In Memory of Lowell Hansen and Garrett Smith

With a recent bout of suicides, I thought I would pay a bit of a tribute to Garrett Lee Smith and Lowell Eugene Hansen.  Both of them forced the concept of suicide into my life and required I come to some understanding of the idea.  I wanted to give some memories of these two individuals and the doctrinal concepts surrounding suicide.  What is suicide?  How does God look at suicide?  How am I supposed to deal with suicide?  How does God deal with those who commit suicide?

Lowell Hansen was an acquaintance I knew in Paul, Idaho.  I was young enough that I knew who he was, but did not really know anything about him.  After I was charged by a bull at our house, I remembered that within days he appeared at our home and removed the charge from the bull.  I watched him shoot, hang, gut, clean, and cut the bull.  It was fascinating.  I remember recognizing the butcher truck each time when I would see it on the road or at some other location.  I knew he built a log home because I always saw the truck parked near it.  Years later after I became involved in the same congregation and came to know him a little more as Brother Hansen.  It was not until I returned from my mission that I realized he even had a family.  I moved back to home in the fall of 2002 and I was assigned as a Home Teacher to one of Lowell’s daughters.  It was only then I really started to get to know the Hansen family more on a personal level.  It was shortly after that Lowell decided to end his life much like he did that bull.  I was called upon to help minister, however weakly, somewhat to the needs of his daughter and her then boyfriend.  The talk I reproduce in full below was given at his funeral and has provided much of the basis for my feelings and ideas on suicide.

Garrett Smith was on a bit more personal level for me.  I first learned of him in Manchester, England when he was assigned my companion as a new missionary.  I was called as a trainer to him, although I only knew of him as Elder Smith.  We served together, 24 hours a day, for 6 weeks.  We had many a conversation and became close friends.  I had some frustrations with him due to some of his learning disabilities and my lack of patience.  He knew of this and I do not think I always helped in our relationship.  When the 6 weeks were up, we had both profoundly influenced the other though.  He convinced me that I should consider leaving civil engineering and looking more into political science and law.  I think I had convinced him that his disabilities were not a very good excuse for settling for mediocrity.  I left England to return home and he finished in 2002.  We had planned several occasions where we would get together for old time’s sake, but they kept falling through due to poor scheduling and other issues.  We finally set a date to get together on the 13th of September in 2003.  I was going to drive down to Orem, Utah where he was and spend the weekend.  Unfortunately, I received a phone call that week only to find he had hanged himself in a closet after consuming alcohol and sleeping pills.  I had a great desire to attend his funeral so a roommate from Logan drove with me to Pendleton, Oregon for the funeral.  I took a copy of the talk from Lowell’s funeral with me and gave it to Garrett’s parents.  Garrett’s mom, Sharon, later thanked me for the talk.  Our Mission President, Phil Wightman, spoke at the funeral and while I doubt he had read the talk, he referenced very similar themes as Hyrum Smith did at Lowell’s funeral (Hyrum Smith was Lowell’s Mission President too).  Sometimes I find myself wondering what Garrett’s life would be like if he wasn’t reposing in the ground at Weston, Oregon.

I lost the talk over the years and had repeated requests come to me for a copy of it.  Those asking were mostly individuals I had shared with at the time of Garrett’s funeral who were moved by it and wanted to give a copy of it when someone else took their life.  I had probably a dozen requests for the talk in 2010, so I ended up contacting Lowell’s widow for a copy.

Here is a copy of the talk by Hyrum Smith given 6 December 2002 at the funeral of Lowell Eugene Hansen in Paul, Idaho.  At the end, I will give some other thoughts I remember Phil Wightman giving at Garrett’s funeral.

My brothers and sisters, I wasn’t really sure until about 3 o’clock this morning why I was asked to be here, but somewhere around three, I knew.  The spirit indicated to me that I am uniquely qualified to speak here today, and I’ll share with you why as I share some thoughts with you.

I’m honored and humbled that Emma Jean asked me to be here.  When she called Monday, I was stunned as I’m sure all of you were.

Public speaking is not something that is foreign to me.  I do it for a living.  I’ve spoken before thousands of audiences, but never an assignment like this.  I’d like to begin by suggesting that we are met here today in the house of God.  That same God who sent Jesus here to help us.  We meet today in the name of Jesus Christ who died to save us.  I would ask that you keep that in mind as I share a few thoughts with you this morning.

I’d like to begin by sharing four scriptures with you that describe, as many scriptures do, how our Father in Heaven, and our Savior feel about us.  I think we need to be especially reminded of that.  I’d like to go first with the 29th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 5 “Lift up your hearts and be glad for I am in your midst and am your advocate with the Father.  And it is His good will to give you the kingdom.”  I would then take you to the 62nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 1, “Behold and hearken, o ye Elders of my church saith the Lord your God.  Even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.”  Now go with me to John, Chapter 3, verse 16, “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.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world, through Him, might be saved.”  Last I would take you back to the Doctrine and Covenants, in section 18.  “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.  For behold, the Lord, your Redeemer, suffered death in the flesh.  Wherefore He suffered pain of all men that all men might repent and come unto Him.  And He hath risen again from the dead that He might bring all men unto Him on conditions of repentance.  And how great is His joy in the soul that repenteth.”  I share those scriptures with you, brothers and sisters, as a preamble to what I would ask you to consider as we have met here today.

This wonderful man, father, husband, son, brother, missionary, I knew him well as a missionary.  He was one of the great missionaries of our mission – most of the Idaho people were.  He made a big mistake the other night.  Huge mistake.  He knows that he made that mistake now.  It cost him his life.  But only his body died the other night.  His soul, his spirit, his brain, his mind are still very much alive – very active.  It’s like going into another room.

I was led to a talk that Elder Jeffrey Holland gave at a very similar funeral.  Jeff Holland and I served as missionaries in the same mission, British mission, lots of years ago.  He’s a very dear friend.  He was asked to speak at the funeral of a young man who had taken his life.  This is what Elder Holland said, and I am going to interject Lowell’s name into these remarks, because they fit perfectly today.  “We’re here to celebrate Lowell’s life, not his death.  We’re here to praise the Lord and love God for the atonement and the resurrection, but we’re also here to say, particularly to the youth in this congregation and others who struggle, that Lowell made a mistake.  Now he would be the first to say that.  Someone said, ‘A man to be good, and I would add a woman, must imagine intensely and comprehensively – he must put himself in the place of another – the pains and pleasures of the man that has become his own.  Until he can do that, he must never sit in judgment on a man or his motives.’  We need a better vocabulary, Emma Jean.  We know what we mean when we use the language of death.  But the master of heaven and earth, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of all mankind, the living Resurrection said that, “When you live and believe in Him, you never die.”  So, we’ll let Lowell go for a while.  But he’s not dead, in any eternal sense, and you know that.  You know that now, you’ll know it tomorrow, and you’ll know it next week.  You’ll especially know it when he is spiritually close to you, whispers to you in your dreams, helps through the veil to raise your grandchildren.  You’ll know that Lowell lives.  It is important to me to bear testimony to you that Lowell lives – just as we testify that God lives and Jesus lives.  We testify that Lowell lives and spiritually and is loved of God and of us.  We miss him.  Death was an intruder this week.  We weren’t ready.  We do miss him and we are sorry, but none of that diminishes the brightness of his life.  The grandeur of God’s plans – the reality of life and the resurrection – of eternity and the Celestial kingdom.  Lowell is being buried with all the promises and symbols of his covenants safely around him.  God in his mercy will work out all the arrangements even as Lowell works out his acknowledgement of his mistake.”  Un-quote.

Those are words of an Apostle of God.  I would like to pose five questions to you now.  The first of which no one has an answer for, but I think we need to deal with it, because I don’t think there is a person in this room that hasn’t asked this question in the last five days.  The second, third, and fourth question, I came from southern Utah this morning, to answer.  Because there are answers to those three questions, and I believe I can answer them for you.  The fifth question, only the people in this room can answer.  I don’t know what that answer will be, but I’m going to pose it.

Here’s the first question, which has been on the minds and lips of probably everyone.  “What was he thinking about?”  What possibly could have driven him to make this mistake?  What’s the answer?  I don’t know.  Nobody here knows.  What sort of despair and anguish and pain causes someone to do that?  I don’t know!  He made a mistake, so we really don’t know the answer to that question.  But that’s not the important question.

The second question, the one that I think I am uniquely qualified to answer, and one of the reasons why I think I was asked to be here is, “What is Lowell thinking now?”  Lowell’s very much alive.  He thinks, he breathes; he has probably had an opportunity to walk with his Father in Heaven.  DO you want me to tell you what he is thinking now?  He’s afraid.  He’s sorry.  He’s in anguish.  He’s suffering.  He’s wishing he hadn’t done it.  I know that.  How do I know?  Several years ago, I made some big mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  Hopefully not as big as the ones I made.  Because of those mistakes, it was required that I lose my membership in the church for several years.  And after I went through the process of approaching my Bishop and my Stake President, and going through the church judicial system – which is amazing, I found myself asking the first question a lot.  What was I thinking?  I couldn’t even answer that question for me.  But I know what I thought about after.  I know about the pain.  I know about the anguish.  I know about the suffering.  It’s awful!  So rest assured, and knowing Lowell as I know him – the integrity of this man, he’s in a lot of pain.

Third question, “Will the Lord allow Lowell to repent?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question – Of course!  He allows everyone to repent.  There’s a myth that floats around the church from time to time.  It suggests that people who take their lives have committed an unpardonable sin.  I’m here to tell you today that’s just flat not true.  The Lord will allow Lowell to repair that mistake.  He’ll walk him through it.  He’ll help him do it.  He’s going to allow that.

Fourth question, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question.  The answer is yes.  He will.  He will forgive him.  And Lowell will receive all the blessings that he rightly deserves from a wonderful life.

Those are the three questions I can answer with surety.  The fifth question, I can’t.  The fourth question was, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  The answer is yes.  The fifth question is, “Will you?”  I know from sad experience that lots of people don’t.  But the Lord has asked us to forgive.  He said, “I the Lord will forgive whom I choose to forgive, but of you, you’re required to forgive all men.”  I need to talk about forgiveness for a moment.  Does the mistake that Lowell made the other night blot out all the good that this man did in his life?  No!  Elder Holland reflected on that.  He was a wonderful missionary.  He was a great father.  He was a great man.  He was dedicated to his Father in Heaven.  Like many of us, he made some mistakes, one big one.  It doesn’t blot out everything he was.  We heard of a wonderful tribute from a beautiful daughter today about the kind of dad he was.  None of that gets wiped out.

As I went through the initial stages of my repentance process, one of the major sources of the anguish was the worry that no one would forgive me.  Because I somehow got it in my mind as I grew up in the church, that to ultimately forgive someone, for a transgression, you had to forget it.  Because we were taught in the scriptures, that when repentance was real and complete, the Lord forgets.  How does He do that? He forgets!  Wow!  Can we, mortals, reach a level of spiritual maturity where we can forget what happened the other night?  I don’t think so.  Do you think that anybody in this room will ever forget that Lowell took his life?  Not in this life.  I don’t think so.  Do you think anyone, who knows me well, will forget that I was excommunicated from the church?  Nope – Hyrum Smith…business leader, great, great grandson of the prophet’s brother, Hyrum?  No one will ever forget that!  Do you think my kids will forget that?  No!  BUT, and this is one of those moments where the spirit instructs and saves, in the middle of the night, the spirit taught a great lesson.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Forgiveness means remembering – but it doesn’t matter any more.  I think we can achieve that.  I think we can reach a point, as mortals, where we can remember and have forgiven to the point where, in remember, it just doesn’t matter anymore.  I challenge each to deal with the fifth question, “Will you forgive him?”  I believe you can – you must!  That’s what the Lord wants you to do.  But you’ll never forget.

I want to share a concept with you that has helped me think through a number of things.  During the Vietnam War, I was in the military during that period of time; there was a man by the name of Stockdale.  He was an admiral.  He was the highest-ranking man to spend time at the Hanoi Hilton as a prisoner of war.  And while he was in the prison, for about six years, he discovered that there were three basic types of people incarcerated in that prison.  He discovered the same thinking that Victor Frankl discovered at Auswich during the Second World War.  Victor Frankl wrote about it in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  Then Stockdale wrote about it, and it has become known and has been written about in a number of books since – the Stockdale paradox.  The three groups of people that he discovered were these.  There were pessimists, optimists, and realists.  And this is how he defined each group.  The pessimists saw the brutal facts around him and quit.  The optimist had boundless faith and ignored the brutal facts.  The realist saw the brutal facts, but had faith they could be dealt with.

The reason I share this with you is that in this book, when he wrote about this he said the interesting thing about these three groups is that the first two groups of people died in the camps at Vietnam.  Died!  Didn’t make it back!  I understood why the pessimists didn’t make it.  They saw the brutal facts.  They were in the middle of South-East Asia.  They were 8,000 miles from help and the Marines aren’t going to get in here.  We’re going to be here forever, and they died.  And some very healthy bodies died.

The second group stunned me!  The optimists died!  How come the optimists died?  Because the optimists had boundless faith but were not willing to look at the brutal facts.  And they said to each other, “You know we’ll be out of here by Christmas.”  “We’ll be out of here by Valentines.”  Every rustle in the bush was the Marines coming to save them.  And when every rustle in the bush wasn’t the Marines coming to save them and when they weren’t out by Christmas, and when they weren’t out by Valentines, they died.  They gave up and died.

The realists survived.  They saw the brutal facts.  “We’re in the middle of South-East Asia.  We’re not going to be rescued for a long time, but you know what guys, we’ll stick together.  We can handle this.”  And they did.

A good friend, by the name of Jensen, was in our mission – Lowell knew him – served six years in that prison.  There were several LDS fellows there, and the way they kept themselves sane was they would try and remember LDS hymns.  They would tap by Morse code on the bars of the jail, and they would send what they could remember of each hymn.  They gathered lots of hymns.  And one hymn they worked on for four years.  They got the first three verses in about 18 months, but the fourth verse took two and a half years to get.  They finally got the fourth verse.  When they got back, there was only three verses.  They had created their own verse, but they survived.  Now why do I share that here?  I want to ask you the question as what are you going to do about this issue?  Pessimists see the brutal facts – Our dad killed himself.  It’s pretty awful.  Nothing so wrong, it’s awful!  And you can give up – if you want.  The optimist ignores the facts – puts on a smiley face and pretends it didn’t happen.  And the optimists live a lie.  The realist sees the brutal facts – We lost our dad, our husband, our son – pretty awful.  We’ve got to gather together and help each other now to survive financially and economically.  We’ve got to get through school.  We’ve got to do stuff that dad normally would have helped us with.  It isn’t going to be easy.  The optimist has the faith that we can do it.  And so I’m asking you today, “What are you going to be?”

On the 19th of October of last year, not this year, but 2001, Steven Covey and I, we have a business together, were asked by Mayor Giuliani of New York City, if we would come back to Manhattan and do a free, one day, workshop for the families of those affected by the 9/11 disaster.  He told that their mid-town Manhattan Sheraton had donated their ballroom.  They donated our rooms to stay.  Would you come back?  We’ve got people in some real pain.  Would you come back and speak?  We said, “We’re there!”  We got there on a Thursday night.  The seminar was to be on Friday.  I got there about midnight.  I’ve been in Manhattan many, many times.  As I flew up the East river, I was coming from Chicago, and saw the lights where the World Trade Center used to be, it was kind of an eerie feeling.  It was a very different landscape now.

At five o’clock the next morning, Mayor Giuliani had arranged for a tour, a private tour of ground zero for Steven and me.  At that point, which was just five weeks after the event; sixteen hundred policeman had surrounded ground zero, and had blocked it off.  You couldn’t get down there without a police escort.  We had to go through four checkpoints to get to ground zero.  About 5:15 in the morning, we found ourselves standing on the street in front of where the Marriott Hotel used to be. It used to be called the Vista Hotel.  I’ve stayed in that Hotel many times.  Only I wasn’t really standing on the street.  I was standing on 16 feet of compacted debris.  And as we stood there looking at this horrific hole in the ground, the policeman who had been assigned to be our guide began to tell us his story.

He said, “You know, I was here that day.  I was standing on the street right about where we are.  I heard this big bang, I looked up, and all this stuff came flying out of the World Trade Center.”  He said, “You know, it looked like paper when it all came out until it started hitting the ground.  It was fifty foot I-beams killing everyone it hit.”  He said, “I watched 34 people jump from those towers.  Four of them holding hands.  I watched eight firemen lose their lives from falling people.”  I’m not even believing this.  Then he looked at me and said, “Mr. Smith, how many computers do you think there were in the World Trade Center?”  I said, “Probably a lot.”  He said, “We haven’t found one!”  I said, “How come?”  “3,000 degree fire.  It’s still burning.”  As he was talking, a crane pulled a big I-beam out of the rubble, and the end of the I-beam was dripping molten steel.  Then he said, “You know the second plane hit and then the building started to come down – we all thought we were dead.  We got under a car, and somehow we lived.”  That’s how our morning started.

When we got back to the hotel at about 7:30, we had to shower.  We were covered with soot.  At 8:00, this meeting began.  There were 2,000 people jammed into a ballroom designed for 1,500.  People were sitting on the floor.  It started by two New York policemen and two New York Firemen, carrying the American flag in.  I will tell you, It’s hard.  And then the Harlem girls choir, sixty young women from Harlem, filed in and sang three patriotic songs, and the music that came out of those kids was amazing.  I was very grateful that Steven Covey had to speak first because I was a mess.  He spoke for two hours, and then I had to speak for two hours.  As I approached the front of the room, there were people all around on the floor.  A fireman, about half way back, in uniform, stood up, and he said, “Mr. Smith, are you going to tell us how we get of bed in the morning when we just don’t give a darn anymore?”  That’s how it started.  It turned out to be one of the toughest, and ultimately the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.  I said these words to the fireman – and I want to say these words to you – Emma Jean and the children, and their extended family, and everybody here.  If you don’t remember a think I’ve said, remember this statement.  I said to this fireman, “Pain is inevitable.  Misery is an option.”  And he seemed a little stunned.  Now what do I mean by that?  The fact is, brothers and sisters, bad things happen to good people.  They just do.  Airplanes fly into buildings.  Rivers overflow their banks.  Dams break and flood out villages.  Accidents happen – people die prematurely.  Bad stuff happens to good people.  How we choose to deal with the pain is ultimately a measure of who we are.

That’s why the Lord gave us the gospel of Jesus Christ.  To help us deal with the pain.  Some of the most serene, magnificent, wonderful people I’ve ever known have gone through some major pain in their lives.

Will the Lord forgive?  Yes!  Ten days ago, tomorrow, President Hinckley and Elder Maxwell, laid their hands on my head and restored all my blessings.  Not just some of them.  All of them.  And President Hinckley mentioned three times in the most amazing blessing I’ve ever heard, all the blessings.  I’m here to testify to you today that that will happen to Lowell.  He’ll be there.  He’ll be ready, Emma Jean.  He’ll welcome you with all his blessings.  So the challenge for us as the living – to go on.

When the pioneers came across the plains, they periodically had to stop and bury the dead.  And the scene was always the same.  There’d be a family standing around the grave, and if you looked off into the distance, you could see the wagons – and the wagons were ready to go.  The wagons had riders in them.  They were waiting for the family to get through with that funeral so that they could move on because they knew, “If we don’t move on, then we’ll die!”  They buried their dead, and they moved on.

Well, the wagons are surrounding the building, and they’re ready for us to move on.  We pulled off the highways of our lives to pay tribute to a great human being – who made a mistake that can be fixed.  And when we’re through here today, we’ll get back in our wagons and move on.  We’ll survive.  Don’t ever forget the brutal facts, but never lose faith that they can be dealt with.  I bear you my testimony that God lives.  Jesus is the Christ.  He loves everybody in the room.  He’ll take care of Lowell.  He’ll take care of us too.  I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Here are a few more thoughts from my memory of Phil Wightman’s talk from Garrett’s funeral.  The talk centered around the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 which states, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

In essence, since I went to the funeral with Lowell’s funeral talk in my mind (in fact, my friend, Taylor Willingham, read it to me again on the drive up and I gave a copy to Garrett’s parents) the basics of the talk were the same.  Brother Smith approached it with some practical questions and answers to those questions.  President Wightman approached it from a doctrine side that we do not really know what goes on in the minds of these individuals when suicide is completed.  But we have to have charity, love them and their families, and move forward.  In the end, the Lord will sort all things out.

Rest in peace Garrett and Lowell.  I look forward to meeting up with you both again some day.  Until then, I hope we all can appreciate the suicidal act and hopefully help avoid it in the future, and work forward from those who do commit this unthinkable deed.

Preston, England

Another more relaxed day in England.

Today we received word the paperwork and everything has all been signed for our home.  The paperwork is off to Oklahoma City for the official closing on Monday.  I don’t know what could really change now.  By all accounts, we are now the proud owners of a little home in Oklahoma City.  Or at least we have a title to a home with a significant lien for a bank somewhere.  Hopefully everything continues to work out like it has so far.

We ran to the Preston England Temple today.  It is one of my favorite temples.  There is something in the simplistic beauty of it I adore.  Amanda agreed.  It is on par with the Rexburg and Vernal Temples for the simple elegance within.  We snapped a couple of pictures.  We also ran into a member I knew in the Wigan Ward.  He is now in the Temple Presidency and enjoyed a good visit with him.  We were supposed to go over and visit this evening, but our plans crowded it out in the end.  We had to reschedule it for tomorrow sometime.  We are going to work it out in church.

Afterward, Amanda and I ran into Preston.  I showed her the town center where the missionaries preached the gospel for the first time in the British Isles.  It is in Preston that the longest continuing unit of the church operates, the Preston Ward.  We ran out of time to go to the flat where Parley P Pratt and Orson Hyde were attacked by the legions of the devil.  We did not get a chance to see Avenham Park or the beautiful River Ribble where the first baptisms took place outside of North America.  We did not get over to see the apartment where President Hinckley received his famous “Forget yourself and go to work” letter on Wadham Road.  Perhaps sometime in the future.

We came back and were relaxed some more with the McCabes.  They treated us to a fine meal of South African descent.  They lived in South Africa for a number of years.  Later this year they are immigrating to Australia!  How is that for exciting.  When we make it to Australia, we know who we will be calling on!  Amanda and I made a call at Tesco today and purchased a Pavlova.  Boy, was I glad to get my hands on one.  We consumed it after dinner as one of our desserts.  Mmmmm.

I realized yesterday was the anniversary of Joseph Smith’s death.  I wonder specifically what he is doing these days.  What or where is he up to doing work?

Tomorrow we are off to attend the Wigan Ward.  Then we will go visit some of the new converts I helped bring into the church.  Sadly, I don’t think any of them are active.  But we shall find out.  I did find out Jim Monks knows where one of them lives.

Death and the bells tolling

Today I finished about half of Ernest Hemingway’s famous “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and have found it fascinating so far.  Interestingly, as he has gone through different aspects of the community uprising against the fascists, I wondered about my own capacities to deal with such things.  What if I was on the side of those being abused and slaughtered for my beliefs?  Would I die with ‘dignity’ as some of the captured fascists do not do?  Would I be prepared to be caught up in death just as the priest is?  Would the planes, the sounds of planes, ring to me as instruments of death or the roaring of death?  I really don’t know.

Looking into my life, I do not feel like one who is afraid of much.  I feel a tinge of fear with heights, especially as the chance of being exposed to fall increases.  However, I have always thought myself as one who when the fall was actually in process, would enjoy the fall.  That would be of course if it was long enough for me to realize I was falling and had the chance to enjoy it.  Then again, I will probably never have the chance.

War is such an interesting crucible of the soul.  I honestly don’t believe I would have the capacity to force my view, opinions, or ideology on anybody else.  I could see myself defending myself, even in guerrilla warfare or some type of underground.  Then again, I always wondered about even my feelings then.  How much were the German Saints to uphold and sustain their government?  I remember several people showing me an article about an LDS individual who helped develop torture techniques for the German government.  It was his job.  Where is the separation?  Where do we draw the line to where we begin civil disobedience?

We don’t seem to quibble much over speeding when it really can be deadly, and yet we insist we are to support a President whose war we may not support.  Do I go to jail or do as my draft card tells me to do in Vietnam?  Do we do as Schindler’s Jews and deliberately undermine quality control or give our all to our employer?  Even if what they do is not correct?  Do we just go along with the status quo or think twice about it?  Do I build or buy a large home when entire countries are basically homeless by our standards?  Do I buy that jet ski when the money could fund the entire education for another individual?

I really don’t see myself getting caught up in a mob but would I put my life on the line to oppose a mob?  Would I stand idly by while a mob worked their vicious course?  Do I defend my life, liberty, and family or do I fall to my knees before the enemy like the Anti-Nephi-Lehies?  Do I lay down my weapon rather than shed the blood of a brother?  Do I do, as America seems to do, and draw a line in the sand daring anyone to step over it, willing to fight to the death?  Or do I take a magnanimous approach to all I associate with, whether I agree with them or not?

There are so many questions of scenarios with which I hope I am never faced.  However, I want to make sure my mind is settled if the situation should ever arise.  What if I was called to go behind the enemy lines and blow up a bridge?  Would I be willing to kill myself rather than be captured?  Would I be willing to blow up a bridge when I know I will die in the process?  Robert Jordan is so completely against suicide and yet he may have to do the very thing.  (Ironic Hemingway works through this scenario and then does the deed himself years later.)

To take it a step further, while we may not personally be engaged in a civil war, are we still taking part of a war unknowingly.  President Hinckley mentioned a number of times how the War in Heaven has continued to this day.  This war is ongoing and are we having to face spiritually many of the same questions I have been posing?

“Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power.  I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.  Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart,…” (Alma 10:5-6).

Do I find myself like Amulek?  Doing things which I know I should not, claiming ignorance?  When I should be doing something differently.  Do I stand by while my place of business is actually robbing from the widow?  I know it is wrong, but do I do nothing about it because ‘I would not know’.  Do I not say something while my neighbor does something that is actually ‘oppressing the hireling’?  Do I stand by while the mob, which could resemble the economy, ‘grinds the face of the poor’?  These are questions we all have to ask ourselves.  I seem so worried about if I can afford another car while people are worried about their next meal.  Can I be so hard in my heart?

Should I be blowing up these enemy bridges so the imps of evil cannot reach the battlefront where my children may have to fight?  Do I let them march right into my home through the television?  Do I let the propaganda distill upon the minds of others through the melodies and sounds of music?  Not only as an individual, but as families and communities?

I really don’t know the answers to these questions.  But Amulek gives us the answer of where to start to make sure we are right.

“Yea, and I will say unto you that if it were not for the prayers of the righteous, who are now in the land, that ye would even now be visited with utter destruction, yet it would not be by flood, as were the people in the days of Noah, but it would be by famine, and by pestilence, and the sword.  But it is by the prayers of the righteous that ye are spared;…” (Alma 10:22-23).

Prayer is a great place to start.

As to the death aspect, would we be willing to lay down our lives?  Latter-day Saints seem to have such an interesting set of perspectives.  We for the most people are a very peace loving people.  We should be the first to always seek peace first, which I believe generally we are.  Mobs and uprisings are unheard of among the LDS.  But, when it comes time, our view of death also changes our determination.  When we feel called upon to fight, to lay down our lives if necessary, we do so (or should) gladly.  After all, we should have no fear of death.

“Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.  The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.  Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not be so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought to be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.”  (Alma 11:42-44)

I guess the real question through all of this that weighs on me is this.  Do we go on like we are and wait for it all to work out in the resurrection?  Or, do we rise up and do something about our current state?  Do we fight for it?  Where the answer lies, I really do not know.  All I know, John Donne had it correct, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.  If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

How to bury a prophet

I thought this article was fascinating and insightful.  Enough so that I am replicating it here.  It is from the OnFaith series at The Washington Post.

Associate Professor, Religious History

Kathleen Flake is associate professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt University. more »

The Latter-day Saints buried their prophet on Saturday. Thousands attended the service in person and millions more faithful watched in chapels around the globe, as well as on the internet. What they saw was an unusually personal ceremony for a very public man who led and to large degree defined the contemporary Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Notwithstanding the numbers and titles of participants, Gordon Hinckley’s funeral was a family affair both in word and sacrament. It was an extraordinary display of what makes Mormonism tick.

Gordon Bitner Hinckley died at the age of 97, having been in the church’s leading councils since 1958 and served as its fifteenth president since 1995. He shaped the church through a half century of growth in 160 countries. A third of its present membership joined during his tenure as president. His counsel to them was more practical than sublime: be better neighbors, stand a little taller, and choose the right. He was much loved for living these virtues. Displaying remarkable vigor late in life, he traveled to meet church members on every continent, responding to their needs with curricular, welfare, and building programs whose costs are impossible to imagine and no one will admit.

He met the press also to a degree unequaled and with an openness heretofore unknown among Mormonism’s leadership. This effort too was largely successful. No less a cynic than CBS’s Mike Wallace admitted Hinckley “fully deserves the almost universal admiration that he gets.” The qualifier is a necessary reference to many who distrusted Hinckley’s representations of Mormonism as Christian and his insistence that marriage was properly limited to a man and a woman. At the other extreme, to critics within who felt he gave up too much in a Larry King interview, Hinckley responded simply: “I know the doctrines of this church as well as any.” His outreach was interfaith, not ecumenical. There was no stauncher advocate of Joseph Smith’s claim to have restored the fullness of the Christian gospel and church than Gordon Hinckley. He was, as Newsweek’s Jon Meacham said, “a charming and engaging man, an unlikely prelate — and all the more impressive for that.”

The same could be said of his funeral. It was an unlikely but impressive mix of the sacramental and the mundane. This is so because Gordon Hinckley’s funeral was no exception to Mormonism’s general rule that families bury their dead. They design and execute the memorial program. They say the prayers and perform the ordinances that send their loved ones off to the next life. Yes, the chapel in this case was the LDS Conference center that held 21,000 mourners; the lay pastor who conducted the meeting was Thomas Monson, Hinckley’s presumptive successor as “prophet, seer, and revelator;” and the music was provided by the 300-plus Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But, in all other essentials, the service was performed by the family. A son gave the invocation. Monson conducted at the request of the family, he said, not by ecclesiastical right. Only one dignitary was mentioned as among the mourners: a representative of the American president. When his name was given, the camera’s briefest glance away from the pulpit to the audience gave the only hint of famous others.

The eulogy was given by a daughter who described her father’s life as half-way point in a now seven-generation story of sacrifice, death, and survival that is the Mormon saga. Explicitly gathering the millions watching into that story, she declared “we are one family sharing an inheritance of faith.” Friends with high titles spoke next. Though the requisite list of his ecclesiastical accomplishments was given, it was subordinated to his success as a courageous and amusing friend and a successful husband and father. Another daughter gave the benediction: “we are buoyed by the knowledge that we will see him again as family, as friends.”

Hinckley’s sons and daughters with their spouses led the casket out of the hall and between an honor guard of church authorities. Cameras followed the mourners, focusing on his five children, 25 grandchildren and 62 great grandchildren who formed the cortege to the cemetery. There, possibly most surprisingly, the eldest son dedicated the grave without fanfare. Notwithstanding the presence of the church’s chief leaders, the son stepped forward to pronounce: “By the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, I dedicate this grave for the remains of Gordon B. Hinckley, until such time as thou shall call him forth.” Then, the hierarchs were “dismissed,” as Monson put it. Finally, as the church teaches is the case in the afterlife, only the family remained.

Families are, as Latter-day Saints like to say, “forever.” What they don’t say is that the church is not forever. It is only the instrument for endowing families with the right and duty to mediate the gifts of the gospel to their members; thereby, sealing the willing among them as families in the life to come. This was Hinckley’s message as a prophet. As he would have it and as the best Mormon funerals do, his message was embodied and enacted by his family who blessed him in death, no less than in life. This is how the Latter-day Saints, at least, bury a prophet.

Prairie Home Companion

Well, I just put out a whole philosophical e-mail and thought I would take a moment to do an actual update on life.
I am sitting here listening to Prairie Home Companion enjoying a few good laughts.  Earlier I listened to Die Frau Ohne Schatten (The woman without a shadow) by Richard Strauss.  It was fascinating to listen to.  Made me want to learn my German.  Funny how music can take us other places.
I have just finished my second week at Bank of America.  Things are going very well.  I am learning many more things about mortgages and all the documentations that attend.  The lessons mostly center around learning the DOS-based system they use for processing all these loans.  I have to admit it is a very detailed system that handles thousands of people working on it at all times with large amounts of information.  Impressive as that it, they tell us it has only gone down once in the last 10 years!  They have replaced one or two systems with Windows applications and they crash regularly so they are not in any rush to be replacing the old DOS-based system.  Therefore, I have to learn the codes and names to navigate the system to check and update information.  They teach us how to check the documents and how to put it into the system.  We were done covering the documents within the first week.  I have found out the position I will be in is basically an assistant underwriter.  It has a whole host of names, but currently it is Home Servicing Specialist (HSS).
Last Saturday and Sunday we had Stake Conference.  I think it was the most powerful Stake Conference I have ever been to.  I have been to some very good ones.  Two were in the Logan Tabernacle (one for the Logan University 4th Stake the other for the Logan University 5th Stake), another in the Springfield Missouri South Stake Center, and the last I can think of was a Stake Conference for the Chester Stake in Wrexham, Wales.  The most impressive part in Missouri was the music and the unity I felt within the congregation.  The Chester Stake was powerful for the fact of some amazing talks given, one particularly by our mission president.  The one for the 5th Stake at USU was that it was basically turned into a stake testimony meeting.  That in and of itself changed the tenor of the meeting but all were invited by name by the Stake Presidency.  The last one for the 4th Stake, I can think of two conferences in particular.  One had Elder Burton, the Presiding Bishop and the other was all the Presidency’s remarks.  President Cherrington usually gave a great talk at all conferences.  So this conference is in good company.  It wasn’t the first conference I have been to with an apostle, but this one had an apostle acted as we expect them to.  Elder Holland gave some powerful comments.
In Priesthood he taught us about Satan binding our tongues, the difference between lips and hearts, and the difference between forms of power and the real thing.  He basically told us we are doing too many things without our hearts and without conviction.  Time to step up to act in the name of the priesthood like we are expected to do.  In Saturday evening, we were taught how we live in a broken world.  Whether you like it or not, things are not perfect.  He taught us about the Atonement and how all broken things will be restored to their proper order at the right time.  Then he pounded out the importance of not whining, not complaining, and going forward in our lives with faith.  He was very direct in those who complain or say something is wrong in life.  He said nobody has the right to complain or wallow in the misery when the Savior took care of them for us.  Time to walk in faith, get up, and be about doing good.  The Sunday session proved to be just as good.  He spoke about his personal experiences of President Hinckley and his prophetic calling.  It was fascinating to learn more about the personal life of a prophet.  He spoke to us about the importance of the gospel and the role of the church.  Again, the topic had to do with looking beyond ourselves and seeing the big picture.  He ended with the importance and the role of the Holy Ghost.  How as latter day saints we live below our privileges and don’t claim the rights that are ours.  We do not appreciate what has been given to us and need to wake up.
Even though I have heard similar talks, the basic point is the power by which he spoke, namely the Spirit of God.  It literally took the message directly to my heart.  I noticed at a couple of points how my bosom literally trembled at what it was he was speaking.  I recognize the power which he conveyed.
In other news, we have been looking for a second car.  With Amanda needing to travel long distances for school this fall, it isn’t going to work to have one car.  So we are looking for a nice little car under $5,000.  So far it has been a miserable failure.  There are very few cars that are below that limit and what we are finding feel like questionable deals.  We went to look at a little Audi A4 for $4,700 and he sold the car at noon.  So we took a little Passat for a drive that he said he would sell to us for $4,000.  It only has 103,000 miles on it.  We took it for a test drive and something about the transmission raised all sorts of red flags for me.  We will have to see if something else pops up.  I may be too picky.  I don’t want a car that smells of smoke or animals.  I would like one which runs well.  I would like one that isn’t completely ugly, like a stationwagon.  Most people take such bad care of cars.  Many have rips in the seats, big marks in the doors or dash, and more.  I keep waiting for someone to give us one so we don’t have to take on a little more debt, but that probably won’t happen soon.  We will have to keep you updated.
Well, I believe that is enough of an update for now.

27 Aug Talk

Since there are those who wish to know about the talk on Sunday, here you go. This is the outline of quotes I had on Saturday night. I completely reordered and changed emphasis of the talk after Sunday morning prayers. I used the scripture, Jacob 4:6-8, for the scripture and about continuing revelation. The power that comes to us through the word. That power is to be used in the mission of the church, including the three part break down of that mission, and then moved into the role that priesthood has in it. So hand in hand, I only gave 1/3 of what is here in the outline, and it was by no means all at the beginning. Due to time constraints, at about the 20 minute mark I was only getting into the priesthood part, and had to end. So, I really only spoke about faith, power, and the mission of the church, with a few hints at the role of the priesthood, but by no means whatsoever doing it justice. In fact, I don’t feel I even tied in the priesthood because of my trying to insert it and end. Throughout the talk I emphasized parts of Jacob 4:6-8 (which was quite powerful because I had it memorized) and finished with it as well.Perfecting the Saints/Priesthood

D&C 19:31-32 “And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but hou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost. Behold, this is a great and the last commandment which I shall give unto you concerning this matter, for this shall suffice for thy daily walk, even unto the end of thy life.”

D&C 6:9 “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation; keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed.”

D&C 15:6 “And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen.”

D&C 19:4 “And surely every man (or woman) must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless.”

D&C 29:49 “And, again, I say unto you, that whoso having knowledge, have I not commanded to repent?”

President Ezra Taft Benson, “The grand mission of the church is accomplished by proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead”

Often wondered, can one be done with the exclusion of another? These are all parts of the mission to bring souls to Christ. We cannot achieve the whole, without doing all the parts.

James 2:10 “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

D&C 50:28 “But no man is possessor of all things except he be purified and cleansed from all sin. And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.”

President Brigham Young: Some of you may ask, is there a single ordinance to be dispensed with? Is there one of the commandments that God has enjoined upon the people, that he will excuse them from obeying? Not one, no matter how trifling or small in our own estimation. No matter if we esteem them non-essential, or least or last of all the commandments of the house of God, we under obligation to observe them.

All parts of the mission of the church are constantly before us.

President Brigham Young: I never passed John Wesley’s church in London without stopping to look at it. Was he a good man? Yes, I suppose him to have been, by all accounts, as good as ever walked on this earth, according to this knowledge. Has he obtained a rest? Yes, and greater than ever entered his mind to expect, and so have thousands of others of the various religious denominations. Why could he not build up the kingdom of God on the earth? He had not the Priesthood; that was all the difficulty he labored under. Had the Priesthood been conferred upon him, he would have built up the kingdom of God in his day as it is now being built up. He would have introduced the ordinances, powers, grades, and quorums of the Priesthood. But, not holding the Priesthood, he could not do it (JD 7:5)

What is the Priesthood? Power of God given to man? What does that mean?

D&C 84:33, 35-39 “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.”

When we receive this priesthood, we also receive the father’s kingdom, which means we receive his work. If we do not his work, we receive not his kingdom. The work of God is to bring the power of the atonement into the lives of his children.

President Joseph Smith: God imself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself.

President Gordon B. Hinckley: The cause in which we are engaged is not an ordinary cause. It is the cause of Christ. It is the kingdom of God our Eternal Father. It is the building of Zion on the earth. If we are to build that Zion of which the prophets have spoken and of which the Lord has given mighty promise, we must set aside our consuming selfishness. We must rise above our love for comfort and ease, and in the very process of effort and struggle, even in our extremity, we shall become better acquainted with our God.

We need to be humble!

President Ezra Taft Benson: God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble.

We need to put first things first!

President Brigham Young: Stop! Wait! When you get up in the morning, before you suffer yourselves to eat one mouthful of food…bow down before the Lord, ask him to forgive your sins, and protect you through the day, to preserve you from temptation and all evil, to guide your steps aright, that you may do something that day that shall be beneficial to the kingdom of God on the earth. Have you time to do this?…this is the counsel I have for the Latter-day Saints today. Stop! Do not be in a hurry…you are in too much of a hurry, you do not go to meeting enough, you do not read the scriptures enough, you do not meditate enough, you are all the time on the wing, and in such a hurry that you do not know what to do first…Let me reduce this to a simple saying, one of the most simple and homely that can be used ‘keep your dish right side up’ so that when the shower of porridge does come you can catch your dish full.”

We need to learn our duty!

President Joseph F. Smith: We expect to see the day, if we live long enough,…when every council of the Priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will understand its duty, will assume its own responsibility,…to the uttermost, according to the intelligence and ability possessed by it. When that day shall come there will not be so much necessity for work that is now being done by the auxiliary organizations, because it will be done by the regular quorums of the Priesthood. The Lord designed and comprehended it from the beginning, and He has made every provision in the Church whereby every need may be met and satisfied through the regular organizations of the Priesthood (CR, Apr 1906, 3).

We need to have the Spirit!

(Feb 1847) President Joseph Smith to President Brigham Young: Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you how to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other Spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness, and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world. Tell the people to be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and follow it, and it will lead them just right.

We need to accept our callings!

President Brigham Young: Do you suppose that after a man has refused to fulfill his calling, he can maintain the Spirit of truth and stand? He cannot? They say they believe Joseph Smith was a prophet raised up to establish the work of the last days, and bring forth the Book of Mormon, and thus they deceived.

We need to recognize our Priesthood leaders and have a testimony of them!

President Brigham Young: I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way? Let every man and woman, know by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates or not (JD 9:150).

The Priesthood holds the power of eternity!

President Joseph Fielding Smith: There is no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith…no man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God (DoS, v1, pg 180).

President Brigham Young: No man or woman in the dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith…every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith Junior as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are (JD 7:289).

President Brigham Young: Madam, I have this day examined the records of baptisms for the remission of sins in the church of Jesus Chrsit of Latter-day Saints, and not being able to find the name of Elizabeth Green recorded therein, I was saved the necessity of erasing your name therefrom. You may therefore consider your sins have not been remitted you and you may consequently enjoy the benefits therefrom.

President Harold B. Lee: Now…remember, that the most important of the Lord’s work that you will ever do will be the work you will do within the walls of your own home. Home teaching, bishopric’s work, and other Church duties are all important, but the most important work is within the walls of your home (Strengthening the Home movie text, pg 7)

President Hugh B. Brown: The very foundation of the kingdom of God, of righteousness, of progress, of development, of eternal life, and eternal increase in the kingdom of God is laid in the divinely ordained home (CR, 2 Oct 1966, pg 103-4).

Our family is formally extended through the duty of the Priesthood, not a calling, of home teaching!

President Harold B. Lee: Maybe the home teacher should be charged more clearly to describe his mission to watch over and to strengthen to see that members do their duty…They think themselves as teachers of the Gospel message only. Maybe we ought to be calling them home guardians or sentinels and to report their stewardship to the fathers of the ward. We must do something to change the emphasis from teaching to guardians, ‘watching over the church kind of concept.’ Until we get that into our minds, we are not going to do the kind of home teaching that is going to get results.

Spencer W. Kimball: Is it any wonder that the organization and work of the Church and its priesthood in this day are patterned after the keys it possesses? We are a missionary Church, participating to the fullest possible extent in the gathering of Israel. We are a Church founded upon families; a Church that takes care of its own, stressing the economic, intellectual, and spiritual development of its families and individual members in preparation for salvation in the kingdom of heaven. And we are a Church that is actively engaged in temple and genealogy work for ourselves and for the infinite numbers of our Father’s children who have the promise, but not as yet the opportunity, for the ordinances of salvation. This is a work that makes even more meaningful the great corresponding missionary work being carried out in the spirit world. (Ensign, Jan 1977, 3)

Settling In

Some more time has passed, and I am fully engaged in a full schedule.  An LSAT Couse that I should dedicate more time to.  Full time work as a dock boy at Meier and Frank, now Macy’s.  It is funny how much more time I had for personal things when I was single.  Now, much of my free time is taken up with Amanda.  I am not complaining at all, but there are some things that just need getting done.  I try and dedicate a little time to family history a week, but I have received several letters, and some photos which have required more time.  I work a full 8 hours a day, Monday – Friday, which I very much enjoy.  However, the hours are from 6-3.  I am getting used to it, but Amanda likes to stay up late, so I usually get to bed later than I like.  That is slowly changing.  The nice thing is when I get off, I have plenty of time to get things done.
We are settled in and happy in Provo.  I am not sure we care to totally much of the ward.  Some pretty blatant false doctrines are taught in Sunday School and Elder’s Quorum.  The one two weeks ago was a classic…Did you know that God always gives conflicting commandments?  It was a new lesson to me.  He cited the appearing conflicting commandments of the Garden of Eden.  The teacher basically lectures and does not encourage class participation.  What gets me is that people just nod their heads and agree.  Being a new position I am in an awkward position of whether I should say anything.  The last time I did, the class basically attacked me.  It was completely ad hominem, rather than using scripture to back up the doctrine being taught, it was personal attacks on me.  But since I was new, they didn’t really have anything on me, so it was pretty sad.  However, the main point against me was that the devil is one who destroys and tears down, that the devil brings contention.  I was not contentious though, I promise.  I only commented that I understood differently, that the doctrine appeared incorrect, and that I would like references from the scriptures and priesthood leaders.  I also commented that professors from BYU, or other published authors do not speak for the church and were in my mind inappropriate for Sunday School.  Anyhow, some other of the doctrines which have been classics taught in Sunday School and Elder’s Quorum: If you do not use the Priesthood, you lose it!; those who are members of the church are better than those who are outside, we are more special, and should rest easy knowing we are chosen of God (sounds awfully Rameumptum to me!); and individuals being chosen by God has nothing to do with their actions (previous to this life, or current).
Well, since I have referenced them, I better tell the doctrine as I see it.
We are commanded to go forth and multiply and we are commanded that only within marriage are sexual relations to exist.  Darn it, another one of those conflicting commandments, better choose the better one and hope God will provide a Saviour for you as well.  This is so blatantly myopic that it shocks me that people just shake their heads and agree.  It is all a manner of timing.  It is the same thing with Adam and Eve, they were to multiply and replentish the earth, but without the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they could not.  It was all a matter of time, just like we are to wait before we have children.  Remember, Satan was only doing that which was done in other worlds, giving the fruit of the tree to Adam and Eve.  He wanted to be God, the Saviour (Moses 1:19) and would obviously do what he could to take control of the plan and screw it up.  Well, he gave the fruit early.  The temple makes it so painfully obvious.
As for the Priesthood, if I fell off a cruise ship and was stranded on a deserted island, I would lose the priesthood I hold according to this doctrine, unless I was to give the turtles and trees blessings daily.  I don’t have a scripture, but I know that the only time you can lose the priesthood is if a judge in Israel removes it.  The amount you use it does not matter, but it is set forward by worthiness, not activity.
God is no respecter of persons.  This is a fundamental restored doctrine and one that is clear in the Bible as well.  Anyone, anywhere, anyhow, if worthy can return to the presence of God.  We do not believe in the jaunty iconoclasm of God playing favorites or choosing one person over another.  Then for those who are members of the church, they cannot rest easy, for with the greater light comes great responsibility (or condemnation) and it requires more work, effort, diligence, and faithfulness.  Being a member of church should make us work even harder than relaxing and resting on our laurels.
Lastly, that God calls up and makes people chosen.  The Saviour himself sets this one straight.  3 Nephi 19:20-22 makes it clear.  Those who are chosen are so because they believe.  How does God know they believe?  He knows because the pray, more than that, they commune with him through the Holy Ghost which the Saviour is teaching us about in those very verses.  What is even more, he exemplifies it in prayer himself.  (Then he identifies when we pray to Christ instead of the father, that is only when he is in person with us like in D&C 109 when Joseph switches)  So, Joseph Smith was chosen because he was a prayerful individual.  It was because of that faith (Helaman 5:41) that he was then called to be a prophet.  Anyone can be chosen, but not everyone can be called to be a prophet over the whole church.  So more appropriately, we say President Hinckley was called to be an Apostle and President of the Church, not chosen; for that has a different meaning we will not go into here.
Anyhow, I suppose if I keep going against the grain, then nobody will like me and I won’t get a calling with much reach or depth (which is both good and bad…natural or spiritual man).  I just have to prepare a bit more for Sunday School so as to have scriptures and back up for the false doctrines, because as Elder’s Quorum showed, I have no authority of myself (I did and do not claim any in setting straight false doctrines).
Meier and Frank here is turning out to be very good for me.  Not much for using my new degree, but it is work.  This job doesn’t help me get into Law School either.  But I think oh well, we shall see.  Hopefully University of Virginia is not that shallow to put that much weight onto the jobs one has before entering Law School like some universities do.  Things are good, and I enjoy the work.  Plus I just don’t sit in an office all day which nearly drives me crazy.  On the 1st, we became Macy’s.  The name change will be enacted on the 9th of September, but I won’t be around for that, so we will continue to call it Frier and Mank.  I am really enjoying some of the guys I work with as well.  All three of the main guys are salt of the earth.  Joe is an Hawaiian, Kyle is 21 and hasn’t been on a mission and can barely read and write, and Steven (the boss) works harder than the other three of us combined.  This week has been crazy in preparing for the new corporate leaders to come through (the “big wigs”).
The LSAT Course is going well enough.  I am learning all sorts of cool things, but my scores seem to keep going down.  My highest score so far is a 153, and I have descended with todays test to a 141.  Somehow I expected to head the other direction.  I will have to work harder and see what I can work.  Today’s test I had no clue on the games section.  I felt as dumb as they come.  Apparently I was not the only one, which made me feel better, but I have plenty of area to improve.  Especially if I have to get over 165 to hope of getting into Virginia.  A 170 would secure me a place pretty easy.  Yikes, this is going to be hard work.
Well, I sign off.  Things are well in Provo, Utah.  We march forward.