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.