Modicum of Consistency: Dec. 2nd-8th

This Christmas Devotional was quite memorable. After church finished, there were a couple setting aparts that I helped with, and then I rushed to pick up Porter, Emily Whitcomb, Cooper and his date Sarah, to head to Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Joy’s. The extended family was gathered there to celebrate Kayla and Ryan’s wedding, and we were blessed to have Mimi and Grampy visiting. Unfortunately, we were there from only 3-4, then I had to run back to Provo with Porter. He met some friends and headed up with them to SLC, and I picked up my date Megan, and a couple other friends. Then the real fun and logistical challenges started. We went and picked up Andrea. Then headed north 20 miles and picked up Nicole. One more mile up the interstate, and after a few false turns, we were going to turn into a Maverick gas station to pick up Tanner L. We realized at the last second we were in the wrong lane, but as no one was around, I quickly moved left into the turning lane. This left me sticking out into the intersection, so I backed up a bit. We waited for our green turn signal there, and waited, and waited until I figured I needed to back up more to hit the sensor for the light to change. There was apparently no one else around, and I didn’t see anyone behind me, so I hit the gas, going in reverse…and slammed into the car that was in fact behind me. The sickening crunch we heard is a sound I’ll never forget. My heart sank and it was a truly horrible feeling for so many reasons.

I figured we would both be turning into the gas station, but the guy behind got out, and seemed to want to talk then. So I got out, and then I saw my van start rolling away. I hadn’t put the car into park!! The other person definitely must have been thinking, “who is this crazy guy?” My friends inside were yelling for me to get back, and I quickly jumped back in, and put it into park, before telling the guy we’d meet at the gas station. There, we looked over the damage, which involved nothing, not even a noticeable scratch on the van’s backside, but some minor cosmetic damage on the other person’s car. He spoke only spanish, and we were able to communicate ok, but he didn’t want my info, said everything was ok, and seemed ready to leave again. I felt really bad and offered him a $50 amazon gift card I had in my wallet, but he didn’t want anything, and we parted ways. Everything, especially the van rolling away seemed to happen in slow motion and now, very thankful nothing extreme resulted, can only look back and chuckle at the spectacle that must have been. I tend to do (or say) something stupid every week on average. This was so bad, I sure hope it covers me for two!

That whole ordeal set us back further, and we made it to the conference center, late but safe, arriving inside at 6:10. We arrived too late to go to our seats front and center, but at least we made it inside and could enjoy the devotional. After, we walked around looking at nativity sets from around the world, and appreciating the amazing lights. Mimi’s sweater vest, going strong since 2012, kept me warm in the cold weather. And we made it back to Provo without incident, thankfully. Our group shared many sighs of relief, and lots of laughs, thoroughly enjoying the evening. Oh what a night!

Saturday was the funeral for my friend’s dad. He had been suffering from cancer and after being in remission for a time, went quickly downhill starting in August. He died Thanksgiving night. The Shumway family all spoke and they showed amazing resilience and faith. Repeatedly, they have lifted up those who have tried to help them, and have been a true example to me.

After eating lunch, I went with Porter to the Provo Temple. It was great to spend that time with him.

Other highlights of the week included going to book club on Wednesday where we started discussing Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. Friday I made dinner for three and gave two blessings for some ward pals stressed out by big tests coming up. One was taking the LSAT, and I felt his pain, while another was doing her first finals in law school and I didn’t want to know what I have to look forward to!

Elder Rasband in October’s General Conference questioned, “What are the dangers if we cheat a little, slip a little, or do not quite follow through with our commitments?” I know that the stakes are eternally high. There awaits everlasting glory, more wonderful than I think any of us can currently comprehend, if we will follow through on our commitments and obey the commandments. So, here’s the thing, double check your mirrors while driving, but triple check the thoughts you think and the words you say, and especially remember always the covenants and promises you have made, and not only will your actions be good, you will make it through the greatest road trip we’ll ever take, the journey of mortality, and will be able to in a coming day, “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,” (Hebrews 4:16).

 

 

 

 

 

Truly Scrumptious: Nov. 25th-Dec 1st

Monday was the LSAT. Short story: I left the test disappointed knowing that I hadn’t done as well as I wanted. Not terrible, but probably not good enough. I won’t know my official score for another week or two. The drive home was miserable, taking two hours to return from SLC where I took it due to a snowstorm that backed traffic up. Furthermore, the test was taken on a tablet and there were some technical issues that delayed the start of the exam by an hour, which for various reasons really messed with me. So there I was in a kind of sour mood, (and hungry to boot) when I arrived home and received a text from a friend who had signed up to take it at BYU. Turns out they had their own problems, and there was not enough tablets to take the test. So a significant number, including my friend, were turned away. Yes, they’ll get their money back, but are not in good shape otherwise. First, I took the day off of work to do this, and I’m sure some of them did as well. Second, some schools, like BYU, have scholarship deadlines and they won’t meet some of them now. After hearing his tale, I felt extremely grateful that I did have to drive up to the University of Utah. Perspective matters. I committed to trying harder to look for the good in every situation BEFORE I hear from the outside things that will influence my view. Furthermore, while I was Gratitude should be first. Conclusion: I am glad to have taken the test, this week has been much more relaxing having done it, but I decided that the upside significantly outweighs another $200 test fee, and will be signing up to take the next one in January.

Tuesday was work as normal, and then it felt like the holidays started. Porter brought me some books I had asked to be checked out, and I stayed up until almost 1 am reading. Because instead of having to drive to work, they told us (in part due to inclement weather) to stay at home, skype into a meeting from 10-3 and have lunch delivered to you, so you don’t miss anything in the meeting. It was different, and so, so nice. I slept in, ate a nice breakfast, skyped into the meeting and had a burger and fries from 5 Guy’s delivered. And then when the meeting ended at 3, I finally got out of my pajamas. Couldn’t do it everyday, but the change was nice!

Thursday morning (after another wonderful late night of reading) I went out and bought food for Thanksgiving. The one variable I hadn’t foreseen was that all the turkeys are sold FROZEN! I simply never thought about it. So, at 9 am instead of getting ready to cook it, I was scrambling trying to defrost the bird quickly. Everything else went well. We had:

-my famous (ok, its not famous at all, but need to hype it up a little, because it is good) stuffing. I do this in my crockpot, and it is delicious, and easy.

-green bean casserole

-cranberry sauce

-mashed potatoes

-gravy

-rolls

-Pies: chocolate cream, apple, pumpkin, cheesecake.

Supper was scheduled for 2, and we started eating then, and then 16 pound bird was finally ready for us at 3:20.

A couple people didn’t end up making it, so it was Nicklas and William from the ward, and Porter, Cooper, and myself.

We ate, and ate. Watched a movie. Read George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. Played Settler’s of Cataan. Life is good 🙂

Before Porter led me on some black friday shopping adventures, I went to Emily K.’s house and she taught me how to make authentic potstickers. It was a fun time, and I’ll put the new knowledge to good use. Now to black Friday. Shopping is something I dislike. Very much. Unless it’s groceries or books, it’s kind of overwhelming. I NEED to have all the information available before I buy anything. All I needed to get was a black suit, but that involved (after weeks of online research) traipsing through the crowded mall (after driving up in another blizzard) and I still left Porter and his friend Parker after 4 hours without having bought anything. We had a really good time though, and it was quite amusing to see those two loving every minute and trying on so many outfits. Porter is my fashion supervisor, as I have no idea what I’m doing, and has helped immeasurably in that regard. Now, I’m only 10 years behind what the cool people wear. After returning home, re-energizing with some more thanksgiving leftovers, I made one final stop, and mission accomplished. I now have a black suit. Not only has it been something I’ve wanted in an effort to follow the brethren, but it’ll be put to good use at Moriah’s wedding at the end of December.

After that ordeal, I helped clean the temple from 10 pm to midnight. We were at the City Center Temple, and I was asked to clean the visitor center rotunda. Every body else was actually inside the temple, and my location was not what I would have chosen, but it was AMAZING. If you’ve never been inside, this is what the rotunda looks like:

When I’ve been before, it’s always been very crowded. As I cleaned inside, it felt like the Savior truly was there. I had the opportunity, completely unbothered by time, in silence, and without any people nearby, to contemplate my relationship with my Savior.

Today, we combined with the 105th and 265th wards, as many people are still out of town. For dinner, we had rolls and turkey soup and it was great to have Cooper, Porter, Michael, Abbey, and Emily over. The night was quite enjoyable.

I asked out Lydia again, and she gently demurred, rejecting my invitation. This coming Sunday is the Christmas Devotional in Salt Lake, and in my opinion, the MOST MAGICAL EVENT EVER. So, I’ll definitely be working towards finding someone for that.

Two thoughts from this week:

First, Jacob 5 has traditionally been my least anticipated chapter in the Book of Mormon. It’s long, and I don’t usually get much out of reading it, due in part to my hurry to finish that chapter off quickly. This week, while reading it, I realized that there is a much more personal application to the master and his vineyard parable. In my life, I am the master. And the chapter outlays perfectly how to handle situations in my life where I need to either cut out or graft in friends, habits, or personal characteristics to make the vineyard productive and be prepared for the Second Coming.

Today also started the Light The World campaign,

https://www.comeuntochrist.org/light-the-world,

with a different act of service emphasized daily leading up to Christmas. I have a strong testimony of service. As I’ve read before, service exalts all, as it humbles the giver and ennobles the receiver. Service helps sanctify us, and as we are sanctified, I testify that “the Lord will do wonders among [us].” (Joshua 3:5). I encourage you to participate in this month of service, and promise that you will draw closer to our Savior and feel of his immense love as you do do.

 

November 18-24: Oh say can you see

This is it. The day to take the LSAT has arrived. Tomorrow at 12:30 pm, I’ll start the 4 hour exam, which will largely determine WHERE I spend the next three years, and HOW I spend the next three years (fingers crossed for some scholarship money). I have to confess that my heart is already beating quicker, and my mind is racing. Yet, how many times have you seen an LSAT score on a tombstone? It simply doesn’t define anything truly important. So while I hope to do my best, and score well, I know that all will turn out well regardless.

How often do we stress over completely unnecessary things?  This was a key takeaway in the middle of this week for me. On Sunday, I volunteered to bake a ham for the friendsgiving happening on Wednesday. Monday, I was given 3, when I had anticipated one. The worry of if all three would fit into the oven, if I would have to leave work early to get them started, etc. was on my mind. Tuesday night, mentally re-arranging my schedule already, I pulled a ham out of the fridge to check the cooking instructions. I turned it around twice not seeing any instructions for anything but the glaze. Right before I googled it, I saw the label, pre-cooked. Of course. How in the world had I forgotten!?!

This week, in elders quorum we went over the conference talk, Deceive me not 

by Elder Stevenson. In it, he talks about recognizing truth and how important it is to not be deceived by the messages that Satan presents. I’m amazed at how influential some of the world’s teaching can be, after you hear it again and again, and are preached these false doctrines from every tv channel, news website, and popular song. The key takeaway for me from Elder Stevenson’s talk was that we are looking beyond the mark, and will stumble if we do not put God first in our lives. As has been said,

if you have not chosen to place the Kingdom of God first, it will not matter what you have chosen instead.

LSAT, school, work, golf, money – I know that none of these can be put first. And if God is first, then all else will work out okay. Even more glorious than I can imagine.

Wednesday was the Friendsgiving. We had a great turnout, about 100 people, and plenty of good food. We met in a nearby chapel, and I ended up playing basketball both before and after.

When I got home, I watched most of the democratic debate.

Thursday was the last day of my lsat class, and I left that (early) to go to institute. It was the right call, and I loved the lesson we had on D+C 29. It’s taught by an older couple, the Lambert’s who shared some of their life experience, and helped the scriptures come to life.

Friday I went on a double date. Eliza and I met Dillon and his date to go to the Bell Concert  at the Tabernacle on Temple Square. Traffic was bad both ways, but we were able to still get seats showing up 20 minutes late. And the entire date lasted almost 5 hours, which is too long in my opinion, especially without any kind of nourishment, but Eliza was a good sport, and helped make the whole night very enjoyable. She also curiously wanted to talk about politics a lot, which isn’t something I have done on a first date in my memory (we were of one mind concerning immigration, but differed radically in nearly everything else). She’s studying neuroscience and economics at BYU and returned from her mission in the Philippines in March.

 

I had a friend, Glenn, invite me to the Utah Symphony with some of his friends Saturday night. Then, at around 4, Glenn bailed but said the ticket was mine still, and I could bring someone for his. There wasn’t much time to prepare, so I asked Nicklas, my danish friend, if he wanted to go, and he jumped at the idea. We left at 6, and met the other people in Glenn’s group at Abranavel Hall in Salt Lake City. The repertoire included Mozart’s 20th Piano Concerto, which was a dream. I had never heard it before, and loved it. It also included Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which I’ve listened to online before, and disliked it even more in person. I’m glad to have had the experience, and very appreciative of Anastasia who shared the tickets. She is from Ukraine, and honestly I was surprised how many people at the symphony were speaking Russian. I had no idea there were so many people sharing that heritage in Utah. I was impressed with how crisp and clean the music sounded even compared to the BYU orchestra, which I thought was fantastic. The venue was also 10/10. 

I’ve been impressed with Porter’s barber skills and Saturday he gave me a great haircut at his apartment. 

After church, we all met at Tanner’s house to celebrate Nora’s and Joanna’s birthdays. I can’t believe Nora is two! She didn’t quite understand the concept of her birthday, but dived right into her cake! It was a lot of fun, and as Cooper was giving the prayer at his ward prayer we exited at 6:50, right as everyone was about to play a riotous group game, I was not eager to join. In my mind, the timing was exquisite.

 

 

November 11-17: Doubt Not, Fear Not

This week started off somber. Monday, after our quick weekly meeting, my ListReports co-workers and I headed up to the Ronald McDonald House to serve lunch there. It’s something that I truly love to do. No matter how big your problems seem at the time, they all disappear during your time there. You are serving selflessly, not worried about yourself. We were tearing up a bit even before cutting up the onions for the chili. I wish we had more chances to meet and talk with those patients there, but one could only imagine what they were going through. Kids wondering if they would see their next birthday, and parents wondering Why. We served a potato bar and chili, along with lots of desserts. I hope we made their day just a little bit easier, and I left with renewed focus, being reminded how precious life is, and the influence one person can have on so many others.

Monday was also Veteran’s Day. How I am thankful for their sacrifices! Millions have served, hundreds upon hundreds of thousands have died serving the United States of America. For “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Again, one marvels at the efforts they have made to protect our country, and shape the world into a better place abroad. Looking back historically, it is easy to criticize the politics and question the motives and the efficacy. For that matter, it is easy now. Yet, one cannot question the valor and the service of the everyday soldier who put their life in harms way and followed orders, marching behind the banner of the United States. They are the ones who know, “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I think especially of my grandpa and my great-uncle David.

On a lighter note, that night for home evening, our group played “superfight” a cool new game to  which I was introduced. Two decks, one of nouns, the other of “superpowers” are drawn randomly and the participants have to describe why their superhero is good and could win a battle. For instance, the first card I had was “fainting goat.” Others included Bigfoot, a boy scout, and a leprechaun. Their abilities ranged from having a fighter jet, a sadness ray, and a pogo stick. Regardless, you have to think creatively.

Wednesday was a rollercoaster. C——-, one of the quorum members, has been watching his dad battle cancer. Things have been going downhill and Wednesday, his father suffered another stroke. There was bleeding in the brain, and the doctors said that nothing more could be done. The question of death was not anymore if, but when, with the fateful alert that it could be hours, days, or perhaps a few weeks. How can you help in a situation like this? It’s a question thats been burning on my mind. I have no definite answers, but we’re trying to do what we can.

That night, one of my roommate’s had his girlfriend over. Background: They’ve been dating for about a month. Living in BYU approved housing, the curfew is midnight. At first, I complimented him on keeping curfew (having had struggles with other roommates, I was trying to encourage the good behavior.) Later, I was up past midnight and she was still over so I walked out and they got the message it was time to go. I texted him the next day letting him know how important it was to me that they keep curfew. There was probably two good weeks, and then on Monday she was over past midnight, and again I walked out, sending the silent message it was time to go. Now, on Wednesday, I lay in my bed at 12:15 unable to sleep, wondering what to do. There was a really heavy, dark spirit and I finally got up and went and talked to both of them, with them lying on the couch, saying in no uncertain terms that this was unacceptable and needed to change right now, while still expressing support for them, and saying until 11:59 she is welcome here. It’s never pleasant being the messenger, but the rule is something I do feel strongly about. It’s now Sunday, and to put it mildly, our relationship has deteriorated significantly. This wasn’t the outcome I anticipated or wanted. It’s another situation where I don’t know what the best thing to do is. How do you help without compromising? I know love is the answer, but nothing has worked so far.

My car woes continue. I left work Friday and had almost made it home, getting ready to pull off on my exit when a plastic container from a few cars in front fell off. The cars all around swerved and braked, and the container slammed into my front right side. I didn’t think twice (a car going 70 was no match for it,) and as no other cars (including whoever had dropped it) had pulled over, I continued home. When home, I went to inspect, and the contained knocked completely out the fog light and split the front bumper. Oy vey. I am thankful to be safe. And I am definitely hoping for a week of no car troubles.

Saturday was packed, with the standard 3 1/2 hour lsat practice test, followed by lunch, some errands, the City Center temple, and then a brazilian meal at Ethan’s house. He served in Sao Paulo and made a classic rice, beans, chicken, salad, and limeade meal. It was delicious and we went the whole time without speaking a word of english. Then, I walked with William G. and we went and listened to Teryl Givens speak on apologetics and discipleship. He talked a lot about how the atonement had much more to do with healing in early christianity before its meaning was somewhat obscured. I know that the Savior is the Master Healer. I quickly stopped by Tanmarie’s and left feeling much better with my law school application, a borrowed crockpot and an unexpected haul of hand-me-downs. Including the leather jacket I’ve long pined for. Made my day.

To celebrate a great day, I watched two episodes of “Shark Tank” and ate some ice cream. One of the companies was a farm company in Missouri and I unexpectedly found myself tearing up. I lie not. The farm was so beautiful. And it calls me still.

Church today was wonderful. There was ward council, then I completed my ecclesiastical endorsement before doing 4 ministering interviews.  It all felt productive and meaningful, which is a fantastic feeling. The work moves forward.

After church, the gang all came over: Tanmarie, Nora, Porter, his friend Jake, Cooper, and William G. Dinner was a pot roast, salad, rolls, and key lime pie. We had the usual good time catching up on everyone’s week and sharing what we’ve learned in our gospel study recently, but Nora stole the show. She was a hoot, putting pepper shakers in random cabinets, dancing, snuggling with Cooper and even feeding me some her cheerios one by one.

At 8, we had 30(!) people convene at my place for ward prayer, and then a contingency that stayed to watch the newest Book of Mormon video, about the separation of the Nephites and Lamanites. This was my favorite one yet. I asked someone out after ward prayer, but alas, she had plans to go out of town, so i’m still looking for a date for this coming Friday.

Sunday School covered Hebrews today. One of the scriptures that we talked about was Hebrews 2:14-18 and how that helps give us hope. I especially liked verse 18:

For in that he [Christ] himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

On my mission I gained new insight into the the word “succor.” Its not one that we use often anymore. In Portuguese, the word is “socorrer” and as those familiar with a latin language can see, the root is correr, or to run. Socorrer literally means, to run to the aid of. When I see succor, that image of running to the aid of another is what I see in my mind.

When we are beset by difficulties, and especially by temptation, we can cry out for help, and Christ will run to us. He is eager and ready to help. He will heal our woundedness and cure our brokenness. He is the Savior. He is our Savior, and He is the way, the truth and the life.

 

 

Nov. 4-10: A Season for Everything

A week of firsts. Eating my first persimmon. First time buying a massage. Going on my first date in 43 days. First time moisturizing my feet. Of course, that one involved inadvertently spilling a 16 oz bottle of balsamic salad dressing that I had just about finished making, when I went to grab some spices, and knocked a can of soup down, which hit the dressing, which soaked my feet. Pros: The rosemary and garlic hadn’t been added. Cons: That leaves me vulnerable to vampires. And the honey was in it, and I definitely was worried about leaving my feet uncovered, thinking a rat would go for my toes in the middle of the night. A week of firsts, but some things never change.

Tuesday was the much-ballyhooed service auction that the service committee in the ward organized. Members signed up to donate some act of service (I think the end result was a list of about 35 items) and then we bid canned goods to purchase the items. I donated a banana cream pie that Bishop Miner won. I also enthusiastically brought 38 cans, ready to be a “high roller.” I had a great time, trying to purposefully push prices higher, and being completely at ease, appreciating the spirit of the event. Bonus was winning a few treats including a massage from Chariton. The activity was a blast, and the spirit of service was definitely felt. The food is going to a local food bank, and the ward has already become closer as we are serving each other more.

After a quick meeting on Wednesday, our presidency split-up to visit all the elders without temple recommends. Previously, only about 30-40% of people we tried to visit would be home. We witnessed a miracle, as every single person Dillon and I went to was home and free for a quick visit, and the two Jacob’s were able to contact every single one they were going to as well. Something that I’ve been constantly repeating is the idea that the difference between a friend and a minister (as the new ministering program makes it easy to focus SOLELY on friendship) is that a minister, while still being a friend, will INVITE that person to come closer to Christ. We were bold in our invitations this night, and finished feeling satisfied and at peace with what transpired. We were accompanied in our efforts by unseen hands as we talked about the importance of genealogical and temple work.

We started Hegel’s “Philosophy of World History” this week in book club. He has some interesting ideas, and while I find myself agreeing with more than I anticipated, it’s easy to see how his thoughts have led to many of the problems in the world today, his philosophy justifying and promoting these problems. Based on his writing, one assumes he would oppose many of the developments today, but he didn’t see the natural end of his philosophy being carried out and logically furthered. It is important to be on the straight and narrow, and not off by just a degree or two, as over time those two degrees leads to huge misses and dangerous effects.

Friday night was Tanner’s surprise 27th birthday. We met at Matt and Joanna’s place at 7:30, a group of 20 adults struggling to maintain silence for 15 minutes until he came up. Annemarie kept the night’s events a surprise from him, and he walked upstairs from their basement apartment expecting to go on a date, with his coat on and keys in hand. And he infamously said, after knocking on the door before entering the Pace’s house, “We’re coming up, I’m naked!” Of course, this was just a joke, but it has now been importantly recorded for posterity. I stayed for a few fun games and then took Porter and Cooper home.

Saturday, per custom, I took the LSAT from 9-12:30. The real test is now in two weeks.

After, I went and picked up Melissa for our date at 1:30. We went to Wal-Mart and met Robert and Hailey for our Iron Chef date challenge. Melissa and I reached into the bag holding the options, and picked out “Entree” and “Italian.” The idea being, we had $10 to purchase food to then make an italian entree. Robert and Hailey got “dessert” and “hispanic.” Shortly after coming back from mission, Melissa discovered that she is now gluten intolerant, but we found some gluten-free noodles and made chicken alfredo, with some veggies on the side. It was good. But nothing special. Robert and Hailey whooped us. They made churros (also using gluten-free flour) and then made a cream cheese sauce and added frozen raspberries. The combo was insane, and we all wanted more and more. The date was a lot of fun, and even though it lasted longer than anticipated, from 1:30-4, we all enjoyed it.

I then was able to go to the City Center temple. BYU football was playing Liberty University at Lavell Edwards Stadium right then, so  it was unusually quiet, and the perfect place to be.

Sunday morning while Caroline and I were meeting with the Bishop, the power abruptly went out. We were left in the darkness, and suprisingly iron curtains lowered and cordoned off the main staircase. We had to go around the whole building to find another stairwell and make our exit. Not knowing what in the world was going on, our first thought was that this was an active shooter situation. Thankfully, it was nothing. A main line had been hit, so the entire part of campus we were on and part of the neighboring street lost power. That was at 9:30, and so the stake cancelled everyone’s EQ and RS classes, leaving only Sacrament meeting. It was still a spiritual feast, and both speakers, Sandra S. and Lauren M., bore powerful witness of God’s plan for each and every one of us.

The power returned right before we started sacrament meeting at 1:15, and after we were able to have our munch and mingle. It was then off to the annual Stake Priesthood meeting. The EQ presidencies in the stake met with the stake president from 4-5 in a counsel, and then the general session was 5-6:15. Pres. Curtis was the only speaker, and he made it a more informal discussion of some recent points from Pres. Oaks GA leadership session before conference in April. The main takeaway for me was the necessity we have to defend truth, and to love God first, and our neighbor second. It is easy nowadays to switch these two great commandments and instead honor and fear man more than God.

I read this in a compilation of Harold B. Lee’s teachings this week:

“Your test of greatness, whether you be youth or whether you be adult, is not be measured by the question about your wealth, how much you are worth financially speaking, or how much knowledge you have gained in the world, or what great talents you have, but your measure of greatness or just mediocrity, or less than that, may be measured by your answer to one simple question, “What do you like?” Do you like pornographic pictures rather than pictures of great art? Do you like to go to vulgar shows rather than The Sound of Music? Do you love the sensuous music rather than to hear great symphonies or the work of the masters? You answer to yourselves and then see what your youth like and you will have the answer to their souls, for music indeed is the language of the soul, whether it be uplifting or otherwise. It is the index to where we are today.”

I’ve understood the influence music has on me personally for some time, but never comprehended the extent to which it matters until reading this. Moroni 7:12: “All things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Wherefore , take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.”

I know that as we seek after all things, especially musical pieces that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy,” we will have the Holy Spirit in our lives and will be filled with more peace and have virtuous thoughts, allowing us to stand with confidence before the throne of God.

 

 

Break Every Yoke: Oct 28-Nov. 3

After a few weeks of really good Mondays, this one did not start the week off right. On my way home from work, someone rear-ended me on the freeway. I wasn’t terribly happy, and it was an avoidable accident to be sure. I’m guessing he was a bit distracted or something. We pulled over and checked it out, and there were only a few scratches on the bumper. We traded info, took a couple pictures, and promised to communicate if anything would need to be filed. I shook hands with Mr. Bradley Christensen, and hopped in to finish the drive home. And then had to work on cleaning the oven and fridge for cleaning checks. Our house normally stays pretty spic and span, but if there is a weak spot, its the oven, and fridge. (And bathtub). It took some time, but we ended up passing with flying colors the next day. FHE was cupcake decorating.

On Friday (completing what has been a two-week trio of car stories), leaving work, I was second in line to turn left at an intersection, hopping onto a thoroughfare. The turn signal turned green and the car in front of me went ahead before being torpedoed and t-boned by a car going about 60 mph. It seemed like something out of a movie, just vicious and violent. The other driver must have been completely out of it, as he blew through the red light, but didn’t even try slowing down. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and the car that was t-boned had no passenger in the back, or it could have been much, much worse.

Wednesday after EQ meeting, I went to book club for the first time in a few weeks. As always, it was enjoyable. The three others who are consistently there, Karl, John, and Nicole, have become good friends. This week we finished Kant and have Hegel and Nietzsche left to finish the year and our philosophy section. The new year will start a turn on Shakespeare.

Facebook post from Dr. Scott night of: “A little fire, a little strudel, a little Kant. What’s not to love?”

Thursday was Halloween. While it continues to be my least favorite holiday, if I deigned to describe the day as such, a recent tradition has made it much more enjoyable. Halloween 2015, while serving in Tempe, our Yuma zone traveled to San Diego and visited the temple there. That was an unforgettable day, and I attend the temple every Halloween that I can. I left work early, and went to the Provo City Center temple for a session. Wonderful.

My LSAT class also didn’t meet that night, so it felt like I had much more time than usual. On Saturday, when I took my practice exam, I figured out what I’ve been doing wrong on the logical reasoning sections. Or rather, how to fix it. I’ve been overthinking the questions trying to get 2-3 more right. Which led to me missing double and triple that the last few weeks. So, I’ve gone back to sticking with my first choice, and working faster and sure enough, I’m back to missing 2-3. Which puts me in a good spot. Don’t fix what isn’t broken I suppose.

Four quick notes: 1. My homemade deodorant (coconut oil, cornstarch, baking soda, and essential oils) is fantastic! Much better than any store bought I’ve ever used. It smells great, doesn’t stain, and works!

2. I wrote a couple articles for the MaeserLaser, one on abortion, and the other on the democratic debate held recently. I’ll post as soon as they are published.

3. Uncle Ben+Aunt Joy and fam had the Hutchins clan over for dinner tonight. It was great! They also introduced us to Slapzies, a way fun group game.

4. Today, singleness hit hard. Most days I’m really good, and even when I’m not, eternal perspective and hope in general makes everything so much easier to deal with. “Thine adversity and thine affliction shall be but for a small moment.” I want to include that because I don’t want to sound like I’m looking for pity, I’m not (at least currently 🙂 ) but I think its important to record the tough times as well. I am thankful for trials as my own “thorn in the flesh” makes empathizing with others much easier. Empathy doesn’t come as naturally to me as I’d hope, and this lesson in trust and patience is definitely helping with that.

Finally, on Tuesday, Uncle Rich’s letter talked about Elder Gay teaching that “the number one goal of every EQP in the church should be to increase the number of temple worthy MPH.” That line pierced me, and since then I’ve thought and thought about the incredible blessings of the temple and what those priesthood holders are missing out on, and what the church is missing out, lacking those priesthood holders..

After all that car trouble the last two weeks, one last car reference, this time an analogy. MPH=miles per hour. MPH=melchizedek priesthood holders.

Some time ago, Elder Stevenson talked about the HOV lane, which is designed to get us to our destination safer and faster. For us, that means Humility, Obedience, Virtue. Those qualities will keep us safe and help guide us to eternal life.

Now, the Kingdom of God moves as the priesthood moves. I’ve seen it here, and I saw it in Brazil. The sisters will be faithful, they will fulfill their callings, pay tithing, and sacrifice to attend the temple. However, if the priesthood raises the bar, it is like a tide that lifts all boats. As the priesthood goes, so goes the church. As the MPH (melchezidek priesthood holders) goes up, the church will grow faster (MPH, miles per hour), fulfilling the prophecy in Daniel and filling the earth.

Here is what Pres. Harold B. Lee said in 1972: “We are discovering that the only way to get home teaching over, or to get family home evening going, or attendance at sacrament meeting, or to have more temple marriages, or temple attendance, is to make sure that the holder of the priesthood in the home magnifies his priesthood; and until he can realize the importance of the priesthood of God, which gives him the power of Almighty God to act through him, that home is not going to be secure.”

That’s going to be our focus now. I’ve talked with Bishop, we have our list of those to focus our ministering on, and we will wear their doormats out.

I testify that the temple is the House of the Lord, and “in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.” The temple provides the means whereby families can be eternal. Pres. Nelson recently promised that as we keep a commitment to attend the temple regularly, we will experience the miracles that we need in our lives. That is a true promise from a true prophet of God. And preparing to attend the temple and attending will help prepare us for the Savior’s Second Coming. Let us be a temple going people.

 

 

Oct 21-27: Freedom and Fun

Tanner bought a World Series tv pass, and I’ve enjoyed catching snippets here and there. My money is on the Astros, but my heart is with the Nationals. (Update: Nationals won!)

For home evening on Monday, our group gathered and for the activity we told scary/funny halloween stories. I enjoyed listening, and while all the stories were good, there was also one Bigfoot account, so it was a perfect night.

Wednesday was a busy day. First, I left work to have lunch with Judge McCleve at Thai House cuisine. Its located in downtown/historic American Fork and was in an old house. Excepting Panda Express, I generally don’t lean towards asian entrees. However, this ended up being quite good, and priced extremely reasonably. I had some spring rolls, sweet and sour with chicken and some soup. We talked about what law school was like, how it has blessed her life, and what my future plans are. At the end, she also procured some further references that I could talk to. It was very kind of her to meet me and offer to help.

That night was our ward activity at Cornbelly’s, which is part of Thanksgiving Point and includes a giant corn maze and other fall activities. It started at 6:30, and was only 1/2 mile from my work, so I elected to stay late rather than going home only to drive straight back. Alas, when I went to head over at 6:30, my car was completely dead. I hadn’t left anything on (I was pretty sure,) so I did what I always do. Called my mom. We talked through a couple options, and then I rang the Bach’s. He was sure =, from my descroption, it was the battery. Some kind strangers from a neighboring company used their F-150 and gave me a jump, starting ti right away. From there, I had a decision to go home, or head to the still ongoing ward activity. I was struck with paralysis for a moment, completely unsure of what was the right decision. Ultimately, I headed towards Provo, reasoning it was essential to get the problem fixed. I stopped by AutoZone and tested the battery, but they said the reading came back with no problems. Crossing my fingers, and hoping I had actually left something on earlier, I went home. The post Cornbelly’s pizza party was still going on, and I attended, before heading to the gym. The car started at once to go there, and so I thought no problem after all. The next morning, Thursday, with some trepidation, I turned the car over, and nothing. My roommate gave me another jump, tested the alternator, which checked out ok, and let me borrow his cables for the day. I tried starting it repeatedly throughout the day, and it started a few times without issue. And then, at 5 when I went to leave, it was dad again. Another jump, and I decided to go to Wal-Mart and buy a battery. The wallet $66 lighter, I left, and found my car needing another jump. So it was on to Autozone again, where they tested the battery again, confirmed it was dead, and jumped my car so I could go home to change the battery. Impressively, the dead battery appears to have been the original, meaning it made it for 15 years. I attended my LSAT class, and at 10ish went to battle. Holy moly. I’ve changed one other battery, and it took all of 10 minutes. This took 80 minutes, with me dousing all the corroded parts in baking soda and finally putting it back together again. Concurrently, a party was happening a block away, blasting loud, inappropriate music. Outside in the freezing wind, I had had enough, and ended up calling in to report the disturbance and had the police go over to shut the noise off. What. a. long. day.

Nevertheless, the battery is in, the car is back to purring again, and I am much more thankful every time I get behind the wheel.

Friday I left work a little early and headed to Sleepy Ridge at the invitation of Kevin, and played 8 holes on his pass. I birdied the last hole, and took off to go see Tad Callister speak at BYU as part of the Sperry Symposium. His speech was entitled, “What is the Purpose of Suffering?”, attempting to answer why it happens, what is its purpose, and how we can best face it, among other pertinent questions. I arrived right at the start, and was fortunate to have my friend William saving me a seat in front. My biggest takeaway was the idea that the cure for all suffering is an ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE.

After, we headed back to my place as William has been wanting to learn to make pizza for some time.

Logan Page arrived unexpectedly, and I invited David Kaiser over. We all enjoyed pizza and varied conversation. Lately, I’ve really appreciated hearing people’s favorite scripture or something they’ve learned recently from the scriptures, and asked all of them to share.

Finally, this happened. The culmination of much headache, worry, and weight. Now to be no more. I don’t think it was coincidence that Friday and Saturday were some of the best sleeps I can remember. Because they were government loans, there was a 6 month grace period before the interest kicked in. I made it with minutes to spare. No interest for you, Mr. Debt Collector. (Alas, I found out after that for the payment to be processed same day, it needs to be submitted by 8 pm CDT. So there was $1.70 in interest.)

Saturday was a blast. The LSAT practice took up the morning, and then I picked up Kimball and we headed into the canyon and went to Midway to play Soldier Hollow Golf Course. Mark met us there, and I can honestly say it was one of the most fun rounds I’ve ever been a part of. What a blast! Mark hasn’t come within 10 strokes of me before, and while I didn’t play poorly, he played inspired, and edged me out at the last.

 

Oct. 14-20: Flapjacks

I started the week off right by playing “ultimate cabbage,” Monday for FHE. This is a game like ultimate frisbee, except it’s played with a cabbage. This is thrown around and the game continues until all the leaves fall off of it. Quite fun! (not as fun, picking up all the discarded leaves from the field after we were done.)

At work, in an effort to promote collaboration and unity, the company pays for you to go to lunch with a co-worker, and this can be done on their dime once a week. Generally, I’m 100% content with bringing in my lunch (and spending time reading on the balcony.) It’s geared more towards the California office anyway as they occupy various buildings and have about 65 employees. In Utah, totaling 14 employees, we all know each other pretty well, especially since I was one of the first. This Wednesday though, we decided to go out and eat. Of course, everyone wanted to pile in the minivan, so we did and headed off to Chipotle. It was a fun change of pace. I crack up, seeing how much everyone loves to 1. ride in a minivan 2. learn that I drive a minivan.

This picture below is of Robert and Hailey. They were sealed for time and all eternity on Friday. I went to their reception that night in American Fork. They have both been good friends and set great examples. Robert will start his PhD at Princeton next year, and I hope to join him on the East Coast before he finishes.

Sunday, around 11 am, I received a message from Pres. Young asking if I could make it to his house at 4 pm and assist him in giving a blessing. I remember well a story that Pres. Packer tells of a man who received a call from President Harold B. Lee asking if he could meet him in Salt Lake City the next day. Of course, the man discovered that his business would be taking him to Salt Lake the next day, though many miles away. The rest of the story is well worth reading, but needless to say there is a principle there, and I was honestly more than happy to make the trip up, postponing our family dinner until 6.

I met a woman there, who I’ll refer to as SKM, who had served as stake relief society president while Pres. Young was stake president. We had an enjoyable time conversing for about an hour, and then I anointed and Pres. Young sealed the blessing. I’ll simply say here that it was a blessing unlike any I’ve ever participated in. Truly special and SKM’s example was inspiring, and the magnitude of her faith apparent.

The main reason that Pres. Young had asked me to assist was to meet her, as she had been a judge in Utah, having been appointed in her early 30’s, and later taught at BYU Law School.  We were able to set up a time this coming week to have lunch together, providing me an opportunity to ask questions about law school.

The Youngs have been great to me. After SKM left, we talked for another half an hour and I left feeling uplifted and with some food for later to boot.

 

These good old goobers were waiting for me when I returned. Dinner was fantastic, the chili turning out great. We played a rousing game of Settlers of Cataan, and Porter “Sheep Baron” Schenewark pulled out the win in the end.

There is a saying I quite like, “No matter how thin the pancake is, there is still two sides.” or something like that. And it’s true. The reason this has been on my mind, is because of the blessing with Pres. Young.

Regardless, and applying the principle in a different way, it is important to be patient and listen to what others have to say. The other comes in Let us be kind, extend the benefit of the doubt, let us not seek simply for justice but be willing to extend the hand of mercy to those around us.

 

October 7-13: Stille Nacht

Do you hear that? Ah yes, Silent Night is playing. Tis the season. As birds instinctively know when to head south for the winter, my body knows when it is time to play Christmas music. And it hit this week. What a time of year! (Except for Oct. 31. Can you imagine what our puritan ancestors would have thought celebrating such a “holiday”?)

Also heard this week: destined, either, neither, derelict, glutton. Words pronounced wrong by me. Granted, glutton was a slip-up (I was talking about gluten in the same sentence…) but the others I fear have been mispronounced for years. Always makes me smile when I realize something like that.

Monday, for FHE our group did a “Just Dance” activity. This was my first time trying, and I have to say, I LOVED it! It was a lot of fun. Who walks like an Egyptian? This guy!

Pictured: Leftover hawaiian haystacks that I had for lunch. Didn’t finish, but came close. Had to save some room for the banana cream pie.

Friday, my boss’s wife, Noelle, was diagnosed with breast cancer. They’re closer to 40 than 50, and my heart went out to them. So much uncertainty and difficulties in the days ahead.

The LSAT prep continues. This week I took my fifth practice test, scoring a 169, my highest yet. If I could, I’d lock that score in. As it is, my goal is to go up more. I’d like to be at 175 before taking the test, and that way if I perform worse in the actual test because of stress or it is simply a tough one, I’ll still fall back to the 170 level. Fingers crossed.

After I finished the proctored practice, I headed to a quick MaeserLaser meeting. Methinks I’m going to be taking the newspaper back. Henry has done well in my absence but was quite eager for my return, and I think I’m in a better place to be able to handle the added responsibilities.

Saturday I was also able to go to the Provo City Center Temple.

Today, Kevin, Cooper and Porter came over after church. Which, by the way, church was so, so good today. I had a meeting at 9, but stayed and stayed, being there from 9-3:30, not because I had to, but because I didn’t want to leave. For priesthood we divided up into 4 groups, and separated to have smaller discussions on Pres. Nelson’s conference address from last Sunday, “Closing remarks.” I led one of the groups and we talked about making our own plans to prepare for the next 6 months, and about the temple, the crown jewel of the restoration. Sunday is my favorite day of the week. Going back to dinner, we had whole wheat rolls, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, chicken legs, and veggies. Delicious. Having no stock on hand, I went for broke in making a gravy, no recipe in sight. I boiled a few cups of water, added two bouillon cubes, a little bit of cream, flour, tossed in some garlic salt, black pepper, poultry seasoning, rosemary, and BOOM! That stuff turned out delicious. I’ll be making it again.

We played a few rousing rounds of bananagrams, and then I acted like they were missionaries, and asked who would be sharing a spiritual thought. Kevin went, guiding us to Romans 5:19,

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

He applied it well to us, and testified that one person can make a big difference, and we can be that one person.

I thought the idea was great, so I turned to Porter and he shared Pres. Eyring’s Oct 2009 Conference address, “Be Ready.” The point, prepare yourself and stay worthy to be ready to bless someone with the power of the priesthood for you never know when a call might come. For Porter, that call came this week, when he went and visited someone in the hospital. Cooper talked about Stephen Owen’s talk which mentioned how a deer herd had been stranded by winter weather and had nothing to eat. Well-meaning humans left them straw, and while the deer ate lots of it, they were found starved, with their bellies full of straw. They ate, but were not food. Cooper applied it to us and said that there are many things, such as social media, which can use all our time, and leave us undernourished and starving. We need to make sure that we are spending time doing what really matters. I loved their insights, and will be asking everyone for more next week when they visit as well.

While Cooper had to head home, Kevin and Porter joined me at the nursing home where we sang for 40 minutes. Those boys not only have some good sized lungs, but can hit the right notes. It was a really good time. Someone asked if they were twins, to which they replied no, but indicated the familial relationship and then gestured towards me. I felt small standing next to the 6’7″ and 6’4″ giants.

Here’s the thought I shared with the fam today after dinner. It comes from section 36 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

Thus saith the Lord God, the Mighty One of Israel: Behold, I say unto you, my servant Edward, that you are blessed, and your sins are forgiven you, and you are called to preach my gospel as with the voice of a trump;

And I will lay my hand upon you by the hand of my servant Sidney Rigdon, and you shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom;

Referring to Edward Partridge, this revelation was given in December 1830. Nevertheless, the principle applies to us as well. Many times, we don’t see the whole picture. When we are set apart for a calling, ordained to an office in the priesthood, or blessed, we see the human hand on our heads. As this scripture notes though, the Lord is laying his hand on as well. The priesthood is the power of God on this earth. Joshua 3:5 commends, “Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” As we work to purify ourselves and do the will of the Lord, we will experience miracles in our lives, and be tools to perform miracles in others.

 

 

 

 

September 23-29: Song Sung Blue

Neil Diamond is one of the best!

The c-suite executives came out to Utah from Orange County this week. We recently expanded our office, and I moved into the new space. The plan is to continue growing, and the execs wanted to look at places around the valley where they could grow the company. My hunch is that they’ll move to Provo (which would be quite interesting) but our lease goes until June, so no changes will be happening anytime soon. The plan for a team activity had been to go axe-throwing and have dinner, but incredibly, all the axe places were booked on Wednesday already, so I suggested TopGolf.

In case the picture isn’t clear enough, (don’t worry, the window isn’t actually that dirty) this is me looking out my bedroom at roughly 150 people dancing in my backyard. Friday, I returned home at 9:00, and was surprised to find this scene. One of Spencer’s friends needed a place last minute to hold this party, and Spencer volunteered our backyard. It was funny because for the majority of the time, Tyler, Spencer, and I were all gone. And when we were back home, not one of us went outside. Just happened to happen at our place I guess. And it was over by 10:30, allowing for a nice night’s sleep.

When I said I returned home Friday at 9, I returned home from my date with Caroline. The much anticipated date. We went to the soap factory, which she was really excited for. This time, the form I chose for my soap had a baby grand piano as the motif, and Caroline went with a seashell. Alas, while everything went well, nothing went great, and we just didn’t click. I was still interested, and wanted to go out again, but was thinking she wasn’t that interested. I put it off for a few days, but hating any degree of uncertainty, on Tuesday (Oct. 1st) I asked her out again. Per my hunch, she said she wasn’t interested.

This is me, on Saturday, surprised by a flock of seagulls in Provo. I was sad things hadn’t gone as good as I hoped the day before, and after going to the gym, I decided to go golfing. It never fails to make the sun shine brighter. I enjoyed pondering for two hours, outside, alone with nature, and 14 clubs.

Everything had gone south that day. I didn’t do well on the practice LSAT, proctored at BYU that morning, and then ran straight to our EQ activity. Which also didn’t go well, with way less people attending than we had expected. I asked Jacob W. for a blessing, and he came over at night. I am so thankful for friends who care and always help. It was the longest blessing I can remember receiving, about 10 minutes. The power of the priesthood is real, and I felt rejuvenated immediately. The next day, Sunday, was wonderful. W The best way to get out of a funk is through service. There was a stake meeting from 7-8:30 am, and then I met with the Ward Council from 8:30-10 as we discussed callings and ministering assignments in the ward. Church is from 12:15-2:15, and right after that, Dillon and I set apart 5 people who had been called. That was a tender experience, and something I’m still getting used to. The fam, Tanmarie, Nora, Porter and Cooper, came over for dinner, and we had biscuits and gravy. Ironically, I almost never use/drink milk, but the last few times I’ve had Tanner over, I’ve inadvertently made meals using lots of dairy, forgetting that he can’t really eat it. Oops.

I witness that God lives, and He speaks through his servants. He has in the past, and he does so today. A few experiences to illustrate that. First, the aforementioned blessing I received from Jacob. The Spirit was so strong and bore witness to me of the truthfulness of his words. Second, I’ve brought all (or nearly so) my belongings from my parents house to Utah. Included in that haul, are my scrapbooks. Over the years, I’ve looked at them a lot – excepting the book documenting the first year of my life. That time as a baby has never interested me much, in part I think because I have no memory of it. Recently, I looked through it, and came across the blessing I received from when I was a baby. Obviously, I have absolutely no memory of that, and didn’t even know the words had been recorded. It was quite sweet to be able to read that, and hear the words, for the first time in 24 years. In that time, much of the blessing has come to pass. It fortified my testimony that God speaks through his servants. I am thankful for a father who does his best to live worthily to be able to have the Spirit with him, and is ready to bless those around him. Third, the Bishop presented a plan for the ward, and the Spirit testified to me, that it is the will of the Lord for this ward.

God lives, he loves us. He has blessed us with leaders who speak his will, and work to carry it out. We have a prophet today, President Russell M. Nelson. As we follow his counsel, we will not be led astray, but will come closer to our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.