Saturday, December 29, 2007

It Would Have Hurt An Ordinary Man

I just made a very sad discovery brought on by a short conversation this morning. I was reminded of one of my professors from BYU, Brother Paul H. Peterson, when a co-worker said something about how busy things were last night and remarked, "Could an average consultant have handled it? No. But I on the other hand..." It brought to memory one of the favorite catch phrases that Brother Peterson would use in class. An example:

During the Fall semester 2002 there was a bit of a controversy surrounding the campus of Brigham Young University. Students at football games complained of being struck by air-borne objects alleged to be tortillas. After an intense investigation, it was discovered that indeed other students at the football games had brought tortillas to throw in celebration or anger or desperation, or whatever. The Science Department on campus decided to conduct an experiment. They had students stand at differing distances from each other and throw tortillas at each other to determine, no kidding, if it hurt or not. We were discussing this experiment one morning in Brother Peterson's class. A little later in class Brother Peterson said something wrong or something and apologized thus, "I'm sorry. I'm a bit discombobulated today. You see, I got hit by a flying tortilla on the way to class." A student asked, "Did it hurt?" With a twinkle in his eye (that I don't think ever went away), Brother Peterson said, "Well, it would have hurt an ordinary man."

And so it was. He told us on the first day of class that he had never been accused of being "a flaming ball of charisma," but that didn't stop him from endearing himself to every single student in that Christian History class, probably the most memorable class I ever had at BYU. Jessica had previously taken the class from him, so he knew us both. We would stop by his office once in a while, he would always be busy, but he didn't let that stop him from visiting with admiring students like us.

We knew that he was fighting leukemia, and left his position on the Religion Faculty. So when I thought of him this morning I did a google search of his name, and discovered his obituary. He passed away in September. I was heart broken that we hadn't heard of this sooner, but with neither of us at BYU we didn't have any contact with those who would have known.

His obituary included the sentence, "All who knew him, loved him, because he loved them first." And that is the absolute truth.

This is my short tribute to a giant of a man. To paraphrase something he said to a student one day, "He's a fine human being. I'm sure he'll go high in the final draft." And so he will.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Morgan's Present

Morgan is playing with his Christmas present (well, one of them anyway). It's a set of kitchen stuff--little pots, pans, and utensils. He has his own drawer in the kitchen where they are kept. He likes to pretend to bake things, and just now he brought me one of the pots and insisted, in his 17-month-old way, that I eat it. Talk about adorable...

As for mii, I was surprised with a Wii. I didn't even ask for it, but Jessica and her sister Jenessa were so excited to get one for me. Ness woke up early one day when she thought Target would get some in, waited in line, and scored! It's tons of fun. We love it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas, The Day After

This is a little late, and it's also paraphrased, which is such a shame, because to paraphrase someone like Dickens is just too bad. But I've been meaning to do it, so I will--the day after Christmas.

There is a conversation between Scrooge and his nephew, Fred, in A Christmas Carol that I find very interesting. Actually, it is just one sentence spoken by Fred that I find interesting. Scrooge has asked him what financial good celebrating Christmas has ever done him. In response he says something to the effect of: In my keeping of Christmas, putting aside the reason for the day [i.e. the Savior's birth], if one can divorce the day of the reason, I have not found financial advantages but I have received... and he goes on to describe what celebrating Christmas has done for him.

What I find interesting is his offhand comment that in his mind, and therefore I think we can assume in Dickens' mind, there is no separating the day from the event that inspired the day. Maybe this was just a nineteenth century attitude, but with all of everything that surrounds the celebration of Christmas now, isn't it fascinating that a hundred and fifty years ago (that's really not that long ago) it was difficult to imagine Christmas without Christ?

Anyway, that's my little thought concerning Dickens' absolutely marvelous work that President Monson has called "inspired" on more than one occasion.

Friday, December 21, 2007

5 Years

Today Jessica and I celebrate our five year wedding anniversary. Thankfully, we went out for a little celebration on Tuesday, because we will likely see each other for all of five minutes today... work schedules that don't mix.

But in the spirit of this wonderful day, I offer just a few thoughts.

We bought a minivan this week. Somehow, this financial move encompasses much of what has happened in five years. First of all, we've grown very close. I suppose most couples at the time of their wedding consider themselves to be as close as any two people could be--goodness, their getting married! But there is something that can only take place within the actual marriage (and even more so within the Temple Marriage) relationship that allows for continued growth, love, and respect.

Ah! It pains me to think of this because it always brings thoughts of dear President Hinckley and his broken heart at the loss of his sweet companion! If I think that Jessica and I have been linked together in heart in five years, what about
60+ years together in the Lord? There are conflicting feelings when considering this: first there's the feeling of anticipation--as we continue to build our family and develop our love for one another, we can expect to feel even more of what we already do; but then there's that awful thought of one of us leaving before the other; ah but what of the reunion when we meet again? Life is meant to be lived in feeling, with sensitivities continually being heightened and purified. How else could we ever expect to love as Heavenly Father does?

Anyway, I'm grateful for the terminology within the Church when we say "Celestial Marriage." That is exactly what marriage ought to be, and that is what we are working toward. And yes, for us, a large part of that is the living of the commandment first given to our Parents Adam and Eve: what a blessing children are! Our two little boys bring us so much joy, so much happiness, so much patience, so many deep breaths before we react, so much craziness, and so much of that stuff that you can't describe.

It's fitting, I think, that on our anniversary of meeting last week, just before indulging the cookies and hot cocoa, we found out that we are expecting number 3. Jessica has blogged about this here. And so we decided to buy a car that could fit three car seats/boosters. Having children has only strengthened our appreciation for one another. For my part, as I watch the way Jessica nurtures Joshua and Morgan (and yes, nurturing does have some measure of sharp correction at times, and she is marvelous there) I am amazed at motherhood. It has to be the most difficult responsibility given to anyone: to bear the souls of the children of men. During this Season we remember the One Soul who was born to save all others, and appropriately so, we sing and speak of that vessel, chosen and pure, who was blessed among all women to go into the valley of the shadow of death and bring forth a Son. There is something of Mary in all women; that willingness to face death to bring forth new life, and for that I give thanks to the Lord for my sweet wife, who has done so and continues to do so. Pregnancy is not easy on her, but I know she would not trade the nausea and fatigue for anything... she continues in the work of salvation by providing tabernacles of flesh to those whom the Lord sends us.

I love you, Jess.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Greatest PBS Kids Show Ever!

Joshua just finished watching a fantastic show on PBS. I will now explain why "WordGirl" is the best PBS kids show I am aware of. If you go to the above link you will see each of the elements of the show in detail, but I offer a short list of elements that make it enjoyable for me:
  1. It's a Superhero show
  2. The superhero has a monkey for a sidekick (named Captain Huggy Face)
  3. There is a quintessential narrator who engages in banter with the characters
  4. The main villain is a butcher who shoots sausages out of his hands
  5. In today's episode, the butcher was defeated by tofu
  6. The superhero's parents are wonderfully oblivious to their daughter's powers, and when they nearly discover her alter ego, Captain Huggy Face intervenes in some way
  7. Seriously, a monkey sidekick
Check out the website or look it up on youtube. It's brilliant.

Here's a clip of WordGirl being interviewed...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Six Years: Hot Cocoa and Cookies

Six years ago yesterday I begrudgingly walked onto a plane and flew home from Michigan after two years of full-time missionary service. Six years ago today I made a decision that changed my life. I went tracting--because I just couldn't leave missionary work behind me.

Actually, it was because I had a letter from two young ladies whom I had never met, but really wanted to meet. They had written me a few times during my mission, and I had really enjoyed their letters. The one wrote on just about anything: receipts, napkins, advertisements; and she usually told me about funny names of people that she met at her job. The other wrote absolutely hilarious letters about all sorts of stuff--her writing style employed clever quips and pictures, and then insights from religion classes at BYU.

The night before I left Michigan I was given a letter in the Mission Home that had just arrived from these two girls, and the one had written at the end of the letter: "If you want to meet us faithful cheerleader/supporters [when you get home], just call or stop by." So that's what I did. On December 13th, 2001, after a morning temple session, watching a pre-school Nativity Christmas play, and getting a TB test, I steered my parents' Isuzu Trooper onto 650 North and looked for house number 1072. The address numbers were not clearly marked, so I boldly approached the most likely home and knocked. A young lady with long brown hair and brown eyes opened the door.

"Is this 1072 West?" I asked.
"Yes. Are you sure you don't need the girls downstairs?" she responded looking confused because she'd never seen me before.
"I don't know," I said. "I'm looking for Jessica Smith or Sara Nash."
"I'm Jessica," she said.
"Oh good! I'm a hologram," I told her.

And then she knew who I was.

Perhaps the main reason I wanted to meet these two was that the one, Jessica, had this running joke with me in her letters that I was a hologram. She was convinced of this fact because everything she had heard about me from those who knew me (such as my former band-mates Aaron and Spencer who I think were so distraught about losing their drummer that they used hyperbole when describing me, and my former co-workers at Teriyaki Stix where Jessica worked for a few months not long after I left on my mission--apparently I was missed there too) was "too good to be true." She could not believe that someone like "Brian" existed, so when she wrote me the first time she told me she thought I was a non-entity, a hologram.

For whatever reason, this little joke was so fun to me, and so when I got their invitation to stop by in that last letter, I was determined to do so. When Jessica realized who I was she invited me in, and she and Sara served me some cookies and hot cocoa while we talked about... probably my mission, I don't really know. But a year and eight days later Jessica and I knelt across from each other in the Jordan River Temple to be sealed for time and all eternity.

And every December 13th since we have had cookies and hot cocoa in the evening, usually with Sara, who will come by tonight for this little tradition.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Christmas Celebration

Last night Jessica and I took some time together to enjoy the Spirit of the Season. We went to Michael McLean's production of The Forgotten Carols. Neither of us have ever seen the play. I'd heard the album (it being among the rich variety of LDS "approved" music I learned to love as a missionary), and Jessica had both listened to the album and read the book. We really didn't know how it would be--whether Michael McLean himself would actually be there or not, whether it would just be one song after another or more of a play, etc.

Well, as it turns out, it is a play and Michael McLean is not only there but plays the main character, John (as in, the Beloved Disciple). The play was wonderful. The Timpview High School Choir provided the choral parts--just as a side note, I love Utah where it is still permissible for high school choirs to learn and perform songs with religious themes. The music was amazing, and the main soloist had a most incredible voice. We loved it.

But what really made the night special was the "encore" as it were. I'd heard before that Michael McLean is a very personable performer, but what he did after the play was over was just terrific! As is customary after musicals, the cast came out on stage and bowed while the crowd cheered, but after the rest of the cast left, Michael stayed on the stage and starting engaging the audience and told us that he wanted to perform his carol from his own heart--a beautiful song that he had the soloist from the play perform. The choir joined in and the words said something about "Arise, and let His light shine through you." It was clear that they really wanted the audience to arise, to stand up, to get into the song (which was very Gospel-esque). Finally, the majority-Mormon crowd stood up and began to clap along, perhaps feeling a little bit of what it would be like to attend a Pentecostal worship service.

After this song ended, Michael went over to the piano and after some banter about performing with his wife of 33 years, he began tapping out one of his most famous tunes (at least to Latter-day Saints): "Together Forever." He said that he has a difficult time with goodbyes, and what was wonderful is that he was being really sincere. He loves to perform and loves to lift and inspire, and he hates to end his performances. So he bid us farewell for about 45 minutes while having us sing along to the chorus of "Together Forever." After the first attempt by the audience to sing, he said, "Well. That was really reverent."

He stood up and said, "Some of you might be Mormon, so I'll try to help you out a bit," and proceeded to sing the chorus while leading with his hand moving up for higher notes and down for lower notes (hoping, I'm certain, to give us all Primary flashbacks). He then had us "link-up" as he called it. This simply meant holding hands or linking arms with those next to you, something I was already doing with Jessica but (obviously) not the person on my left, whom I had never met and whose name I did not get. But we went ahead and linked anyway, and then sang with more heart...

It was a wonderful performance. After all this, he then asked that we not applaud anymore, but all hum together "Silent Night" while we thought about the Savior. It was a powerful moment. What a fun night we had.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Youtube Debut

I made my debut on youtube this weekend. I really need to tidy up my library...

Saturday, December 1, 2007


It snowed this morning. In fact, it's still kind of snowing now. People don't come out to shop for cars when it's snowing, unless they are die-hards. Anyway, my fellow new sales consultant, Zach, and I took advantage of the slow pace of the day and created a new advertisement for our sale incentive this month.

Wiki wiki wiki

Congratulations me! Earlier this week I made my first ever contribution to a wikipedia article. You can read the article if you like, my contribution is the last sentence in the paragraph about the 19th century in England. It's so easy to do! Kind of scary, huh?

The entry has to do with the legend of the Wandering Jew. Here is a picture of a Wandering Jew.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Optimobile!

I confess a severe lack of understanding of cars in general, though this is progressively changing with my current employment. But during my mission I was clueless. Really. Here's a story:

It was stake conference time, and my companion and I wanted to find a ride from Harrison (In-the-Middle-of-Nowhere, Michigan) to Midland a few counties away, inasmuch as we were allotted precious few miles to drive in our car. So we hit up the greatest stake missionary the world has ever known, Brother Wes Langston, for a ride.

Wes was an 18 year-old Arizona transplant living with his Mom and step-dad in Michigan, awaiting the time he would be able to serve a mission himself. He worked at a greasy fast food place and worked with the missionaries--that was it. (Incidentally, Wes now works next door to me at Pinnacle Security here in Orem.) He was the greatest blessing in the world, always willing to take us wherever we needed to go, like stake conference.

For all of his generosity though, he had one short-coming: his car. It was a 1980's Oldsmobile, brown, hot, and falling apart. We had dubbed it "The Optimobile" because when you rode in it you had to be really optimistic about reaching your destination in safety.

This is an aside: Wes now drives a nice luxury car. I think a BMW. He must do ok there at Pinnacle.

The drive down to Midland was without incident. Conference was wonderful (even though Elder Holland didn't come as he had been originally scheduled to), and afterwards some members provided sack lunches to those driving back to Harrison. We hopped in the Optimobile and began munching our sandwiches when half-way between Midland and Harrison we heard a loud bang! come from under the hood of the car. Smoke began rising from beneath the hood, and knowing at least enough to stop because this was pretty clearly not a good thing, we decided to investigate.

Wes popped the hood and lo! a small flame was burning on the engine block. We knew that we needed to get that thing put out, so we ran to the trunk and grabbed the first thing we saw: Window washer fluid. It was blue--blue liquid is supposed to put fires out, right? It didn't work though, and after reading a warning on the label that said (in not so large print) FLAMMABLE!! we opted to try something else. Thank goodness for those sack lunches! We snatched up two apple juice boxes and let them rip. Suddenly, as the fire died down, it smelled as if someone was baking an apple pie with motor oil.

Wes, not in the best of moods, started to hoof it off to the nearest place with a phone (a Michigan Welcome Center, oddly placed mind you). He called his step-dad, who happened to work for the Clare County Sheriff's Office, and he radioed to a trooper who came and picked us up. And so, we missed a wonderful photo-op when we stepped out of the back of a police cruiser in front of our apartment. Dangit!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thomas Wingfold, Curate

I just finished re-reading another favorite book of mine, titled in the title of this post. For those who may know a little of George MacDonald (the author) this will be a wonderful reminder of his genius, for those not so familiar this may serve as an introduction to one of the greatest preachers of all time (I say "preacher" and not "novelist" or "writer" in the spirit of Jessica's frequent comment that though MacDonald may not be the most compelling story-teller she has ever read, he is a fantastic preacher--this comment I believe was inspired by none other than C.S. Lewis).

This is part of a conversation between a young man who was ill and dying and an old man who is the spiritual tutor of the characters:
"Only, the Lord of Life is with you, and that is real company, even in dying, when no one else can be with you."
"If I could only feel he was with me!"
"You may feel his presence without knowing what it is."

George MacDonald spends pages in his novels in commentary. This particular passage has to do with, well, it's self explanatory:
I suspect that at root the loves of the noble wife, the great-souled mother, and the true sister, are one. Anyhow, they are all but glints on the ruffled waters of humanity of the one changeless enduring Light.

There is in MacDonald's writing this very likable style of writing of his characters as if they are an acquaintance of his. In commenting on the spiritual progress of the protagonist at a particular point in his life, MacDonald wrote:
Perhaps it may be to this period that the following verses which I found among his papers belong: he could not himself tell me. [He then copies one of "Wingfold's" poems.]

Another quote from the Wise Tutor:
To be content is not to be satisfied. No one ought to be satisfied with the imperfect. It is God's will that we should bear, and contentedly--because in hope, looking for the redemption of the body. And we know he has a ready servant who will one day set us free.

Here is another part of a conversation between the young dying man and the Wise Man:
"It does seem hard that a man should be capable of doing things that he is not made capable of undoing again."
"It is indeed a terrible thought! And even the smallest wrong is, perhaps, too awful a thing for created being ever to set right again."
"You mean it takes God to do that?"
"I do."
"I don't see how he could ever set some things right."
"He would not be God if he could not or would not do for his creature what that creature cannot do for himself, and must have done for him or lose his life."
"Then he isn't God, for he can't help me."
"Because you don't see what can be done you say God can do nothing--which is as much as to say there cannot be more within his scope than there is within yours! One thing is clear: that if he saw no more than lies within your ken, he could not be God. The very impossibility you see in the thing points to the region wherein God works."

The young man spoken of above committed a serious crime and his sister was caring for him while he slowly wasted away under the conscience of his guilt. Through conversations he had with others, he had decided to turn himself in to the horror of his sister who knew that he would be hanged and would bring disgrace to their family. With this background I share part of a conversation between the sister and the protagonist, Wingfold, a young preacher:
Wingfold took one step nearer to her. "My calling is to speak the truth," he said; "and I am bound to warn you that you will never be at peace in your own soul until you love your brother aright."
"Love my brother!" Helen almost screamed. "I would die for him."
"Then at least let your pride die for him," said Wingfold.

There, just a few selections, certainly not enough to do justice to the depth of the mind of the man who wrote the book, but an offering nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How We Treat Others

From the ancients, with very little commentary, I offer a few thoughts:

But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another (Mosiah 2:15).

And what you hate, do not do to anyone (Tobit 4:15).

This same principle put another way by our Master:

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12).

But then at the end of His ministry, He could draw on the example of His own actions and say:

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you (John 15:9-12).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Great Divorce

C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce convinces me that we really do deal in a lot of shallow water here on earth.

I reread this book this past week, and, wow! Isn't it amazing how something that you thought was really incredible about six years ago can be even more so now? The interplay of the themes of agency (he calls it "freedom") and Time (usually capitalized by Lewis, thus giving it proper name status) as fits our eternal identity is fascinating and thought provoking to say the least.

But there it is: the book illustrates a number of individuals who refuse salvation because of one thing or another that they want to hold onto more than to receive the love of God. Perhaps most illustrative is the man with the lizard about his neck, who in a moment decides to let the Angelic being kill the lizard and immediately begins to grown into something akin to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ--and the lizard becomes a divine stallion. Upon viewing this most shocking of transformations, Lewis asks his Teacher (the wise nineteenth century Scottish author/preacher George MacDonald, about whom I'm certain to have more to say later) the meaning of this. MacDonald responds, "Nothing, not even what is best and noblest, can go on as it now is. Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."

Just as a brief excerpt from the book, I offer those words. For more, go read it, and see what kind of soul searching occurs.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Or in Other Words...

As a Freshman at BYU, in fact it was my first term there, I took a Book of Mormon class from a young graduate student named Dan Belnap. In a lot of ways, that class changed me and my direction in life. Brother Belnap took an ancient understanding approach to the Book of Mormon, and one of the things he taught us had to do with 1 Nephi 8. I read this chapter of "the most correct of any book on earth" this morning, and thought again of what he taught us.

Among the things Brother Belnap taught was the idea that the rod of iron that Lehi saw in his dream was not a railing, like a stair railing, but a scepter or a rod of power (i.e. the rod of a king or Moses' rod). He helped us to understand that to someone in the ancient world, a rod represented kingship, power, and ruler-ship. In other words, the Word of God leads to these things.

Though the nuances of a rod work well in this regard, 1 Nephi 8:19-20 are abundantly clear on what kind of rod this is: "it extended along the bank of the river" and "a strait and narrow path . . . came along by the rod of iron." So it is, that even though Lehi and Nephi and other ancients may have caught more from this symbolism than a modern reader may (and thanks be to Brother Belnap for pointing this out), nevertheless, the rod is indeed a kind of a railing.

Now, a few other observations about this wonderful chapter, which will mostly have to do with the great and spacious building.

The first thought that struck me today while reading about the building is that Lehi seems to be totally unaware of its existence until he sees those who "after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed" (v 25). They are aware of this building, but Lehi is not. His focus heretofore has been on the joy the fruit filled him with and his anxiety to share this with his family.

Note, after tasting the fruit, he did not see the building, he looked for his family. There is something in that. So why is it that those who later partook and were ashamed did see the building? Maybe they were aware of it while they were on the path, or maybe it was lurking high above the tree, gazing down at those partaking. It appears to be a rather conspicuous place, full of those who mock the righteous. But again, I find it very significant that Lehi does not see it until others do. He did not care for the pride of the world, and certainly did not care what the world thought of him (as is clear from his sudden preaching in Jerusalem in 1 Nephi 1:18-19).

Another thing that struck me about the building was this: "And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost" (v 28) and also "And it came to pass that many were drowned in the depths of the fountain; and many were lost from his view, wandering in strange roads" (v 32).

This is really significant. V 28 makes it clear that those who have tasted the fruit and then are ashamed because of those in the building, do not join the crowds in the building, but they wander off and are lost. And in v 32 it seems that the majority of those who do not make it to the tree also do not join the crowds who seem to really be enjoying themselves reveling in the pleasures of the world, but they drown or are lost. There are those who enter into the building, but none of them are those who have tasted the fruit.

What might this suggest to us? Once you have tasted the fruit, the joy, of the love of God, you cannot join the ignorant crowds of the world, because you already know the contrasting joy of obedience. Therefore, you will find no pleasure in the things of the world, but you will be miserable, and you will become lost.

I think that the defining characteristic of the crowds in the building is ignorance. They do not know better, though they may see that these people are having marvelous experiences tasting this fruit, they have no idea what it is like, otherwise they would not be mocking.

And for my final thought concerning 1 Nephi 8: Lehi does see those who taste the fruit and remain. And there is a defining characteristic in these individuals as well. It comes in two simple words, a verb and an adverb, that describe what happens to these individuals as they approach the tree. Here is the verse:

But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree (v 30).

Those two profound words are so simple, and yet speak so much. As those who are truly penitent and humble arrive at the Tree of Life, they recognize the love of God for what it really is: The Son of God. And they do what all true followers of Christ do when the moment of communion arrives: they fall down...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Theological Arrows of Gamaliel

Actually, I just wanted to come up with something that "TAG" could be an acronym for. I have indeed been tagged and will now proceed to list seven things that as a (roughly) late-teen I would have never thought that I would be interested in and/or do:

By the way, thanks to Jess for inspiring me in this list.

1. Attend and graduate from Brigham Young University

2. Touch a cat, let alone own two

3. Keep up on politics

4. Be married at 22 and have two children before my 26th birthday

5. Cheer for and follow (rather closely mind you) the Utah Jazz

6. Get interested in cars and work as a sales consultant on a car lot

7. Own rental property (but not any more, thank heavens!)

So there it is. If you would have told me any of these things awaited me in the coming tens years of life when I was 17, I would have balked, and I mean seriously balked. Nevertheless, thus we see that life never happens exactly as you would have thought.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Now, I just heard this on the radio on my way to work, but I am absolutely thrilled about it. It demonstrates a more realistic take on all things historical within the Church.

I am referring to the new publication of the Book of Mormon by Doubleday. Word is that in the introduction there is a slight change in the line (I'm going from memory here, not having a copy of the Book of Mormon in front of me), "All were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians." Apparently the new publication reads, "All were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians."

Ah, what a beautiful thing. It is so wonderful when we actually take the book at its word and don't add things that were never claimed, i.e. there is no claim whatsoever that the Nephites/Lamanites/Mulekites were the only inhabitants of the Western hemisphere. In fact, from the descriptions of geography in the book (like in, if my memory suits me, Alma 22 where we learn about the length and breadth of the land) we see that the Nephites inhabited a rather small area.

So anyway, I'm excited about this. We are becoming ever more realistic and our faith can be rooted in what it ought to be--the witness of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Here is a conversation I had with Joshua, exactly as it occurred:

Me: Hey there, what's your name?
Josh: I'm Joshua Huntington Holdaway.
Me: What's your profession?
Josh: My profession is commander.
Me: What are you a commander of?
Josh: I'm the commander of a king.
Me: Wow, how did you get that position?
Josh: Because I like to kill the bad guys.

And then he walked off to his room...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quick Enchiladas

I don't have any pictures, for which I apologize, but here is the story:

Last night around 11:30 we decided we were hungry, and so I did what I like to do in those situations and threw something together. It turned out rather nice, wherefore I thought I would share it.

First, I sauteed a few chicken breast tenders (I just place them frozen in a pan on medium heat, cover them, and let them cook. They stay nice and moist this way.) As they got white and looked like they were cooked through, I poured some Archer Farms Chilies & Lime sauce over each of them (this is only available at Target).

In the mean time I prepared a diced tomato and got out some flour tortillas, lettuce (romaine hearts was my green of choice), cheese, salsa, and sour cream.

Using my trusty cooking spatula I chopped up the tenders while still in the pan, then emptied the entire contents of the pan (extra sauce and all) into a dish.

Then I placed a generous portion of shredded cheese and some of the chopped tenders into four flour tortillas, rolled them, and placed them into the same pan used to cook the chicken (still lightly coated with oil from the sauce). I was careful to save as much of the sauce in the dish as possible. To this (the sauce in the dish) I added a spoonful of sour cream and whisked the crud out of it, and then poured the combination of sauce and sour cream on top of the rolled tortillas and placed the pan back on the stove at a little above medium heat for a few minutes.

I served the enchiladas with the lettuce, diced tomatoes, and salsa on top. They were rather delicious, if I do say so... :)

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Am I way out there on this?

We live in a culture that we considered rather advanced. I mean, look at our communication capabilities and things. Wow. As far as knowledge of things and general intelligence go, it seems that we are really pretty far along.

And so there is something that confuses me. Putting aside the LDS theology of the origins of precious things (you'll see what I mean), let's go back to "Primitive Man." (Again, this is solely for illustration purposes.) Here we have one of our ancient predecessors who is developing senses a little beyond his counterparts, and this relative of ours, while digging in the dirt one day, discovers something shiny. He is thrilled by the discovery, so much so that he digs this shiny thing out of the dirt and takes it back to his mate who is equally thrilled with it. Let's consider that this is the beginning of civilization (not the invention of a writing system as the historians would have us accept). What do I mean? I mean that this is when "man" excels past the other animals because he finds interest in something that won't give him shelter, assist in the preparation of food, or otherwise aid in his survival.

Is this a little cynical? I hope it will get better.

But wait, this shiny thing eventually does assist man in his survival, because he develops a system whereby he assigns values to this shiny stuff. The more you have of it, the more you can get of food and shelter from others. Ah, there is civilization! The assignation of value to things that really don't have value, except in the systems of man. [By the way, what makes it valuable? Not only is the stuff shiny, but its rare! Yes! Now I understand.] And what do we do with this stuff? We wear it of course!

Or at least that is what people did in the more primitive times. They adorned themselves with this stuff. Heck, just read Isaiah 3 (cf. 2 Nephi 13) to find out how much the ancients loved this stuff and to stick it on themselves--and sometimes in themselves. They would actually puncture holes in their skin and then hang this stuff in those holes!

Well, isn't it nice to live in the twenty-first century when we have come so far from these primitive times? Oh wait, hang on, I'm just now hearing something on the radio. It was something about the value of gold in the "Market." Oh, now another commercial, this one is for a jeweler who claims to have the best stuff on the market, and they just used a newly minted word to describe their iventory:

Are you ready for this? We've come so far in our day that we have assigned shiny stuff an onomatopoeia:


At least, this is the only explanation I can think of for this most annoying of words. This must be describing the sound shiny things make when they sparkle. But tell me, has anyone actually ever heard a shiny thing go "bling"? Somehow I think this is a sound jewelry dealers have created in their commercials to entice our most sophisticated natures to hearken to that most critical of areas of the origins of civilized life.

By the way, check out my watch.

An Interesting Read

What is it exactly that interested me so much about this book? I'm not really sure, perhaps it was sparked by my reading of the biography of President McKay (David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright) which had a significant amount of material about his dealings with government officials, or perhaps it is that there is a budding political scientist somewhere inside me that is straining to get out, and this was a pretty low impact way to combine it with my passion for Church History.

Whatever the reason, I read it, and thoroughly enjoyed it (though I do have to note that there is a major typo in the afterword where the author, Michael K. Winder, relates his experience visiting former President Jimmy Carter's Sunday School class where they were studying the book of Revelation--he called it "Revelations." A minor thing, you might say, but don't you dare call it Revelations in front of Richard Draper, arguably the Church's expert on Apocalyptic literature, of which the Revelation of St. John is of major importance--he would not be well pleased, to say the least.) Now, I have just one or two comments to make about the book.

First, I was intrigued by the publisher: Covenant Communications. My first impression upon hearing about the book was to question why Deseret Book was not the publisher. After reading it I'm pretty certain I know why Deseret Book did not publish it (this is assuming, of course, that the author approached DB first and was turned down). There are way too many details about the political preferences of Church leaders for this to be published by DB. The ultra-conservative views of some leaders contrasted to the more liberal views of others are spoken of--not to the extent that they could have been by any means--but enough that, in today's political climate which is polarized in incredible ways, there may be just a wee bit too much that could be considered controversial.

[I need to include this little aside here. While working on this posting I am also feeding the boys some lunch--leftover Little Caesar's Pizza. Joshua has learned to dip everything he eats in ranch and so requested ranch with his pizza, but we are fresh out of ranch, so not willing to be deterred he immediately then requested ketchup. I asked if he was sure he wanted ketchup for his pizza and he insisted, and so he is eating his pizza with ketchup and currently begging me to come and wipe up some that he spilled...]

These posts always become projects completed in many sittings, largely due to the fact that Joshua and Morgan keep me rather busy. So if there seems to be a break in the stream of consciousness, well, that's why.

Back to the book. My other comment has to do with the impressiveness of the project Winder took up. To write a one volume survey touching on each of the 42 U.S. Presidents and their associations with the Church is a major task. But he did well, and in the process made me thirst after more knowledge about the U.S. Presidents. I highly recommend the book. It goes quick and is fun.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Week Without Technology; sort of...

Last week Jessica, the boys, all of Jessica's family, and I went to Anaheim to spend the week at Disneyland. The hotel we stayed in boasted internet access, but as with most hotels that do so did not tell us about the fees and everything else that are part and parcel of such access. So we spent the week without technology, excepting of course the kind of technology that causes you to speed through the atmosphere at really accelerated rates.

Apparently I missed out on some news, like Stephen Colbert's announcement that he is running for president (in South Carolina only). I'm not exactly sure how that works, but... well, his interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press was pretty funny.

No, we spent our evenings in the hotel room watching the Disney Channel (this is something we do not do at home inasmuch as we do not have cable TV or anything like unto it). I discovered a really fantastic show called "The Replacements." It's a silly cartoon but it is actually funny! That just so happens to be an element missing in a lot of entertainment these days--humor.

So Disneyland was wonderful Joshua loved the Astro Blasters ride (you get to shoot aliens with laser guns, what's cooler than that?) and the Matterhorn. Jessica loved the Tower of Terror, and Morgan pretty well liked being outside for most of the day. Speaking of, I'm including some contrasting pictures to demonstrate the weather we left in Sunny California compared to that which we woke up to Sunday morning in Utah after arriving home.

It's good to be home.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Week

Anyone who has not seen it yet, definitely needs to check out Jessica's new hair cut on her blog. She is absolutely adorable. What a lucky guy I am! (Here is a picture, but still check out her blog.)

Today Jessica had a conference for Pediatric nurses, and so I hung out with the boys all day. It was beautiful outside, wherefore we spent time in the backyard chasing each other and swinging (mostly them, I'm a little too big for our swing set). At one point I gave Joshua a push on a swing and he did this incredible upside down twist that sent him flopping on the ground (the push was not very hard, but I think he kind of let go of the ropes). I was very proud of him, because instead of giving into the bit of fear he must have felt, he laughed kind of nervously and got right back on the swing.

And so General Conference came and went. Wow! Just a couple of thoughts about that:

1. President Henry B. Eyring! I was so thrilled at this announcement. His talks in the Priesthood Session and on Sunday morning were incredible. He is one of the most humble and powerful men. Wow.

2. Elder Quentin L. Cook. I knew of Elder Cook from my days at the MTC when he was made head of the Missionary Executive Committee. I couldn't remember anything specifically about him, but as he stood up and spoke about Elder Maxwell encouraging him that if he felt comfortable testifying of the Savior he would be fine I really felt a confirmation that this was the man to be a special witness at this time.

3. Elder Wirthlin's family says he is in good health. Apparently he locked his knees while speaking. Ah, what a powerful talk he gave! He usually tells funny stories or makes some sort of joke, but I think this subject was too sacred to him for that--and wow! And Elder Nelson's sweet gesture to stand and support him while he finished. That was incredible. It kind of reminded me of when President Hunter collapsed while speaking, but got back up and finished his talk--with broken ribs!

4. Anyone wondering about the Church's doctrine concerning the Godhead, just ask Elder Holland, and you will know in no uncertain terms how it is. By the way, it just so happens to be the same doctrine that those in the New Testament believed.

5. President Hinckley bore powerful testimony as well, of the Restoration and the Savior. His talk in Priesthood was amazing. At 97 he is still going strong, this is just unprecedented!

So that's it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

An old Memory

On my high school graduation day, one of my sisters (and I'm so sorry I can't remember which) gave me a very useful graduation gift. A small, battery-powered, digital alarm clock [pictured here at right]. She said that it would be a good thing for me in the coming years.

At the time I couldn't think of anything I would need an alarm clock for in the immediate future, but did think it would be very cool when I went on my mission--it's so compact and everything. But as it worked out, within a couple of months that little alarm clock served a very important purpose.

It was August 1999, and my two friends, Aaron and Spencer, and I had set up a recording date in Phoenix for our band. Aaron's dad worked for (or with) a guy at a recording studio; we got an excellent deal and we were thrilled to go record, but we needed to get from Provo to Phoenix somehow with all of our instruments. My reliable little Mazda fit me, my drum set, and one other person rather comfortably, but three people with additional amplifiers and such was not an option.

So we took Aaron's car. An old Buick (or something like unto that)--brown of course. Old cars like this are always brown or maroon. It had no air conditioning, radio, or clock. We fit all of the instruments in the trunk and backseat, which meant that there was just enough room for the three of us on the bench seat in the front. We brought along a battery-powered boom box for music, and my little alarm clock for a time keeper (we were punk-rock kids who didn't wear watches). Eight years later, is it unbelievable that we took off on a road trip in an unreliable car and no cell phone or other means of communication? Pretty much, but a lot of what we did on that trip is unbelievable.

Like when we got to Phoenix. After sleeping for a couple of hours we woke up and went to Denny's for breakfast, following which as we were driving back to Aaron's parents' house we saw a soccer field that was full of irrigation water and decided that looked like a great place to cool off a bit (because in Arizona in August it is unyieldingly, unbearably hot). We walked out into the middle of the soccer field and had second thoughts. The water was murky and warm, and there were a number of little bugs flying low over the water. But as we were not very wise, one of us (and I don't remember who) tackled another one of us (again who escapes me), but that started it. We bathed in a cesspool that morning...

It seems like that was Friday. On Saturday we recorded, Sunday we rested and went to bed at about midnight before our Monday morning drive back to Utah. By Monday "morning" I mean 1:00 am. I set my handy little alarm clock for 1:00 am, and after it went off we piled into the brown beast of a car and headed--not directly to Utah--but on a little detour that took us to visit one of Aaron and Spencer's friends.

I don't remember her name, but she lived somewhere in Arizona and we showed up at her place around 3:30 am. Now, to this day it shocks me that she was not at all surprised to see us at her apartment door at that hour. Yet she opened up and greeted us like it was the middle of the day. After a short visit there we headed out again, and made a brief stop in St. George where we startled Laurie and her family (imagine seeing three dirty, multi-color haired kids pull up in front of your house in an unfamiliar car and come stumbling out looking like they know you...). Then it was on to Provo; the smell in that car was revolting. The three of us were exhausted, Aaron was delirious, and attempting to stay awake was difficult. We stopped at a rest stop near Nephi and each flopped on the grass for a few minutes where we caught a little nap.

Oh, the memories this alarm clock brings...

This is the amazing thing about it:
It came with a AAA battery in it which powered it. That battery lasted the entire course of my mission, the year afterward while I went to school before getting married, and then survived multiple uses under the hands of Joshua who liked to see the screen turn blue when he pushed the button. When I picked up the alarm clock last night I noticed the battery was out. Eight years of dedicated service it gave. It's one of those with a power indicator line on it--it showed no sign of life when I tested it. The "best when used by date" was January 2002. That battery certainly fulfilled the measure of its creation.

I woke up this morning to the familiar beepbeepbeep of that alarm clock. Aw the good times we've had!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Radio Teasing

This morning I was listening to KSL while doing our morning routine (feeding the kids, playing with them, and working on my appraisal online training) and heard a lot about some sort of "press conference" that the Church would be holding at 10:00.

I got all excited thinking that maybe they were going to announce the new counselor in the First Presidency a few days ahead of General Conference. But then a later report clarified what was going on: it was an internet news conversation of some kind, in light of such things as a Mormon presidential candidate and the conviction of Warren Jeffs (I suppose to emphatically state that Mr. Jeffs has no link and/or affiliation with the Church whatsoever). When I heard this I immediately went to to find the link to this thing, but found nothing about it. So I went to KSL's website, thinking that the story on the webpage would have a link to the thing, but the story was not even listed (even though it was touted as the "top local story" for half the morning). So I went to national news sites looking for anything about this, but couldn't find it at all. Finally, KSL played about 15 seconds of it and then went to commercial.

In all, I wasted about 45 minutes trying to listen to something that, apparently, the public was not privy to, and found much frustration in doing so. Wherefore, I consider it rather unfair that KSL make such a big deal about this thing and then leave me hanging. If the public cannot hear it, please tell us!

Oh well. Life goes on and at least we're only a few days from Conference--something I can readily participate in myself. Thank you very much.

Friday, September 28, 2007


It has been kind of a tradition I've had with myself and my journals to review as many birthdays as I can remember when my birthday rolls around. I think this started about the time I went on my mission. So this year I'm doing this in cyberspace... oooooh

First I suppose I'll cast my mind back to my big 16th birthday. This was spent in the family van traveling north--home from a trip to Disneyland during UEA (Utah Education Association) break. I think we stopped on Santa Monica Blvd and visited the grounds of the LA temple. I seem to remember a photo of me with my longish curly hair and a Green Day t-shirt standing on the temple grounds (I likely had a chain on my wallet too).

The next year I remember well. I had been working unheard of hours at the new Riverwoods Hogi Yogi/Teriyaki Bowl (now Stix) all summer, and that had not really taking a back seat when school started. I think after seven or eight hours at school I hurried off to work and at a managers' meeting was treated to a free small frozen yogurt by the powers that were (and just so happen to be still) on that, my 17th birthday. Ten years ago now... hmm. That was also the year that I worked on Thanksgiving to provide a total of two customers something to eat all day. I don't think that restaurant has been open on Thanksgiving since.

What I remember most about my 18th birthday, aside from receiving my Patriarchal Blessing earlier that month, was that my then "good" friend Emily decorated my car (called "Starbolt" affectionately by my friends and me). I went to school and ... I'm pretty sure that I had Lenito's for lunch, likely a chicken chimi.

The year that passed between 18 and 19 is one of the longest of memory for me--so much seemed to happen. I switched jobs, bands, and basically peers, and then they all kind of meshed together by the end of it all. I finished high school and got a mission call, and began relationships that would affect my future in ways I could not have sensed. But what I remember most about September 29, 1999 was going to the Mt. Timp Temple in the afternoon and sitting in the Celestial Room with the sun shining through that beautiful window and thinking: This must be what heaven feels like. My friends Aaron and Spencer were out of town (they were in Vegas at a Goldfinger concert), and I think my cake had a picture of Michigan on it.

Spring Lake, Michigan is where my next birthday found me. Elder Merritt and I were working diligently to spread the Good News to the folks in Spring Lake and Grand Haven. Mom sent me a box of cake mix and a disposable cake pan and some party favors. Elder Merritt and I baked the cake (after a district meeting that morning and lunch at Fudruckers) and took it to a less-active member's house and celebrated there. We drew faces on the balloons.

Another year and I was on the tail end of my mission. My companion, Elder Eales, and I drove up to the Makinaw Bridge and got some pictures there, and then went to a town that housed an outlet mall where I bought a watch. It was, I think, our only preparation day that transfer period.

How much was to change over the next year, I had no idea. But on September 29, 2002 I was on top of the world because just the night before Jessica had said "Yes" to a marriage proposal. It remember that it was Sunday, so I'm sure I went to church and things, but most of all I remember Jessica wearing the little engagement ring I got her during the cake and icecream that evening.

We move then to 23... we were living in the condo and Jessica was three months pregnant with Joshua. I went to class early that morning--Modern Hebrew taught by Monica Richards. And later it was off to Biblical Hebrew from Don Parry. I think I remember not wanting anyone at school to know that it was my birthday. Then I'm sure I went to teach at the MTC later... and so it was. Oh yeah, this was the infamous (to our family anyway) BYU Bookstore splurge day.

The next year Joshua was six months old and Jessica was working on her capstone semester for nursing. We were extremely busy at this time: Jess was going to two clinicals a week (12 hour shifts) on top of plenty of class time and group projects, while I was working my way through second year Hebrew, a class on Texts and Ancient Temples, and a Book of Mormon class taught by John Bytheway (among other things). I was working hard at the MTC to support us, inasmuch as Jessica's last two jobs had ended with the businesses she worked for closing (B. Dalton Books in January and The Total Health Institute in the summer). Do I remember much about the day specifically? Not really. I'll have to go to my journals to find out.

Two years ago we were the newish owners of our beautiful house. Jessica was well into her first year as an RN and I got my first ever opportunity to teach seminary. This was the trial run: we went into a class at Provo High and taught for half a period. I remember the scripture block was 1 Nephi 20-21 (Isaiah chapters!). I taught Matt Davis's class and he was gone because his wife had just had a baby. That semester I was in the first classes of the official Ancient Near Eastern Studies major: Dana Pike's History and Culture of Ancient Israel and Gaye Strathearn's Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Studies.

And then last year we had a couple months before welcomed Morgan into our home and I got up early to go teach my "A" day class at Lone Peak. I would come home from teaching for about an hour or so before going to school and when I would come in the house and say something Morgan's little face would light up at my voice. I'm sure something like that happened this day.

And now today. The weather is blustery and beautiful. I got up with Morgan and ate some breakfast... Jessica and her family got me the 16 volume Teachings of the Prophets set from Deseret Book--what a collection to have!

So now, Happy Birthday John Paxon (an old Chicago Bulls player--as an early adolescent I was proud to share my birthday with him) and Darin in Jackson, MI (he is 47 today) and Scott Martin (an old co-worker from Teriyaki Bowl, born on the same day in the same hospital as me) and also Tony Gunn; and whoever else shares this birthday.

Thoughts of Late

Last night I read an article in the Reader's Digest about humor and gender. It concluded that women have more sophisticated senses of humor and that men, though finding some of the same things funny, will laugh at just about anything as long as it "looks" funny. I suppose that may be the case generally, but it seems to me that 90% of the stuff people think is funny out there just isn't... like, for example, comics in the newspaper.

What ever happened to funny, clever jokes in comics? Why can I read through an entire page of comics and never even chuckle? Did Bill Watterson and Gary Larsen use all the good jokes, and then after retiring their work take all the cleverness with them? (Actually, I have to say here, parenthetically, that Scott Adams is rather clever and very funny, but as for the vast majority of stuff... eh.) I'm really hoping that someday my ten-year-old niece becomes a syndicated comic writer, because her stuff is actually funny, like her adventures of Forgetful Man, a rather scatter-brained superhero. Her art is subtle and her writing clever ... two elements commonly missing in today's comics.

The other evening we celebrated my dad's birthday with a surprise party at Chuck-a-Rama. It was wonderful--he was very touched. And to top it all off, I had the opportunity to shake hands with someone I really admire, someone who affected the way I taught seminary at Provo High and whose quotes about Scripture study lined the walls of the classroom, with quotes like this:
"[The scriptures] are an instrument by which you can receive revelation. If you knew how to work the instrument, and if you had properly prepared your heart, you could take it into your hands, open it just about anywhere, and receive customized guidance from the Lord."
The author of this statement, and the man I was so thrilled to meet, is Elder Gene R. Cook. The above quote comes from his book Searching the Scriptures. When I shook his hand he asked if he knew me (that is, if I had met him before), I told him no, but that I used his book a lot and also his talk that is on CD called Thirteen Lines of Defense. In that talk he speaks about how to protect yourself against immorality. It is a classic. He then asked if I was married and had children. I said yes, and he said, "Keep it up." What a great man.

Monday, September 24, 2007

ER and Surgery

This weekend was a little bit different.

The security guards at UVRMC are used to my coming in late on Saturday night to visit Jessica at work (Jessica's sister, Jenessa, who lives with us, listens for the boys while I visit her), but this last Saturday was a bit different. At about midnight I checked in at the security desk, but this time it was because Jessica was in surgery getting her appendix removed.

I took her to the ER at 5:00 on Saturday afternoon. We spent two and a half hours in the waiting room as the pain in her belly got progressively worse. After getting a room in the ER we waited another hour or so before a physician was able to see her--two minutes before the pain subsided significantly and she was feeling kind of silly about being there. But after another hour or so and a CT scan, it was determined that she indeed had appendicitis (the doctor called it a "slam dunk diagnosis"), and that she needed to have that little, apparently useless, organ removed.

The surgeon visited us and told us he had another appendectomy scheduled at 11:00, so he would operate on Jessica afterwards. So then another hour passed and a tech assistant from the OR came and wheeled Jessica off to surgery. She was brought out around 1:30 am and admitted to her own unit (Pediatrics) where her friends took excellent care of her.

She is now home and in a lot of pain, but at least not septic from a bursting appendix...

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I have always really liked autumn. This could likely be explained by the fact that when I was a child I looked forward to my birthday. I suppose I still look forward to my birthday, but not for the same reason as when I was turning, say, ten. It was all about presents then. Now it's more about being able to celebrate something with those I care about... that's really all I have to say about birthdays.

And now to why I love fall today.

I know that instruction and inspiration is available all year round, but every six months there is something that I look forward to with more anticipation and excitement than just about anything. This excitement really began seven and a half years ago--the looking forward to the first weekends in April and October.

"And there came prophets in the land again, crying repentance unto them--that they must prepare the way of the Lord or there should come a curse upon the face of the land" (Ether 9:28).

Elder Holland used this verse as the title for his Conference address a year ago. I driving to the Salt Lake airport with Jessica and some of her family to drop someone off, and we were listening to Conference. I knew Elder Holland would be speaking last (before President Hinckley's final remarks anyway) because he hadn't yet spoken in any other session. I looked forward to that talk, and when it happened I was not disappointed. With the energy very distinct in his personality, Elder Holland bore testimony of exactly why I love the fall: General Conference.

And this Conference is one that I'm looking forward to with even more anticipation than usual. For one thing: I need it. I need the inspiration of the inspired leaders of the church. I need the strengthening of the Spirit that always attends these sessions. And another thing: there will be a new counselor called to the First Presidency. The world lost one of its best men when President Faust passed away. He was the very embodiment of humility and pure love. What I love about President Faust was his unabashed relationship with his dear Ruth. There is so much about their relationship that is inspiring, but I'll just share one simple example.

Not long after returning from my mission there was a Regional Conference held in the Marriott Center. Jessica and I attended and could not wait to hear from the visiting authorities, among whom were President Faust, Elder Maxwell, and Elder Groeberg. The thing that I noticed was that during the singing of the hymns, President and Sister Faust would hold hands. After how ever many years of marriage, they still liked to hold hands--such a simple yet profound gesture--as a sign of their deep and wonderful affection for each other.

Who will be called to fill the vacancy in the Presidency? If it is a member of the Twelve, who will then fill the vacancy in that quorum? If I were still in school there would likely be speculation about this in some of my classes, especially the religion classes. Though in 2004 it was in a class on Texts and Ancient Temples that the most speculation went on: the professor was very confident that he knew who would be called. (He was wrong, but can we imagine the Twelve without Elder Uchtdorf and Elder Bednar?) Something we have to accept is that the leaders of the church are indeed growing older and will not be around forever--there was always hope in my heart that the leadership of the church would forever be what it was from 1995-2004, the longest stretch of continuity in the First Presidency and the Twelve in the history of the church.

However things turn out, it will always be as the Lord wills, and that is something to know. So with the beautiful fall colors and the cooling of the air comes this tender mercy so wonderful for those who know that there are in very fact prophets in the land again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A BYU Education

Ten years ago I was approaching my 17th birthday, was a junior at Provo High School, and as for my future figured that I would eventually be living in Southern California playing the drums in a band and working at a convenience store to pay rent on my tiny place near the beach. If anyone asked me about college I would laugh and say that I wasn't planning on college, I was just breezing through high school getting good grades but in really easy classes, not preparing at all for higher education.

And for years I figured that was the way it would be, until a General Conference in April 2001. Everything changed during the two days of ten hours of instruction from inspired leaders. It seemed that each of them spoke about the importance of education. And so, after returning home from Michigan in December 2001, I enrolled at UVSC for the Spring semester 2002. But this was not to last long, inasmuch as a certain young lady whom I found very, very, very cool went to a different school--that one across town. The one I made fun of for all of my adolescence: BYU! Suddenly, BYU seemed like a great place to study, and so I applied and (after making the deadline by minutes) was accepted on a trial basis for a summer term. I did well and then spent the next five years working on six different majors until I finally settled on Ancient Near Eastern Studies--thanks mostly to Dan Belnap for that. It was his Book of Mormon class in summer 2002 that inspired me to look into learning Hebrew.

Winter 2007 came along and found us (the SANE club) sitting in a class that would be life changing, at least for me. To quote Dr. Seuss, this class went along at a break-necking pace, and yet the professor would begin each class with the refrain, "We're behind!" We would then ride an academic roller coaster in which we would learn about all manner of things having to do with Biblical Studies and the approaches modern scholars take to a study of the texts of antiquity.

Perhaps most impressive to me was the day in which our professor told us he was trying to "scare the hell out of [us], literally." It was a day when we had been discussing Latter-day Saints and biblical academics. It seemed that what he was attempting to get through our hearts and heads was that in this field of study there is more potential for losing our testimonies than in any other academic discipline. This is primarily because in Biblical Studies a large portion of what goes on is the questioning of things considered absolutes and simple facts--a quest which when set upon can at first be shocking.

I'll illustrate with a simple example: The Documentary Hypothesis

If a Latter-day Saint were asked who wrote the first five books of the Bible, they would likely say, "Moses." And why not? The titles to each of the books say that they are the books of Moses, and that is what the Judeo-Christian tradition has taught for thousands of years. Yet in the last few centuries this assumption has been questioned by students of the Bible from many different backgrounds. The questions began when students noted things in the text that seemed inharmonious with Mosaic authorship, such as the account of Moses' "death" (Latter-day Saints would specify and say "translation") as recorded in Deuteronomy 34. How could Moses be the author of this? Or perhaps even more unlikely, could Moses really have been the author of this verse?
(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
Numbers 12:3

These types of questions were followed by hundreds more, and many theories have been put forth attempting to answer them. The widely accepted view today among scholars is that the five books of Moses, as they are often called, or the Pentateuch, were written by four different people/groups of people over the course of a few centuries, and ultimately put together to form the Pentateuch. This theory is called The Documentary Hypothesis. These four "sources" as they are called have been determined by stylistic analysis and other features which seem to distinguish the uniqueness of each source. They each have a particular voice, a way of viewing deity, certain names they use for God, ways of portraying the individuals they are writing about, and emphases in general. All in all (and in general terms) the Documentary Hypothesis is rather convincing, and on the surface seems formidable for those who "believe the Bible to be the word of God" (Article of Faith 8). Could it be that Moses is not really the author of the Pentateuch? But that would mean questioning a central fact in our faith! Or would it?

The thing with traditions is that they are just that: traditions. Nowhere in the Pentateuch is there any indication that Moses is in fact the author of these books. We ought to be careful telling the Bible what it is and what it isn't when it does not make such claims itself. The closest thing is found in Numbers 33:2 in which it is noted that Moses did indeed keep a record of the journeyings of the Israelites, but it does not say that the book of Numbers is that record. If anything the sense is that the book of Numbers is a retelling of what Moses originally wrote. And so it could well be. Do I, personally, believe that Moses kept a record? Yes. And I think Latter-day Saints have a pretty pristine version of the first part of this record in the Pearl of Great Price. (Incidentally, the Lord told Moses something about what would happen to his writings over the course of time in Moses 1:40-41.) But the book of Moses, though similar to the opening chapters of Genesis, is so different that it does not harm my testimony at all to consider that what is in the Bible is not so much original Moses stuff, but his story retold by others later.

Perhaps what is most concerning to many are the conclusions many of the scholars who come up with these theories propose, such as: If Moses did not write the Pentateuch, there was no Moses, no actual Exodus, and the story of the Bible is fiction. I think that is going way too far. In fact, here is my point. For a Latter-day Saint, the idea that a book was formed by someone taking the writings of many different people from different time periods and putting them together to form a sacred work of scripture is as familiar as the words, "And now I Mormon . . . speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi" (Words of Mormon 1, 3). The Book of Mormon is in very fact what scholars are claiming, much to the chagrin of millions of believing Jews and Christians, the Bible is: namely, a book taken from lots of records and formed by others centuries after the events took place. And to use the methodologies the scholars do to determine that there are multiple authors to books of the Bible, we can indeed conclude the same thing about the Book of Mormon--there are multiple authors. They each have their own personalities, styles, and ways of viewing the world and events. In other words, the Book of Mormon could not have been fabricated by one man, but is the product of many different individuals, a claim that the book makes throughout!

In a very superficial way, I have thought about this and other methodologies that scholars use to study the Bible, and have seen how a careful reading of the text of the Book of Mormon in the way the Bible is read, we can see that the Book of Mormon comes out as exactly what its authors claim it is, and the Bible turns out to be not necessarily what tradition claims it is, but something that we can still trust as the word of God. Indeed, as Nephi saw in vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon establishes the truth of the Bible in so many ways! (see 1 Nephi 13:38-40)

So I guess I am a long way from a tiny place near the beach in Southern California, and I couldn't be happier. I will forever be grateful for my BYU education.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Someday I Will

Eventually I'm going to tackle the issue of source criticism and my views of it concerning the Book of Mormon in general. I really look forward to doing that, but I need to wait until I know I have enough time to take care of it.

Right now it's nearly 8:00 am and I just know that Morgan will wake up soon, which will mean my time at the computer will end...

Above is a wonderful picture of Morgan from last Thursday. As the sun was setting we were playing in the backyard. Morgan was busily sweeping the lawn with a big push broom (that is one of his prime responsibilities) and Joshua was in the very back of the yard with the hose making a rather large mud puddle. Suddenly Morgan decided he was really interested in what his big brother was doing and toddled to the back of the yard and within three or four minutes looked like this. I ran inside to grab the camera and get a picture of my little Huck Finn--isn't he just adorable?

The other above picture I am using so I can put it on my profile... this is from Easter. I can't find that beautiful argyle sweater vest--I hope it will turn up somewhere. I wanted to wear it to church this last Sunday--dang!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tender Mercies

A few years ago Elder Bednar gave a talk in conference that a lot of people really liked. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the title of this talk used by more than one seminary student during my year and a half experience of teaching here in Utah Valley. On the last day of class at Lone Peak High School I had the students each stand up and share their favorite scripture with the class. One young lady stood up and introduced her verse by saying that this passage of scripture was a tender mercy in her life. This, I'm guessing, came from Elder Bednar's talk, which was entitled "The Tender Mercies of the Lord."

Here is a link to the talk:,5232,23-1-520-33,00.html

Incidentally, it is my prediction that in the next while (could be a few years yet)Deseret Book will publish a collection of Elder Bednar's talks and the book will be called one of two things: Tender Mercies or In the Strength of the Lord. But since I didn't get the Editorial Assistant job at Deseret Book I cannot say for sure, because I don't have the inside scoop.

Elder Bednar begins his talk relating what it felt like during his first General Conference as a newly sustained member of the Twelve. Just before he addressed the world-wide audience the intermediate hymn was sung: "Redeemer of Israel." This comforted him in his anxiety to speak to the millions of church members and he thought of a verse from 1 Nephi 1 in which Nephi asserts that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen because of their faith. Elder Bednar considered the singing of this hymn a tender mercy from the Lord...

That hymn has been a tender mercy in my life as well. One experience in particular was a ZLC meeting in the basement of the mission home in East Lansing, Michigan. The Spirit was poured out on that occasion as a small group of missionaries stood and sang with President and Sister Church that marvelous hymn.

But the tender mercy I wanted to post about is Jack Johnson. The other day I was feeling rather low about not having been hired to teach seminary, and I was teaching a group of prospective seminary teachers in my mind (this is really pitiful, but since I'm not teaching any actual classes I have to do it in my head). I was telling them that most of them would not get hired, and if they felt like me about it, it could well be a partial fulfillment of what Joseph Smith said about everyone being tested like Abraham. Then I told them that what they did for a living really didn't matter, but what really did matter was the person they would (or already had) take to the temple and make eternal covenants with. This was a wonderful sermon to myself, but I was still feeling kind of poopy about the whole thing, but when I went to bed Jessica (the most sacred and glorious tender mercy of my life) had her iPod on and gave me one of the ear phones. We went to sleep that night listening to Jack Johnson's song "Better Together." It was exactly what I needed... a very firm confirmation that "Love is the answer at least for most of the questions in my heart. Why are we here? Where do we go? How come its so hard?... It's always better when we're together." etc.

So my goal is to stop whining inwardly about what could have been and notice the tender mercies all around--and if I'm ever having trouble I can always turn on some of that wonderful melodic and peace-bringing JJ.

My First Blog

First of all: an explanation for the title of my blog...

As a missionary for the LDS church a few years ago, I was serving in Lansing, Michigan (a wonderful place) and one of the members of the church out there left us a message on our answering machine which began, "Elder Stake-n-Shake and Elder Holdinator!" So that's that.

OK, so the reason I wanted to start this blog in the first place was catalyzed by something I read yesterday. I picked up the book Discourses of Wilford Woodruff and started reading from the beginning. Before I got past the first page I came across something that caught me off guard, and it also reminded me of sitting in a Doctrine and Covenants class at BYU a few years ago...

This is what I read:
If there was a point where man in his progression could not proceed any further, the very idea would throw a gloom over every intelligent and reflecting mind. God Himself is increasing and progressing in knowledge, power, and dominion, and will do so, worlds without end. It is so with us. We are in a probation, which is a school of experience.

Now, granted, this passage was selected by G. Homer Durham from the Journal of Discourses, so it was not something that Elder Woodruff (not President at this time, the date is December 6, 1857) personally wrote down, but is recorded as saying. However, it seems rather explicit and difficult to miss the point of it.

So, my first response was the same as when I heard a BYU religion professor, who shall possess perfect anonymity here, teach the same thing in the context of D&C 130:9 -10 which talks about those who are on the earth in its celestial state and how they will be able to look down into the surface of the earth which will be as a sea of glass, or a really big urim and thummim, and will be able to discern anything concerning lower kingdoms; they will also possess their own personal white stones by which they can learn individually concerning higher orders or kingdoms. This professor then concluded that if we, in the celestial kingdom, will be able to learn things about higher orders, that God must be doing the same: learning about higher orders and kingdoms than He Himself enjoys and possesses.

As a student in his class I was shocked at this doctrine. Particularly because of a rather popular talk among Latter-day Saints that was given on the campus of BYU in June of 1980. The talk was given by none other than Elder McConkie, and it was entitled The Seven Deadly Heresies. For those not familiar with the talk, Elder McConkie lists seven "popular" doctrines that are taught in the church that he says are utterly false. The first of these is the above stated doctrine, namely, that God is still progressing in knowledge. He said (but this was not in the version published in print) that any who believe this "have the intellect of an ant and the understanding of a clod of miry clay in a primordial swamp." Incidentally, Elder McConkie also notes that God has been ruling in the heavens for "almost 2,555,000,000 years." I have to admit, that as a missionary I thought that must have been an unpublished revelation and could not wait to tell people how long God had been God--but that's the miracle of this work, right? That 19 year-old boys all zealous about learning odd and amazing tidbits of information bear the work of the ministry...

Anyway, I also turned to Elder McConkie's father-in-law, Joseph Fielding Smith to see what he had to say about this subject in Doctrines of Salvation. Not surprisingly, I found that he addressed this very thing in the opening pages of volume 1, specifically pp 7-10. He says, in effect, first that we cannot teach such a thing because there has never been a revelation stating this explicitly, then states that God's perfection is not relative. "I believe that our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ are perfect. I offer no excuse for the simplicity of my faith." He then cites a number of scriptural passages which say that God knows all things.

So why bring all this up? I really don't know, but it seemed like something to "blog" about. In the future I plan on blogging about all sorts of things--this will be just kind of what is on my mind: a journal for anyone who cares to read it. Should be fun.