difficulty with which you may be faced.”

Death is but a door

Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity. Death and love are the two wings that bear the good man or woman into heaven. Each departed loved one is a magnet that attracts us to the next world. We long to be with them once again.

For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. Is death the last sleep? No, it is the last and final awakening. Your mother closed her eyes in peaceful slumber, and awakened with loved ones.

Death is a graduation day and a time of assessment to see what we have become. It is a mere comma, not an exclamation point! Let us remember that death is a form of life which we do not yet understand. Those who leave us are welcomed by others there.

We live on the other side

When God sends forth a tiny soul to learn the ways of earth, a mother’s love is waiting here – we call this wonder birth. When God calls home a fleeting breath, a Father’s love is waiting there. This too is birth – not death.

Death, though bitter to observe, is not the end, but is, rather, only another graduation from which we go on to a better life. While mortals mourn, “A good woman has died,” the angels proclaim, “A beautiful child is born.”

She is not dead, this friend; not dead, but, in the path we mortals tread, gone some few trifling steps ahead, and nearer to the end; so that you, too, once past the bend, shall meet again, as face to face, this friend you fancy dead.

Everyone must die

Everyone must die. Death is an important part of life. Of course, we are never quite ready for the change. Not knowing when it should come, we properly fight to retain our life. Yet we ought not be afraid of death.

Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. Death is as the foreshadowing of life. We die that we may die no more. This world is the land of the dying; the next is the land of the living.

Who that hath ever been could bear to be no more? Yet who would tread again the scene he trod through life before? To find loved ones waiting on the shore, more beautiful, more precious than before. The only way to take the sorrow out of death is to take the love out of life.

Death is but a farewell

Dearest sister, thou hast left us, and thy loss we deeply feel, yet ‘tis God that has bereft us, He can all our sorrows heal. Yet again we hope to see thee, when death’s gloomy night has fled, in heaven with joy to greet thee, where no bitter tears are shed.

From Cicero, a great orator of ancient Rome, “Do not suppose, my dearest ones, that when I have left you I shall be nowhere and no one. Even when I was with you, you did not see my soul, but knew that it was in this body of mine from what I did.

“Believe then that it is still the same, even though you see it not. Wherefore, preserve my memory by the loyalty of your lives. Death is not a subject for mourning when it is followed by immortality. Beyond this vale of tears, there is life above.”

God saw her getting tired

God saw her getting tired; a cure was not to be. So he wrapped her in his loving arms and whispered, “Come with me.” She suffered much in silence, her spirit did not bend. She faced her pain with courage, until the very end.

She tried so hard to stay with us; her fight was all in vain. God took her to his loving home, and freed her from all the pain. We only really understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one who we love and takes them from us for a time.

Farewell, dear sister, we shall meet no more till we arrive on Canaan’s happy shore; There we shall meet at our Redeemer’s seat and cast our crowns of victory at His feet. For He is the resurrection and the life; giving hope to those who believe.

Death is not final

“Since the creation of man, no fact has been more certain as death with the close of mortality. When the last of life’s breath is drawn, there is a finality comparable to no other finality. Life is sacred, and death is somber. Life is buoyant and hopeful. Death is solemn and dark. It is awesome in its silence and certainty.

“But death is not final. Though it seems so when its dark shroud overshadows mortal life, to those who accept the Christ and His eternal mission there is light and comfort, there is assurance, there is certainty.” – President Gordon B. Hinckley

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. I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

We are immortal beings

We believe that we are immortal beings. We believe in the resurrection of the dead, and that Jesus Christ came forth from the grave to everlasting life, his spirit and body uniting never more to be separated.

So has be opened the way for every son or daughter of Adam, whether living or dead, to come forth from the grave to a newness of life, to become immortal souls, body and spirit united, never to be severed any more. – Joseph F. Smith

In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

The resurrection is real

The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of the spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings and motions.

When you see men and women in the resurrection, we shall see them in the very bloom of their glorious manhood and womanhood, and he has promised all who would keep his commandments and obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the restoration of their houses, glorified, immortalized, celestialized, fitted to dwell in the presence of God.

“I am sure if we can imagine ourselves at our very best, physically, mentally, spiritually, that is the way we will come back – perhaps not as a child or youth, perhaps in sweet and glorious maturity, but not in age or infirmity or distress or pains or aches.” – Spencer W. Kimball

Let us not fear death

Men fear death as if it were unquestionably the greatest evil; and yet, no man knows that it may not be the greatest good. It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind.

We picture death as coming to destroy; let us rather picture Christ as coming to save. We think of death as an ending; let us rather think of death as a beginning, and that more abundantly. We think of losing; let us think of gaining.

We think of going away; let us think of arriving. No man who is fit to live need fear to die. Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity. As the voice of death whispers, “You must go from earth,” let us hear the voice of Christ saying…

Come unto Christ

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter-day upon the earth.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. “All that is, at all, lasts ever, past recall; Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure. What entered into thee, that was, and is and shall be.” – Robert Browning


Very little in this essay is original with me. It is a collection of thoughts, poems and scriptures that I will be using in delivering a funeral sermon this Monday. if you desire to know the source of any of the quotations used, please let me know. I am not plagiarizing, I just don’t usually mention my sources when delivering the address.

Picture: Christ at the Door, Artist, Del Parson
© 2002 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tolerance does not mean condone

Last week The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a position paper in the online Newsroom entitled, “The Divine Institution of Marriage.” In the section on Tolerance an attempt is made to define the word and contrast it with the way the world uses it today – to condone – acceptance of wrongful behavior as the price of friendship.

Tolerance does not mean condone. As a gospel principle, tolerance means love and forgiveness of one another, not tolerating transgression. Just because someone practices tolerance does not imply that they accept sinful behavior. Acceptance of an individual does not necessarily mean that we approve of their behavior. We do not accept sin.

The definition of tolerance has changed over the years by those who use it in their efforts to change attitudes and prohibit practices that they define as discrimination. It has come to mean acceptance of sexual practices and orientations that are contrary to fundamental beliefs of society. We can be a tolerant people and yet not accept certain behavior.

Prophets have helped define tolerance

Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained, “Tolerance obviously requires a non-contentious manner of relating toward one another’s differences. But tolerance does not require abandoning one’s standards or one’s opinions on political or public policy choices. Tolerance is a way of reacting to diversity, not a command to insulate it from examination.”

Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “…there is a difference between tolerance and tolerate. Your gracious tolerance for an individual does not grant him or her license to do wrong, nor does your tolerance obligate you to tolerate his or her misdeed. That distinction is fundamental to an understanding of this vital virtue.” We do not tolerate wrongdoing.

“An erroneous assumption could be made that if a little of something is good, a lot must be better. Not so! Overdoses of needed medication can be toxic. Boundless mercy could oppose justice. So tolerance, without limit, could lead to spineless permissiveness. The Lord drew boundary lines to define acceptable limits of tolerance.” He made the rules.

Certain behavior is prohibited as sin

Many who advocate tolerance also declare that there is no sin. We as a church believe and teach otherwise. We disagree and speak out against both homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage on moral grounds. We also do not believe that it can be considered “hate speech” to make our position known. We are simply teaching God’s laws.

We have a right to identify and clearly teach what God has defined as sin. God has made it clear that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. We teach that marriage is ordained of God, that it is sacred, with the purpose being to bring children into the world. What God has ordained in marriage, man does not have the right to redefine or change.

We do not condemn those who feel the pull of same-sex attraction. We do not know why some struggle with this temptation. But we do teach that it is just that – a temptation. The Lord clearly identifies adultery and fornication as sin, so too is homosexual behavior. The inclination or temptation itself it not sin. It is only the behavior that becomes sin.

God judges behavior and so do we

In addition to being accused of intolerance and discrimination, we are often accused of judging, as if it is something wrong. God is the judge of all human behavior and has made it clear that he will not accept certain kinds of behavior in his kingdom. We follow his example and make judgments on behavior. There is nothing wrong with doing this.

We all must judge for ourselves what is good and what is evil. In fact, God commanded it. In John 7:24 he told us to judge righteous judgment. Nowhere in scripture does it say, “Thou shalt not judge.” The Joseph Smith translation of Matthew 7:1 reads, “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment.” What a difference.

“I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ…But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil…” (Moroni 7:16-17)

Opposition to same-sex marriage

The opposition of our church to same-sex marriage is not hostility toward homosexual men and women. Our objective is to protect the definition of marriage as only being between a man and a woman. We do not condone any kind of hostility towards those who identify themselves as homosexual. We love them as sons and daughters of God.

We feel that the recent court decisions in Massachusetts and California to allow same-sex marriage constitutes a serious threat to marriage and the family. Such a trend weakens the institution of marriage and will result in negative consequences for both adults and children. Traditional marriage is essential to society and especially to our children.

It is within the family that traditional moral values are propagated and protected. There is very strong agreement across America on what marriage is. The people in California voted on this issue just eight years ago. Over 61% of the voters decided that marriage should be defined as only between a man and a woman. This is a great moral issue.

Summary and conclusion

The statements in this essay were either taken from the position paper of the church or are derived from teachings of modern day apostles and prophets. We contend that this is a moral issue, which is why the church has taken a position and had asked the membership to become involved in advocating that position. I agree with the position of the church.

We do not accept the definition that some use for the word tolerance to mean approval or acceptance of behavior. We love and accept all individuals as children of God, regardless of their actions, but we do not condone certain kinds of behavior that God has defined as sin. Our opposition to same-sex marriage should not be construed as discrimination.

Despite my authoritative tone in this essay, please remember that I do not speak for the church, but have attempted here to restate the position of the church on this issue as I understand it. This is simply an attempt to use my best efforts to support the coalition of churches and other organizations to preserve and protect traditional marriage – Yes on 8.

In search of the undefined dream

Disclaimer and warning: This essay is very different from my usual theological discourse. It describes a somewhat personal and difficult problem for me. It is written from a male ‘blue’ point of view. I suspect that it is not something with which my readers of the fairer sex will sympathize. I post this essay in much fear and trepidation as I am revealing a problem without a solution, at least not one that I have been able to discover.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When I was a young man, I used to dream about being the best computer tech support person in the world. I knew what I wanted and knew the path to get it. I was confident in what I was seeking. I had a plan and I could see myself in the position that I wanted. It was my goal to have the kind of job where I knew all the answers and could be paid to dispense knowledge.

I knew I wanted to study and work in computers. I was passionate about them. I knew that I would be using them all my life and wanted to be an expert. So I became one. I kept moving up the ladder until I now have a dream job as an IT Manager, a technical support guru. I am well paid to be the answer man for all technical problems at a very profitable company.

I achieved the dream. I accomplished what I set out to do. Now what? In earlier days I would seek for a better job, which invariably would include a better salary. I would find it, negotiate for it and land the job. But I can’t do that now because I already have the ultimate job for a techie like me. What do you do when you have accomplished and realized your dream?

The highest need in a man

Emerson Eggerichs identified the problem well for me when he postulated that the highest need in a man is the need for conquest. He identifies conquest as the desire to work and to achieve. He also teaches that men desire respect and honor more than anything else. I fully identify with that. In my experience, such thinking has been totally foreign to the women in my life.

The first time men meet each other in a social setting, invariably one will say to the other, “So, what do you do?” That implies of course, what the other man does for a living. It’s how men identify themselves – by their work. It’s as if they are saying to one another, “So, what have you accomplished with your life?” Most men want others to respond with respect.

I’m at that age where I want to be able to say that I’ve done more with my life than that I became an alpha geek. Sure, there are others who are geekier than me and many who are paid more than I am for the same kind of work, but it’s not about the money. Frankly, the technology is boring. I’m more excited by the challenge of helping others feel comfortable with technology.

Men do what they do for admiration

Before I was married, the formation of my dreams and aspirations were motivated by the love of one woman – my mother. I wanted to please her. I wanted her to admire and respect what I had become. A big part of my early success in my life and career I attribute to my mother. I could tell that she was proud of me and my chosen line of work. She told me so many times.

I used to change jobs very often when I was single. I used my jobs as stepping stones to get experience for better jobs. I wasn’t interested in longevity or long-term commitments. I sought the jobs that were a little bit of a stretch for me, won them and then discarded them after I had conquered them. My need for conquest was being met big time early in my career.

Once I married, I could no longer manage my life in this selfish manner. I had to learn to think for two instead of one. The first time I quit a job after we were married, I quickly realized that things were different. Health insurance had never been a concern. As we were expecting our first child, it became evident that I had made a very costly and a very selfish mistake.

Responsibility requires sacrifice

I still quit jobs in search of new challenges. But over time, I have stayed with jobs longer and longer, mainly to provide a sense of stability for my family. I think I have become responsible and reliable. I hope I provide my wife some foundation of security. I know that’s important to her. I don’t have that need. I have very little attachment to the material things of this life.

In order to provide security and stability I have had to suppress my need for conquest. I usually can master a new job within the first few months. It doesn’t take long to accomplish most of the objectives outlined in the job interview. Once that is done, the job becomes maintenance work and that’s not something I enjoy. I need the thrill of mastering something difficult.

About six months into every new job, I experience a crisis as the urge to move on comes upon me once again. But being the responsible man that I have become, I stick it out and keep trying to come up with new ideas to make the job interesting and exciting. It is a sacrifice to stick with the unfulfilling job in order to provide something better – the security that our family needs.

Defining the undefined dream

I have reached the pinnacle of my career. I have a cushy job that most men envy. I get to work from home most of the time and can set my own hours. In a sense I am self-employed yet I have the security of a steady paycheck, great health insurance as well as a regular bonus and a raise each year. What more could a man ask? I should be very happy and contented, right? Wrong.

There is something nagging at me. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I call it the undefined dream. There is this deep sense that there is something I am supposed to do with my life and that I am not yet doing it. I sense that it is waiting there for me, just out of reach, beckoning me and making its presence known. I haven’t yet been able to identify it or discover what it is.

I ponder about it. I pray about it. I go to the temple and ask the Lord to reveal it to me. I think about it constantly. I dream about it. I write about it. I wonder what it is. I ask myself why I can’t define it. I think about connecting the dots of all the things that have brought me to this place in my life. Surely the Lord had a hand in all this. I am not where I am just by chance.

Summary and conclusion

If you have been a regular reader of my essays you know that I am very formulaic. I like to write in sections of three paragraphs each. I like my sentences short. I like my paragraphs to be only four of five sentences. And I always have a summary and conclusion. Today, I can summarize but I have not come to a conclusion. I am stuck and am in need of wisdom from others.

Am I the only man who has experienced this kind of mid-life crisis? Carol calls it my mid-year crisis. Do you see the problem? Have I identified it clearly? I know I am blessed beyond measure compared to most people in this world. Yet I struggle to find fulfillment. Am I just being selfish? Do I just need to forget about me and lose myself in the service of others?

Lest you get the wrong impression, let me clarify that this is not about my service in the kingdom or my testimony. That is very rewarding and fulfilling. It is about my day-to-day work, which is where I spend the majority of my time. Perhaps I should look elsewhere for fulfillment and see the job for what it is – just a way to pay the bills. What would you do in my situation?

Gays, Feminists and Intellectuals…oh my!

In May of 1993 I was working as an editor and publisher in the computer industry. My job required a lot of research and sourcing of material on the Internet. This was in the very earliest days of the World Wide Web. In fact, most of the material I obtained did not come from web pages but from mailing lists and online databases or FTP archives.

Although my job did not require it, I subscribed to a couple of LDS mailing lists. Part of my daily routine was to participate in the discussion that took place on Mormon-L. It is one of the oldest LDS lists, established in 1988 on one of the list servers at BYU. The discussions there were very similar to what we blog about today but mostly tamer.

One exception was a blow-up over an address given by Boyd K. Packer to the All-Church Coordinating Council. It can be found on several locations on the Internet. I prefer the formatting of the talk as presented on Light Planet. Without a doubt, it has been one of the most discussed and argued about addresses by a General Authority even to this day.

Background of the address

Early in his assignment to supervise Seminaries and Institutes, Elder Packer received counsel from President Harold B Lee who said, “You must decide now which way you face. Either you represent the teachers and students and champion their causes or you represent the Brethren who appointed you. You need to decide now which way you face.”

Elder Packer then gave a few examples demonstrating the concept of being corrected or even reproved by those presiding over him in the leadership of the Church. He describes how difficult it is to be submissive to changes requested, even to the point of accepting changes in talks given in General Conference. I love Elder Packer’s conference talks.

In his talk he mentions the worldwide evaporation of values and standards within politics, government, society, entertainment and education. He then briefly discusses drift taking place even within the church and points out how critical it is that we recognize and take corrective action. He reminds us that these are signs of danger foretold for the last days.

The three areas of danger

Elder Packer did not speak in generalities that day. He was very specific and direct in his remarks. He clearly identified that, “There are three areas where members of the Church, influenced by social and political unrest, are being caught up and led away. I chose these three because they have made major invasions into the membership of the Church.

“In each, the temptation is for us to turn about and face the wrong way, and it is hard to resist, for doing it seems so reasonable and right. The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.

“Our local leaders must deal with all three of them with ever-increasing frequency. In each case, the members who are hurting have the conviction that the Church somehow is doing something wrong to members or that the Church is not doing enough for them.” He then mentions a recent conference address by President Benson on working mothers.

Counsel from a prophet

After reading excerpts of letters from members of the church demonstrating that each of these three areas are troubling to some, Elder Packer then offers the following counsel. Without diminishing the validity of the concerns expressed in the letters, he points out that without a true understanding of the plan of salvation, life will always seem unfair.

“That young man with gender disorientation needs to know that gender was not assigned at mortal birth, that we were sons and daughters of God in the premortal state. The woman pleading for help needs to see the eternal nature of things and to know that…she will find no enduring peace in the feminist movement. There she will have no hope.

Referring to an individual who offered to mediate between the scholarly community and the direction from the prophets he says, “The one who supposes that he ‘understands the mind-set of both groups’ needs to understand that the doctrines of the gospel are revealed through the Spirit to prophets, not through the intellect to scholars.”

Fifteen years later

Elder Packer was roundly criticized by many on the list for his perceived insensitivity to individuals and groups he mentioned in his talk. The criticism was so bad that it came to the attention of the leading councils of the church. The distribution of the list was kicked off the BYU servers. To many, this seemed like an attempt to squelch intellectual dialog.

You probably remember what happened to some within the scholarly community later that year. The plights of the September Six have been written up and discussed many times since then. I wonder if the same thing would have happened today. I can assure you that the dialog on LDS forums today is so much worse than what happened then.

The point of my essay is not to comment on President Packer’s condemnation of these three groups. I am not a member of any one of the groups so I can’t understand how it must have felt to have been identified as a grave threat and danger to the church. I only want to point out that today I believe we are more tolerant of dialog and even dissent.

Summary and conclusion

I love Elder Packer. He is one of my favorite apostles. His counsel over the years has helped and strengthened me tremendously. His health these days is not the best. I would not be surprised if he is called home soon. My wife’s family knows many of Elder Packer’s family as they are from Brigham City. I feel that he is like a distant relative.

I did not really understand the violent reaction to his talk back in 1993. Most members of the church were not even aware of what had transpired and most still don’t today. I felt bad for him. I know he was trying to be helpful. I have always felt that Elder Packer is one who, like Elder McConkie, has always tried to keep the caravan on the right path.

My apologies to those who read this post based on the title expecting to find some essay condemning gays, feminists and intellectuals. I hope you have not come away with that idea at all. I sincerely hope that we have become more tolerant over the years. I also hope that we have learned not to take offense when a prophet tries to give us counsel.

FAIR answers questions from LDS critics

There are many levels of faith and testimony within members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some are lifelong members that have been recently exposed to anti-Mormon literature or have discovered an Ex-Mormon website. Others are new members that have been asked questions by their friends from their former faith.

FAIR, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research can provide answers to some of those disturbing questions that are not always answered on the official LDS websites. It is an all volunteer organization of researchers and writers who have dealt with these age-old questions over the years in various formats and from multiple sources.

When I started blogging last year, I almost immediately began to get objecting comments from readers about some of my essay topics that they found difficult to accept. For example, I wrote about a discussion in a marriage group that Carol and I enjoyed as presented by our friends from the Church of the Nazarene in our neighborhood.

The question of marriage in heaven

The subject was marriage in heaven, which came up in one of the concluding lessons of the wonderful seminar from Emerson Eggerichs entitled Love and Respect. As I did then, I still heartily endorse it as one of the best marriage enrichment experiences of my life. Learning about pink and blue communication methods has changed so much for me.

In my essay I described the LDS view of marriage, especially how it relates to our marriage relationship in the eternities. Emerson had pointed out the scripture in Matthew 22:30 and said that we are not married in heaven but are angels to God. Of course we believe that we are married in heaven and I gave some scriptural justification for it.

An anonymous commenter decided to take exception to my explanation and began to berate me for believing in a false prophet and belonging to a church that taught false doctrines. It seems that every time I have brought up the subject of marriage in my blog I get someone objecting to some aspect of our beliefs. Why is it such a difficult subject?

How I answered the challenge

Although I was familiar with FAIR, I decided to answer my commenter from my own experience, using a technique from my missionary days. I am convinced that almost all objections to our doctrine can be answered by one simple question. Does the Book of Mormon contain revelation from God? If so, then Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet.

Of course if Joseph was a prophet then the church he established is the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. To me, that always leads to the importance of authority to act in the name of God and therefore, keys of the priesthood. With these keys, families can be sealed together for eternity. Hence we are assured that there is marriage in heaven.

There is a wealth of material on this subject on the FAIR site that I could have added to the dialog that perhaps would have helped my anonymous friend. There are answers there to difficult questions and beliefs of the restored gospel unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Eternal marriage is a difficult one for many people.

How FAIR can help with these challenges

For example, this one-page response from Marc A. Schindler says it so much better than I can. This challenge comes up so often in blogging that every LDS blogger should be familiar with the contents. It would almost seem to me that some who like to question our faith cruise the LDS blogs just looking for this subject so they can quote Matt 22:30.

The FAIR website is easy to use. Besides providing material that is original to FAIR, they are also kind enough to point to other outside sources that have additional helps. In this case, a link to an Ensign article from Feb 1986 and a link to an entry on Light Planet by W. John Walsh are both extremely helpful. This particular objection is very common.

When you refer your friends or readers to these essays on FAIR, you are engaging in what is called Apologetics. If you are not familiar with the term, it might be helpful to read this essay by Gary Bowler. No, we are not apologizing for what we believe. We are defending our faith. We strengthen our own knowledge and testimonies at the same time.

Additional resources available on FAIR

I have been engaging in email dialogs and frequenting online message boards that deal with the topic of religion for many years. FAIR began as a group of individuals like me, who love to discuss religion, got together to create a central repository for their resources and shared articles that they had written. FAIR has been around now for about ten years.

The site has grown over the years and become more and more useful. Besides the topical guide, they recently created a Wiki, that is easy to navigate and fairly comprehensive. If you are not familiar with a wiki, think Wikipedia, one of the most popular sites on the Internet. The real advantage of a wiki is the community contributions with hyperlinks.

The FAIR journal is a monthly email newsletter that contains news of changes to the FAIR websites and lists of new material that has been published in the last month. I highly recommend this free service. You can join FAIR as a member on several different levels. Content providers are welcome as the wiki is constantly in need of additions.

Summary and conclusion

Perhaps you have no intention of engaging in apologetics. I feel the same way. I like to present uplifting and faith-promoting essays on my blog. Most of the subjects I deal with include some aspect of LDS doctrine that is not common to my readers who do not share my faith. Because of this, I often find myself defending my viewpoints in the comments.

I love blogging about the church and the restored gospel. It has blessed my life so much and in so many ways. I am completely convinced that living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ can solve all the problems of the world. I have often said that we have so much more to offer than other churches. Of course, we don’t say this arrogantly, but it is true.

FAIR can help explain and defend the parts of our religion that are not familiar to people. Of course, our own personal explanations and witness are the best. But we may not always be familiar with all the scriptures and quotes from prophets and apostles that can back up our claims. That’s where FAIR can help. It is an easy to use online resource.

Why the church is involved in Prop 8

In the priesthood session of the October 1999 General Conference, President Hinckley answered the question, “Why does the Church become involved in issues that come before the legislature and the electorate?” I was amazed as I re-read his answer this morning how appropriately it fits again as we approach another vote on this same issue here in California in 2008.

“…we deal only with those legislative matters which are of a strictly moral nature or which directly affect the welfare of the Church. We have opposed gambling and liquor and will continue to do so. We regard it as not only our right but our duty to oppose those forces which we feel undermine the moral fiber of society.

We are not alone in this effort

“Much of our effort, a very great deal of it, is in association with others whose interests are similar. We have worked with Jewish groups, Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, and those of no particular religious affiliation, in coalitions formed to advocate positions on vital moral issues.

“Such is currently the case in California, where Latter-day Saints are working as part of a coalition to safeguard traditional marriage from forces in our society which are attempting to redefine that sacred institution.

Marriage is ordained of God

“God-sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman has been the basis of civilization for thousands of years. There is no justification to redefine what marriage is. Such is not our right, and those who try will find themselves answerable to God. Some portray legalization of so-called same-sex marriage as a civil right. This is not a matter of civil rights; it is a matter of morality.

“Others question our constitutional right as a church to raise our voice on an issue that is of critical importance to the future of the family. We believe that defending this sacred institution by working to preserve traditional marriage lies clearly within our religious and constitutional prerogatives. Indeed, we are compelled by our doctrine to speak out.

We do not hate gays

“Nevertheless, and I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group.

“As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married.

Give of our time and means

“I commend those of our membership who have voluntarily joined with other like-minded people to defend the sanctity of traditional marriage. As part of a coalition that embraces those of other faiths, you are giving substantially of your means. The money being raised in California has been donated to the coalition by individual members of the Church.

“You are contributing your time and talents in a cause that in some quarters may not be politically correct but which nevertheless lies at the heart of the Lord’s eternal plan for His children, just as those of many other churches are doing. This is a united effort…I have tried to explain why we do some of the things that we do. I hope I have been helpful.”

Source: Why we do some of the things we do, Ensign Nov 1999

Additional Information:
LDS Newsroom: California and same-sex marriage
Volunteer or donate:
Defending and preserving traditional marriage