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Friday, May 30, 2014

264: TOO MUCH ZEAL and NOT ENOUGH PATIENCE


This morning I woke up with images in my head from the symbolic book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The story centers around Willy Wonka, a chocolate factory inventor who hid five Golden Tickets inside the chocolate Wonka Bars. The finders of these special tickets were given a full tour of his factory for the day, and a chance to inherit Wonka's factory plus a lifetime's supply of chocolate.  

The first to win a ticket was an exceedingly overweight and greedy child who loves to eat chocolate. He ate so many Wonka bars a day that he found a ticket with ease, after almost swallowing it. Symbolically this boy represents the sin Gluttony — always eating far too much, and ultimately 'losing' Wonka's competition in the factory by falling into the chocolate river whilst trying to drink it.

The next to find the golden ticket was a girl from a wealthy family who demanded a golden ticket from her father, who bought thousands of boxes of bars so his daughter could have what she wanted. She represents Greed, always wanting things on her timetable. She ultimately 'loses' in the factory by falling down a trash chute after trying to capture one of Wonka's special squirrels, even after being told she can't have one.

Another golden ticket winner was a competitive girl who has an obsession with chewing gum competitively. She represents Pride. She belittles Charlie and calls him a loser, and boasts about all of her achievements. She arrogantly tries Wonka's 3-course dinner chewing gum and inflates into a giant blueberry. Her pride and desire to 'win' cost her place in the factory.

The fourth winner was a boy obsessed with watching television, and doesn't even like chocolate. He systematically worked out where the fourth golden ticket would be, allowing him to only buy one Wonka bar. He represents Sloth, but also represents Wrath, as he is an angry child who loves violence.

I heard that there were originally seven children to win the golden tickets, but this was later shortened to five. (Perhaps the "other" golden ticket winners had vices like Impatience, Haste, Zeal, and Envy.) 

Charlie is the last one who wins a golden ticket. He is desperately poor. He passes Wonka's loyalty test after almost failing, and eventually wins the competition and the factory. With his grandfather, Charlie enters into a multi-dimensional glass elevator which flies out of the factory. As they soar over the city, Willy Wonka tells Charlie that his prize is not just the chocolate but the factory itself; the Golden Ticket search was created to help Wonka find an honest child worthy to be his heir. Charlie and his family will live in the factory and take over its operation when Wonka retires.

I share this well known story since I think each of us have vices that keep us from inheriting all that the Father has. We tend to have too much zeal, and not enough patience... too much pride, and not enough humility, too much sloth and not enough effort, too much greed and not enough selflessness... too much attraction to the sensationalism.. and not enough stability.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

263: NEW MEDIA FOR HASTENING THE WORK

Below is photo of an advertisement that appeared in last Sunday's Deseret News. A collection of past songs sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has now been compiled and sold. It is being advertised as "INSPIRATION FOR HASTENING THE WORK."   The CD's are not cheap, the retail price is $39.98. It is being promoted for all missionaries now leaving on their missions. Since mission rules only allow the missionaries to listen to either the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or classical music, it makes a wonderful gift. If you act now,  these CD's are on a promotional sale at Deseret Book. You can get 4 dollars off of the $39.98 retail price plus discount tickets to Lagoon.
 
  
 
ON SALE NOW:
Buy the CD Soundtrack for 35.98 (save 4.00 off the retail price of 39.98) LINK

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 Also:
 
COMING TO A THEATRE NEAR YOU:
 
MEET THE MORMONS: THE MOVIE



A new movie has been produced by the Church entitled  "MEET THE MORMONS". Not only will it be shown at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, but coming this fall, the movie will be released in select theaters nationwide. The movie has been under production for the past 4 years and is currently being prescreen to audiences including Church authorities, employees and their families.  The Church hopes that there will enough demand that the movie will also be picked up and available for viewing on Netflix.

From the lds.org is the following article about the movie:

"Do you sometimes find yourself wishing there was a simple way to let others know that Latter-day Saints are just normal people who find purpose and direction as they focus their lives on Jesus Christ? That’s what a documentary movie soon to be released by the Church will help you to do.

Meet the Mormons starts with a lighthearted look at how members of the Church are often misperceived by others. Then it introduces six families, each sharing personal experiences and describing how the gospel helps them in their lives. Those featured include:

  • The Bishop: Jermaine Sullivan and his wife, Kembe, from Atlanta, Georgia, USA, work to create unity in a diverse community while raising their three young sons.
  • The Coach: Ken Niumatalolo, the head coach of the U.S. Naval Academy football team in Annapolis, Maryland, USA, and his wife, Barbara, with the support of their children and the coaching staff, keep the Sabbath day holy.
  • The Candy Bomber. Gail Halvorsen, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, and his wife Lorraine, 90, from Amado, Arizona, USA, remind children of the value of service. Still a pilot, Brother Halvorsen drops candy from an airplane as he did during the Berlin Airlift following the war.
  • The Fighter. Carolina Marin, a kickboxer from San José, Costa Rica, and her trainer and husband, Milton, balance their roles as spouses and parents of young children with their love of competition.
  • The Humanitarian. Bishnu and Mangala Adhikari, of Kathmandu, Nepal, honor the beliefs and heritage of their homeland. Brother Adhikari is an engineer who has built roads, schools, and clean water systems that have blessed many small communities.
  • The Missionary Mom. Craig and Dawn Armstrong and their son Anthony, from Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, tell how Sister Armstrong was a homeless single mother when she met the missionaries. The gospel they shared helped her to turn her life around. She later married Craig, and the story comes full circle when Anthony goes on a full-time mission to South Africa to share the gospel that so blessed his mother.

Meet the Mormons will be shown in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, and at other locations yet to be determined." LINK


Sidenote:

How we as members are viewed  around the world is very important to the Church, especially amongst the hot-topics with minority groups. (Blacks and Women regarding the Priesthood)  The six featured stars of the film were specifically selected to change these "misperceptions". For example, the Bishop holding high priesthood leadership position in the  movie is Afro-American who lives in Georgia.  The Fighter is a female who is a professional kickboxer. The Missionary Mom is a homeless single mother whose child out of wedlock serves a mission to South Africa.

The way that things are accelerating in the county, it's my opinion if the Church were to make a sequel to this movie called "Meet the Mormon 2".. we could possibly see one of the stars of the movie touch on the subject of same-sex marriage.

Recently a survey went out to select LDS church members with questions regarding same-sex marriages. Here were a few of the questions that were to be answered with either  Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neither Agree nor Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree.
  1. The Church's position on same-sex marriage is clear to me.
  2. I'm troubled by the Church's position on same-sex marriage.
Next Section:  For each question, please indicate whether you think it represents the Church's position, according to your understanding of Church teachings and policy.

  1. The Church teaches that legalizing same-sex marriage will increase social acceptance of violating the law of chastity.
  2. The Church teaches that legalizing same-sex marriage could seriously interfere with our religious liberty to teach and live our religion.
  3. The Church teaches that same-sex marriage places priority on the desires of adults, whereas marriage between a man and a woman places the highest priority on the needs of the children.
  4. On January 9, 2014, The First Presidency sent a letter to Church leaders about same-sex marriage. Were you aware of this letter? Yes or No
  5. Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statement: I have personally experienced harassment, discrimination, or other social or economic costs because of the Church's opposition to same-sex marriage.
  6. Which of the following, if any, have you consulted to learn about the Church's position toward same-sex marriage over the past year? (First Presidency Letter, Lds.org, Church meetings, discussions)

There were more questions on the LDS survey regarding on same-sex marriage topic including  if you know or have close acquaintances with anyone involved in such relationships/attractions. We live in interesting times of "Hastening the Work". Not sure if the "work" is being hastened or if we are just hastening the "ripening".

Friday, May 16, 2014

262: EXPERIENCING BOTH THE LIGHT AND DARK

The restoration began with a young boy going into nature, alone, and kneeling in a sacred space. He doesn’t get an audience with the Lord until after he has an audience with the adversary. Thick darkness gathered around him and he seems to be doomed to destruction.

The thick darkness included a battle. He was exposed to the adversary, the enemy of his soul. It most likely was a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual battle.

Moses on the mount had a similar experience of being exposed to the adversary when he had his audience with the Lord.  Lucifer shows up and says Worship me.. and Moses says, Where is your glory?.. you are darkness to me. That probably has nothing to do with whether or not the appearance of Lucifer isn’t attractive or isn’t an image with a countenance that seems pleasant.

In fact, it is quite possible that the appearance of Satan is beautiful and one would say it was a God before you. The reason why Moses says.. you are darkness to me is because, not that Satan looks wretched, but because he is inviting Moses to divert his attention  and wants to deceive him.

I believe that we all will be deceived at some time and have our attention diverted. It happens everyday in this dark world in which we live. In addition to our toxic environment,  we have a tendency as humans to look to others or to an institution for our salvation. While prophets and messengers from the Lord are important and to listen to the divine message, we are not to elevate or place them on a pedestal  And while a divinely established institution is essential, and is basically a large net drawing in all manner of fish. Yes, it is part of what the Lord promised in the last days, however, it can almost become more a hindrance than a help after you have been brought into the net… especially if you are micro managed by the leaders and stop seeking for further light and knowledge.


Addendum: I wanted to share this song that I just heard.

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

261: MINISTERING TO OTHERS

I wanted to share some of these thoughts and post on Mother's Day but was so worn out from trying to do half of what my wife normally does everyday.. (getting the kids up, making breakfast, getting them ready, making dinner, cleaning the house, taking care of our high maintenance "caboose"  etc etc).... that I haven't had the energy nor the time. So grateful to my wife and her example of how to ministers to others, to our children, and to me. A mother's ministering role is a daunting task.

A few years ago I wrote down some notes during a conversation with a friend.  I have felt prompted to now share a few of those thoughts in this post.

Satan invites us to take our eyes off the things that will led us back into the presence of God. Instead he would prefer that we worship someone or something else. Clearly the adversary wants to misled and deceive to take us on a detour. The adversary is a cunning, deceitful being who seek the misery of all mankind. We most likely will not meet the Lord without having been weathered through some adversarial opposition, nor will we be trusted with the things of God, until we have remained faithful to Him at all costs.

Because the work of God is to save souls... so those who follow Him need to be about their Father’s business which is saving souls. To be about the business of accumulation blessings for yourselves at the expense of the salvation of humanity is ungodly. It is actually Satanic. The idea to aspire to, and accumulate for yourselves great blessings from Heaven for the purpose of exalting yourself is repugnant to Him.. because that is what Lucifer does.

The idea of submitting, sacrificing, and giving your life up in order to help and benefit and bless others with no thought of what is in it for you other than a painful course of suffering and misunderstanding. The one thing that is clear from scriptures is that the Savior was misunderstood. He was misunderstood by His enemies as well as His friends. The religious leaders at the time accused Him of being a sinner, a devil. He was misunderstood by His friends and family and even His disciples.  They thought He was going to accomplish His mission in a different way than He did. They didn't understand that He would be sacrificing Himself on an altar. And they were shocked when that was the end of His mission. They tried to divert Him. Peter at one point said...Let’s establish your kingdom right here, right now. And in response, the Lord says to his chief apostle "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's"

All of our hearts will be exposed, and our desires whether Godlike or not will be exposed. We will  not get to the point that we want.. or need to, without being Godlike… which is self-sacrificing, selfless, and concerned about the salvation of the souls of men.

 That requires us to minister.. and not self-promote.

Ministering naturally happens in a family situation and comes naturally to woman. To minister
means in essence drawing on the power of God and Godliness. But is has a vastly larger meaning than the way in which we interpret it. It is a priestly advent, act, ordinance for a man and a woman to come together and there to be conception of a child. It is ministering for the woman to nurture her baby in the womb and bring the child forth and to present a new life in this world. It is ministering for the woman to shed blood in the process of bringing new life in the world.

On the one hand, everything is winding down in this world, things are falling apart, decaying, and turning back into dust, and on the other hand, there is a small driving creative force that is renewing life. We have death and destruction on one side.. and life and creativity to balance it out.

 A mother holding a baby sleeping in her arms is a pure form of ministering. In the universe of that child, the baby feels the security of heaven. The human mother is acting in a Godlike manner. It is not limited to human. I have over the past few weeks be noticing a mother Robin ministering to her three small baby birds. Here are a few more photos taken outside our bedroom window. Each image is symbolic and had been a beautiful gift given to me to learn and to be taught by Him.

  
 

  

 


Friday, May 9, 2014

260: THE FATAL SHIFT: Leaders to Managers… Shepherds to Sheepherders.

 
In fall of 1983, Hugh Nibley gave a controversial  commencement address at the Brigham Young University. He was the professor emeritus of ancient scripture at the time. The speech was so controversial,  FARMS (BYU's Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) did not want this speech included in the compilation book, "The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley". 

His speech was entitled Leaders to Managers, The Fatal Shift.  He began his speech by saying, "Twenty-three years ago today, if you will cast your minds back, on this same occasion I gave the opening prayer in which I said: "We have met here today clothed in the black robes of a false priesthood . . ."

Here are a few more excerpts from his speech that I think are important to read and compare it to our situation today.

“Leaders are movers and shakers, original, inventive, unpredictable, imaginative, full of surprises that discomfit the enemy in war and the main office in peace. For managers are safe, conservative, predictable, conforming organization men and team players, dedicated to the establishment."

"The leader, for example, has a passion for equality. We think of great generals from David and Alexander on down, sharing their beans or 'maza' with their men, calling them by their first names, marching along with them in the heat, sleeping on the ground, and first over the wall. For the manager, on the other hand, the idea of equality is repugnant and indeed counterproductive. Where promotion, perks, privilege, and power are the name of the game, awe and reverence for rank is everything, the inspiration and motivation of all good men." 

"Managers do not promote individuals whose competence might threaten their own position; and so as the power of management spreads ever wider, the quality deteriorates, if that is possible. In short, while management shuns equality, it feeds on mediocrity."

"On the other hand, leadership is an escape from mediocrity. For the qualities of leadership are the same in all fields, the leader being simply the one who sets the highest example; and to do that and open the way to greater light and knowledge, the leader must break the mold. “A ship in port is safe,” says Captain Hopper, speaking of management; “but that is not what ships were built for,” she adds, calling for leadership. True leaders are inspiring because they are inspired, caught up in a higher purpose, devoid of personal ambition, idealistic, and incorruptible.”

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In my opinion, there are very few leaders in the world, and unfortunately we are inundated with an over abundance of managers.



Above is a recent photo taken at the Vatican. It is beautiful bronze statue of Christ, the Good Shepherd. He holds in his arms a small lamb who lovingly looks up at Him. Following closely behind are those sheep who hear His voice. The flock consists of the male rams, female ewes, and little lambs. It is interesting that Christ is barefoot and not wearing any fine attire, but a simple robe. He also holds a staff rod, symbolic of His power.. but does not weld it.

A friend of mine recently pointed out the difference between a Shepherd and a Sheepherder. For example a shepherd cares about his sheep, while the sheepherder gets paid and cares about himself. A Shepherd is a leader, while the sheepherder is one who drives. The Shepherd goes in front of the sheep and they follow, a sheepherder drives the sheep or commands the sheep.  A Shepherd holds his staff  in his hand as a symbol of His power. A Sheepherder uses a stick as a sign of his authority and welds it to control the sheep.

In thinking about this some more, the thought came that Sheepherder usually use dogs to help herd and keep the sheep in order. The sheepdogs are trained to act on the sound of a whistle or word of command is given by the sheepherder. All herding behavior of these dogs is a modified predatory behavior. Through selective breeding, trainers have been able to minimize the dog's natural inclination to treat cattle and sheep as prey while simultaneously maintaining the dog's hunting skills, thereby creating an effective herding dog. There are a few efficient ways that the sheepdogs effectively keep the sheep under control. One way is for the sheepdog to stay in the rear and they typically nip/bite at the heels of the sheep. Another way if for the sheepdog who stays consistently in the front or head of the animals to turn or stop the sheep's movement, not allowing the sheep to go past them. Other ways is for the sheepdogs to use their loud, deep bark to control and maintain the sheep through intimidation.

Christ makes the point that He is not a sheepherder, but rather He says, "I am the good Shepherd."

One point of interest is that the word "flock" in Greek literally means "the group that's moving forward" or "the group that is moving up." Herds, or flocks, are always moving, it doesn't matter which direction, but they are always "moving forward."

Christ is the Shepherd of those moving forward. Those moving forward hear His voice. He calls them His own, and He leads these very ones forward. They follow Him. Where He has already gone, they go.  The Good Shepherd places at risk his own soul, in behalf of those moving forward. It is He, the Master Shepherd, that we are to follow, not the paid sheepherder with his sheepdogs.

Monday, May 5, 2014

259: A NEW BEGINNING: A LIVING PARABLE IN "REALTIME"


On the South East corner of our house, we have an aspen tree. It is a columnar aspen which can grow very tall, and very fast. It has now reached close to the height of 40 feet. A few years ago, the growth of the tree began to slow down.  We then noticed that some of the branches were beginning to die. Each year there have been more and more dead branches until finally this year, the aspen tree is completely dead.   Because aspen trees have very shallow roots they usually don't survive unless they receive plenty of water and nutrients to sustain their height and quick growth.
 
Our Columnar Aspen tree on the southeast corner of our home.
 When we first moved into our home, every year a red robin would build it's nest in this aspen tree.  We had a great view of the nest from our second story bedroom window. However, once the tree's branches began to die and without leaves to offer protection, privacy and safety,  the robin stopped building a nest. It has been almost 3- 4 years since the robins have built a nest in the tree.
 
 
 
 
A few weeks ago, I happened to look out our bedroom window and to my surprise, there was a new nest with 3 blue robin eggs in the upper branches of  our dead tree. This new nest is completely exposed to the elements and lacks the protection, shade and security that a living tree with leaves provides.  The symbolism of seeing three eggs together in one nest has had a profound personal impact on me. It has given me hope in a new beginning, a new dispensation of life, a new start despite being located in a dead tree that will need to be cut down soon.
 
 
 
 
 
Every day this week I have looked out our window to see the mother robin patiently sitting on her eggs. Through rain, high winds and storms, the mother robin remained steadfast in protecting and nurturing the eggs.  I watched in amazement and respect as the hail from a freak hailstorm pelted her with large icy hailstones. The pellets piled up all around her, yet there she stayed, immovable.



 
 
Early this Saturday morning, the robin eggs hatched. The hard egg shell finally cracked, and with their beak's, the birds pecked open the shell that once surrounded them to keep them safe. Without the shell, they are truly vulnerable, exposed and “naked”. It is a new day, a new birth, a new beginning for them. 
 

 
 
During this time of precarious situation when a predator could come and eat the baby birds, the father robin stays in the upper branches and keeps a watchful eye of protection while the mother robin finds food and brings back to feed the tiny babies.
 
 

 
 Unable to fully open their eyes and see, the baby birds listen for their mother. When they hear her, they stretch their little heads and necks and look heavenward. They open their mouth wide to be feed, completely dependent on their survival until they grow the necessary feathers to then fly. Once they have grown the necessary feathers to fly, they will then leave the nest, and be able to find the food themselves provided freely by their Creator.

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