Thursday, August 27, 2009

Talk about Proclaiming the Gospel

This is a talk I have prepared to give in Sacrament Meeting this Sunday. Since it is public anyway, I decided to post it here.

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Talk on the subject of “Proclaiming the Gospel”
30 August, 2009

When this world was first formed, our Heavenly Father created two beloved children: a son first, followed by a daughter. God taught Adam and Eve the gospel and joined them together in celestial marriage through His priesthood power. The earth began with a perfect pattern of faithful, obedient children who were taught and believed God’s plan of salvation, and who where joined together as an eternal family.

After their temptation, fall and necessary separation from God, Adam and Eve began their journey into the unknown world, where they had to rely on faith, rather than sight. But our loving Heavenly Father didn’t leave them alone; He sent angels to minister to them and teach them.

Adam and Eve were baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide them throughout their long separation from God here in mortality. And God provided a Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, to rescue them from sin and death and to remove every other obstacle that they would encounter, so that this temporary separation from God, which was a necessary part of their progression, might someday come to an end. God’s design from the beginning was to reclaim all of His children who would choose to return. None were to be left out of His plan.

In Moses chapter 5 we read:
9 And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.
10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
11 And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.

This began the pattern of proclaiming the gospel, which has been a central theme of God’s dealings with His children throughout the history of the world. The first family home evenings consisted of Adam and Eve and their posterity, gathered and discussing the plan they were all engaged in. These were also the first general conferences, because the church in its entirety was simply a family. When they first gathered their family for prayer, the entire population of the earth was united together in faith. Their journals and family histories became the first scriptures. There was nothing to prevent a perpetual state of peace and righteousness that included every member of the human family, except their own disobedience.

We all know that Satan worked very hard and sadly, had some success among Adam and Eve’s children. Thus the work of proclaiming the gospel became a little bit harder. There was resistance. But the grand goal of God’s plan of happiness, to provide the gifts of immortality and eternal life to every one of God’s children who ever has, and ever will live on this earth, remained the same. This goal is the same today, in our day, when only a small fraction of our brothers and sisters know the saving truths of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Adam and Eve were charged with a mission to start the world out right, bringing into existence a family who knew and understood God’s plan. Because of this knowledge, every child of God was able to choose happiness or misery for himself. Our mission today, in the last days of the earth, is similar: we are to do all we can to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to our brothers and sisters living today, providing them with opportunities to hear and accept the truth so that they can also be empowered to choose happiness or misery.

We have been given the gospel in its fullness. This brings both incredible blessings and tremendous responsibilities, including sharing the gospel with others. Only when every member of God’s great human family has been given this opportunity, will His all-encompassing plan be complete. And only when we have done all we can to assist in this great work will we be able to rest at peace, knowing we have done all we could to provide salvation for our family.

To get to that state of peace, it will not be guilt, or even duty, that motivates us to share the gospel. Instead, our motivation and strength will come from an all-consuming love that burns in our hearts because we are family. We will stop seeing the world at large, and even our neighbors close to home, in an “us and them” sort of way. Instead, we will recognize that the same Savior who gave His blood and life to save us from our sins also suffered for every other member of our family here on earth. Just as Adam and Eve wanted all of their posterity to be saved, so will we not be satisfied until every child of God has been given the same opportunity.

We may wonder how we can strengthen these feelings of love for brothers and sisters we don’t know, and even some whom we do know but don’t particularly like. There is a way. It is as sure as any formula that I know of. The way to increase our love for others is to first, come unto Christ ourselves, and second, to serve others. The sons of Mosiah, when they repented, followed this pattern with great success.

In Mosiah chapter 28 we read:
3 Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.
4 And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them, for they were the very vilest of sinners.

We have so many opportunities to serve others, and many, if not most of these, also provide chances to proclaim the gospel. When our motive is love, the fear of opening our mouths and sharing what we know will be replaced by peace and confidence. “Perfect love casteth out all fear.” (Moroni 8:16)

We proclaim the gospel when we live the gospel ourselves. We proclaim the gospel when we teach our children, our immediate families, and our extended families the doctrines of the Lord’s Church. We proclaim the gospel when we magnify our callings in the church and our assignments as home and visiting teachers. We proclaim the gospel when we help prepare our own children, or others’ children, to serve as full-time missionaries. We proclaim the gospel every time we open our mouths and speak up for faith, truth, goodness, optimism, and gratitude in a world that is increasingly faithless, deceived, depressed, pessimistic, and ungrateful.

Each one of us has such great potential for doing good in this world. There is a reason why Heavenly Father sent us to earth now, at this time, and here, in this place. He believes in us. He has entrusted us with the care of His most precious assets, His children.

We read in D&C 18:
10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.
12 And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.
13 And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
14 Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!

I know this scripture to be true; some of the happiest times in my life have involved seeing those I love accept the gospel and receive its blessings.

Growing up in the church, I have not often had the experience of feeling lost and being found. But we recently had an experience that helped me understand just a little bit how our brothers and sisters without the gospel might feel when we reach out to them and share with them what we know and show them the way to happiness.

A few weeks ago my wife and I were in Idaho to celebrate her sister’s wedding with our family. On the morning of the wedding, we were to leave from where we were staying in Idaho Falls about an hour before the wedding, to travel to the Rexburg temple. We both thought we knew the way, having traveled through Rexburg a couple of times in past years. I knew that when we got to the highway, we turned right and drove until we got to Rexburg. What we didn’t realize is that there was more than one possible road to travel.

As we set out, we made the mistake of turning right on the first highway we encountered. We were running just a little behind, and I was driving as fast as I dared. We tried to distract our restless kids by pointing out the beautiful scenery around us: rolling fields of golden hay with forested mountains on either side of the valley. I was a little puzzled when I recognized the Snake River running parallel to the highway, and I wondered why we hadn’t seen any mileage signs for Rexburg yet, but it wasn’t until the road started turning and descended towards the river that I realized--to my horror--that we were on the wrong road.

After verifying our error at a little tourist shop, my wife burst into tears. The wedding was starting in fifteen minutes and we were now thirty minutes out of Idaho Falls, in the wrong direction. We turned around and started back, going faster than ever, but we really didn’t know where we had gone wrong or how to get on the right road. We desperately tried calling my wife's siblings, but we could not hear anything on our cell phone. After several failed attempts to call for help, we realized our phone had been put into headphones mode, probably through random button-pushing by little Charity. We didn’t know how to fix it. We were stuck. It was now 11:00, time for the wedding, and we were still lost. My wife broke into fresh tears.

Then, as an answer to our silent prayers, the phone rang. My wife tried to answer it, but again, no sound. She remembered that there was a speaker phone feature, and by using that, we were able to finally hear the sweet sound of a concerned brother’s voice, calling to find out why we were not with the rest of the family. We knew we were hopelessly too late, since the photographer, the luncheon, and the reception all hinged on a tight schedule for the day. Still, we felt a great deal of comfort knowing that the family was aware of our predicament. My wife told her brother where we were, that we were probably still 45 minutes away from Rexburg, and that they should go on without us and we would eventually find our way there. After heartfelt “I love you’s” from both ends of the phone, she hung up.

Ten minutes later, as we were approaching Idaho Falls, the phone rang again. It was another brother, one who knew the roads, who understood where we had gone wrong, and who was able to give us detailed directions to get us onto the right highway. His step-by-step instructions probably prevented us from getting lost again, we were so frazzled and disoriented by this point. Again, already ten minutes after the wedding start time, my wife asked them to go on without us.

We finally made it onto the correct highway and saw the road signs confirming this. We were about fifteen minutes out of Rexburg when the phone rang again. It was a brother again, checking up on our progress and making sure we knew which exit to take. My wife broke into tears again, and then on the phone came the voice of the sweet, old temple president. He wanted to assure us personally that they would wait to begin until we arrived.

When we got to the temple, all the workers were waiting for us. They ushered our kids into the waiting area and a worker had us run up the back stairway, since that would be faster than the elevator. When we reached the third floor, panting, my wife's sister and her soon-to-be-husband were there, waiting for us with a smile. They embraced their lost sister and brother in a big hug and told us that how glad they were that we had made it and that they never would have gone on without us.

In all, close to “ninety and nine” people waited for us at the temple. The rest of the day we had both old and new family members telling us how glad they were that we made it. This was sometimes mixed with some good-natured ribbing, but never in a resentful way. There was no passing judgment, no rebuke. Our desperation and embarrassment at having been the “lost sheep” gradually melted away to feelings of gratitude and love for those who reached out to us and waited for us, and that in the end, the whole family was together in the temple. We were whole.

I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and that it has been restored in its fullness in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nothing in life matters as much as the salvation of God’s children. It is why we are here. I pray that we will all strive to do our best to keep our covenants and help the mission of the church move forward by proclaiming the gospel to our brothers and sisters who are lost, so that we might rejoice together with them in the celestial kingdom some day. How great will be our joy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ruminations on Baby Diets

It occurred to me tonight, after my 11-month-old daughter Charity refused to eat a pea that was in a spoonful of her baby food, but gladly popped in a small piece of chalk she found while scouring the baseboards, that there is some serious irony in comparing what she will and will not eat. For example, here is a partial list of things she has put (and kept) in her mouth lately:

* Scraps of paper
* Popcorn kernels
* Dust bunnies
* Thread from clothes
* Any toy she can find on the floor
* Shoes
* Socks
* Grass
* Bark
* Twigs
* Sand
* Chalk
* Dried up old pieces of macaroni and cheese that fell on the floor earlier today
* Dirt

And here is a partial list of things she quickly spits out when they find their way into her mouth:

* Peas
* Chunks of carrot
* Broccoli
* Corn
* Green beans

It seems as if her taste buds are trying to tell us something: if vegetables taste worse than dirt, don't you think they were probably never meant to be eaten?

My wife doesn't buy it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Imitation is Great--But THIS?

One of the most enjoyable, ego-stroking parts of being a father to young children is seeing their earnest attempts to imitate me. As Anne Shirley, the fictional orphan of the beloved Anne of Green Gables books so aptly says, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

And flatter me my children do. From the youngest age, they learn to mimic facial expressions, lighting up a whole room when they return a toothless grin, tugging at their parents' heart strings when they repeat back "Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma" and "Da-da-da." In fact, it has not escaped my attention that my eleven-month-old daughter Charity seems to say "Da-da-da" when she is feeling her very happiest. Flattery, oh yes. She seems to understand already who the weaker parent is when it comes to getting one's little way or begging for a special treat.

Charity has recently supplemented her one-syllable-repeating-word vocabulary with some fabulous non-word sounds, a family favorite being her lip-smacking noise that she lets loose when she hears us blowing kisses. Yes, with deep blue eyes at least twice too big for the rest of her body, she is an A-grade kiss-blower.

She has also started doing "raspberry" sounds, much to the delight of her older siblings. She sticks that little pink tongue out and blows with her might, vibrating her whole mouth and sending spittle into the stratosphere. Yes, her siblings are enjoying the flattery of imitation too.

But ultimately, my wife and I set the gold standard for our children's' behavior, as far as imitation goes. With such power of suggestion comes some inherent responsibility, an inconvenient detail I sometimes forget. But I was reminded today as I walked into the kitchen where I had placed Charity in her high chair for lunch. It was just the two of us in the room. She looked eagerly at me, and as I not-so-discretely discharged some gassy buildup from my bowels, she responded with a loud, long raspberry.

Laugh if you want; I sure did.

Yes, imitation is great, but it looks like I've got to start watching my vocabulary.

I Believe in Christ

I believe in Christ; he stands supreme!
From him I'll gain my fondest dream;
And while I strive through grief and pain,
His voice is heard: "Ye shall obtain."

(Bruce R. McConkie, 1915-1985)

This is the verse of the hymn "I Believe in Christ" that explains the deepest reasons for my gratitude for our Savior.

Jesus Christ has done so much for me: He created this marvelous world under our Father's direction and filled it with beautiful things to experience and enjoy. He has called prophets from the days of Adam until these latter days, teaching them how to invite all the rest of us to come unto Him. These prophets have given me specific commandments, suited for this day and time, that allow me to maximize my happiness and avoid Satan's pitfalls.

Jesus Christ condescended to come into this world himself as a baby and grew up among "mortal men, his earthly kin." He showed us a perfect example of how to live under the most difficult of telestial circumstances. He taught us his gospel, full of ideals so lofty that they truly transcend this world and lift the earnest disciple of Christ onto a higher plane. His call is ever upward, beckoning me to reach for celestial heights.

He meekly and willingly endured unimaginable pain in Gethsemane and on the cross to free us from the twin monsters of death and hell. He descended below all things so that he might comprehend all things (D&C 88:6), and be prepared to succor and save me in every condition I might stumble into (Alma 7:12). In so doing, he has freed me from the "woes of sin" and made it possible for me to have hope:

Ether 12:4 -- Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.

His atoning sacrifice for me has placed within my reach the greatest gifts of God, "even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come." (D&C 59:23).

Abinadi called Jesus Christ "the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people" (Mosiah 15:18).

And eternal life, in all it's fullness, is that "fondest dream" that I sing about in the hymn. Only as I have married and become a father myself has the true meaning and infinite value of the phrase "eternal life" started to sink into my soul; only after having tasted the sweet joy and companionship of a woman who means more to me than anyone else in this world; only after experiencing playing a part in giving life to another soul, bringing a precious child of God into this world, and experiencing the love of a father for a child.

My fondest dream is to live a life of peace and joy with my wife and children, my brothers and sisters and parents, and all my other friends and loved ones, in the presence of our Heavenly Father the Lord Jesus Christ; to live with Them and continue on, with my loved ones, in Their divine pattern of eternal living.

Jesus Christ has not only redeemed me, He has redeemed everyone I love. Only through him is it even possible for me to be worthy to hold the sacred priesthood of God, and enter His house to be sealed to my wife and children for eternity. Only through him can I hope to become the type of husband and father I need to be to qualify for the blessings of an eternal family.

Jesus Christ is the center of my faith, the source of my hope, and the divine giver of what charity I have.

Jesus Christ has bridged the gulf between who I am and who I may become some day. He is my Master and Lord, a position he eternally and irrevocably occupies of His own merits alone, but which I gratefully and gladly sustain him in. I believe in Christ, I love him, and I look to him as my personal Messiah.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dwelling Together In Unity

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalms 133:1)

Over the last dozen years or so I have experienced the joy many times of being in the temple with a large group of family, as we have attended together in preparation for missions or marriages. Those experiences are always special and rewarding and give me a glimpse into what eternal life might be like with my whole family intact, in the Celestial Kingdom together.

Last night my wife and I experienced a special temple session just for members of our ward. We had a phenomenal turnout of about 75 people, maybe a little less than half of the adults that we mingle with every week at church. Among them were a handful of couples that my wife and I consider close friends, many more whom we enjoy in our neighborhood and church associations, and even some that for one reason or another we don't interact with often.

There was something refining and exalting about the atmosphere in the Lord's temple that must have softened my heart last night, because as I scanned the room, I felt an affection for all of my neighbors who were there, not just my close friends. It felt like a great privilege, a joyous occasion, to be serving together in such a beautiful place, under such a heavenly influence. I felt a genuine love for them, and a desire to do whatever I can to assist each family in our ward, especially those who weren't present last night, to live faithfully so that we might continue our friendships and associations in the Celestial Kingdom. I felt that brotherly love was so real and alive that I would expect them to feel the same way about assisting me and my family.

As I pondered how much I enjoyed the temple session last night, this scripture came to mind:

And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy. (D&C 130:2)

Based on what I felt last night, dwelling together with both family, friends, and neighbors in unity, with eternal glory coupling the earthly affections we have for them, sounds wonderful. To have the privilege of living forever among such fine people would be, well, heavenly.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Through Children's Eyes: Easy Solutions To Tough Problems

I'm going to do something a little unusual here, which is to publish a story by another author, my maternal Grandpa. He wrote a short autobiography which will probably never see very many eyes outside his own posterity. However, this sweet, unassuming, meek man had an ordinary yet fascinating life and a bit of talent for telling stories, and I am going to share with you one of the gems he recorded, in his own words.

This particular trouble seems, in my estimation, to be newsworthy, but I don't have an exact year to the events (probably around 1918), and have not yet been able to find any newspaper archives containing an independent record of his story.

Lastly, let me point out that we all have memories that attest to the fact that children are particularly talented in both creating and getting out of trouble. Grandpa's contemporaries were no exception. Without further ado, here's Grandpa's own words.

* * *

Irven's Escapade With the Dogs

Our dog Pat had a habit of slipping his collar off over his head. Of course, the license was on the collar. One of the times when the collar was off the dog catcher got him and took him to the pound north of Warm Springs.

Irven, then about nine, and his cousin, Jim Glade, walked to the pound to get the dog back. Upon arriving there they found no one present. The dogs were in an enclosure of heavy wire on all four sides and the top of the enclosure. Not wanting to return home without the dog, they climbed on top of the enclosure and removed the metal plate covering the opening. Irv dropped through the opening into the cage, gathered Pat in his arms and boosted him up through the opening to Jim who reached down and took the dog. Then Irv with Jim's help got back through the opening and placed the plate over the opening.

After jumping down from the cage, they started home. The cage was full of homesick dogs, and you can imagine the racket they were making during all this procedure. As Irv and Jim left the dogs were still barking, "Arf, arf, arf, irf, irf, irf." Irv was so touched at their calling his name that he and Jim returned, climbed to the top of the cage and repeated the previous procedure with each dog.

As they left the pound the dogs' joy at being free was unbounded. They barked continuously and ran in every direction causing quite a commotion. Back of Warm Springs and up Wall Street Irv and Jim went with dogs all around them. Housewives came out of their doors, mothers called their children home, and gates and doors were closed against the hoard of dogs.

As they neared the top of Wall Street, none of the dogs had left to find their ways to their homes. Things began to look serious to Irv and Jim. They could well imagine what would happen if they arrived home with all those dogs. Something had to be done! And quick!! As they crossed the Capitol grounds the solution came to them. Going to the west entrance to the ground floor of the Capitol building, Jim held the door open while Irv with Pat in his arms ran as fast as he could through the building to the east door. All the dogs, still joyous, followed into the building. Then Jim ran to the east door and slipped out, closing the door behind him. Joining Irv and Pat, down the canyon side they went, crossed the canyon bottom and up the other side as fast as frightened legs could carry them.

I was in the kitchen talking to mother when Irv came in with Pat. Irv quickly slipped across the kitchen to the bedroom and closed the door. Mother apprehensively asked, "Now what do you suppose he has done?" Not a sound was heard from the bedroom. After a little mother asked me to see what he was doing. I passed through the bedroom and returned to the kitchen to report, "He and Pat are under the bed." Hours passed before hunger drove him to the kitchen. After eating he promptly returned to the bedroom with Pat and to their haven under the bed.

Neither the boy nor dog left the house for three days. Many inquiries were addressed to him, hut he would not say a word. Their fright was justified. You can imagine what a disturbance twenty ecstatic dogs would make in that dignified building, the well-oiled machinery of State abruptly halting, and the anger of those who had to contend with the turbulent situation. A long time passed before we finally learned the truth.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thank You, Thank You, Sam-I-Am!

Personal inspiration sometimes comes in the most unexpected ways. This point was emphasized to me while I was reading the Dr. Seuss classic "Green Eggs and Ham" to my three-year-old the other night.

Being a father to five children ages nine and under, I spent most of the book sympathising with the grouchy, nameless narrator, as he was pestered relentlessly by Sam-I-Am. Rewinding the day's events in my mind, I could hear myself saying:

"No, you can't have a Popsicle in a box."
"No, you can't eat a pre-dinner candy bar with a fox."
"No, you can't ride your bicycle in the house."
"No, you can't touch that dead mouse."
"No, you can't torture your sister, here or there."
"No, you can't get your way by nagging, NEVER, ANYWHERE!!!"

So it came as a little surprise to me when all of a sudden, at the end of the book, I found the tables turned in my mind, and I became Sam-I-Am.

For reasons unexplained, when I read the last pages of the book where the nameless narrator has a change of heart and cracks a smile of genuine gratitude ("I do so like Green Eggs and Ham. Thank you, thank you, Sam-I-Am!"), I found myself thinking about loved ones that were struggling with various issues. I found myself thinking about friends and co-workers who are not of my faith. I found myself thinking about all the unhappy, nameless narrator figures in the world--millions of them--who are missing out on the highest joys in life, just because they have never had, or taken, the opportunity to taste their first bite of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And I understood why Sam-I-Am was so persistent in his invitation: the Gospel is just too good, and too important, to let the issue rest. We can't afford to give up on anyone.

So we give an invitation to learn the Gospel in our house.
If that doesn't work, we wait a while and then give an invitation to learn it with a mouse.
If still refused, we patiently wait, and then issue and invitation to learn it on a train.
If needed, we wait a while longer, and then invite to learn it in the rain.
And in a car.
And in a tree.
We love our nameless narrators too much; we just can't let them be.

We never give up hope that someday, somehow, even if it takes decades of cumulative, patient, sincere, love-motivated persistence, our friends and family will eventually take their first bite and taste the sweetness of the Gospel.

The narrator's change of heart is complete, so much that he would eat Green Eggs and Ham here or there, say he would eat them anywhere. And the last page of the book shows the two of them standing together and smiling, having shared something great together.

And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! (D&C 18:15)

How true it is. And for your example, Thank you, thank you, Sam-I-Am!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why the Mormon Philosopher?

This was the first post of an abandoned blog I started called "The Mormon Philosopher." I liked some of what I wrote on that blog, so I slurped it into this one when I decided to consolidate.

An excellent question, thanks for asking.

First, because I'm a Mormon, or to use proper nomenclature, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am a Mormon through and through, and in saying so, I am confessing that I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God and the Savior of the world. I love Him; I love His Church; I love His doctrine. The more I drink it in, the more I apply it to my life, the more I live it, the more I love it. The doctrine of Christ has seeped into the very corners of my soul until it has become an inseparable part of who I am.

In confessing this, by no means am I professing to do a great job--or even a very good job--of living the teachings of the Master. But I will say without hesitation that every single principle of Christ's doctrine that I have put to the test and allowed to become part of me has proven to be true, virtuous, and good, without fail. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the gospel of Jesus Christ in a fullness and purity that has not been seen on this globe since Adam and Eve left God's very presence in the garden, and I rejoice that I live in a day when I can experience it.

Second, this blog is a repository for my philosophy. Because I never studied philosophy in college, I wanted to make sure I was using the term properly. Within seconds, the miracle of the Internet yielded this definition:


a: pursuit of wisdom
b: a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means
c: an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs


I think all three of these definitions suit the theme of this blog quite nicely. This blog, of course, is in no way sponsored or endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; it is merely the thoughts and ramblings of one of its devoted members who is trying to take the lofty principles of truth and light taught therein and apply them to his life.

I welcome your thoughts and questions, with a few conditions. I'm not interested in arguing, or being told I'm wrong and am going to hell, or having someone else define my beliefs for me (after all, I happen to already know what I believe). For that reason, I will moderate comments on this blog, should anyone actually venture to post one.

I am interested in honest and open-minded responses to or questions about my thoughts and beliefs, made by persons who will actually make an attempt to understand the inner-workings my little brain. I don't ask anyone to agree with me, but if you are going to take the time to write a comment and want me to take the time to respond, I ask that you be sincere and respectful. I will try to do the same in all of my ramblings herein.

With all that explanation and disclaimer out of the way, let me say that I'm so glad you stopped by.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

There are Monsters Everywhere

This was the first post of an abandoned blog I wrote called "There are Monsters Everywhere." I've since decided to lump all my blog entries into two buckets: My Wife Rules, and Matt's Scratch Pad.

I have had a blast writing My Wife Rules over approximately the past year. However, from time to time I would find myself attempting to sort of shoehorn in stories about my kids that, if I were completely honest with myself, had little to do with my wife.

But without my wife, I wouldn't have any kids, I would tell myself, which represents some pretty darn shrewd thinking. But still, in order to preserve the original intent of My Wife Rules with greater purity, to form a more perfect onion, ensure access to domestic tranquilizers, provide for the common cold, etc., etc., I do hereby establish this new blog, There are Monsters Everywhere.

The name comes from one of those little incidents that all parents experience in such rapid succession day after day that it may take months or sometimes years for the throwaway silt to be separated out from the true gems that somehow end up lodged in our memories for good.

It's not much of a story, really. I was just exiting my bedroom into the common nook at the end of the hall, which we share with the nursery and our boys' room. Suddenly my three-year-old burst out of his door, brandishing a miniature, bright-red chainsaw given to him by an adoring uncle that emits fairly realistic noises (the chainsaw, not the uncle, though he emits fairily realistic noises too). His sun-bathed blond hair was protruding wildly in every direction, reminiscent of Hobbes' faithful comrade Calvin, and a wild, wide look was in his eyes, which were magnified by miniature, matching bright-red safety goggles.

He squeezed the trigger on the chainsaw, and the little chain rattled around the perimeter of the saw as the speaker emitted sounds worthy of felling the very Cedars of Lebanon (gotta love modern electronics). He struck out wildly in every direction for foes unseen and then, with a gruff attitude through gritted teeth exclaimed, "There are monsters everywhere!!!"

And I kind of have to agree with him, having been a boy once myself. I'm not talking about the all-too-real monsters, such as billionaire despots who murder their captive subjects or fund managers who rob their investors blind. I refer to the fancied fables fabricated in the minds of children who are, as yet, unspoiled from the world; the whimsical and strangely beautiful products of pure imagination that are as entertaining and endearing as they are threatening.

I'm talking about the shivers we used to give ourselves by repeating ghost stories. I'm talking about the enemy we used to shoot down, always in the next yard over, which provided ample excuse to climb the fences. I'm talking about the Tyrannosaurus Rex that every two-year-old boy stores under his pillow for safe-keeping, and oh by the way, just in case he ever needs a powerful ally with death mandibles full of six-inch long, razor-sharp teeth.

But it's more than just monsters. I'm also talking about the magic that is real, if never quite visible; of fairies with translucent wings and magic wands; of pet tigers and pet cheetahs and pirate ships with Jolly Roger sails and sword fights and princess gowns and superheroes.

I'm talking about waking up one morning and noticing that you kind of sort of wish that you had enough courage to talk to that girl at recess after all. Somewhere private, like behind the swings.

I'm talking about waking up one morning and noticing that girls have legs.

I'm talking about every experience of unbridled joy born of pure childhood innocence. Memories preserved in vivid technicolor with Disneyland-like special effects of smells and sounds and sensations that seem all too hard to come by in a grown-up, scheduled, air-conditioned, practical world.

I'm talking about reliving the magic with my own kids.

I have no idea where this blog might meander to, but one thing I do know: it's going to be a lot of fun getting there.