Monday, December 23, 2013

My Stance on Homosexual Marriage

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has recently put out an interview with two of its leading members from 2006 in response to the 10th Circuit of Appeals decision to overturn the Utah voter ban on gay marriage in the state. You can read the article by clicking this link. I posted this on my Facebook wall as I thought it was a good explanation on why I do not support gay marriage.

A friend of mine posted a response about how I do not understand liberty on a separate article I has posted earlier. For whatever reason I thought that he was referring to this article, and so I wrote a response about how liberty and the defense of morals are intertwined. In so doing I also made my personal, definitive reason as to why I oppose gay marriage. Take a read.

His Comment:

So, as long as you choose to live the way the 'unwritten rule' demands, you can be free. But choose something other than what the 'unwritten rules' state and the rules will then be written.

You're free to choose, as long as you choose what we want you to choose. But if you don't, we'll have to take away your right to choose... ??? Scratching my head here.

"Liberty to live as we choose" I do not think it means what you think it means.

My Response:

I appreciate that you feel the churches opposition against the amoral lifestyles of many in the world today is a direct violation of their freedom to live. Many of my friends have stated this sentiment to me before. To the contrary, they do not seek to impose or enact laws that prevent them from living in a way that they see fit, in so far as what the individual does will not impact the lives of their neighbors or future neighbors negatively.

That being said, I do very much understand what "Liberty to live as we choose" means, and it is not the sophistry that the world subscribes to. Liberty is not a "do what you want without consequences" ideology, but is rather a "do what you may and enjoy the consequences" ideology. There is a great lie in the secular world being purported by many that actions should not have consequences, and that one's actions do not indirectly affect another. Liberty is the quality individuals have to control their own actions. Note the operative word "control".

In light of this definition, the unwritten rules of which I speak are morals and ethics. It is impossible and, indeed, oppressive to lay down a set of laws that strive to enforce any set of morals and ethics. However, it is the responsibility of peoples, rulers, and nations to try as best they can to uphold these virtues. Law, then, has the responsibility to teach and to prevent intrusions into these morals as much as reasonably possible.

The morals upon which this country was founded are based upon Judeo-Christian morals, though it has shifted towards more secular reasoning in the past fifty years or so. Nevertheless, it is a fruitless task to try and account for all codes and creeds available today as there are too many to count, each varying from another in some degree. The best we can do is find commonality amongst the various philosophies and work from there.

The real problem, then, is deciding what code of morals we live by. Clearly the time-honored virtues outlined in the Declaration are to be utilized, and for the most part are adhered to in a great number of moral codes. Further insights can be derived from the constitution and present-day laws. Even further direction can be derived from coming to understand the effects such laws have had on peoples and societies and acting accordingly.

Whatever morals we do end up using, the fact is that liberty is founded and maintained upon the principles of whatever morals we decide to live by as a people. Since we are all at liberty to live as we choose, it then becomes necessary to follow these unwritten rules so as to ensure a workable and thriving society, governed by law and not the passions and whims of some faction here or there.

In any case, the current establishment, or the status quo, shouldn't be shaken up unless there is a significant and compelling enough case to argue for change. Even after the significant and compelling case is made, it still needs to have proof that it is better than the current establishment in order for it to enact the change it seeks.

With all these things in mind, the article clearly does not speak on limiting anyone's liberty to act, but rather is instructive on how liberty is to be maintained. We do not know the risk involved with allowing homosexual marriage, we do not have a good reason to allow it, and yet the country is all up in arms for change without bringing forth sufficient proof that this change is indeed needed.

Liberty is wasted upon those who seek to change the establishment for their own ends. Liberty is greatest for those who seek to change the establishment for the good of all. That is basically the founding principle of the US constitution. Read the Federalist papers that are the undergirding of the document for further evidence of that.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Change of Color

Recently I have been discussing with my wife the possibility of her changing her hair color. Admittedly I am a newb at marriage and, of course, I did not think that this subject was taboo. Come to find out after discussing it with my family at Sunday dinner when Andrea was at work, this topic is akin to playing with fire. Having only been married about a month and a half, perhaps it is a little too early to discuss changing for each.

But what is done is done. Surely there is no harm in trying something fresh, something new and exciting, even at this early stage in our marriage. As part of the agreement that she would change her hair, I would try and find a look on her that I liked. My first impression was the punker-rock black lowlights with a-line cut. However, having dealt with her blonde hair her entire wife, Andy helped me see the light that many girls with those types of hair cuts are not natural blondes, making her hair untenable for such a hair-do. 

Undeterred by her lack of faith in my vision, I decided to set out and show Andrea how her hair would look with certain colors attached. What follows is my exploration into some new hair colors for my wife, with photos courtesy of my sister-in-laws photography business Frame a Smile. I couldn't get the lowlights to work very well (which indicates that it probably is not a good look on a natural blonde, to my chagrin :( ... oh well), but I was able to make these beauties. If you want, let me know which one you like the most.


The original is still the best in my opinion.


Highlights Added
Red Hair with Highlights
Red Hair without Highlights

Original 2:

Yeah, original is definitely best.


Brown hair
Red Hair
Read Hair with Highlights
Red Highlights. Probably my second favorite.

Any way you look at it, my wife is gorgeous. I enjoyed making these more than any other picture just so I could look at her more. What a great thing photoshop is. Perhaps I will just content myself with these little images as being enough change for now:)

Friday, September 27, 2013

My Gratitude List

Some time ago I started a harmless parody of something I noticed was taking place on Facebook: people publicly announcing what they are grateful for. Though it can be a little sappy and completely irrelevant at times, I really appreciate this trend as I often do not express my gratitude as I should. So, in honor of this trend, I have written them down. All of them are things that I am honestly grateful for, but hopefully most of them are more humorous than deep. They are labeled by date of when I put them on Facebook:

August 27Two things I'm grateful for today: a guy dressed as a storm trooper on the side of the road holding sign: Death Star destroyed, out of work; and my niece try to lick my toe without me noticing.

August 28Today I am grateful for three things: Alec Baldwin's anger issues, go karts, and the fact that certain raptors in the time of the dinosaurs era had feathers - not to fly, but to stabilize themselves on the back of their flailing prey as they ate them alive.

August 29 - Today I am grateful that I really can't understand what most rappers say since I'm pretty sure most of it is Ludacrisly offensive.

August 30 - Today I am grateful for three things: gravity wells, public transportation, and the fact that Nikola Tesla actually had plans to make a doomsday machine.

August 31 - Today I am grateful for cream cheese.

September 1Today I'm grateful for three things: diesel engines, air brakes, and how easily John Phillips is annoyed.

September 3 (posted twice)Today I'm grateful twice: one for being able to say I'm grateful for things yesterday.

-I'm also grateful that John Phillips played a game that got him physically abused.

September 4Today I am grateful for two things: the fact that bears aren't sentient, and that my niece calls for her dog Rosie and demands she is there when having family prayer.

September 5 - Today I am grateful for the fact that Futurama made an actual mathematical algorithm to help explain a plot device.

September 6 Today I am grateful for three things: student loans, Trogdor, and air mattresses.

September 7 Today I am grateful for apocalypse level rains, good lighting, and pizza rolls.

September 8Today I am grateful for a lack of apocalypse like rain.

Septermber 9Today I am grateful for copious amounts of Nutella that ended up on my desk, green bouncy balls, and 117.

September 10Today I am grateful for three things: the facts that mosquitoes aren't inherently poisonous, that I do not have the ebola virus, and that Kaiju aren't actually attacking earth at this very moment.

September 11Today I am grateful for the men and women who serve to protect and serve this country.

September 12 Today I am grateful for three things: a series of dreams that continue a story set in the Walking Dead universe, a similar set of dreams that are set in the Harry Potter universe, and for good stories in general.

September 13Today I am grateful for four things: carpet, that i am not a vacuum cleaner, that Adobe lets me perform service for work, and the potoo bird.

September 14Today I am thankful to have a fiance that smashes me in racquetball... While using her left hand instead of right... And only having to walk while playing. Basically I'm grateful to be humbled.

September 15Today I'm thankful for lazy Sunday afternoons.

September 16Today I am grateful for two things: the creation of Ender Wiggin, and the literary death of Voldemort.

September 17 Today I am grateful for what the Fox says.

September 18Today I am grateful that Google just does whatever it wants on its homepage.

September 19Today I am grateful for this joke: sometimes I squat on the floor and put my arms around my knees and lean forward - cuz that's how I roll.

September 20 -Today I am grateful for three things: rivalry week, BYU beating U of U in so many things, and the fact that Adobe is playing the highlights of the blessed rivalry on the Adobe TV circuit, which is about ten feet from my desk.

September 21Today I am grateful for two things: football, and awesome paintballing with the family.

September 22Today I'm grateful for the comfort of laying down in a bed, and for prisms.

September 23Today I am grateful for avocados and taxes.

September 24Today I am thankful for the power of Photoshop and Youtube.

September 25
Today I am grateful for snow on the mountains!

September 26Today I am grateful for three things: pumpkin chocolate chip bread, spinach, and the fact that Yoda was not named Bucky as was originally written.

September 27Today I am grateful the British aren't coming.

Hopefully we can all learn to be a little more grateful for everything we have in our lives, including and especially the little things.

PS. The genesis of this project came from a discussion with my friend Jake Allred. Here is the relevant discussion here:

I was thinkig about what we were talking about yesterday, and I was thinking about some things regarding apostasy, and why they apostatize, and one of the main ones I came up with was a lack of gratitude.

and then I realized that whether one believes in God or not, a lack of gratitude is a the source of many ills in modern society.

so I decided to do my part and change myself by being more grateful.

and then it evolved from there.
                  -snippet taken from gChat (August 28, 2013)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Love

Many of you who know me are aware of my long and great desire to marry and start a family. Many of you also probably know of my struggle to find any success in this area, and even more of you have probably had to deal with a sullen Marc (which I understand is a very unpleasant thing indeed). But to all of you who have ever had to leave the room because I was uncharacteristically grumpy because of some unfortunate happenstance in my love life, I apologize and truly wish you well. But get a load of this:

That is right, I am getting married to that gorgeous girl!

There was a fallacy told me oft times during times of dating sorrow that went something like this: "just imagine, the amount of pain and sadness you feel now will equal the amount of joy and happiness you feel when you do meet someone who will love you." How very false this assertion is, for no matter the magnitude of sorrow I felt during those times, none of them have even come close to matching the magnitude of joy I feel now.

To be clear, I am not one to give way to silly notions of romantic bliss from newly engaged young couples who can barely go a day without declaring from the roof tops how wonderful their "babe" is, and who often plague Facebook with those feelings. Quite the opposite - I will never declare on Facebook some silly haiku of devotion to my beloved, nor will I post a sappy pronouncement of affection over such a public forum for all to see. Frankly put, I do not feel like such things are evidence of love any more than popularity is evidence of quality. Love, as I have experienced it, is something much deeper and more pleasant than these.That being said, I am openly aware that I have posted this post on Facebook, but at least it took you, the reader, some effort (and thus some conscience decision) to read it.

Andrea and I met in our Single's Ward at BYU during the July of 2012. I don't actually remember exactly when I met her, but I think it was when I was moving her roommate's obnoxiously large TV into her apartment. From most accounts it would seem that she was there and largely was just the shy new roommate who was only around every once in awhile, often going home to her family or going out of country or something. So, for the most part, I do not think I really took much notice as she didn't seem to be someone who would be around much.

Several months later I had my first conversation with her outside my neighbors apartment. She had just gotten back from school and was looking for some dinner from her dinner group. We sat and chatted for awhile and it was there that I clearly remember thinking "this girl is definitely not who I had initially thought she was." As a returned missionary, and as an MTC teacher, and in the Relief Society presidency, it was an outright shock to learn that she was, in fact, not a Molly Mormon. Quite the opposite - she had an edginess to her that just screamed to be released. Later I would refer to this alter ego as "On-dray-yah" and the pert Mormon girl most saw her as was simply Andrea.

Several more months passed and Andrea and I were more casual acquaintances than friends, rarely ever interacting with each other in any way other than the occasional chat in the hall. It was during this time that several events occurred that caused me to reexamine my life, and more particularly my dating routines. For one, I turned 26 and was staring at the very real possibility that I would be 27 and still not have progressed in any meaningful way in this area of my life. Secondly, I was looking at graduating from BYU without having ever had a girlfriend. Neither one of these things are inherently bad, but I was not pleased with either one of them happening to me. This caused me to deeply reconsider how I was going about this whole relationship thing.

The church has often provided young single adults with direction about how to date, often times focusing around the idea that we are not doing ourselves a favor by "hanging out." Indeed, much of the advice given in recent years centers around the notion that we, as singles, must take our relationships into our own hands, that we must take initiative. Additionally, they also have focused on the concept that numbers do matter, that it is unwise to focus on just one person when dating until you both know you actually want to date each other (particular emphasis on the both was needed for me). For whatever reason, I did not heed this council for many years.

Then the existential introspection occurred that led me to change my outlook on dating: I needed to date, I needed to date often, and I needed to date all types of people. Too often over the years I thought that I knew what I wanted, but usually that led me to pursue someone who was categorically opposite the definition of what I needed. Actually, in all honesty, I was terrible at choosing suitable partners for myself, and too many times I simply fell for a girl who gave me a quick smile and wanted to talk back (hardly enough reason to be loyal to a single girl). Therefore, I determined that I would ask out all types of girls, even girls who I did not really have much interest in.

Now we get back to Andrea. Sadly I must add that I was not initially interested in Andy, nor did I really see much potential in trying to date her. However, after a few dates with some other girls, I started to remember a prompting I had back when I first talked to Andy that went something like this: "You should ask this girl out." Of course back when I first got this I dismissed it because I was a fool, but the second time I received it I decided it was worth pursuing. It is a funny thing how the Spirit works, for it is infinitely patient and knows that if we are receptive it can work its magic.

I remember clearly during this time that my friends Mary and Parker were getting married and they had an open-house/reception somewhere in Alpine. I went with my roommate and a friend, and there I met up with many other ward friends, including Andrea. All I really remember from that night was just how much fun and how easy it was to talk with this girl (and how she seemed to think the same). I didn't think much of it then, but several nights later I found myself at her apartment in much the same situation where we had a very easy time talking with each other.

After these two times I gave in to that prompting and asked her on a date. We doubled with her roommate and another friend in the ward with the activity of playing penny golf (simply described as a silly, cliched BYU game). I had so much fun on that date that I decided to slyly set up additional dates by making a series of bets with her via racquetball and other competitive games (she is highly competitive by nature). Each time we went to play these games I would make a bet that pretty much guaranteed another date. This is, of course, the perfect setup for getting more dates because a) you do not have to actually ask her on another date, and b) only a truly foolish girl would not see the bets for what they really were, therefore it was a good way for them to say no and end it then and there without the humiliation of rejection. But she didn't end it, so we kept going out.

Eventually I ended up asking her to date me (more like I talked her into it, but that is for another time), and from there the relationship has progressed. I would be lying if I said that our relationship has been a series of warm-fuzzies and day of unadulterated bliss, but it has been a wonderful and exciting time of my life. Through it all I have learned far more about myself and how I express and feel love than all the other times of my life combined. There is so little of bad that has happened this past several months that I almost forget what it is like to feel depressed.

Andrea Carter is, simply put, the best girl I have ever known. She has repeatedly and consistently surprised me with her unparalleled sense of righteousness and commitment to that which is good. Almost on a regular basis she sets a new standard for excellence that I can only wish to reach. Yet she is the most humble and self-effacing person I have ever known, and she is driven by a genuine desire to be the best person she can be. Her love of life empowers others around her to be and feel good, and she has a sense of peace about her that attracts even the most surly of souls. It is no wonder to me that she has felt the need to enter the healing arts as her very presence is a balm to the beleaguered mind.

And yet she is also the most defiantly independent woman I have ever known. Her independence is not placed on some misguided notion that she must be independent because she doesn't need anybody else, but rather she understands that independence allows her to do more for others. She is, at her core, benevolent, and she hardly does a thing without first considering the impact it will have on others. Compassion is the guiding virtue of her personality. 

But perhaps the thing I love most about Andrea is how she loves me. I am a very flawed creature, and I am also a very stubborn person. It would take a miracle for someone to come into my life, with all my faults and ridiculous notions, and not only be okay with them but actually love them. Andy is as quirky and odd as I have ever been, and she seems to love the oddness and quirks that I so stubbornly hold on to. She does not judge, nor does she shun my weirdness. She accepts me for who I am, and that means the world to me.

Is it any wonder that I would decide to marry this woman? I think not. It would seem like we were made for each other (though I know such notions are not true). But I do honestly believe that God has led us to be together. She was not a girl that I saw myself with, nor was she someone I would have asked out without some sort of prompting. But thank goodness I decided to go out on a limb, and I can't help but notice that the limb I stepped out on will continue to bless me for the rest of eternity.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Why I Believe

Recent events in my life have caused me to pause and wonder on why it is that I believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is something that I do not take lightly, nor have I not considered this very thing before. As a man who has consistently attempted to try and live my life according to the dictates of my conscience, I confess that I do not always understand why my conscience leads me the way it does. There are, as it were, cognitive-dissonance points in my belief system that I have yet to fully grasp and reconcile. However, that being said, I would not for a second call me one with doubts, as this implies that I have a dark spot in my faith that, if not checked, will cover my soul in disbelief and eventually drive me from the faith. Instead I would say that I am believer who has questions, questions that need answering but can wait til the next life to be received.

But the conquering of one's faith by the forceful chiming of one's intellect is a theme that I too have had to struggle with for most of my life. This very thing of which I speak has happened to several of my good friends as of late, and from some it has come as something of a shock (though not altogether unexpected). Needless to say it has forced me to once again revisit the reasons why I can have questions, seek for an intellectually solid belief system, and yet still believe. I have for some time felt that I should write up how and why I believe, but these events have finally forced me to do so.

There are, from my prospective, two pillars that I have built my faith, and they revolve around my belief in God and my belief in modern revelation. I will attempt to be lucid, but please be patient with my weakness in writing as it is always difficult to vocalize a deeply internal belief.

My Reasons to Believe

Atheism, with all its promise of being truly intellectually freeing, has never in any sense appealed to me. Indeed, the very thought that God does not exist has never been entertained in my mind as the idea seems simply preposterous. I have always felt that God, in any sense, is something that must be experienced through indirect means and not through implicit observation or logical treatises. Therefore I categorically reject any logical or physical proof that God does (or does not) exist. 

The reason for this probably comes from a deep sense of spirituality that I cannot explain despite years of effort to dismiss it as something emotional or the deranged chemical reaction of an overzealous mind. I know that what I feel cannot be explained through some simple physical wiring of my brain for it is too consistent across all the emotional spectra to be anything but God (whatever you may claim Him to be). Even in rational thought I have at times had elucidation upon various subjects that were beyond my ability to grasp that has stood as a witness to me that He is truly there.

But perhaps an even better reason for why I intellectually believe comes from my childhood passion for reading. One of my favorite authors growing up was Orson Scott Card, creator of the Ender Wiggin story. Unlike most who have read those books, my favorite in the series was actually Children of the Mind, quite possibly his most maligned in the series. I won't go into too much detail, but in short there is a world in the book where a small part of the Chinese descendants have been genetically altered with super-intelligent children who, to keep the caste system in check, also were given ticks that could not be avoided. These ticks were seen as a "sign from the gods" and gave these children a lordly status. But at the end of the book everyone in the population is made aware of this defect and these children are cured of the tick that made them chosen of the gods. All but one give up the old ways. The one continues to choose to believe, and in the end is seen as one who actually communicates with the gods. A book is later written of quotes that she has given on her faith throughout her life, and Card quotes it throughout the remainder of the story. One quote in particular sticks out in my mind:
My father once told me
that there are no gods,
only the cruel manipulations
of evil people
who pretend that their power was good
and their exploitation was love.
But if there are no gods,
why are we so hungry to believe in them?
Just because evil liars
stand between us and the gods
and block our view of them
does not mean that the bright halo
that surrounds each liar
is not the outer edges of a god, waiting
for us to find our way around the lie.

-- Children of the Mind, chapter 8, opening blurb
The point of sharing this quote is to demonstrate that this character, despite having all the reasons in the world to disregard her faith, even a knowledge that her ticks were caused by the government and not some god, chose to keep believing that the gods were still there and desired her faithfulness. In a sense she decided that she would continue to have faith in light of some fact that she could not reconcile with her current religion.

Now this is not to say that there aren't good reasons to cease belief in God or in a religion due to some fact or logical premise. I do not view those who honestly explore the details of religion to be liars or to stumble upon lies. In fact I fully understand why someone would choose to not believe after discovering a piece of true knowledge that creates dissonance in their framework of faith. But for me I have selected to look at such an event as an obstacle to my understanding of God and not a proof that He isn't there. Faith has always required patience in ignorance, by definition. I believe in God because I fully accept the necessity of Faith in doing so. Moreover, I choose to let my intellectual objections die if I can't reconcile them, being humble enough to admit that I don't have the intelligence right now to understand, and perhaps later I can revisit and see what I make of it.

Note that at this point I have not made reference to any particular god, just that I believe in God. For that reason I want to point out that even if I didn't believe in Christ I could never be an atheist. There is too much beauty, too much elegant complexity to this world that I cannot deny His existence. I know that this is not a very good reason to believe, but for me it is sufficient.

That being said, I have and do believe in Jesus Christ, and more specifically that He has restored the fullness of His Gospel to the earth today through the prophet Joseph Smith. I believe that this man was directed in the translation in the Book of Mormon, and I believe this book to be an inspired history largely written by a prophet named Mormon for the spiritual benefit of man in our day. I further believe that inspired instruction and clarification came through Joseph Smith as a means to provide structure to a framework known as the church to provide God's power on the earth today and to lead us towards our own personal understanding of God's teachings.

Please note that I have very carefully worded what I believe in this last paragraph. I do not believe that much of the cultural doctrine of the modern church is true or even inspired. Indeed, I often find myself shaking my head at some thing or another taught in Sunday school or some other venue that is primarily cultural in nature and not supported by scripture or prophetic teaching. I make a clear distinction between the two because I do not believe that any man can give a true account of the scriptures or the doctrines of God without the Holy Ghost verifying the veracity thereof.

I do not follow the leaders of the church blindly, nor do I blindly believe every explanation I read. Most teachings are general and are, for the most part, intended to guide us in our own personal learning and interaction with God. The church is the framework God has established for us to learn about Him and His ways, not the end-all and be-all of His will. If it were so then God would have far more to say through his prophets on matters of doctrinal issues that plague many disaffected members. The fact that the church remains silent about many issues is not proof to me that the church has no answers, but rather that God does not see a good reason to answer them. It is further evidence to me that He wants us to act in faith and not by sight, seeking in patience rather than in impetuousness.

Therefore I believe because I choose to do so. There is no reason for me to delve into the mysteries of factual conflicts because they hold no appeal to my current state of mind. I do not see them as proof or even evidence that something may be amiss. Proof, what of it? I reject the notion that there is proof for God as much as I reject the notion that there is proof there isn't a God. I reject the notion that there is proof for the church much as I reject the notion that there is proof against the church. I reject the idea that there is proof in any of this.

So what do I accept? I conclude with a simple outlay of how I believe. Faith is a hope for a better world, a knowledge of things which are not seen but are true, an assurance that the unknown and unseen are there, that promises will be kept, that patience will be rewarded. I guess I do err when I say I do not believe in proof, for there is one proof that I have tested and has never failed me. I don't consider it a proof in that it is not scientifically verifiable, nor can I call this proof at will (thus making it hard to call a proof). What I speak of is the proof of faith. When I have been down on my luck, when all other things have seemed hopeless and I did not think I could go on, I endured and held true to the faith that I had been taught. I could not see the end, and I could not say that I had any knowledge of the outcome. But I held, and I endured. I was proving my faith by being patient.

What followed can only be explained as the proof of the trial of my faith, that moment when all the patient wondering and frustration culminates into the beautiful moment of bliss that can only be described as unadulterated peace; such a peace that leaves the mind for a moment doubtless and calm. Time and time again, through multiple scenarios and varying circumstances have I held firm in what I believed, and in so doing have come off conqueror - conqueror of my fear and of my harrowing doubt. Victor in that I successfully proved to myself that my faith was not in vain. Ultimately this proof is personal and cannot be transferred to others by any physical means.

My belief stems not through a single experience, but through an intricate web of various beautiful events that have shown to me that God is real, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His church on the earth, that the Book of Mormon is indeed a true record in that it was written by men inspired of God to give us hope in this life that God still lives and loves us. There may be errors in the church or its teachings or even contradictions within the Book of Mormon; but it does not make it any less true and real to me.

I firmly believe that the church is the keeper of God's power and authority on the earth, but in so doing I do not seek to discredit the good found elsewhere in other religions. I do not doubt that there are many outside of the church who will receive the exact same inheritance as I because of the situation which they were born in or because of the knowledge they have received. My faith is not exclusive to those who view the world as I do, or as some in the church would have me believe. That does not mean I do not believe in the need for every human to be baptized by the authority in the church, and that man would do best by joining this church, but I believe the scriptures when it says that God is charitable and that He loves His children.

God asks us to bear testimony because, when it is all said and done, this is the only thing I can do to tell you how I know He is real. I would plead with you to be patient, to have faith, and to trust that your intellect does not need to be satiated in order for something to be true. There is no harm in seeing the world through rose colored glasses so long as you will lift them to get your bearings. Don't be deceived by those in the church and those without, but also don't give in to your own self-deception. The claim of self-deceipt can be made both ways. Narrow mindedness is a plague of both the skeptic and the believer.

I believe because I have faith, and that faith has been verified. I hope and pray to God that you would see things as I do too. Faith can be enough, you just need to be calm and wait for it to win you over.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Of Mice and Men, and Sandwiches

Sometimes I have to admit that I feel like quite the little man in this great big wide world of ours. For all my intentions and hopes to rise above the mire that is my existence, I am constantly reminded that the limitations of man are placed long before we ever begin the race. Of these obstacles I wish to speak on today.

Of Mice and Men is a book written by John Steinbeck that has a very strong central theme of unrealized dreams, the cold and harsh reality that stifled them and pushed them into the ditch where they are abandoned and left to rot. Certainly many who read this book come away with a sense of sorrow and depression, even if they somehow are able to draw some sort of hope in their interpretation of the material.

But this post is not about the sobriety ultimately placed upon one's soul when confronted with the reflection of their existence. Indeed, my intention is not to even make a sorrowful or sullen bit of writing that echos the sorrows found in this book. Rather, my mind is caught up to a time when what I dreamed was still a dream, and that dream had not yet become a reality.

Quite frankly, I must admit, that I am lover of dreams, and a man without a dream is like a man without his sandwich - he may have things to consume, but it won't be as satisfying. Dreams are the sandwiches of the soul, and without them we are left wanting. Despite the seemingly endless parade of disenchanted fellows who bemoan their woeful state, life isn't as bad as it may seem. What it really is depends much more upon the perspective we take than the actual circumstance.

Allow me to explain a little further what I mean. Clearly it is one thing to say that we reap what we sow, it is entirely another to say we must like what we ignorantly sought. Who in this world can honestly say that, upon starting a new endeavor, actually understood what they wanted from its conclusion? I for one did not know what it truly meant to be graduated and working full-time, nor did I fully grasp what it would be like to become a responsible adult. Yet, after all is said and done, I am these things and it is not what I expected at all. I set out early in my life to be a responsible adult, to make a fair wage and to have money to live a respectable life. My dreams were laid before me, wrought with the fervor and care of one who thought he understood what he was preparing for. I saw, I came, and I conquered.

And what did my victory do for me? Of what reward have I to speak now that I have accomplished my aims? Truthfully I cannot state that I have much of anything to show. Perhaps I can point now to the free-time I have to explore my interests, or to impart good unto my fellow man. Perhaps I can say that I now can contribute more fully to a society that has helped bring me to this point, and hopefully in so doing help another to achieve the liberty I have gained. Or maybe I can say that I have a piece of paper that designates I have learned enough to do tasks above menial labor jobs.

But are these the things I thought I would achieve? Yes, and with confidence I state that it is everything I wanted. So why the almost sullen opening to this post? Why bother speaking of obstacles when I have already achieved my dreams (well, at least this dream in particular)?

The reason is simple really, and it is akin to the winner's curse. It would appear that man, upon achieving their designs, ultimately struggle with the fruit of their labors. How many times have you finally gotten that thing you wanted and then shortly thereafter tossed it aside out of boredom? It is like so many little children on the day after Christmas who put away the shiny new toy away for the last time because they are already bored. The anticipation was high all year for that new toy, and once gained the magic was gone.

We are limited by our own perception of achievement. The placement of goals and milestones in our lives has ultimately led us to constantly desire, nay, to yearn for that something greater, that un-achievable end. Hardly are we content to spend our lives learning to enjoy it, rather choosing to spend it learning to improve it. Our limitations are laid before us before we ever begin simply because we have not yet learned how to handle victory.

I feel small in this world because I look around and see how little I have achieved compared to my neighbor. At 26 years of age should I not by now have at least produced some sort of notable marker of success? Sure, I have a master's degree, but what is that more than just a piece of paper signifying my willingness to spend money to learn? It is times like these that I realize I was doomed from the beginning to fail at my dreams because I did not understand that the dream itself was not the end. The end must always be more than the means, no matter how I arrive.

With the example of my degree, what is the end I sought to achieve? Financial independence? Security from economic woes? Reputability in my opinions? All of these are true, and yet now that I have them I realized that none of them are as satisfying as I had hoped they would be. I received the wimpy salad over the hearty sandwich. I was left disillusioned for so long that these things did not bring me the satisfaction I thought they would. A piece of paper never seemed so flimsy in my life.

But upon further reflection I realized that I was not disappointed that my spoils were lacking, but rather I was not happy that they didn't live up to the expectations. I wanted more, I wanted that great achievement I saw others had done. I felt like a failure only because I could not be content with what I had achieved, and yet what I had achieved was still great.

Of Mice and Men is filled with characters who mourn the loss of their unrealized dreams and potential, a tragedy we are all too familiar with. But is it a tragedy because the dream was unrealized, or is it a tragedy because they didn't realize that what they had was worthy of their dreams?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Importance of Timing on Earth

The following is an excerpt between my roommate Jake and I while sitting in church. The speaker made reference to an oft quoted saying that our generation has been saved for this time on Earth, alluding to the idea that our generation of souls is somehow more special then others. Our question and response is as follows (slightly edited for clarity):

Me: Has everyone who has ever lived been foreordained to come to Earth when they do?

Jake: So you are asking if everyone was sent at a set time for a specific purpose, are we really special?

Me: Correct.  Personally, I don't think so. I feel it is rhetoric by some members of the church to make us feel better about living in such a time. But, for the sake of argument, let's suppose these people are correct. Does God then send a person to Earth at a specific time to do a specific work?

Jake: Yes. We have the examples of Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ, Moses, etc. They were sent at specific times to do a specific work. However, it is hard to see in such a seemingly non-consequential lives as ours such a thing happening. Just like a mission, I think that wherever or whenever you go, you can have a good experience. Some places and times just maybe are more beneficial than others.

Me: So you suppose all man has a reason for being here at their given time? Or is it just a crap-shoot for most when they arrive?

Jake: A specific reason? No. Not all men are sent for specific reasons. However, I would like to believe God sent us at times and to places that are most beneficial for us and mankind.

Me: So God is a consequentialist? Interesting. So essentially only a few individuals are foreordained for specific time periods to influence the whole of humanity? And the rest were sent at their time because they were best suited for that time?

Jake: That is correct.

Me: So these people were foreordained to do something in this time, but only because they fit it well? Is it then true that the marginal benefit of their placement on the Earth greater than anyone else? Or such that their marginal benefit is most in that position given that someone better went somewhere else because they had a higher marginal return? This keeps with the idea that God is a consequentialist.

Jake: Most of us could have been plugged in at any other time and done the duty necessary. We don't believe in a soulmate, but we do believe that many people would fit as a spouse for anyone person. I don't see why it would be any different for our placement on earth. In regards to the marginal benefit, I don't know, but I feel it varies from person to person.

Me: I agree, humanity is ultimately variable. So is there not a "hardest" time or a "most valiant" generation?

Jake: I believe that there is not.

Me: Do you then also believe that humanity falls into wickedness so easily because the majority of us are wicked? Or does God send people down into pockets where the disposition of the majority causes them to fall into wickedness? Is there a lack of valiant people there for a reason? Is God placing these people there because they were the least likely to succeed anyways, thus most beneficial to get them out of the way?

Jake: There is a lack of valiant people for a reason, but not because God made it that way. He works the best with the constraints he has (our own valiancy). I don't like to believe though that God packages the less valiant people together in certain times; however, it's somewhat hard to deny given historical precedence of apostasy, or even the groups of people who blatantly turned from God found in the scriptures. Why did those exist if not for the planned placement of souls?

Me: Exactly my thoughts. Now, if God plans the placements of souls in such a way, is He doing it to spare the righteous and to condemn the wicked? I think not, for that would imply a partial God, one who places some of His children in a no-win situation. I believe God doesn't actually put pockets of wicked souls on the earth, but rather allows like-minded souls to gather and then to propagate their wickedness. Do the children of these wicked men receive the same condemnation as the parents merely because they were taught to live that way? How much of our own wickedness is from our personal choices and how much comes from our upbringing?

Jake: So are you implying that possibly we chose to come down at a certain time with souls we associated with? You've tapped into the nature vs. nurture debate. I believe some comes from nature and some from nurture, but I don't dare attempt to define in what proportions. On an earlier question, if God does plan the placement of souls, maybe it's not to condemn the wicked but rather to spare them. Are they not better off sinning due to lack of knowledge and prophetic guidance than with it?

Me: That was what I was attempting to get at with my last question. If a wicked person sins in darkness of truth, how much is it accounted against him? Can/will the atonement bridge the gap of knowledge and light they have received to allow that weak/wicked soul a chance at full redemption?

Jake: If a wicked person sins in darkness of truth, they can't be held quite as accountable. I understand why certain information is withheld, but completely shunning someone from any gospel truth to merely lessen their punishment when they would have been more guilty if they had an "equal" right to knowledge as anyone else seems to be artificially inflating salvation. You can't deny that everyone is not given an equal chance in this life. That is because the Spirit World is in place to give everyone an overall equal chance. But couldn't this have been averted if everyone was given an equal chance in this life (not considering the fact that we are given resurrection)?

Me: Ignoring the fact that you are attributing something to the Spirit World that doesn't make sense in this context, you are essentially saying that everyone is given an equal chance to sin as all others, and, by extension, an equal chance to do good? By this logic, every destitute, poor, and starving person should behave like Valjean if they are to be saved.

Jake: In the grand scheme of things everyone is on equal footing, but not in this life.

Me: If this life is inherently unfair, then would God placing the weak in hard, unfair places to protect them against the full extent of the law really inflating salvation, or is it wisdom in God to maximize the number of souls who will return to Him?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Laughably Ignorant

Of the many things that I do not know, there aren't many that I am willing to admit that do not deal with relationships, women, or Pinterest. But there is one topic that I am most certainly among the most ignorant and uncultured human being to have appreciated its majesty in the past several millennia, and that is the unfathomable realm of dancing. Despite my ersthwile slender physique and refined gait, I have not yet captured or even begun to grasp the intricacies of this discipline.

Last night was the quintessential moment of my education in what I do not know. My dear friend Heidi is a member of the BYU Contemporary Dance Theater, and they had a performance that I attended with some mutual friends. Hours of practice and work had been poured into this performance, and the energy in the room was palatable as we took our seats in the second row of the theater. From this angle we could literally see up their noses (and we were close enough to actually do so had the desire lighted upon us). A small blues band on stage played some dulcet tones as we waited for the dancing to begin.

What I beheld over the next hour and a half is still much a blur to me. I remember lots of hands in the air, many a kick and a twirl, and a lot of exuberant smiles. At one point the dancers were acrobats, leaping and vaulting over bars, running down and around the aisles, twirling into the arms of other acrobats, and sliding gracefully from mark to mark. Transitional pieces included a wonderful animated short that captured the spirit of the art, creating a majestic hybrid of forms that rarely is seen in today's cinemas. The culmination of all the thematic expressions was summed nicely in the last number, which dance featured a delightful performance by Heidi, a treat that I did not expect.

Overall the details of the dance do not stick with me as I move away from the event. What really sticks with me is the feeling I had whilst watching the mesmerizing movements of so many slender and elegant forms parade around in unison on the stage. Feelings of remorse, joy, loss, and redemption somehow, inexplicably, crept into my mind as I took in the action. Though I have been told countless times that art has the power to move the deepest hollows of the soul, I was not prepared for those movements to take shape in my conscious mind. Indeed, it didn't even occur to me that I could actually come to embrace an idea through dance, as though each step reverberated with the truth of a thousand words.

What power does this thing called dancing hold? How was it able to actually make me consider the themes that ran so powerfully throughout the choreography, existing in the ethereal realms of communication that I am so woefully inept at accessing? Through what unguarded hole did these impressions creep, for I truly did not know that the dancing before me was actually founded upon these themes, embracing them at the very core of their motion.

To me the beauty of dance is ultimately twofold. It is at once so incredibly beyond my grasp and comprehension that I do not understand even the basics of how it is done. But on another, much more deep-seated level lies what I think attracts all mankind to this form of expression, and that is the ability to speak without vocalizing. Language is, at its best, a clunky medium through which the base emotions and desires are expressed. Then comes the non-verbal cues of speech that help fill in the gaps left by our inadequate words. And then there is dance, that full-bodied correspondence of the soul that leaves both parties with a sense of something expressed that runs deep within the veins of our existence.

Dance is, and always has been, and always will be, the elucidation of our individuality within our commonality. It is universally understood, and yet deeply unique in the individual who expresses, and individually powerful to the spirit who receives.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

26 Birthdays

I wanted to write something at the beginning of my "Golden Birthday" in commemoration of the event. It is not that the "Golden Birthday" is special, but it is a fun idea that I would like to observe. Like so many other great nothings in our lives, the "Golden Birthday" gives us more cause to celebrate than we normally ought. Yet, in some way, is it not essential to the proper welfare of humanity that we create more jubilee than is necessary? Perhaps it is not so dramatic as that, but we can pretend anyways.

Now that I have reached this "Golden Birthday" of mine, I am not so sure that I am happy to have reached it. You see, with a title like "Golden Birthday" you really can't get much better going forward. Sure, we could come up with some more excuses to slather on additional celebration by saying that the square of the "Golden Birthday" be called the "Platinum Birthday", and in so doing we must celebrate to the fourth power of awesome. Perhaps we could say that the year our birthday causes us to turn a prime number could be called the "Prime Birthday" and to celebrate we eat an undivided pizza by ourselves. Or we could even celebrate our 31 birthday and call it the "Pi Birthday" where you must eat an entire pie. The possibilities are endless. Nevertheless, we do not have such traditions in our culture.

Although I have always wanted to start a major cultural trend, I do not think I shall succeed with this cause. Therefore, I relinquish myself to the fate that awaits, and shall grasp this resplendent year of mine by the ephemeral horns of its existence. Indeed, that I should do anything less then wonderful would be a crying shame, a most mournful waste of perfectly good potential. This day shall be - wait for it - legend - wait for it - dary!

So how will I start my day? It has already stared. First, I shall sleep until I wake up, which shall be followed by a rather vigorous yawn that will signal me rolling over and falling back to sleep. Upon waking the second time I will likely take some sort of cleansing routine, be it a shower or a bubble bath. Accordingly, I shall fall asleep in said routine for approximately four minutes. Afterwards I shall sally-forth to Tucanos, whereupon copious amounts of red meat and fried bananas will be consumed. From there I will fall into a splendid food coma, such an one that man has never seen before. It all gets sort of hazy from there...

What good is there in a "Golden Birthday?" I can't really say, but I do know that I really look forward to eating a small coop of chicken hearts and a few bundles worth of fried bananas. And, with luck, I will finally come to appreciate the fact that I have more Golden years ahead of me than I am leaving behind.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Inexplicably Emotional

Perhaps there is something wrong with me, or perhaps there is something wired askew in my emotional circuitry, but I am at my most emotional when I am extremely ill. And I do not speak of the malady of mind, but indeed of physical distress. As though shivering and sneezing and moaning like an operatic zombie isn't enough, my body decides I also need to throw in an extra dose of estrogen to kick-start the waterworks over every little thing.

For example, today I lay watching the Special Edition Lord of the Rings Blu-Ray appendices and began to have some intense emotional stirrings. I do claim to often become deeply contemplative whilst watching LOTR the movie, but what sober-minded man weeps at the information found in the documentary? Honestly, had you witnessed this event today you would have supposed I had viewed a masterful mash-up of A Walk to Remember and Bambi. Tissues were not found in sufficient abundance to stem the flow.

Okay, so I exaggerate perhaps a little; but the fact remains that I have been inextricably emotional, and it is not constrained to just this past week. Every time that I contract a sickness of some form where I enter a weakened and ailing state I begin to feel great swellings of unwanted feelings. The slightest provocation sends me careening down a slope of tender and lugubrious weeping.

To be fair to myself and my manhood, it is not just anything that sets me off. It wasn't the description of the art used to model Rivendell that sent me into hysterics, nor did the decomposition of the process used to make elvish ears cause my mournful demeanor. Indeed, these were welcomed respites from the demonstrative parts of the film. No, the parts that did touch me so fervently were at least thematically grand, and on their base level should have evoked some sort of response from my psyche.

Aside from the grandeur of my thoughts, there was no other reason for why I felt so distraught. However, I feel as though sickness is a blessing to man when he has locked away that emotion which he does not wish to feel. Of a truth I have not wished to touch upon these corners of my existence because I had long since abandoned them for what I had deemed more practical. Things such as logic, reason, duty, and pragmatism surely could supplant these feelings in my life, these feelings which had on so many occasions seemingly betrayed me to the dogs. What need had I for something so treacherous as the affectations of my soul?

But alas, like a forty-thousand pound hammer left hanging by a failing and neglected thread, my "weakness" came smashing down on me when all other fortifications had failed. The blubbery nonsense of pent-up stress and disappointment began to manifest itself in bizarre ways. Weep at the mention of an actor who took his job a little too seriously so he could deliver the best performance of his life? Why not! It's pretty much on par with watching a three-legged dog save a baby from some burning wreckage. Mourn over the ending of the appendices you've been watching for 6 hours? Of course! I bet Victor Hugo cried when he finished Les Miserables, which is practically the same experience.

Of all the moments I cried (okay, in reality, I only teared up, but by Jove it was very close to crocodile tears), none hit me more than the discussion of the fellowship built around the actors. Naturally such an event would not cause even the most distraught soul to cry, for it was an inherently happy moment; but something else about the statement really caught my mind. In the documentary they spoke on how this band of actors formed a bond through a common purpose, a sense of grandeur in the task ahead, and in the shared mutual respect amongst themselves.

I know, this truly is the deepest well of human sobriety. Naturally all humans would find such a thing intrinsically touching and profoundly thought provoking. But to me, at that moment, it struck me with a wonderful beauty that my ill-induced fervor surely catalyzed. What a glorious thought it was, to imagine that we, as humans, gain camaraderie not so much by the acts, but by the intentions of our actions.

My emotions are a tricky thing, I know. This is why I do not play with them often, nor let them out to play for many others to see. But I do feel blessed when nature smacks me with its heavy hand and reminds me of the frailness of my existence, because I almost always gain a new insight about my life. Ailments such as these cause me - nay, force me - to contemplate on my existence, on who I am, and how I am to play my part. And it is after these times that I realize that I don't hate my emotions, I just can't handle them around all the time.