Finding Grace

 

Dates

This Sunday was the highly anticipated 1st Pres. Christmas Devotional. Kind Sarah W. set me up with a mission pal of hers, Ashley, and I hooked my friend Mark up with Rebecca. You could have filmed a movie scene. We drove up to Salt Lake City, the air was frosty, snow flakes were falling. We admired the beautiful Christmas lights, and heard a choir of angels sing. Not to mention we heard heartwarming talks. Our seats were spectacular, it was like you could reach out and shake the hand of someone on stage. Oh, and Mark’s mom sent him with a giant flask of hot chocolate which we all enjoyed afterwords. Everything went perfect.

The Man, the Myth, the Legend

No, I did not meet Scott Stirling. I did, however, meet Bruce C. Hafen. The ‘C’ in his name probably stands for Champion, because that’s just who he is. BYU hosted a week long seminar on grace, and he spoke on it Thursday night. I could say much, but I’ll simply leave a paraphrased quote from his talk:

“We cannot say, ‘Lord, give me experience, help me grow, help me become like thee!’ and then not expect to have grief, when that is what shaped Him, and made Him who He is. “

The next night I again went to the last address of the night. This time it was given by Sheri Dew. Again, another marvelous discourse on grace. My understanding of it grew, as well as my desire to understand it still better. She, being single, and obviously struggling with that challenge, shared so sincerely how grace has helped her. Her testimony was powerful. As with Elder Hafen, there was a Q+A after, and when someone asked how we can know if we are receiving grace, I liked how she said,

“Every spiritual privilege we have is a manifestation of His grace.”

 

Hometeaching

This has been a struggle. My companion is still MIA. Its been impossible to connect with three of those I’m visiting. The fourth I connected too well as she asked me out. So, I decided to mark a date, invite everybody over for pie, and see what happens. Remarkably, it was a success. Finally, two of them started responding to my messages, and I was able to meet one of them for the first time. Overall, three out of four showed. We bonded, my roommates extended the hands of friendship as well, and we all left filled. I’ve mentioned Mouli before, but to quickly restate, he is a PhD student in physics from India, having previously studied in Germany. While everyone else was talking, he stayed mostly quiet and very reserved. Towards the end, having shared a message about faith, we started talking about religion, just me and him. He said he was born Hindu, which I had reasoned. I then said, “Wait, I want to show you this book.” I returned carrying a book, and he said, “I knew, the Book of Mormon,” to which I responded, “No, its the Bhagavad Gita!” (which is basically Hindu scripture.) His eyes lit up, he responded to a couple of my questions, and for the first time, we connected. Developments to follow!

Market Analysis

I ended my bitcoin run. In just under a month, I netted $370 which isn’t going to ‘ put my on Forbes’ radar anytime soon, but for a college student, helps significantly. While I still believe in the idea, I would recommend staying away from bitcoin. Starting next week, it will become easy to short bitcoin, and i think this will cause some problems. While it was the trailblazer, I think it will be passed by better, more efficient blockchain using cryptocurrencies. The horse-and-buggy helped people tremendously, but it was the wrong market to invest in at the turn of the 20th century. It is often forgotten that until 1944 the British Pound was the reserve currency of the world, being then replaced by the US dollar. I see something similar happening to bitcoin, and while it will probably continue to rise for some time, I see more value in Monero, and IOTA, and am excited to see what happens in the future.

Better than….

I read recently an article, where the author listed some things that were more important than money. Later, I decided to come up with my own list. I won’t share that today, but I will share something similar. Pres. Faust, 60 some years ago, almost ready to head to his mission in Brasil, received some training from then apostle David O. McKay. Elder McKay walked to the chalkboard and simply wrote, “It is better to be trusted than to be loved.” The notion being, our Heavenly Father will always love us. Our parents will always love us. But can they trust us? We receive their love, but have to earn their trust, and that happens through our daily actions, as well as, I believe, our desire to love them back. And of course, to show our love, and to earn His trust, to become His friends, we must keep His commandments.

 

 

Finding Nora!

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Lets be realistic, whatever else happened, Nora was still going to be the highlight of the week. She entered the world Friday, weighing 7.5 pounds, and measuring 20 inches. Not so sure why we always put these statistics out there, but for what they’re worth, you have them. More interesting is the fact that she has dark hair, no eyebrows, or eyelashes, or teeth, doesn’t cry much (yet,) hasn’t eaten steak before, and loves Uncle Hunter. That’s Nora. Tanner says she is “perceptive.” I didn’t get past “heavenly.” I went over Saturday night, held and rocked her for a little and then relinquished her to Annemarie. It was amazing to think that just a short time before, she was in heaven.

Now for the filler. This week was thanksgiving break. As previously stated, Monday I enjoyed work and had lunch with Pres. Young. Tuesday I had a free day. I went to school and worked on some assignments, mostly genealogy and was thrilled with progress in the Gerken-Hesse line. More to come hopefully. My professor was helping me, and I don’t exaggerate when I say that what I could have done in weeks, he accomplished in minutes. My roommates all went out of town for the break, so I was left with the apartment to myself. Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I discovered that ABC puts up SharkTank episodes on their website, and enjoyed watching some. My bedtime averaged before 10 pm for the week, which probably hasn’t happened since I was 12 And I woke up about 6 each day, able to work out and read and relax a little in the morning. A welcome respite from the usual school and work.

Originally planning to go with Tanmarie and her parents for thanksgiving at an extended family member’s house, I opted for Uncle Ben’s instead. We had a Thanksgiving feast, and it was nice to spend time, the whole day, with family. Sarah W. came down from Idaho, and that was a great surprise. We decided to do something on Saturday, and my first idea, was a game night. Sort of spur of the moment but it worked out. About 15 people came over, and we played some ice-breaker games, code name, and one other which had me laughing until I cried. But, to play it, it requires people never having played it before. Thus, I shall wait. I made cranberry muffins, sugar cookies, and put out chips and salsa for snacks. And water of course. The cranberry muffins turned out slightly burnt, and a bit misshapen, and  not wanting to sit on 24 muffins, I impressed myself by creating simple placards on index cards which read “Chips+Salsa.” “Cups for water.” “Sugar cookies.” “World Famous Ugly+Delicious Cranberry Muffins.” Incredibly, it worked and 20 muffins were eaten, and people were complimenting them, and leaving the sugar cookies which actually tasted good, much better than the muffins, relatively untouched.

Other noteworthy happenings: I unfotunately did not finish my paper for the BYU Religious Symposium. Looks like it’ll have to be next year. I I went to Swigs with a roommate on Friday. Its supposed to be a fantastic soda parlor. I ordered an Italian Soda and it was horrible!!! I had never been there before but have heard such good things. Now, I will have to return and try something else, just to see if its that bad, or if they forgot something in my drink. Like sugar.

Fique Firme!!!

 

Believe it or Not

First, just to clarify from last week, I am planning to leave my current apt, for a new one, but still stay in Provo. Unfortunately, the person who wanted to buy my contract texted me last Monday saying he had been on a waitlist for an apt complex for a long time, and they just let him know that a spot had opened up. So i’m still trying to sell it.

Wednesday, we had another bathroom adventure. My roommate clogged the toilet again, and left. I came back from the gym, didn’t even use it, but about to hop in the shower, and seeing toilet paper, flushed it. The water rose incredibly fast, and overflowed, filling the bathroom with water. Nasty, disgusting water. Still wanting to take a shower, and knowing the problem wouldn’t fix itself, I went to start mopping it up. And then, someone knocked on the door, which almost never happens. Half-naked, I opened it up, a panicked neighbor. To be exact, a neighbor who lives directly below us. He told me that water was pouring in their ceiling, and he wanted to know if someone was taking a shower. I told the truth- the problem is not with the shower. That didn’t make him feel better, but I promised to fix the problem quickly. I mopped everything up, took my shower, now that I really needed to be clean, and texted my roommate, raising awareness of the situation, and letting him know he could finish the clean up. He did. I think we both learned some lessons.

I was leaving that mess, to meet up with Tanner, and listen to BYU Philharmonic play. It was marvelous. They finished by playing Scheherazade by Rimsky-korsakov.

Thursday was lots of school, a dance test, an organ test, then a meeting of the Toqueville Society where we talked and debated about the influence of the Reformation on our society as a whole, and on the LDS church. I left having changed my opinion on a few things, grateful for the learning experience.

Friday after work, I got together with a guy from chess club. We met in the library to play a longer game, 45 minutes on each side. We had a fair amount of spectators come by, ask about the club, etc, but it wasn’t until we were done that two guys came up, one jubilant, congratulating my competitor on his victory and informing that he had won $10 off of him, which his friend confirmed by wistfully looking at me and asking, “10 dollars…How did you lose when you had the winning position early?” Impatient attack, and not castling, my friend. I feel your pain.

Friday night I went to Tanmarie’s and played games. And borrowed their car for my Saturday adventures. Super kind of them. But to back up a little,

Thursday, wanting to go out, I decided to go all out. I went up to a girl I did not know, and had never talked with, asked her name, conversed for a couple minutes and then invited her to get some ice cream with me on Saturday. She said yes, and made my day. So, Saturday, I drove(!!!!) to the football stadium, braved the cold weather, a cold team, and the UMass coach who won hands down for most swearing in the season. I returned home, quickly showered, and went to pick up my date, Lexie, a ballerina from St. Louis. We went to what is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, Rockwell’s Ice Cream. Of course, there was no parking, so we ended up having to walk a couple blocks. On our way, waiting for a crosswalk light to change, two bums came up to us. They said they liked my coat. And they thought it would look good on them. I politely declined, and they then left us alone. We enjoyed fantastic ice cream; I went with strawberries+cream and Lexie chose snickerdoodle. During our time at Rockwell’s there was one silence in the conversation, that lasted 20 seconds, which is actually pretty long. Try sitting at a table with someone, and timing 20 seconds before saying anything. I feel comfortable with silence, and was savoring the dessert, but saw her twitch and knew I should say something. Preferably something that doesn’t increase the awkwardness. So, I asked her what grocery store chains they have in St. Louis. BANG! Its said if you get kneecapped once, you can still make it out, however painful. But, I followed her response by saying, “I know that was a weird question, but I’m just really interested and fascinated by grocery stores.” BANG! Man down. However, overall, I enjoyed it, and believe it went well. I brought Tanmarie’s car back, met Annemarie’s mother, and we played a game of scrabble. Me and Tanner fought to the end, but I played “THrEADING” and that was enough to claim the victory. And, I took advantage of my time there, and did my wash. For free.

Sunday, I taught family history class. I also made it a point to try and meet anyone I didn’t know already. Including Shelby, who I talked to briefly. There was a face-to-face event with Elders Oaks and Ballard happening that night, and Elder Ballard in his visit to BYU on Tuesday had made a special invitation to bring a friend. I went and invited everyone I home teach, but no one was going, so I decided to ask Shelby. Of course, I don’t have a car, so that made me find someone in the ward who did, and invite them to double with me. He, Jordan, wasn’t planning on going, but I promised him blessings, (and a date,) and he agreed. I went and invited Shelby, and her roommate. All four of us had a great time. Shelby is from Pleasant Grove, UT, served a mission in Cleveland, and works full time at DoTerra.

Monday, I had a fantastic time at work, and had lunch with my mission president. Pres. Young, which was THE highlight of the week. He works relatively close to me, so we had set this up a while back. I won’t include everything here, my separate type up is three pages, but know that we talked and talked for an hour and a half. Actually, I basically just listened, happy to hear, and trying to soak up as much wisdom as possible. I left thoroughly touched and inspired. And I’ll just add, he might have the best proposal story I’ve ever heard. I almost cried. And of course, when that thing happens, I ended up going home, and having a candlelight dinner for one, (of fish, spinach, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes,) writing thank you letters, listening to classical music, and reflecting on my life. And finishing this letter.

Dancing with Cougars

First, a Happy Birthday to Tanner. I’m just coming back from his birthday party, good times, and I feel like I always leave a better person after spending time with AnneMarie and him. It’s been an evening full of games and food. Specifically shish kebabs of peppers, pineapple, mushrooms and chicken. That had been marinated for 12 hours. As AnneMarie says, Tanner’s food has to taste good and look aesthetically pleasing. (they prepared it all). And then lots of ice cream, and brownies and lemon bars. Good stuff. Saturday, we also celebrated his special day by going to a movie, Murder on the Orient Express, and then playing games in the evening. Earlier, about a week ago, asking me to come to the movie, Tanner said that it would be so fun, they would all dress up like characters from the film, and really get into it. Well, I’m not the type of person you need to call to remind about something, like giving a talk in church, etc. I don’t forget. And thus, I watched the trailer to get an idea, and dressed up. I was subsequently picked up by TanMarie, who had on gym clothes. And we were then joined by others. In gym clothes. #fake news. They got me good.

Of course, there’s a little more to the story than just that. That morning, I had spent grilling with my charcoal grill and watching football, (I also cooked the kebabs which makes my new favorite hobby BBQ’ing) and was eating my steak quickly to finish in time. When, I heard shouts for help coming from the small gym in the clubhouse. I went over to look, and the lone athlete had dislocated his shoulder and asked me to put it back in. I never took anatomy in school or anything similar which might have explained his wails that almost cracked the glass doors, but hey, after a couple tries, his shoulder went back in. Then, I returned to finish my steak. Of course, I was now five minutes behind schedule and texted Tanner to let him know. I wanted to make sure I had time to change and wouldn’t be the only one not dressed up. C’est la vie. But hey, steak, a good movie, better company, and games all in 24 hours? Even if you throw in a scary dislocated shoulder, it was still a nice day.

Friday, was also a memorable day. I had work off, because of Veteran’s Day. However, my boss called on Thursday wanting to know if I would come to his house and do a concrete project. I couldn’t because of prior commitments, but appreciated the offer, and the trust. Those prior commitments included meeting with Roger Minert, world-renowned german family history specialist. He isn’t just an expert in the field, he is the expert. He is teaching my class on that subject, and I’ve already learned a lot, but it was amazing to spend an hour and work through some tough problems on our tree. The main goal is still to find where Frank Schenewark and Fam. lived in Germany. I sprinted from that meeting back to my apt, changed clothes, had lunch, and was back on campus for my 2nd stab at Dancesport. This time we were dancing the quickstep, and I had put some serious practice time into it, and we were looking good! Alas, it was not to be, as disaster struck and we failed to advance. Everything went wrong. Another couple bumped into us, we were thrown off, and instead of fixing the slight damage at that point, we tried to keep going without missing a beat, and that made us go downhill faster than Paul Bunyan could fell a tree. It was  disappointing. And to add to the forgettable finish, I had given my camera to someone, but they couldn’t figure out how to film us until half the dance was over, and then didn’t know how to zoom in.

 With my friend who won one of the Latin divisions. Coincidentally, we matched.

Friday night is date night (at least in theory). This week theory went into practice, and I went on a double date, with a friend from the MTC, Paul. I set him up with Rebecca Welch, and he set me up with Cassidy. It was actually a good time; we started off by going to the soap factory where we made our own custom bar of soap. I chose a flower design, blue color, and eucalyptus/pine scent. Cassidy went with a purple penguin with lemongrass. Paul and Becca made 12 tiny dinosaurs. The best? Definitely the one smelling like rootbeer. Paul says it will be his new car freshener. While we waited for the soap to set, we played banana grams, then went for ice cream at Rockwell’s. It was hard, but I branched out, only sampling my go-to cookie dough flavor, and instead choosing Apple Pie Ice Cream. Impressive, and worth a return trip.

I bucked the natural hesitancy for change, and put my winter housing contract up for sale last week. Only one person appeared interested, but that one person (in D.C. on an internship) got into contact, had his sister come over to look the place over, and tonight, asked to close. I’ll be leaving in December, (still looking for a new place to live,) and am mulling what the future holds in store. Stay tuned….

 

The Man in the Arena

This week saw my return, this time triumphant to chess  club. I was asked to be a part of the team sent to the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Tournament. Unfortunately, it’s held in Columbus, Ohio during Christmas Break, so I don’t think I’ll be going.

I asked out a girl from one of my classes, and if you’re wondering how it went, let’s just say that this would be an appropriate place for the following:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Yes, judging by this poignant, impassioned speech, good ol’ Teddy Roosevelt must have suffered his dating defeats as well.

One of my roommates told me that getting turned down meant I could treat myself to something. I think he meant ice cream or a snickers bar, but I went and bought bitcoin. Those who know me, know that I am extremely cautious with money and that it takes months for me to buy the simplest (non-food) items. I wanted to buy Bitcoin before my mission, with the money left over, but my last day, the internet went down. I left instructions with the family to purchase it for me, but alas, it was not to be. At the time, the price was $200 something. It reached $7000 this week. 3000% gain in two years. Oh well. I still feel like it has a lot of room to grow, and expect to see it reach $10,000 before the end of the year.  And don’t worry, I’m not risking the farm, you are able to buy 1/ 1 millionth of a coin.

On Wednesday, dateless, I went with a friend to see the BYU Symphony play. They played a variety of dances, mostly by some Russian composers. And Friday, dateless, I went solo to see the Wind Symphony play. And won a gift card to a soda parlor while there, so, if I do get a date, i’ll know where to go. Tanner always kids me that my favorite instrument is a trumpet- something brash and powerful. No, I think I’d choose strings any day. However, after hearing the wind symphony, I must admit, it is overpowering what a good brass section can do. And similarly, while I think I like adagios better, the marches I heard were good pick-me uppers.

Saturday, I cleaned the house, did laundry, etc, and went shopping at Costco with Tanner and AnneMarie. The kitchen shelves were bare before, but have since feasted. Think fish, and cranberry sauce, and rolls. Yummy. Thats what happens when your teachers don’t assign any homework. I am up 4 pounds this semester, with a goal of between 7-10 more to get back to that pre-mish weight.

This weekend was stake conference and it was one of the best I’ve ever been to. Every talk was fabulous and inspiring. The Spirit was strong throughout the conference. And, Sunday morning we were sweetly serenaded to by a Polynesian Choir singing in Samoan. Oh yeah. If you haven’t heard it, put this on your bucketlist. They have the gift of music and sing happiness.

And Sunday evening I spent with Tanmarie again, joining them for dinner and fun games. Crazy to think I’ll be joining unclehood in like 2.5 weeks.

Global Warming

This week, swamped with tests and homework, the trumpets sounded and the cavalry arrived with reinforcements. A beautiful box from the Bach’s.

For FHE, we went to a giant corn maze and wandered around trying to find our way out.

I visited the Tabernacle replica, and have included some pictures. Like Uncle Zach, I found it fascinating that there was no light besides a potential heavenly figure to light up the Holy of Holies. Also, there is a rabbinic tradition that the High Priest who entered in, would first tie a rope around his waist, in case he was unworthy and smitten dead upon entering. Being the only authorized person, if someone else entered to pull his body out, he would also die. thus, the rope around the waist to prevent body buildup.

   Standing next to a replica of a high priest.

I went and listened to McKay Coppins speak; I honestly went because Tanner wanted me to, as well as to network a little, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying his speech. He talked about the changing face of journalism and how it is nigh impossible to find neutral reporting without the journalists using something to promote an agenda, and often in a way that is false. And, on the other side, when they do tell the truth, the public often doesn’t believe it, as especially since Trump became president, media bashing has become something of a national hobby.

I took three midterms this week, doing really well on two and not so hot on the last one.

There was another BYU football home game which I worked on Saturday. One more to go. It was nice to see the team pull out a win.

  Ark of the Covenant

 

Church was special today. Sacrament was fantastic all around, I taught family history class, and 3rd hour was a combined meeting where social services came and talked about dating for an hour. Their presentation was very well done, and I walked away having learned. Also, with family history, I stumbled across this website, http://geogen.stoepel.net/

Plugging in the name Schenewark, you can tell that the name must have been changed. Schenewerk likewise yields nothing. However, Schoenewerk does, and provides a rough estimate of where are ancestors came from. The website shows where modern day germans live, based on telephone records.

Today, I went to Uncle Ben and Aunt Joy’s house. Like usual, dinner was fabulous, nevertheless, the highlight was seeing Grampy and Mimi. The always lively conversation included discussing possible family reunions being on a cruise, and how the various couples assembled became engaged. That was enlightening. I knew Tanner’s, and most of Grampy’s, but had never heard Uncle Ben’s nor Bro. Tenney’s. Mimi told of being chased by countless suitors, and rejecting proposals by Grampy many times, and even fleeing to Connecticut for a time and changing her name there to have some peace. Of course, while working there at a restaurant, “Kim” was proposed to by some patron. She was offered a hefty monthly payout not to marry Grampy; I knew all this, however, it was new hearing about Mouhmed Ab????? apparently another suitor and son of the Iraqi ambassador to the USA. Wild times I tell you. Uncle Ben proposed after dating for two weeks before summer break, and two weeks after. But hey, when you know, you know. He proposed at Thanksgiving Point, Aunt Joy having picked him up at the airport, and as he kneeled, the sprinklers rotated and sprayed Aunt Joy in the face while Indiana Jones escaped with his head (and a fiance). Like nearly all good relationships, Sister Tenney rejected Bro. Tenney many times before accepting. He met her the same night he was released from his mission. He asked to go out many times, but she rejected each. She was studying at San Diego St. and he left to return to BYU. However, at Christmas break, she finally accepted, having seen he wasn’t leaving what he learned on his mission behind him. They also moved quickly, dating from December and getting engaged in February.

I read all of Bruce R. McConkie’s biography this week; I know, now you are thinking obviously this week wasn’t too hard after all. Well, there might be some truth to that, but more than that, this book was spellbinding. I could write much about what I learned from the book, but for now, I’ll include only one brief quote. When asked to define greatness, he said “true greatness is found only in the family.” Think about that. For all who are reading, I am thankful you are part of my family.

Rebellion to Tyrants is obedience to God

That title comes from Thomas Jefferson. It was his suggestion for the US Motto.

This weekend has been the church’s annual indexing push, so if you haven’t done a batch, now is the time.

When I started using Porter’s phone, once or twice a week, I would receive an  automated call from some place in Chicago. Tired of this, I tried unsuccessfully to figure out how to block the number or get off their list. In desperation, i entered my number into the national do not call list the government operates. Mistake. They say it can take up to one month for my request to take place, and apparently in the meantime, my number is openly circulated. I’ve been repeatedly called and called and have thus placed my phone on silence for at least the near future. Only outgoing calls. The best was when some guy called with a number out of New Brunswick saying he was stranded in Puerto Rico and wanted to wish my Dad happy birthday, but didn’t have his right number and asked me to call back.

I have to choose my classes for next semester in one week, and therefore need to decide if I want to keep my job (and the resulting Tuesday-Thursday class schedule) or not. Honestly, I still don’t know. Its a good job, but I’d like to spend more time on campus and have the opportunity to attend more events. I was elated to find out the BYU entrepreneurship contest has grown significantly in my two years absence. BYU now offers 8 teams/individuals $15,000, mentoring, and office space to start a company. There are also cash awards given out, which enabled two of the aforementioned 8 companies to walk away with $55,000 and $22,000. These are completely free grants; no equity is given away. I’ve been salivating since finding out, and am working on ideas right now. I have a couple possibilities, but nothing I can say I’m truly passionate about. So, don’t have free time, but want to see your idea put into action? Talk to me! Deadline is February.

Cajoled by Tanner, I attended a lecture by Robbie George on Thursday. He is one of the leading individuals on religious liberty in the nation. He paraphrased Benjamin Franklin saying that a people who lack virtue can always be counted on to trade freedom for protection.

Friday morning, I took a day off of work and left before dawn to head to Colorado Springs for an ISI conference. Five other students from BYU went, but had already arranged carpooling before I RSVP’ed for the conference, so I went with some students from Utah State University, making the 9 hour drive to Colorado Springs. Its been an interesting and enlarging experience; I must admit, however, that academia simply is not for me. We discussed and learned about “Liberty and the Declaration of Independence.” I realized I currently feel much more comfortable discussing business than philosophy. That will be a  shortcoming I look to remedy. The conference is set up to allow many opportunities to network with other students. Try as I might, I couldn’t say I succeeded. Besides from a music performance major from Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, I did not really connect with anyone from outside of BYU. (I did not know them before, and did really enjoy conversing with them.) Not to step too high on the soapbox, I must admit that much of the difficulty in connecting can be traced to choice of drink. While not ignorant of the general college atmosphere, I was nevertheless surprised by the alcoholic intake. In a conference themed around the Declaration of Independence, Sam Adams was celebrated in the hospitality room, and neglected to an afterthought as a founding father. One professor who spoke defined the pursuit of happiness  as having a keg on a weekend. My roommate for the weekend is a student from USU, and came in around 2 am, both nights seemingly hammered by Thor himself. Drinks being free, freely flowed. Needless to say it was a reminder to be thankful for the though imperfect, utopian by comparison setting of BYU. Overall, there was 45ish students from 20 universities. One insightful comment was made mentioning that it was roughly the same size group that drafted the Declaration. I am confident that they produced a much better result than what we could have. The keynote address was on the religious sympathies of the founders. The case was well argued and proven that besides for a small number of deists or heretics, the vast majority were orthodox christians and founded our nation with that in mind.

I’m back

This week has been delightfully balanced. I’ve been able to keep up physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially.

PHYSICALLY

I was able to return to working out a couple days. But, the real highlight was on Wednesday when  Josh (another intern, from the U of U, and I left to go to the driving range nearby. We paid five bucks each and hit 40 balls each, renting a 7 iron and a PW. It was wonderful to be outside and enjoy some beautiful weather.

While in possession of Annemarie’s car (see dating life below) I ran to DI for a cookie sheet. Of course, I then strolled past the organs. They were tempting, but I resisted (where would I put an organ anyway?) Then I meandered into the outdoor section and that is where I saw it. Love at first sight. Hidden in the corner, red metal jutting out. Yes, it was my grill. MTB. $15, like new, and one of my best all time purchases. Of course that necessitated charcoal and matches, but hey, you do what you gotta do. And what did I do? After getting everything ready (and having been inspired to pick up rump roast on sale at Macy’s grocery store earlier) it was cookout time this weekend. Brazilian style. Complete with a plantain to be grilled. Deeelicious. I’m back. After some rocky moments in the last few weeks including as previously reported pumpkin pie without sugar, and corn chowder a la carrot chowder as I had no corn and substituted carrots, it was time to get down to the real important stuff. Meat. Turned out fantastic. This might have to be a weekly occurrence, at least bi-weekly right? Might I add that all ward members were  incentivized to come to family history class with oatmeal chocolate chip cookies? I realized that I’d been neglecting to add ice water to my crust, and I also bought measuring cups, so my apple pie turned out heavenly.

 

SPIRITUALLY
Roommate service notes: one of them broke my pie plate. He felt bad, but honestly no one here is very rich, and he contributes a lot to the apt, so I bought another one.
And another totally clogged the toilet. He used it then shortly afterwards left the apt. I went in, saw the disaster and left to go to byu to study and practice the organ, and do some homework. When I came back 5 hours later, the problem had not been resolved, but he was home. So I let him know, and he said, “yeah, I keep forgetting to fix it.” Thinking it would then be resolved, I waited for another two hours. Nothing. So, I unceremoniously plunged it. You are welcome. I have been praying for ways to serve, so can’t really complain. I just hope it doesn’t happen again.

I watched the replay of Elder Hales funeral. Inspiring of course, and needless to say a life well lived, worthy of emulation, full of purpose, and reaching for perfection. I love the story of how when he was at Harvard and called to be Elders Quorom President, and not knowing how he would fulfill the time obligation, his wife said,  “I’d rather have an active priesthood holder than a man who holds a master’s degree from Harvard. We’ll do them both.” LOVE IT!

Sort of reminds me of what Elder Claudio Costa’s wife told him concerning time away from home concerns, (to translate and paraphrase) “I’d rather have 10% of a 100% priesthood holder, than 100% of a 10% priesthood holder.”

I’ve had the goal of following Pres. Nelson’s challenge and

  • Study everything Jesus said and did as recorded in the Old Testament.
  • Study His laws as recorded in the New Testament.
  • Study His doctrine as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
  • Study His words as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.

He promised, “I promise those listening that if they would proceed to learn all they can about Jesus Christ, their love for Him and for God’s laws would grow beyond what they could currently imagine.” He also said “my wife asked me what impact it had on me. told her, ‘am different man!'” This week I started. 

On Tuesday, my 5-7:30 pm class was cancelled which allowed me to participate in our ward’s temple trip. 

MENTALLY

Thursday I returned to campus at 7 to listen to an interfaith panel, of a BYU professor and a Baptist theologian from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. They talked over various aspects of Christ’s ministery, showing how the LDS and Baptists views are similar and different. It was quite enlightening. One of my favorite parts was when Dr. McKinion from SBTS shared how Christ was born, coming out of Joseph’s virgin, womb (Joseph’s as mary was legally betrothed to him) and later would rise from the dead, coming out of the virgin (unused) tomb of Joseph of Arimethea. Good stuff.

SOCIALLY 

First, let me say that Tanner and Annemarie earned saint status. St. Tanner brought me back home from work on Wednesday, and St. Annemarie dropped off her car for me to use on my date. And St Tanmarie dropped off pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with the car. Yes!

Friday night I picked up a certain Jane, a blind date (and to quell the inevitable jokes from some unnamed readers *cough* dad *cough*) I confirmed that she has 20/20 vision. And is not blind. She is a roommate of a former sister in my mission, who set this up. The only thing I knew was that she lived in Saudi Arabia for a couple years, so I invited her to see “The Saint and the Sultan”https://www.sultanandthesaintfilm.com/ with me. We drove to the JSB, conversed, and then enjoyed the film. Interestingly, she was born in Boston, I’m guessing when her dad was going to school. And recently returned from serving a mission in Tallahassee Florida. In any case, I’ll just say that Jane is a fantastic person who has a bright future ahead of her, but….. it was like I was dancing the waltz and she was doing the foxtrot. Both great, but just seemed off when put together. And I never even told her any metaphors to be confusing. There simply wasn’t any real sparks or chemistry and everything seemed sort of forced. Forced yes, but it never was awkward, and we even hugged at the end of the night, after I walked her up to her door. So, a job well done and I’m going to add an entry in the “Valuable Dating Experience” ledger.

Happy Columbus Day!

Quick recap of the week:

Monday- Homework tried to smash me. I won, but it wasn’t easy.

Tuesday- Our dance teacher filmed us practicing and provided feedback, in preparation for the championship in November. But the video is too big to post…

Wednesday- We had a practice dance tournament. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it as far as I thought I could or should. But, getting out earlier than anticipated allowed me to go to the annual Texas party for BYU texans. It was a blast, and especially memorable as walking in, two friends from the MTC saw me and we were able to catch up.

Thursday- I elected to write a recreational essay, answering the prompt, “In the age of “doing what feels right,” are there moral absolutes? How can you tell?” This Friday they will announce the finalists, who are competing for $3500 in prize money.

Friday- After working at GPS Capital, I went straight to my job at the BYU football game. BYU lost to Boise State, their fifth straight loss, and I made it home at 1 am to finish 17 hours of work.

Saturday- Yeah, I slept in. Then, I gave my room a needed organizing and cleaning. Afterwards, it was off to a BYU chess tournament. We I finished tied for 4-5, out of 7, winning once, and losing twice. I expected it, as I haven’t been keeping up with the game. I lost one disappointingly with some errors that can be attributed to rustiness, but lost another getting wrecked and thoroughly outplayed. I spent most of the rest of the day reading.

Sunday- Church, including our first family history class. Tanner and Annemarie came over and we enjoyed some time together. And then I went to SLC to the Cathedral of the Madeleine for an organ concert. The organ was behind us on the second story, so they put up a screen for us to see. It was incredible, especially the last piece. Someone handed the organist (from France) an envelope and he opened it, and it contained only two lines of music. So, using that as inspiration, he composed and played on the spot for the next ten. So impressed were we, that after a rousing ovation, he returned and composed and played another variation on the same theme.

 

This was a crazy busy week. I’m settled down in my work schedule of Monday, Wednesday, Friday. We officially finished training Monday and I worked Wednesday and Friday solo. Its good. Tuesday, I have a class from 5-7:30, but we usually finish at 7:20ish. Havinf a date at 7:30, a miracle happened and the class ended at 7. That left me enough time to sneak over to clubs night, eat some (free!) pizza, and win at chess before making it to my date five minutes early. Oh yeah! We enjoyed BYU’s instrumental showcase which had four different bands, BYU’s wind symphony, philharmonic, symphony orchestra, and symphonic band playing. The best band was the Philharmonic orchestra which wowed with pieces by Bizet, and Tchaikowsky. But my personal favorite was the “Colonial Song” composed by the Aussie Percy Grainger and played by the wind symphony. My date and I both enjoyed it thoroughly, and it was doubly nice as the frequent band switches left plenty of time to talk.

Thursday I had the privilege to hear the CEO of FamilySearch talk. He visited and delivered the keynote for Family History Week at BYU and it was quite inspirational. He talked about how those doing family history are like the computer geeks of 39 years ago, and how familiy history is our way of participating in the plan of salvation.

Due to conference weekend, the testing center was closed Saturday, and thus would be doubly packed on Friday, so I was proactive and took a history and an M Com test Wednesday and Thursday. That left Friday open and I went with my pal Nate to our mission reunion in Salt Lake. Besides getting stuck in traffic for 1.5 hours, and me almost peeing in my pants, the trip up was uneventful. And the reunion truly wonderful. I went up to see Pres. and Sis. Young more than anyone, but it was nice to see lots of missionaries with whom I labored with. Given the small percentage of Americans in the mission, I was surprised with a great turnout of 40 missionaries. At the end, Pres. and Sis. young both briefly spoke, then Pres. Young called on two of us to bear our testimonies. I felt like I would be chosen, and sure enough, got the nod. Afterwards, he thanked me, and finding out where I worked (close to him) invited me for lunch, which I am looking forward to. Nate and I then went with two ex-sisters, one of whom was celebrating a birthday that night, to Waffle Love. Which, although delicious, are not worth $5 for half a waffle (or a quarter depending on which type).

   Cut Nate out. Sorry Nate. Still working on this selfie stuff.

 

Which brings us to conference. Actually, to close the above episode, that mission reunion & waffles resulted in me going to bed after midnight, breaking my streak of before 11pm. And thus sleeping in Saturday morning. And thus staying up late Saturday. And thus sleeping in Sunday morning. The cycle is truly vicious. Good thing I have no choice but to break it tomorrow.

And conference. I watched Saturday morning and afternoon, alone, holed up in my apt. It was nice. Saturday morning brought the guns out early. I had some questions, and before I could even get settled in on the coach, they were all answered!

For priesthood session, Tanner picked me up and we went to the conference center and watched it. Pretty good seats too. Even better was Elder Maynes talk. He spoke at BYU two weeks ago, and after these two talks, he’s on my short list of personal favorites. (Two others, Elders Zwick and Ellis were both released.) And we topped the night off with some needed quality brotherly bonding driving back to Provo, and stopping at Cafe Rio where Tanner treated me to some sweet pulled pork goodness.

Sunday morning, I was again rescued and brought to a place much higher than my own, where Annemarie served up french toast and fresh fruit. We watched the first session, then picked up Stevie and Abby to attend the afternoon session. Hearing of the passing of Elder Hales, brought a tender spirit to the session. We returned to Tanmarie’s house and enjoyed a pot roast and games. And simply time together. And I get to meet Annemarie’s sister Lynndsi. So, all in all, a fantastic week. Looking forward to another one. Hope you have one as well.